Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, Old Me

In the wake of falling off the sunnyside bandwagon, I decided to at least try the age old wisdom, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." But if you think I suck at positive, rest assured that I am far, far worse at silence. I don't think I've made it a full two weeks biting my tongue.

So in an effort to approximate niceness as closely as a woman of my character is able, let me say that I am thrilled -- no, deliously happy -- to bid farewell to 2008. Can I get an, "Amen, sister"?

In a year that even Elmo would have to describe as a big pile of poop, you, blogosphere, really saved me. Thanks for being there. Thanks for the eyes and ears, the shoulders and the helping hands. (Blogosphere, clearly you have a great body.) May 2009 bring you unexpected joy, unlimited success, and unconditional love; may I need you less, and may I learn much more.

To keep things on an up note, I leave you with my last Notable and Quotable of 2008:

Rooster: Daddy, do rice cakes come from rice?
Daddy: Yes, rooster, that is true. Good thinking.
Rooster: Do rices grow up and then get big and turn into rice cakes?
Me, climbing in the tub as a last resort to wash a reluctant Peaches' hair: What are you staring at?
Peaches: You!
Me: Why?
Peaches: You're beautiful.
(I still made her wash her hair, though.)
Rooster, after listening to audiobooks: Grammy, have you ever roared to no avail?
Rooster, after listening to more audiobooks: Let's go, daddy! Let's sally forth.
Me: Peaches, that was very naughty the way you were hitting and screaming and pushing.
Peaches: I forgive you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Positively Fell Off the Wagon

Yeah, you knew it was coming.

Positive doesn't like it at my house.

The latest:
The rooster had some BAD days at school.
It took us two trips to the tree lot to get our tree, due to meltdowns, and now that we have it, I seem to be the one melting down. "STOP BREAKING MY ORNAMENTS!!!" I realize I am unreasonable, thank you, yes.
Peaches had some BAD nights of "sleep" - if you can call it that - keeping us up forever.
The rooster is now sick. Congested, flushed, warm, coughing. Does anyone see a canceled Vegas trip in my immediate future?
It's raining. A lot.
My mother received two offers on my grandma's house. This is supposed to be good news. In a way. I guess. POSITIVE news. But it's hard, too, not to think of it as another goodbye, part of the loss. I miss her. First holidays and all, you know?

Hello, my name is ghkcole, and I'm a grumpaholic.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Gifts

You thought the title was a metaphor? Why, no. Not today. It's shopping day.

Kyra at This Mom listed some gifts she likes to give/get for holiday time. I thought I'd post one, too. Hers is more helpful, as it has links, but I'm clearly not as ambitious as so many of you... but I know you can find these with your super Google skills:

1. Listening is an Act of Love. This is the Story Corps book available from NPR. NPR has many great gifts; I bought several of the books this year.

2. Amber Chand candles. Amber Chand has other great gifts, too, but the candles are jointly made by Israeli women and Palistinean women, and they are beautiful. Love them.

3. Planet Jill jewelry. Other places make photo jewelry too, and some are cheaper, but none are better. I love Jill. I treasure my bracelet of baby photos.

4. Brian Andreas and Story People. Books, poems, art -- very stylized, and a little can go a long way, but I like it. Sometimes a piece from there reaaaallly hits home.

5. The Grameen Foundation. Hard for me to explain as well as their web site, but they are about microloans. For a RIDICULOUSLY priced tee-shirt that makes you feel good on many levels, I suggest the positivitee for $50 that helps make the world better.

*** Here is one for kids, too: I bought my kids a cd of music -- common kid songs, like Wheels on the Bus -- but they inserted the kids' names into the songs. My. Kids. Adore. These. Like crazy. Happy Googling.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good Things

The Top Five Good Things From My Day:
  • The Rooster did well at speech therapy today. He followed directions written in drawings to cut out ornaments, and cooperatively hung on them on a tree. It was his last therapy at this place, so I didn't want to bust their bubble and tell them we're Jewish! And, remember, for a Jewish girl, no one loves Christmas more than I do. We get our own tree tomorrow. It'll go right next to our fireplace, where the menorah is on the mantle.
  • J completed his required parenting class hours today, meaning that California's Regional Center system will soon provide us with some ABA support for our boy. J felt the classes were worthwhile. I only wish they hadn't kept him from spending time with my mom and stepdad when they were in town, but I am excited by the prospect of having a behaviorist come help us in the evenings with the Rooster's more problematic behaviors.
  • Miss M came to babysit. We ADORE her. If we win the lottery, we will beg her to quit her job and come live with us and raise our kids for us! Miss M was Peaches' daycare provider when she was a baby, and once in a while she comes to babysit for a few hours. When I got home, the Rooster refused to let her go until she finished one last story, and then he told her, very sweetly, "Goodbye Miss M. See you next time. Have a good vacation. At the Egyptian Pyramids." He made that last part up, but we all agreed it was a nice touch. Peaches said, "I love that Miss M!"
  • I found some holiday presents to give teachers that I think work. I don't know that the recipients will love them as much as I do, but I found gifts that are handmade and the money goes to a charitable foundation that supports women who are rebuilding their lives after overcoming personal tragedies. What could make for a better gift? If I'd gotten these gifts when I was in the classroom, I would have thought, "How cool!" So I bought them.
  • I ate dinner with J. We ate warm food in a quiet place and maintained a thoughtful conversation. I really love that guy. He's pretty wonderful. (And did I mention that he's gorgeous?)

It was a pretty good day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scientific? I'm (not) Positive?

Okay, so maybe you can't call what I did science, really.

Keep in mind that my tenth grade science (chem) teacher called me "a lost ball in high weeds" and encouraged me to cheat. (His exact words, etched into my mind, were, "When in doubt, look about. It's better to cheat than to repeat. But if you get caught, it's your own fault. Now bend yo' head, and smell some lead.")

Yesterday I decided to give Positive a trial run. I've heard so much about the concept, kind of how I kept hearing this annoying tale of kids on gluten free diets struggling less with language and behavior -- I didn't like the premise because it didn't make my life initially sound any easier, but for a payoff, I could experiment with it for a day.

Well, I don't know about anyone else in the world and gfcf, and I surely don't know the how and the why -- the science, if you will -- but about 30 some hours after removing g and c from the rooster's diet, we whipped out the video camera because suddenly for the first time ever he and his sister had a conversation.

He's not perfect. He has many language and behavior miles to go before we sleep. But that first day made a huge impact on us, kind of like yesterday did on me with the whole, yes, I do dare say it, Positive experiment.

Yesterday, I decided to test the much publicized hypothesis that when grumpy people go on a negative free diet, they actually improve their language and behavior too, and that many unexpected rewards can follow. Huh. So yesterday I flew in the face of the deities to see if I'd be killed. Unscientifically, I posit this: I think maybe I'm still standing today. More positively: I had a good day yesterday. Even though I said I thought I would. I put out good energy, smiled extra, and avoided kvetching overly. And? Work was okay, the kids handled an unexpected/unusual trip to the Farmer's Market, J helped me arrange it so I could attend the work holiday party for an hour or so, and a friend volunteered to babysit for me soon. Not too shabby!

So we stuck with the gfcf thing, knowing every day would not be perfect, and sometimes we question if the diet is really helping, but infractions and their consequences make us believers, make us think the hard work is worthwhile; and I plan to give this Positive thing more time, too, despite how it goes against my nature and my cravings. And my writing style. So please bear with me.

Thank you to all my role models in the land of Positive, and to P for perfect timing of support, and to C and E for sharing the journal and the shirt with me. It helps ease my fear of the deities. Thank you all for holding my mental hand. I think... I think... I think I'm going to be okay at this positive stuff. I think so.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This is a Scientific Experiment

I think I might have a good day.


Check back tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Going Crazy?

My husband bought us tickets to get away for a couple of days just before Christmas.

Is going crazy? Or is not going crazy?

I reread the first sentence and I can't believe I am actually talking about my own life. Really? Me, go somewhere? Without kids?

I want to go, of course, and I surely need to go, but I am scared.
I remember when Mama Mara went, and I cheered reading her blog about going, and when she got nervous as her trip approached, I willed her to go, go, go. And she did. And she had a wonderful, amazing time, and she needed it. And while she was gone? Her wusband did an awful job trying to fill her big shoes.

My in-laws plan to come and cover for us while we head off to a non-casino getaway in Vegas, where it is far enough away to count as a trip, close enough to fly for less than an hour, and cheap compared to everywhere else. We don't gamble, but we like the sound of the luxury resort and spa he found, and it came highly recommended by colleagues of his.

My in-laws do a wonderful job with my kids. I venture to say that they do better than I do with them in many ways. They love my kids, and my kids adore them. As do I. But. We are talking three nights, here, people. We are talking about counting on someone else to be gfcf vigilant, to drive my wild ones through mighty urban sprawl, to keep the combatants from hurting one another, to change diapers, to administer medications. Mara's wusband couldn't manage the medicines. What if my in-laws can't?

I am terrified of going. Terrified of how the kids will do while we're gone. Terrified of the fallout when I return. But the idea of turning down the trip? Also not good.

My days are long and complicated and exhausting. So I need a break. But my days are long and complicated and exhausting. So how can I leave them to anyone else? How would I ever begin to explain to them the intricacies of survival around here?


Friday, December 5, 2008

This is Good News - (but you know I'll still complain)

I am not a doctor, and I do not play one on tv. A Dean's List student, I had to flirt with classmates so that they would tutor me enough to help me maintain my C average in the two science classes they made me take en route to my BA. Call me Mrs. Right Brain, and forgive my poor explanations below as I tell you our good news (and, being me, still find a way to complain a little from the completely overwhelmed place I seemed to have moved to this last year).

At great long last, the doctor called to say that the second lead test was okay. OKAY! She said it wasn't perfect, but it was not enough to freak anyone out and take drastic action. Hurrah!

So did that mean the first test that showed high levels was wrong? A fluke? She said she doesn't know, but she wants to try to get some lead out of our boy's system through biomedical intervention. My weak interpretation of what she explained to me six ways from Sunday is this: based on two different methods of testing, she feels that he might have more lead than is healthy, and she'd like to raise levels of good elements in his body -- B6 and calcium, for example -- that either help him shed some of his lead or prevent him from absorbing it into his vital organs -- like his brain. She does not have reason to believe that too much has yet found its way into organs, and she does not think lead caused his challenges. Therefore, she is not at this time suggesting true chelation, or drawing out the metals through more medical means, as she says she does not feel this is warranted, though we may get a second opinion.

Of course, we are thrilled that the latest test came back with better news, and we remain concerned about our son having lead in his system, and we will do anything we can to help him. I asked the doctor, as I always do, "What side effects or down sides should we expect from your treatment plan?" She said, "It isn't cheap." What is? "And me might not like it." Ah. He never does. We can work with these side effects; we know them well, and they are certainly the lesser of many evils.

The Rooster will be getting B6 cream. If you feel even tempted for an instant to say that doesn't sound bad, I say poo poo poo to you. Kia might say, "COME ON, the kid has SPD, dooodz." But okay, I will figure out a way to rub lotion all over him every day without either of us getting hurt. And he needs calcium. Um, yes, this we always knew, and for almost a year we've tried a bagload of (costly) for that. Yes, we've already tried the chocolate liquid from Kirkman and mixed it into pretty much anything you can name. But we'll make it work. At least I just read about a new GFCF coconut yogurt that Whole Foods carries -- thanks, blogger, for posting that. (I'd link to it if I had enough memory, energy, and laptop battery; maybe later.) And, he's going to need some new pills, too. Well, sure. While he's getting more pills, I hope that someone gives a few to me. It already take two adults 20-30 minutes each morning and each night to administer the medicine he already takes...

If it sounds like I'm not elated that, after worrying for the past two weeks, my son's test did not show lead poisoning, just know it's because of my sketchy relationship with the universe, not a lack of gratitude. Call me superstitious, but know that inside I, for one, am definitely feeling a little less toxic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Weekend...

My mom and stepdad are in town.
My kids could not be more excited.
I get it.
I drink in the family togetherness, the support, the ease, this day one of company.
My grandpa like that cliche about company and fish both stinking and needing to be thrown on after three days. But I would love it if my family lived so nearby and I saw the so much that we never thought of them as "company" -- just as FAMILY. A distance of 3000 feels impossibly huge.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

When Autism Goes Partying

Someone could write a whole, heavy, long, book about handling autism at parties. 

Someone SHOULD. It could be funny, sad, poignant, and educational. 

You, you should do it. You, the organized one? Compile the stories from so many of us who know all too well about the joys and hazards of parties, edit out any objectionable language, make sure not to make it seem like we're stereotyping or saying that our kids ARE autism, and make sure people with NT families learn something, gain some understanding. Make sure people get their "I laughed, I cried" money's worth, too. Give it an intriguing title. Publish it with or some such online tool. We'll all schpiel it on our blogs, you can make millions, and then donate the proceeds to UNICEF or something. 

I digress. 

We went to a party this weekend. Whoa, the opportunities for reflection. For us, going to a party doesn't ever just happen. We plan as if headed overseas. Doesn't matter, though; surprises are in store. 

So, this time we headed to the first birthday party of an adorable little boy in childcare with Peaches. His mother and I work together. She knows the rooster well, and asked how she could make things go smoothly for him. I LOVE HER. I brought her a stash of gfcf candy for her to use in his goody bag, and she assured me she planned to stock the kids' table with fruits and juice boxes my boy could enjoy. I packed my own bag of treats, too, of course, and baked gfcf brownies in case we did not manage our escape prior to cake. 

We drove to the birthday boy's grandmother's home, quite a distance from our own, extra early in hopes of managing naps en route. Peaches collapsed, but Rooster asked over and over, "Are we there yet? Tell me when. Now? Tell me when." 

An adorable little puppy greeted us. With a child allergic to everything including air, we've had surprisingly few physical reactions to dogs, but behavioral reactions make up for that. Squealing, lots of squealing, from both boy and canine. 

Of course, we knew several of the guests, other teachers from school and their kids. But, this was no small affair. I mean, these people know how to throw a bash -- complete with a deejay, chafing dishes full of delicious food, a pirate theme to the nth degree, organized games, and tons of people -- alllll kinds of people. 

I am not sure how many times the rooster covered his ears and asked to go home, but for each of those times, he subsequently asked to stay and play more. We paid careful attention to his cues and I think we managed to leave at the right time for him, but we also stayed almost two full and mostly successful hours. 

At one point, my sweet husband watched the rooster play while I watched Peaches. Later, my husband, J, commented how he felt a tug seeing our boy walk up to children and shove a toy in their faces, not knowing how to appropriately initiate. Then, he looked over to see a severely disabled girl, probably more of a young woman than a girl, really, being held and kissed and fed by her parents. This girl could not communicate. My husband felt all kinds of tugs then, and a longing to know the best way to reach out to her parents. 

When the rooster approached familiar kids, they gave him latitude. Probably their parents have helped them understand our boy better. We gave rooster some scripts to try to help him approach new kids at the party, and it helped some, too. Suddenly a sweet blonde child in an adorable skirt didn't bother to wait for his approach. She immediately wanted to play with the rooster! He struggled a little in the beginning, and whether I should have or not, I found myself saying to her, "He just sometimes can't quite find the right words he wants to say, but he's trying to play with you, so if you want to play with him, that's great." Neither the rooster nor this darling and highly verbal girl, E, seemed to mind my little coaching. She showed him to the pirate mast where they could poke their heads through and have their photos taken. She asked him to -- can you believe this? -- dance! They danced! Neither of them yet five years old, they had some serious moves! They all but held hands! When the rooster freaked out over the little puppy in front of E, she calmly told her about her own dog. He listened. He responded. Appropriately. Together they moved away from the puppy. They volleyed like conversation never stood in the rooster's way before... for a few minutes. When words failed him, he gazed at her adoringly. I did, too. I practically offered her folks a dowry. 

Then, they started the balloon game. I think I've written before that the rooster obsesses about balloons, and that we used to have to read him Jamie Lee Curtis' book on the subject (Where Do Balloons Go When You Let Them Go Free) about 20 times each day. If he sees a balloon, he wants it. If he gets it, he wants to set it free. Then, he wants it again. 

Ah, autism. When it goes partying, things get interesting. 

So every child received a balloon, followed by some horrifying instructions to pop other people's balloons, and I didn't catch the rest of the details because it was too late. E popped the rooster's balloon, literally, metaphorically, completely. I think "bereft" describes his reaction. She, for her part, had no idea why he reacted as he did. She sought and received confirmation that she did just as she had been instructed. So of course she felt confused; darling E didn't see the rooster's autism, so his reaction puzzled her. Clearly she wanted to make amends for upsetting him even though she had done nothing wrong, so she reached in her pocket and pulled out the M&Ms she'd squirreled away, and held them out to him. To which, of course, I had to intervene and explain he has "allergies."

On the way home, we all munched on gfcf brownies and celebrated the successes of the evening. We all enjoyed ourselves for a while, we let our guard down some, we left on decent terms with everyone. The rooster and E made their peace, if not reconciled completely. And at least we didn't have to shell out for a dowry. 

I haven't had as much fun at a party in five years. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strange But True

  • Tonight, something weird happened.
    Something so bizarre that I don't imagine it will ever be repeated.
    I'm still scratching my head in puzzlement.
    Tonight was bad.
    ONLY bad. Not awful, not horrendous, not epic... (at least, not yet). Weird, huh? It's crazy.
    It has been about a month since the needle only moved as high as "bad" on the miserometer.
    It started when we got home from school/work, and the rooster's voice seemed to shift from his tirade tone into distantly familiar, somewhat likeable intonations. Sure, there was still combat to do, screamfests with his sister over TV, toys, touching, and turns. But some reason mixed in, too. The Peaches seemed less two, too. And her cough subsided to where she doesn't seem like you need to wear a mask to be around her. But she ought to quit smoking, that's for sure.
    Now, I tell you this in FULL cognition that have I invoked the hex of the spirits who despise me, but I also know that I wasn't going to get two days in a row of just plain bad, anyways, so I figured, as Kia would say, whatevs, people.
    I tell you the facts: It's an hour past bedtime and they are stretching out their dramas, but I just walked away to let my husband handle it, because he's a nicer human being than I am, and he won't likely threaten them with bodily harm just in time to give them nightmares as I might. But the sound of the Peaches shrilly screaming for Daddy to COME BACK and tuck her in a fourteenth time doesn't bring me to my psychological knees this time. Why? Because we had merely a bad night. Remember, for us, read "bad" like this: good. On our scale, bad is okay. On our scale, bad is what you shoot for a lot of the time. Our scale goes like this:

    epic warfare
    horrible, awful, like that kid's book about the "no good, very bad day"
    sort of fine

    So, on a day in which we had additional lab work to look into possible lead poisoning, had to pull the car over multiple times in traffic to stop the children for harming each other on the commute, talked to the school psychologist about the difficult recent days in class, worked hard at two busy jobs, handed down multiple time-outs, bribed our rooster to take his medicine with an hour-long and messy smoothie making session, still haven't managed the final tuck ins, and found out we'll be sleeping on the floor for another 5 nights, I say we have landed only one step away from our highest pinnacle of familial positivity -- we are bad, and within spitting range of sort of fine.

    This too shall pass.

    (* Please keep sending good thoughts about the worrisome problem I'm trying not to focus on, would you? *)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lead Balloons

I asked our developmental pediatrician how she felt about chelation. "Except in extreme cases, I'd be wary," she said, or something like that. "It can be quite dangerous."

The rooster's blood work came back, because I'd asked her to check for something or other, and she called me. "Can you come in sooner than our next appointment?" No one likes questions like this, but of course we say YES.

I was sure she'd say, whoa, bad mercury levels, how COULD you have gotten a flu shot while pregnant? Well, not exactly, but my guilt button was on high alert even though, as I said, I have no reason to believe anything other than genetics necessarily "caused" the rooster to have autism.

Well, the level for mercury was far to the left, like several other levels, clearly in the safe zone. Then, about four zones to the right, LEAD.

We have to have more tests. Add a trip to Children's Hospital to our imminent itinerary to the pediatrician for a physical, the dentist for torture, the OT, speech, and the eye doc. Then, the results will indicate our course of action. Might be okay, might be able to give him more iron, calcium, B6, and eliminate potential sources of lead in our home. (Read: expensive repiping coming soon to a home near ours.) But, then she said, if the tests don't come out looking good, we will have to talk. We will need to discuss chelation.


I slept about four hours last night. Three of them in a row. All of them on the floor. None of them after 4. 

A healthy, rested, balanced person could do this, at least once in a while. I am not healthy, rested, or balanced, because I've been doing this too long. 

She has a cough. She wet the bed. He heard her cough. He had a dream. Four on the floor of the playroom, never settling in, never back to sleep. And now I'm supposed to go to work and be extra efficient to make up for the day out yesterday. Or just finally give up? 

A major problem with this continuous sleep deprivation is the vicious cycle of it. Once you fry me to a certain point, I don't stand a chance at doing lots of proactive things when the next evening rolls around. I am way too tired to think of duct taping the diaper so it doesn't leak, or buying the special organic turkey the rooster can eat to fill him full of Thanksgiving drowsiness, and you can forget soothing lullabies and warm baths just before bed. I am barely able to function, as in bathe, drive, work, feed and clothe them, administer medications, keep them from ending up in the ER. And with the rooster up at all hours, he will be a joy if he goes to school. It's my husband's turn to miss work, and so I guess he will. He will give the girl her cough syrup and the boy his constant, unwavering, necessary supervision, and we will hope sick days will still be left over for when surgeries and emergencies come again as they have the last two years. We are not rich -- there is no nanny waiting in the wings. 

They call it beauty sleep for many reasons. I look like I could be my own grandmother. I don't wear any makeup, but I'm realizing that needs to change. And if beauty is as beauty does, well, let's just say I'm haggard inside and out. As you can surely tell, I'm wretched. How you are still reading is hard to grasp...

In no way am I trying to make a religious proclamation; I don't ever really want to go into that private realm too deeply in the blogosphere. That is not my topic. But in light of the sleep torture, I have to confess this: In my stupor, I regularly picture some all-powerful being, up above me, watching, and he HATES me. He TORTURES me. I ask myself if it's punishment, or just a malicious game. I wonder if I did something terrible in a previous life. Or maybe because I cheated death as a child (that is another post), this is the consequence. Maybe it's because I have NOT connected with a deep and abiding faith as I would really like to do. Maybe I am in a movie like the Truman Show, only it's the Rooster Show. Maybe someone cast a curse or hex on me, or has a ghkcole voodoo doll. Maybe I'm just a melodramatic, fried human being -- yes, yes, absolutely that must most likely fit the bill. Nothing can truly be as draining as I perceive this to be, it's just life, and I've gone soft. But I do sometimes throw my head back, and shout up at the sky, "Well then I hate you too!" This will cost me some of my readers, but maybe instead of despising me, you could pray for me. I am not good at doing it for myself, and the whole family here, including the two small innocents, would forever appreciate your prayers for a little rest, and a little balance, and a huge dollop of perspective. 

Please, though, whatever you do: don't send me solution ideas. Tried. Did. Done. Can't. Already thought of it. Moving on. Really. Puleaaze. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to start my day. 

Monday, November 17, 2008


My husband and I have an epic To Do List that has gained serious weight over the last five years, but lately I am most concerned over our lack of a will, or whatever legal document you need when you have little wealth and two children to leave behind if something unexpected happens. 

So, just in case, I thought: why not blog some "last wishes"? I mean, we hope to take a little getaway soon, and we have no intention whatsoever of making it permanent, but it could be or first time flying together without kids... Plus, when you live in Southern California, you have plenty of reminders to contemplate your mortality, you know?  

So, for the record: 
I've never wanted a funeral. Not to say I wouldn't want a gathering, but a party would be my preference. A party with LOTS of food, nice words, many photos. The more stories, the better, but nice ones -- here or gone, I don't want to be roasted! And I surely do NOT wish to attend the party -- I don't want anyone looking at me then, so I hope to be cremated. 

All my stuff should go to my kids, of course (and my mom and stepdad), but the real question is where do my kids go? Naturally my husband and I have discussed this about a billion times. When the rooster was born, we even asked my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to be godparents. However, they didn't have kids then. Now, they do. And we didn't know the rooster had autism then. Now, we do. Since our original conversation, they've moved to a new city, started new career journeys, started a family of their own, and learned about the roster's challenges. I call that a game changer. I know they'd still want to help, but I don't know that it would be the best thing for everyone. 

When I hypothetically try to imagine J and I gone, I immediately feel an urgent need to think that the Rooster and Peaches need to stay together. And let's not kid anyone: they are undeniably adorable, but no easy package. It takes more than just love to raise them. It takes fortitude. Stamina. My grandparents played a major role in raising me, but the most aggressive thing I ever did was clutch my novels too tightly. And yet what about how much my folks and my inlaws would want proximity to the kids with us gone? Yet they live 3,000 miles apart. My family lives in a place practically foreign to my kids, and my in-laws live, as I do now, in a state I myself hope to flee before the kids reach their teen years. 

There really is no perfect answer to this dark question, and my planning instincts feel thwarted when I try to puzzle out a possible solution. But here is what I hope in any event:

- I hope that my children always live in a place where they feel accepted and loved. 
- I hope that they always have each other. Peaches is the best gift we ever gave the Rooster, and no one on earth will ever have her back the way that he does. Sure, he pounces on her back every chance he gets (and steals her snack as soon as she looks away), but if you dare so much as raise your voice slightly when addressing her, he will go all Brother Bear: "DON'T you DARE talk like that to MY SISTER!"
- I hope that my children live somewhere that feels more like a village than like a bonfire of the vanities. I hope that they have plenty of exposure to arts, culture, diversity, opportunity, and very little exposure to drugs, materialism, excess, and violence. 
- I hope that my children will always hear about their parents' love, and have tangible proof of it all around them. 
- I hope that my children never feel like they represent a burden to anyone. 
- I hope that whoever raises my children feels lucky, grateful, and blessed. I know I do. This blog might not always show it, but I do. Beaten down as I am, thrashed and contemplating my possible demise, warped and skewed, I am grateful nonetheless. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I am horrible. 

All weekend, I held on to the thought of Monday. Escaping back to work. I know, that alone makes me horrible. But I get worse. 

My city is on fire, and instead of spending more time contemplating what those fires have cost in terms of lives and homes, I thought, why me? Why is it my kids can never breathe well, sleep well, rest... why can't we go outside? Friggin fires. Why do we have to spend the weekend indoors with towels around the doors and the air purifier and the humidifier and hot showers running... All weekend, I thought, make it past this meltdown the kids are throwing, this tantrum, this fight, this mountain of chores, this endless To Do List, and please, please, please, please, let it be Monday soon. I need a break from my real life and I want to WORK, where things feel reasonable and sane. 

Not to excuse myself, but we have been sleeping on the floor for almost a week because the mattress that we ordered was toxic. Last weekend we spent all throwing up and worse. The weekend before I spent sick as a dog with fever and chills. This weekend my husband was out of the house a lot, so it was just the kids and me, locked in away from the smoky air, and I was counting down. Desperation. Facebook games alone got me through a rough evening patch, the way you hear someone stranded for days lived on Cliff Bars. 

Now, my daughter is really coughing, having trouble, in distress. When this happens I run to her, and my heart is full of concern, and my words to her full of love and reassurance, and I call the doc, and we get the meds, and I kiss her little face while we nebulize her with the machine that was a ritual for the rooster every day for over a year, and I can be in the moment, real, engaged, loving, ME, but then when I lay her back in her bed for the eleventh time, I am horrible again -- resenting that tomorrow I will not go to work, but spend yet another day with ... do I really say this with dread? -- my kids. 

People, all I ever wanted was my kids. I treasure them. 

But some days, I do decry, COME ON, one is autistic, one has the terrible twos, they have egregiously flawed immune systems, we have no family nearby, and I get a good night's sleep once every 14 to 21 days. Going on five sleepless years. COME ON. This is not family life. This is TORTURE. What am I doing? 

So yes I am horrible. But here is another horrible confession. Sometimes I worry when we finally come through this to any kind of "other side" -- like maybe when my two kids are old enough that they do not require heightened constant vigilance at every single solitary moment -- that I will be too old to enjoy any of it. I'll be like the bitter wife going through a divorce to the guy she put through med school screaming, "I gave you the best year's of my life!!! And now this!!!" 

These are my horrible, dark thoughts, that for some reason I feel compelled to spew in cyberspace. Guilt and insanity, I guess.

I am going to donate to the Red Cross, get the news update on the fires, and try to stop thinking like an asshole. Wish me luck. And wish me sleep. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nebraska Road Trip

No one act too surprised if you read on Facebook that I've taken a little road trip to Nebraska, okay?

Monday, November 10, 2008

What If

The Rooster's speech therapist encouraged us to practice the construction, "What do you think..."

So Saturday we started working on "What do you think about..." and "What do you think will happen if..." because these are the kinds of questions you often hear in school. We have asked him so many questions that he can see it coming from the sound of the "Wh" and I thought he might have started to tune out. 

Tonight I sat on the bathroom floor watching the Roo playing with his cars in the water, and he looked at me and asked, "Mommy, what do you fink if I zoom my car over the side of the bath and then fast down into the water?" I said, "I think it will splash." He said, "Yeah. And I fink I will laugh. Let's see!" 

And for once we were both right. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Unanswerable questions

I have the best husband ever. He is adorable, sweet, and smart, and no, I have no idea why he picked me. I remember asking over and over and over and over when we met how on earth no one had snatched him up by then, allowing him to reach the ripe old age of 28 without a wife. 

We have very little in common, as you can see. The part that will clearly indicate to you that he "completes me" is this: you can't bring J down. He buoys back every time. And not in an annoying way, either. He's no bright-sider, no Dudley Do-right. He just has a natural Tiggerishness to my Eeyoreness. I like him. I love him. I'm crazy about him. I want to be more like him. Stay away from him, I found him first. 

If you don't hear a "but" coming, you must be new here. 

So, here is the Meme I have had on my mind. If you knew you had to ask your partner/spouse/significant other 20 objective questions that they could NOT possibly answer, what would you ask? You know, stumpers that might have been on that old show, The Newlywed Game...

Here is my list of THE UNANSWERABLE:

How many loads of laundry do our children require a week? 
What do we need at the grocery store? 
What is today's date? 
How does one go about sending holiday cards? 
Name all of our kids' current teachers. 
What do our children eat for breakfast on weekdays?
What do our children eat for lunch on weekdays? 
What do our children eat for dinner on weekdays? 
What size shoes do the kids wear? 
What important business do we have on the calendar for this week? Or tomorrow? 
What code word did the school give us in order to pick the kids up in an emergency? 
How long can you keep a toothbrush before you should throw it away or donate it to science? 
When should you throw away food (or risk poisoning your family) despite the fact that technically it isn't the "SELL BY" date yet? 
Name one gift we ever gave to your grandmother since we met. 
How do you set the alarm clock? 
How does a calendar work? 
What is the only thing I ever asked for (and which I have never received) for my birthday? 
If you plan to travel with our kids, what goes in the suitcase?
What did I tell you that you simply MUST remember in case I suddenly die soon? 
How do you put up with me? 

Don't Read the Eeyore

There is so much good and beauty in the world. 

I can't see any of it. 

I am an eeyore. 

In the past 10 days:
I had a chest infection. Fever, night sweat, coughing spasm, blood.
The Rooster woke up one night around midnight vomiting profusely. 
The Peaches woke up with charley horses around 2. 
My husband caught the chest cold. 
Peaches caught the stomach flu. 
The Rooster hit his shadow. 
I caught the stomach flu. 
The shadow caught the stomach flu. 
The broker we hired to find us the car we need disappeared; a simple Toyota that matches our needs (can I hear a "THIRD ROW" amen please?!) cannot be located anywhere in the country. Our current 14-year-old, overtaxed Toyota limps along sadly, threatening to quit, and I can't blame it.  
A coworker seems determined to criticize me unfairly.
My husband ordered a new mattress to replace the 11-year-old one that sags miserably and hurts his back. The new - expensive - set came. It is toxic. I'd rather sleep in the Rooster's bed during his stomach flu, it smells that bad. 

And, don't think I didn't notice, there was a presidential election. I did, I swear, do my best to bask in it. I had all four computers in the house on abc, cnn, npr, and msn, and stole all the glances the kids would permit. I turned on the clock radio in the bed room and snuck in there each chance I got. The rooster, of course, did not allow me to watch any tv, but when I tried we at least had a moment of levity. He pointed to the screen and shouted, as he does on Sundays when I try to catch a Redskins score, "I DON'T LIKE FOOTBALL!" I told him, "Son, that is not football. That is about the president of the United States." I pointed to the screen, where images of both candidates looked back at us. He stamped his foot and proclaimed, "WELL, SHAME ON HIM!" And he turned it off. Fine, I have an iPhone, and his bedtime is 8, so eventually I got to bask some. Everyone else in the blogosphere wrote about the magic and power and significance of the night so much better than I can, but I shared the goosebumps, the tears, the  chills -- and this was not about my infection or flu. It was a moment of joyful hope. I still haven't come down from the news-binge every chance I get. I still revel in the history-making. I still feel heady and slightly anxious and very grateful. 

But I am still an eeyore, too. I still have the rest of the last ten days chewing on me, and it sometimes makes it hard for me to see the big picture of the goodness and the beauty all around. I am lame, and I know it, and I apologize for it. 

In the words of the rooster, Shame on ME. It's a good thing for me I'm not up for re-election. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'll Live

Have felt near death with this illness (flu?), and after major dysfunction on all levels around here, had been considering euthanizing my hopeless self... had been planning my bequest blog, in fact... 

(coughing attack...coughing attack...ack, ack, ack....)

But tonight, even I have to have hope. 

So I'm sparing you my drama (you're welcome), and I'm going to enjoy the drama with the happy ending in our country.

Yes, we can. 

(and thanks for the really nice comments and get well emails!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008


How ridiculous will I look if it's a cold that finally undoes me?
But it could happen. It could be my dimpled chad, the straw to my camel hump.
My COLD could be the thing that sends me to the hospital (medical) or the hospital (mental), or jail.
Sure, I have a bad cold, but my pride still rankles at the possibility of a cold doing me in, even if this cold comes with fever and likely infection. On the one hand, I feel so ABOVE a cold breaking me. On the other hand, I think at least some people -- some of YOU people -- will forgive me, will understand. You'll be able to tell people, in a mitigating way: Well, it went beyond just the cold. (As in, the death of a thousand paper cuts.) You can tell people: She really did put up a good fight, no matter how it might look.

Won't you?

Every single night when I am awake at 2 or 3 or 2:43 in the morning, I wonder how long a body can take it. And today, when 6 came and kids finally convinced me to rise after being awakened a handful of times, my body answered: No More.
This "cold" signifies a rebellion of my pudgy, hypervigilant, fatigued, underbathed, and assaulted mortal shell.
I have a cup of tea on the counter, a lozenge in my mouth, tissues in my pocket, Aleve in my system, soup in my belly, but I recognize I don't stand a chance. My immune system got up and left town in disgust months ago.
My next post will include important last words, goodbyes, and bequests; or, I will get some deep, satisfying, REM sleep.
Hmmmm, which one sounds unlikely?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trick or Treat: Is it Halloween Yet?

The Rooster began asking me in September: Is it Halloween yet? And, sadly, it still is not. 

He points to the neighbors' decorations, brightly lit up across the street, unmistakable from our naked windows -- five of them of them across our living room -- and pitches his frustration at my ears' pain threshold: YES IT IS HALLOWEEN TIME, LOOOOOOOOOK. IT IS IT IS IT IS. IT'S HALLOWEEN. I want to go get CANDY. NOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW!

This is our first Halloween post autism diagnosis, and our first Halloween gfcf. Now, before I explain to you what a giant pain I find this in my giant rear end, let me tell you my little back story. 

I love holidays. Love em. You never saw a Jewish girl get Christmasy like I do. Oh, I don't go over the top with decorations or anything, I just get all drunk on symbolism and hungover on high stakes emotional expectation. Even I can't believe how quickly I turn from cynical pessimist into a drippy glop of mush shelling out $30 for every ugly ornament that says, "Baby's First Christmas" or "2007: Our New Home" and weeping over Passover stories on NPR.  

So you're wondering if you stumbled on to the wrong blog? Revising your whole mental picture of Rooster's mom? 

Even farther back in the back story: My childhood sucked. My dad got the very literal kind of drunk every holiday eve and puked all over symbolism. Then he fled the country and my mom worked every holiday eve, and spent every Christmas morning refusing to accept my thanks for the gifts she gave me, insisting on apologizing nonstop for not being able to buy me expensive clothes and jewelry I never wanted in the first place. Then, she met another drunk...

When I left for college, I EMBRACED celebration. I considered myself all grown up and in charge of my own holidays, and I. Did. Them. Up. Right. I remember a particular Halloween dorm party where I met a cute cyclist named.... but wait. I digress. 

I couldn't wait to have a family of my own with HOLIDAYS. I do not discriminate about holidays or worry about such nonsense as whether or not they match my religion or whatever: my rule says that if food is involved, I will celebrate. Ramadan, not so much. Chinese New Year? Now you're talking. 

And now, in the face of the holiday season, I feel a little slack in the ho ho ho, if you know what I'm saying. I'm concerned how my family's EPIC sweet potatoes will turn out without the essential stick of butter this Thanksgiving. And Halloween? It's looking pretty scary. 

So this is what I did. I got online and ordered a gajillion dollars worth of gfcf candy, which got me about 14 servings, and then paid double for shipping. I have stuffed these sugary gems into environment-killing baggies, and tomorrow I will add to these baggies a note to our neighbors. It will beg them to give an atypical family a break. It will request that, when my kids say "Trick or Treat", they will hand them these organic gummy whatevers instead of the good stuff they hand out to the NT masses. Wednesday after my husband comes home, I will sneak out and reverse trick or treat down our little street, leaving these baggies at the houses with the inflatable ghosts and the static cling bats where I feel most likely to catch a break. 

It's a risky plan, and I doubt it will work. But I have to at least try. It's that, or go all bah humbug, and give up my Fa la la la las. Maybe by the time we're looking for gfcf fruitcake and gelt, I'll raise the white flag, but for now, I'm setting out to get our whole family drunk on all-natural gluten-free casein-free soy-free gummi bears and good times. 

Wish me luck.
Is it Halloween yet? 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Day in the Life

Many of you reading this could surely give me a run for my money. You could handle my days with one arm tied behind your back, not in a straight jacket like the one I need. But I write this because over and over again people ask me things like, "Why don't you meet us at the beach?" and "How was your day?" and "Are you looking forward to..." and they don't know exactly what to make of my answers. I don't blame anyone, I just want to reframe things a bit with this perspective into my typical day in an atypical family with Rooster (4 1/2) and Peaches (2 1/2).  

Please: consider this a meme. I'm dying to read YOURS.  I advise you NOT to read mine. It is boring and pathetic, self-indulgent and stupid. 

On a "typical" Roostery, Peachy weekday, like the ones laying in wait for us now: 

2:30 I wake up for the first, second, or third time to a child who fell out of the bed/had a nightmare/threw up/has a cough/wet the bed/has issues.

3:15 I stare at the clock, kept awake by obsessively and depressively calculating how much (little) sleep I will end up getting at this rate, and my pity party begins. 

5:29 I wake up for the day to a child who is ready whether it's dark out or not to watch cartoons, wake a sibling, and hand over the daily list of demands. On lucky days, I squeeze in a shower, while the kids sit on the bath mat watching, commenting unfavorably. (LOOK at your TUMMY!) On unlucky days, I throw on whatever and barely manage brushing my teeth before I dive right in to the rituals: 
  • make sure I have one humongous-eater lunch and one gfcf (read: EXPENSIVE) lunch packed, along with daycare snacks (always red organic seedless grapes or the world will stop spinning)
  • make sure I have the backpacks with requisite supplies (pullups, wipes, changes of clothes, blanket, MORE SNACKS, etc.)
  • diaper and dress two unwilling participants who ought to be using a potty by now; then re-diaper them after they digest breakfast
  • feed two demanding eaters
  • eat my own breakfast, sharing bites with Peaches, who considers it tragic if I eat my own food alone
  • brush teeth of slippery eels by coercion 
  • put shoes on children no fewer than four times
Around 7:15, the arduous car loading (Where is my BATMAN? NO, I NEED SPIDERMAN!! GET HIM!), then commute begins. This is an exercise in juggling and magic. It is my job to distract, distract, distract. If I deejay just right with Beezus and Ramona on tape and Joe Scruggs songs, keep one finger on the wheel as I dole out MORE food, and anticipate arguments before they begin so I can head them off at the pass, maybe, just maybe, no one will bleed en route to....

8:00 School. Okay, use your imagination. The dropoff at school is too painful on typical days to write about unless you want me to sink into deep depression. And I work there so I'm not allowed to curse at my children in the process. In fact, I am expected to smile at least a little. Never do I feel less dignified. Oh, except at the end of the day. 

8:20-4:30 I spend working, but on lunch and other breaks on typical days I call insurance companies, therapists, doctors, and pharmacies. I occasionally look through the viewing windows into my kids' classrooms to see Peaches playing doll babies and Rooster knocking down another child's Magnatiles construction or being carried away from circle time in a tantrum. I wander the halls carefully hoping no one will stop me to tell me what issue my child had just this morning in class. If my phone rings and I see certain extensions are calling me, it is gong to be typically BAD DAY. Otherwise, I just enjoy working really hard. 

4:30 The Peaches is tired, the Rooster is overtired, and, while carrying two backpacks and lunch boxes, I sign them out and lure them away from their play with promises of popsicles at home should we ever make it there. As we leave, several small people try to stop me, wanting to tell me how the Rooster upset them during the day, but my hands are too full to pay adequate heed, and thus I am even less dignified then I was in the morning, hastily dashing off apologies, dragging my kids, begging for cooperation. It takes an average of 23 minutes to wrangle the tornadoes to the car. You could make the trip without them in about 3 minutes. En route, we pass at least one or two of my dear friends/colleagues, whose warm good night wishes to the kids earn snarls and yelps in reply from the Rooster, and hiding behind my legs from Peaches. 

By 5 we are in the car, and by 5:45 we get home, having stopped the car at least 3 times on our 9 mile journey while I threatened to put them on time out on the side of a freeway. The rooster is not entirely to blame for this. He used to be, but now that Peaches is two, she has some terribles to get out of her system. Either one, two, or three of us have tears and snot flying by the time we make it to our driveway, and the floor of my Saturn has a new layer of filth that soon will make for a creative foot rest for the short people. 

by 7ish, daddy is home. Before his arrival, I have fed the kids, emptied and repacked their lunches, tossed in a load of dirty clothes, emptied the dishes that he ran before work in the morning, handled mail and bills, and we are deep into an episode of Sesame Street on DVR. 
It is time for my own dinner. Cereal? PBJ? Or microwave some chicken teriyaki? I ponder the exercise bike taking up all the breathing room in our bedroom. I am weary. Daddy will have to fend for himself for food. First, though, he's going to pour himself a cocktail. 

By 7:30 my husband and I have done medicines, diapers, toothbrushing, humidifiers, book reading, melatonin, vitamins, and behavior management. We have toyed with the concept of baths and resigned ourselves that this will wait. We make plans to divvy up the rest of the week's therapies, phone calls, and extra chores. We briefly wonder when we will look at potential schools for next year, decide about vaccines, replace our broken down car, and see our faraway families. We vow that soon we will see our own doctors and take care of our own maladies. We add more papers on the piles. We argue a bit, make up, sigh heavily, and probably I will cry just a little. At least once I will say, "I miss my Grandma." At least 30 times the Rooster will have jumped from furniture. At least 10 times the Peaches will have tried to negotiate to stay up longer. The names they will have called each other range from the jargony made up ones (You're a DATCHER) to the gross (You POOTER), and their assault on one another will include poking, pushing, shoving, biting, spitting, grabbing, kicking, taunting, and screaming. We will tuck the children in with lullabies once or twice or thrice. They are, at last, lovely, beautiful darlings, and I kiss their foreheads repeatedly. Mmmmm, sweet foreheads. 

8:00 I will consider any number of useful activities I could do VERY QUIETLY (TV is OUT), and then end up playing a few quick rounds of WordTwist on Facebook before reading blogs and writing a post like this one (well, hopefully better than this one). I call this Therapy Time. It keeps me going. Really and truly, it is not optional. Once in a while this is a time to sneak in that shower, but on a truly typical day, my husband is soaking in the tub with the lights off nursing a headache, so I'll make do with a quick wash cloth and some extra Secret. 

9ish Make to do list with grand intent, with things like Send Birthday Card to Loved One, Change the Oil, Deposit Paycheck. Cram it in the overstuffed purse with the others. 

9:30ish If my eyes still hold themselves up, I will remember that I must do the right thing and close them, because 2:30 will be here soon, and I better be ready. 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Teaching

Pixie Mama wrote something today that struck so close to home I feel inspired to use this brief respite (the kids went for a ride with daddy) to blog instead of doing the other hundred things I claimed I was going to do. 

Pixie Mama said, "I can't remember a time where I actually felt qualified to raise my own children. More often, I feel seriously under qualified." Me, too, Pixie Mama! Now, neither Pixie Mama nor I have degrees in special ed, neurology, psychology, or any other -ologies. But I do have a fair share of teaching credentials, and a Master's in Education, and I am starting to think I could teach a few -ists a thing or two. 

Before I hand out my wisdom, let me say too that my family has some absolutely wonderful helpers in our lives. I am grateful to every resource who has helped us learn and grow, and I always make that clear to them. But, like Pixie Mama, we've had our share of false prophets, too. 

So, inspired by Pixie Mama, here are five things I have learned from teaching -- things that I wish more experts in many fields knew:

A child is an entire person, and you can't help part of my child if you forget about all the rest of him. Notice that if I teach your daughter literature, I don't tell you that her emotional well being, her vision problem, her math giftedness, her passion for violin, her chicken pox, your divorce, or her stutter are not my department. Nope, teachers care about all of that, care about your child as a whole package, see everything as relevant, incorporate it all into the process, because the process isn't really about LITERATURE, the process is about LEARNING. 

Giving directions or instructions is not the same thing as teaching. If you want to teach a person something, that means monitoring for understanding, readjusting as needed, welcoming exploration, and taking in to account the learner's needs. This is particularly true when you are dealing with grownups, and those of us with special needs kids sometimes have full, weary, aging brains. If you care that we get what you're saying, you might have to do more than talk; Notice that when we have a parent-teacher conference, I ask you about how things are going at home. I don't just launch in to a list of my expert insights into what you and your kid ought to be doing better and how I think it ought to be done. Giving directions or instructions is a one way street that might or might lead to a destination, but teaching is an infinite circle of possibilities. 

Kids don't have one way of behaving that never changes no matter where they go. If your son shows tremendous independence and initiative when he comes to my computer lesson, I don't assume that my four and a half hours with him in a week represent his entire personality, or that he dives in every pool without any support. When you tell me that the boy you've raised for many years actually tends to operate cautiously in your experience, I assume you know things about your child that I don't. I set out to teach the whole child, but I recognize that I only get a narrow slice of his or her time, and I can't become all-knowing in a semester. 

As a teacher, I view myself as part of a team. My teammates include my students, their families, their other teachers, and the administrators. We all have the same goal. We are not in competition with each other. If the kids succeed, we all win. If the kids struggles, we all need to pull together more. Key word: together. 

Finally, there is more to life than just what I teach. Whether I'm teaching writing, math, computers, or anything else, it isn't the be all, end all, start and finish of the universe. Sure, those subjects matter, but so does family time, so does rest, so does joy. Homework can be valuable; so can homeplay. (How cool is it when they both seem like the same thing?) I might not actually have had this realization from teaching. This one I think I learned from parenting, but I will not forget it ever again as an educator. I don't want every moment I spend with my child to feel like a therapy session that never ends. Sometimes  I just want to be a family. 

Since being a teacher has helped me parent, and being a parent has made me a better teacher, maybe it's no wonder I've come to prefer -ists who have kids of their own. Similarly, I've sought as friends people who know how to teach me things.  Like Pixie Mama, who is eminently qualified. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Potty Mouth

If you have a low threshold for potty talk, perhaps you should wait til my next post, and I won't blame you one iota.

Personally, I'd rather talk about, read about, almost anything else, but I'm starting to panic that my 4-year-old, who TOTALLY understands what to do, who has done it on occasion, who has memorized the Potty Power song, really wants to keep his diapers, because he says he just doesn't like potties. Potties, he tells me, are gross. Hmmmm.... what does he think DIAPERS are? Wet, soiled, disgusting, diapers never bother him, unless they are being changed. He has actually screamed at me, "I want to keep my poopy diaper!!!!!!!!!"

Today I picked him up from the afterschool multiage daycare room and he told me, "Chris* says I'm stinky. Those are not nice words. I don't like it. He calls me stinky, mommy. Tell him I don't like that." I assured rooster that I certainly would have done that if Chris hadn't already gone home, and I certainly will talk to him about it, because those are not nice words. What I didn't say is that sometimes they are accurate words. Chris said it, but I've thought it. Peee --- eww.

Just like with all the other behaviors that trouble me, I do the guilt check -- you know the drill -- to see how my boy's latest issue stems back to my own failures. Is it because I tried too early to train him, or didn't try the method the neighbor swears by, or because I went for a long stretch not even bringing it up at all (waiting until he was "ready"), or because when he redecorated his room in brown (YUCK) quite a long time ago I completely lost my marbles and perhaps traumatized him more than he traumatized me?

Really, on this one, I don't care as much about the why of the issue anymore as I do about JUST GET THIS KID POTTY TRAINED ALREADY. I am bribing, and I mean wayyyyyyy beyond the candy bribes. I'm bribing like that book Eat Your Peas. (If you haven't read it, I have to tell you it's my fave among the kiddy books; the mother has poofy hair I can relate to and a familiar look of exasperation as she offers her kid candy factories, rocket ships, and a free lifetime pass on bathing if the kid will just eat the stupid peas.) I have made it clear I will take the rooster to Disney Land AND Lego Land AND buy him the remote control toy he wants if he uses the potty every day. The every day part is essential in reminding him of the bribe, because otherwise he screams at me, "I ALREADY DID USE THE POTTY." Yes, rooster, you have used it four separate times over a course of a year. I want to scream back, but obviously don't, "NORMAL PEOPLE USE IT EVERY SINGLE CRAPPY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!" Yes, this is not a constructive thought, or a very nice use of the word "normal," but that is why I tell you, and not him. And you know what he retorts when I offer him every single thing he has ever said he has ever wanted? "I don't like that toy, anyway. I like diapers. I don't want to go to Disney Land. I like diapers."

A former doubter and skeptic, I have been converted to belief in unusual therapies since becoming a spectrum mom, and yesterday I skimmed through a book called (I think) The Boy Who Loved Windows (or something like that). In it, I read a mom's description of how a therapist showed her to rub her son's gums, palate, and teeth just so. Shazam, within weeks the preschooler could dress himself and suddenly wanted to be potty trained. Cut to: Me, daring to stick my hands in the rooster's little maw, to no avail. At least this was cheaper than the three potty chairs I bought (free, in fact, as it was a library book, and the rooster has not bitten me or caused me in any other way to need medical assistance - YET) and didn't take my whole exhausted weekend before it failed.

You see, I'm getting desperate.
Don't tell me your techniques, just send your best voodoo magic. I'm too tired for techniques, and I'm all potty partied out. (I'm a party pooper?) Kindergarten is around the bend, and I need this boy wearing the forlorn pirate underpants crammed in his top drawer before he pops right out of his 5T pullups and I become the one redecorating the (padded) room in brown.

Eww. Ick. Goodnight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Too Two

Peaches is two and a half years old, and I think some law somewhere says that entitles her to a few free passes on behavioral expectations. As in: her reign of (near) saintliness had to end some time. And end it has. She asked for a cup of lemonade, and then proceeded to dump it on her head, for instance.

Don't think for a minute I'm letting her just get away with it. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I have been reexamining closely my expectations for my NT child, and how they might reflect life with a kid on the spectrum.

I don't know how many times the presenter at one of our school's inservice days used this same line in his speaking engagements, but I know 6 years later I still regularly think of him saying, "Fair doesn't mean giving each child the same thing, it means giving every child what they need." I think this needs to be in the teaching Pledge of Allegiance.

I don't have a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, so I can't see having one to parenting, either. I expect different things from Peaches than I do from Rooster. It's not really quantifiable in terms of MORE or LESS, but it's certainly different.

When Peaches poured lemonade on her head (and, consequently, the kitchen floor), I put her little butt on time out, loudly. What would I have done if Rooster had pulled the same stunt? Hmmmm. Hard to trust my hindsight, but I doubt I would have had the same level of reaction. The rooster doesn't have more trouble regulating his behavior because he's a BAD boy, but because his physiology plays a big part in it, and he can't help that. He, also, doesn't get a free pass that says AUTISM across it. But would time out HELP him? Not a chance. It helped Peaches -- she won't pull that stunt again -- so, to me at least, what might look like a double standard, seems fair.

I bet some of you will disagree. I'm open. If I'm doing it all wrong, help me learn.

Today one of my best friends left a gift in my mailbox at work: adorable little t-shirts, leggings, a skirt, a dress... all size 3T for my little Peaches. If you read this blog, you are expecting this part: I welled up when I read the card, saying Peaches deserved a Just Because gift. My guilt kicked in for a split second: did everyone think Peaches gets the short end of the stick at our house, with so much attention on the Rooster? No, it's not easy having a sibling on the spectrum, just like it's not easy having a child on the spectrum, but it has its gifts, too. And I'm not just talking about cute pink outfits, either. I hope that the Peaches will learn from her brother as much as she teaches him, that she will grow stronger and wiser, more patient and tolerant because of him, and that they will become friends in a way my brother and I never did.

Mostly right now I hope we all survive the terrible twos and preschool.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dennis Leary, Genius

I think Dennis Leary is a genius. 

He says autism is just a word lazy parents use as an excuse for rotten brats. 

He SAYS that, he doesn't actually think it - he just needs a CAREER, and lately, more and more people probably would say, "Dennis who? Is he that stupid guy who thought he could do football commentary?" No, that is the other aging Dennis Who Once Was Funny. So Dennis wrote a book, and he knew that his mother couldn't buy enough books to keep him in the lifestyle he assumed he deserved, so he thought he'd stir up business by stirring up the rancor of two people, minimum, per 150 births these days. He knew he could gain a few minutes attention with his comments, and then a few more with his (lame) apology (read: excuse). 

So I say he is smart, even if he is NOT funny.  From what I hear, when he IS funny, he has stolen the material, and is widely believed to have stolen much of it from a former friend who died of cancer. Classy. 

So I think Dennis probably knows a lot about brattiness and laziness - he seems like he has firsthand experience. Which, despite having kids, I don't think he has with actual parenting. 

Okay, so Dennis smart. But let's be smarter. Let's bury his name with this post. Let's not read him, or his book, or watch him,  or discuss him, let alone buy any of his recycled schlock. Let's not even Google his name, which, by the way, is NOT spelled Dennis. I just always get a tiny rush of pleasure from misspelling the names of people who otherwise make me sick. And as the (hard working, attentive, noncompetitive) parent of a child with autism, I need all the little pleasures I can get. 

By the way: I LIKE dark comedy. I don't think topics are "off limits." I can make and enjoy good jokes about just about anything, including the dramas I live through first hand. I just have both a good sense of humor and a good sense of taste. Some of you blogging moms who are reading this now? You make me snort; I have sprayed my Coke all over my monitor sometimes while reading your posts. (Thanks for that Kia and Mara; what a mess.) You'd think professional comics would get what we all do: funny things have a grain of truth at least -- that's why we laugh. 

Dennis, you can kiss it. Nobody thinks you are worth laughing at. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Still Seeking Perspective

Yes, I'm still trying to size things up.

My mom can meet you for five minutes, not see you for six months, and pick out your wardrobe for a year without getting a single size wrong. She can hang out in your house for an hour and months later talk you out of the hutch you point to in the catalogue: "You'll be sorry if you get that one; it's about six inches too wide and it'll always feel like it's in your way." My mom knows how to size things up. Also, she is not known for worrying. Most things I worry about make her say something like, "A few years from now you will look back and this will just be a little thing you hardly even think about anymore."

I do not take after my mom much.
I still struggle all the time to judge the proportions of things. I struggle with sense of scope and scale. I go in the dressing room with sizes 6 to 14, never sure if any of them will fit. I do look back at some things I worried about five years ago and wonder why I lost so much sleep, and I reluctantly have to admit that mom was right. And I look at other things and wonder why I didn't think to worry about them more, as if the worry might have helped. (Mightn't it have?)

When I was about 10, my mother left my father, my father left the country, I moved away from my home and school without saying goodbye, all of our money was gone, and the FBI wanted to have a few words with us about dad's "business." I thought it was the end of the world, and anyone who met me that first year could tell it. I wasn't sure I'd ever make new friends in this small and insular town, that I'd ever forgive my parents for their secrets and deceptions, or that I'd ever go to college with my suddenly penniless mother having to work for minimum wage. It made me angry when my mom said, "You'll get over it." I don't know how over it I got, but I made friends, even with my mom (who I adore), and I had more happiness at college than ought to be legal.

When I left my ex for his infidelity, I thought I'd ruined my life by choosing a bad partner and wasting five years with him. I thought I'd never "catch up," have true love, make babies, have the kind of family my parents couldn't give me. All wrong, of course.

On the other hand, you don't want to hear all the things that I thought would be small problems, that turned out to grow and grow and grow.

This time, I have this gnawing need to know: HOW BIG IS IT? This Autism Thing. It dances in front of the fun house mirror, and I don't know if it's a 6 or a 14, how much it's going to get in our way.

I know that I don't want to waste too much time worrying about the small stuff, but nobody believes it's really ALL small stuff. I know that I don't want to overlook things that need taking care of. It's a conundrum. I know I have never worried as much about myself (and clearly I've worried plenty about my self) in the 30some years before kids as I have worried about these little people in the last five years. I know if, before kids, I had truly, completely understood how much and how deeply I would worry, I would have chickened out. I could not have gone through with it.

Really, my perspective problem is at the heart of many of my problems.

I read so many blogs by smarter, stronger, healthier mamas, and I envy those with the sense of proportion I lack.

Does anyone have an accurate yard stick I can borrow?

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Nope, I'm not talking about the economy. 

I am going to make several unpleasant confessions, and if I tick you off, I am sorry.

When people have wanted to talk to me in the last month about my "depression," I admit I have been defensive. Depression sounded like a condition I didn't want to have, another diagnosis to add to the heap around our house. I could almost agree with saying I "feel depressed," which sounds so much more temporary, but still I wanted to bark back, "OF COURSE I FEEL DEPRESSED, haven't you been paying any ATTENTION? YOU WOULD BE DEPRESSED TOO if you spent a day in my shoes (which, by the way, I DON'T THINK YOU COULD!!!)" 

And I would say for the zillionth time to my husband, "It isn't really about things being worse, it's about..."
And he would finish for me, "...the war of attrition." 
"Right," I would say. "It's cumulative." 
"Right," he would say. "We're fried. Completely fried. And you are depressed." 

Okay, okay, so alright already. I have been depressed. I haven't had the energy to brush my teeth sometimes and my stomach has hurt a lot and it turns out medically speaking I'm fine, so I guess I've been depressed. Why is it I feel a need to justify it? Why is it I feel like saying, "BUT..." and describing the last five years, as if to defend my right to my sadness? 

I don't think there is anything bad about a person being depressed. Depression is not something to be ashamed of; it's something many people I love have battled. 

Maybe it's guilt. So many special needs parents out there handle harder circumstances with more grace. Maybe it's denial. I have been known to reside in the land of denial before, and as they say, it ain't just a river in Egypt. Maybe it's the exhaustion, though. I truly have felt like I don't have time to do anything about depression. Recently a friend asked me why I wasn't blogging, and if I was doing anything else for an outlet. I so appreciate that. It came from love. But, at the moment that I read her words, a whole rant erupted in my mind's blog: "I don't want to DO anything! That's just it! I don't want to DO therapy or DO drugs or DO depression. I've been busy, I've been TIRED, I've been DOING autism, its therapies, its drugs, its endless DOING. And working. And parenting. And being a wife. And not feeling well. I DO every minute of every day and I don't want to DO depression. I am DO-NE." 

And when I listened to my own thoughts, I thought: Well, aren't I ironic. Better get up off my depressed butt and roll up my sleeves. 

So here I am again. Back to my "outlet." Hoping some of you are still out there. 

Here's what I'm wondering: 
If you have a special needs child, or if you don't: Have you ever been depressed? 

And, if you are a special needs parent, how do you find balance? How do you take care of everyone, including yourself? 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Notable and Quotable

I realized I should always put this at the top of my notable and quotable pages: Rooster is 4, Peaches is 2. I'm in my upper 80s, at least. 

Me: What should I be for Halloween?
Peaches: A princess!
Rooster: No! A queen. The Queen of Evil. 

Rooster: Barack Obama
Me: Do you know who that is? 
Rooster: Yes. Barack Obama is in the United States. He is going to be president. He is going to be president of the United States of Barack Obama. 

Peaches is a pink fanatic. She insists on pink VITAMINS. 
Me: Peaches, what did you dream about last night?
Peaches: I don't know. 
Rooster: Was it sheep? Pink sheep? 

Rooster picks up a magazine at OT. It has a crying baby on the cover. (It is about vaccines and autism.) He points at the baby and hands the magazine to me. 
Rooster: The boy is NOT happy, mommy. 
Me: No, he's not. He's crying. 
Rooster: He's dis --- dis --- disregulated!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Me Again

So, you knew I'd be back, right? 

I tried to retire; I tried harder, I think, than Brett Favre, to retreat. 

But, see, my husband bought this GREAT used laptop.  It actually works on its own battery without being plugged in and without burning my legs through my pajamas. 

And, today I didn't feel like a hulled out shell, a husk of a human being; today, I felt almost lifelike.
And I feel guilty writing comments so long on other blogs, like Kia's, that really it's like I'm blogging on someone else's time. (Thank you, Kia, for letting me confess about the polka dotted prom dress -- AND the matching shoes. I've needed to get that one off my chest!) 
And some of you nice people have been nagging at me in the most beautiful ways to get back to business. 
And I've been reading all of you so much, you've made me think of more things I need to say... 
And my kids are growing and changing and teaching me things...

Will you have me back? Anyone still reading? 
Well, if so, you have my greatbighuge gratitude. And if not, I'll be here anyway. I really blog mostly for me, for the process, for the release, for the self care. And I think I'm ready to take a little bit better care of me. 

Still, I know it's been less than a month, but I missed you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Until Next Time

Friends, I want you to know how much I appreciate the support I've gotten here.

I am afraid it might be time to take my blog underground. Or just stop. I don't know.

All I know is that I don't have the heart for getting so dark out in public anymore, and my quests for light have not succeeded the way we had all hoped.

The rooster tried a medicine, and slowly, over time, it began to help. And then it stopped helping. No one knows why. Maybe it never really had helped after all? Maybe it peaked? Maybe he grew and then it wasn't enough? All I know is that I had a similar experience with blogging. It helped, it peaked, now it's not enough. I don't know what the rooster needs, and I don't know what I need, but we're going to pursue some plan Bs for now.

I suddenly realized that I was going to say goodbye when I thought and thought and thought about what I'd write in tonight's blog, but nothing I wanted to write seemed bearable. For you or for me.

You know, I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would be fathomable that I could feel sadder about my kids' childhood than I felt about my own. Alas. There is always something worse. I understand this on a real level, and at the same time, I cannot summon my imagination to work hard enough to imagine what worse at our house would look like than it does right now, any more than I can imagine what a billion dollars in ones would look like stacked in my back yard. Because it's too unlikely and too impossible.

I have had the most incredible support through this blog, and I weep with gratitude to think of it. I have been a tedious person to read, I know that. I wish I could buy you all presents. In lieu of gifts, I at least can offer this one upbeat note as I sign off.

Yesterday, a boy in the rooster's class was crying at nap time because he missed his mommy. The rooster walked over to him, patted his back, and said, "Don't worry, J, it'll be okay, mommies always come back."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I admit with great shame how little I know about the hurricanes that hit our country, or how those of you in the affected areas are faring. (Though I have been sending good thoughts, of course.) What I know, I learned from the blogs I read.
I wouldn't be able to name a movie made in the last year if I didn't drive down Billboard Strip on my commute, where the titles and the celebrity likenesses loom large enough that the Rooster points them out to me.
I heard about the bum call in the Chargers/Broncos game from lunch room talk and thought I'd Google for the full scoop, but haven't had the chance.
I just have precious little contact with the outside world.
But two stories have penetrated my bubble, capturing my attention, and I'm dwelling.
About the first -- the Sarah Palin story -- I am at a loss for words.
But the other -- the train wreck in Los Angeles -- brings me to this blog to write tonight when really I should be sleeping, because I need to process it here.
I live not too far from that terrible train wreck. In case it didn't penetrate your bubble, a Metro train and a freight train collided, killing and injuring many people.
Now, if we turn on our only television, it's almost always for a Rooster to get his daily fix of Curious George. He doesn't really allow us to watch "Mommy and Daddy TV," and we don't want the kids to see the news, anyway. Car time means kids books on tape. Internet time means blogging and email. But I have snuck a few minutes here and there to find coverage of this train wreck. Today, although I never had time for an official lunch, I dropped by the lunch room to find the newspaper. I have no idea why I feel so compelled to follow the tragedy, when I avoid tear-jerker books, close my eyes during sad parts of movies. But today I read about how at least two of the victims in this latest train crash also had been victims of the previous worst Los Angeles train crash. One of these two men survived both crashes; he has terrible injuries, but he will leave the hospital in time. The other, a hero who rescued others during the first crash, did not make it this time. A tragedy.
Reporters asked the man in the hospital: Does this make you lucky, since both times you survived, or unlucky, because twice you found yourself in train crashes. The question itself stopped me in my tracks for several moments as I thought about what my answer would be before I let myself find out his response.
What do you think he said?
What would you say?
He said: Only time will tell.
Sarah Palin. Autism. There are a lot of things that fit that man's description: only time will tell.
There are all kinds of train wrecks.
There are all kinds of tragedies.
The wife of the man who perished said, "Last time, my husband came home." Such a tragedy.
And yet I read someone who talked about why that man had continued to ride the train. Didn't he get scared from the first wreck? No, it said. He didn't chose to live that way. He liked his commute, liked the camaraderie of the train, didn't believe in living in fear. The person quoted said that if instead of dying in this second wreck, the man had lived but lost his legs, he would have wheeled himself on to another train to commute to work.
I guess I'm thinking a lot about perspective. I am thinking about the perspective I have versus the perspective I want to have. I am thinking about tragedy and triumph, fear and courage, train wrecks and survival.
To me it feels tragic to read of that hero dying in this latest crash. It also feels tragic that my grandma is gone. But which is worse? Would that man on the train have preferred the route my grandma's life took, at the end, or would she have preferred his ending?
We all die. My initial reaction to that thought is a feeling of grief. But maybe I just need to work on my perspective. Yes, there are train wrecks, and yes, they are tragic. But maybe not everything is a train wreck. Maybe sometimes I make train wrecks out of little fender benders.
Okay, I'm tired and I'm making exceptionally weak metaphors here, but what I'm processing here is what I have to learn from those two men who had been in both crashes. For one thing, the both kept on riding. They refused to let tragedy stop them. And the man in the back brace recuperating for a second time makes a good point; you can't have perspective on good luck versus bad luck so soon after the wreck. Only time will tell.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Getting it Out of My System

Please let me know how I contact your corporate headquarters. If you don't let me know how, I will research and find out, and I will pass along the information that you did not let me know along with the rest of this letter. It might not be effective, but writing it and sending it are the only satisfaction to be had when dealing with your dreadful organization.

I am writing to tell you why you have not JUST lost my business permanently online and in your brick and mortar store, but why I will share my story with everyone I know, just as I used to tell them how convenient I found your service. What I hope that you learn is that you clearly do not understand your market. It really should be obvious that people use your online service because they can't get to the store, and they NEED what they NEED as conveniently as possible. Why on earth would you have a "no substitutions" option on your grocery order form and then repeatedly insist on sending substitutions anyway? And why on earth would it be that my complaints by phone, online, AND in person to the driver do not one bit of good and only waste my precious time? I have been reassured repeatedly over a period of months that my account would be marked "absolutely no substitutions." This is not about me being a difficult customer. As I have explained to no avail, this about me being a working mom to an autistic child, and when you substitute the gluten free items I carefully select with garbage he can't eat, it infuriates me. YES, I had developed the habit of checking my groceries as they arrived, which is a CHALLENGE I don't want or need, but last time you delivered I had a babysitter so that I could attend a meeting at my child's school, and I came home to find bags full of gluten filled Snappea substitutions and other JUNK that we can't eat and I don't have the time to return. I don't have the time to write this letter, in fact, but I will make time, just as I will to find your corporate headquarters' address, spread the word to all I know through my blog, and find the time to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and any other store but yours.

Your customer service people are rude and ill-named; there is no service there. You are a failure at all the reasons why I choose to shop online - convenience and time savings. I hope whoever is responsible for the shambles there spends some time needing help from DMV in the near future; you need a taste of your own medicine.


Room at the Inn

Dear Hotel Manager,
I decided to write to you because I knew if I tried to explain this to you aloud I probably couldn't get through it.

My husband and I live down the street from here, about 1.25 miles. We admire how beautiful this place is, and when my mom comes from the East Coast I am hoping she will stay here.

We have two beautiful children who we adore, but, honestly, look at us -- we are a wreck. Now, I know probably a lot of people feel this way! Lots of families never get enough rest. But I think we might get fewer hours of sleep than most. Our oldest child, who we nicknamed the Rooster, has autism. He keeps us going a million miles an hour all day, but then he doesn't rest well at all at night. He has to take herbs to try to help him sleep. We call him our Rooster because we awaken to his crows. And our youngest, our 2-year-old daughter, has started waking up several times every night. For three and a half years, we never got a whole night's rest. Now it's better than that, but not what you would call normal... one or two nights a week, we might both get a good seven hours of shut eye. It takes its toll, physically and mentally. Eventually we run out of the necessary steam we need to run a home with two working parents, two high maintenance children, and autism.

None of our family lives here, but we are very lucky we do have someone who knows our children well, loves them fiercely, and once in a while can babysit for us. We have her for four hours tonight, Hallelujah!

Some people would go out for a fancy meal, a movie, or a show. Those things sound wonderful to us, too, as they are not part of our lives these days. But what sounds better to us? A nap. Blackout curtains. Fluffy pillows. Maybe - but not necessarily - a soak in a warm tub.

We came to rent a room. For just a few hours.

Can we? We have heard that your hotel doesn't do that -- I assume that is about illegal activities that might happen when people check in for a few short hours. I can promise you this: the most excitement that will happen in our room -- if you agree to let us book one -- will happen in our dreams, because we really don't have the energy for real life excitement. We would be the easiest guests you ever had.

Please consider our request. We aren't rich, and this isn't a splurge we could ever do on a regular basis. And we wouldn't even ask if we didn't feel desperate for the sake of ourselves and our kids. Please will you let us get the break we need so we can go back and be able to successfully meet the needs of our challenging family?

Rooster's mom and dad

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tell Me...

What would you say if your doctor said, "Tell me about your stress"?

When mine asked, I told him I didn't have a clue what to tell him about my stress. (Why didn't he just say, "So, summarize the encyclopedia for me"?)

He wasn't taking no for an answer. I went in to talk about tummy troubles. I wanted to talk about my symptoms, and possible solutions. Again, as I am feeling worse and worse. I was a little annoyed at how much time he wanted to spend in chairs, blah-blah-blahing when I have been telling him for MONTHS that I have some issues going on. Physical ones. "Tell me about your stress."

So I told him, "I have a lot of it."

He said that is why he wanted me to tell him about it.

What would you say? I mean, really, what would you say? Picture it. Your stomach hurts, you are not sleeping well, it's your third visit to this office, which means it's the third time you've dashed away from work, at this rate parking fee will hit the $14 max, and this guy has barely ever touched the gizmos in his little black doctor's kit. You're still sitting in chairs; you haven't even crinkled the paper on the exam table yet. He wants to chat. About your stress.

I thought I felt my anger flare.

But then I heard myself say quietly: "My son is autistic." And my eyes welled up. "My son is autistic, my daughter is two, my husband and I have demanding careers, we don't have family nearby."

The anger seemed gone, and I felt very, very tired.

"I understand," he said. "So what do you do for yourself to deal with this stress?"

And the anger came back again for a flash.

"Did I mention my son is autistic?" He got me a tissue.

Now, stress is NOT what is making my stomach hurt. It surely does not help, it may even exacerbate the problem. But I do have some medical issues going on, and eventually this guy got to that.

He is a good doctor. I probably sound like I have an axe to grind with regard to doctors, and that is not true. I know some amazing doctors, women and men who I hold in the highest esteem. This doctor cares, he listens, he pays attention, and he offers solutions -- he might go about it a little slowly, but, hey, it beats the bum's rush. It is good -- no, it is right -- that he looks at his patients holistically, that he appreciates the role that emotion plays in overall health.

What surprised me today is how I reacted. It's been months since our diagnosis, and I freely talk about my Rooster's struggles. I didn't realize I would still get annoyed by people hinting at my need to take yoga or get massages for a little me time that just doesn't jive with our reality. I didn't realize it would still make me well up to say, "My son is autistic."

I have often replayed in my mind conversations I've had, wondering how I might have done them better, what I might have said. I have thought a lot today about my answer to, "Tell me about your stress." My own answer still shocks me on some level. I am sincerely curious: If the doctor said it to you, what would you say?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


J is one of my two favorite letters in the alphabet. J starts my husband's name, and it also comes first in the names of many amazing women in my life. Today, I struck gold with Js.

I love many things about my friend long-distance friend J, but one thing I particularly admire is her faith.

I never feel comfortable talking about that subject -- faith -- here on this blog, and as a matter of fact I don't have a lot to say about it right now. I'm still swimming. But I do feel comfortable telling you about J, as I have a lot faith in -- her faith. It's powerful. It amazes me.

Very early this morning, a difficult morning for many reasons (only one of which related to autism, if you can believe that), I opened my email to find kind words from J. I really needed it, and when she closed by saying she would pray for a bright spot in my day today, you know of course that I couldn't stop the tears of gratitude.

You'd think I would have found a moment to write her back today, but life slammed me, and the first time I have had for writing anything came right now. Hopefully she's reading this (because, J, I know you'll approve of me flying in the face of my infamous bad-luck "deities," and telling everyone about the bright spot you sent us).

The bright spot brings me to another amazing J, the one who watches my rooster for an hour every day after school at the daycare program. In my opinion, this J has a tough job. She watches kids age 3 to 12 for two and a half hours after school each day. She supervises their play, feeds them snack, manages their comings and goings, coordinates their study activities, and deals with their parents. Needless to say, it can get chaotic in daycare. But J handles it with grace. She has excellent experience; before she came to work for us, she worked with special ed kids in the public school system, so she has learned patience and creativity, and she also is the sister to one of my former boyfriends, so I KNOW she can handle challenges! (Just kidding, R.) Still, mixing in my wild child, still in diapers and exhausted by 3:30 each day, well, where I come from down South, people would say J "has more than she can say grace over." Once in a while she needs to call me early to say the rooster can't quite handle the whole hour of daycare, and I appreciate that. If J says it, I believe it. She doesn't pull any punches.

Today I walked in to the daycare room a few minutes early. I didn't feel well, not well at all, and I wanted to get the kids in the car as soon as I could and head home for some medicine.

When J saw me coming, she got the look on her face -- the look that says, "I need to talk to YOU." I suddenly felt much worse. Very sick. Oy. I thought about telling her, "Sorry, can't talk, not well..." But you can see the bright spot coming, can't you?

She wanted me to know that a new boy came to daycare today, a boy the same age as the Rooster. The two came in hitting each other, which is not okay. But then the other boy wanted to play cars, and there were none left. He grabbed one from another child, but J made him give it back. All of a sudden, the Rooster says, "Here! I have two. You can have one!"

I waited. J's lips had stopped moving. This story did not sink in, did not add up, did not seem complete at first. An awkward pause lingered. Maybe she didn't know how to say the rest? I said, "And then he grabbed it right back again?"

"No!" J laughed. "Look! They are still sharing!"

My poor iPhone. I used up the entire battery clicking pictures of the Rooster with his... with his... oh, I am sorry long-distance J, I haven't come as far as I thought. I can't put all the good words out there. After all, we still have to survive again tomorrow in the world with all our dysregulation and idiosyncrasies. But let's just say I got some good pictures of the Rooster with his ... NOT ENEMY (YET).

I send good thoughts out to all of you. If you want to send thoughts of us, please make them for more bright spots. We would be ever so grateful.