Saturday, December 25, 2010

In pursuit of the perfect Christmas...belly? A look back at Christmas 2007....

~"Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won't feel like watching."~ Fran Lebowitz 

 Of all my childhood recollections, the most vivid revolve around Christmas. The tree, the toys, Santa...all of them conjure up wonderful memories of my earlier days. For a kid, it can be the most exciting, suspenseful time of year. For a parent, it can be the most powerful.  Powerful, because of one simple phrase..."Do I need to call Santa?"

  Nothing works better at eliciting good behavior than the threat of calling Santa. "If you don't put down that ornament, I'm calling Santa" "Your not going to bed?!...lets hear what Santa has to say about that." Sometimes I go as far as picking up the phone and dialing. The slightest infraction, the tiniest misstep all I have to do is mention his name in order to get the desired response. "NO! don't call him!"..."I'll go to bed"..."I won't draw on the dog!"..."I'll get out of the washing machine!".... Oh how I love that man!  I admit, I have gotten heady with the power of it all.  Power, however, like most good things can be abused. Use it too much or wield it too carelessly and the threat starts to wear off, the message loses its luster.

  I learned this lesson while picking out last years Christmas tree. Excited about getting our tree, we piled into the mini van, all of us in high spirits. We were a happy family in search of the perfect tree. The gentleman selling the Christmas trees was a portly fellow. That in itself is nothing my children would comment on. It was however, the fact that his underwear happened to be sticking out of his ill fitting sweat pants that got all of our attention-particularly Oscar's. Once Oscar sees something-something that catches his eye....he MUST..MUST comment on it. He is like a dog with a bone-he CAN NOT let go.  Knowing this, I tried to gather him to my side before he could say anything....but..sigh... it was too late.  Very softly, in a low monotone voice, Oscar started saying "unnnndddeeerrrwwwweeeaaarrr"(repeatedly) This of course started my other kids laughing..I gave them "The look" (every parent knows this look) and in my sternest mother voice said "Should I call Santa?" and quickly ushered them back into the van. I thought it had worked, that I had averted disaster...but I was wrong.  We still needed to tie the tree to the top of the van, and who was going to help us to do that? You guessed it-the chubby tree salesman in the ill fitting sweat pants. Now in order to tie the tree to the top of the van we had to leave both side doors open-and sitting on one of those open sides was Oscar. There I was, on full red alert mother mode -trying to catch Oscars eye, ready to invoke the name of Santa, but he was distracted. You see, as the salesman stepped up to reach the roof, his body leaned in the van door-and looming through the door , hanging out of his shirt, was the salesman's belly... it was big , it was hairy and it was an inch away from Oscars nose.  As I looked on in horror(sweat was forming on my upper lip), I started to say(desperately) "Oscar, think of Santa", but it was once again too late. He glanced at me, and with a gleam in his eye...he said in a very low voice, "Beeellllllllyyyyy" as he  ever so slowly extended his finger... Sammy and Lily were besides themselves ..and I was torn between screaming in laughter and acting the mature adult. It was as if the entire world had stopped moving-with the exception of Oscars finger..which was creeping closer and closer(as if in slow motion) to the  salesman's stomach...and as the tip of his finger began to brush the dangling hair-the salesman jumped down and away.. the tree was tied on..the crisis averted..I was exhausted. Oscar just smiled.

  In my relief , after my heart rate returned to normal, I realised that the pull of underwear-the lure of a big belly, these things were even more powerful than the repeated threats to call Santa. That as my kids become more aware of the world around them, and less immersed in the world of our home, my days of Santa threats were numbered.

  I wonder if my kids will look back fondly on these Christmas memories-the way I look back on mine. Will they even remember all of these adventures? I was thinking about this when we went on our Christmas tree quest. This year, getting the tree was uneventful, although when we suggested going back to the same tree lot as last year, Oscar grinned and said "unnnderrrwearrr."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No more tartan knickers!

~"I pity the fool"~ Mr. T  .

 I was reading a post the other day where a mother stated "I don't believe people when they say they don't want sympathy for their child's disability.  Check the thesaurus, sympathy isn't a bad thing." No, sympathy properly expressed isn't a bad thing. In this case however, defining sympathy with synonyms is. Sympathy simply put is "pity". I can say with absolute certainty that I do not want pity because of my children's disabilities. That's just well...icky.  I mean really-pity? How absolutely insulting. Not just to me-but to my kids. If you want to pity me-do it for something worthwhile like a dental appointment or having to go to one of the kids school concerts. I'll gladly accept it then.

Speaking of which, This week I went to Oscars Christmas concert. Unlike the last concert, I was not armed with a designated driver and Valium.  I didn't even have Zoe as a distraction. I was all by myself. A woman-alone.  The only positive I could think of (besides Oscar performing) was that there was a new music teacher.  Yes, the woman who had brought us the "Greatest unknown hits of 17...(yes, the year 17) has retired!!  Not that I mean any disrespect. She was a lovely person who I learned much from-and it wasn't just patience!  I mean who could forget the woman who brought us the same exact Christmas show for the past five years?  I certainly didn't know that carols could also be dirges!  I'll always look back fondly on  Sammy's recorder angst  and who could forget "The gingerbread slave" ?  Good times...good times. She was a lovely lovely woman...I do believe that she truly cared about teaching music. I just think she got tired of it a few years before actually retiring from it. I wish her well.

  This concert was different. I knew it from the moment I got there.  I immediately went to find Oscar to let him know I had arrived-and he was acting odd.  He was so tense.  Usually the boy hops when he sees me..or at least smiles. He just sat there very stiffly-barely turning his head to acknowledge me. I thought "O.K.-he's almost ten now..maybe he's too cool for his mom"-at least in front of his friends.  so I went and took my usual place-at the back of the the case I have to leave quickly..because you never know when an emergency can conveniently  pop up.

  The concert started in the usual way-sort of. First up were the instrumentalists-kids who had only been playing a few months-but were ready to perform. There were only two numbers-and it was sweet. Yes, one girl did go off key with her saxophone quite a bit..but she was happy and proud of herself. Maybe because she didn't have to sit through a long speech about something old and musty beforehand or play in the dark as had been the tradition.  I thought it was wonderful.  Next to perform were the fourth graders-Oscar's group. I have to say-I was prepared to plaster on a smile while I chanted a mantra (in my head) of "please be fast please be fast" as I let my eyes unfocus and glaze over. But it wasn't necessary! Nope-the music teacher got up, gave a quick explanation of what they were singing ...GASP! Kwanzaa and Hanukkah as well as Christmas songs! They were actually singing songs less than 100 years old! From other cultures??!! Be still my heart! What about the usual * "Mold in the corn crib and Jesus wept"? or* "Tartan knickers Kumbaya"? No, these songs were perky and jazzy-so the kids were as well.  Even Oscar-who I could hear singing loudly-slightly raspy and off key.( Although he was still looking a bit stiff-even when they sang "Santa wants a brand new bag"..I put it off as him having too much sensory overload-and he was trying to keep it together. Regardless, it was pure joy to watch.)  Then they got to the last song "Everlasting Fruitcake"..a funny tune about a fruitcake that a family keeps giving away-but keeps getting back.  At the very end of the song-a doorbell rings..and my boy(MY BOY) steps down off of the riser and pretends to open the door. He is handed a fruitcake..he looks up-and at the top of his lungs announces "OH NO NOT AGAIN??!! WAAAAAAA!!" He  brought the house down. And amidst the applause and the high fives he was getting from his friends-he searched me out..and grinning from up on the stage..mouthed "mama.. did you see me?"  My heart just... overflowing..I mouthed back "Yes I did!"..he gave me another smile..a hop..and followed his class off of the stage..

  I had no idea Oscar was doing idea that he had a line in the show. He had kept it from me as a surprise.  And surprised I was..and thrilled and overjoyed and so many other emotions I can't even list them.  Although I can say with total conviction-not one of them was sympathy-for either myself or my boy. He amazed me that day...and continues to do so everyday.  He works hard because he WANTS to..because he CARES. Because he is who he is-I pity anyone who thinks less of him for that.

  In some ways I am going to miss the old music teacher.  She gave me such good material. But I have to say, I really like the new one.

*-I took the liberty of making up those song titles..but trust me-they weren't too far off from what had really been sung in the past few years.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I've been called many things but never this...

 Papa Bear has graciously awarded me with this "Stylish blogger award"..and I am flattered. Now I know that some people make light of all the blogger awards that are around the blogosphere. But not me!  Hey, I spend most of my time in the company of four kids, three dogs and a things like this award really make my day. So thank you Papa Bear! I hope this sends some traffic your way.

  Now in order to accept the award, I'm supposed to tell you seven things about myself and then nominate three more blogs for the award. I decided to share the more quirky  things about here goes.. 

  1) I believe that in no uncertain terms-Lima beans ought to be outlawed. I think that they are one of if not THE most wretched tasting vegetable on the face of the earth.  When my mother would try and serve them for dinner, we would all devise ways to get rid of them. Even my dog loathed them. If you gave them to him he would just let them fall out of his mouth. I used to stuff them in my pocket.

 2) I am not very good at crafts or craft types of projects. My lack of skills and or interest in this type of thing caused me to be dropped from my Brownie troop when I was six. I didn't mind.

3) I can at times be a "literal thinker" much to my embarrassment.  When I was in high school, the topic of "euthanasia" came up. I could not understand the debate or the discussion. I thought "why are all these people making such a big deal about kids in China?"  Thankfully, I kept my thoughts to myself..

4) When I was little, I had an imaginary friend. Her name was "Gengi".(pronounced Jen-Gee) I don't remember when I stopped playing with her.  But, it just so happens that there is a perfume by the same name.
Which makes me wonder if my imaginary friend has been more monetarily successful than I have been. I wonder if she's on Face Book?

5)  I don't know why I started this-but I created an imaginary brother and sister for the kids.  Their names are "Cecil" and "Cheesy". It amuses me to no end to tell Sammy or Lily "It's time for dinner..could you go upstairs and let Cecil know?" Sometimes they play along..(the real kids)  sometimes they get annoyed. I have a good time.

6) I Love watching "The Weather Channel"..(with the exception of "Wake up with Al" because he annoys the crap out of me) I watch it so much that I sent them an email asking that when they were forecasting the weather for my part of the country.."Could the forecaster please step two inches to the right as they were consistently standing in front of my part of the state." It seems to have worked-most of the time anyway...

7) I bought a "Dyson vacuum two years ago.  Not because I thought it was a great product-No, I like how Mr. Dyson( in the commercials) pronounces the letter "S" as in "suction"..strange but true...I do need to get out more.. 

  So there you have it-seven odd little things about me. Now on to the fun part. Three blogs that I find "Stylish"...There are so I'm going to pick two new(to me) ones and a favorite.  

1) Flowers are joy  Because who can resist pictures of lovely flowers-especially in the winter?

2)Kitaiska Sandwich I have only recently started reading her. I have not had the time I wanted to go over as much as I would like to-but I think she's interesting, writes well-and is a champion speller.

3)DSWalkerauthor Again, another blogger new to me. She has interesting posts that invite conversation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A couple of kids..a spectrum..and some Krabs...

~"Too many people grow up.  That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.  They forget.  They don't remember what it's like to be twelve years old.  They patronize, they treat children as inferiors.  well I won't do that."~ Walt Disney

 It isn't easy being different.  It is especially hard when you are twelve. This year is a big one for Sammy.  He is in a different school, he has different things expected of him. He is straddling that fine line between boy and young man. Forming his own opinions through his own experiences instead of relying solely on mine.  For the first time he has been separated from the herd and it hasn't been easy. Autism plays a part in this-although certainly not all of it. Hormones are rearing their ugly little heads as well..The combination of the two can be daunting... challenging..and just plain exhausting. Sammy is coming into his own and he has a lot of questions..a multitude..tons..a veritable cornucopia. 

  Sammy knows that he is on the spectrum. It has always been our thought that autism or any other disability is nothing to be ashamed of.  Our son is not "less than" because of autism. None of our kids are.  That is how we raise them.  The problem is that now that Sammy is coming into his own, he is starting to see his siblings with different eyes and it is hard on him. Especially when looking at Oscar.

  My boys are a pretty good example of how differently autism can manifest itself. They are so very opposite from each other. Kind of like "The Odd Couple"...Sammy would be Felix and Oscar..well, Oscar. Sammy is all things proper and dignified and Oscar.. is not. I can't tell you how many times Sammy has walked around various public places, his arms stretched wide (much like a policeman guarding a crime scene) yelling "Nothing to see here folks!" while Oscar either lay on the floor screaming... walked around on all fours wearing a collar pretending to be Scooby- Doo..or molested a mannequin professing his undying love for her. He is the Yin to Oscar's Yang. I find it amusing...Sammy? He really struggles with it-especially now that he is more aware of how the world works.(just as a side-note..Sammy has done this to all of us at various his sisters..even his Papa and myself-but hey, when Barry White plays over the speakers of the supermarket a couple HAS to dance-it's the law!)

  It hasn't been an easy year for Oscar either. He has been sliding academically-and we are working to find other options. Unfortunately, Oscar would prefer not to work at all. He would much rather spend his time on the computer finding various videos to entertain him. Yes, my son won't read a chapter book-but he can bookmark "Cats farting" "Wile E coyote gets the roadrunner"," Arthur poops" and "punching Barney" on YouTube  with little or no effort.  Being nine years old, he finds great joy in bodily functions. His is a world of butts, farts and poop. It isn't uncommon to hear Oscar repeating verbatim various videos he's seen.  "Mr. Krabs! You're naked" "Aye my boy you're right I am naked!" "Mr. Krabs you're going to pee!" "Aye my boy I am going to pee!ssssssssssssssssssssss" Mr. Krabs you're going to poop!"  "Aye my boy you're right I am going to poop!ppfffplooopppp" (Of course this is done with the appropriate Sponge-bob and Mr. Krabs accents)  The problem is that Oscar doesn't really have conversations at home...he gets off the bus from school and basically spews everything he has kept inside for the day.(we've made it a rule that fart, poop and butt jokes are to remain at home) This bothers Sammy because he wants so much for Oscar to play with him..and Oscar isn't interested. ( Don't get me wrong-they have their moments...times when they are totally connected with each other..where they act out movie scenes or play with toys up in their room..but these moments are far and few between.)  Oscar has held it together and worked so hard to behave at school that when he gets home...he immediately goes on line or starts telling his various poop "Jokes".."Mama..I have a new joke for you!"  "What is it bud?" "Owen did you poop??!!..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"  That's Oscar humor in a nutshell. sigh...Sammy just doesn't get it...

  The other night Sammy came to me and asked "Why doesn't Oscar talk to me?...He's always just saying poop jokes or making fart sounds....He would rather play on the computer than be with me.".."Oh Sammy...Oscar loves have to try and remember that some things are harder for Oscar than they are for you.." "Why?."Do you remember when he didn't talk at all..?" "No.".."Do you remember when all he could do was scream?".."No"..." you remember when YOU stopped talking?" " was hard to hear all the sounds and I didn't always know what you were saying?"  " know how that sometimes still happens with you?" "Yes.." " need to remember that Oscar really hasn't been talking for very long..he is still figuring it all out...just know he's working really hard to do so-just like you do..give him time..he will get where he's going in his own way.."  "I still think he likes his YouTube videos more than he likes us!" "Oh buddy..that isn't really isn't..he loves us all very much"..At this point Oscar over hearing us joined in.."Sammy I don't like videos more than you."  "Then why won't you play with me or when you watch t.v. with me you always want to watch baby shows! Why don't you watch big kid shows like I do?"  "Do you know why I like baby shows?" "No Oscar why?" "Because they have no worries" and with that he left the room..."No worries"..sigh... I guess it isn't easy being nine either...

   Sometimes I feel as if I am walking on a tight wrong step and it's over. Sometimes I find myself worrying right along with Sammy..Will Oscar be o.k.? Am I missing something..should I be doing more to help him..will he ever WANT to do school I asking too much? Oh..the crazy worry! I'll be sitting with Oscar trying to discuss the book he is reading at school and I'll say "Oscar..what do all the characters have in common?"..and he'll look at me and say "Well...they all have arms" or "They don't have horns" and just when I reach that level  of thinking "he can't do this" he'll look at me and say "Mama..I did a search for two wheeled electric scooters..let me show is what I want for Christmas" (at 800 bucks-fat chance of that happening!) so I kick myself for worrying..because I know he'll get where he's supposed to-in his own way and in his own time..and I know this is true because in the back of my head I'll hear Mr. Krabs saying "Aye you're right my girl he will!"or will it be Oscar? either way-I'm not worried.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The power of Santa compels you...

~"Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare"~ 
Ed Asner

 I seem to have lost my moxie in the past week. I just don't feel like doing anything. This isn't a bad thing per say...perhaps a bit frustrating as I do want to get some things done.  I just don't seem to have the energy to do them.  My get up and go seems to have got up and went.  Nothings wrong. I'm healthy, happy..everything here is pretty good. Maybe it is just the change of seasons..or too much Thanksgiving turkey. Either way..I'd like to get it back..Christmas is coming-and with four kids, I need all the help I can get.

  The holiday season is an interesting time at our house. The kids being kids work themselves up into a frenzy of excitement starting at Halloween. It is kind of like a horse race..the bell rings and we are off-usually with me in the lead.. This year though, I feel like I am still at the gate. I think in part this has to do with all the changes going on.  My herd is growing up.. and I feel like I'm staying still. Yes, I know this is what they are supposed to do..and for the most part I find joy in it-I do..but at the same time, I don't like it..not a bit. sigh...I guess I'm feeling a little left out.

  This is the first year that Sammy knows...really KNOWS that there isn't a Santa. He has suspected for quite some time..but he wasn't ready to accept it.  Until now. Which has led to some interesting conversations. " SAID there was a Santa."  "I know I did..but Santa is just one of those things parents do to make the holidays more fun."  "But YOU SAID there was one." "Well...there is kind of..think about it..what IS Santa? What does he represent? He's fun and magical!!  All parents want to be fun and magical Sam!!..Besides, one person couldn't possibly deliver toys and gifts to EVERY house."  "But YOU SAID HE WAS REAL."  "Well...I think he's real in a way..he is the reason for Christmas!" "But YOU SAID people celebrate Christmas because of Jesus." "No..I said many people..not all people...Christmas is a time of joy and fun..and can you understand  why we have least a little?" "But YOU SAID...."   "ALRIGHT! YES I said there was a Santa! I am Santa! Thats night a year I turn into a fat man with a beard and deliver toys all around the world..that's why I'm so tired on Christmas!..the secret is out!! Now you know!! HO HO HO!!" ..."MAMA..sigh..well, what about Jesus?".at that time Lily chimed in with "Jesus?  who is Jesus?" "You know, Christmas is his birthday? have to go to church if you want to learn more about him.."Oh..well I always wanted to try sushi" "Uhh..Lil? They don't serve sushi in church...?"  "Oh..o.k."....sigh...I know-lots of people are honest with their kids from the start. They didn't want to raise them with the idea of a magical guy sneaking into their homes one night a year delivering presents. I get that-I do...and I respect their decision. But I like the idea of Santa..the magic, the mystery...the power. Yes!  The power.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas day, I can't think of a better threat than "If you don't stop drawing on the dog-I will call Santa." or "Girls! Get out of the washer!Santa is watching you." Oh I can hear the skeptics now "You can't expect to raise your child to be a critical thinker..or to trust you if you raise them on on myths..Don't you want them to behave themselves simply because it is the right thing to do?"  Oh blah blah blah.. Talk to me when you are removing fifteen boxes worth of band-aids stuck to every possible surface of your house...or when your kids think that sliding down the staircase in a sleeping bag is good fun even if it does tear the banister down.  Don't get me wrong, my kids are pretty well behaved for most of the year. It is the holiday season that turns them into hyperactive monkeys(with wings). Maybe I am just partial to fat, bearded men in red suits-or worse..maybe I simply relate to them...either way-Santa is a vital part of our holiday season..(and my sanity)

  I don't think it's Sam's new found Santa realization that's getting to me though. I think it is more that they are all growing away that has me feeling so introspective. Parenting is topsy turvy sometimes isn't it?.  For years, I was the center of their universe..and some ways, I'm becoming more of an observer than a participant. Stepping back and letting them figure things out on their own...watching how they look to each other for answers.   A large part of me revels in this. There was a time..and still are times when I worry and fret about the future for my kids. I don't know what it holds for them..I don't know how far they will go. I have to remember though-to look at the here and now and to occasionally glance back to see how far forward we have come. From where I am standing right now, the future- although uncertain, looks pretty bright.

  Last week we were listening to Christmas carols as we were driving out and about.  Now, there is nothing like a rousing rendition of "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer" to get the blood pumping. Especially when it is sung by "Mitch Miller and the Gang"  .  My kids are fabulous in that they will sing with me-at the top of their lungs.(much to Omar's amused discomfort) ..So there we are singing along when Zoe starts kicking the back of Lily's seat. Lily in turn grabbed Zoe's foot and a screaming match ensued. "Girls!!" I yelled "Santa is watching!!" They immediately stopped.  Sam just looked at me (rather accusingly I must say)  Lily said "Sammy do you remember that Christmas eve we were looking out the window and we saw Rudolph's nose glow?" Sammy said "I remember..we were looking outside and we saw the reflection of his nose on the roof!!  And then we heard a banging sound.." Sammy glared looked at me..and Lily said "Mama?...that was Santa right?"..."uuuhhhh...ask me later..I can't hear you the musics too loud."