Tag Archives: childhood

DAILY AUTISM – sleep 3/3 : compay segundo or sleep today

This is a 3 part series about SLEEP in our house. Today – Sleep as a schoolkid.
Part 2 – The sleepy train is LATE today.(toddler)
Part 1 – Sleeping like a baby. Not. (baby)

Jeff Overturf Nemo 30001 (1)

Sleep still doesn’t come easy in our house. From the toddler who’s ‘sleepy train’ would arrive but only depart to actual sleep after a lengthy periods of calm after a day full of adventures, by the time Nemo started kindy, things got more complicated.

At about 4, we saw pretty impressive night terrors at random times in the middle of the night. His screams had me bolt to his rescue, find him upright in his bed – to wake him, he basically needed shaking. It was so scary.

Bedtime was getting more complicated too. Mostly alone due to my husbands nightwork, I now faced no more a peaceful downtime but a lot of anxiety and questions – so many questions! – at night.

Autism was still not on my radar, but it was clear that he struggled to ‘digest’ every day’s events and interactions – all these things became more complex now and harder to understand.

Sometimes, not questions but moves were the solution. Nemo would frantically race through the house, banging into walls, jump on the bed, or on the spot. In his room, I could hear him hum, talk, and rumble. He would come out again and again to “check on me”, complain if the house was too quiet, but also if it was too loud. We discussed many imaginary and real pains/itchiness/anxieties.

All this after reading to him, after singing, after cuddles, after dimming the lights, all that jazz. He just could not sleep! I experimented with different physical sleep arrangements, light variations and A LOT of singing, and honestly, more than once I nodded off myself, it was so exhausting.

One day, I installed an old mp3 player with a speaker at his bedside. It had a broad mix of music and we started playing the more calmer albums to see how it would go… What happened was that he would listen to the music until he knew a song and then get up and inform me about it! Not exactly what I wanted.

And then he found HIS SONG.

It was “Chan Chan” by Compay Segundo. The album was on the player. He asked me to repeat it after he heard it once. And again. I put it on repeat and left the room.  When I checked on him later, he was still awake, but calm. Finally, he fell asleep. The (wonderful) Cuban music on repeat had somehow occupied his brain just enough to settle him, but not too much to stir him further. At least that’s what I think. He does not speak Spanish, so I believe the song was like a soothing white noise and it helped him get closer to actually sleep.

We staid about 8 months on that song. It didn’t bother me hearing it waft through our house for many, many nights. Compay Segundo brought peace to my boy and peace to me.

A diagnosis of Asperger’s / ASD and 2 1/2 years of rather troublesome school experiences later, we  have a cuddles&talk or reading routine for bedtime. Now Nemo likes to read for a while by himself, mostly fact books.

“Bedtime” still easily takes about 2-3 hours. Music still plays an important role.

We have a broad collection of music. Nemo sometimes choses himself, sometimes I decide. It works with classical music, but also slow rock and ballads, Nemo likes Sade, Al Green and Elvis (for the last weeks, we are stuck on “Now and then (there’s a fool such as I)”  yep. didn’t even know that song really). Modern music, 80sRock etc, much appreciated during the day, are not working for sleep time at all.  One song, on repeat, until sleep. On days with ‘incidents’, I actually leave the music on, at low volume, in case he wakes up at night. But he hardly ever does.

For us, this works. Although he falls only asleep between 9 –10pm, so still a late bedtime in the eyes of many, my son sleeps most nights ‘like a baby’ (well..) or “like log” as we say, as he can be moved around and nothing wakes him up. He rarely wakes up before 7, so he gets 9 – 10 hours of sleep.

I know how lucky I am compared to many parents of sleepless children, autism or not. I have discussed and discarded the idea of medication for Nemo. I know that for others that is the only solution, at least temporary, and I do not judge them. I believe though, especially for children, that it is important to do this in a medically supervised way, never with ‘over the counter’ products. Children are so fragile and sleep is a precious part in their development, I fear too much medication at a young age will not allow for their own brain to develop pathways to sleep..

I cannot know if one day, music will just not do anymore. For now, I am just thankful to Compay, Elvis and all the others…

Pancake Time Machine – Part 1

Today we made pancakes, and it occurred to me that I have been pan-caking a bit differently in every country I have lived so far. I am now very happy with my country of residence and also with my pancake recipe, but let’s have a look back with the pancake time machine :

Eierkuchen – My Childhood pancakes in Germany

002 Pancakes have many names and variations in Germany. In our family they were called Eierkuchen (literally ‘egg cakes’) because in Berlin we stubbornly call the “Berlin Donut” Pfannkuchen (pancakes) to the confusion of anyone who visits from the rest of Germany and calls them “Berliner” and well, pancakes simply pancakes..
Either way, the basic German recipe is indeed high on eggs and has less liquid and flour. The result is a rather dense dough that bakes to a somewhat elastic, rather filling cake. Eierkuchen also often have dark brown, even black patterns, this isn’t considered to be burnt, it’s their actual “look”.

My mother’s recipe went probably something like this :
50 g melted Butter,
100 g  sugar,
4 eggs ,
200 ml milk,
– beat until foamy and add 200 g flour.

Beat again. Fry!
Optional : Throw and tumble pancakes with verve to amuse the children, send them off to eat the first round in the dining room, then answer the phone in the corridor …and forget about the last pancake that turns into charcoal in the kitchen. Easy!

As toppings we usually had lots of sugar or strawberry jam, sometimes 001Nutella. My mother’s only variation, the simple apple pancake (acid type apple wedges thrown on the top of the pancake) was not popular with us then – not sweet enough!  My brother also liked the dark and strong sugar beet syrup, (must really try and get that here somehow). We loved mum’s pancakes, they averaged maybe 20cm in diameter, were 0.5 to a whole centimeter thick and after a single one, you generally felt like the only way to move was to go rolling around..  they were very filling indeed!


Daddy Pig is obviously "a bit of an expert" in pancake tumbling.

To be fair, many German recipes aim for a lighter dough, as a teenager I found out that other families actually added a teaspoon of baking powder or – kinky!- sparkly mineral water or even beer to make the cakes a bit fluffier.
Today, thin and light French Crêpes and smaller, American style pancakes are very popular, too, including the runny acorn syrup (hopefully imported from Canada to be the real deal). Anything goes as long as it isn’t exclusively eaten during the morning hours of a certain fast food restoration chain (or two). Making pancakes is soo much fun:

(The photo links to one of our favourite PeppaPig episodes – Pancakes!)

Links :
wiki on pancakes and variations around the world
Peppa Pig – Pancakes – on youtube

Tomorrow : Young and chic  with Crêpes in France