Friday, May 29, 2009

My Friends Have Written the Story of My Life

When I started blogging, I fantasized that I could hang out with the other bloggers on the block. We'd be funny and interesting and kind of writerly and we'd hang out and swap wisdom. We'd love each other's kids. We'd overcome obstacles and write, write, write.

Yeah, I know that wherever you go, there you are, and that you can't go live in a fantasy land.

But, sometimes you can.

Pixie? Thanks for visiting Rooster Country. Thanks for the extra hands, ears, eyes. Thanks for being funny and interesting and kind of writerly and for hanging out and sharing your wisdom. Thanks for loving my kids.

Thanks for the amazing shopping.


Thursday, May 28, 2009


sometimes you have to go away to appreciate what you have at home,
like the town mouse and the country mouse,
but sometimes you just have to have company come make your home more home than it was, and open your eyes to what you already had.

today pixie mama and i left the pacific ocean and within two blocks passed a high school, so i told her that i would find attending classes so near paradise more than a little distracting. she looked out the window and the streams of teens flowing out onto the street with their cell phones, back packs, and surf boards, and said, "they probably don't even notice it anymore." it wasn't a sad or critical statement, and i know just what she means... there was a lot of truth in that.
pixie mama has said a lot of smart things this week, has made me see what we have right here, and made what is right here much nicer.
i am pretty sure i am dreaming.
i am pretty sure this week didn't really happen. i hope it did.

like, today, the rooster climbed into the car and started talking about -- I KID YOU NOT -- his -- and THIS WAS HIS VERY OWN WORD -- "plan" for the evening. he wanted to go home, eat his gfcf version of a pb&j, help bake brownies, watch tv to help him wait for them to cook, then eat the brownies.

i am pretty sure i would not have been more shocked if he outlined either party's strategy regarding the newest supreme court nominee.

did i even explain to you that my child used... entirely appropriately and with detail... the word "PLAN"????????????? and how he said he would WAIT? he used that word several times today, and even better, he DID that word several times today!

was it pixie dust? was it the fact that this morning he went to see our kookie voodoo doc for some, er, vibrating wand therapy for his, um, head tightness and unsomething whatchacallit of the, like, fluids or something? was it aba? the dream theory makes the most sense really, and surely i was dreaming of all these things today, like...

skybluepink. just before pixie came, i (dreamed that i?) got a call from hr saying i NEEDED to use up my last personal day or else use it! so today, i took the day off and i (dreamed that i?) drove pixie over to the small local spa i haven't seen the inside of in a couple years, and we chilled for an hour. i almost could not manage to lift my butt cheeks off the changing room chair when we finally had to go, because i (dreamed that i?) turned to jello. from there we headed to my small local downtown shopping area with our wish lists, like a nose ring for pixie and end of the year gifts i need to give teachers. in one block, everything (in my dream?) went DING DING DING! see something we wanted? just happened to be on sale! not on sale? the proprietor decides to mark it down just for pixie! it took no time at all to get everthing on the list and some extra joyful goodies... pixie dust? i think maybe.

i had to pick peaches up at lunch because my personal day didn't include full day child care, and my often darling child was the only bad dream element of the day, but we love her anyway. she is just peachy even when she's not.

it's been a crazy week, a week that can't be real. it's been a week of good talks, of JOGGING WITH A FRIEND, of shared meals instead of handfuls of processed food eaten on the fly, of spare hands to unload the car or help a child and spare ears for us all, of trips to the ocean we've lived next to and ignored for far too long, and of unbelievable strides by my darling rooster boy who soared to amazing heights...

i'm full. i'm happy. i'm sad that pixie leaves tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pixie Dust

It probably goes without saying that I am not prone to frequent leaps of faith.

And you might have noticed that sometimes I worry about things that never happen.

But once in a while I intuit that things are going to be okay. When this happens, you can put money down on my intuition.

I met my husband online. I can't tell you that I knew that we'd build our life together this way from the outset, but I had this intuition from our first email exchange that nothing bad could come of it. I spent barely any time online dating... it's not necessarily my style, and I quickly met and fell for J. The first time I talked to him on the phone, I knew I'd just had the best date I'd ever had in my life, and that agreeing to meet him in person posed no danger.


Pixie Mama is here. For anyone who worried that either one of us would be an axe murderer, we can both assure you that the only weapons we've come near since her arrival Saturday are the Rooster's (by way of Luke Skywalker's) "light savers."

We both acknowledge why some people might find it scary for one blogger to travel 3,000 miles to spend a week in the home of another blogger she's never met and her husband, two kids, and special needs challenges. Yeah, it could sound chancy. It is hard for me to imagine someone wanting to visit us: Our house is small, our city enormous, our days LONG, our kids challenging. But Pixie Mama wanted to come -- she loves Cali, she cares about the Rooster clan, she needed a break. And my intuition said things would be okay.

I was wrong. Things have been much better than okay.

Pixie Mama arrived about 50 hours ago with gifts like stickers for the kids and a journal, robe and art for me. These gifts have arrived since:
1. We all went to the ocean. Twice. Somehow living in Los Angeles this idea rarely crosses our minds, even though my son worships water. Yesterday I chose a too crowded beach that challenged the Rooster in terms of noise, crowds, overstimulation, waiting in lines... and still he maintained and found some bliss as we muddled through. Today we visited the ocean on MEMORIAL DAY and managed a perfect outing, with lovely weather, in a quiet spot, and shot winning photos, all thanks to Pixie Mama. The ocean has tremendous power.
2. Dare I write about it? On one hand, it should be an ENTIRE post unto itself. On the other, we've had too many ups and downs, and I've flown already in the face of the deities so often... let me just say this. It was an amazing weekend for potty training strides, and I am proud of my boy.
3. Peaches and Rooster have been pretty lovely together. Oh, sure, they also have argued over the radio and fought and shouted some. But when Pixie Mama painted Peaches' toes, Rooster cried of envy. Peaches said, "I know! I know what to do! I will SHARE my new polish with you, okay Rooster?" To which he put his arms around her and thanked her with hugs. I painted his toes, she blew on them to dry the faster, and they loved on one another. Okay, this is a GIFT.
4. Peaches is terrified of Malificent, the scary witch of Sleeping Beauty. She went on and on about this at dinner, and my Rooster brimmed over with empathy. It went something along the lines of, "Peaches, if that evil witch tries to scare you, I. WILL. PROTECT YOU." Melty, melty, melty, melt.

This is what the Rooster said when he grabbed Pixie in a hug... giving the highest compliment he bestows, and echoing my sentiments precisely:

"You are so dear to me!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Get Me to Shape Up?

I am loathe to ask favors. It almost pains me to ask.
(How many of you are inching away from your monitor right now? Here it comes...)

When I read the following online today, I thought how nice it would be if anyone might feel like ... oh, I don't know ... maybe, possibly, say ... nominating me? Since my son was born five years ago, I haven't slept well or taken good enough care of the bod. I'm loose, soft, weak, out of shape. My jaw aches, my posture's poor, I rarely feel like walking up to my fourth floor office, and I've changed so much, I'm like Clinton pre and post white house.

So, for anyone with time on their hands (HA HA HA) looking for a writing exercise... pun intended...

Balanced Place announces our Give Back Pilates program! We want to give people a chance to get the help they need, but can’t necessarily afford. Pilates benefits everyone and every body: If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from poor posture, joint instability, and muscular imbalances or one that just wants to feel young and move freely, please nominate him or her. One individual will be selected each quarter to receive free private Pilates instruction for one month. Our Give Back Pilates blog will monitor the recipient’s progress. Nominations are simple: write up a 250- word paragraph on how and why your nominee could benefit from Pilates. Then, email
Our first chosen student will start July 5, 2009. All submissions must be received by June 21, 2009.
Visit or call 310-402-6712 for more information."

Or not.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Family Matters

My kids have read too many fairy tales; when they get angry at me they call me "STEPMOTHER!" Peaches and Rooster believe, understandably given the literature, that stepmother means badmother. I've been trying to explain to them the truth, dispel the notion that step-families want to ditch you in the dark with a crumbly scrap of bread. Sometimes the family you make, the family that happens after the genetics thing plays its hand, is the family you can count on to feed you through the famine.

I have the greatest stepdad ever. My only grievance with E is that he took so long to find my mother and show her how to love a good guy. I was in college when they met and married, and I have always wished I could've spent more time with E. While I was thousands of miles away, he did more than just make my mom happy - he became a true son to my grandparents, who adored him, and E did things for my grandparents as they reached the end of their lives that I wish I could have been there to do. Hard things. Generous things. Loving things. Family things.

My mom and I found our mother-daughter footing shortly before E came into the picture, and once they met, my relationship with her only grew and grew. He seemed to be the key to unlock the best aspects of my mom. My stepdad knows I love him and I know he loves me, though we can be somewhat awkward still in our expressions of it.

When I fell in love with my husband, I fell for the whole package, and for his whole family, too. Among the most exciting parts of marrying him, and making it official, were these momentous milestones: I gained a warm and close-knit family, and I got to use the word "Dad" again. My in-laws let me know I could choose to continue calling them by their first names if I wanted, but that they also felt comfortable being called "mom" and "dad," and as someone who didn't really grow up with a "dad," the temptation was irresistible.

As an adult, I really hit the jackpot when it comes to adding to my family, especially for a girl who had to be rescued by her (phenomenal) grandparents from a cast of MIAs, addicts, crooks, thugs and dysfunction.

First, E, then my in-laws. Having my in-laws means having solid support when we hit a crisis. It means we're not all alone here in this lonely state. It means a place in driving distance to have a real holiday meal. It means family I can talk to without worrying about the time difference. It means connectedness and compassion and backyard barbecues.

My inlaws have helped us move. THREE TIMES. Once without much help from us, as Jeremy took me to the ER for the day. They have come to help us through STOMACH FLU. They have watched our kids FOR THREE DAYS so we could get away. They have accompanied the Rooster clan to DISNEYLAND in 90 degree temps. My inlaws come to lend a hand when we try out new treatments with the roo so we don't get overwhelmed. They sleep on an air mattress in our playroom to help us do all this. And they don't do it just for J. Yes, they love him dearly. But they make it clear that they do it for me, too - that I matter, too. They are my family; I feel like the terms "in-laws" and "step-" need rewriting, they need better PR.

Looks like I'll be tossing out quite a few Disney books here soon... if anyone has any picture books to suggest that celebrate step parents, or in-laws for that matter, I'm in the market...

Monday, May 18, 2009

I am pretty sure today is Monday, so I'm not sure why it was so Freaky. Freaky Monday has no ring to it whatsoever.

First up on the list of Freaky involved a case of deja vu. You see, five years ago tomorrow, a little roostery boy emerged into the world full of attitude, and two days later he I left the hospital just as the SWAT team descended, weapons aimed directly at our car, helicopters hovering so low and loud I had to cover my ears. Today, as I sat in a meeting at work, just blocks from that same hospital, I struggled to focus on my boss' message as I heard those helicopters again. No, it wasn't PTSD. Almost exactly five years later, the same disturbing story: a gunman in the mall near the hospital, near the school. When the rooster was born, the man with the weapon disappeared without being caught, and no one was hurt. Today, I heard the word homicide. It sent a shiver through me. I couldn't help but recall how upsetting it felt to bring my new, beautiful, tiny little baby out in to the world only to face rifles and sidearms and scary men in flak jackets screaming at us to get out of the way. Even for LA, that's pretty freaky.

Freaky number two, no pun intended... When we started ABA a couple of months ago, the Rooster didn't want to set a foot into a bathroom. He threw epic tantrums, hitting and spitting to avoid the mere sight of the potty. Well, we are NOT out of the woods yet, but he's made substantial progress, and he's been successful many times. Today, however, my son wanted to earn a few gfcf chocolate chips. He really wanted them. And he also proved to me what I've long suspected: he gets confused about what his body tells him, and he has a hard time doing what we all take for granted. See, we've had lots of pee success, but not so much the other kind, the kind that he knows will earn him some chocolate chips. So for ABA tonight, I sat in the bathroom with Rooster hoping to achieve our mutual goals for nearly two hours. He was so determined, I couldn't get him to LEAVE the bathroom. Our ABA helper could barely get over the irony. We have a long way to go, but we've come a long way, too, and we're proud of him.

Freaky three isn't all that freaky, it just felt that way. I got an email from my mother-in-law (Hi, Mom!) saying she Googled GFCF and the name of her town and up popped my blog. I had told her and my FIL about it before, but this is the first time she'd read it. It felt a little freaky to think of my worlds colliding like that, but it felt good. She wrote me the nicest note:

"Mom here,
I was researching gfcf foods ... when I came upon roostercalls and checked it out. ... I love how your southern-ness comes through your writing and how your love for Rooster bursts through all the anguish over his diagnosis. I'm glad you have such terrific women who can give you support and comfort in the difficult times and encouragement for the future. Enjoy your time with pixiemama next week!
With love,
Isn't that freaky good? I think so.

I could go on about the freaky day, but it wore me out. I'm tired. I'm going to curl up and think about how much my life has changed in the five years since my rooster came into it on May 19, 2004.

No matter how much I might wine and wallow, I never forget how lucky I am. I have a beautiful son, and tomorrow I plan to celebrate him.

Happy birthday to the best rooster ever.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Coming Soon

Remember when I proposed a get together in SoCal? When it didn't pan out, PixieMama was bummed, and I said, "You know, I have a strong feeling we'll see each other anyway." That happens to me sometimes. I get a feeling something will be happen, usually something good, and it does, it works out. Now, this doesn't work in other permutations so much. Like when I worry about something bad that I think will probably happen? Then it might happen or it might not. But if I, negative me, get this intuition that something will turn out, you can pretty much put your money on that horse. And Saturday PixieMama arrives. And the heirloom earring I knew couldn't stay lost reappeared. Et cetera.

Which is to say... you know that book idea I brought up a little while ago? I might not have mentioned it in a while, it might seem like it's happening, but it's going to work out. There's going to a book that welcomes newbies to the autism blogging community. It's kind of writing itself right now. (Which is to say... all of you are writing it right now.) And it is going to arrive, too, in its own time and fashion.

Friday, May 15, 2009

No Duh

Now, come on, people, clearly (undeniably, indubitably, and OBVIOUSLY) a year later, I KNOW the rooster has AUTISM. He has it, I name it, I say it every day in copious contexts. I write about it. I have a freakin' BRACELET about it, if you want to get down to brass tacks. It's pretty matter of fact: Rooster? Has autism. Not the end of the world, just the facts.

So, this is a real question for you: Why, when someone else states it, as a matter of course (in contexts like, "Yes, that is fairly common in children with autism..."), WHY does it still throw me? No, not rhetorical, because I can't quite seem to GET it, and I just know that you do, and that you can say it to me, and it won't hurt the way this thing I'm telling you hurts, smarts, stings. Help me make some sense...

I'm saying to you that on a regular basis a therapist or doc or whoever will be talking about my child and simply toss in that he has autism and so this or that thing is common and my BRAIN kind of tailspins, and my heart kind of spasms, and, well, I don't know why I get mental hives or whatever, but it's shocking to me that I experience this emotional response, when, in fact, I'm well aware that he HAS AUTISM. You know? Like, I thought I did the whole nine yards, up to an including acceptance, but maybe not so much?

And there is this: my son has always had stick straight hair. Blonde. My hair could best be described as a mess of curly. Auburn. Before his diagnosis, I remember I'd joke with people, "Who can believe that I have a blonde child with straight hair who doesn't talk much?" We all got a good laugh at that one, at the unruliness of my sproingy reddish hair (rather similar to my husband's but exponentially BIGGER), and the randomness of genetics. Well, one day a couple of months ago, the boy woke up, wandered into our room, and left us speechless. My husband finally remarked, "Where did those CURLS come from?" Everyone we see seems to want to know the same thing lately. Why did the Rooster's hair wake up four and a three quarters years old with the curls I had once expected to be a given? And why, ever since those still-blonde curlicues appeared, have I halfway expected him to suddenly talk to me in fluid prose, eye to eye, heart to heart, nary a script or a meltdown to be seen for miles? That's just dumb.

Have I just gone crazy? Am I in the most pathetic state of denial you ever did see?

Do you ever feel the same?
And how exactly can I get over myself? I'm bugging me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mouthing Off

Now, this Notable and Quotable needs substantial prefacing. 

The Rooster, a highly verbal boy with an extensive vocabulary, also talks slightly like his last name should be Gump. It's not exactly a drawl, but he talks slower than most folks where I grew up in the rural South. And what he says is best described by our ABA friend Dan, who calls it "word salad." As a result, you can't always take what Rooster tells you at face value, and it's a little like verbal charades sometimes. Naturally, since we spend so much time with him, we're pretty good at figuring out what he means, and recognizing the origins of scripts. Most people have no idea when he's scripting, because he does it rather artfully, and that sometimes can lead us into dangerous waters. When he learns new words, and the bigger the better, he sprinkles them around liberally without understanding them. His favorite word this week was "responsible." I heard him use it close to a dozen times, never meaningfully, and he resisted my attempts to inform him. 
Anyway, that is some serious lead up, huh? The conversation I'm about to share, I also must note, came with long pauses, and funny inflection, at the end of a long, intense and napless day. We were kind of snuggled up on my bed. If others who didn't know him heard it, they might take drastic measures. Me, I'm not discounting it whole cloth, but I'm not sure, for once, what to glean. Is Freud in the house? I definitely will be rethinking and stewing on this one:

Me: What is it like to be the Rooster? (Usually this kind of question would be followed by, "Can I watch TV? Will you read me a book? Can I have a cookie?)
Rooster: Mom? I wish I was never born.
Me: Rooster,  what character said that? 
Rooster: I don't know. Um, maybe Kermit? I need to be me!
Me: Are you a happy boy or a sad boy, Roo?
Rooster: A sad boy. (gives a big smile for a moment)
Me: How can I help you be happy?
Rooster: I don't know. Maybe make a big smile for me? Maybe we could go on a date some time? 
Me: I love you, Rooster. 

He also told me this, which I KNOW to be truthful and accurate, "Mommy, you have a bad nose. It's bended. I don't like it." 

Okay, then there is Peaches. She ALWAYS tells it like it is, and there is no misinterpreting. Today, (again with thanks to Andy Glockenspiel, my kids' new guru) she hits me with, "Is Rosa Parks dead?" 

Me: Yes, Peaches, she is. 
Peaches: So we can't call her? 
Me: No, we can't. 
Peaches: Because she's dead? 
Me: Yes.
Peaches: Like Noah? (of Noah's Ark...)
Me: Um, I guess like that. 
Peaches: Can I see a picture of them dead? 
Me: I can show you a picture of Rosa Parks, when she was young. (Gotta love the iPhone, as we were in the car at the time.)
Peaches: So Rosa Parks is not ever going to smile again. Because she's dead. And we can't call her. 
Me: That's right, Peaches. 
Peaches: Mommy, how do you get dead? 

Wow. I had no idea is was Deep Conversation Day. I didn't get you a card or anything. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Firing Bullets Takes the Edge Off

There is no reason to even hope for coherence tonight. I haven't slept through a night in a .... century? (Okay, I exaggerate when I'm exhausted, but it's been a long time.) Plus, I'm a teacher. This week was Open House and Grandparents' Day. Fried. Spent. Wiped out. Gah. But yet I have stuff I need to say... so I'm settling for bullets. (The harmless kind.)

* Send good thoughts to my inlaws, and the other 35,000 folks with homes in danger in the Santa Barbara area. (See, my inlaws totally should move closer to us, shouldn't they?) But they love Santa Barbara, and it hasn't even been a year since they finished building their dream retirement home. Took longer than that to build it. So please, good thoughts to Rooster's and Peaches' Grammy and Grampy.

* Rooster loves Andy Glockenspiel. What, you don't know the vocal talents of this enthralling wonder? Oy, how I miss my NPR... but I digress. He has this cd he loves with hokey songs with moral messages, singing praises to Rosa Parks and why it's great to different and all, and since it makes him happy and teaches him something valuable, I can endure. But there's nothing my little scripty boy likes better than to toss a lyric at you when you least expect it. Yesterday, I reached my limit of patience (before most of you even woke up!) and starting grumbling and getting a little up in his face. Nonplussed, Rooster got even closer to my face and laid a little Glockenspiel wisdom down on me, not quite singing as he said: "You're gonna get hit by your KAR-MA, and that ain't good!"

* We made the trek to the developmental pediatrician's office today (we = the two kids and me) and when Peaches heard we were going to "the doctor," she said, "So you won't be mad anymore?" Yes, I'm working on signing up for anger management classes, Peeps... it's on the to do list. In chapter 66. Or 666. Or something.

* Rooster and Peaches each made me Mother's Day gifts in their classes. They both enjoyed the very much. I didn't get a bite, a sniff, or to read a word, but they tell me they were delicious, beautiful, and heartfelt, thank them very much. Someone needs to explain that all presents in the whole world are not just for them, but I am not up to it just yet.

* I bought the tix. The Rooster Clan heads East in June. We're renting a house so that my mom and stepdad can hang with J and the kids while I'm at my conference in D.C. I've nearly broken down just thinking about how crazy we are to try this. So crazy that the developmental pediatrician, who has no idea I'm dumb enough to try to travel with my brood, hugged me during our visit, watching my two kids destroy her office, and said, "I do not know how you do it. We have got to get you some help. I'm going to be researching some this weekend. You guys need the right meds, and I'm not stopping till I find them, and you need some babysitters, and some respite. These two are ...." She never found a word. During our visit she did make a few references to zoo animals though.
That being said, if you live in or near D.C., please know that I've been desperately trying to figure out how to attend a conference, tend to my family, and see all of you. If I figure out how to see you, please forgive the state we're in. If I don't get to see you, please don't hate me. And if I do get to see you, please don't hate me. (Guilt issues abounding at present.)
* Six pounds down! Four to go! Dare I publish this and jinx myself? Send me will power, peeps, and lots of it.
* And, biggest news story of all: Pixie Mama is coming! Pixie Mama will be visiting me in two weeks. I can hardly believe it. I'm very excited. Many blog posts will ensue, I am sure.

I send all the mamas out there gigantic hugs, and wishes for joy, rest, and satisfaction. In the same vein, to all those people who help me be a mama (with your wisdom or patience or your tips on GFCF bakeries or your special efforts to include my kids or celebrate their birthdays), whether you have kids or not, I say Happy Mother's Day to you, with lots of love.