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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Feeling Pooped About Poop

2 days until Christmas.

As someone so eloquently put it, I'm in a committed relationship with Amazon Prime and I don't care who knows about it. I'm also very near running away, or barricading myself in the closet with soundproof earphones and noseplugs...and it's been 2 full days of Christmas break, with about 8 more to go. #notcounting

I knew the kids would be home from school this week. I know that every year. But the SHOCK my brain and nerves go through during the first few days of them being home never lessens. I completely forget what it's like to be home with all 5 of them for HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS. And we've been without a 2nd functioning car for about 2 weeks so even going for a quick car ride to break up the day wasn't an option. (never fear, we will get the car back tomorrow! MERRY CHRISTMAS!)
Family update in a nutshell?? Luke is smart and funny and taller than I'd like, and 10. Juliette is smart and sweet and helpful and 8. Jackson and Lincoln are cute and unique and neurologically diverse and 5. Levi is smart and funny and has a tiny attitude at times, and 2. Ryan is smart and funny and strong and exhausted and 33. I am 34.)

Anyway enough about all of that.
Welcome to my blog post where I talk about crap and how it makes me cry.

Before I dive into what's on my heart and under my fingernails, please note this disclaimer: I am fully aware of how good we have it. We have never experienced bankruptcy, or been forced to live out of our car, or experienced the loss of a child. We've never had any life-threatening medical conditions, experienced infertility, or prejudice. We are very blessed. But, as this is my blog and I get to say what I ready for some complaining.

I'll just add that abundantly blessed people are not without heartache, pain, loneliness, frustration, or devastating life-blows. Sometimes it seems the MOST blessed of people are the ones who have to endure the greatest trials.  But you know that.

 OK so here's the deal. YES Christmas is coming and there are presents to wrap and rooms to clean and magic to make. YES right after the new year rolls over I'll be going on an executive retreat to New Orleans with the top 90 leaders of the company...YES I'm excited to start a brand new year and set goals for myself and my family...
But forgive me for being totally distracted because right now, all I can see is crap.
Like very literally, poop.
It's all about the poop.
Poop pooop crap caca feces shite dookie poo poo.
For those parents or just people in general who have a pretty PotteryBarn life, let me elucidate.

We have twins, they are awesome. They are 5. They are boys, and they are on the autism spectrum. 

Lincoln & Jackson's video 2016
Lincoln in the back, Jackson loving the camera!
They are smart, they are not nonverbal, but they have a VERY difficult time communicating, answering the simplest questions, or asking for anything. We DO NOT KNOW what their lives will look like as they grow. We DO NOT KNOW if they'll be dependent on us for the rest of their lives.

And I've never typed that or shared that publicly but that's been a dark and hideous fearweed growing ever-stronger and larger in my heart. Ryan and I always joked that even though we started having kids at a young age, it was fine, because that just meant we'd be free of kids earlier than our friends; we'd be traveling and living large at 45 instead of 65, and we'd clink our glasses together in congratulations to our successful parenting, because obviously our children would be living independent and prosperous, contributing lives.

After watching the twins' communication skills develop at a snail's pace over the last 2 years, that little dream has been growing dimmer and dimmer.

I want to stop for a sec and say that autism abilities can vary greatly.  What you've seen on tv or with your 2nd cousin who has autism may look completely different than my boys.  Aspergers is something people love to throw around as the "high functioning" form of generally means that you have some distinct social abnormalities and you process information very differently than others, but in general you can function in society, hold a job, hold a conversation, even get married and have a family. But this is not what the twins have. That is not what we see right now.

Right now we have been having some major regression in the toilet dept.
It's so comical to joke around years later about when your two year old smeared poop all over his crib because he learned to take his diaper off.  Poop crime scenes are not altogether unfamiliar to most parents--especially those with multiple children. But in almost all of those stories, they're isolated incidences. Embarrassing, and gross, and gone.

Not for us.
Lately, both Jackson and Lincoln (but mostly Lincoln) have decided that the toilet is a complete waste of time and it's better to just go in your pants.
Lately we've been having some awful crapisodes--I'm talking 3-4 PER DAY.
It's exacerbated now that they're not in school. They had never done this at school.
And I've tried reasoning, punishing, yelling, speaking sweetly, and positively reinforcing when they DO keep their underwear clean, but nothing is working.

When it happens the first time in the day, it sucks.
When it happens the second time in the day, it's annoying.
When it happens the third time in the day, it's depressing.
When it happens the fourth time in the day, it's angering.
When it happens the fifth time in the day, it's numbing.
When I tell them to go sit on the toilet to "finish", they scream and yell and cry for 15 minutes. When I come to check on them (and I say "them" because both of them have had their share of crapisodes) it can get even worse. In the past two days I've walked into all of these situations:
  • playing in the poopy-pee water
  • fingerpooppainting the entire bathroom, including their own bodies, the shower curtain, and every surface close to him
  • unrolling the entire toilet paper roll and dropping all of it into the toilet at once
  • squeezing an entire shampoo bottle out onto the bathroom floor and all over himself

 And I know it's horrifying as I type it. I'm sorry if this is TMI.  I just feel so sad about it. You never expect to still be toilet training your children at 5 years old.
Sometimes I am so upset about it I laugh. Other times I am weak and I cry.  And then I crawl into bed at 2pm and shut my eyes and try to fall asleep so that when I wake up Ryan will be home and he can somehow help us.

It's got to be the most pathetic scene from an outsider's perspective: while I have my big hunky five year old in the bathroom, poopsmells permanently entrenched in my nostrils, I am spreading this big boy's butt cheeks and desperately trying to get all the peanutbuttery poop off of him for the 3rd time that day, I have been resorting to pumping hand soap on the toilet paper before wiping because even flushable wipes aren't doing the job...and I'm either yelling at him, or crying. It's quite sad to reflect on it actually.

It's one thing to clean up the bathroom once a week, or even twice a week, because something went wrong.  It's a different story when it's happening with your FIVE YEAR OLDS (TWO OF THEM), up to 4-5 times a day.
 These are not little toddlers any more. We're talking completely gross, tar-like discharge sMOOOSHED into their underwear MULTIPLE times a day.  The kind that doesn't just roll out of their underwear if you leave it under some running water for a bit. This isn't the kind that will disintegrate if you hit it with a garden hose. This is more of the scrub brush and bleach variety.
What I think is most upsetting is they didn't HAVE THIS problem 6 months ago.
We had a season of success, with both of them!
But for whatever reason, in their sly little brains, they've communicated with each other telepathically and decided "HEY let's forget that we know how to use the toilet for a bit!"
So in a fit of ambition and determination I turned to google today, to find out if there was some super autism mom who has cracked this code already.

Come to find out, poop smearing and autism are commonly linked. I DONT KNOW WHY.
Some are theorizing it is a texture thing, a sensory processing thing.  Some argue it feels GOOD to them to sit in this goopoo.
I don't really care why unless it helps me to stop it.
Gastrointestinal issues are also commonly associated with autism, and some speculate the delayed potty training comes because they don't understand the sensations they're feeling and don't LIKE sitting on the toilet, because of its association with painful moments.
But I refuse to believe that is the complete reason because up until a few months ago we were having success in general.
So yes, Christmas is coming. And the New Year. And new beginnings.
I for one am hoping to put certain behaviors behind us permanently. Let's leave ALLL THE CRAP behind when we move into 2017.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed your Christmas pick-me-up! This blog is a special place for me, and whether I visit it 2x a year, or weekly, it helps keep me sane.
And I hope it has done at least a few things for you.
  1. made you appreciate your children's successful toilet training season
  2. made you smile at least once
  3. made you recognize your day wasn't nearly as craptastic as mine was today
  4. made you second-guess inviting my family to your house because honestly, it gives me great anxiety to imagine one of their crapisodes happening away from the sanctuary of our house
  5. made you even a little more aware of what autism can look like

And maybe God has a huge surprise in store for me--maybe the twins will in fact be the independent adults we hope they will be. I won't rule it out. I'm just saying during these times I am having a harder and harder time envisioning it. 
I hope you'll throw some high fives and prayers to the parents you know raising children on this spectrum of disjointed thoughts and broken communication.  It's crappier than you think.


  1. Oh honey. I am so sorry. :-( You are amazing. I have no words other than I am praying this phase passes quickly.

  2. Hi Danielle,
    A friend shared your blog, and I just want to send you a great big hug. So much of what you have talked about resonates with me. I have an Autistic 5 year old with a global delay as well and we continue the toileting battle as well. We have a good streak and then for whatever reason, we - not we, he does, I have no keeness on the regression - seem to lose all the information and forget how to do things he has been doing for ages.
    Merry Christmas, know you are not alone in your struggle.
    Much love xx