Saturday, December 12, 2009

No one goes to Italy, and it has nothing to do with autism


I'm sure most of you have read or heard about "Welcome to Holland" It's a nicely written piece about having a child with a disability. It is about looking at what that child has to offer instead of what they are lacking. I can't tell you how many people have sent it to me over the years. They can stop now. Really they can.

It is not that I have a problem with the piece. I have a problem with the parents who plan on going to Italy. With the parents who have this preconceived notion of what having a child is going to be. As if it is going to be this wondrous journey where nothing in your life changes, only gets enhanced by the birth of a perfect baby.That it is easy. Well, I've got news for those parents to be...Turn in your passports, because you're not going to Italy. That is not what having a child is like. I'm not saying there is no joy, that there is no adventure. I'm just saying that the fantasy and the reality are two very different things. Me, I wound up in Paramus, New Jersey, and it has nothing to do with autism. Instead it has everything to do with giving birth to a person, an individual, a bundle of need. It is about going from selfish to selfless in one last push. It is not an easy trip. Not for the faint of heart. As for personal plans and dreams? Ha ha! They go on the back burner for a while. That is just the way it is. You are not number one anymore. That needs to be understood.

It is all about the baby and what they need, not about you. Parenting is not a cruise through Venice, but rather a backwards roller coaster ride with twists and turns. It is hard, it is scary, and it can be a hell of a lot of fun. I think though, that the most important thing to remember when planning to have a baby, is that it's not your trip , it's your child's. And surprise surprise, it is their itinerary-not yours.

Today, AoA ran their usual type of "Woe is me-this isn't what I had planned on, I hate my life, but I'm a warrior and must suck it up, and maybe one day I'll look back and see what I did piece" today. It is all about sacrificing pride, relationships, sleep, dreams of having other children, financial difficulties, giving up jobs, losing years,..and my personal favorite-the author discusses giving up her dignity because she had to catch her sons poop in her bare hands. Oh my goodness. Is that all?

I'd like to go over there and say "so this makes your struggle more special-simply because you have kids with autism?" but we know it wouldn't get past moderation. I'd like to say" You think that because your child has autism, you somehow gave up more than a person who doesn't?" But what I really want to say is "WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD..fasten your seat belts it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Once again, we have a piece about how autism affects a parent. There is nothing about the child. Nothing about how hard their kids work, nothing about their struggles, their dignity. (imagine your mother trying to catch your poop in her bare hands as it was coming out.) Nothing. No, these parents didn't birth children, they birthed autism...their "real kids" are over in Italy, and maybe one day after all their "sacrifice" they will be able to go over and claim them.
At the end of the piece, the author asks..

"So where do we go from here? I suppose we continue the battle. After all, I believe God gave us these special jobs for a reason. We may never know why, but I believe that with faith, hope, and love, one day we'll look back and say. "Oh the places we went.""

I hope that one day she does look back. Sooner rather than later. I hope that she realizes that the special reason she got her child wasn't about being in a battle-but rather about being a mother. That much of the time, being a mother-to ANY child, is about sacrifice.That no matter who your child is-there are always rewards. That yes, having a child with a disability is hard, but it is not the end of the world-rather, the beginning of a new one. I hope that she doesn't one day look back and think-"oh the places I should have gone."

As for me, I was thinking that maybe I went to Holland after all. But then I looked up to see Zoe drawing on the dog, Lily and Oscar fighting about what to watch on t.v. an Sammy spilling juice all over the floor. sigh...Nope, still in Paramus, but I have to say, I've got one hell of a view.

Friday, December 4, 2009

In a word...

"Lets not quibble! I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess. If I may lift a line from a die-hard whose identity is lost in the shuffle, I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right."

Tallulah Bankhead

Does anyone ever notice how much paperwork is involved in having a child? From permission slips and insurance forms to notes to teachers, notes from teachers and everything you can think of in between. There is a lot of paper involved. When you have a child with special needs, who requires services, the amount is overwhelming. I think that my family alone is probably responsible for at least a redwood tree worth of paper.

We have recently been going through diagnosis with our youngest, Zoe. Filling out the necessary forms..answering the necessary questions...When did she first sit up? Roll over? speak her first word? Crawl, walk, potty train, do complicated math? It is endless..and it makes me feel like I'm a failure. Ten years ago, when we were doing all of this for Sammy-I could answer every question. In fact, I could answer it with incredible detail. When did he take his first steps they asked? "September twentieth, 1999, at exactly 11:02 a.m." "Eastern time." I answered with smug authority. Now, three more kids and a decade later..I'm not so confident. Sigh..I have had four kids in seven years..and I seem to be losing my memory. (Along with my mind on some days.) I know that Zoe did indeed learn to walk...and she does talk..she even has a fondness for on-line poker! When these things happened-well, your guess is as good as mine. I don't keep baby books, or records..hell, I don't even always remember to brush my hair every day! Isn't knowing that they happened enough?

In truth, it isn't all bad..There are a few questions that I do enjoy answering. "Describe your child to us" and "Tell us what it is you like about your child" The only problem I have with these questions, is that there is never enough room to answer. I couldn't pick just one adjective. How could anyone describe a child in one word? What one word or sentence could possibly encompass all that they are?

Three of the herd have an A.S.D., and although that may explain some of their behaviors, it is far from describing them. All of my kids are joyful, energetic, overwhelming, happy, stubborn, strong willed, lovely,strong, inquisitive, wonderful,curious, talkative, not talkative, tenacious, eager, did I mention energetic? I guess that if I had to pick one word, I would say "human." Beautiful and complex-and as equally entitled to respect and acceptance as anyone else.

nI have to admit, when my kids ask me when they had hit certain milestones-I fake it. "Oh you were about a year old..." "But that's what you said about Oscar!" "He's your brother..uuhhh, families tend to figure out certain things at around the same time..yeah that's you want some cookies?"But when it comes to telling them all the reasons I think that they are wonderful, I am never at a loss for words. As for those forms...I guess I'll just have to fake it there as well-AND learn how to write smaller.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

some simple advice

If you are a parent about to meet your child's Occupational Therapist for the first time..or if you are going to parent teacher conferences, or any place where you must make a good impression...It is not wise to play with your "personal touch" eyebrow shaver before doing so.

Mother, can you spare a snack?

"I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered
French Toast during the Renaissance"
Steven Wright





"Are you awake?"

..growl..."I am now."

"Well Zoe pulled my hair!"

"So you woke me up to tell me this? Wheres Papa?"...


"Well...Why didn't you tell HIM!?"

"He's on the computer, I didn't want to bother him."

"So, you came all the way upstairs and woke me up to tell me this?"

"uh huh..."

sigh...Down the stairs I shuffle..there is no point in trying to go back to sleep..she has already seen me awake..she'll tell the others. "Omar??!".." Oh hey..what are you doing up?".."Lily came to tell me that Zoe pulled her hair." "What?..Lil, I told you to leave Mama alone.." "Oops, I forgot." "LIL!....go back to sleep Kath..." "Right." By this point the rest of the herd has noticed me..has seen me standing up..arms empty..apparently looking as though I need something to do. "Mama? I'm hungry..Mama..can you fill my juice..Mama..let me tell you all about Pokemon in great detail.." "I just woke up! Let me get some coffee...didn't Papa feed you?..Omar, didn't you feed them?" "I asked them if they wanted anything, they all said no." "We were waiting for you Mama." "Well isn't that nice" I say as I glare at Omar. "What? I asked them! Really! they all said no!"'s true...I could cover Omar in an suit of goldfish crackers and juice boxes and still they would wait until I was there to ask "Mama, is it o.k. if we pick some snacks off of Papa?" It's a curse. The curse of the stay at home mom.

I just don't get it. It is not like I am the only parent. My husband is a wonderful father-every minute not at work is spent with us. He is accessible-and more than available. Why does it seem that I am the only one who is user friendly? I can't tell you the amount of times I have trudged into the house, my arms filled with grocery bags..only to be met by "Mama! I've been waiting for you!" "You have? Oh...did you miss me?" "YES! Can I have a snack?" sigh..."Wheres papa?" "In the living room." "Why didn't you ask him" "Because I was waiting for you." Sometimes I wonder what they would do if my arms and legs just happened to fall off...would they notice? Or would they, as I suspect say.."Mama, let me help you put your arms back,can I have a snack?" I'm guessing it is just one of those things they will have to outgrow. Or not.

I have been trying to teach them to be more self sufficient. Allowing them to get their own snacks and drinks. But it is a catch-22. If I gave them full access to the snack cupboard-they would eat non-stop until all the food was gone-and then where would that leave me? "Mama? Can you go to the store and get me a snack?" I draw the line at getting in the car.

I am becoming like Pavlov's dog. Whenever I hear one of the herd say "Mama?" I automatically reach for the snacks. I am so conditioned to this way of thinking that I fear what is to become of me. Will I one day wander the aisles of Walmart forcing little bags of goldfish crackers on any unsuspecting child who uttered the word "Mom?" Will anytime I answer the phone, and one of my kids is calling, will I automatically ask them what they want instead of asking how they are? I am growing concerned...and I guess a bit jaded.

The other night as I was taking a shower, there was a knock at the door. "Mama?" knock knock knock.. "mama?"..."MAMMMMAAAA?"...sigh "Hold on! I'll be out in a minute." "MAMA!"..."WHAT!!! I swing open the door.." Can't I take a shower without you asking me for something to eat? Papa is in the kitchen..can't you for once ASK HIM??" "But Mama?" "ARRGGHHHH..WHAT DO YOU WANT??" "I just came to give you a hug."..crap.."Of COURSE you can hug me!!" "I love you Mama".."Oh, I love you too..sorry I yelled" "Thats o.k...Mama?" "What honey?"...."could I have a snack?"

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Ponyville, no one can hear you scream...

"My little pony, My little pony, every day is a dream come true
My little pony, my little pony, how I love to play with you"

The "My little pony" theme song

I thought that I knew what hell was.... Really sick kids whose fevers won't go down, exploding diapers and no available wipes, an overflowing toilet at three in the morning AND you have the stomach flu. You know what I mean. Those moments that are just so overwhelming you don't think that you can go on. I had thought that I had seen it all...been there done that..I was a seasoned pro, A professional mother! Nothing could throw me..nothing...that is until "My Little Pony" came to my computer.

Big headed pastel colored ponies. THAT SING!!! That's right...these pink and purple hoofed spawns of hell sing! Not only that, they also play guitar and dance-and they are really really happy about it! Lily and Zoe adore it. They download it every chance they get. Both of them standing on chairs belting it out as loud( and off key) as they can, into pretend microphones. Over and over...till I'm ready to..sigh...cry?...scream?...sing along?!

There are times in every parents life when they have to turn on their brain filter. You learn to go to that special place in your head, the place that blocks out unnecessary noises..the things that, if you had to listen to them 24/7, would surely drive you mad. Kids television shows, arguments, your son saying "eeeeeeeeee" at the top of his lungs for hours at a time..As a parent , you learn to filter those noises out.."My Little Pony" BREAKS THROUGH that barrier...wraps itself around your brain and SQUEEZES . Their theme song is an "earworm". You find yourself humming it..walking through the the will NOT go away! Even my electrician complained about it. His wife had caught him humming it the other night while he was doing the dishes. Sammy calls "My Little Pony" "an acne that won't go away" He is right. It is that bad.

I have done everything I can think of to make it stop...I've changed the lyrics to.."My uncle Tony".."My macaroni".."My minestrone"..."My big Zamboni"...and when particularly crazed..."My little nervous breakdown" Lily thinks that one is a riot. "Mama!! That's not how it goes!" "I don't care...that's how it goes for me.." "No goes MY LITTLE PONY..MY LITTLE PONY.." Will these persevering ponies not go away?!

I think that some of the designers of popular toys are evil-or deaf. I mean, come on...odds are some of them have kids of their own. Anyone with kids-and a conscience, wouldn't design these things...wouldn't have accompanying videos and songs..anyone with a heart couldn't do that. I think that it should be a job requirement(of toy designers)to spend a week locked in a room with their toys, videos, and music playing and nothing else. If they survive, the toy goes on the market...if they need meds and therapy, it doesn't. I'm betting it would usher in a whole new age of plush toys.

Lily has already asked for "My Little pony" figures for Christmas. I told her that they didn't sing or dance. She said "That's o.k. Mama, I can do it for them...MY LITTLE PONY MY LITTLE PONY..! See! I have it memorized!" sigh..."So do I do I".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'll be back..

Sorry I haven't been around...two of the herd have the flu..I will be back in a day or so..until then...I hope you all stay healthy. :) Kathleen

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


"I hate writing, I love having written"

Dorothy Parker

I am having a hard time writing lately. It isn't as though things haven't happened. I have four kids-things are always happening! I also have the ever present my power has been on and off-a lot. Although, thanks to him my house is now safe, and I have a dishwasher!!! So, I definitely don't lack material. Or time. In fact, since three of the herd are in school all day...I have lots of time... I think it is just too quiet. I guess I'm just used to constantly being interrupted, asked for things, attention given..the regular stuff that kids demand..usually when you have your hands full. Fact is, my kids are getting older..more self sufficient..and although I revel in this..I'm not sure what to do with myself anymore. My kids are growing up, and I don't know how I feel about that.

Omar and I recently celebrated our sixteenth anniversary..and come December, we will have been together eighteen years. Last night, not only did he surprise me with an impromptu date..he even arranged babysitting. This is the first time that we have gone out to dinner by ourselves since Sammy was six months old. (he is now eleven) That date was cut short because Sammy wouldn't stop crying and the baby sitter was overwhelmed. Until last night, I didn't realize just how much I missed it. It seems like I have forgotten how to be an independent adult. One that didn't need to cut any ones meat, or wipe their faces, or remind them to use the bathroom.

We drove off in companionable silence..the kind of silence that doesn't need to be filled..when two people are totally comfortable just being with each other. I looked over at Omar and said "Remember that night eighteen years ago on the "F" train in N.Y., and you first kissed me?...did you ever think that so many years later, we would find ourselves in rural Maine, driving down a dark highway..going on our first date in forever...leaving our FOUR kids at home with a babysitter and her boyfriend..(while silently in my head thinking..without me there to make sure everything is o.k. ..what if it is not o.k.? How could I leave them with a stranger!!??) Omar looked at me and said "I didn't think you would come out so easily".."Me? gulp... Of course I wanted to come..I know the kids are o.k." (I HOPE they are o.k...what if they need me?...) Besides, I left her with both of our cell phone numbers. (the number for poison control...911 on speed dial..everyone in our families numbers, the number for homeland security...) Your phone is on right?"

We actually had a wonderful time. We went to a local Chinese buffet-(I am on a quest to find good Chinese food in Maine..haven't found it yet) stopped off at the store, and just hung out talking. I only checked my phone thirty times or so. It never rang.

When I think back over the last eleven years, I never saw myself as ever being able to go out with Omar like this again. Parenting, to me, has always been about putting my children first. I still believe that. I guess that I just never imagined that they wouldn't need me as much as they did when they were younger. I have always said that children develop and grow at their own pace. That it didn't matter how or when they reached particular milestones..Only that they were given the support, guidance, unconditional love and acceptance to get there. When we got home, the kids were excited to see us. They had had a great time with the babysitter-and were even asking that she come back again. How cool is that? I am already looking forward to our next date night. It looks like we reached another milestone, only this time it was my own. I guess that mothers develop and grow at their own pace as well.

This month marks my one year "blogoversary". One year since I started writing about my herd and our adventures. One year of enormous change and growth for all of us. One more year in which I survived the perils of motherhood. When I decided to start writing , I was one angry...well... mother. I saw the way autism was being defined by the media, saw the way it was making victims out of parents, just because they had a child with autism. Thus, my blog was born. I wanted to show people that my family wasn't that much different from theirs. That yes, autism does affect the way in which we do things-but like everyone else..we put our pants on one leg at a time. Well, with the exception of Zoe, who doesn't really like to wear pants..or clothes for that matter. I wanted to make people laugh. There is way too much argument and controversy in the autism community. I wanted to create a positive place for people to go to.

So to all you kids who have read or commented..thank you. I have made some wonderful connections through my blog, and a few very fabulous friends. Small as it may be, I feel like I am contributing something positive....and it is a nice ego boost! Like so many others, I want to change how the world sees my kids, one post at a time.

Hopefully, in the next year, Omar and I will have more date nights, more time to spend together....alone. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to relax enough to fully enjoy them. Until then, I will continue developing and growing..along side my kids. The adventures will continue, as will the challenges. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about.

Monday, October 19, 2009

To EEEE or not to EEEE

"The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs"
The be good Tanya's

Two of my herd came downstairs today wearing shorts and tank tops. It is thirty degrees outside. We have already had our first freeze...sigh...I am still waiting for summer. It seems like we have had mostly rain and chilly weather since the middle of June. I was hoping for a warm fall. Needless to say, we have been mostly stuck inside the house. It isn't that bad..if you like hearing the theme song to "My little Pony" played over and over again on the computer..and the not so dulcimer tones of the trombone being practiced. Yes, this year instead of singing in the concert choir, Sammy has elected to play the trombone.

You very well may wonder as I do, what possessed my boy to choose the trombone. We listen to all kinds of music in our home. I try to expose them to all kinds of sounds and styles..from Rock to Jazz and classical..swing and Ska. There is nothing though that features the trombone. No "Greatest Trombone melodies" or "Romance of the trombone". It is just one of those instruments that you know is there, but you don't really pay attention to. I asked Sammy, "Why the trombone buddy?" he responded.."Because the tuba would look weird." O.K... What else could I do but support him.

The music teacher was not so encouraging. I received a call from her, where she expressed her concerns about Sammy learning an instrument. She didn't feel that he had the patience or the inclination for formal music lessons. Sigh...I had this same discussion with her last year when he wanted to sing in the concert choir. He auditioned and got in-but the music teacher felt he might not be able to handle group singing. Not only did he handle it-he excelled. I reminded her of this. She brought up his trouble with playing the recorder. I said that Sammy, because of his fine motor difficulties, had trouble with the fingering required..that he really had no interest in the recorder and that he only played it because it was required for the class. That furthermore, other children were being rewarded with " colored strings" for their mastery of the recorder, and this made Sam incredibly anxious..She countered with.."Playing an instrument is a commitment-he didn't stick with concert choir"..In which I replied " He didn't like the music you chose for them to perform...that songs like "Farmer Jon's nappy knickers" just didn't inspire Sammy (or anyone else) to sing. That he was more interested in working in contemporary (meaning from at least the last 50 years) music. I was met with silence..Ha HA! I won! My prize? A free loaner trombone that the school had.

We picked up his trombone last Tuesday. I drove over to the school with both of my boys. Oscar came along for the ride, because he loves school-and has expressed his desire to live there. I happened to glance over at Oscar as I was standing in line to buy the various trumpet accessories(book, music stand, cleaner, sedatives for me...) He was sitting off by himself just stimming away. Very tight arm movements and grimacing. I called over to him"Hey Bud, you o.k.?" He stims sometimes when he is overwhelmed. "I'm o.k. mama." "Your shaking a whole lot, I'm just checking" "I'm o.k. mama." This time, I noticed other people staring at him..I thought about what they were seeing. I'm sure that to them, Oscar looked really odd. I had never looked at him with an outsiders eyes before. We have always felt that his flapping and eeeing were something that he needed to do. We have talked to him about controlling it when he was in the classroom, we have explained that it could be very distracting to other people and that he had to respect that. At home however, his flapping and eeeeing are just part of the background noise. It is home. The place where he should feel safe, secure and confident. We are very open about stimming with Oscar. We have told him that people may or may not understand it, that they might think that he was somehow less because of it. But he is eight years old. How much of that is really relevant to him now? Yes, I want to change how the world perceives people like my kids. But I don't want to use my kids as props to do that. They are just kids-it is not their responsibility. It is giving me a lot to think about lately. I don't have any answers. I think we'll just take it one day at a time. Like the trumpet, or Zoe's obsession with online poker.

Although Sammy hasn't yet had a trombone lesson, he has already figured out how to put it together and how to blow into it. So far, it sounds like our dog Charlie does after he has eaten Italian food. Only the odor is missing. So our home has added one more noise to the already cacophonous symphony that is my family. At least for the most part they are happy noises..I can handle that....sigh... Only 150 days till spring.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A long days journey in run-on sentences

"I grabbed hold my old guitar, and Carter started up the car
We left with no goodbyes.
Didn't know where we was heading
just as long as we was getting
places afar
We were on our own and glad to have no home
We were flying free, that crazy man and me"

From "Carters Song" by De Leopold

It has been a hectic, crazy overwhelming week here. I planned on writing all about it yesterday. I thought "I'll just get the kids off to school, fix a big cup of coffee and write" Sounds simple enough, right?.. but nothing could be further from the truth...

I woke up at my usual 5:30..hit the snooze button..5:40...hit the snooze button...5:50..You get the idea..So when 6:20 rolled around..I was a frantic half crazed woman in dire need of coffee..rousing my kids from bed with a "C'mon!! We're late!!" Rushing down the stairs in a flurry of confusion and caffeine withdrawal..only to be met by an ENORMOUS pile of dog poop.
The kind that you can't ignore and wait for your husband (the man who had to have the three dogs) to come clean it up. This was so gigantic and odoriferous, it took half a roll of paper towels and a lot of bleach to clean up.(I hadn't had coffee yet) In the mean time, Lily being in fine form, took my distraction and lack of caffeine, as her cue to antagonize everyone else-especially Sam. Now Sammy is not a morning person. He prefers to be left alone, to take his time waking up. There I am cleaning up the dog mess while at the same time "encouraging" the kids to get moving, while Lily is simultaneously singing at the top of her lungs and grabbing Sammy's feet (she was lying under the table -why? I don't know). Sammy, stomps off to the living room, furiously wiping tears from his eye saying "I'm fine! I'm not crying!!! Sigh...I try to sooth him without referring to the fact that he is indeed crying, when I hear an "oops!" from Lily...she had knocked over her cereal the table and onto the carpet-that I can't clean because my vacuum cleaner is broken. (I can't figure out why I haven't found the time to fix it) I somehow manage to get the cereal cleaned up, kids in sweaters, backpacks packed and everyone on the bus.(without coffee) As I am waving goodbye, I happen to look down at Zoe who is standing in the doorway also waving, only she is stark naked. Crap. 7:30- I now have one hour in which to clean up the dishes, make the beds, get myself (and Zoe) dressed before the electrician shows up at 8:30. I have a doctors appointment at I should have plenty of time. Right. 8:30 rolls electrician...9:00...nope..I call Omar..he calls the electrician. The electrician calls me at 9:30, he is going to be late. REALLY????, I reply..he doesn't get my subtle humor. 10:30 rolls around-still no electrician..I call Omar.."I have to leave!!!" He says he will cancel the electrician for the day...and for me to just go. Just go? On any other day that would be easy. Today however, there is sewer work being done in my there are detours..lots of them. Thus the fifteen mile trip to the doctor turned into a 45 mile excursion....I am late but thankfully, that is o.k....the doctor can still see me. I am starting to think that maybe the day is turning around..I have had coffee, got to my appointment..It is going to be smooth sailing..Until Zoe decided that she liked the doctors waiting room...liked it so much that she threw a hissy fit when it was time to leave. I had no choice but to carry a screaming squirming child ..past the annoyed looks of other patients...out through the building and across the vast parking lot and into the van. (at least she was dressed!) Another 45 miles later-we finally got home. Where lo and behold, I found the electrician waiting for me! HA! HA! or so I thought...I told him to please wait while I opened the side door for him- To please not open the front door, as this would let the dogs out. Can you guess what he did? That's right. He opened the front door-releasing the hounds (so to speak) Who of course headed towards the sewer work and the very busy road. Back into the van I went (Zoe was still in the van-as she threw yet another fit refusing to get out when she saw that the electrician was a man, and she "DOESN'T LIKE BOYS") -Back along the detour I drove..flashers on, yelling at the dogs to get in. I felt like a deranged kidnapper, all I needed was some candy and a raincoat. Eventually, after what felt like hours, I caught up with them. I got (dragged) them into the van and back to the house. I was home free!..yeah. As I opened the door to let them in, I was greeted by an ominous presence..a whiff of foreboding..I was consumed by a sense of dread..right there, on the center of the floor...mocking me with its very presence, was a huge pile of dog poop. sigh... I just didn't have it in me to blog anymore.

I had intended to write all about Sammy. How he had just turned eleven last week, and of my sister (eleven years my senior) who died a few days later. I wanted to talk about how Sammy lives on the autism spectrum and how my sister died from cancer....about those parents of autistic children who claim that they would prefer that their kids had cancer. How very wrong and misguided I thought that they were. But instead, I wound up writing the above.

I had wanted to honor them. Sammy, for the young man he is becoming-loving, joyful-a gentle soul...and my sister-one of the most difficult, yet brilliantly talented, wickedly funny people that I have known. I wish them both peace and light. and absolutely no dog poop.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Confessions of a worrier mother...

"Charity creates a multitude of sins"

Oscar Wilde

I was over at LB/RB last night reading Sullivan's post "Why I don't like "I am autism"" You can follow the link over there to read it. I thought that it was a well written piece. Some of the comments however, left me cold. One parent in particular grabbed the spotlight. Most every comment that they made, proved the point of Sullivan's post. This particular parent at times said some horrifying (in my opinion) things. This in turn lead to the entire thread being a debate between just about everyone and this parent. So much so that the title of the post could easily have been changed to "The life and times of Bensmyson"

I myself made a few comments. One in particular was in direct rebuttal to something this parent said. They made the comment that 1.5 million people in the U.S. SUFFER from autism-I replied with the simple statement-"my kids don't suffer" In turn I was told that I was one of the "lucky ones"-and then given a detailed description of all of their child struggles. I never implied that my children didn't struggle- simply stated that they didn't suffer. They were right however in one area-I am lucky. Although my reasoning and theirs probably differ. I don't know this for a fact, because they never responded when I asked "HOW I was lucky?"

Three of my kids are on different parts of the autism spectrum. They work very hard to try and navigate a world that doesn't always make sense to them. Every day poses new challenges.
Yet, they face them-because I ASK them to. How staggering is that? Being a mother is a powerful job-definitely not for the faint of heart. I take my position seriously. Oh, I have made many mistakes-which I no doubt will hear about in years to come. But I am learning. I think the most important lesson has been that children become what you tell them they are. All children, no matter what their ability. It is for that reason I talk about acceptance and love instead of laundry lists of symptoms or ridiculous and oft times dangerous treatments My kids have disabilities, they are not broken. They are not empty shells, they don't need to be "recovered".
They are right in front of me (most of the time asking for things) I had best make sure my words have substance and meaning. Because those are the words that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I am their mother. That is my job, my responsibility, and privilege.

It always astounds me when I am told things like "you are one of the lucky ones" or "your kids aren't really autistic". Astounds me. What I find equally mind blowing is the thought that because I accept my children, accept that three of them have autism-I don't do anything to help them. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just don't have the need to advertise the things that we have done, in such a way as to garner sympathy or admiration for myself. I'm a mother, and I'm just doing my job. It is not about me. It is about my children. Yes, we have worked really really hard, but my kids...they have worked harder. I might do the steering, but the driving is all them. They are incredible human beings-all four of them. I am blessed.

That's not to say I don't have days when I want to run away from home. That however, has nothing to do with autism ..but more to do with the fact that I have four very active kids, three hyper dogs, an overly affectionate cat, a leaky roof, faulty electrical wiring..and a myriad of other things.(sigh) I think that you truly know that you're a mother when a private and secluded bathroom of your own is your secret desire.

I am not a warrior mother. I am more of a worrier mother. I worry about getting my kids the appropriate services, I worry about their education, I worry about their needs being met, I worry about discrimination, I worry about them going out into the world as adults, I worry about films like "I am autism", I worry that they do not give voice to the people who do have autism...I worry that this will somehow demonize my children-who will always have autism, I don't however worry about "recovering", "curing", or somehow defeating them. I don't worry that my children view themselves as somehow broken and needing to be fixed. I don't worry that they see themselves as somehow less, or as a burden. They know that they are cherished, that they are loved, that they are different-that different can be hard, but it isn't wrong. I recognize that my children, all of them, are human beings. Deserving of the same respect, treatment, inclusion and acceptance as is any other human being. I recognize that it is my responsibility to try and make the world a better more accommodating place for them. I recognize the importance my role as their mother is. I think about all of this and can say with certainty, yes, I am one of the lucky ones.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Call waiting

"If the phone doesn't ring, it's me"
Jimmy Buffet

If I were to call out to the kids.."who wants to help me put this laundry away?" or "Who is going to help clean up this play room?" I would be met with an eerie silence..only the sound of crickets chirping away outside. You would think that I was totally alone in this vast falling down barn of a house. The same goes when I ask them questions about their day..or what happened in school.
I don't get conversation..but instead, one word answers. There could have been a Ninja attack or free elephant rides..but I won't hear about it. Not when I ask. No, my kids save all conversation for when I am on the phone. Normally, I am very proud of my children's manners. They say please and thank you, excuse me when they interrupt a conversation..they are well behaved. Until I start talking on the telephone. That is when all bets are off. It is as if some bizarre force takes over-and they MUST have my undivided attention at that very moment. They will do anything that they can to get it. Crazy things...scary things...dangerous things..The more I attempt to hold them off-the harder they try.

I am not a fan of talking on the phone. I prefer having my conversations in person. In some cases though, there aren't any other options. My sister lives four hundred miles away, so the phone is definitely more convenient. I do try to time my conversations for when the kids are at school. There are days however, when this just doesn't work out. Close friends, family,..they understand my kids ..they are prepared to be interrupted five thousand times or so. We are working on it.
Saturday morning, I was expecting an important call. There was no other possible time for this person to call me. I warned them that we would be interrupted-a lot. No problem, they understood, they had kids too. I threatened...I mean warned the kids as well..I set them up with snacks, computer games DVDs..I told them "This is an important call..please let me talk-IN PEACE!" They said that they would and went off to the various things that I had set out for them. At around ten a.m. the phone rang. The kids were all occupied for the moment-so I rushed to answer it. I wanted to get as much conversation in-before they noticed.

Me: "Hello?"

Caller: "Kathleen?"

Me: "Yeah..Hi!..Could you hold on a second please...Sammy! now is not the time to tell me about Pokemon-I am on the phone...I'll be off in a minute..yes, in a minute.. I'm sorry, the kids seem to need me more when I'm on the phone..."

Caller: "That's o.k. I was calling about..

Me: "Sorry!..hold on a second please...What Oscar? is not the time to say that.. I am on the phone..Osc...not now..not...sigh..fine Chowders Feet!..o.k.? Go play on the computer...I'll be off in a minute...sorry..where were we?.."

Caller: "That's fine, I wanted to tell you about.."

Me: "Ahhh...hold on!! Lily!!! Get off of the table right now! ..NOW!! We do not stand on tables!!! Now Lil! You want what? I'm on the phone..I'll be off in a few..what? The river?!! Zoe you are three! You can not play online poker!.I don't care if you have two Q's!!...sorry..I'm back..(BEEP) sigh.. hold on it's call waiting..Hello? Yes this is Kathleen..oh.. Hi! I thought I was already talking to.. uh oh..can you hold on?' (click) Hello ? um...who AM I speaking with?"

Caller:"Kathleen?...I was calling with important news about your Sunday newspaper delivery"

Me:" I don't have the Sunday paper delive...hold on...Sammy-STOP! Never stick a knife in the toaster!! that is dangerous! You could electrocute yourself! get it out this way...I'm sorry..I don't get the Sunday paper...hello? ..hello?...(click) hello?...hello?" sigh..both of them hung up.

I can look at this a number of different ways..The important call I was waiting for? Well if it is that important they will call me kids did learn that putting a knife in the toaster and standing on tables can be dangerous things. Although saying "Chowders Feet", and asking for help with online poker..we will just have to work harder on those things. As for telemarketers?
I doubt that I will be receiving calls about the Sunday paper any time soon..I do know this. If I ever want my kids undivided attention, if I ever want to know what they are up to, what they are doing...all I have to do is pick up the phone.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oscar and the abstract cactus...

I do remember one thing.It took hours and hours but..
By the time I was done with it,
I was so involved, I didn't know what to think.
I carried it around with me for days and days..
Playing little games Like not looking at it for a whole day
And then..
looking at it.
To see if I still liked it. I did.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat..
The more I look at it, The more I like it.
I do think its good.
The fact is..No matter how closely I study it,
No matter how I take it apart,No matter how I break it down,
It remains consistent.
I wish you were here to see it.
I like it.

From "Indiscipline" by King Crimson

Two weeks of school down..sort of. Three days the first week and four the second. Tomorrow begins the first time they will be going for the five full days. Hallelujah! I say this not so much for me-but for them. My kids need a pattern-a consistent pattern. It gives them a feeling of control knowing exactly what they are going to be doing. Having the odd Monday or Friday off, really throws them. They don't know what to do with it, and in turn..I don't know what to do for them. They love school. They love it so much that I can use taking it away as a threat. "Fine, don't clean up this can stay home from school tomorrow and do it instead." "NO!! Mama..I'll clean it now..don't make me miss school!" "Well..'s your choice..." Sometimes I feel down right evil. But, I get over it.

Out of the four of them, change affects Oscar the most. School to Oscar is the ultimate in order.
He has a schedule, a plan, and as long as you follow it-he is one happy boy. If you change it without ample warning (by ample warning I mean-notifying him of the change at least fifty or so times..having him repeat it back to you and putting it in writing-in triplicate) my boy loses it. I can't say that I blame him. He took the time to memorize the schedule that they made, to the point that he knows it forwards and backwards....even "offering" his help should they somehow forget something. He deserves a warning or fifty thousand, if it is going to change.

This year, getting back into the rhythm of things hasn't been so easy. He hasn't had a full week, hasn't gotten to do the things he likes yet (library and music), his teacher has already been absent once..he just doesn't feel settled. It is taking its toll. He is one grumpy boy. Really grumpy. So grumpy that he is taking his mood out on everyone.I did try to talk to him about it..but sometimes, talking to Oscar, especially about his feelings..well...sometimes I feel like I need a guide book, or at least a translator. "Hey bud, what's going on? You know it's not o.k. to hit your sister." "Yes but..but ...but...but..." "But what?" "but..but..but.." "Is it school?" "No!"

"Then what's going on? You seem very grumpy" "I'm ANGRY!" "What are you so angry about?" "I'm angry at the cactus!" "Your angry at...the cactus...What cactus?" "It is sharp and it pokes people." "Wait a second...are we talking about a cactus plant? Is there a cactus at school?" "The cactus pokes hurts them!" "O.k...I'm a little confused there a real cactus?..or do people make you think if cacti?" "Can we be done talking Mama?"..sigh.."O.K- just remember that we don't hit people in this's o.k. to be angry..but we don't take it out on other hitting!..O.K.??" "No hitting..o.k. mama"

Sigh...I'm not quite sure what Oscar meant about the cactus. I do know that the message about not hitting got through. But the cactus? It could in fact mean that Oscar is equating the change of schedule, the uncertainty of his day to day activities-to being poked. A cactus is a great analogy. Only time will tell. I know this much though-I won't know until I know. I can't tell you how many times I have patted myself on the back-thinking I figured something he said out, only to be proven wrong. So until open house night at school, when I know for sure that there isn't a giant cactus wreaking havoc on the students..I'll keep my speculations to myself.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

And they're off!

"I got the boogie boogie in my socks"
Rickie Lee Jones
From "Woody and Dutch on the slow train to Peking"

The first day of school in my house is a cause for celebration. The anticipation, the excitement, the sheer exuberance of that day is wondrous. My kids seem pretty excited as well. They finally get to wear their new shoes-(I keep them hidden till the first day..otherwise they would have magically outgrown them or worn them out in the three days since they were bought) new backpacks (also hidden for fear they will be lost or buried in the sandbox) It's a new adventure but the same routine. So they handle it pretty well. For the first day or two at least, after that, all bets are off.

The first day went without a hitch. I woke up before the alarm went off-an amazing feat. We had lived for so many years with sleep deprivation, and now that the kids are sleeping a solid ten hours a night, AND are able to get up unsupervised by themselves...So, I had the luxury of sleeping in this past summer. (Of course what I got up to could be an adventure in spilled milk, cereal,and jelly smears...but it was worth it...and, when I say "sleeping in" I mean lying in bed awake listening to them, because besides being very noisy, they would often come and check to see if I was awake-"IS SHE AWAKE????"..."SHHH YOU"RE TO LOUD!" "I AM NOT-MAMA! SAMMY SAID I WAS TOO LOUD!!") So , on the first day of school, I was surprised to get up as early as I did. I think it was the silence that woke me.

It is nice to be able to enjoy my coffee in that quiet hour before the sun is up, or on this day-the quiet five minutes before my excited herd burst out of their beds. Although "excited" is an understatement. Frenzied..crazed..over stimulated.... Lets just say they were raring to go. "Mama! LOOK AT MY NEW SHOES!!!" "I see them honey, I remember the three hours it took to pick them out" "LOOK MAMA!! THE"HELLO KITTY" ON MY BACKPACK SPARKLES!!!!!" "Yes, I showed me fifty seven times last night" and on it went for two hours until the bus came to take them AWAY!..I mean, the bus picked them up. I stood there as the bus pulled away, shell shocked....just stunned by the absolute quiet-it was deafening.

I spent the day as I said that I would. I listened to music-loud, I drank coffee, I even cleaned out the refrigerator-something that NEEDED to be done. There are people who collect souvenir's of their summer trips, little trinkets to remind them of all their good times...I had my refrigerator. There were the moldy burgers leftover from our first barbecue...half eaten apples from the day I decided to teach them how to make a pie..I even found the ice cream bar Zoe had lost. Sigh...some people have photo albums..I had old food. If only there were a way to save it-preserve it-so that we could take it out and look at it in years to come. "Look Sammy, here's the tuna sandwich with a tiny crumb bitten off-remember this? You swore that you wanted to try tuna, and that you would actually taste it? Remember how you put it in the fridge to save for later?..Maybe next time you could wrap it in something?" "Oh look Lily! I think it's the really expensive blueberries that you couldn't live without !! or is it the bag of raisins Zoe lost..or raisinettes?..Did we ever have a rabbit?" It could be fun.

It took the better part of the day to finish this task- I did take lots of coffee/music breaks. The kids were on their way home by the time I was done. I couldn't wait to see them! Ask them about their days..what did they do? How did they like it? I was so excited! I could hardly contain myself as the bus pulled up to the house...They all came running in "Mama, Mama! We're home!" "Hey! I really missed you guys! How was your day? Did you like it? How are your teachers?" Sammy said "No homework...can I have a snack?" Oscar said " It was good, can I go on the computer?" and my Lily (for whom this was the first time she was in school the full day) "I loved it...I don't know why I didn't do this years ago!" That's about as good as it gets in the description department. They seem happy. We'll see how it goes over the next few days. In the meantime, I'm thinking about cooking something special to commemorate their first week of school. You know, something to stick in the back of the refrigerator to remind me of this special time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Itchy feet and wanderlust in the mid-life wasteland...

"Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living
I don't need to fight
to prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven"
From "Baba O'Riley" written by Pete Townshend

It has been a crazy hectic busy week. Always is the right before school starts. School supplies, shoes, clothes...getting the herd used to the idea of a changing schedule. As always, they all seem to have grown at least a foot. Sammy at almost eleven is about five inches shorter than me, and I am five feet five and a half inches tall. Oscar at eight is not too far behind him. Both of them wear size 7 men's. I am going to have some very big boys in a few years. Hopefully by then, they will be willing to carry in the groceries...or better yet-Carry me! Oh I can see it now.."Mom? (they won't call me mama anymore-Sammy is already outgrowing it) can you make me lunch? I'm hungry." I'll just look at them and say "I can't go to the legs are tired...carry me." Oh the fun I'll have!

So many changes happening. My kids are growing up. This year I will have three of the four in school full time, and Zoe in a part time.( pre-school) I have fantasized about this day-when all of them were out of the house..when I could listen to music without one of them yelling "mama! turn that noise down!" when I could clean without someone following behind me and remaking the mess..when I could sit down and just think-my own thoughts. When the background noise was of my own choosing and not of Pokemon or caillou. Oh I am giddy with expectation!

Sigh...I know what's going to happen though. They will get on the bus that first day of school, and I will waltz into the house. I will put on music and start the cleaning..singing at the top of my lungs the whole time. I'll get done in record time because no one is around to interrupt me. There will be no one to ask for snacks or socks, no one asking to be picked up or for a hug. Just silence. I'll start to think..."I wonder how Oscar is doing?..I wonder if Sammy is feeling less stressed..How is Lily handling her first full day?...Zoe should be home in two hours..I hope she isn't too anxious, being away from me for the first time...she is so little..she is uncomfortable in large groups...I wonder if she needs me..and then I'll start to cry.

It's hard watching them grow up. For eleven years I have been the center of a small little universe...that revolved around me. Now their universe has expanded. I am being replaced by friends, school, activities...which is what is supposed to happen. My kids have worked very hard at trying to navigate their way around this world of ours. It has not been easy-but they have done it-because I asked. Now they are doing it because they want to. How incredible is that?
Sometimes it is just so hard getting what you wished for.

I know I still have years of getting snacks and finding books ahead of me. Years of fighting and laughter and hugs. You never do get to stop being a mom. It is just that for the first time, I am sensing the end of a chapter....and the beginning of another. One in which I am not the main focus...and I find that bittersweet. I am awed by all of my herds accomplishments. They are wonderful kids. I just seem to be finding myself at loose ends. I have itchy feet and wanderlust.
There are so many things I still want to do, adventures to be had, dreams to be fulfilled. Only I am finding myself caught in this mid-life wasteland. I am still very much needed at home, but to a much lessor degree. I have too much time on my hands but not enough time to do anything about it.

So on that first day of school, when I am done doing all the necessary things that make our house livable..I am going to sit myself down with a big cup of coffee..maybe do a little writing, do a little dreaming. I have my own next chapter to plan. I am certainly not going to waste my time crying. Besides, I have to dream up ways in which to torment my older kids! Lets see...I'll ask them to carry me because my legs are tired...maybe wake them up in the middle of the night because I'm lonely? I know! I'll throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, right in the entrance, so they will have to carry me kicking and screaming out of the way...oh the possibilities are endless... There is no ending to possibility.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

procrastination makes a house a home

This month marks the fourth year that we have lived in this house. This is the longest I have lived anywhere in thirty years. I can't help it. I have itchy feet...I love to move, to start over, I crave change. Having four kids has put a bit of a damper on all of that. Especially when those kids abhor change of any kind. If it were up to them, we would live in this house forever. Until the end of time. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it..the middle school and high school in this town are not very good. As this is Sammy's last year of elementary appears that we will be moving next summer. That is if we can sell our house.

My house is a pretty New Englander from the outside. On the inside is a very different story. It was built in 1881, we are the third set of owners to inhabit it. Unfortunately, the last owner decided to "remodel" the inside of the house. Who knew there was such a style as "70's Slaughter House" Beautiful tin ceilings covered with drop down panels...and not just any old panels-asbestos panels..with the added allure of Styrofoam faux beams. Not only that-these lovely nine foot ceilings were dropped down to five and a half feet. With yards of electrical wires thrown lovingly behind them-live of course. All of the walls were dramatically covered with brown paneling, and a lovely matching wall to wall carpet covered the entire first floor-kitchen and bath included! Add the marbelesque red vinyl counter tops, and you have the house that crazy decorated.

We have done much to restore it to its original beauty. We did tear out the kitchen-much to Sammy's horror. He thought it was lovely-to which I responded "I saved it all for you in the can have it for your own home one day" Sadly, this made him happy. We removed the carpeting, and painted the paneling..we restored the tin ceilings..and then we just stopped.

Sigh...this always happens. We start off with the best intentions. We see the potential, and can't wait to get started. We plan and scheme, design and dream. We are avid do it yourselfers. Only because we can't afford to have anyone else do it. Otherwise we would be avid contractor hirers.

We have this strange pattern that we follow. We buy a cheap old house (this is our third) with the idea that we will fix it up, sell it, and make enough of a profit to buy a nice house that doesn't need any work. Doesn't seem to be working for us. Not at all.

Every year, Omar gets three weeks worth of vacation time. Every year we plan out each week in great detail. What projects we are going to undertake, what supplies are needed, what we plan to accomplish each day.This happens to have been one of those weeks.

We planned to finally fix the roof, look for an electrician, repaint the dining room and kitchen, install a dishwasher, and make plans for a second bathroom. So far we have had weekend guests, gone to the zoo, an amusement park, the beach, and played in the pool. It is Friday and Omar goes back to work on Monday. Oh well, he does have one more week in October.

I guess it is just a matter of priorities, or procrastination...or a little of both. Right now, our kids need us more. And really, what would you rather do-paint walls or be attacked by goats at the zoo? Yes, I did sustain a minor goat injury at the petting zoo-but that's a story for another day.

The point is, our kids don't notice all the work that needs to be done. Right now, a second bathroom isn't as important to them as spending time with us as a family. I certainly can't complain-I'm just happy that everyone finally uses the bathroom! To them, just being together-laughing, playing, enjoying each others company is what makes our house-home. Regardless of the ugly paneling.

I don't know what adolescence is going to bring, or what the future holds for any of our kids. I do know this-all that we have is this one moment-this brief slice of time...and I'm going to make the most of it. Relish every second. .. leaky roof and all! Because in this one moment-my kids know that they are loved-unconditionally-without question. They know they are home.

Omar and I will get it together as we always do. This is the way it always plays out. We finally finish the house-just in time to sell it. Never really having a chance to enjoy it in all its glory. That's o.k., because as long as we're together we'll always be home.

The other night, I found Omar hanging a toilet paper roll. Something that has needed to be done since we moved in. I laughed and said "I guess we are really going to be moving" he just looked at me-knowingly and said "I guess so". I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting my Oscar...

Every parent over time learns to decipher their children's cries..You know by the volume, the tone..
exactly how fast you need to get to them. Is it a "I fell of my bike and scraped my knee" cry? Or the more serious "My brother hit me in the nose with a snow shovel, and I definitely need to go to the E.R. because my face is gushing blood" cry. Thankfully, I have dealt more with the skinned knee sort of cry. (although the snow shovel incident did indeed happen) In fact, over time, I have gotten pretty good at knowing when to run and when to saunter. Except when it comes to Oscar. Out of all my kids, Oscar has aged me the most.

Oscar loves words. He loves mimicry, and he has quite the imagination. All wonderful things. My problem is, that he gets so caught up in the game that he is playing, he forgets that it is a game. So much that he can and often does convince me at times that he is in dire peril. "HELP MAMA!!! I'M STUCK!" There I go, running frantically.."Where are you!!! I'm coming!" Only to find him lying under one of the dining room chairs, perfectly capable of getting himself out. "Oscar, you scared me! I thought that you were really in can't do that.." "OOPS, sorry Mama..I made a mistake. I was pretending I was Thomas and my tender got stuck." Sigh..I have come to loathe Thomas and all little his tank engine friends..

Oscar has a way with words. He didn't really start speaking in sentences until he was almost six. At eight, his expressive language can be a little confusing. Sometimes I am not always sure what exactly he is trying to tell me. He has a unique way of expressing himself. "Oh no, I don't have a tree for the squirrels!" "What?, what squirrels?" "I need a tree, a tree for the nest!""Oscar, what nest? What squirrels?" "EEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!" and off he runs. I come to find later that he was thinking about an episode of "Clifford the Big Red Dog" I guess it was about homeless squirrels? Aren't there better ways to teach kids about raising social consciousness? But that's just my opinion.

He tries so hard, my curly headed wonder boy. At the store, in the park, in the restroom, if there is a person there, Oscar will introduce himself and our entire family, depending on who is with him. (we are working on the restroom thing) If you are wearing a name-tag, that is an open invitation to Oscar. Yesterday, at the deli counter, a young man by the name of Jim P. happened to be waiting on us. "Hi Jim P., my name is Oscar. This is my brother Sammy, and my sisters Lily and Zoe, and my mom Mrs. Leopold." I won't be surprised if one day he starts giving out our social security numbers as well. I think it is his genuine sincerity that attracts people to him. We have never gotten strange looks, nor has Oscar ever been ignored. He genuinely wants to meet people. He is a joyful boy. So very very funny as well.

Oscar knows how to make me laugh. He has a wonderful sense of humor-and knows just how to use it. If I am in a bad mood, cranky or just overtired, Oscar never fails to get a laugh out of me. There I'll be pacing and muttering to myself..Oscar will look at me and say "MAmaaaaa?""What?".."MAAAAMAaaaaa?" heavy sigh.."WHAT Oscar?!!" " FARMERS NIPPLES! heeheee! Say it mama! Say FARMERS NIPPLES!" "NO! I'm not going to say that!" "What won't you say Mama?" "Farmers nipples" "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...mama said FARMERS NIPPLES! HAHAHAHA!" How can you not laugh?

He got me again the other day. There I was in the kitchen, when I hear "help mama! I'm stuck..only this time it was muffled. I casually looked around, thinking that maybe he was in the closet, or locked in the bathroom. I couldn't fine him. We had talked about places he wasn't allowed to get stuck-like refrigerators, car trunks..I was scared now..I could not find him-and he sounded desperate! I ran out the door...and there he was..he had indeed gotten himself stuck. He had somehow managed to squeeze his body into our cat carrier and couldn't get out. It took a load of patience and some strength, but ten minutes later, we managed to pull him free. "Oscar! please don't ever ever climb inside there again!" "Ooops, sorry Mama...I was just being stuck in a tunnel." sigh...I really don't like Thomas the tank engine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Small time big change

"I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
and gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in."
Based on a poem by Robert Fletcher-revised and set to music by Cole Porter

My ten year old is anxious about moving away from home. Yes, at ten, my son is already worried about living on his own. The other night as I was bringing him up to bed, he tried to slip through the "short cut" a broken section of our banister that the kids climb through. He got stuck. "Hey buddy, you're getting too tall to slip through there" "I am not tall I am ten years old" "Yes, but you are a tall ten year old" "No I'm not! I am the size that a ten year old should be" "Sammy, You are almost as tall as me..I thought that you were happy about that" "No..I will never be as tall as you!" sigh.."Buddy, whats going on here...I thought you were happy that you were growing so tall." "I don't want to move out." "WHAT!!! who said anything about moving out?""You did said that when I grew up I would move out and go to college" "Sammy,...buddy, I was talking about when you were older, when you graduated from high school...that maybe you would want to go to're only in the fifth grade..that's a long time from now" "But you said when I grew up!" "Oh Sammy, I didn't just mean physically..I meant when you were done with high school and were ready to move out." The tears start welling up in his beautiful dark green eyes. It is like looking at Bambi..or 'Ol Yeller through the scope of a rifle before they were about to be shot..big liquid pools welling up under incredibly long eyelashes.."I won't ever (hiccup) be ready..." "Oh don't ever have to leave matter what, you always have a home with me and papa" "But will it be for real?"he said while one big fat tear rolls down his cheek.."What do you mean for real...?""Will I still be able to eat dinner with you and have snacks and live in my room..." At this point the fantasy I had of me and Omar holding hands and running on a beach somewhere is slowly fading..only to be replaced by visions of me at eighty five years of age still making snacks, still filling juice cups..all while riding a "rascal". "Yes bud, always for real."

Sammy doesn't not like change...not one bit, and with puberty starting to rear its head, he doesn't have much choice. Change is coming whether he likes it or not. He does his best to try and control it.."Mama, when I go to college, can Oscar come with me?" "We'll see bud, Oscar may have different ideas of what he wants to do".."But we can have bunk beds..and I can bring my castle.." " Well, you can bring your castle...although you might not be interested in it when it is time for college." "I will ALWAYS play with my castle!! ALWAYS! I will never NOT want to play with my castle" "Then bring your castle!" sigh..We have lots of conversations like this..I have learned to just let things go... There is no point in arguing..Sammy will get there in his own time..I know this by looking at all the changes that have happened.

There was a time that I thought I would forever be watching the same episode of the Teletubbies at three in the morning..the one with LaLa and the bunnies..,a time when I thought he was going to eat pizza three times a day for the rest of his life (we are down to twice a week),A time when I thought that he would never talk, use the potty, wear short sleeves in the summer, ride a bike, read, sing at a concert..and so much more. I look back at all those things and think does it really matter WHEN he did those things-or rather, that he did them. He just did it in his own time.

Time is a funny thing. When you are in the middle of a bad stretch, it seems to crawl..and when things are running smoothly it speeds up. I look back on all of Sammy's past struggles, and they seem so insignificant now that we are not in the midst of them. And yes, he still has many challenges ahead of him, but he has worked so hard and come so far. In his own way and at his own pace. He is an incredible boy.

This evening while the kids were riding their bikes up and down the driveway, Sammy came to me and said.."Mamma?...when are you going to let me ride my bike in the street?" "Sammy, you really need to be able to pay attention to cars and the road before I can let you do that" "But I'm almost eleven Mama!" Sigh...I have to laugh at my silliness....There I was thinking "When will you finally grow up!" and at the same time kicking myself wondering "When am I going to LET them grow up?"I guess change isn't always easy for anyone.

I do dream of a day when Omar and I can have some time together. ALONE. When my kids don't need us quite so much. I don't know what the future holds for any of them. The only thing I do know is that they will get there when they get there. Hopefully, I won't be eighty five. But if I am..I'm going to be riding a kick-ass "rascal"..that's for damn sure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Scared, lost, and confounded..but finding my voice.

I look at them, these children of mine. Each so absolutely divine. I think about autism...and that three of mine are on the spectrum....each in different places..different needs..different people.

I think about my oldest, Sammy. How when he was a year old..he seemed to disappear..slowly going into his own world..a world without eye contact..a world without speech. I think about how scared I was..and lost..and utterly confounded. About how to get him back. I remember when I realized that he had never left..that he was always there...always listening. Always voice. How important my voice was.

I think about Oscar..who for so long could not speak..could not ask..could not tell. I remember when it seemed that all he could do was scream..And again I was scared..and lost...and utterly confounded. I remember thinking I can not do this..and then thinking if not me then who? I remember when he discovered music..and could find peace. I remember rocking him to that music and his heart beating next to mine. I remember sharing that peace. I remember when I was his sole voice and realizing he was the voice of my soul. I remember how important my voice has been.

I think about Lily who is not on the spectrum. Whose voice and opinion are both so loud. I remember looking at her and thinking how do I do this-she is not like them. How scared I was and lost and confounded. How would I raise this girly girl next to brothers who are so different?
I remember looking at her, playing alongside her brothers..adoring them and simultaneously driving them crazy. I listen to her tell company "this is my brother Oscar...sometimes he says "eeeeeee"!" There is no shame, no contempt. It is what it is and it suits her. I recognize in her, my voice. I realize its importance...its impact.

I think about my baby girl Zoe. Who just now is in the process of being diagnosed. This time, I am not so scared, nor lost, nor confounded. I just have to look at my other three and see that there is nothing to be afraid of. I think about how overwhelmed she gets in crowds with noise and change. I think about how she looks to me to keep her she will snuggle in close to hear only my voice. I think about how important my voice is...

I think about the post on which a mother speaks of death, and hatred, and disgust..I think about her child. I think about the voice that she hears..and I am confounded and she is so lost. I think about using my silence this vitriol.

Mostly, I think about my children..and what a privilege it is to be their mother..and an honor and a joy. Through them, I have found my voice...and I am no longer scared.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The circus is coming...RUN!

"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight"
Lon Chaney

The circus was in town-and I just don't like the circus. The noise, the costumes ...the clowns. ick...I shudder thinking about it. For ten years I have avoided taking my children to the circus. I have driven different routes just to bypass any billboards advertising them...I have removed ads from the local paper....thrown out fliers..and if that failed, and one of my kids happened to notice...I did what every parent does in times of great stress-I flat out lied. "Oh, we missed was last week".."I tried to get us tickets, but they were all sold out..sorry-maybe next time."

This year....this year was different. This year they handed out free passes at summer rec. Yeah, summer rec. The place that I had thought of as salvation. The place I had once counted on to keep my kids safe..but no more. They had backed me into a corner..I could avoid it no ten year grace period was up. There would be no more lies. No more half truths..I had no other choice. I had to take them to the circus.

It wasn't a regular circus was a small town, family owned, one ring affair. It was the kind of circus you would see in a fever dream....or a Stephen King movie. Garish peeling paint..the sparkles not so sparkly, ill fitting costumes and geriatric animals. The people working it were just plain unhappy....sullen even. And the "refreshments"? The cotton candy (4.00) pre-packaged, the popcorn(3.00) pre-popped..the lemonade(3.00) pre-watered down. It was depressing. My kids being how kids are, noticed none of that. They though it was fabulous.

We watched a dog which five different dogs ran from one platform to the other..while jumping through a hoop. An acrobat who contorted her body while hanging on to a ring fifty feet in the air...lifting her legs in such a way, that every male in the audience let out a collective "Whoa.." (including my ten year old son). And then there was the clown....He wasn't your regular sort of clown..not much makeup..he wore a plaid suit and a pointy hat.. He was not a happy guy, although he worked hard at convincing people he was. Now, I am afraid of clowns. Really afraid, and this clown was big on audience I spent a sweaty fifteen minutes silently chanting "don't make eye contact...don't make eye contact. It worked-until he started walking around selling coloring books.Which my kids really I had to talk to him..even though I begged my husband to do it for was a fast transaction-I kept my face averted..I was afraid he would steal my soul with his mad clown eyes...or talk to me.

I am pleased to say that the coloring book was the only souvenir that we bought them. Which was no mean feat, considering that they would announce things for sale between every two acts or so. They even had an intermission in order that people could go and visit the gift stands "located at the front end of the tent." They spent an awful lot of time trying to sell you crap. My kids of course wanted everything...and not all of them understood why they couldn't have it. It made for a few rather tense moments.

The last straw, was the chimpanzees. Chimpanzees in western wear. Riding ponies. Old ponies. How freakish is that? They looked like long time residents of a psych ward, let out for an afternoon shuffle-(I wouldn't have been at all surprised if they had pulled out a pack of Marlborough reds and started smoking).... The chains around there necks only added to the image. It was just plain creepy, masquerading as fun.

At the end of the show, they once again "suggested" stopping by the souvenir stands on the way out. They also said that they looked forward to coming back next year. My kids can't wait. I plan to be out of town.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crazy comes to Kathleen

"My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus"
Jimmy Buffet

It has been an odd week. We have gone from ceaseless rain to suddenly sunshine back to ceaseless rain..My restless herd has started their summer recreation program..order has been restored-for the most part. We are starting to get into the swing of summer. A different schedule, different activities..different sleep schedule. The kids are doing great-I seem to be the one having the problems..issues..trouble.

Journal entry: "It is now the 19th day of summer vacation and with the exception of about two has been raining and cold. I am afraid of my basement...I think that I am growing mold..on my body. Will there be no end to this miserable weather? Will I never feel the suns warm rays beating down on my exposed skin..causing untold damage with its U.V. rays? I don't think I can take it anymore. I may have to kill one of the dogs."

The weather has been playing havoc with my mood...tap dancing on my last nerve. Causing me to behave in a manner not quite appropriate for public consumption. I am scatter brained- restless....and very impatient. I can't seem to hold my tongue-when I should be. It is causing me problems..Especially in situations where being an adult is of the utmost importance. Situations like, getting your child evaluated.

We are currently working on having our youngest evaluated..We had already had her screened at child development services and they suggested aspergers..But it is summer in order to get the ball rolling-we have to go with single evaluations..(i.e. speech, o.t.,etc.) until the fall when we can get a team diagnosis. So, we set up our first appointment with the speech therapist. I should have known it wasn't going to go well when-instead of calling me to cancel the appointment, she left a note for me at her office with her home phone number on it. Asking that I give her a call. It seems that she doesn't work on Thursdays...and was currently at home. You know "home"..the place I had driven thirty miles AWAY from to get to her office? She said that she felt bad-so she arranged a visit at my house for later that day. Gosh! How I had to clean. So I rushed around...dusting, vacuuming...making sure there was toilet paper. Oh I hate the home visit! Given the particular mood I have been in, I should have rescheduled..

The speech therapist arrived-on time..and proceeded to work with my girly girl. Asking her questions..doing puzzles, looking at pictures. My girl her own way(i.e. no eye words except for what was necessary) So far so good..Until the speech therapist decides-that well, because she "KNOWS" autism..and she HAS worked with REALLY "autistic" a "HOME"..she is going to try something a little different.( O.K, my alarm bells are going off...but I hold my tongue. The point is to get my daughter some help..maybe she knows something I don't..) She takes my girls hand and says " look at my eyes, follow them, and tell me, what I am seeing." and proceeds to walk around the house gazing left and right. Huh? My girl doesn't know what to make of this(and neither do I), and begins to just name things in the general direction that the speech therapist is looking. WTF? Is this some new form of diagnosing? Dowsing for autism? It made no sense! The therapist, seeing how my girl is answering, stops and says... "well, she is not severe...probably more moderate...or, she could just be shy." and it was "going to be up to us parents...the ball was in our court as to what to do for her." What??!! O.K..I had been nice to that point.. I had served coffee. But this was just too much. I couldn't help myself...really...I just blurted out.."ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR F***ing MIND? I think I scared her with my stellar diction and perfect enunciation. Because, our meeting ended rather quickly after that. Although, I did thank her and wish her a nice afternoon. I can be well mannered.

We meet with the occupational therapist next week. I hope it is not raining. I hope she is not friends with the speech therapist.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Crazy comes to Maine

" A girls best friend is her mutter" Dorothy Parker

It has now rained here every day for the past two weeks. The kids have been out of school for one of them. There seems (according to the weather report) to be no end to this soggy mess. Summer recreation does not start for another week. I have been stuck inside the house with four very active children, three dogs, a cat, and a flooded basement.

Oh sure, I could send them out to play in the fact, that IS what I wrote about last week. However, now that they have the appropriate outerwear...foot wear..cover the entire body so that "not one iota of anything gets wet wear"...they don't WANT to go outside. Oh no...they want to be inside with to me..following me..I have not had a single moment to myself. You might even say that I'm a little tense.

I love my children. I really do. They are interesting, funny, loving individuals. It is just that being with them twenty four seven for a full week in a leaky house full of shedding dogs can get a little tiring...grating...o.k. I'm overwhelmed! I admit it.

Sometimes, I wish that I could be like those other mothers...You know the kind. They do crafts...they bake and do projects. They are constantly looking for ideas to fill every waking moment with their children. But, sigh.. I am so NOT that kind of mom. I'm the learn to entertain yourself, go play outside it is a beautiful day kind. The go read a book, draw, ride your bikes, play on the computer, play with your enormous amount of toys....(and when exasperated) with the laundry...vacuum the living room..clean the bathroom sort of gal. Usually, they are more than happy to listen to my suggestions...especially when I threaten housework for their lack of anything better to do. Not so this week.

No, this was the week of fighting..days where the background noise was not of laughter and joy, but rather of "she stole my train, my underwear." "He called me a baby"..."Sammy said Barbie doesn't have a vagina!-that's not polite!""I don't want to go to bed-I just got up!" This was the week when hell came to visit Maine. And oh what a week it was.

What started as a joyful occasion, (the end of the school year) quickly turned into a time of restlessness and distraction. My kids are used to having their time structured-now all of a sudden, they had time on their hands. My herd turned into a pack, and when they weren't fighting among themselves...they turned on me- An innocent mother! I did everything that I could to stop the madness. I gave them new markers, paper, play-dough...I bought Cocoa Puffs! Nothing seemed to work. Nothing that is -until I separated them. I put them each alone in a room-with toys of their choosing. I told them that they were NOT to talk to each other. That until they could learn to get along together, play together...and treat me like a human being, who by the way, works very hard for them.. they needed to be on their own....I fussed and complained, muttered and sighed. I had had enough! I was a tired woman on the edge of reason, and I think it scared them. Off they went-meekly, to the rooms I had sent them to.

It was the quietest 17 minutes of the week.

But it worked. It worked. Those few short minutes of quiet..of being alone helped them to center calm down-to relax. To realize that it was much more fun to play together than to fight. Besides, by that time they were all hungry and needed some snacks. I told them that I was happy that they were all getting along-that all their fighting just plain wore me out. That if I were going to do the best that I could to take care of them-they needed to help out. That being part of a family was work-good work, but work nonetheless..on and on I went...will I never learn?

I was tucking Sammy into bed later that night when he said "Mama?...I think that you need to retire." "One day bud...Papa and I would like to travel and go places".."I think you should go to a retirement community".."What?!, bud...I don't look good in leisure wear..""No, I think you should be in a home".."A nursing home??" "Yes".."You want to put me in a nursing home?" .."Yes".."You don't want to take care of me in my old age???" "No Mama, it is just too much work."...sigh. I think that I need a kids need a break. I must erase the idea of a nursing hair just doesn't suit me. Although retirement does sound pretty good.

I found a song for the week-or perhaps my life. It is really quite wonderful. If you know it-sing along..if not, I hope I turned you on to a wonderful singer/song. -

Thursday, June 18, 2009

play on...

I am sure that almost everyone has heard the Nietzsche quote "That which does not kill me makes me stronger"...and I know that I can speak with certainty in saying that Nietzsche was definitely not a stay at home mom. Especially during a week of solid rain. When out of sheer necessity I let the kids play out in it. My kids love playing in the rain-they love splashing, kicking up mud, getting wet. What they don't love however, is BEING wet. A damp shirt sleeve or sock can lead to a breakdown. So in and out of the house they trudge..constantly changing clothes-only to go outside and do it all over again. Which means there is a lot of laundry.

Rain to me, means endless loads of laundry ...put it in, take it out, put it in the dryer, take it out, fold it, put it in the basket, bring it upstairs and put it away...then start another load put it in, take it out ,put it in the dryer, take it out.. put it in the basket..and before you know it, I'm channeling Paul Robson -singing my own particular version of "Ol' Man River""I gits weary an' sick of tryin', ah'm tired of livin' an skeered of (DRYING) But ol' man river he jes' keeps rollin' along.." I amuse myself to no kids kids just give me that "Mama's being weird again" look and carry on. They are used to bursting into interesting song.

Music is a big part of our household. I have it on all the time. We listen to everything... with the exception of children's music. There is no place for it...well maybe except for in hell. (I can just imagine what that would be like..being locked in a room with a giant purple dinosaur singing "I love you..." for all eternity)...No, we listen to the good stuff-from alternative to zydeco and everything in between. Music is what holds us together in both the best and worst of times.

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend knotted oak.-William Congreve

I think that I could attach a song to each of my most important memories. My first kiss (the theme to "The Newlywed Game"-hey I was like six years old!) my wedding song (Van Morrison-"Wild Nights)... every life has its own sound track. Only now, mine includes my kids and their experiences. My most memorable surrounds Oscar. I remember a time when screaming seemed to be Oscars only way of communicating. It was as if he could not find any other way of expressing his needs, discomfort, stress or fear..and there did not seem to be anything that I could do to comfort him. There were days where I would lock myself away in the bathroom just to try and compose myself. I was so torn between wanting-NEEDING to help him and at the same time fantasizing about running away from home. One afternoon after a marathon screamfest..I did the only thing that I could think to do. I put on music.. "The Dixie Chicks-Top of The World" and it was simply... magic. Gradually, slowly, he stopped...HE STOPPED. His body relaxed and began to sway in time with the music...especially when the violins played. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, he was calm. I must have played that song at least fifty times that night. Over and over-until we could both breathe..until we could We found a pattern-a rhythm...a way to communicate. I am so thankful for being able to find the right tool-the thing that worked. Thank god for music...thank god for the "Dixie Chicks".

The other night, I was up to my knees in dirty laundry, the dishes needed to be done, the garbage taken out, the dogs walked...I was a woman overwhelmed. I decided to turn up the just so happened to be the "The Dixie Chicks"...Oscar came running in.."the Dixie chicks" Mama! The "Dixie Chicks" dance mama! Dance!" What else could I do?...I kicked aside the laundry and took his hand.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A person and a reader

"In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.

Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

as said by Elwood P. Dowd, played by Jimmy Stewart, in "Harvey"

You know, when I started this blog, I had an idea. I thought that rather then concentrating on just autism, I would instead focus on how autism affected my family. I wanted to do it in such a way that any person could relate to. Whether they had an autistic child or not. I wanted to show people that our life really wasn't that much different than theirs. Oh sure, most people don't have a kid who stims or refuses to take off their snow pants in the spring. I just wanted to find a relatable way to portray what autism is to us-a way that I have never seen in popular media. I want to make people laugh. Sort of like an autism/family humorist.

I choose to focus on the positive. Sure, I could write about the early years. The years when both Omar and myself survived mostly on as little as two hours of sleep a night. (How we conceived our is a blur-although I think that I would remember an angel coming down to chat with I have to assume that Omar is the papa) I could focus on the freak outs, lack of language...lack of desire to potty train...but really, why? What purpose would that serve-except to make me some sort of victim or martyr. I am so not a victim, and besides, I am saving martyr-hood for adolescence!(as is any parents right)

So I guess you are wondering what the point of this post is..Today, I had a sad thing happen. Which was later followed by a great thing. I was talking to a friend. Over the past month or so, we have been discussing autism, how it affects the kids, our family...but mostly about how great all my kids are. The joy that I have-how lucky I am. Today, I brought up something I had read, about a parent saying that they would choose death over autism for their child. I was about to go into how very sad I felt for that lost and confused and downright WRONG they were , when I was interrupted(by my friend) who AGREED with this person!! Talk about being knocked on my ass...blown away..rendered speechless !(very hard to do to me) Hadn't she heard a single word that I had said! I asked her one thing...I said "Don't you think my children have value?" Needless to say, the conversation ended quickly after that.

I was pondering this later-more like I was watching the herd ride their bikes. We all have choices in this life. I could choose to debate against autism "victims"..(there are excellent blogs that do so) but that is simply not my forte. So what are my options? Oh so smart...or oh so pleasant? For me, the choice is pleasant everytime. Either you get it or you don't. Obviously, my friend didn't. As this was going through my head, Oscar came running to me. He was angry because Lily was calling him a baby. He said "I am not a baby! I am a PERSON! I am a READER!" I thought to myself..."You are also not are Oscar..joyful, funny, and loving. Perfect."

Friday, June 5, 2009

You can lead a mother to school pictures, but you can't make her buy them..

I have never (purposely) had professional pictures taken of my family. You know the kind, everyone grouped together, in matching sweaters. All of us looking at the camera-smiling...with the "We are such a happy family" gleam in our eyes. Don't get me wrong, we are a pretty happy bunch. It is just that our kind of happiness doesn't seem to photograph all that well.

I think, that part of the problem, is that my kids don't know HOW to have their picture taken. This is not for lack of trying. I have spent much time trying to get just one good shot of them together. I have hundreds of family shots...none though, where they are all looking at the camera. Getting all of them to sit still AND look in one direction for more than 1/2 a second is near impossible. Somebody invariably turns their head, somebody bends down, sneezes, and then... there is Oscar. My constantly moving curly headed flying boy. For years, I don't think that people believed that I had a second son. I would patiently explain-"no, he's the one on the right"..."The right?" "yes, see that blur over by the window?"..."That fuzzy blue thing?"..."Yup, that's Oscar!" Needless to say, I have an awful lot of partial family photos.

Candid shots seem to work best for us. Our home is filled with them. My children are quite lovely...until they are asked to pose. I don't know what happens..when posing, they seem to take on another persona....a certain "gooniness". They don't look like themselves. They look strange. Nothing proves this better than the dreaded school picture.

I don't make a big deal of picture day at school. I don't buy special outfits or dress the kids up. I send them in like I do any other day. I have told them if they choose not to have their picture taken-that this was o.k. with me. I do this especially for Oscar, as he has told me that he doesn't like it. I don't intend (intend being the operative word) to buy them anyway. Regardless, they always choose to have them taken-even Oscar.

About three months later, they come rushing home pictures in tow. Large packets of them. Eight by tens, five by sevens, wallet size, bookmarks, key chains, refrigerator magnets. Just how many photos does one family need? Judging by what the photo company sends home, apparently hundreds. Hundreds of the worst imaginable pictures ever. There's Sammy with the ENORMOUS head...balding Lily..and Oscar (who after probably being prompted to smile five million times) looking like the before picture in a laxative ad. Yes, they are that bad. The worst part? Not only do my kids WANT me to buy them...they get upset when I say that I don't want to...couldn't possibly...NO! "But Mama"..Sammy says as tears pool in his luminous dark green eyes "don't you WANT a picture of me?" "Oh Sammy, doesn't LOOK like you.." "Yes it does!" "No honey, your head couldn't possibly be that large..""My head doesn't look that big in the picture..""Honey, if it looked any bigger, N.A.S.A. would send a space probe...""But don't you want it Mama..(hiccup)...a picture of me?"...a single tear runs down his rosy cheek..Sigh..I say the only thing any self respecting mother would "O.K.buddy, if it means that much to you..." I smile, but inside, I am seething..

I know what those school picture companies are doing. Instead of sending home one picture, they send home the entire package. They KNOW the odds are, that our children will somehow guilt us into buying them all..I imagine the meeting in their corporate office.."First, we'll take bad pictures...print them on low quality paper..hahaha...and then haha...we'll send home the whole package..hahaha..the kids will beg for them..haha maybe even cr haha cr haha CRY! HAHAHA!...we'll make a FORTUNE!! MWhahahaha...mwhahahaha!" They are evil.

This year I decided to do something different. I decided that instead of buying them, I just wasn't going to return them. If the photo company wanted them back, they could come to my house and get them. They could talk to Sammy. Let them have a taste of their own medicine. So, I took the packages of pictures and put them in a box in my attic. The same box that I put last years and the year befores pictures. My kids haven't missed them. I figure that one day, after I am gone, they will find them and wonder "Just who ARE these odd looking kids...and why did Mama have so many pictures of them." In the mean time, I haven't heard a word from the photo company. Cowards.