Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bathroom confidential...

~“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”~ Phyllis Diller


  "I am sure that you are all wondering why I have gathered you all here today." I said to the four pairs of eyes that were looking warily at me.  Well-make that two sets of eyes...the other two were looking out the window and in the mirror.  We were all tightly squeezed into our upstairs bathroom-because, I had led them all up there with the promise of a fun family activity.."Come on guys! I have something cool to show you!".."What is it Mama?!!".."Wait and see!  Come on everyone!"  Needless to say...they were a tad bit disappointed when we reached our destination. I suppose I can understand that..I had made it sound very exciting..lured them with hints of adventure..I was like the pied piper..but instead of a flute, I had a toilet brush. My kids,having never seen one-much less use one-innocently followed me...willingly-eager even!

"Today, we are all going to learn how to clean the bathroom!" I said to my slightly disappointed children.."Today we are going to learn how to clean a toilet! ..Lily stop rolling your eyes...Wipe a sink! Mop a floor and scrub a tub!..Oscar are you paying attention? Well then stop making faces in the mirror..Today..I am going to teach you one of the most important tasks of .. Zoe-the action is in here-not out the window...Hey! guys this is important! You are going to live on your own one day.."  "But said we could always live with you."  "And you CAN Lil...but you may want to have your own place.." "No..I'm going to live with you.".."Me too.".."FINE-you can all live with me forever if you want are still going to learn how to clean the bathroom!" .."I am going to be a millionaire so I don't need to learn."  "Sam-what does being a millionaire have to do with cleaning the bathroom?" "I'll have a mansion with lots of bathrooms."  "'ll just use a new bathroom instead of cleaning your dirty one?"  "Yes." .."Well..that's just..well..o.k.'s going to take you a bit before you earn your first will probably start out with an apartment..right?" "maybe." " you think you might want to have friends over? Maybe a date?" "Yes."  "Well..then you want to have a clean bathroom if you do..o.k.??"  *sigh* We were now twenty minutes into this "adventure"..I was losing my audience...if I was ever going to teach them this-I needed to act fast...So, with the all vigor of Julia Child stuffing a goose..I proceeded to clean the toilet..

 "First" I said in a nasal and high pitched British accent.." you take the toilet brush and Swish it around the rim! Then we POP the brush into the bowl! Scrub scrub scrub! Oh we love a good scrub! Then we flush twice for good measure...taking care NOT to let go of the brush!" ...Then we take the disinfectant wipe and sweep it around the seat! Swish!..."  "Mama?  Why are you talking that way?" "Because it's fun...aren't you having fun?" She just rolled her eyes...(What is it with the eye rolling anyway?  I swear that girls between the ages of seven and nine over-develop a muscle in the eye area...which results in massive eye rolling-mostly towards their mothers.I know that I am not the only one who has noticed this phenomenon!) "You guys aren't having fun?"..they were all just looking at me...(if I were the paranoid sort-I would think that it was with pity) "You guys aren't having a good time?"..."Uhh..Mama?  could we just finish this up..I kind of want a snack." "Yeah...I'm hungry."  "Well...alright" I said mournfully...I had been having such a good time.."I just hope that you guys were paying attention....because you will be doing this on your own next week."   "Why??"...*sigh* "Because one day you will be living on your own and.."  "But we want to live with you forever.." Just before I could reiterate the importance of a clean bathroom, Sam jumped in and said.."Come on guys! We are learning this so we can help Mama out!"..I was so proud of him until he said...."She's old..and could use our help."

  Oh my Sam.  This week, he turns fourteen. He is at that age where he thinks he knows it all..believes he is older than he is. It is an age of possibility..where he sees his future spread out before him..and he is chomping at the bit to get to it.  He is such a good kid-his heart is in the right place...although subtlety is so not his forte. He really does care about helping me out-although the logic behind it may be a bit skewed.( To him, twenty is old and thirty-ancient...) I look forward to seeing him as an adult...whether or not he makes those millions. I hope that his journey is smooth and that all his dreams are possible.  Happy birthday my wonderful son. May your life be joyful and your bathroom always clean.  This week also marks mine and Omar's nineteenth wedding anniversary.  (Sam was born on our fifth.)   There aren't adequate words to describe what Omar is to, I went all mushy romantic and picked a song that says it best.(at way bottom of post) I hope you give it a listen..

  So, it is a week of celebrations for us.  I'm hoping that a clean bathroom is part of it.  I know that they are cleaning it today-on their own.  I'm not sure what to expect when they are done...But I swear, I faintly heard one of them say (with a distinctly British accent.) Swish !


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maybe it takes a small town....

~"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."~

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I live in a very small town(Population in 2010: 1,760) Very small-considering that I grew up near and later lived in N.Y.C.  Funny thing is-I didn't really notice how small it was until long after we had lived here. When we moved here seven years ago, we had just started figuring out what Sam needed (services wise) Oscar(who had barely just started sleeping-for the first time in 4 years) had just been formally diagnosed, Lily was two (need I say more) and I was pregnant with Zoe.  I guess I could say that our plate was overflowing. So, we did what any other family would do...we got two more dogs...and a cat.

  Our lives were pretty full..There we were trying to catch up from years of sleep deprivation...renovating our crumbly home..we had doctors birth!..and a lot many dogs.....The life in front of me...surrounding me..sometimes overwhelming me...was so tremendously tremendous  that I didn't have time to look past the walls of my house. Forget about  the internet..I might check my email every few days..but I had no idea what Facebook was..I even had to look up the definition of "blog" when I first heard it .I admit it.  I was naive-an internet virgin..

  Little did I know how one innocent foray..a tiny peek if you will, into the world of advertising would sink it's talons so deeply into my innocent internet free brain..Oh it started innocently enough...I'd check my email...and my eye would happen to glance over to the side bar where "See how this mom lost thirty pounds of belly fat using one simple trick!" ..would be prominently displayed. I admit it...I had to know!  HAD TOO. From that one click..that one innocent instance of curiosity...I was sucked into the vortex of online social networking.  There were comments which led to blogs  which led to forums  and groups and tweets! I was enthralled! I made friends in the autism community...My small insulated view of four walls had exploded into a world of advocacy and awareness. I met so many different people-a few of them were autistic adults..something I had never thought about because I was mired in the world of raising my kids.( They actually do grow up-a thought that I must admit  has kept me going on more than one occasion. More than two even..).

  For the first time in a long time-I felt a part of something-and it was lovely. I had people to talk to..discuss or even argue things with-it didn't was a lifeline for me.  For that I am thankful.  It was because of these discussions and arguments (and a little bit of Oprah) that I started blogging. I wanted a place to tell our story-a place that any parent regardless of whether or not their child was on the spectrum could come and maybe see that we really aren't all that different.  A parent is a parent..right? I mean, the words Mother and Father and Parent don't need any embellishments.  They are powerful enough-strong enough-honorable enough to stand on their own.  Aren't they?  At least I have always (and still do) thought so.The same goes for the word "family"...and "child"... 

  A little over a year ago-I decided to step away from regularly blogging. I went from posting once a week to about once a month.  One of my reasons was that my kids are indeed growing up.  They are doing more..venturing.. separating from me and each other. I know-it is what they are supposed to do...doesn't mean it's easy to watch. It's actually more bittersweet than anything else. But-I wanted to savor this time with them while I can.  They really do grow up too fast. (most days) 

  This past year we got involved outside of our house.  We had basketball and girl dates..and field trips. If I want my kids to be part of the world-I have to put them in it. Regardless of whether or not I feel like getting dressed and driving. I realized that I had to stop doing everything for it was time to start prodding them to do more things for themselves. It hasn't all been easy.  In some ways they thrive on having the extra responsibility...but in others? 
Just the other day as I was insisting...demanding...putting my foot down...suggesting they all pitch in to clean up the house I was met with the usual.."But I'm watching a show...I'm on the is boring!" Oscar, said nothing...he just quietly went upstairs-I figured it was to clean his room..Oh-I was so proud of him!...To go without complaining!!...I thought "Wow-he's really growing up-taking responsibility..seeing that getting the job done straight away is easier than complaining.." I got the other kids moving and went upstairs to compliment him on his wonderful work ethic...only.....he wasn't in his room..he wasn't in my room or his sisters room...Oscar, it seems-had disappeared!!  Where was he?  Where was my hard working industrious boy?!  And then... I heard a noise..faintly at first (the vacuum was on)..but steadily growing in volume as I approached the bathroom....  Coming loud and clear from the other side of the  door came a plaintive..and heartfelt..So thoroughly mournful..I thought..the angels must be weeping... But was Oscar..lamenting on the horrific burden and subsequent pain that any eleven year old feels when asked to clean their room..
 "Woooork sucks...woooork sucks
    I hate is lame
   I only like work when other people do it
   because then I don't have tooooo
   because wooooork sucks.." 

Oh the humanity!  The only things missing were a harmonica and guitar.. and he'd have  had a Blues rendition worthy of Muddy Waters  ...

"Oscar!  WHAT are you doing?!"
"Hiding is not cleaning."
"I don't want to clean"
"Well-neither do I...but it needs to be done-and if it doesn't get done, NO ONE will watch t.v. or play on the computer..and I won't let anyone else do your work for you."

So-you can see that I didn't have much time for writing..the kids are growing, they are doing more things-taking more responsibility..Add the fact that I may have a burgeoning blues career to manage..and you can see that the internet isn't one of my top places to be.. I also stepped away because I didn't like what I was seeing on the internet. There was way too much vitriol..and anger- one upmanship and top dogging. It stopped being about autism per say...and more about who was the expert, who was right-who was really raising awareness...and sadly-who suffered more. I came to realize that this wasn't the autism my kids experienced-that our family experienced.. nor was it how I experienced parenting.  I am not an "autism parent" or an "autism mom"..I don't raise autism-I raise kids..some of whom are on the spectrum.   Add the suggestions for joining "Senior People Meet" and friending Regis Philbin on Facebook, and I had had enough.  More than enough..I needed to find my community. 

(Please note-that there are still many wonderful blogs and websites online-I was just getting mired in the not so nice ones)

  So, I stepped out of the online world...out from behind the walls of my house..and started becoming more involved in the real world around me. What I found was really kind of nice.  It  seems that while I was busily typing away on the internet talking about awareness-my kids, just by being the wonderful people that they are-were busy raising it. Autism-to them, is an explanation.. Other than that-it really doesn't matter-it isn't something they talk much about.  In other words-they could care less. Because they are just too busy living their lives-being kids. Now, I am not in any way trying to say that it doesn't affect them..It most certainly does. Some of my kids more than others. interaction...these hurdles can be really challenging at times..But the thing of it matter what their difficulty...the majority of people in this small town of ours..have learned to understand it...accept it...and following my kids lead-take it in stride. My kids have been welcomed just about everywhere-because they are good people...and they are fun to be around.  

  We have traveled very far in the seven years that we have lived here. Our house is still a bit crumbly..there are still too many dogs...add the three cats and two chickens (sadly one was lost  to my least favorite dog) and you can see that our lives have remained pretty full to overwhelming...but, seven years later-(and not to late) I also realize( all credit to my kids) that we are surrounded by roughly 1,760  aware, accepting and inclusive neighbors.  If four kids can can raise awareness in a small town-imagine what they and a small town can do in the world.

  So, it has been almost four years since I started blogging. I still have not learned the trick to losing thirty pounds of belly fat- nor the secret to erasing wrinkles that has dermatologists everywhere angry..I have not friended Regis Philbin..and I am definitely not joining "Senior People meet".  I figure though that I'll keep on blogging at least sporadically until I run out of things to say.  We are also thinking about getting a goat. I'll let you know how that turns out.