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.

Monday, June 1, 2009

kicking kittens

I have started a new blog. This is a guest blog site. It is a place for people to put aside their differences . A common ground. There is way too much fighting about hows and whys-causes and cures. Although I welcome debate-I think that sometimes it is forgotten that it is people that we are debating about. This is a place for anyone who has or lives with someone who has a disability to share a positive story. I want to change the way popular media has discussed disability. My children aren't shadows-they are children. They are not a disability-rather people with a disability. They are people. They count. So please go on over and check it out. I already have my first guest kitten kicker (you'll understand the name-when you go over there.) I would love to spread the word...I would love to read your stories...if you are interested in submitting a story-send it to Thanks-Kathleen