Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today, Tomorrow, Beyond

Today? A steaming pile of poop. I did not like this day - it needs an "undo" button.

Tomorrow? Another obstacle course.

Beyond that: Is Rooster going to be okay? Can someone just reassure me?

Can someone tell me that even if tomorrow looks and stinks like today, that beyond that are brighter days?

You don't have to believe it; I just want you to make me believe it. Sometimes I do. Today was not that day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Summer

As I reflect on our chaotic start to summer, a flood of metaphors wash over me. I'm drowning in bad metaphor, people. The only way I know to save myself is to purge here:

We scramble to make arrangements. We quilt together child care plans. We hand off the baton in the knick of time to get Roo off in this direction, Peaches in the other, before we go to work. J gave me this one, my favorite: "We're barely laying the track before we're rolling over it."

Somehow, through creativity and determination, amazing babysitters (of which we now have SEVEN in our arsenal!!!), kind friends, and generous family, we're juggling 3 summer camps, educational therapy, new ABA schedule and new -ists, business trips for us both, and careers. We are bleeding child care money at heart-stopping speed, but seeing our kids benefit makes us believe we are investing as wisely as we can.

Peaches and one babysitter hand squeezed us a large pitcher of lemonades from lemons off our tree, and she came home from camp this week having designed her own game. She has been full of smiles lately and noticeably less grumpy. Roo enjoyed a field trip to play mini golf with his social skills class, and brought home a daily evaluation form full of praise. They are sounding things out now and then, writing more and more. I am proud of my little ducks, and that makes it easier to endure the hours of careful calendaring, the intense commuting, the begging and borrowing, the expenses piling high.

Should I really click PUBLISH and tempt fate?

Oh, no way. If I end on a positive note the deities will punish me. Here is the down side of summer so far:

- The social skills camp for spectrum kids that we love? Practically promised to set up a carpool program. Not so much. Pick up is at 2:30. That is where the 7 babysitters come in, because I don't get home until 4. As if the camp didn't cost enough.
- So far we have no plan at all for Peaches for all of August.
- The rock star ed therapist? $150 an hour.
- Every day one of my kids has some special day, like Water Play or Sports Share or Field Trip, requiring me to do 10 extra things.
- I have vacation envy. It's just not in the cards for us to travel right now.

There, that's more like me.
How is summer treating YOU?

Monday, June 21, 2010

There is a Season

So today I finally make it to my annual physical. It only took me three years to get there. The doc, who I swear I don't resent for being a couple years younger than me and ridiculously nimble in the witty banter department, chides me for neglecting my health and not racking up more copays. When I am nonplussed, she nails me. "You want to take care of your kids?" she asks. "You need to take care of yourself. You are not young anymore."

Wow. I don't disagree with a word she said. In fact, I agree too much.

What day does it happen? Your 30th birthday, do you wake up not young anymore? Or is it less a date and more a milestone -- like once your child outgrows 18M clothes, graduates to 2T, you don't have a baby anymore?

My husband laughed when I told him that the doctor drew blood I still needed, shot me in the other arm, then stabbed me through the heart with her honesty. "She don't know nothin'" he reassured me, knowing how I love a little Southern for comfort. But he's an LA boy. He also pulled out a little industry wisdom. "I was listening to Dustin Hoffman talk about how they don't offer him lead roles at his age. He said, 'So I'm middle aged, what can you do?' And his father roared, 'Middle aged? How many guys you know who are 120 years old?!' Cheer up, babe. You're still plenty young."

The grandmothers in my life lived into their nineties. Next month I will be 39. I'm not young anymore, it's true. I am middle aged. My babies will soon be too big for clothes with a T after the size. I feel funny shopping at the Gap. Sometimes, I confess, I buy from Talbots. When did this all happen?

But the truth of the matter is: I have more in my life than I ever dared to hope. My cynical preteen self stared at the board game LIFE my cousins liked to play and believed in my heart that the little plastic piece of my life would never have more than my own pink peg inside it. The day I married my husband filled me with more joy than I thought a human body could physically contain without igniting. And tonight, because of what began as an annoying scheduling snafu and a sudden change in ABA services, we all found ourselves home for the day before dinner time, so we enjoyed a special meal around the backyard table, the California golden sunlight streaming through the branches of the camphor and lemon trees. Now, our bellies full of veggies, grilled pork chops, and fresh squeezed lemonade, we are each doing our thing. Peaches rides her scooter, Roo swings on his rope swing, J sips his Pacifico and smiles at me blogging on my netbook in my PJs.

I don't too much mind not being young anymore, really. Like my mama likes to say, I earned these gray hairs that peek through my auburn mess. But my doc has a point about me needing to take care of myself. I do. We both want me to take better care of myself. She thinks it involves taking some pills, seeing one of her referrals, making more appointments, and maybe she's right. But for myself I prescribe missing more appointments, having more happy scheduling accidents, and spending time in the backyard with my family while my kids are still young.

Happy Summer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Maybe I'm Dreaming

Maybe one day I'll look back and barely remember the sleepless nights that lasted for years.

Maybe next year will be our jackpot year for our son at school.

Maybe the social skills class he starts tomorrow will make all the difference in him relating to peers.

Maybe soon we'll discover his special thing - his blissful sport or talent or interest.

Maybe if we find the right doc or -ist or advocate, they will hand us some missing piece that will make our lives easier.

Maybe some day Roo will have a best friend.

Maybe our family will disco.ver some day that autism added far more to our family than it subtracted.

Maybe we can find a different place to live where life feels more like living and less like surviving a grueling obstacle course.

Maybe I can just find a way -- hypnosis? therapy? conversion? magic? -- to change my perspective, and that will be enough, and I will not need the other maybes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stuff My Mother Says: Read This Book

Motherhood gives me great happiness, but I am not shy to admit that the challenges we face sometimes put us in situations that bring me down, way down, where I shamefully flounder about in my inertia until something external lifts me up. Yes, I need to find a way to use something INTERNAL to lift me instead, but this week I had the good fortune to stumble on a book that served as a mighty crane to hoist me from the dumps. I got such a high from this book that, against my better reason, I must share it with those of you who might also find it useful.

This book has nothing to do with autism. It is not intellectual. I found a typo. It is laced with profanity to the point that it uses an asterisk in the title. PC it is surely is not. If I hadn't read it on my iPhone via Kindle, I might have hid it in my garage. But you know about the research on how laughing clubs in some parts of the world provide tremendous benefits to people on an emotional and spiritual, sometimes even physical, level? Yeah, you don't need to Google the nearest one or travel to another continent if you want to laugh and feel good, you just need to get this book and read it. I went from weary wallow to hysterical hiccups in under an hour. I escaped stress, fear, anxiety, and fatigue, and I didn't have to learn anything, or agonize, or analyze, or emote, or anything but just observe, relate, and laugh.

Now, if bad language offends you, or if you saw no humor in Archie Bunker or the Roseanne show, don't read it. I don't want you to think less of me.

So, the book is called "Sh*t My Dad Says." Sue me if it's a crime: It cracks me up.

I'm already writing my next post in my head, about stuff my mother says...

And I can't help but wonder if one day my kids will write something about stuff I say. It's a scary thought; I surely don't give them much funny material. Tonight I heard Peaches whine to her dad, "Daddddyyyyyyy! Mommy just keeps saying only, 'uh huh.' Every time. It's all she says. 'Uh huh.'"

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Dear Friends,
I have been thinking of you. Yes, YOU. And you.
Let's take you, for instance. Do you know how many times I have thought of calling you lately? I look at the clock, do the math, and curse the time zones. I can't risk waking you, and I don't call ANYONE with little kids at 7 p.m. because I know what that hour is like. But I've been missing you lots and wanting to hear how you are.
And you... you would think living in the same city would mean we would see each other once in a while, but I look at your fb page to find out what's going on in your life. As much as I've thought of making a plan with you, I've honestly felt exhausted each time I imagined trying to keep my kids in line during a visit, and what I've just admitted makes me sad, too... am I a terrible mom?
And you... I LOVE your blog. I have starred recent posts and left myself reminders to leave you comments, but now that I do most of my reading on my phone, comments are so much harder to leave, and I just started my year of coursework... terrible excuses, and I just hope you forgive me, friend. Your blog is moving and powerful and I thank you for writing it.
And you -- I owe you a thank you card! Oh, I wrote it! I just can't for the life of me come up with postage. Soon.... thank you so much.
And you -- have I told you how happy I am for you and your big news? I really am.
And you, friend, who have been through so many trials lately. I sent you a huge energy thought the other day. Actually, I even enlisted J's help. We were driving, and we both concentrated on you, sent you some good joyful thoughts. Did you feel it?
Friends, don't hate me for thinking of you via a blog. Don't hate me period. I am pretty tapped out right now, but I'm hoping by late June to seem kind of human again.
I love ya; thanks for being a friend.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mr. Write

Cynics who avoid sentimentality? March on -- the grump is out. Come back next time. Come back June 9.

Ten years ago tonight did not fall on a Monday, but a Wednesday, and I remember that because ten years ago tomorrow my life would change forever on a Thursday night impromptu date at a divey gay bar with the man who would become my husband.

I can tell you, now that I've changed it, that I used to always use June8 as my password for everything. Before I learned about digital safety, it made sense: more than a date, "June 8" has become my mantra. My husband and I use it as shorthand. When one of us is sad, scared, worried, sick, in pain, or joyful, we can simply mention the date, and thereby share our support, comfort, love, and solidarity.

You know those melodramatic movie scenes in hospital delivery rooms? Well, in our real-life version, I breathed June 8, self medicated by repeating it over and over... My husband and I might have taken a pass on birthing classes, but he knew just how to hold my hand and invoke our magic date and help me do whatever it took to bring our child into the world.

On June 7, 2000, J was still the guy I'd just met online by searching a dating site for the keyword "writer." (Sure, he had to be a nonsmoker and live in driving distance, but my priority? I wanted to meet a Word Boy.) After scanning through about 2000 guys, J was among 7 I took the time to email, one of two I gave my phone number, and the only one that I talked to so long the battery died on my cordless land line. After exchanging what felt like real correspondence online for weeks and having a conversation so satisfying it felt like a real date, J and I agreed meet on a Friday June 9 for Indian food. But on Thursday, when he called to firm up the time and place for our plan, he caught me in a bad mood. I explained that I resented how my close friend had just called and talked me into meeting her and her East Coast visitors at a local dive bar, that I was both getting ready to go and simultaneously brooding about how to get out of it so that I would not be up so very late on a school night. The real root of my brooding? I didn't want to be tired the next day when I would finally meet J for the first time. "Don't worry about it," he told me. "Just decide to go out tonight and have fun. If you decide to have a good time, you will." I insisted that the evening had zero potential for fun... unless... unless maybe...

So, J and I spontaneously decided to move up our first date... we both went to the hipster bar that Thursday night on June 8 at 10 to meet my friend and her out-of-towners... I got to the bar first, and saw from the window when J got out of his car and walked toward the door. I knew. We had only exchanged one photo each, but I knew J the minute I saw him. I knew as he walked through the crowd toward me that I would greet him with a hug, and I knew as I hugged him that I would care about him. I knew when he held my hand that night that I might fall for him. I knew when we said goodnight that something important had happened in the 3 hours we spent holding hands, talking. I knew, and he says he knew too. Maybe so -- we have never been apart in any real sense ever since.

Eight years ago tonight was a Friday. We spent it out of town with friends and family who came to celebrate at what we loosely called a rehearsal dinner. The night epitomized what J and I describe as "usness" -- a warm gathering of good people with simple pleasures and heartfelt words. Since we were getting married out of town, I'd discovered the restaurant the way I had found J -- online. I'd found it through an intense search for just the right place by focusing on words... this restaurant was named for the fact that it is part art gallery, part book store. Ecclectic, unusual, perfect. And the perfection continued the next day, as on June 8, 2002, J and I walked ourselves down the aisle to Beatles music, exchanged vows we wrote ourselves, asked our friends and family to speak, and had his dad officially pronounce us husband and wife. A caterer we had never met, chosen for her company's name (Pure Joy) and online reputation, provided a picnic in the nearby park so inspired and delicious no one believed me when I told them how low she dropped her prices when she learned I taught children the same age as her little boy. (She also threw in extra desserts: "Teachers deserve to have amazing weddings with excellent food," she proclaimed, and I agreed!) One of my dear friends had just launched her photography business and shot our wedding for her costs only; just recently her gorgeous work graced major national bridal magazines, but not with photos any more moving than the ones she took on our simple, beautiful, magical day.

Tomorrow is June 8. Tomorrow is my favorite day, my favorite date. Tomorrow marks a decade of "usness" with the man who teaches me how to "decide to go out and have fun." Tomorrow marks the beginning of the journey toward a Rooster and a Peach.

Tomorrow I will not be blogging. I have a date.
Cynics, see you June 9,when we will resume our regularly scheduled ranting.

Happy anniversary, J. Happy June 8, everyone.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record

(..."Oh yeah, well, don't get so distressed. Did I happen to mention that I'm really impressed..." Sing it with me now...)

The big news around here, in my opinion, is that my kids are beginning to read. We are talking small steps, but for me it still feels like a big deal. The Rooster's incredible inclusion teacher sent home a bunch of word family cards recently with a sticky note on top that said: Rooster can read! He read about 30 words to me from the cards, though it's still pretty hard for him. He struggles to keep focused, he struggles with his vision issues, he struggles with a few letter-sound confusions (b for d, for example), but he gets there in his own time, my boy. Peaches, who watches every bit of my practice with him, chimes in, too, sounding out some of the c-v-c words, and enthusiastically writing me love notes, like "Peaches Love Mom." These things make my heart sing.

By far less important news, the school district here has a boiler plate letter they mail you when your child is not performing at grade level. We get them each reporting period, but this one, the year-end version, is different. This one says that my child is not up to their standards in reading, math, and PE, and that I should discuss the matter with him, and instruct him to work harder, because he might not get promoted to the next grade; after a serious discussion, my child should print and sign his name below. I understand it's a form letter and that they don't really expect my six-year-old who has autism to have a cursive signature, or more importantly to be able to pull himself up by his bootstraps academically. But I have to confess: I gave that cold piece of correspondence the finger -- flipped the bird right at the poorly Xeroxed, insensitive, useless piece of beaucracratic drivel. Then I said, "Hey, Roo? We got a paper from your teacher. It says here to keep working really hard in math, okay? Can you do that for me? Can we work on some math together now?" He said, "Okay." So I gave him a crayon and had him print his name, in his usual large and awkward fashion, across the form, and I sent it back, and then we got back to work on one-to-one correspondence, meaning math, not the one-fingered salute to our mail.

Peaches' report cart also arrived, and I tried to read it standing up, but found I could not -- I nearly fell over, but managed to lean against a wall for support while I snorted and snickered. I don't know if you will see the humor to the degree I did, but I have to share this excerpt with you just in case you might get a kick out of this description of my (barely) four-year-old (bossy and willful) preschool girl:

"Peaches has delighted her teachers and friends with her imaginitave stories and expressive way of recounting her stories. Peaches is a real schoolgirl. She just loves schol and the way the day is spent. She often forgets that her position is that of student because she really feels like she is her teachers' assistant. While we must remind Peaches of her role as a student, we delight in the fact that she has assimilated so many of our classroom rules and expectations..." (bold and italics mine, snicker and snort also mine...)

Only a couple more weeks, 2 more field trips, a thousand more parties, and a quarter million more To Dos, along with infinite logistical challenges, and then, ready or not, here comes summer (school).

(This summer I will be joining my kids in school, as well, as this week I embark on an on-line postgraduate credential program, and will then have a third report card coming to my house... a notion currently terrifying me.)

And a Happy Summer to you.