Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Rooster Calls

February 20th marked a year of blogging for me, and I accidentally missed it. I take that as a sign of improvement, don't you?

When I started this blog, writing in it sustained me in a way that nothing else could. I came to blogging as soon as I realized, through reading so many other blogs by mothers of kids with autism, that I belong here. (Of course, it's the club you don't want to join, right?) Uncertainty had come from doctors, evaluations, conversations, books... many denied my fears and no one could tell me what the deep concerns I felt meant, or where to begin helping my little boy. Luckily, when I sought information online, I found more than just information, more than just commonality. I found help. Love. Reassurance. Hope. HUMOR. Friends. Attitude. Engergy. Belief. Comfort. Home. I found, among so many other, MOM-NOS, Gretchen, Nik's mom... I found a writer and artisan mama at Monkey and Me who I haven't heard from in a while, but still think of often... I found mom and expert Jordan, I found anecdotes and resources... and I told my husband, "See? Hear? This? Them? Us? I think the Rooster does have autism. And I'm scared. But look. I think these people can help us and guide us and have some answers and ideas and help and support..."

The year has been hard. Harder than steel and rocks and diamonds and my head. The year has hurt. More than broken bones and child birth and stomach flu and needles all at once. The year has been busy. Busier than subways and stimulus planning and the 405 freeway at rush hour. The year has been complicated, worse than astrophysics and my tax forms and that guy I dated a long time ago and billion piece puzzles.

I freely admit, as always, that I drink too often from the pity party fountain, and I own wholeheartedly that while I have two of the poorest behaved kids (and one we believe to be NT) in the greater metropolis (if not the cosmos), things could be worse. And, I concede there might be some truth to my husband's assertion that I am somewhat prone to exaggeration, but only just a titch. None of these things have changed in twelve pages of the calendar.

But at last the year is behind us, and despite some staggering losses, it hasn't been all bad. The rooster has made progress this year. And I have found a beautiful community.

I started my blog by Searching for the Rooster, and I admitted from the first post that maybe I was searching for myself, too. But, in a backward way, I thought I would find our twins out there, and that was how we'd find ourselves. Hah! I know - I know - we're snowflakes, aren't we? What I learned instead is that you find yourself WITHIN yourself, and you find your child by being WITH your child. Thank you for teaching me that. (Joey's mom especially helps me with this lesson all of the time, and I am so grateful for that.) When I forget in the future, will one of you please smack me? Gently? Thank you to all who stick by me.

Happy Anniversary, Rooster Calls. Thanks for being my blog. Thanks for giving more than you take. Thanks for the life rope. Thanks for the friends. Thanks for the family. I am sorry for missing the anniversary, but glad to need you less desperately than I did one year ago. Here's to another year of growth and learning, for the Rooster and for all of us.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting With the Program

The following is riddled with cliches.
The author UNDERSTANDS the cliches, the contradictions, and the erroneous thinking. Life is complicated.
The author, despite how it might seem, does NOT watch much TV, and realizes that television does not represent real family life. Or real anything.

I grew up, like a lot of people, watching The Brady Bunch, wishing I could move right in and have Alice bake me some cookies after school. But if I could have climbed in my television and walked away from my real life forever, I probably would have chosen Little House on the Prairie for my new home. Sure, you're thinking I'd have been dead in ten minutes with my "constitution" in the days before Urgent Care, but I'm not here to write about REALISM today. If Michael Landon had called me Half Pint, I thought I could have died happy.

Although I'm not on the spectrum myself, like my son I sometimes "scripted" from television growing up, because I hoped in vain that the happy endings would unfold if only I cried, "Oh! My nose!" With my alcoholic father, depressed mother, and aggressive brother, and with more than my share of dysfunction all around me, you can't blame a girl for trying. These were my elementary school years, and during that time my father fled the country with the Feds on his tail. I imagined that if I could just re-cast my life, things would work out so much better.

My teen years found me parked in front of Roseanne. I shared the angst. Darlene felt like a kindred soul. The ubiquitous hostility at the Connors house felt familiar to me, and I felt we - the Connors and I - had a shared knowledge that the Bradys were full of crap. Still, I liked how you could tell that the parents really loved each other, and that they loved their kids, and so I could laugh, cry, and aspire to meeting a Dan one day if not Pa Ingalls. Up until Roseanne jumped the shark with the whole lottery-winning-it's-all-a-dream fiasco, I felt like Roseanne looked like a reality tv show, and I would have gladly cast myself as the lone Jewish Connor if they would have had me.

Okay, so fast forward to my adulthood, and I meet my husband. Whoa, hold the phone! Better than TV! This guy? He could be Father Knows Best or something. And I told him I'd marry him if we could make a family together, because I just KNEW with his gentleness and my insightfulness.... yeah, right, I know... are you cracking up?

Ta-Da. Fire me as casting agent, I just realized that maybe the problem is me.

Sure, my kids aren't perfect, but it turns out that even if you give me EXACTLY what I asked for (amazing husband, interesting career, home, two kids, no alcoholism), I still live in a house with shouting, grumpiness, depression, and aggression. I am not Florence Henderson.

I find this realization of the obvious rather upsetting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


In a recent post, I put out there a meme, and I don't think many people took me up on it (but my coconuts friend did - THANKS!), but I had promised to explain something I had learned about the meme.
See, I got the meme from a UC Santa Barbara art professor who gave a talk at my school. He has his students make four lists of 1o.
What are the 10 things:
You are seen as
You are supposed to be
You are afraid of becoming
You Are.

His observation, which I have been pondering, is this: The first and last two lists make you unique. If you handed your seen as and are lists to the person on your left who knows you well, they should recognize you. The middle lists, what we think we are supposed to be, and what we are afraid of becoming, are universal. Pass them to your right and the person who reads them will shout, "Me, too!" What does that say about us? That we are all unique in spite of our universal fears of inadequacy? I'm not entirely sure, but I find it interesting to contemplate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


i'm tired
tired tired tired
i'm thirty different kinds of tired
and i'm tired of being tired
when i wake up, i am
when i go to sleep, i am
while i'm sleeping i'm tired
but i'm never sleeping
bodies can't breathe on this little sleep
food can't digest
synapses can't snap
i've been tired since i can't remember when
i'm tired like cliches
i'm tired like your grandma's mother
i'm tired like old socks
i'm the tired you're weary of hearing and seeing
i've gotten a year's worth of sleep in five long years
and i need a year's worth of sleep tonight to make it through another endless day tomorrow, and that seems unlikely
i'm older than i am,
don't recognize myself sometimes
tired of myself, tired of telling it, of this, of it
i'm tired enough that sometimes i can't sleep because, well, you know.
i close my eyes and fish flop and wonder why i am awake awaiting being awakened which makes no sense
and trying to sleep i wonder if the president gets this tired
and worry i'm not safe for driving this tired
and contemplate what if your age reflected your sleep, say based on a normal person's eight hour needs,
and what if you did the math and found out i'm a hundred and seventy four
and what if i evict the guy from our guest house, and what if my husband and i took turns sleeping out there instead, wouldn't it be worth missing a mortgage payment now and then just to not be so

Monday, February 16, 2009


Some random stuff is running around the gerbil wheel I carry on top of my neck. Ready for random? Here we gooooooooooooooooooooooo....

Conversation today:
Rooster: I'm annoying!
Me: You're not annoying, Roo.
Rooster: Yes, you are.

Frustration one: The first week in January I splurged and hired a personal trainer. A cheap one -- I got a deal. It's the second week of February and I've gained two pounds. Do not dare talk to me about "muscles versus fat." I'm serious. Do NOT do that. I usually publish all comments, even if I disagree, but this time I give you warning...

I told my husband that first my fancy blue tooth device disappeared from my car and now my phone charger, and I suspected a crook. He scoffed, offered suggestions where I might have forgotten to have put them. Today he got in his car and his charger was gone. We have to start locking our car doors. We had stopped locking one of our cars because, really, would it be so very terrible if someone took that one? (Sorry car, you've been really great all these decades, and we do still love you.) But my blue tooth? That was practically brand new, and pricey, by my standards. (Yes, the standards of a woman who has been driving the same Saturn SL1 -- with manual locks and windows and a cassette player -- since 1996 might not be the same as your standards, but my blue tooth was a Razor, a really good one, and I miss it.)

TMI alert for those who want to stop here. We have a potty trained child! Alas, it's not the Rooster. Peaches, nearly three, makes us proud and a little sad as she passes the rooster on meeting this milestone. So, I've been loathe to go here, again but can someone please explain the potty training thing to me again? Rooster is 4 and 3/4. His IEP is coming in May. We understand that his school placement recommendation is being heavily influenced by not being potty trained yet. The school psychologist asks if the Rooster KNOWS when he needs to go the potty, as in does he get the signals. I think he must, since we all know, we all get the signals around here... he goes to that certain spot in the house when he needs to go. And, more than two years ago, he used the potty chair for the first time a couple of times all by himself. Sometimes we have had some success. But mostly he tells us he does not want to use the potty. He will say nothing more than, "I don't want to." Well, he more than says it, he screams it. Yet, at other times, he expresses frustration and upset that other kids tease him. He has issues about the whole thing... emotional? Psychological? ... that go beyond his ability to verbalize. He brings up potties wayyyyy more often than we do, in all kinds of contexts. His first year in preschool, when he was three, we never used any techniques except encouragement and letting him know to let us know when he was ready. As I said earlier, he had spontaneously had success even before that, so we figured it would be easy. That's when he started telling us that, "Potties are nasty." We let that ride and hoped he'd get ready in his own time. When he started round two of preschool this year, we bought every program you can name, read every book, got him books, got him videos, tried sticker charts, implemented rewards... nothing. Now we have a ABA person on the job. The first night of trying it, SUCCESS! We thought, "Well, here we go!" Almost a month later, we've not made much headway. We have tried ten trillion tactics, and I've done mighty mountains of laundry. I just can't wrap my mind around what the issue is for him. I know, I know... you can tell me all kinds of wisdom about how this too shall pass and not to force things and how hard it is for him to process a jillion things and the need for control and on and on... I'm just still stuck wondering about how his mind works and how to HELP him. I know... I hear you... but still. I'm stuck. I want... I wish... you know? I mean... if only... and with school... and socialization? And.... you know? I mean, I know you know... I know, you're right... but... and...

Did anyone else read that depressing book about the boy who loved windows? And if so does anyone recall that exceptionally weird part about how she learned to massage her kids palate and then he miraculously potty trained himself practically overnight? Makes absolutely no sense. But I've been trying to get my finger inside Rooster's mouth lately... your desperate bloggy friend, signing off.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Meme, Kind of

We had a guest presentation at the school where I work today. A fascinating artist and professor named Kip Fulbeck came to talk about his art and his background. A great deal of his work pertains to identity, specifically with regard to diversity, though I don't think he likes it put that way. He gave us interesting things to think about, entertained us, and provoked us. He put out there an assignment he gives his students, and I found it interesting. It's a list of 40 things, broken down this way:

List 10 things you are SEEN AS. 
List 10 things you are SUPPOSED TO BE. 
List 10 things you are AFRAID OF BECOMING.
List 10 things you ARE. 

If anyone wants to give it a try, later I'll post what he observes when people share their lists. You can send them in comments, or if you want I can link to your blog post. (I know 40 is a lot, but if Kia gives homework, can't I toss out there a little optional extra credit?)

Kip never gives an assignment he doesn't do himself. In that vein, here are my 40:
Seen as:
1. Strong
2. A mother
3. A teacher
4. Too sensitive
5. Emotional
6. Opinionated
7. A few pounds overweight
8. Jewish
9. A teacher
10. A leader

Supposed to Be
1. Strong
2. Organized
3. Positive
4. Happy
5. Grateful
6. Optimistic
7. Nice
8. More involved in fitness
9. A good mother
10. Satisfied

Afraid of becoming
1. Hopeless
2. Crazy
3. Lonely
4. Regretful
5. Closed-minded
6. Lazy
7. Someone I'm not
8. Complacent
9. Bad
10. My father

1. Tired
2. Loving
3. Creative
4. Unique
5. Grumpy
6. Frustrated
7. A mother
8. A teacher
9. A writer
10. A friend

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hand Stands

I wish you could see my hands.

I. Got. A. Manicure.
I don't even LIKE manicures. But I'm thrilled with this one. You see, I got out of town for 48 hours, not for work, by myself, to see dear friends. I have known my friend C and E since fifth grade, when they accepted me in spite of my crazy family, and invited me to their houses to play so I could experience some good normal fun away from the drama. One whole crazy family later, they still do that, and they make me get manicures, even though I never get manicures. I loved it.

Honestly, I can't stop looking at my hands. All day today, I found myself doing it -- Peaches even caught me and asked, "Why you do that?" She's bright, but I could not explain to a two year old why my nails make me so happy. If I could, I'd tell her that looking at my nails makes me happy because:

- when a girlfried treats you to a manicure, she's saying, "I want you to feel special. Let's hang out and take good care of ourselves because we ARE special."
- when you have dear friends you've known for 27 years, you can't really dwell in the land of the pity party 24/7.
- when you get a manicure, you get to sit still and be pampered.
- i didn't think about autism every waking moment, though my friends tolerated way more autism talk than anyone should have to on a weekend.
- I, if you can believe this, relaxed.
- my friends are beautiful people, and I love them.

If this were Facebook, I'd be sending you all virtual manicures. French tips, in fact.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

High (Twenty-)Five

PixieMama made me so happy today, just because she mentioned me and called me friend. Honestly, I've said it before but it's worth the repetition: I frequently fantasize about dinner parties (or picnics or cocktails or barbecues...) with the other special needs mamas (and a few dads, too) out here in the blogosphere. I can almost see it like it already happened and I am looking at the photo album -- Drama Mama gives me makeup tips, Mama Mara makes me laugh, Nik's Mom breaks into song... the fantasy is that vivid, as is my longing for some fun. Let's call that fact #1 of this list of 25 things just about my blog, inspired by my friend PixieMama.

2. I started my blog like many others -- after reading and researching to figure out life with my child -- and I felt like writers such as MOM-NOS and Gretchen gave me a lifeline to hold on to when no one else possibly could.

3. For a long stretch, I reached for blogging almost nightly the way some people run toward that cocktail, pill, or cigarette. It was the ONLY thing that took the edge off my pain.

4. But, sometimes it doesn't.

5. I blog on an old IBM ThinkPad that gets too hot and burns my thighs, and I think each and every time that next time I'll sit at a desk. Never going to happen. I blog sitting up in bed, and I think of the famous literary figures I studied in college who had their writing rituals in bed, and how I wish I had some of their genius instead of just a litany of complaints and burned thighs.

6. When it's a choice between blogging and exercise, I blog.

7. At weddings they give prizes for the guest who came the farthest distance. I ought to give a prize to my friend Gwyneth, who reads my blog in Malawi. Her life is so incredibly more interesting than mine that I'm blown away whenever she comments. (Hi, Gwyn!) When I read about her work in humanitarian aid, I can't help feeling ashamed of my whining ways. If you want to read just one more blog, and one not about special needs kids, you should read hers -- it's fascinating.

8. I never care what my blog LOOKS like. It would seem wrong to skip showers, abandon makeup, have hair bigger than Chaka Khan's, have hair of epic proportions that gets all frizzed out, and then dress up MY BLOG.

9. I rarely edit. I'm lucky if I take the time to spell check. I just rapid fire, publish post, sleep.

10. I read my own posts often. Not recent ones, older ones. It helps me.

11. I have been looking for an EASY (read: fast) way to print out all my blogs, maybe in a book-like format. I want to give it to my son someday.

12. And I'm terrified of my kids reading my blog someday, too.

13. A lot of people doing searches for content about actual roosters stumble onto my blog. It's hard for me to imagine that people want to have rooster-themed birthday parties, but apparently they do.

14. Sometimes I read my blog aloud to my husband, especially if I've written something funny. I like reading it out loud, and it always makes me wonder what it would be like if we all podcasted our blogs. Who has a Southern accent out there? Me! Can you hear it through my text?

15. When I worry about people I know reading my blog, it spoils my ability to write, so I have to put that out of my mind.

16. My favorite thing about blogging is the community. And yet the truth is the process helps me so much that I'd do it even if no one read anything I ever wrote.

17. I am disappointed in my self-centeredness. I wish I had more perspective, more literary style, more worldliness. But at the same time, I don't write my blog to be writerly. I write it for survival.

18. My favorite posts I've ever written are ones about my grandma.

19. The morning after I post, I always look for comments as soon as I wake up in the morning, before I'm even out of bed. Aren't iPhones great?

20. I got accepted into an educational program last year that I reallllllly wanted, and I deferred until next year because of the rooster. Now, as I contemplate doing the online program next year or just dropping out altogether, I find myself listing in the "drop out column" this reason: I don't want to give up my blogging time.

21. Before I travel, I feel a pang knowing I won't be able to blog. This weekend I'll be out of town. I'll miss you!

22. I don't have any tattoos, and always swore I'd never want one. Now I know, though, what I'd get if I ever change my mind: a rooster and a peach.

23. I have a stat counter. Isn't that funny? Why do I have one of those?

24. I'm jealous of people who grow up blogging. If I'd had blogging growing up, wow, things would have sucked much less.

25. It's a stretch to find 25 things to say about my blog. Who knew? What about you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Notable and Quotable Six

When Rooster feels lovey, he doesn't hold back. His teachers tell me he has two girlfriends, and he likes to give hugs and kisses in class (when he's not fighting and screaming, of course).

Me: Rooster, do you have a girlfriend?
Rooster: Yes! But she's locked up in a castle.

Rooster: I love you mommy.
Me: I love you too, so much.
Rooster: So are we going to get married?

Teacher: Rooster, look who's here.
Rooster: It's mommy! But where is my sweet sister?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Just Not That Into Us

When I was in high school, I dated this boy named Karl who lived about an hour north of me. When you are 16, this is more than a little "geographically undesirable." For this and other reasons, I told one of my best friends that I wanted her to come with me on the drive to visit Karl, because I planned to break up with him. Of course, you probably guessed this already: when we got there, Karl broke up with me before I could even get the words out, and it STUNG. I cried on my friend's confused shoulder all the way home. Wow, how much that pain caught me off guard.

When I was still in the early days of dating my husband, I spent a day with a friend from work, and we both wondered, in case we ever had kids, if we would want our children to go the school where I still teach. I remember saying something like, "Only if I have a really smart kid who feels comfortable at the school. Otherwise, what would be the point? Already my child will be a faculty child, not in the same socioeconomic demographic as the other kids, let alone in the same neighborhood, and, let's face it, ain't much chance I'll have some athletic super star. Maybe I'll have a smart kid, and he'll be happy in his own skin, and fit right in, but if not, I'll be happy to send him somewhere else." Well, again, you see where my assumptions land me. It stings to get the letter in the mail about my daughter's reenrollment for next year, and not get one for my son, even though that has always been the deal, ever since his diagnosis last year and the decision to let him finish preschool there before moving on to public kindergarten.

It does help to know the rooster will do better if we can find him a more specialized environment, and is sure helps to know that certain pressures will be off me in terms of feeling like I daily walk on the razor's edge, waiting for a call to come. But it only helps just a little.

When Karl dumped me, he didn't do it because of the geography, he did it for a busty girl named Trish, or Tricia, or whatever. Vainly, I felt all the worse for not having a guy waiting in the wings to replace him, too. The kid who will take the rooster's coveted slot at my school will be NT -- we have a waiting list overflowing -- but, for now, we have no right place for my boy to go. We look and look, but right now, we're dumped, and we're single, and, vainly, it smarts.

Yes, it's for the best. But it still feels lonely and painful right now.