Incentives- the continuing saga...
This morning, as he took his boxer shorts out of the dresser, Brendan surprised me with a hug & a kiss :) The reason was that I had finally tie-dyed 3 pair of his new white boxers & he was quietly, but obviously, pleased. I have been making Brendan's boxers since he was in kindergarten, partly because he preferred to wear boxers & I couldn't find them in his size, partly because I made most of his clothes back then, anyway, & partly because he was so skinny that he regularly crawled out of his trousers & didn't notice. If he was wearing boxers made from fun fabrics the kids were more likely to say, "Wow, neon cats!" than laugh at him... About a year ago I made the final batch (size XL) from the KwikSew pattern for boys' boxers & went looking for a men's-sized pattern that was as easy to make. I finally found one, but what I had trouble finding, when it became obvious a few weeks ago that Brendan was outgrowing the last batch, was the time to make new ones. Charlie encouraged me to find some store-bought ones, since Brendan's no longer too teeny to find them easily, so I checked out the Dharma Trading Company site, where you can get plain white clothing (for dyeing, etc) inexpensively, & found some boxers that would fit Brendan. But, of course, fit isn't the only issue... When the boxers arrived Brendan unfortunately got a look at the packaging, which featured a guy wearing only boxers of course, & it triggered an OCD thought & tic. So for the first few weeks every time he put them on he had to go through an elabourate de-ticcing ritual. I asked if dyeing them would help & he said it would... then he waffled & wasn't sure. It was getting easier for him to put them on, but he's always loved jazzy boxers, so I decided to tie-dye a few anyway. When I asked him which colours would be ok to use (becase there are OCD thoughts attached to certain colours) he said blue would be ok. So, I tied 3 pair & got them soaking in the soad-ash solution that makes the dyes stick (I use Procion dyes because they're really bright & long-lasting). Then I discovered that I had about half an inch of turquoise dye left in the bottle & no other blues at all. So Friday after school we went out to the art store & I had Brendan pick out 3 more blues. Saturday morning I made the dye solutions & did the dyeing, & by Sunday afternoon they were rinsed & washed. He liked them when I showed them to him, but wasn't effusive, hence my surprise when he kissed me this morning upon opening his undies drawer :) Sooo... I am finding that dyeing just 3 pairs wasn't enough & am looking around for more stuff to dye (oooh- I just got Charlie some new boxers, too.... evil laugh).
Charlie didn't have to work Saturday morning so it was one of those unplanned-but-busy-anyway mornings. While I was dyeing boxers Charlie & Brendan made brownies from scratch (we have a great recipe that uses whole wheat flour as the base)- a double batch with some for us & some for church. Our congregation belongs to an interfaith hospitality network that hosts homeless families for a week, 4 times a year. During that week volunteers make the meals & stay overnight with the guests. The families move from church to church & during the weekdays they attend programmes designed to help them get jobs & housing of their own. It's the only local programme that allows families to stay together (usually men go to a men's shelter & women & children go to a women's shelter) & it has a high success rate. So, half the brownies were going for dinner at church for our guests. Charlie dropped them off after our japanese lesson.
We hadn't had a lesson for a couple of weeks because Tomoko was interviewing in 3 different states for doctoral programmes, since she's graduating with her masters in family therapy & counselling in May. We'd really missed her & spent some time catching up (she had some stories about her travels, since this is not the time of year to be flying in or our of the northeastern US...). She also told us that her sister has made reservations, for the weekend we'll be staying with her family in Japan, at not only an Onsen (hot springs resort) but at a traditional Ryokan as well. It's a very traditional place with a fireplace in the middle of the room & sounds way cool. I've seen pictures, & the thought of actually staying at one is mind-boggling. We also talked about the daily rhythms we've found are best for Brendan when we travel. We usually do anything exciting in the morning, when energy is high, & eat out, then have a quiet afternoon at our hotel (or where-ever). Tomoko said she'd let her family know about this. It looks like the afternoons will be spent in the car, over the weekend, which should be just fine since Brendan travels well & sitting in the car would qualify as down-time. We always travel with the laptop (& plug-in power converter) so he can play games or watch a movie. Brendan was getting kind of antsy as we chatted about all these things, so I was giving him some deep pressure on his arms while we talked. He got right to the lesson, though, when we began. It turns out that March 3rd (3-3) was Hinamatsuri, which is the girls' doll festival. So our lesson was a conversation between InuYasha & friends, with the women explaining the festival to him, then everybody going out to a restaurant for special food. I learned the very useful term "okosamaranchi" which mean's "kid's lunch" (the "ranchi" part is how the word "lunch" sounds in japanese) & Tomoko included the kanji for this term so that I'll recognise it when we see it on menus in Japan. We also talked about how to ask them to "hold the meat" when we order one... a must for our veggie kid (he has memorised the phrase which means "I am vegetarian" :).
In the afternoon we watched (& giggled through) the rest of the Kim Possibles I'd downloaded on Friday. Paula came to dinner - we'd been hoping her son Ck would be home from college on break, too, but his flight was cancelled due to bad weather, so we enjoyed Paula's company & are hoping to see him some time this week.
Sunday Charlie & Brendan stayed home from church because the Sunday School classes can't meet in their classrooms on the weeks that we have guests sleeping in the church ('cause that's where they sleep!) & so they all do an activity together (except my Sr. High kids, whose room is only used if there are a lot of guests). Brendan doesn't cope well with this sort of change in schedule, so we've decided to give him the day off. I not only had Sunday School but a music committee meeting after church (I'm the committee chairperson) so I went to church. It was odd to be there without my guys, but it was fun & we got a lot of work done at the meeting. When I got home, around 2:00 pm. Brendan had a school friend over & Charlie was vetting them through their play time together. Friend is also on the spectrum & Charlie has determined that he & Brendan do much better together if they have a schedule. When he mentioned a schedule to the boys, friend piped-up "Yes, I do much better when I have a schedule." which made us grin when Charlie told me about it later. And they did :) They started out playing a 3-way game of war (the card game), which friend won, then the boys moved on to half an hour of Dragon Fable (Brendan's newest Adventure Quest-type game), then settled down to watch "The Incredibles". There was an intemission with brownies ala mode, & after the movie there was time to show friend the sock-puppet easter egg we'd found on disc 2 (it's the whole movie acted out by sock puppets- it's a hoot!). After friend left Brendan played more Dragon Fable & then helped Charlie make burritos for dinner. Charlie told me later in the evening that Brendan told him, when he realised that the weekend was nearly over, that "There will be another weekend soon.", which was the first time he's actually taken a positive philisophical approach to the impending school week.
During dinner Brendan asked me how he was doing with the swearing part of his behavioural charting. During the school break week we had decided to separate out the swearing component (because he wasn't earning anything ever, it was such a problem, so his appropriate behaviours weren't being rewarded) & make it into a separate category with a separate incentive. He had found some supplemental pokemon card packs at the grocery store, so we decided to use them as the first incentive for the swearing chart. When we set up the guidelines for this chart we established which words were considered swear words & I asked Brendan to choose how many days he has to refrain from swearing before he earns the first incentive, & he thought 5 days would be fair. (This means 5 days cumulatively, not in a row...) By yesterday he had earned 4 stickers, but it had taken him 11 days to get this far, partly, I think, because he'd forgotten all about the incentive & partly because when it started he was not as "het up" about pokemon cards as he's been in the past. I reminded him some time last week about the incentive for the swearing chart, & wouldn't you know, he got all excited about pokemon cards again... He earned the last 4 stickers all in a row, he was so motivated. He & dad started playing pokemon card games again over the weekend, to much excitement about customising the decks with cards he's acquired over the past few months. Last night, right before he went to sleep. Brendan asked if he'd earned the final sticker & I told him he had. He then asked if he could open them up before school (in the past he's had to wait until after school because there's no time before). I told him that if he got dressed & ate breakfast quickly, then he could open the cards.
This morning, he was dressed wayyyy before I was, so I suggested that he go downstairs & start getting his breakfast. When I came down he annouced that he was having "bread with butter, & milk". He had cut himself a slice of bread (& done a great job of it- Charlie's been working with him on using the bread knife) (ps: I make most of our bread in the bread machine, hence the need to slice it), buttered it & poured his milk. I put his medicine in the little bowl & then went to put laundry in. He was finishing up as I got my own breakfast, & he wasn't frantic or anything, just moving along at a nice pace. He brushed his teeth & finally got the cards out & opened the packs. I heard lots of ooohing & ahhing (there were 4 "rare" cards & other ones he's been wanting- a real haul :) as he opened them. Then he took them upstairs & played with his legos until it was time to go to school.
I feel as though we had the benefit of 2 different incentive systems going this morning- the timer system for getting dressed, which has given him the ability to make the most of his time in the morning, & then the pokemon cards in exchange for being mindful of his language, which will eventually become a habit that is it's own reward. We've got the next incentive lined-up, too. It's a cute little penguin pokemon plushie from the new "Diamond & Pearl" series & Brendan is just itching to take off the tags & make it his own... :)