Friday, July 31, 2009

Notable and Quotable Seven

Upon picking Rooster up from camp today...
he grabbed me, turned to his love interest (she's six), and proclaimed, "See, I told you she's not in jail!"

Upon returning from my arduous jog, and collapsing in a heap...
Peaches climbed onto my body, put her hand on my stomach, wrinkled her nose, and screeched, "BIG TUMMY!"

Upon telling my husband that he should go ahead and spend money on something even though I might disagree because, after all, "You make money, you should be able to use it how you want to, because it's yours..."
he looked at me with utter sincerity and said, "It's not mine! Everything is ours, because we have a shared destiny, because we're a family." (Don't roll your eyes! It so was NOT cheesy! It wasn't!)

Peaches asked me if I could give her, "pink tails." Ever since her hair grew long enough, I've tried to get her to let me put it up, and if she's going to let me, I'm going to let her believe that the style is named after her FAVORITE color, and not after farm animals that wallow in mud.

Rooster asked me if tomorrow, when his cousin turns one year old, he could give her a special present. What? Daddy's wedding ring. I suggested maybe a stuffed animal or a cute onesie, but he was pretty determined, and tried his best to rip the ring of J's finger.

Driving home, I see Rooster in the rear view mirror clearly giving me the finger. Since this is a first, and totally unmotivated, I asked, "Why are you doing that, son?" He added a little extra thrust of the offending digit in my direction and said, "Because it's BAD!!!"

My family... notable, quotable, quirky, and loved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Before And After

A few months into Applied Behavioral Analysis, it's time to reflect on what we've learned from having in-home therapists 10 hours a week, besides humility, and how to hide the dirty laundry.

Before ABA, the rooster still needed diapers, though he could only fit his 50 pound body into Goodnights, and could be coerced into using a toilet once or twice a day, maybe.

Now, he looks cute in his cammo underpants, and has accidents three or four times a week, maybe, usually as he's running in vain to make it to the potty on time.

Before ABA, any time you said "no" to the roo, he would lose his mind. And this means any time, including when he asked, "Can I sit on your lap while you drive the car? Can I drive it myself? I NEED TO DRIVE!"

Now, you can say no to roo, as long as you don't bark it at him in an angry voice (who, me?), and after you gently deliver the refusal, he will often say, "Awwwww. Okay, mom," in a "shhheeeesssh, what am I gonna do with you?" tone, and then comply, move on to the next thing, play. And this means sometimes he accepts no for an answer even when his question is, "Can I have a turn now?" (Thanks, ABA, for his ability to ask that question.)

Before ABA, our rooster considered everything in his home his personal jungle gym, and he made no exception for the bodies of visitors.

Now, he still stands on my couch, but he takes his shoes off first, and for everyone NOT blood related, he has started observing "personal space rules."

Before ABA, the word Rooster used with greatest frequency was "AAAAAaaah."

Now, the words he uses most are, "May I..." Kid has a LONG daily wish list, but I'm just thrilled he's ASKING (to wear my jewelry, eat my dinner as well as his own, watch Star Wars, buy a new toy, make out a fort out of my pillows, knock down the tower I just built, use my cell phone... it's a good thing he has adjusted better to the word "no")! I would say ABA has done more for his speech and language development than three speech therapists combined.

Before ABA, attending a party with Roo meant having a battle plan, including an intricate exit strategy, and doing lots of apologizing. Lots.

Last weekend, J took the Roo to a birthday party while I took Peaches out for lunch. J had the easier time, and he had fun. "I pretty much just let him play, and I mostly talked to other parents," he told me, while I gaped, feeling kind of jealous and awestruck. This was a major first, and I know the deities have horrible plans for us next weekend when attend my niece's first birthday for telling you this, but, Wow. When he told me this, I knew it was time to give mad props to ABA.

Maybe the biggest endorsement I can give ABA is this: before ABA, I had no toolkit, and I ran out of patience all the time. Now, I have a toolkit, and I only run out of patience 60 percent of the time! And technically I'm not really eligible for services, so don't let on to the (bankrupt) state of California...

In no way do I have any expertise about therapies, beyond being a mom and a teacher, nor do I know what is right for anyone else's child who has autism. From what I read, there are all kinds of effective ways to help kids, and I certainly understand why ABA isn't right for everyone. I just wanted to take a moment and appreciate all the resources out there who helped point our family toward ABA, because we see the benefits. We still have a long way to go, but already I'm grateful to D, our ABA director, and JT, our ABA provider, beyond my ability to adequately express it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lest We Forget

Peaches can say "because" now, has been able to say if for months, and still we we miss "cubuz."

Today Peaches asked me who made babies. Rooster asked Peaches if she has "boobies." I can't hook Rooster's size 6 shorts on him anymore, and he's only five - I'm struggling to wrap my head around going to the store to buy him the next size. He finally mastered using the mouse today, motivated by wanting to visit the iCarly web site. He told me that Amy, from camp, "broke up" with him. Peaches wants more "lipstick" (Chapstick) and some clip on earrings, and she has a preference for a particular hair stylist, who puts on sparkles and HAIRSPRAY after the bangs are trimmed. My three year old walks around the house wearing what she calls her wedding veil. In some ways, they grow up too fast.

In that spirit, I will admit that I am glad:

Peaches still uses this construction: "Why you have on glasses, mama?"
Rooster hasn't perfected "th." He wants me to play "wiff" him.
They both sing hysterically misunderstood lyrics to songs. Two different versions for each song, both wrong, both loud and unapologetic.
Peaches wants to hold my hand going down the stairs.
Rooster runs up to hug and kiss me when I pick him up from camp.

I am also glad that they are growing up, too. I am excited that:
Rooster always does his own seat belt now.
He introduces me to people I don't know.
He's less and less interested in Sesame Street (-- though I will always treasure Sesame Street).
Peaches can do the 24 piece puzzle I bought for Rooster, and enjoys doing it over and over and over.
When I told Roo I was proud of him the other day, so proud, he showed off his new spelling skills and asked, "Could you b-u-s-t bust?!"
We threw out all the old, broken sippy cups today. Except in the car, the kids are drinking "big kid style" now.

I absolutely own that I'm a curmudgeonly sort. But I make it plain, too, that under my Oscar the Grouch costume, I'm all Elmo Loves You. I never forget to treasure my kids, no matter how it might seem. I might talk about being cursed by the deities (they mess with me, I swear they do!), but I also know I am, come what may, a lucky, lucky mama.

This is a complicated life, this. Everyone's. Tragedies and challenges and the mundane and joy and loveliness, all interwoven.

What makes you glad?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me...

Waiting rooms make great metaphors, don't they? And they are.
In a way the special needs blogosphere I inhabit feels a lot like a waiting room. We're all here while our kids are close by, doing what they need to do, and while we wait, we compare notes.

In the last five years, I have spent more time in waiting rooms than I care to calculate. I've been pretty much every kind of waiting room parent there is: I've been the coach on the sidelines, watching my child's every move through the viewing window; I've been the obnoxious cell phone talker, though only when other pressing matters such as sick family members necessitated it; I've sat silently brooding; I've read outdated and germy looking copies of Oprah's magazine, though I can't recall a single article; I've invited conversation; I've lurked; I've wept. I'm not always good "in a room." When I am, when the waiting room works best for me, I connect.

Just like via blogs, I like when a waiting room dialogue reveals a productive idea, yields a valuable insight, or unearths common ground. I like making friends. I like helping others. I like figuring out my rooster boy.

On my last post, I had a comment from a new reader. I met Diego's mom at OT, in the waiting room. I have seen here there for almost a year of Monday mornings, her sweet boy working and playing alongside the rooster on trapeze and swings, and I had no idea she was an artist, or that our husbands would have things in common, or that she, too, blogs. This week, at the rooster's second to last OT, we talked, swapped urls. Her blog is so beautiful! It makes me feel so WORDY and ugly! She's an amazing mom, about to put her career aside for at least a year to help her son attend an impressive and intense school that demands a substantial parental commitment. If you get a chance, drop in on her over at Tell her Rooster's mom sent ya.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


A slow learner, yes I am. So slow I wonder if I'm teachable at all. You've heard this all before, friends.

Today, at school, where I work, I am asked, fatefully, "How's it going for Rooster at camp?"
Makes you want to smack me, doesn't it, knowing how I stacked the deck against us all? Ah, so.
"You know," I said, "not since he was an infant have I ever been able to pick him up day after day and everything is just fine. The teachers always say, 'He had a good day.' He has friends and he's having fun. I'm enjoying the reprieve."

Cut to:
I walk into camp, and the shadow is ready for me, and I know that look even though it's the first time I've seen it from her. "Today he had a tough day. Lots of tantrums. LOTS of them, just finished throwing a fit when he saw you pull up. Fighting with Amy. And he kicked me. Twice."

As goes Rooster's day, so goes it for us all, I guess. I had a tough one myself.

And I'm facing a quandary.

I have lost my mind completely and somehow agreed to attend my twentieth high school reunion in September, because two of my dearest friends will be there, one with her new baby I haven't kissed and squeezed yet, AND the reunion falls near my mom's big milestone birthday, and what she really wants is to see me. What she wants even more is to see a grandchild. Well, she WANTS to see kids, but if she's lucky she will get to settle for one.

I can manage to fly with one child, and, at that, I'd rather fly with snakes on a plane. I cannot (worth repeating CANNOT) fly alone cross country with both my snakes, er, children. It is not even fathomable without J, barely fathomable with him.

But which one should I take?

Last time I went East about a year ago I took Peaches. And she? Was. Awful. She went 36 hours without sleeping more than a catnap, never slept through any of the three nights we spent, startling every time she lost skin contact with me. I felt as if she would be my undoing, and with everything else going on, I was nearly undone for sure. When the second leg of our eternal trip back to Cali was delayed for hours, I sunk into the airport carpet and left a tiny piece of my sanity among the stains... I think I made a promise to the universe then that I'd never fly with Peaches alone again until she had a driver's license to show at security checkpoints.

So it should be Rooster's turn to go. He hasn't been in two whole years.

But Peaches will WANT to go, and Rooster will not. And Peaches will flip her little lid if I go without her. And Rooster will not. And Peaches will enjoy the reunion. And Rooster will not. And she will be able to occupy herself for a few minutes safely now and then in her Grandma and Grandpa's house, and Rooster will not.

I asked my mother, "Which one?" And she said, "Oh no, don't ask me to choose between my grandchildren, don't ever ask me to do that." I know, of course, that it isn't like that. I know my mom makes faulty oversimplifications when she says that. I know, as I've said before, fair isn't giving each child the same thing, but giving each what he or she needs.

Honestly, I want to bring Rooster. I want him to do better than I think he will. I want him to charm everyone with those gorgeous long lashes and delicious smile. I want people to tell me, "You exaggerate, he's doing so much better than how you make it seem." I want photos of him with family and friends. I want him to distract me from the people in my home town who are missing, who I am missing. I want him to enlighten people and make them care about autism. I want to be too busy caring for him to think about the last time I was home. I want to give him his turn, and to get a wee break from talk of fairy princesses and purple.

It's not that I don't want to bring Peaches. I adore her, you know I do. I just cannot bring them both, and it's his turn.

But then reality sets in. Rooster can't simply take turns like he's a typical child. Rooster travels with a pharmacy, and his daddy is the pharmacist, not me. The rural South has grits, gravy, hash browns, and disdain for special needs diets. I'd need to bring my own gfcf refrigerator. And neither the Rooster nor his mother need the pressure of those wishes I just described: WANTING him to do better than I expect pretty much dooms us, as I proved at the top of this post. I know in all likelihood that the Rooster would spend much of the trip begging to go home, missing his daddy and his toys, and that I would likely encounter painfully sympathetic looks from well meaning classmates and painfully unsympathetic looks from NOT well meaning classmates, and that I don't need any more reasons for holding grudges that date back to my angsty teen years.

Even with all his curly-topped charm, my rooster IS a tough little boy. He is difficult and challenging and roostery. But the truth is, as much as I whine and moan, I have a very hard time imagining spending a weekend far away from him.

I mean, did I tell you that he has a crush on a girl, and that he started wearing a watch, and that today he sounded out the word "mom"? He's getting so much better at... UH, UM, he's getting much better at driving me NUTS is what he's getting better at, so there. And tomorrow he's going on a field trip and it's going to be a TOUGH DAY. You hear that deities? A TOUGH DAY.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"...I Could Bust..."

My son didn't JUST lose his first tooth today.

He lost his first TWO teeth today. And he didn't just "lose" them. He had to have them extracted, because our little shark boy already had the big teeth growing in behind the baby bottom incisors.

AND I dreaded the dentist appointment, so J said he'd do it. At nine, I stared at my phone. I chewed my bottom lip. I knew it was tooth time. At 9:20, I was in shock when I got the call: All done! No problem! Piece of cake! Wham, bam. (My brave boy! My amazing dentist!)

We just put him to bed with his teeth in the special box under his pillow, and we got on video his eager expectation of "coins!" Peaches, of course, has many questions about this fairy business, vacillating between joy that fairies will be in her house and fear that they will come in her room.

My boy. Five years old. Missing two teeth. Wrote his name for the first time. Sounding out a few short words ("snow" and "bust"). Dancing with the girls at camp; "Mommy, I am going to introduce you. This is Amy and Amir! And this is Amir and this is AMY!"

My boy. Crying when he sees his old school, melting down today picking up his sister, sobbing when he asked, "Where is MY cubby? This is not my stuff in my cubby! I miss my school!"

My boy. Language regression, less than zero attention span for ABA. Scripting, perseverating. Put on time out, stamping away, declaring, "I leave with my DIGNITY!" Telling me he speaks Chinese, German, Spanish.

My boy. Wow. This all seems very sudden. How did all these ENDLESS, ETERNAL days that CREPT by at a torturous crawl add up to feeling like anything happened suddenly?

And yet. My boy. He's big. So big.

So proud of you, Rooster.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm A Lurker

In the blogosphere, I am first and foremost a lurker.

While I've been blogging for more than a year, and I think of myself as somewhat prolific, I spend an even more substantial chunk of time reading. Lurking, because I often read on my phone, and it's hard to type comments on my phone (especially while I'm driving a car). I DO comment, I just usually comment in my head, with my heart. And I break promises to myself all the time to later dash those comments off when I'm on a real keyboard later.

Being a lurker means that I feel a close sense of friendship or kinship with people who don't know my name, have little or no idea I exist. Being a lurker means I get to follow the lives of those who fascinate me, from whom I can learn, without leaving a trace. Being a lurker has helped me educate myself about autism.

My RSS aggregator, chock full of myriad voices, reveals my two great interests: education (particularly as it relates to educational technology) and special needs parenting (particularly related to autism). In the first realm, I feel professional, confident, empowered, excited, eager. In the second, I feel emotional, neurotic, needy, exhausted, cautious. Sometimes the two realms overlap. Then I feel awkward. Want to know how I feel about educational technology's potential for helping children with autism? So would I. I can't seem to wear both hats at once; I fall silent.

As a writer in the blogosphere, I found my voice through talking about autism, or more specifically at least talking about my family's experience with a child affected by autism. Although I've written ever since I could talk, I always preferred writing about other people -- I wrote news and feature stories, arts reviews, short stories and poems. I wrote in the third person most of the time.

Then, my son came along. From the day I met him, I adored him, and I suspected he struggled with challenges I couldn't quite articulate. It took years into my desperate struggle to understand my son better for me to find the resources I needed, wanted, craved, sought. I had looked to doctors, teachers, therapists, family members, lactation consultants, mothers' groups ... at last I turned to Google, and finally I found the special needs blogosphere. I read and read and read, and suddenly I had to blog. I had to say, ME TOO. I had to say, HI, PEOPLE IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS. THANK YOU FOR REACHING OUT! I THOUGHT I WAS ALL ALONE, AND I'VE BEEN SO CONFUSED! I read blogs, and then I needed to write one. I didn't write to be read, I didn't write for the sake of those whose blogs I followed, I blogged because reading blogs inspired me to seek the relief that writing gives.

When I blog, it is a purely selfish act. That is a good thing. I do not speak of selfish in a pejorative tone. When I blog, I help myself. When I blog, I lose mental weight. When I blog, I heal a bit. When I don't blog, I suffer. When I blog, I am real, I am honest, I open up a vein. I do not blog for comments. I do not blog for anyone else. I deeply appreciate comments, I enjoy them, I welcome them, and I treasure the friendships and connections that result. But hecklers can't really hurt me, because I don't need an audience, and I don't much care if my stories of my experience with autism don't jive for someone else. It's a great wide blogosphere out there, and anyone who isn't looking to relate or be positive can keep stepping. Or they can just read me and lurk. If you can't say something nice... lurk.

We all speak only from our own experience. In my experience, if you need to know about autism, you need the blogosphere. If you need support for dealing with autism, it's the best place to go. If you need experienced voices to describe the pros and cons of therapies or treatments, it's the place to go. If you need a good cry, it's the place to go. If you need resources for your family, it's the place. If you need to know the ins and outs of IEPs, it's the place. If you need to know how to get a screaming child out of the mall without getting arrested, or the best come-back line for insensitive relatives, or a gfcf recipe, or examples of how well special needs kids can blossom over time, or proof that you are not doing it all wrong, or a good laugh... well, you need the blogosphere.

If you need the blogosphere, start by lurking. Read people who resonate for you, and then read who they read, and read people who read them. Lurk. And then, when you're ready, send me the url for your blog, so I can keep lurking in all the best neighborhoods in the blogosphere.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Booking It

I'm a little annoyed with autism right now, and I'm planning a little retalliation, a little subversion of my own.

See, I got rejected for something today, something I really wanted to do, something for wish I had to rush through the application (which is totally unlike me), and while I'm not crying in my beer or anything, and it's a tiny thing in the grand scheme, getting turned down bugged me. It bugged me because just before that, I got accepted into something actually much bigger and more significant that I really wanted to do, something for which I worked feverishly on the application process, but after deferring for a year I finally had to myself that I don't and won't have time to devote to it. Autism? You kind of a greedy pig, in my opinion. You take and take, and I get mad.

So here is my vengeful plan. I really am going to make that book happen. The one I posted about a while back. The one some of you probably think I forgot. Autism might suck up the space where I would have housed certain ambitions, but I can make new ambitions that fight back. In your face, autism.

My son is and has always been a gift, a treasure... I don't, can't think in terms of "sacrifice," because from the time I longed for my babies, I have always felt that they deserve everything I can give them -- that is my job, end of story. There is no more important job to me. My son ISN'T autism, and it isn't my son bugging me. And while I can appreciate that autism has brought me gifts -- including this blog -- I do still personify it in my mind as a really horrid houseguest a la The Cat in the Hat. It keeps leaving nasty rings in our family tub and drinking the last of the milk, and I'm annoyed, and I'm going to fight back by getting some pleasure out of a project that involves my passions: reading, writing, editing, helping, planning, producing, creating.

So all of those who said you are in? Let's DO this thing. I hope you all agree: the book in my head has this theme/audience:
You need to know about autism? Then you need the blogosphere.

As a former journalist and a teacher, clearly I'm allergic to commerce; this project has nothing to do with "career" or business for me. If that is your interest, if you have a business plan in your head about writing about autism, I think you should pursue it, and I'll buy copies, or help any way I can. I want to make an autism book as a service, as an outlet, as a collaboration, as a learning experience ... everything I am missing from those other two projects that autism snatched.

Autism? In. Your. Face.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hump Day

How is this for a blog post?

Today STUNK.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dear Rooster / It's Hard to Be Five

Dear Rooster,
I don't know exactly why I wanted to write you this letter today, but I've been moved so many times lately by this sense of you growing up in front of my eyes, and that probably has something to do with it... I guess I feel like putting these thoughts down right here as I am is a little like a bread crumb trail I leave in time. (How many times have you heard the story of Hansel and Gretel?! Toooo many! I finally hid the book; I don't like, among other things, you getting the notion that "stepmother" means "evil!")

You are my five year old boy, Rooster, but I still can look at you and see my little baby clearly, and I can't believe how big you are. I can't say, like some parents do, that the time went by so quickly. Ever since the first day I held you, time has done some funny tricks.... days will drag by slowly, and then suddenly, whammozammo, weeks will fly by, but mostly it has felt like at least five years! In a similar way, you will struggle with something in a protracted battle, to the point I want to cry for mercy, and then, whoosh, you conquer it and zip off to the next thing, leaving me with a slack jaw wondering what just happened.

Oh, my sweet boy, we haven't had an easy road, but, as I liked to proclaim long before you came along, I like things challenging, and easy can be boring. You are so not boring. You are beautiful and complicated, and I cherish you.

This week daddy took you to yet another new doctor, and this one is called a DAN doctor. This is new and confusing stuff to us, but we are expanding our horizons. Yes, this is going to mean some more medicines, and even more dietary rules, and no, I have no idea if this will be helpful or not, but your daddy and I have read, read, read, read, read, read, read, and we think it's worth a shot. Then, today, I took you to Dr. D, our osteopath/naturopath, or, as I like to call him, our voodoo doctor. He is the one who thumps you with a, er, massager thingy, and rubs your head, and today he was, uh, well, working on your strabismus, I think. I can't even WRITE this stuff without feeling a little shy about it, because I know that it sounds wacky. But I have seen on more than one occasion how a visit to Dr. D has helped you feel better, communicate more, and behave better, so I am happy to take you there.

As of this week, our ABA increases to EVERY day after school for two hours, and today our ABA friend JT asked you to describe your daddy. You said, "His name is J and he doesn't exist." Clearly, we still have language to work on, and it has not been your best week for pragmatics. On the other hand, I loved eavesdropping on you and your sister in the playroom tonight, calling each other "Sweetie Pie" as you TOOK TURNS with your IMAGINARY PLAY and the Tinker Toys. The first time you ever verbally initiated recipricol play with Peaches, about a year ago (right after we started the GFCF diet), your dad and I teared up and grabbed a video camera. You have come so far, and I'm very proud of your progress.

When we started ABA, potty training was our number one goal. It seemed to take forever. We'd already been at it for YEARS. And you put up a heck of a fight when ABA began. And then, it suddenly seemed come together, and time did one of those funny tricks again. When was the last time I needed to restock your emergency clothes in your camp/school/babysitting backpack? Suddenly I can't remember. On our trip to the East Coast, you managed to successfully navigate new, public, dirty, and even airplane bathrooms with very little issue. As I like to tell you, and as you love to quote, "I'm so proud of you I could bust."

At the doctors, they weighed you in at 50 pounds. Crazy! I pick you up sometimes now and carry you (like today when you didn't have your shoes and we needed to get across a hot blacktop driveway) and think, "I gained more than this when I was pregnant with you... HOW is that POSSIBLE?!" Only this week have I gotten back down the weight I was before you were born... again, I wonder how that is possible, too, that it could take me so long. We do things in our own time, don't we?

Next week's medical appointments include a trip to the dentist, so he can pull your two front baby teeth, since your two front adult teeth have already come in behind them. How weird is that? It's commonly known as "shark teeth," and while it isn't so rare, I had never heard of it before. So we aren't going to see that little gap tooth smile that usually marks the losing of the first teeth, but, again, we often do milestones a little differently at Casa del Rooster.

Tomorrow you are going on a field trip with your camp, and I know you are going to have fun. I also know, though, that as you pass your former school, where your sister still goes and I still work, you are going to tell me, "I want to go to my REAL school, mommy. PLEASE, mommy, take me back to my school." I know that we'll get through it, and that you'll have fun on your field trip, but I know that I will feel the sting of your request. It is bitter sweet not having you with me at school anymore. Like many things, it is hard, but it is right.

You're sleeping now, my gorgeous boy, with the head full of curls that only recently emerged where stick straight blonde used to be. You are sleeping and growing and dreaming, and I'm hoping soon I will be sleeping, too, just a couple of rooms away. It's the end of another very long day, and we'll each wake up tomorrow a day older. Today was a day that dragged, but tomorrow could be one that flies. With time passing in such crazy fits and starts, I feel better having taken these minutes right now to capture a little piece of our now, so that we can both reread it sometime later, and know that we did have this time. That we did have good, and bad, and love.

Oh, as I wrote that last part, I suddenly got it, I see why I needed to write this letter tonight. Rooster, a lot of women around me are having babies lately. As they do, and as I see them serenely carrying their contentedly cooing wee ones around, I find myself wondering, "Did I MISS it? Did I do it? Did I experience it ENOUGH? Did I have a baby like that? Can I still feel those memories? Did I embrace it? Or did I MISS IT? I hope I didn't MISS IT. I hope it was GOOD?! I hope we were happy?! I had my babies, too... it wasn't all lost or terrible, was it?" And on some level I know: we did it our way, and we did cherish it. There was plenty of good amid our challenges. The questions I have come from pure fatigue, pure exhaustion... but as tired as we were and are, the love is and was always there, always special.

So that is why I write this letter. In case later we wonder, Did we do Five? Was it embraced? Or does everyone else get five and we just missed it all?

Rooster, we were here, and, more than that, we were kind of happy sometimes, and we were full of love. And I knew it. I made sure to stop and know it. My eyes were open, my heart open.

And I love you, as always, so big, forever.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Time for Reflection

My grandma has been gone a year now. Anyone who grew up raised by their grandma probably understands when I say my grandma was not what most people I know think of as a grandmother -- I didn't feel any sense of generational separation from her, I mostly just felt the "mother" in "grandmother." My grandma was one of the very best friends I have ever known, and she was one of the few heroes in my life. I adored her, I adore her still.

As this year of mourning closes, I feel like I am emerging from a dark, dank well --- like I've slowly been creeping toward the light. No one knew how sad I was but me, and while I will always miss her, while I will always long for her, I think it's good that I'm letting go of the grief drop by drop. I know she'd be glad. My grandma, a part of me, is always with me.

Before she died, my grandma was sick for the better part of a year. If I'm totally honest about it, that year was harder. As bitter as it is to have her gone from me, it was a far heavier weight to bear to hold her here while she suffered. In some ways she felt farther away during her sickness than she does now.

That year, too -- the time when she became ill -- was also the time of diagnosing the rooster. When the formal diagnosis came, the developmental pediatrician tried as best she could to encourage optimism. My husband and I regularly reflect on how she told us, "You're going to have work your @sses off for a couple of years, and then we'll all have a better sense of where we are, but I have a good feeling that the hard work will pay off, and you'll find the strategies he needs to deal with many of the challenges we're now facing."

I won't shock everyone and go all glass-half-full on you, because that is not my way, but I will say this: we have indeed worked our @sses off around here, and, while we have PLENTY more work (and plenty more @ass) to go, we are finding strategies to deal with many of the challenges we've faced. I hope we will do as well with the next challenges when they come along.

We have been all about the milestones here lately; we've celebrated a half dozen birthdays and some anniversaries, and we've reflected on losses, and we're mostly done with diapers (in the waking hours at least) at Casa de Rooster, and I've lost enough weight that I'm closing in on my goal. Today, I woke up and felt almost like I'd rediscovered my long lost self. Oh, I'm still pretty exhausted, and I'm still worried about this and that and the other thing, and the gray hairs are in a race with wrinkles, but the mantle of funk is shedding away some, and I feel somewhat renewed.

Today, we zipped down the wide open 101 freeway and looked out at the ocean. We stopped for gas and the breeze blew and the sun shone gentler than ever. I held hands with Peaches as we walked to a little cafe and told her that I needed stop for a minute and look at her and absorb a really perfect moment. I expected her usual kind of response: "Why?" Instead, she said, "I love you, mommy." A little while later I scooped up the Rooster and I said, "I love you a hundred percent." I expected his usual kind of reply: "No!" Or maybe one of his new favorites: "What does that mean?" Instead, his face lit into this magical, melty smile, and he said, "I love YOU one hundred percent!" His smile has potent charm, and I don't care if that sounds like boastful mother talk, it's just true!

Tomorrow starts our first full week of work/school/camp since early June. I don't kid myself about it. We're not looking at a week of roses. But I can't remember that last time I faced a week like this and felt even the slightest bit capable, like I do tonight.

(And yes, I still worry about the revenge of the deities. I don't feel THAT much better...)