Mystery Silence Theater

My house, is not quiet.  Ever.  Well, rarely.  Aside from the non-stop Blue's Clues episodes playing on the tv in the family room, there is a veritable circus of sound happening here that you pretty much have to experience first hand to really comprehend.  I'll do my best to explain it though.

Josh may not have been talking when he was little but that doesn't mean he was silent.  He certainly made noises, just not words.  He went through a period when he was in his early toddler hood of growling.  Yes, growling, that's really the only way you could describe what he was doing.  It was a little odd, but cute at the time - this was before we had his diagnosis.  He has always made a lot of noise with his throat as well as hummed, still does.  A lot of this is probably sensory.  Over the years he developed some speech, though as mentioned in previous posts, it's very basic and limited to simple requests and scripting.  Doesn't mean he doesn't talk though.  He will go through periods of the day when it is non-stop, either asking me for things, or scripting, or both. 

He isn't just noisy when he "plays".  If he's looking at his books or pages, he's usually vocalizing somehow as well, often scripting, sometimes actually labeling the things he sees.  The scripting often requires me to participate, he loves it when you can script with him.  I know the episodes almost as well as he does at this point so he knows I can do it ("scripting", for anyone who doesn't know, is when he recites phrases from things he's heard, often over and over. For Josh, it's pretty much all Blue's Clues, though there are some scripts that he's made up himself, things he will say over and over in certain situations. If you are familiar with the movie Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman's character did a lot of this).  If he's happy or really excited about something, he gets very loud, sometimes giddy, going into fits of hysterical laughter that go on and on (these are kind of cute at first, but, you can't get him to do anything when he's like this, and he has been known to laugh himself into throwing up... ).  When he is happy, he often gives lots of hugs but he also will make his very loud vocalizations right in my ear, which is starting to actually hurt. If he's not happy, then it's the unhappy noises.  These are not nice, very loud, and I'm quite certain were designed with the specific intent of simulating a spike being driven into your brain because we'll do almost anything to make that stop if possible.

Aside from Josh himself, there are the toys. He has, over the years, developed a fondness for all things that make music and cool noises.  Lighting up is a bonus, but music and other noises are big.  Toy electronic keyboards rule, he also loves all the toddler-type toys that play classical and/or children's music but look like phones, MP3 players, microphones, cameras, etc.  We still have functional Blue's Clues electronic toys.  At any given time,  Blue's Clues will be playing on the tv, and Josh will have 5 of his toys going all at once.  He has a couple of favorites, one in particular is this... cat-piano-thing... it's a keyboard, but it's shaped like a big, fat, cat.  The songs this thing is loaded with are all about... wait for it...  cats (bet you didn't see that coming).  These are songs I've never heard before in my life, and, they are horrible.  I mean, seriously, I have a fairly hefty tolerance for all things that make noise and play kids music since I have been living with it for so long but I hate the music on this piano.  Josh on the other hand, LOVES it.  Very, very much.  He will put this piano across his body when he lies down to go to sleep and make it play these vile songs while he drifts off.  This thing as about 3/4 his own body length.  If I try to move it and he is not quite asleep yet, I am in trouble. 

Some of these toys, are possessed.  No joke.  I have been in the house, alone, and some of them just randomly do their thing without anyone there touching them...

Then, there's the monitor.  I have a baby monitor in Josh's room still, a video monitor actually.  I need to be able to hear/ see when he is up at night, but I also keep it on during the day in case he is playing in his room so I can kind of keep an ear on what's happening in there.  He has a white noise machine in his room for sleeping, so I hear it loud and clear over the monitor as well as whatever noise is happening. Playing, smashing and banging things if it's day-time, and every breath, snore, sleep-scripting, roll-over, dog spinning 180 times before lying down again, fart, scratch, hiccup, sigh, you get the idea here, if it's night time.  So the monitor is on all the time, unless he is at school.  This is almost 12 years now.  As a parent you go through that hyper-vigilant baby monitor phase with all your kids but as they grow and get older, you move away from that.  They become more self-sufficient and you can trust them to a certain extent - if your 9 year old gets up at night to get a drink of water, you can be reasonably comfortable in the knowledge that he/she will not be filling the bathtub and possibly drowning.  I can't do that. 

Between the monitor and Josh being unable to fulfill most of his needs on his own and frankly being somewhat destructive when he puts his mind to it, a great deal of the "noise" that goes on actually requires my attention, I can't just stuff it all into the background.  I try with the toys and the Blue's Clues but even then, I have to pay attention enough to know when an episode is ending because he doesn't like them to play through the ending and listen to his toys to know which ones might be low on batteries (though he seems to have figured out that's what they need when they start to not work and he will actually come to me sometimes with a toy and say "batteries" !). 

Of course there is Zach, typical kid, also, talkative kid.  I love him to death but I have to admit that there are days/times when he is chattering away at me and I can't take it any more.  Not him so much as everything.  I have on occasion, if my auditory nerves are fried due to the excessive demands placed on them, asked him to just stop and give me a few minutes for my brain to rest.  I explain that it's not that I don't want to hear what he has to say, it's just that there has been too much coming at me from an attention stand point sound-wise and I just need a little break to keep from losing it.  He's very understanding, though sometimes he will start talking again within a minute and I need to remind him that my brain needs a little more time than that to re-group.  I hate doing that, but it's that or completely lose it sometimes so I figure that is better and I always have him come back and tell me whatever it was he needed to when I'm feeling less assaulted in that way. 

I forget how much noise there is sometimes when other people are here and it is hard for them.  As much as my brother loves us I think he couldn't wait to leave the last time he was visiting with his family.  I don't blame him!  When you have your own little kids (his boys are 3 and 1.5 yrs) it's hard enough dealing with all the demands THEY place on you and the sleep disruptions from them, let alone the circus that goes on in my house at any given time.  They come anyway, and for that I am eternally grateful and love them all the more since I know it's not easy :)

Late night when everyone is asleep except for me is certainly as quiet as it gets here, and that is likely one more reason I tend to stay awake longer than I should.  Keep in mind, I still have the monitor noises, and recently both boys have started talking in their sleep, but it's definitely an improvement over day-time unless it's a night when Josh is up.  There is never really any silence though. 

Ahhh, silence, that elusive creature my senses crave, and yet, silence is dangerous in my house. First off, probably because I get so little of it these days, it sometimes takes me a while to realize that is IS in fact, quiet.  But if Josh is home and awake, quiet is usually not a good thing.  There are times when he will just be sitting quietly and looking at his books or pages but those times are infrequent.  Ironically, even though he can't button up his shirts, tell you which object is smaller, categorize anything, identify himself in a picture, or understand the concept of time, he does understand what most kids do -  best to be quiet when you are doing something you are not supposed to so as not to attract attention (cue evil laughter).  I know all parents have moments where they will realize it's quiet and with a start you race around to figure out why but with Josh it's a little more stressful.  What's he eating?  Oh yes, he won't touch most food that might actually be good for him but give him a staple, rock, soap, paper clip, paper, dog cookie (seriously, it happened at Christmas) and he's got it in his mouth.  That's always fun.  Or, what's he destroying?  This will actually be the subject of a future post, but suffice it to say that Josh is highly skilled in the art of taking things apart.  We'll just leave it at that for now.  You've already seen my problem with him stealing shampoo out of shopping bags and then using it liberally all over himself, his room, his toys, and I NEVER hear him do this.  My house smells like Suave Kookaburra Coconuts shampoo with just a hint of bacon-pop in the background... wanna come over? 

The only times I am awarded the gift of silence that is NOT concerning is on the very rare occasion that I go somewhere on my own for any length of time, like to visit my family in Vancouver for a weekend.  It doesn't happen very often, I can count on one hand the number of times since the boys were born that I have been able to do this, so it's a rare event indeed.  I do find that it takes me a little time to be comfortable with the lack of auditory over-load when I have been able to go away but it's definitely welcome once I make the transition.  Silence is golden - as long as I am not home and someone else is taking care of Josh. 


** a couple of notes: first, apologies for not getting this up sooner, Josh has done his best to thwart the creation of this post over the last couple of days. Also, for anyone who was wondering, Josh is back at school. Our meeting with the school staff and district went well for the most part.  This particular district has actually been very easy to work with compared to some others we've dealt with. **