Monday, August 27, 2012

Just A Little Thing

People ask each other conversationally about their families, their children. It's well meaning! It's friendly!

There can be landmines for so many reasons though.

Today I said something careless to a new friend and stepped on a truth about her family.

Today a colleague said something that caught me all awkward about my kids, finding me stumbling over my answer like this, "Well, um, but, see, um, my son has autism, so..."

My new friend handled it with grace; no problem, she forgave my mistake.

I try to handle it with grace, too, to let the awkwardness pass quickly away.

And the best outcome is when we all try our best, and are understanding, and forgive one another. We are all just human, we all mean well, let's all just be friends.

I will work on not making assumptions, though. I will work on not speaking carelessly. I also am trying to let go of "but" when I talk about my boy. I am going to try for "and" instead.

My son has autism. And he is wonderful.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hitting Homeruns

This weekend we took our littlest, otherwise known on this blog as Peaches, to spend a week with her grandparents a couple hours away; her school doesn't start until after Labor Day, but her dad and I have to work and her brother, Rooster, is already back to school, so J's amazing parents came to our rescue.

The kids love going to see Grammy and Grampy. The grandparents are wonderful, loving, kind, and smart - what's not to love? Their home is beautiful and full of amenities we don't have, like an amazing media room, and a pool. But what I think is the best part is that we all DO THINGS together when we are there. We do FAMILY things, not just survival things. We do HEALTHY things, good things. At the risk of sounding completely melodramatic, this doing things business is what I live for, this family-doing is what I feel like I've waited for all my life.

We do things at our house, too, but somehow the two kids seem to outnumber my husband and me. Sure, mathematically that might sound to you like it makes no sense, but it's still true.

This weekend, Uncle Richard was there with Grammy and Grampy, making it 5 grownups with two kids, which somehow gives us almost just enough hands for what it takes with my two kiddos. Trust me on this.

But my favorite moment this weekend was when I was the only one whose hands weren't needed.

I walked out to the yard and watched as Grammy and Peaches played a paddle ball game in one corner while Grampy, Uncle Richard, and my husband taught the Roo to play whiffle ball. I'm no good at either, but would gladly have played along, only in those minutes, the DOING I needed most was to stand, watch, appreciate, and remember how lucky I am. How lucky we are.

Peaches had fun with her Grammy. Rooster had all the guys on his team helping him connect with soft pitches. I cheered for Rooster. I cheered for Peaches. I yelled, "Good job!" I yelled, "Nice try!" I yelled, "So close! Almost!" I yelled, "Score!" All the yells were the good kind while we DID stuff outside! Everyone felt good about themselves. Everyone was learning, trying. We were happy. If I'd had a camera handy, what you would have seen was love.

Fifteen or twenty perfect minutes.

You hear so much about the hard stuff. I had to share these perfect minutes with YOU.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Conflicts of Interest

Some of you who read this blog have been asking if school is going any better.

It's not.

I avoid writing about it when I feel so conflicted as a parent and an educator.

It's not easy, as a teacher and a mom, to say: I think my son has had very poor teachers. To say: I am losing my faith in my state's public education. To say: I don't even feel welcome at my child's school, let alone know how to make it better. To say: As a teacher, I cannot afford the schools that might be "best" for my child. To say: I don't know how much longer I can make sense out of going to work at a wonderful school each day knowing I have to send my son to one that is mediocre and does not share our value system. To say: But I just can't imagine home schooling would be best for him, our family, or me.

Those are very difficult things to say.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Vow

I was inspired by I Am An Autism Parent, to which I subscribed, to write this vow. If you are an autism parent too, I encourage you to check out the I Am An Autism Parent web site, written by Tim, and read the vow he wrote to his son. Write your own vow, and share it with Tim at this address:

Dear Rooster, 

I am not always the mother I hoped to be, but I make you this vow: 

I am right here with you, and your sister, every step of this journey, whether we are physically hand in hand or not. 
My mantra for us all will always be the same: try, learn, love, and be happy. 
I will not ask more of you than I ask of myself in this struggle; I will ask us both to be our best, our most joyful. 
I would never trade you for anyone or anything else. 
I have loved you since before we met, and just as you were within me, I am within you.  
You are a beautiful person just exactly as you are, and I promise to never forget it, to never let you forget it. 
I pledge to always love you with the strength of ten tigers. 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fall, Fall, Fall

On the first day of third grade, the whole family went to drop off the Rooster. We had prepped, we had visited a day ahead, we had the uniform clothes ready, we had our camera, and after a summer of tutoring and camp and social skills classes and relaxation and play, we were ready to face public school again.

We were not ready. We were NOT at all ready.

After ten minutes of hugs and kisses and pictures, the boy walks tall and proud to his line, where a blonde girl named M sees him and goes into a loud, screaming fit. "NO! NOOOOOO! He can't be in OUR CLASS! THIS IS THE WORST CLASS EVER!" She runs to tell anyone who will listen. The teacher sees her.

"Get back in line," he tells her. That's it, that is all he says. "Get in line and stay there, facing forward."

I grab my boy, who is now half-size, deflated, head hung. The rules are clear: I am not supposed to deal with other children, and the teacher is right there, near us, so I turn to my child, his chin in my hand, my heart in his body. "We LOVE you, Rooster. You are the best boy in the whole world. We are proud of you. You are smart and strong and beautiful. Be nice to everyone, and if anyone is not nice, ignore them. We can't wait to see you later."

The teacher marches the line toward the building. I quickly grab the aide, make sure she understands what just happened, that she will help. I find the resource teacher, tell her too, suggest social stories, implore intervention. Later my husband and I will begin sending emails, but first I need to drive to the gas station and cry.

I have not received a single email in response. The rooster? His feathers seem unruffled, but that's just surface, you know? I dread the next 170+ days ahead.

How was your first week of school?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mommy Fail

When you have a kid who requires an epi pen on hand at all times for life threatening food allergies, AND who avoids the stomach trouble of eating gluten, AND who can't advocate for himself because of autism and language challenges, here is what you do:
  • Triple your grocery bill. 
  • Shop at at least three stores a week.
  • Order from specialty stores. 
  • Never let people provide food to your kid that you didn't send along. 
  • Communicate urgently with teachers and aides about this. 
  • Stockpile special treats in your freezer for parties, etc.
  • Watch what you eat yourself for fear you might kiss him or leave your water glass where he might use it and then endanger his health. 
Here is what you do NOT do. 
Not unless you want to burst into a fit of tears with uber mommy guilt:

Forget that there is a very big, special celebration to mark the second to last day of camp, and only send in a regular, healthy lunch for him.

His sister told me about it, about all the goodies she had while her brother had none. And when my overtired and enormously guilt-ridden tears vaulted down my face like the American Olympic gold medal champions, this is what happened next:

The rooster climbed in my lap to tell me not to worry about it, that he would like to "kiss my nose" and "cradle me like a baby." And he reminded me, "Mommy, you put a chocolate chip cookie in my lunch today, remember? It was good, I ate it. I am happy with you. It's okay!! You pack good lunches."

When you have a kid who requires an epi pen on hand at all times for life threatening food allergies, AND who avoids the stomach trouble of eating gluten, AND who finds a way to comfort YOU when you have a mommy fail, here is what you do:

Find every nut-free, gluten-free candy and treat in the world to put in tomorrow's lunch to celebrate the last day of camp and the best Rooster in the whole entire world.

I'm sorry, Rooster!!! I LOVE YOU.