Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Crazy comes to Maine" a blog gems post..

Jen over at "Autism The King and Eye" has started another blog gems hop.

Go on over and add your gem..

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.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nothing says "Kathleen" like balloons and kittens...

  Wow..what an unexpected delight! bbsmum over at Mum Accepting Autism has bestowed this rather whimsical award on me-and she didn't even know that "Unicorn" was one of my middle names!  Thank you so much . In order to accept this award I have to do the following..

"1. You must proudly display the absolutely disgusting graphic that I have created for these purposes. It's so bad that not only did I use COMIC SANS, but there's even a little jumping, celebrating kitten down there at the bottom. It's horrifying! But its presence in your award celebration is crucial to the memetastic process we're creating here.

2. You must list 5 things about yourself, and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies. Just make stuff up, we'll never know; one of them has to be true, though. Of course, nobody will ever know the difference, so we're just on the honor system here. I trust you.

3. You must pass this award on to 5 bloggers that you either like or don't like or don't really have much of an opinion about. I don't care who you pick, and nobody needs to know why. I mean, you can give a reason if you want, but I don't really care.

4. If you fail to follow any of the above rules, I will harass you incessantly until you either block me on Twitter or ban my IP address from visiting your blog. I don't know if you can actually do that last thing, but I will become so annoying to you that you will actually go out and hire an IT professional to train you on how to ban IP addresses just so that I'll leave you alone. I'm serious. I'm going to do these things. "  

 Now, I copied and pasted this from her blog. I'm not sure if she would really "Harass me incessantly for failing to follow the rules"-However, because (according to her) she can do an uncannily accurate Sylvester Stallone impression I'm afraid not to comply! ( Think Rambo) 

1) On the third Thursday of every month I perform a puppet show that teaches the importance of dental hygiene for the inmates at the state penitentiary. I have made so many new friends.  They have taught me so much. I like to think that in my own small way that I have helped them too. Having strong teeth and healthy gums is important on the outside. I mean really-what is one of the first things you notice about  a person?  Their teeth! During a hold up or a bank robbery..I would think you would like to look your best-especially if you are caught by hidden camera!  One can never be too prepared-that's what I say!

2) I am proficient at Irish step dancing. I really had no choice in the matter.Starting in the third grade, our gym options were either dance class or cleaning the rectory. I chose dance. Both Sisters Catherine Marita and Helen Eugene were harsh and demanding task masters. To this day I can still see them- habits flying (they were against Vatican 2) holding up their skirts and eighty pound rosary beads while their feet beat out a rapid staccato to "Job of the Journeywork" on the gym floor-while at the same time yelling at us  to "pull your skirts over your knees"!  It is an image I would like to forget. 

3) I collect toilet paper cozies.( most people have them for tea pots-but I don't drink tea. )You know those crocheted little "hats" that go over the spare roll of toilet paper in your guest bath? (That is if you had a separate guest bath)  I keep it in our one bathroom. sigh. In general it keeps the kids from throwing it in the sink-although, they have all from time to time taken them out to play with. I have them for all of the holidays.  A jack 'o lantern for Halloween, A Santa face for Christmas..Although in my house, the odder the better.  Right now I have one of Barrack Obama in honor of presidents day.  You can buy them at craft fairs-especially the ones  at senior centers. 

4) I was fired from a job because of "microphone abuse". It was back when I was going to college. I needed a summer job to help pay for my "extracurricular" activities..oh..and rent. I found gainful employment working at a fast food restaurant.   I was the only woman working that was under the age of sixty five.  I was also the only woman without a visible mustache. The other ladies were very cliquish -(must have been a mustache thing) and totally ignored me.  Now, my job required that I take the customers orders and announce them over a microphone to the ladies in the kitchen... the ladies WHO IGNORED me in the kitchen. I don't like being ignored.  So, I used what I had available-(my microphone) to make sure that they paid attention.  I sang the orders..I sang for burgers and curly fries I sang about extra pickles and holding the mustard..and when there were no orders-I sang about hair nets and loneliness and perhaps...even mustaches..Oh how we laughed! the manager escorted me out of the restaurant.  It was an interesting three days.

5)  When I was seven years old-I bent over and "mooned"(sort of-I was wearing underwear) many of the tri-state( New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) area's Pre-schoolers.  On live television.   There was a children's show called "Romper Room".  My neighbor( a boy named Walter) was a cast member. From time to time, cast members were allowed to bring guests to watch the show. If the guests were children, they were invited to participate in some of the segments.  I played "Bend and Stretch"..Miss Louise (the television "teacher") had everyone stand in a circle while she sang "Bend and stretch reach for the stars...etc.) while the children acted it out by bending and stretching...Being slightly precocious-I bent and stretched with great vigor! I was on television! I was a star! Unfortunately, my back was to the camera...and I was wearing a dress..did I mention that this was LIVE television?  I do believe that my mother sweat publicly for the first time ever in her life that day.

  So there you have it.  One is an absolute truth, one is mostly truth and the other three are bald faced lies.  I know, I bent the rules just a little bit.  But I'm testing bbsmum ..I want to see if she'll come over and go all "Rambo" on me for it.  Now for my victims  choices of who should receive this prestigious award in all it's sparkley glory....

Kim-over at "Countering"

D.S. Walker-over at "dswalkerauthor"

Laura-at "Life in the house that Asperger built"

Papa Bear-at "Goldilocks and the three bears"

Scott-at "On the spectrum"

Afterwards, link your post to the MEMEtastic bloghop!

I picked these blogs because I like them!! I think they will all in their own way have fun with this..and I look forward to reading them..

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I can name that dinner in five notes!

~"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. "~ Dr. Seuss

"Mama!..Mama!!  Come quick Oscar's bleeding!"  I can tell you quite truthfully, that NOTHING wakes a parent up quicker than words like those-not even coffee.  I flew out of bed-FLEW- to find Oscar standing in the hallway- holding a wet and bloody towel under his arm..which made his side all wet and bloody...and far worse looking than it really was. This was not the first time this has happened. Oscar has a skin tag type of thing up on his side-that he just needs to pick at. .  (we are waiting on a dermatologist appt.)  We have told him (in no uncertain terms)  to "LEAVE IT ALONE!!!"..we have even kept it covered with a band-aid to take away the urge..So as I flew out of my bed Saturday morning-bleary eyed pumped full of non caffeinated terror to find that he had just picked at it-I was..well, I wasn't nice. "I told you to leave it alone!! Why are you picking at that AGAIN??!!"  And between the "We told you not too's" and "Why did you's" I noticed my two boys were just  standing there..staring at their pajama's and it was still kind of dark out.."but mama...I didn't..I was still in bed.." "Yeah Mama! Oscar was hurt and he woke me up and I got you..wasn't I supposed to do that?" Sigh..Did you ever have one of those moments when you want to..kick yourself?  Sink into the floor? When you wish you could press the rewind button and start all over again?  I do... frequently. Oh, it is one thing when you are talking to another adult-you can try and explain yourself and either it is fixed or it isn't. Oh well..I am learning to let those things go...But with your kids?  That's a whole other story..

  So when the realization hit that Oscar somehow did this in his sleep..and as he stood there with pools of water welling in his enormous green eyes..I pulled him in close..hugging him and apologizing "Oh Oscar..buddy..I am so very sorry for yelling..I made a mistake..I wasn't thinking..I just woke up and I was half asleep and scared..can you forgive me?"  He hugged me back..and said "You made a mistake."...We cleaned him up..and went on with the day..A very long day.  A day in which he reminded me of our early morning mishap at least twenty or so times. " made a mistake".to which I answered "Yes, I really did and I am so sorry" each and every one of those times.  Repetition sometimes keeps me humble.

  Repetitive questions are a way of life at our house.. I think it is the kids way of sorting things out ..of making sure that they see things as they really are. Granted-it can be a tad bit hard on the person being questioned...perhaps even difficult.   Being asked "what's for dinner?" forty or fifty times in the course of an afternoon- could cause a little anxiety for the innocent mother...having four children do it consecutively might make said  mother dream of running away to join the circus . ( Unfortunately my fear of clowns keeps me from pursuing the circus life)...So,in dealing with what could be stressful.  I have had to learn to be a bit .. creative. I sing songs.  Not just any songs mind you. I take whatever tune that happens to be going through my head and change the lyrics to whatever happens to be for dinner(usually pizza-but that's another post). Show tunes seem to work best.  "The oven is alive with the sound of pizza"  and Climb every pizza" from "The Sound of Music"..are regular family favorites..and who could forget "Pizza..I just made a dinner named pizza.." from "West side Story"..? Oh the possibilities are endless. The thing is-it works. The kids laugh-and I am amused instead of overwhelmed... Because the last thing I want to do is get overwhelmed by something that they need to do..something that makes their world a little less confusing. They certainly don't need that.

  So even though I wanted to kick myself for what happened with Oscar..I have gotten over it....sort of. (Sigh...there are times as a parent when you need to learn to forgive yourself..AND give your children the opportunity to forgive you as well.) Most importantly, Oscar has gotten over it-which is an incredible accomplishment.  Things haven't always come easy for my boy. Out of all my kids it would seem that he has had the most difficulties..has had to work more..try harder.  I look back to just six short years ago when he was first diagnosed...when all we were told was "We don't know" and "maybe-maybe not"..and I look at all he has done since then.  My lovely boy has worked so very hard.  .Yet,.he has more humor and laughter than anyone I know. He has such joy and I find myself breathless in the remarkable and loving person that he is.

My Oscar will be ten years old this week.  Ten years...two hands..a full decade. How did that happen?  When did that happen?    I can't even imagine what the next ten years will far he will much he will accomplish. I simply can't. Because if I have learned  anything in the last ten years it is that I no longer need to bother with guessing games. Because when I look at my beautiful son- I see only possibility.  Happy Birthday my wonderful boy...and yes, we will be having pizza for dinner.       

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who is changing who

This is part of Jen's of "Autism the king and Eye" Blog gems go on over and join in!

~"It is not until you become a mother that your judgement slowly turns to compassion and understanding"~ Erma Bombeck


I think that once a person becomes a parent, they start aging in dog years. For every one year of having a child-the parent ages seven. That would make me roughly 114 years old. Unless of course you age seven years per child-in which case I would be 219. By all rights, I should be collecting social security...or at least living in Florida.

  No doubt about it, having kids changes your life. In an instant. I remember bringing our first baby home from the hospital. We carried him in, placed his seat on the floor and just looked at him. Now what? I had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what to do with him. You would think that he would have come with some sort of owners manual. There I was with this 8lb. 6oz. ball of need, and I was overwhelmed. I had never really had to take care of anyone other than myself, and I wasn't always very good at that.  My inexperience made me feel as though I was somehow a fraud.   I kept waiting for a representative to show up from the hospital saying "We made a mistake-we'll be taking him back now" I was an irresponsible, self centered and flighty kind of girl. How could anyone possibly entrust me with the care of a baby? How could I possibly do this? What was I thinking?  What was the hospital thinking letting me leave with him?

  I remembered a story that my sister had told me about when she had brought her first child home. She too was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.  She had been up all night with her crying baby. She was tired and at her wits end, thinking, "when is this going to end?" At that moment, she realized that it wasn't. That she needed to accept that this was how things were going to be-that this was what her life was about now. That things would change, he would grow up, it would get easier. She needed to accept and move on. She told me that once she had come to this realization-things got better

That is the single most best advice that I was ever given as a mother.

That first year was quite a learning experience for me. I think that I had the cleanest most fed, washed and changed baby on the planet. I sterilized his bottles, his pacifiers, his clothes. If it fell on the floor, it was washed or discarded. If he drooled on his shirt-he was changed immediately. My poor boy had so many baths, we dried his skin out. I was uber-mom, and I was going to do everything right.

Imagine my dismay, when my curly headed chubby boy of baby goodness started to retreat into his own world. His words, his eye contact,...slowly diminished before my eyes. What had I done wrong? What was I doing wrong? Was it the tuna I had eaten during my seventh month of pregnancy? Had some errant germ broken through my barrier of sterilization? I panicked. I was so afraid that this was somehow my fault..that perhaps my greatest fear was reality-I shouldn't have had a child, I was obviously not good enough to be a mother. Oh it was quite the pity party, I should have had it catered...perhaps even hired a band.

  It took us two years to get a firm diagnosis for our son. During that time, I forgot about being the "perfect" mother, I stopped stressing out about clean laundry and sterile bottles. The only thing I cared about was my son-HIM. Not his clothes or his bottles or even his lack of eye contact and language- Him. It was during that time that my sisters advice came back to me. I needed to accept that this was who my son was. That this diagnosis, though helpful in explaining some things, didn't alter anything. I was still his mom-and he, still my son. Nothing in the world can ever change that. Not even dirty dishes. For that I am thankful.  We accepted and we moved on.

I think that, 3 more kids and 10 years later, I finally may be getting the hang of this mothering thing. My house certainly needs cleaning, there is laundry to do, and my 3 year old is chewing on something that I hope is edible. I think that at age 219 (in dog years) I may finally be growing up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Potty training re-visited

~"The biggest thing I remember is that there was just no transition.  You hit the ground diapering"~ Paul Reiser

  I have been reading many blogs lately where the topic is "potty training".  To this day, I still look at it as one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced as a parent.  Not wanting to ever take any accomplishments for granted-I sometimes look back over my early posts to see how far we have all come.  So, not wanting to look a gift potty in the mouth-I thought I would repost this..We have now been diaper free for  four years, six months and twenty four days....not that I keep track or anything. So here is a celebratory repost. 

  If karma is a boomerang and reincarnation is fact...Then I must have done something awful to a toilet in a past life.

  It never fails...the moment we get into a store one of my herd always has to use the bathroom. Usually on a day when it is 9 degrees outside, so that my kids are undoubtedly bundled up in enough outerwear to provide warmth to a small village. So into the restroom we go-all of us. Because the minute one has to go, they all have to. By the time everyone has finished, washed up and re-dressed, it is spring. They no longer need their outerwear, and I am stuck carrying it around the store.

  I really can't complain. There was a time when I thought none of them would ever be potty trained. I had visions of myself following them to college or down the aisle carrying wipes and pull ups.

  All of my children struggled with potty training. One of my boys however, had the hardest time. He was not fully potty trained until he was five and a half. It was at first a battle of epic proportions. I very much wanted him to do something that he had absolutely no interest in doing. To this day I still don't know whether it was a sensory issue, a control issue or a little of both for him. Regardless, he just did not get the point of pooping in the potty.

  At first we tried everything and anything we could think of. Rewards, threats, books, candy, vacations, cash (I was desperate)...It got to a point that I would have done ANYTHING to get him to use the potty. Nothing worked. In fact, the more persistent I became-the more resistant he was. It became the single most important accomplishment to me-and that was the problem. I made this issue all about myself, totally disregarding my sons needs or wants. I needed to look at this from my sons point of view. Everything I had been doing, the bribes, the threats, etc. had only created anxiety for both of us. I needed to step back, to reevaluate, to come up with a new strategy. This was not about me, but rather, about him. How could I help him to understand that using the potty was an important accomplishment. That staying in diapers would only hinder him...especially when he started going on job interviews...

  The sensation of sitting in a dirty diaper did not bother my son. I had to find a way to connect that sensation with something that would bother him. Something that would make the connection in his brain that said "being poopy is bothersome".  As he is pretty regular, this step was not hard. I would simply make sure that he was engaged in a favorite activity when the time came.  If it was a movie, I would turn it off , or I would remove the favorite toy he was playing with, all the while calmly saying he could have it back after he was changed. This was not always easy-tantrums did ensue. I did not give in. Instead, I would calmly suggest that using the potty would not take him away from his favorite things for so long .  After a week or two of this, he was more compliant. The next step I took was having him change himself. This step is NOT for the weak of heart, as poop can be rather appealing in look and texture to some people .(as a side note and point of interest, poop can remove paint. It should also never, ever be in the vicinity of ceiling fans or any other type of fan. period...especially when the fan is on.) I LEARNED to always make sure he changed himself in the bathroom-dumping said poop into the potty. (another point of interest-once a child learns to flush-hide all small objects. On the positive side-my husband and myself have mastered home plumbing projects.) Gradually, over about eight months time, my boy made the connection that pooping in a diaper and changing himself took far too much time away from his favorite activities. On June 16th, 2006 at approximately 2:48 p.m. he used the potty successfully-and continues to do so.

  So now when I find myself with a herd of kids in the supermarket bathroom, I find it hard to justify complaining too much. Although, if they could all just "go" before leaving the house...alas, I am not a miracle worker.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Forward and back...and forward..

  ~"You move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer."~

Byron Katie

 Wow  It's  quiet and I don't know what to do with quiet it is almost loud..deafening.  The herd is off again ..back to school and as we have known it this past week and a half is over and I find myself sitting here..not quite fitting in my skin..I don't know what to do with this feeling.  It was a two pot of coffee morning..I haven't had to wake up at any scheduled to get up at my own to stay in my pajamas all to take each moment as each moment..and we are back on a timetable..where my hellos and goodbyes are scheduled..where packing backpacks and doing homework take precedence over random hugs and kisses. I am not sure that I like it.

     Christmas went off without a hitch.  Well...with the exception of the fifty million piece toy kitchen we forgot to put together until eleven p.m. Christmas eve...otherwise-it was perfect.The morning was pandemonium...but in a good way. Wrapping paper and boxes everywhere. Each of the kids has their own unique method of unwrapping.   Sammy is a slow- one present at a time kind of boy,  thoroughly looking over each gift before proceeding.  Oscar tears everything open at once-quickly taking it all in-he'll look things over in greater detail later. I could almost hear him mentally comparing what he got to what he asked for (This was the first year he actually had a list-with more than one item-and none of them were Thomas toys! Oh how I loathe that cheeky tank engine!). Lily and Zoe are like a couple of chickens..pecking and clucking over (sigh...and comparing) their gifts.  From time to time one of them would shriek  "MAMA!! PAPA!!! LOOK WHAT I GOT!!!"  It was heaven.

   The entire vacation was lovely.  I really wasn't sure what to expect. We made no plans-instead taking each day as it came..figuring out what to do a moment at a time instead having a planned itinerary.  Imagine that..a family that thrives on set schedules- just taking each day as it came...and enjoying it!  Even Oscar, the boy who lives for his routine!( although he did announce that he was ready to go back to school on Christmas afternoon).  He too found his rhythm-(I think that having a toy garbage truck that farts to play with helped).. It was lovely just being together-away from everything..our own little oasis.  I was surprised at how sad I was when it ended.  It wasn't too long ago when I would have been thrilled that they were back in school..excited for the predictability and routines-ecstatic even.  Looking back over the past, holidays were once so...hard . Even as few as five years ago...when Omar and myself were just coming off of too many years of sleep deprivation..when we had three kids in diapers..and any change or disruption of routine could cause freak outs of epic proportions.. Funny thing is-we were so busy being in the moment that we didn't really recognize it . Don't get me wrong!  I remember days when I thought I was going to break-shatter..that I had nothing left to give...Times where I wanted to quit...when I would call Omar at work and give him my two week notice...  I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though times were hard, we didn't dwell on them-instead, we muddled through...and although we have made lots of mistakes-our kids have blossomed.  Back then, I refused to look anywhere but  forward-and it is only now that I fully allow myself a glance back from time to time. If only to take measure of how far we have all come.

  This past week, I got into a wee bit of a discussion with someone about my writing style-more specifically why I write the way I do. They felt that my kids couldn't possibly  understand  humor seeing as that they are autistic..and that using humor both in the raising and in the writing of (our adventures) somehow lessened them.  SIGH...I understand that raising kids is hard.  Any kids. I understand that there are times when you need to vent..scream..write about frustration.  This is true for any parent of ANY child. ALL parents are tragic heroes from time to time(especially when potty training or teaching sex ed.)-it is the nature of the job. Parenting is hard. Disabilities are hard.  I get that-really. But my kids aren't disabilities-they just happen to have them. Big difference. So when I write about the funny things that someone has said or done-it is with the utmost respect. I choose to look at life as an adventure and no matter what my kids capabilities I teach them to as well.

   One day, they will all  read this blog (Sammy does now from time to time) and I want them to see it is a testimony to how wonderful I think they all are-to how blessed I think my life is..and... well..  because I was always too lazy to keep a "baby book".  If I don't celebrate how wonderful and unique my kids are-how can I expect the world to?    We really aren't that different from any other family.  Yes, we have our unique struggles and different ways of doing things. But like everyone else we put our pants on one leg at a time...well at least those of us who wear clothes...

  A week has passed since I started this post.  A week full of routines and schedules..I looked back and reread that first paragraph and laugh at my innocence.  It is nine in the morning and already I have stopped about thirty arguments, filled fifty or so snack requests, found lost socks and shoes, fixed the computer and answered the age old question of "what's for dinner?" at least twenty times. We had a lovely break-but it is back to business as usual. SIGH... I find myself  looking forward to next years holiday break...and most definitely  to school on Monday. I find myself looking forward.  Always forward.