Friday, May 30, 2008


What's not funny: Peaches just fell out of bed. Will we all go back to sleep? Oh, please, let's hope so.

What is funny, or, at least, what made the Rooster and me laugh today:
This morning we're driving to school, almost there, stopped at a light at a very urban intersection filled with billboards. Peaches stares intently at one. It is "high fashion" stuff. Model in much need of a sandwich wears a flesh colored mini thing, sort of. The light is long. Peaches says:

Her hiney butt!
I see her hiney butt.
I see that mommy's hiney butt.
Her no have clothes.
Her need clothes! Mama, that mommy need clothes.

Maybe you had to be there?

The Cure or the Problem?

So I took the kids to a new pediatrician today.

I had been looking forward to it for weeks. Finally we had a good plan for divorcing the old doc with someone well respected by parents we also respect.

You know where this is going, don't you? I'm pooped, so here are the quick facts at a glance.

Three weeks. (How long it took to get an appointment.)
Eleven dollars. (What it cost me to park in the lot.)
Two minutes. (How long they gave me to fill out paperwork.)
Zero. (How much help the nurse was.)
Stellar! (The description I got of this doctor's office from our referral.)
Movie star dad, mom we like/have talked with often. (Family who referred us.)
"He seems fine to me." (The doctor's response to, "He's autistic.")
Ninety dollars. (Our copay.)
Zero. (What we gained by this appointment.)
Zero. (Odds of going back.)
Zero. (Leads on a good doctor for our rooster in our area.)
Zero. (How I feel on a scale of one to ten.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Big Favor; Please Help

If you were a kid, have a kid, or are a kid, I think you should help a kid named Alex Barton by sending him a card. Why? Because his teacher made him believe that he is not special, not good, not important, and we need to undo what she has done. I believe in the power of words, and the power of kids. I believe in the power of people with goodness to overcome people with vitriol.
Please, if you read this blog, click here, and send a card. I tell you what, go ahead and skip my birthday, and you can take me off the Hanukah and Christmas card list, too, just please send a card to Alex.
Alex Barton might or might not be autistic, he might or might not be ten million other things, but for sure he is a kid, and for sure he is special.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Three day weekends are ENTIRELY too long.

If I, as the rooster's biggest fan and staunchest advocate, find it hard to endure three days in constant contact, how on earth will he ... fill in the blank...

Okay, I know. I know already. You're right.

But still.
Is it Tuesday yet? I crawl on my bloodied belly through the war zone desperate to reach another work day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MeMe Myself and I

No one tagged me for a meme describing my life in six words. Maybe no one thinks I have a chance at brevity! But I decided to write one anyway.
(Despite my most recent post, don't consider this as a complaint. I didn't mean I felt that anyone SHOULD tag me. I'm a big girl and I believe in the power of volunteerism over tagging anyway.)

My life in 6 words reads a little like a headline or a lede, but I'm a former journalism major, so that figures:

Sometimes childhood's challenges lead to joy.

Getting it Out

So unless this is the very first blog of mine you've ever read, it is no secret that I LIKE to complain. It helps me! I blog just so I can get it all out, and every time I push the publish button, I feel like I lose a few pounds. For me, it's not even about being read or heard. It's about release. The rooster likes to let balloons go free; I send out thought balloons.

So I'm a complainer. And, philosophically, I'm cool with that! You can tell me to my face, "Girl, you are such a COMPLAINER." I won't get upset at all. I'll say, "Yep. Good for the soul. Does a body good." You go ahead and complain, too. I'll listen/read. For me it's a little vicarious release. You might not hear me saying, "Amen!" But I'm saying it. All hail the absence of festering! I will likewise cheer vociferously for all the good news you share, too. I don't think less of complainers, including my own self.

But the other day my husband says to me, half joking, "Want me to find you a cross to carry around, too?" Ha. I didn't like that. I like to COMPLAIN, not BEMOAN. Certainly not whine, wheedle, or wallow. I just like to complain in what I think of as kind of a productive way. Not competitive.

Certainly, in the world of special needs parenting, I don't think I win any awards for carrying the heaviest loads or doing the best job, or having the most interesting perspective, and I know that there is always something harder, just as there is always someone to envy. That doesn't interest me, though. I am not into one-ups-person-ship. I just like to talk; that means rejoicing in the good, and complaining about the bad.

So my husband said I had no sense of humor regarding the cross comment. But I do. For instance...

My in-laws were over last weekend. I told them a story about my aunt, the one who suffered a terrible injury in a car accident but NEVER mentions the serious chronic pain that comes from having metal and screws holding her neck together. I said, mid-story, regarding her stoicism, "She's my aunt by marriage; clearly we are not blood relatives!" And then I snorted! I cracked up completely, and my inlaws laughed too in agreement that I am many things, but a silent sufferer is not one of them.

But I really don't think of myself as acting all martyr-ish. And if you disagree with me, then I am really sorry, because I don't want to come off like that. But if you prefer a little less whine when you dine on blogs, may I suggest with all due politeness and respect, next time maybe you should read some other person's blog?

Because I come here to get it all out.

Monday, May 19, 2008


i feel guilty having written about the sleep deprivation today as if it's about me...

i appreciate the good wishes, off-blog emails, and other concern people expressed, and i get the feeling i sounded like i was in my pity party mode, eliciting concern. not what i meant to do. and, i should have said, this morning's blog wasn't really that much about autism.

the rooster had years of not sleeping for all kinds of developmental reasons, but also once we discovered melatonin several months ago (no thanks to our pediatrician; ugh) those subsided. what persists are his chronic health issues that also keep him up.

i've been so worried about autism that i guess i don't really write that much about our boy's health in comparison. but breathing, which most of us do without reflecting on it for a moment, ain't always easy for our rooster. last night he struggled. i didn't resent a moment of helping him. i hope my blog of this morning didn't sound like it did. i cuddled and reassured him, propped him up, wiped his nose, stroked his hair, and when he would sleep for a patch or two, i stayed awake longer watching him, brainstorming ways i could help. maybe a glass of water? maybe sleeping on his side?

yes, i am fried. totally fried. but the frustration i sometimes feel about it isn't there, and i didn't mean to sound hostile, just worried about how to survive this gargantuan fatigue. we really look like total crap for a very good reason (that's why they call it beauty sleep); the sleeplessness makes us physically ill sometimes. but instead of blogging about what makes me sick, i should have blogged about what makes the rooster sick. that is what is more important.

oh, sure, there are some things we could consider doing about the rooster's respiratory issues, most of which are surgical, none of which have any guarantees, all quiet painful to him. we tried that road and found no progress. and there are plenty of things we ARE doing about it... he spent two years on different kinds of nebulizers, as often as 4 or 5 times a day. he tried claritin, veramyst, benadryl, you name it. we saline his nose at least twice a day. he has a humidifier every night, cleaned with vinegar daily. he has an air purifier. we moved so we could have all wood floors. we have been to 3 allergists. we have eliminated all gluten, dairy, wheat, and soy, and i think almost all yeast, from his diet. we don't use any chemical cleansers in his room and switched to natural ones in our house. we dust. he has hypoallergenic antimicrobial covers on his pillow and bed. we don't keep stuffed animals in his room. we keep him as far from pollutants as is practical when living in socal.

our boy might have something called primary ciliary dyskenesia. huh? maybe the little hairs in his nose and chest don't filter germs and irritants as they should. but i don't plan to let him suffer through a biopsy just so i can put a fancy name to what hurts him.

there are some convoluted tangles in our story... the rooster never slept because of developmental issues, and lack of sleep impeded development, and he didn't sleep because he didn't feel well, and he didn't feel well because he wasn't rested, and...

he's four today, my little struggler. he got to wear a crown at circle time, and he got to choose boys and girls with raised hands to ask him questions. i happened to walk past his window in time to catch the whole thing, and hear a little too. no one, including me, felt really sure he could handle this birthday ritual unfolding in his classroom. he looked down sometimes, and he swung his feet furiously, but the first thing i heard him say after a little teacher prompting was, "I see G raising her hand!" And G asked, "What is your favorite food?" He called out, "MEAT!" (Too funny! Grapes are surely his favorite food, but he ate meat yesterday.) His favorite animal? GIRAFFES! (Went to an exhibit this weekend with giraffes!) His favorite toy? KITES! (You darn well better believe that one!) I don't think he coughed the whole time, either. When I picked him up from school five hours later, he ran as fast as he could toward me, crown still on, slipping over his eyes. "MOMMMMMMYY! IT'S MY BIRTHDAY! I got a crown and a card and a sticker and a popsicle! I had a good birthday!" definitely took the fine edge of the sharp fatigue for me.

but now i. am. going. to. bed.

wish us luck.


i don't know how to keep going without sleep like this

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rooster!

Tomorrow, the Rooster officially turns four, but we celebrated today.

Despite the dozen or so meltdowns, he had a great day. Are you surprised? Well hold on, there's more.

We went to an amazing museum exhibit -- all completely hands-on and participatory, and he laughed, climbed, touched, pointed, described, and PLAYED. Afterward, we had a lunch that -- despite being entirely gfcf and eaten in outside in ovenlike heat -- turned out to be delicious. Who knew you could buy cupcakes made without anything that sounds remotely pleasant and actually lick your fingers in delight? Guess they were worth the thousand bucks they seemed to cost for a box of six.

Another big surprise hit: Rooster's Grammy and Grampy gave him a puzzle, and he LOVED IT. If you didn't read some of my earlier posts about noncompliance, you might have missed the fact that my boy has a zero tolerance policy for puzzles. When pressed during an assessment to please show horse's head belonged, the Rooster articulately let the persistent diagnostician that the horse's head belonged right back in the box from which it came. (I dread how he might phrase that when he gets a little older.) No horses in this puzzle - this one had brightly colored dinosaurs. We all spent quite a while working on it together, having a blast.

His daddy gave him a "enormous" (the Rooster's own word) toy snake that he loves so much he made it his namesake.

His Grandma in Virginia sent him a giant bouquet of balloons that mark a milestone: these are the first balloons ever that he has not insisted on "setting free." The environment and I are thankful. (The rooster is quite the Jamie Lee Curtis fan, and her picture book inspired his passionate catch-and-release balloon policy.) The Peaches, of course, got a few balloons of her own, to keep peace in the family, and she and the rooster have actually been marching around the house together having a balloon parade.

Not even four until tomorrow, and already big changes.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I think it goes without saying what brought to mind this writing exercise format I used to do with my students way back when.

Because I am Tired

Because I never sleep, I was beyond exhausted yesterday
Because I could not hold my eyes open, I had a short temper
Because I had such a short temper, I snapped at Peaches when she refused to brush her teeth
Because I snapped at Peaches, she fussed even more than usual when I tried to tuck her in
Because she fussed so much, I tried the "cry it out method"
Because I let her cry, the Rooster got upset
Because the rooster got upset, I spent a while in his room
Because Peaches heard me in the rooster's room, she screamed for me to come to hers
Because she screamed more, the rooster got up again
Because the rooster got up again, my husband and I each went to a child
Because we spent forever tucking and retucking, we got to bed even later than usual
Because we got to bed so late, my husband tossed and turned, restless like never before
Because he did that, he kept me up
Because he kept me up, I nearly dissolved in tears when the Peaches cried before dawn
Because she cried before dawn, I didn't want her to wake the rooster
Because I wanted the rooster to sleep, I got food for Peaches
Because I got food for Peaches, the rooster heard and woke up
Because they both were up before dawn, I feel a fatigue induced life loathing
I am tired because I am tired; I never sleep because I never sleep

Anyone want to make it a meme?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Under Toad

I swore up and down I would never become an Under Toad mother. Hah! Don't we all swear at some point in our lives that we will not become our mothers? And then, say, twenty years later, we are moving up the escalator, and our daughters make the same pledges, because we broke ours?

Maybe this is not how it happens in your family. But I have to admit that, in some ways, I practically channel my mom.

Peaches startles easily, fears dogs, cats, noises, and strangers. I try to toughen her up when I can, encouraging her to bravely pat the puppy, help me vaccuum. I do this because I want her to feel confident, to explore the world. But sometimes lately I'm just tired, and my loftiest imagineable goal is getting through the day. I want Peaches to HURRY UP. I want the kids to make it from the driveway to the front door in less time than it takes to fly to the East Coast. And so today when my frustrating dawdlers seemed inclined to inspect every blade of grass in our front yard, I opened my mouth and out popped Mom. "Oh, Peaches, you better get inside, did you see that big mean doggy?" (Read: Lassie.)

I felt even worse than when I got Rooster to brush his teeth by cautioning him that otherwise they would turn black and fall out.

When I was a kid, my mother didn't want me to drown, or even, truth be told, swim. I had ear tubes and six hundred fifty ear infections, and she wanted me to stay healthy, because even your average cold tended to escalate for me and next thing you knew I would end up in an ambulance or something.

So my mother told me that if I ventured into the water without her, the Under Toad would suck me under. And. I. Would. Never be heard from AGAIN. Okay, maybe she said undertow, and I heard Toad. But what I heard loud and clear? DANGER, DANGER, DANGER -- listen to your mother or ELSE!

We lived inland -- five hours to the ocean, I guess. When my mother told me to stay out of the water, she meant any water, as large as lakes and as small as bath tubs. And it worked. I do not know how to swim. And I swore up and down...

And so will my kids. Shame on me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Four Birthday Wishes

In about a week, the Rooster turns four years old.

Each birthday for my kids, I find myself feeling like it's my special day, too. After all, their birthdays also mark the anniversaries of my two biggest accomplishments ever.

When the Rooster turned one, I organized a giant party at the park across the street from our first home. Our first home, which we bought on a tight budget, took forever for most of our friends to get to, but that didn't keep them away, nor did the inferno of global warming that seemed to descend upon us that hot May day in the park. Fortunately I had rented a tent, and everyone endured and even seemed to have fun -- except, notably, the birthday boy. He seemed overstimulated and a little on the miserable side. The photos of him that day might as well have come from one of the detainee prison camps.

By the time the rooster turned two, we had moved closer to civilization, and we'd also given him a sister as an early birthday present in March. We decided to splurge on his party since his sister had been stealing most of the spotlight, and we had a Gymboree party. About 20 kids loved the games, songs, and activities, but once the Rooster discovered the bowl of strawberries on the food table, any mild interest he'd shown in socializing vanished. He spent almost the whole party shoving red heart-shaped treats into his mouth, and crying when they ran out. No matter, Peaches entertained the guests. A majority of the photos we printed from that party are of her; we got a couple cute ones of him, in his shirt stained with juice.

By the time Rooster turned three, we'd attended enough other kids' parties that we had really started to recognize how he stood out from kids very close in age. Honestly, I think birthday parties gave us our first meaningful insight into his developmental issues. I remember at one party, he spent the entire time running in huge circles around the opposite side of the park from where the other kids sat happily rolling balls around and eating on picnic blankets. He had no interest in engaging with them, beyond asking for cake and trying to grab another kid's cool toy. He just wanted to run, to shriek, to chase birds. We decided to opt out of throwing the Rooster a party when he turned three, and invited family only to join us for a trip to a train park, where you can climb on old trains and go to a train museum. The Rooster loved the trains! He enjoyed the day, but had no nap, and seemed tired and wired, and by the time we went out for a family dinner, he behaved so badly he had to leave the pizza restaurant before food came, and I spent the dinner hour driving him around and getting him to sleep off his tantrum.

This will be the Rooster's first birthday post diagnosis. I struggled with the right way to celebrate. Should I have a party, because he had such a good time in the bouncer we got when his sister recently turned two? Or should we just rent the bouncer and not bother to invite anyone?! He likes kids more than he used to, and he's showing that he's learning to play with children his own age, but the kids in his class don't exactly flock to him, and conflict would surely ensue.

If I threw a party, would I really be throwing it for myself, or for him? Likewise, if I decided to skip the party, whose best interest would I be serving?

I don't know if I made the right choice or not, but doesn't that go without saying every day of parenting, multiple times a day?

I opted out of the party; we are taking the Rooster, Peaches, Grammy and Grampy to an exciting museum exhibit, then pigging out on the most expensive (gfcf) cupcakes you ever saw. We will have balloons, candles, singing, presents, hugs and kisses, but no noisy crowds, no onlookers. No friends.

I know it's his birthday, not mine. But when I light the candle on that six dollar cupcake, I will be making some wishes nonetheless.

Happy Mother's Day

We are trying to decide if we will need to spend our Mother's Day in the Urgent Care or not. Yesterday the Rooster sunk his teeth into the web of Peaches' hand, leaving red puncture marks on both sides. Today they seem a little angrier -- the marks, not the children. They also seem to be swelling some. Any more and off we go to an expensive excercise in patience and patients.

Happy Mother's Day to you all, and may your day be bite-free.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Magical Realism

My friend C and I go way back; no one has been my friend longer. This means she can read my handwriting, remembers my first boyfriend and my birthday, has loaned me clothes, has heard me snore, flies in for a visit now and then, knows how to make me laugh, has mopped me up thousands of times, and watches my back. It means I can confess to her with only mild embarrassment that I've read (and enjoyed) all the books in the Traveling Pants series, and that she would be in my sisterhood if I had a pair of magic jeans.

So I asked her recently why I tend to need the mopping up part so often. And I also asked her why I have such trouble measuring the size and scope of problems, especially ones that start with "A" and end with "ism." I asked her, "What is wrong with me? And with my sense of perspective?"

C shoots things straight. I know it; that is why I asked her. Her answer shocked me, even though it didn't. Don't we all have those moments? Her answer reminded me of who I am, and made me realize that I do forget sometimes. Click; focus restored. I have been thinking often of what she said.

It was late and I was tired, but my version of what she said goes something like this: "You know, G, I think if it weren't an ism it would be something else. I remember when you thought you'd fail Spanish in high school and you went a little over the deep end. And you didn't even fail Spanish, did you? I think that's how you're wired. Sure, the rooster has stuff going on. Last summer I saw him have some ugly night terrors and things like that and I knew there was stuff going on that wasn't entirely typical, so I wasn't completely shocked by his diagnosis, but if you weren't freaking out about that, you'd be freaking out about something else. You're G. That is what you do. I'm not sure why, but it's kind of who you are."

C is exactly right. It is soooo C of her. That is who SHE is. The smart one. The calm one. The doctor. Had I been born Doogie Howser, medical genius, I would refuse to practice. I never want that kind of responsibility. The only worse job I can imagine involves air traffic control while managing nuclear power plants. C drove an ambulance before we graduated high school; I sometimes have been known to check three times to be sure I'm in park before I get the kids out of the car. I make my husband dispense all the medicines around here; if I so much as give them Tylenol, I can spend as long as half an hour later worrying if I measured out the right dose (and our boy's medicine record fills 5+ pages at the doctor's office). I left a job editing because it gave me ulcers to put an issue to bed because putting it to bed meant I approved it as done and accurate, and I would wait in agony for corrections and complaints to arrive in my inbox. My head throbbed to the beat of, "WHAT IF I MADE A MISTAKE?"

So how on earth did I end up a teacher, let alone a parent? I am ill suited to the pressure of either sometimes.

But far as I can tell, few good paying or rewarding positions call for neurotic, oversensitive, sentimental creative types with no tolerance for having the buck stop here.

When I look at the rooster, my eyes play tricks on me all the time, as I see him one way one minute and one way another, morphing fun-house style. He's tiny and twisting all around, he's giant and scary, he's something in the middle and shining, he's changing again before my eyes, he and his isms... And the whole time, I'm staring, and hollering, "HELP! I HATE FUN HOUSES! I'M SCARED!"

What C said reminds me that I built this fun house, and I am the one tormenting myself. I know what I should do with that information, of course. I should stop. I should dismantle the fun house and shatter the mirror, and I should stop staring at the rooster all the time. But there is a little relief in knowing that I am just G, this is just what I do. It's my own ism. I take some strange comfort there.

I might not be able to change the thing about me that has always been skewed, but that has always been -- well, ME. But I can use this self-knowledge in my self-talk, when C is 3,000 miles away and the time difference is working against me and I panic. I can translate what she said into, "Calm down. The rooster is uniquely challenged in his way, and you are uniquely challenged in your way. That means things probably are not as bad as you think they are. You got a B+ in Spanish. The letters to the editor were all good. The car hasn't rolled away yet. Go to bed. Hasta manana. No te preocupes."

Thanks, C. I've got your back, too, sister. Maybe when you come visit in July we can buy some magic pants.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Brushes with Insanity

I am very, very, very tired. Weary. Worn. Pooped. Exhausted. Hold on while I it.
Well, I don't have enough energy left for that, so I'll show you what I mean by how bad my fatigued parenting just got. (Do keep in mind it's already past bedtime. We left extra early today so we could have a parent conference -- the joys of a parent conference. The rooster is still up, still running wild. Many of you know how the earlier part of my week went...)
I am so tired that...

Me: Bribe, blah blah, bribe, blah blah
Rooster: NO! I don't like to BRUSH MY TEETH!
Me: Please, Roo...
(Rooster halfway swats at me, not trying to hurt or hit but to let me know he is angry.)
Rooster: AAAHHAH. I don't want to brush my teeth.
Me: You have to brush your teeth. (Pause. Sigh.) Or all your teeth will turn black and fall out.
(He looks at me in horror, all attention now, eyes wide. I look back, aghast at what I just said. And then I collapse in silent heaves. I am laughing, too tired to make any more sense than that; a wreck, convulsing on the floor, a laughing fool.)
Husband: Well. Geez, Honey. I guess you know what you're blogging about tonight!
(Husband and Rooster head to the bathroom to brush teeth flawlessly and without incident. I am a bad mother, and have gone somewhat crazy. Please someone insist I blog about the "Under Toad"'s debilitating impact on my life whenever I next have enough stamina to type words again. Goodnight. I'm too tired to even brush my teeth.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Still Standing

Well, it's been a week.

C, the dear friend I've had longer than any other in my life, is a doctor in the small town where we grew up. She moved back there about a year or two ago and has seen my mom and my grandma in a professional capacity. I asked her a while back to call me and tell me to come home if she ever thought I might miss the chance to say goodbye to my grandma, who is also my hero and like a mother to me. Early last week she gently let me know it was time to come home while my grandma would still likely know I was there.

I always knew, even at 10 when we were in fift grade, that C would be a doctor, and I warned her even then that I'd probably call her for lots of help, but I don't think either of us realized how far I'd take it. So far she hasn't charged me a dime, but I know I owe her more than I can repay.

Before I talked to C, I was struggling with the rooster, worrying, feeling sorry for myself, mired in muck. But once I heard that my grandma needed me, I got my self-pitying ass in gear. I booked two of the most expensive domestic flights you ever saw for Peaches and myself, bumming hard that in the last two months Peaches stopped being a free lap baby and Airbus went belly up (goodbye $75 flights), and I tossed the necessities in carryon bags.

Not everything in the whole wide world can be about the rooster. Life goes on, autism or no. Other priorities also need their due. I made my plans in such a way to minimize the disruption to the rooster's routine, and I worked hard to make sure he'd have what he needed in my absence, but I had to go, and I went.

And so I have been out of touch for a while, having a smidge of Internet withdrawal a couple of times. A few of you wrote to find out how I've been, and I will be honest: I've been better. But I've also been worse. It's been complicated. It's been... life.

My grandma is an amazing woman, a crucial force in my upbringing, and I cherish her. She stayed strong and well into her 80s, until after the passing of my beloved grandpa. The day before I arrived back East, she had slipped into a semi-coma, she was having "episodes" and needed medication, restraints. The day Peaches and I arrived, I don't know what changed or why, but I do believe our visit could have helped her some. All I know is that she was happy to see us, she was up and dressed when we arrived, and she wanted to go out for Chinese food. We put her in the car, drove about a block down the road, and watched as she chowed down on shrimp in lobster sauce.

My grandma has diabetes and arthritis, but that's not new, she's had those a long time. My grandma had breast cancer several years ago. She had a flesh eating bacteria that nearly cost her an arm after that. Recently, my grandma has also developed congestive heart failure and some dementia. I understand all this, but it often feels so incongrous with my grandma as I know her... it just seems impossible is all. But it seemed especially impossible as we sat around and had a perfectly normal conversation. Sure I could see how much she'd aged since I saw her last summer, and I know all that she's dealing with right now. I know I don't get to keep my grandma forever. But as we visited, she commented how much Peaches looks like "that actress" from 24, and she told us how happy she felt to see us, that we were blessings. I watched her shake her head, staring at Peaches, repeating, "I've been so blessed, more than I ever expected." We reminisced. She remembered coming to be with me in the delivery room when the Rooster was born (she stayed for all 32 hours of my labor), and shortly after Peaches was born, too. At the end of our visit, I took a picture of Peaches and Grandma together, and my mother took one of me with them as well.

My husband called me in Virginia several times to let the Rooster talk, because the Rooster really missed us, and he felt sad. I talked to him and told him I loved him. I didn't freak out about it; I remained focused on my grandma.

Peaches travels about as easily as any two-year-old ought to be expected, but getting to my crazy hometown ain't easy... it's a schlep from our school (so that we could drop the Rooster off there Friday morning as usual) to the airport, an hour flight to Chicago, an hour layover (that turned into a 4 hour layover on the way out due to weather), another 4 hour flight, and then a 75 mile drive across the state line. We left our house at 7 a.m. Friday morning and got in to grandma's house at nearly 2 a.m. Saturday. Walking through her empty house, knowing I would sleep in her bed while she slept in a hospital bed, knowing my grandpa had been absent from the same bed for several years now, nearly did me in, and I wandered in circles around the home of my childhood, weeping, opening and closing doors and drawers, coming to grips.

We spent Saturday and Sunday visiting Grandma and spending time with my mom and stepdad, as well as C, and stopping in to see my high school boyfriend whose 8 year old son has issues not so very different from the Rooster's. (He wisely told me not to compare, though. "You can spend your whole life looking at other kids for a match, and you'll never find one. Your son is your son, and there is no one else like him. You just have to let him be who he is, and wait and see who he becomes.")

Peaches didn't sleep much in Virginia, disrupted in her routines, and so I didn't either. Together we stayed up past midnight every night.

Then, we got up at 4 a.m. Monday morning so we could arrive back in Cali in time to pick up the rooster from school at the end of the day. I knew that I'd said a goodbye to my grandma that might not happen again, and that going home might not ever be the same, but I am awash in gratitude that I had the opportunity to spend that time talking to my grandma and telling her I love her with all my heart. She said, "Maybe next time I'll come see you in California."

We got home yesterday, and when I called today for update, things had turned bad again. More problems, more drugs, more drastic measures and nighttime sitters in her room. My mom and stepdad have their hands very full, their long days punctuated with decisions, challenges, emotional ups and downs. C tells us that my grandma might have more good days again, and she might not. I tell her how happy I am that she called me when she did.

My grandma gave me gifts while I was there. She gave me her good days, her smiles, her love, her time, her words. Going there also showed me that I could; it is a gift to know that I could do something other than worry about autism and the world could keep spinning.

I told my husband that I still need my grandma so much, and he said that he knows what I mean, but that I don't need her the way that I think I do. He tells me I'm all grown up now, and that is largely thanks to her. He thinks she did a good job with me, and that I have learned how to not just take care of myself, but to be a good mom. I hope he's right.

I have never had the opportunity to tell my grandma about the rooster's diagnosis. To have reached the point in life that I don't share my troubles with my grandma boggles my mind. She has lifted me through more than 30 years of tough times, and cheered me through an equal number of happinesses. I guess she's helped me so much, that I will always be able to call upon the help and still feel it now when I need it. My favorite thing my grandma says is, "I'm so proud of you, I could bust." I think of that all the time, and I know she would tell it to me now if she knew how hard I'm trying to help the rooster. And I know she would say it to him, too.

Oh, how I wish I could hear that, other than in my mind and heart.
But for now, I guess that has to be enough.