Life With A Side Of Autism

LIFE WITH A SIDE OF AUTISM

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Once Upon A Time Season - 2 Episode 1 Recap: Morning Breath Does Not Stand In The Face Of True Love's Kiss



We open our new season with a song that quickly wormed it's way into my brain and took root and now will be forever associated with this show: "Charlie's Girl" by Lou Reed. I'll even confess that I have it as a ringtone. And my alarm. But I always have put cinnamon in my cocoa. Cut me and I bleed fairy dust, I swear. Anyway, as the song plays, we see an as-yet unknown guy who, this being Once Upon A Time, is far from hard on the eyes.

This poor schmuck gets caught in a rainstorm, then drops his iPod out a window that won't close. The only clue we have as to who he may be is a sign on the wall advertising a hatter. And since we've already met the Mad Hatter, we're left to wonder if he isn't an associate from Wonderland or something. (And I must say that's a carefully placed Red Herring, writers. Well done!)

The man stares thoughtfully out the window, and as the song winds down he's visited by a pigeon bearing a postcard from Storybrooke. It carries one word:




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smart Moms Know That Asking Why Leads To Adventure

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and headed downstairs to prep breakfast, pack lunch, and sign off on homework papers before heading back up to wake the kids for the day. As I was carrying my son's backpack to the kitchen table in order to rummage through it, something caught my eye.

There was a plate under the table.

On the plate was a semi-melted pat of butter. With a Lego in it. It looked like the cat had taken a few licks, but otherwise it was intact.

Why????

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ladies, Can We PLEASE Stop Feeding The Drama Llamas?

I am in the middle of a swirling pool of drama. And I hate it. Hate. It. I can barely see to type this for all the hate burning out of my eyes. You have no idea.

And this is the worst kind of drama of all - unnecessary drama, created by someone other than me but it's landed on me now and I have to "fix" what I didn't ask for or perpetuate or even remotely instigate.

The why's and wherefore's aren't much, really. Just a misconstrued comment made to one friend that got passed on to another friend, who decided it was about her and now we're all upset.

It's all so very middle school.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Love And Loss And All That Lies Between

I had a bad moment last week.

They don't happen as often anymore, now that he's been gone awhile. It's been over two years since he last walked out the door, climbed up into his fully-packed pickup truck with the kids (who were going for their first Daddy overnight) and backed out of the driveway.

I stood in the doorway, waving hard with a big smile on my face for the kids.

See kids! It's OK! It's all going to be OK!

But it wasn't OK. And as I walked through my house with the big empty spot where the couch in the family room used to be and the weird marks on the rug where the end tables used to stand, I knew it would be a long time before it was OK again.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Believe It Or Not, I'm Occasionally Grateful For My Son's Autism

When I get home from work every day, I make a point to ask my kids about their day. Anna rattles on about her friends and the goofy boys on the bus, but David's a little bit harder to get information from. He usually answers with a monosyllabic word or a shrug, so I try to engage him by asking specific questions. I'll ask if they read a book in class, and if so, what book it was. I'll ask what the "special" for the day was (they rotate things like gym, music and art), or I'll ask him who he played with at recess.

That last one is important to me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Know You Think I'm Terribly Smart, But Really, There's Nothing Useful In My Head

My brain is a vault of useless knowledge.

I blame many things for this. First, I was born with an unbelievable amount of curiousity and an overwhelming love for the dramatic. Not a good combination, as it leads you to discover everything you can about things people don't bother with, and then treat each morsel of information like it's a burning news bulletin that must be shared with the world.

Did you know that Ernest Hemingway kept cats that were polydactyl? Or that it's illegal to own eagle feathers unless you're a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe? No? But isn't it terribly exciting???

OK, maybe not so much.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Got The Homework Blues

It's Friday, and you can't know how glad I am about that. Not only is the workweek ending, but as of yet, neither of my kids get homework over the weekends.

Thank God.

This school year has been a real challenge, and we're not even a month into it here. David is in 3rd grade now, and here they follow the "Everyday Mathematics" program. In 3rd grade, they begin a new "spiral" of learning - that means they're out basics and skill drills and into putting it all together in more complex manners.

Ohhhhhhhhhh no.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Australian Scientists Have Developed A Genetic Test For Autism

News broke yesterday of a new genetic test that can identify potential risk for autism. Researchers managed to identify 237 genetic markers in 146 genes that either contribute to or protect an individual from developing autism.

The risk markers increase the score on the genetic test, while the protective markers decrease the score. The higher the overall score, the higher the individual risk for autism.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm Not A Tiger Mom, But I Firmly Believe In Teaching My Kids To PRRRR

There's a wonderful old saying: "Looking after kids is like trying to herd cats."

As a cat owner and parent, I cannot help but agree.

Raising kids is an adventure. It's enriching and amazing and rewarding and a thousand other empowering adjectives. It's also frequently exhausting, occasionally irritating, and overwhelmingly under-appreciated. We all know that. What we all don't seem to know is the "right" way to do it.

We've got free-range Moms and feminist Moms and conservative Moms and Tiger Moms and lesbian Moms and Dads who are Moms. We've got single Moms, married Moms, divorced Moms and other people who've taken on the role when someone else didn't step up to the plate. And all of us, every single one of us, is worried that we're not doing it right.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

I think that song, more than any other, captures the feeling of that day. The fear, the anger, the tears - the strangers reaching across to take someone's hand.

It was my first day at a new corporate job, and we were all gathered, transfixed around a small TV that had been wheeled into a conference room. With every blast of fire, every body hitting the ground, every piece of building crashing to the ground, hands reached out, arms went around shoulders, and we all moved closer, united in our grief and our helpless rage. No one questioned when we all left work early to be with our families. No one talked about sales quotas or meetings or work that had to be done. We all did what we had to do and left to go home and hold the ones we loved.

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11 And The Field Of Dreams




We lay cuddling in my bed, our nightly ritual after bathing, putting on jammies, reading and discussing the school day. I’d put her brother to bed a few minutes before her, then we snuggled in under the big comforter and she picked a subject for us to discuss – another ritual. The sky is the limit, and the only caveat is time: ten minutes to be exact. Then I put her into bed with a kiss and an ‘I love you’ and a promise to meet up with her in my dreams that night.

The night before we’d decided to meet in Egypt, to see the pyramids together. I hadn’t yet received the dream destination for the evening, but I knew she’d get around to picking someplace.

"So what’s the subject, Boo?" I asked, brightly, as I pulled her close.

"Holidays,” she said. “Like Labor Day or Thanksgiving. Why don’t we have the day off to celebrate 9/11?"

I stared at her, at a loss for a moment. Once again, I have to wrap my head around something enormous and make it understood in a way she'd understand. You’d think it gets easier as she gets older, but it doesn’t really. She understands more now, and it’s a fine line between giving her the answers she’s looking for and information overload.

"Sweetie, we don’t celebrate 9/11. It’s not really a 'celebration' kind of day."

"Oh, I meant the other word. You know…starts with a “C” and it means remember," she said.

"Commemorate?"

"Yeah, commemorate. A girl in my class is going with her parents to some field to commemorate. She’s missing school that day. We should all be off that day."

"Oh," I said, with realization dawning, "she’s going to Shanksville."

We live about 3 hours from the crash sight of United Flight 93, a lonely field outside of Shanksville, PA.

“So what was important about a field?" she asked me.  "Didn’t 9-11 happen in New York? And to Stephanie at the Pentagon?”

Stephanie is her cousin, and she was working at the Pentagon on 9-11. She survived, physically unharmed but mentally trying to make sense of what she lived through, as we all are. So I explain the story of United flight 93, how brave the passengers were in the face of a nearly certain death, how they fought with everything they had, how many countless lives they saved by forcing an airplane into the dirt instead of into a building. How proud their families and we as a nation are of them, and of everyone who showed bravery in overwhelming adversity that day.

She asked for more stories, so I told her about her Aunt, an EMT in nearby Virginia, and the work her unit did to help after the Pentagon attack. We talk about how the firefighters and policemen ran into the burning buildings in New York, when everyone else was running out. I told her about the two men who carried the wheelchair-bound woman down 80 flights of stairs to safety. She asked again for more stories, and I told her there were probably hundreds. We decided to look them up online, and read some more.

Then she smiled and said "You know what would be cool, Mom? If someone on Flight 93 had found a four-leaf clover, and all of the sudden a bunch of parachutes appeared for them!"

I hugged her and said "Yeah, that would have been great. It didn’t happen that way, though."

Finally, she snuggled in with her back to me and I stroked her hair. I got ready to tell her something wonderful about her – something I always do before bed – praising her abilities or her good heart or her smarts. I want her to end her day with something good, always. I opened my mouth, and the words just poured out.

"Oh, Boo…it was an awful, awful day. So many people died, there was so much chaos….and the news – the news kept playing all night. There weren’t any other programs on TV, just pictures and video of people dying over and over and over again. I just kept holding you tight and hoping…praying….and thinking of your Aunt Sue. I kept praying Please God, don’t let it be her child. 

"And I knew that day that all over America, thousands of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons and siblings and friends were praying that same prayer and they wouldn’t get the answer they wanted.

"Most of all I wondered what kind of a world my child would grow up in – a world where people could do something like this. I know, people do horrible things to other people all over the world every day, but we all felt it would never happen to us, and it did. It did, and everything changed and all I could do was hold you and hold you and promise that I’ll put myself between you and danger any way I can, for as long as you need me to. I promise, Boo. Always."

She rolled over in my arms, hugging me tightly. "When bad stuff happens, you just have to be one of the brave ones. That’s what I’d do."

 In that moment, I realized why I clung to her so tightly that day. It wasn’t just that she was my only child at the time, and a baby, at that. It wasn’t fear for my life, her life, or the lives of my loved ones. It was what she represented in those hours.

Hope.

And as the years go by and we take the lessons of that day and teach them over and over again, we raise a generation of children who will do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, because they will be the brave ones, just as many were before them.

I laid her in her bed, kissing her again, and she said sleepily, "Mom, I think we should go to that field tonight, in our dreams. Maybe we can tell them all thank you."

"I’ll see you there," I said, as I pulled the covers up.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"Bring flowers."

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Catastrophe Of Almost School Picture Day

Last night, I was reminded by my darling daughter that school pictures would be taken today and she had (gasp!) nothing to wear.

Nothing. To. Wear.

OhmyGodMom!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nights With Frog And Toad...And David!

My David is reading a chapter book. We're going to do one chapter a night. And I have to type it again because it's still so hard to believe:

My David is reading a chapter book.
Reading.
A chapter book.

The world is made of awesome.

It's this one, by the way.

He's still not totally digging on the reading thing, but he's so proud of himself when we're all done. Like he can't believe himself that he did it.

Well, of course he did it. He's David, and he frequently does what we all think is too tough for him to do.

I look forward to more evenings with my old pals, Frog and Toad, and high-fives with the boy who brings them to life.

The boy who brings me to life, as well.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yes, Absolutely - I Always Answer My Pre-Teen Daughter's Sex Questions

I was at a neighborhood cookout over the weekend, and ended up in the kitchen with a bunch of Moms. We all had kids in the pre-teen and under range, and as Moms are wont to do, we were swapping stories and laughing at our kids and ourselves.

Sooner or later, the talk turned to how quickly they all grow up. One of the mothers, who I know to be fairly liberal and open-minded, told us how shocked she was when her twelve year old daughter asked her about a certain sex act. "Oh my God!" One of the other mothers said, "What did you tell her?" My friend the open-minded Mom replied "I told her she shouldn't be asking about that stuff."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stuff Autism Says

David: Mom, I want to go to eat at Chinese.

Me: Chinese food? At the Chinese restaurant by Wal-Mart?

David: Yes.

Me: But you don't like Chinese food. What would you eat?

David: I would eat chinese. Like Mulan.

Me: Mulan eats chicken. And vegetables.

David: And pizza.

Me: No, Mulan doesn't eat pizza. They didn't have pizza then.

David: We will buy her some pizza and she can share.

Me: Oh, so Mulan is coming with us now?

David: No. [exaggerated head shake]  Mulan is a cartoooon.

Silly Mommy. Whatever are you talking about?