Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stumbling past...

  Have you ever heard the saying "kids keep you young"? I swear the people who say it either never had kids or are suffering some form of dementia.  There is no doubt about it-kids age you. Mind you, it isn't all bad.  In some ways the aging includes wisdom-knowledge..a different perspective on the world.  On the other hand though, they can just plain wear you out...until you are nothing more than a dried out husk. I think the trick is in finding your balance-your joy.  Especially during the difficult times..say when your three year old son is having a freakout on line at the supermarket-and your eighteen month old daughter (seeing your distraction) unclips herself from her seat and decides to take a ride down the check outs conveyor belt.  Now you have a choice. You can either grab your son and yell to your daughter (and vice versa) OR you can redirect your boy and watch your daughter enjoy the ride. Me?  I'm all for enjoying the ride.   .

 This week,I will be celebrating my forty seventh year. Holy crap forty seven!! How did that happen?  I've been happily skipping along-enjoying the roller coaster that life is-and BAM!  All of a sudden I'm thinking about my mortality. I think kids do that. I mean, I never really thought about "THE END" until I had kids. My life-being alive..never seemed more important than when they entered the picture.  I very much remember the day Sammy was born..holding my little chubby headed baby boy..and thinking "I need to be around for at least twenty one more years." I'm guessing that this is a natural reaction to new parenthood. Especially because they are so small and vulnerable.  It isn't till later when they start asserting their independence...say, in the form of running down the street wearing only socks that you wonder-"WILL I make it twenty one years-or will I collapse from sheer exhaustion before then?"

 Yes, parenting has aged me. But it has also expanded me-brought me places I never imagined standing. Like the middle of a Walmart on a busy Sunday afternoon because it is Spring and I think it is necessary that we have the appropriate bubbles and sidewalk chalk to play with. Or the back of a classroom on a Wednesday morning watching your son give a report to his class. Places I thought I would never want to be..(well I still don't want to be at Walmart) and yet there I am..content (again, not at Walmart-but definitely buying bubbles).  Almost forty seven and excited over side walk chalk. Who knew?

  I can't tell you where it is I expected to be at forty seven years of age-if you had asked me twenty years ago, it certainly wouldn't have been here.  Yet, I am oddly giddy about where I am.  Sure, I could complain..rail against the gods..gnash my teeth and bemoan the consequences of my life. I could sit and whine..cry about autism..bitch and moan and protest at the unjustness that I see in the the behaviors of my children, of all the work ahead and behind. I could...but it wouldn't be honest.  It wouldn't. I'm not saying that I don't have days where I want to quit.  Oh there have been plenty of times when I have called Omar at work and given my "two week" notice. I am a mother after all..we are allowed to complain from time to time.  Just not ALL the time. I think that for every one complaint there ought to be twice as many compliments. Just sayin...

  It's hard to look back on, but when I was in my teens and early twenties, I didn't think I would even make it to thirty. I didn't even care. I lived hard..and I must admit..there were moments when I had a hell of a lot of fun.  But the fun never really outweighed the was tumultuous...crazy..and sometimes very dark.  Looking back sometimes makes me cringe. *sigh* But sometimes...sometimes your past has a way of creeping up on you in the middle of the night, knocking you down..shaking you up..making you question your present. Especially when your present is so damn incredible.  Sometimes when I am in the grip of the past, I find myself wondering just what it is that I have done to deserve this life of mine...and I mean that in the best way. Oh, I worry- about being worthy, competent...Of living up to the privilege of raising these four incredible children-who love me thoroughly and completely- leaving me breathless.... And then, the toilet overflows..or the dogs throw up..and the kids need to be fed..and the laundry is then that I find my balance and remember to breathe(or call Omar)..Remember that the past is what makes the now so much more..

  Saying that my kids" keep me young" just doesn't sound right-to me. They definitely keep me present..and joyful-overwhelmed and scattered. They sure do make the ride far more interesting than I ever could. But young?  No.  I am going to be forty seven..and although mentally I could pass for twelve(possibly even maturity wise) body..*sigh* can not. Maybe I'll  think differently when I'm in my eighties...when dementia sets in...perhaps I'll start wearing a bikini then..or ride a motorcycle(but not at the same time.....not that I want you to visualize an eighty year old in a bikini on a fast motorcycle with the wind blowing through her hanging arm wrinkles)-they will all be way over twenty one. But till then..I'll just count my years along with my blessings...and hope that I get some good presents.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's blog gems time again..

This time the focus is on funny stories. So, I chose this post.-because really, what could be funnier than than a couple of kids and an Old Navy mannequin?  If you would like to participate in this fun blog gem hop, go on over and post your link here!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The ego has landed...

~"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."~

 It has been eighteen days since our last major snowfall.  The daffodils are sprouting,..the driveway has cracked from the frost heaves..and the yard is a muddy mess. It's official -Spring has finally come to New England. Along with it-Spring Break. My goodness! Time does indeed fly-It feels like we just had Winter break. But that was only seven weeks ago..of course none of those weeks were full weeks seeing as we had snow days..or kids home sick..or teacher workshops and half days. I don't believe  I have had a full "kid free" week since before Christmas.  Not that I'm counting.   But if I were counting-which I am not, I think that I have had at least one herdling home with me at least one day a week...( sometimes all of them) since..November.  But again, I am not counting.

  This past week has been an adventurous one. My kids are at an age where they are very self destructive entertaining. This week, my girls have discovered the art of painting. It started with rocks and ended..well, it hasn't ended yet.  But I have learned that Windex does indeed remove paint from cars..and rugs...and even hair.. They have moved on to painting modeling clay..Have you ever tried to remove hunks of dried clay from a vacuum cleaner hose?  No, really-that wasn't a rhetorical question...I need to know how to do this.Your input would be greatly appreciated.. The boys have had their pursuits as well. Which they have been kind enough to share.(a lot)  If there is anyone interested in learning the the entire history of "Metroids" along with video accompaniment-just ask-I'd be more than happy to accommodate you..I believe that after this week, I could qualify as an expert on the topic.  You may also be interested in learning why it is Oscar likes the character of Mario so much...
"Mama! Do you know why I like Mario"
"No Oscar, why do you like Mario?"
"Mario has a big nose!"
"That's nice"
"He has a big nose FULL of snot Mama!"
"Say it Mama"
"Say what?"
"Say he has a big nose full of snot!"
"Say it Mama! please!"
"He has a big nose full of snot!"
"O.K. enough Oscar.."
"Do you like Mario?"
"I don't really think about him"
"But he has a big nose"
"I am well aware"
"What is well aware?"
"It means that I know that he has a big nose"
"Full of snot! hahahahahahahahahahaha!"

  I don't want you to think that the whole week was all paint and clay-aliens and snot.  No, there were adult things as well. Last week I was contacted to participate in a conference call with Holly Robinson Peete- (This took place last Friday.) called "A conversation with Holly about autism awareness month".   I have to say at first-it was a rather wonderful ego boost. It is nice to be recognized for the work you are doing in the autism community. I was feeling all kinds of good about myself-truth be told.  I thought "Wow-I will actually have a chance to participate in something-have my voice really be heard." So, as directed, I sent in some questions and eagerly dialed into the conference call. Holly was nice and personable. She told us a little bit of her own story-and why she was involved in advocacy and The HollyRod foundation. Then she started answering questions. *sigh* and that is where she started losing me. Really-a question about HOW she  finds her balance-family career and autism..come on!!! Aren't we ALL in the same position?. Holy crap-I'm on this phone conference during spring break with four kids surrounding me!!  I'm supposed to be interested in how she balances her life??  This isn't advocacy nor was pandering to a celebrity.   There were more "balance" questions..and sibling questions..I even got one of mine answered. The problem is-these were all answered from her personal point of view. Which in many places is different from mine. That's fine.  Different opinions, different ideas-they make up our whole community. I didn't however have a chance to say that. Because this wasn't really a conversation-it was a lecture...and sadly at the end-a sales pitch.  Yup-an online shopping "community" sponsored this call.  They are selling a bracelet and passing the proceeds on to the HollyRod foundation.  I'm not interested in a bracelet! I'm interested in changing the world. The sad thing is that Holly seemed like a very nice person. I would have really enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss advocacy and awareness with her. I could have even told her about Metroids! My ego is not quite the size that would allow me to call this" her loss"-but it is just big enough to have been bruised by this. You win some you lose some.

  There are just two more days until the end of Spring break..two days between me and some decent quiet time. That is as long as it doesn't snow and the kids stay healthy. I will keep everything that I have two of crossed-which is very hard to do. But still- not as hard as cleaning dried clay out of a vacuum cleaner hose... 



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shopping the hurdles....

 ~"This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live."~ anonymous

 I think that every parent has been there..You are out shopping with your kids and one of them utters THOSE words(if your lucky).  There could be as many as six, could be as few as three. But they say them and immediately you become a parent of action.. Did you ever see a gazelle gently grazing-and all of a sudden they sense a lion?  There head goes up, their body stiffens, they are on high alert.  The only thing they seem to be thinking is how to get from point A to point B in the quickest way possible.That is how it was on Tuesday, when in the middle of shopping, Lily looked at me and said "Mama, I think I'm going to throw up." Being on the opposite end of the store from the bathroom, I had to act quickly!  The only real obstacles were the packs of roaming senior citizens (many riding carts) cluttering up the aisles. How was I going to get through with two kids and a full cart? I don't know how we did it. The memory is a blur..but somehow I managed to get us to the bathroom with the agility of a highly trained athlete-without knocking over a cart or breaking anyones hip. The seniors are slow, but for the most part they are an understanding and gentle group.

  It has been quite a while since I had to navigate a store like that-years actually.  But there was a time when I could have done it blindfolded. When I knew every escape route that there was, every quiet corner, every bathroom. Some of my children have sensory issues.  When they were younger, and we were in a place with too much light, or noise or crowds-there were times that they completely lost it-broke down, fell apart.  There was nothing to do but try and help them-either by getting them out of the area-or sitting down and waiting it out. We dealt with it as a family. It wasn't strange or odd-it just was. We would get through it and we moved on.  I know-it sounds easy, but in hind site-it wasn't. There were many things that we had to do as a family-as parents,  that were incredibly difficult.

 There was a time when one of my children was violent. A time when at any moment-like a hair pin trigger,  they could become so enraged that the only thing they could do was self injure or lash out at me. There was a time when I thought I had to live that way.  That somehow, because I was the mother it was my responsibility to bear. Because somehow this was my fault. That I was missing something, not doing enough..I LOVED them..I just had to love them more.  Even if it meant I was beaten up, bitten, bruised and bloodied.

   I was wrong.  Absolutely without a doubt-wrong.   Allowing this behavior to continue was NOT loving my child. Allowing this behavior was telling them that  it was acceptable.  That they somehow did not have to follow the same rules as everyone else. That they were incapable.  Allowing this behavior separated them from the rest of the family. Realizing all of this-it was harder than hard. Because it meant that I had to face a hard reality. My child had been communicating with me-they were screaming for help..and I was too worried about being a "good parent" to listen.

  What followed were some of our darkest days-because we had to make decisions-decisions that sounded horrible. Would they need to leave home for a while? Everyone knows that considering placement out of the home makes you a bad parent-right?  Everyone knows that every facility is a snake pit..a place for undesirables..right? Oh and don't even think of using medication! We over medicate our kids!  It would be me just trying to "cure" them..make them compliant..suck their soul away..GOOD parents don't think of these things!....Oh, I heard it all-and believe me, I thought it as well. I also know that if I had chosen to listen to those words-allowed them to keep me from changing things, I'd have people commending me.  Telling me how brave I was because "good parents" don't make those decisions.   But, none of those people were my child-none of those people could look at them after one of their freakouts and SEE that my child didn't want to feel this way- see how the fallout shattered them. Recognize that they were looking to me for help...sigh...  It is to me, my greatest failure as a parent to have not acknowledged it sooner.  But it is also my greatest joy to recognize that even though it took me a while, I did..

  It has been a few years since those dark days. So much has changed since then, so much progress has been made. Yes, I may actually be getting the hang of this child rearing business.  Good thing that there isn't an expiration date to parenting. Because I am sure that I have plenty more to learn-and that there is plenty more for my children to teach me and vice versa.  They continue to thrive, they continue to grow-we are blessed.

 So, after successfully navigating the flocks of senior citizens crowding the aisles, and making it to the bathroom- we found ourselves once again  thwarted by...*sigh.*..more seniors with uuhh..gastrointestinal issues.  It was definitely NOT the place to be with a nauseous child and her now nauseous sister..nor an equally nauseous I looked at my daughters through watering eyes..we came to an unspoken consensus....without uttering a word between us, we turned around and ran out the door. The reason for going there forgotten-the relief at getting out..priceless...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dog wrestling....a very long post..

  ~"The unexamined life is not worth living"~ Socrates

  This morning, as I was being dragged down the street by my three dogs, I thought to myself-"Crap, I'm  glad it is Friday" .,And as I twisted on the asphalt trying to control my three demons beasts animals (who had escaped our yard) my blue and white striped pajama pants easing their way down my legs as I desperately held on to bits of dog in an attempt to stop them from pouncing on a neighbor and his puppy..I also thought.".there has got to be an easier way" , How did I wind up with three dogs?"...and" please please please let me be wearing underwear without huge holes in it."

  It has been a crazy week of great highs and utterly extreme lows. There was a bullying incident (This time with Sammy-and while it is not the first for him this year-I can absolutely guarantee it will be the last)  Nothing screams "ONLY? 72 hours till Friday" like a group of concerned parents telling me of an incident that happened involving my son at school.  Yup-there is nothing like having to email and call my sons support people at night to find out what happened. Guess what! They didn't know about it either! I'm still waiting for the principal to call me-to let me know how this was all resolved-you know to assure me that my son would indeed be safe both in and out of the classroom.   Sam and I have spoken at length, I just think that it would be responsible   awful nice if the principal discussed it with me as well. *sigh* Why am I reminded of the Jimmy Buffet song "If the phone doesn't ring, it's me"?  hmmmm.... In the meantime,  I screamed called a team meeting for Tuesday-It should prove interesting.

  Not all of the week was bad. Oscar, had his biography fair and oral presentation at school. I have to say that I was plenty nervous for him. This is a very big project..HUGE..GINORMOUS...The kids pick a person in history they are interested in and write a report on them.  They also make up a journal, birth certificates, posters, costumes and give an oral report. Unfortunately," Mario" is not an actual living person, nor is" Little Bill", or either" Phineas and Ferb. "  We had to pick a real person-and who better for Oscar than "Mel Blanc".

  It isn't easy to get Oscar to focus.  He has so many other things he would rather be doing-namely anything other than school work.  Thankfully, we have a very dedicated team of people working with him, who insisted
assisted him with his project.  When I walked into his classroom(to watch his report) on Tuesday morning, I really didn't know what to expect. I think in all honesty-I wondered if he could do this..Yeah..I was anxious.  Here is my boy-one of the biggest joys in my life about to stand up in front of his class and give a report.  There is a part of me that just wants to protect him..envelop him. I think every parent feels this way from time to time.  He is so innocent and joyful-and I was afraid that.. if he couldn't do this-he would..I don't hurt..feel as if he failed? So many conflicting thoughts.especially after last weeks I busied myself with the camera..until it was his turn.

  He was...wonderful..he went to the front of the room..he was so he stood there waiting for his cue to begin. He read his information from his index cards..and when he was finished took questions from his classmates. It went off without a hitch. I didn't realize until later when we watched the video quite how wonderful it was. Everyone of course commended him for a job well done.  It was watching Oscar watch himself that was magnificent. It was almost as if he had a self revelation. He saw what he did-really saw it and was...kind of in awe. Which makes me wonder if he is not as confident as we have all thought him to be. He watched himself and he glowed...shined. Held himself in a way I had never seen before. My boy-saw himself and knew KNEW he was everything we told him he person in his own right..He beamed.

  I wish that I could say that the rest of the week went as smoothly..No, I didn't get any phone calls.. It was family reading night that did us in.  Our school does this every year. It is a fun evening where families get together to listen to stories- there are door prizes, food...and free books. Oscar likes picture books..especially if their are animals involved.  So there we were looking through the offerings..when the person manning the table decided that we were somehow lost..and kept insisting on directing us to the table with books for older kids. At first I just smiled and tried to ignore her...but she wouldn't stop...even after I gave her the "mother" look and firmly stated we were fine where we were...(I did so want to tell her to shut up)-. She was just so cheerfully insistent.  I was so uncheerfully pissed-that I didn't see Oscar walk away and grab a random book from the older kids selection. I didn't realize how upset he was..until I saw him standing with Omar. Trying so very hard not to hold himself together  Where was my boy  from the night before?  Had he been done in by the very irritating book lady? Oh how I wanted to throw things at her..

   After my early morning dog wrestling peep show (I wonder if there is a career in that?) ,  I could not wait for this day to be over. The only thing standing between me and two days off (if you can call being alone with four kids "off") was the biography fair at school. Oscar and his classmates, would have their own space to display their work and answer questions from parents and students. Oscar once again was magnificent-he held it together for the entire day.  Answering questions, standing at his station..even when I went and whispered "lets go to hairy world!" in his ear.  Although he did inform me that the biography fair was no place for jokes. It was a mostly shining week for him. Not so much for Sam....I can't speak for the dogs...or my neighbor. But Oscar did inform me this evening that he was "amazing".  I tend to agree..

Saturday, April 2, 2011

caught unaware with my ribbons down..

  It is that time of year know..where we are supposed to be "aware" or "More Aware"..or perhaps "spread awareness"...Time to tweet and blog and join face book events..and generally talk to the same people you do all throughout the year.  Yes-Autism awareness month is once again upon us..It is time to take off the brown ribbon of colo-rectal awareness month(March)  and don the blue or the puzzle piece one for autism (move over colons! Autism is in town)..or the green one for IBS awareness (that's too is in April..along with Alcohol awareness(red ribbon), and sexual assault and prevention awareness(teal ribbon) and a myriad of things we ought to be aware of-each with coinciding ribbons) . What to wear what to wear..

  I know without a doubt that when I walk into my children's school next week-there will be many puzzle piece ribbons..Well meaning individuals who are saying Look!"I am aware- I have a ribbon! I know someone with autism!"(Hey-just because I know people with colons-you won't catch me wearing a brown ribbon! The same goes for autism) .... I got a call from the school yesterday. It seems that Oscar was being teased. About what? I don't know. The only reason we do know about this is because one of his friends brought this to the attention of a teacher.  It was suggested that another child or children may have been making fun of Oscar's stimming. For reasons beyond ridiculous-I am not allowed to know who this child/children was/were or what exactly it is that he/she/they/they did. Only that he/she was/were firmly dealt with. No, I was told that it would be up to Oscar-(who may or may not be aware of what it is that happened) to tell me. That's right-put it on my son who has struggles with pragmatic language.  I stated that Oscar-was well aware of everything that goes on in his day-but, it might take him as much as a month to process it-and let me know. I then asked whether or not the other child/children  knew that Oscar was on the spectrum. I was told "no."..I asked what the kids at school were taught about autism..I was told "I don't know".. So where does that leave my boy?  Is he becoming the elephant in the room?   Oh sure, he might stim and giggle inappropriately, flap and "eee"-but we can't tell anyone why..can't explain any of, somehow that would violate his privacy No, we'll just let him be who he is and not explain anything when somebody notices. Are you freaking kidding me? We can't explain that there might be a reason behind the things that he does-we'll just let other kids think he's weird. So, while we are being internationally "aware"-we are locally not going to acknowledge..and instead rely on assumption-and maybe a ribbon.   We'll just "assume" the other kids will figure it out?   As my fourth grade teacher -Sister Catherine Marita always said "Assuming makes an ass of you!" she also said "Your cruising for a bruising"-but that's a post for another day..

  I am sure that many will  say "But this is why we have an awareness month!!" "This is why it is so important!!"..Sure, we can talk and tweet and blog about acceptance or a cure (depending on where you stand) we can say that more research needs to be done, more supports given, accommodations offered..We can argue and sign petitions or not-yell about experience or inexperience and point of view and privilege...we can take a month and wear a ribbon....until next month when the topic changes (along with the ribbon). I don't negate the need for any of these things. I'm just saying that one month and a ribbon do not convey what my kids live every day. It doesn't even come close.

  Oscar came home from school yesterday in a messy mood. He told me that his day had been "all mixed up" (*sigh* part of this is my fault-I mixed up lunch boxes-and one does NOT interfere with Oscar's snacks!!) and that he was bullied at recess. Someone wanted his attention and he didn't want to give it. Now, I have no idea if this is the "incident" that I was called about. (believe me, I WILL find out) But I will say this-the boy he spoke about has issues of his own. Reasons for behaving the way in which he does. It does not excuse his behavior-it does however, help to explain it. Which goes a long way towards understanding.  

  Three of my four kids are on very different places of the spectrum-with Oscar being the most affected (for lack of a better word)  Oscar knows that he is different-he is aware.. He knows that most people don't "stim" like him..or flap or say "eeee". He knows-As do the people in his life. They also know that he is caring, and kind and very very funny. What some people need to understand-is why he does some of the things he does.There is a big difference between awareness and being aware. My kids don't need a ribbon or a puzzle piece or a color-they don't need a month...they need twelve..and they need it forever.

  So today, I wore my pajamas( all day)-as it was a snow day and the kids were home from school. (yup-just when we thought spring had sprung-mother nature played a nasty April fools joke..I'm so not laughing) Tomorrow-I will wear whatever is clean. Because awareness isn't a color-or a month.  It is every day.