Apr 30, 2013

The blog in which I am made to look like a liar.

One day last week I left the house and looked decent enough to have a friend take my picture to put on another blog I have that needs a head shot.  The last editor for that one insisted on a head shot, so I hastily took a picture, many months ago, and never liked it.  The thought was, one day I will be picture worthy.  That day never came.  I am the first to take a silly picture of myself, but looking good?  That doesn't appear to be in the cards for me.  So, as we left the house, I quickly ran by her house and made an unplanned visit to her home.

The kidlets and I run out of the van, and knock on the door.  She opens the door, and she immediately comments to the kids, "I bet your house never looks like this!"  Both my migits, in unison, "NO."  Wow.  Rude.  I keep an organized home, and while we are playing, it can get messy.  (However, only in the bedrooms, since toys are not to be brought out of bedrooms.)  Our house is slightly larger than Octomom's uterus.  And, I have a touch of OCD, therefore, the house is maintained on a daily hourly  minute to minute basis.  Surprise visits to our home never frighten me.  My confidence comes from knowing that while we are here, we live in it.  Therefore, while the migits are still young, having a homework sheet or book on the counter will appear normal, and not messy.

Having said that, I am forever baffled that my daughter insists on making a fool of me in front of people.  The day after that impromptu visit with the migits stereo-honesty, the six year old had a play date at a classmate's home.  The mother, VERY much like me, invited me into her home to share where Shay was playing.  I had already felt confident with Shay playing there since we spoke, and I just knew that she held the same standards and morals for her family as I do.  However, while up stairs in the friends' room, I commented on how beautifully organized and decorated her room was.  The mother says, "I bet your house is organized, as well."  I agreed that it really was, but not decorated well.  Shay jumps in with, "No, it's not organized.  It's a mess."  Thanks for that.

My husband and two children are constantly trying to make a liar out of me. We are out and about, I am in conversation with another adult, and they all say something to contradict me- ALL.THE.DAMN.TIME!  I am not so sure that I am doing this right.  (Family- I think we are so supposed to stick together on this stuff.  Join me when you get your stuff together.)  Am I the only mom out there that has this happen to her?  What sort of things happen to you with your family that make you look ridiculous?

Apr 29, 2013

The blog in which I don't want to be interviewed.

A little over a year ago, we got involved with this amazing group called r.a.d.Kids.  We were in the very first class that was held in our county, and have been helping out, when able to, ever since.  Early on, there were tons of media present at a training, and I was interviewed for a CNN piece.  I had never been on television, or interviewed for anything like this, but let me be the first to tell you, I have a new appreciation for the people that appear stupid after a tornado has just ripped their home to pieces, and the reporter asks them, "So how do you feel now that your house was ripped apart by that tornado?"  EVERY TIME, the homeowner looks like an idiot because at that moment, the only thing they can say is, "Bad."  So, the reporter asks me if she could interview me about my involvement with the organization, and I agree.  Minutes later, she has her crew surrounding us, and she starts firing question after question at me, and I literally could give no more than a two or three word answer to each question.

Reporter- So, how did you find out about r.a.d.Kids?
Me- Saw it online.

Reporter- Why did you sign your children up for it?
Me- To teach them to be safe.

Reporter- Have they learned a lot?
Me- Yes.

Reporter- (frustratingly rolling her eyes at the camera man) Can I just interview your son?
Me- He doesn't talk well.  And he is autistic.  And he will not really talk much about the class since you are a hot reporter and I am fairly certain he will flirt with you the entire time since he will not be able to come up with answers any better than I just did.

Reporter- (silently wondering if I was in-bred and if slipping a birth control into my vagina without me knowing is out of the question.)

Me-  Sure, go ahead.  Interview him.

She did interview him, and I was totally right on all counts.  He told her he loved her, hugged her, and tilted his head to the side to get the full effect.  While I wonder about his sexuality some days, it's when a hot blond enters his radar and he turns on the charm- I know he is going to be fine.  (I just hope that when he gets older, he can find a hot blond that doesn't mind his tendency to appreciate cross dressing.)  He WAS on CNN, and I still have the clip to prove it.  However, they edited the entire piece, and all they show of him is his demonstration of one of the moves the children are taught in order to protect themselves.  *Smart editing.

So, all that, and here's the part I was getting to-  Each Monday, I spend the day volunteering in the migit's school.  Today, the librarian I work for was on a field trip, and I was alone to work the media center.  I was a little nervous to be alone, but after two years of doing this, I should have had a bit more confidence in myself.  The first child to come to the media center walks in, returns a book, and then looks at me and says, "May I ask you some questions?"  I froze.  I thought I was going to be interviewed, and the past experience with the CNN chick came flashing through my head.  I took a moment, and nodded my head.
My r.a.d.Kids- proud to be safe... and American.  

Student- How many books do I have that are over due?  Can I check out one book if I return this one?  When are all the books due back before school gets out for summer?

At which time, I sighed and thought, "I make a better media center helper than a t.v. personality, ANY DAY!"

It doesn't take away my inner-
most desire to have a radio talk show though ;o)  Like they say... A face for radio....

Apr 21, 2013

The blog in which I have a new respect for birthday parties.

Shay was invited to a birthday party at a local kid place with all those moonwalk things.  I had a headache, and both migits, to take.  Luckily, it was literally around the corner, and it was scheduled for just under two hours.  We got there and I found out that I was allowed to pay for Chaz to play, too.  Phew.  (He would have been so disappointed if not.)  Then, I set myself up with their free wifi, and I was off to lose myself online while the kids bounced their brains out.  There were other moms chatting around me, but I never seem to engage with the other moms, therefore, I was set to sit with my nose to the laptop for the duration of the time.

This time was different.  First, a mom came and sat next to me and started chatting to me.  I felt like one of the cool kids!  She started out by saying, "Shayna.  She is a smart one, huh?"  Well, honestly, I looked a little more dumb than anything since I didn't know how to answer her.  Either I come off sounding like a pompous ass for agreeing, or I play it off and then I am not sure why she would start the convo like that.  Well, as it turns out, I played it safe, and said, "Well, she's my kid, so of course I think she is smart!"  She looked at me and said, "No, you know what I mean."  To which, I nodded my head in agreement, but didn't have a freakin' clue what she was getting at.  Turns out, her daughter and Shay are really close in many of the same academic achievements, and her daughter is a really competitive child and at times, has felt that Shay was a bit of a threat.  Now,  the child feels a closeness to her.  The mom asked if I might allow Shay to have a play date with her daughter.  I quickly agreed, seeing as I have sent out three invites to different children this year at school, and not one parent has responded.  After speaking for about an hour with the mom, I found that she and I share many of the same ideals for our children, and she was genuinely sweet and fond of my girl migit. 

When it was time to move to the party room for pizza and cake, I remained outside the room with Charlie and this mom.  The mother of the birthday girl asked if Charlie would like to join them inside.  I thought that was such a kind gesture.  I really don't know the mother, however, Shay loves her since she volunteers in the classroom enough that Shay talks about her and how much she likes her.  (I believe Shay is a particularly good judge of character, and after the party, I learned that I too really LOVE this mother.) 

I happened to peak in the party room and saw that the birthday child was opening her gifts.  This is like one of my biggest disappointments at so many parties we have attended. I was overly excited to see that this family allowed the child time to open the gifts, and have the opportunity to thank the child, in person.  For the life of me, I can not comprehend why children would not open gifts and thank their guest for the gift they have brought.  My children love to give gifts, and I think opening a gift in front of someone is also special for the gift giver. 

Then, this is really what blew me away, and I want more than anything to thank this mother for her taking a stand and not having a ridiculous goodie bag loaded with junk, candy, and things that will break in minutes.  Inside the bag was one Blow Pop, one fun temporary tattoo with sparkles, and then a  stamped envelope with a five dollar bill, and a note of how we are to mail this to either one of the local places they listed or one of our choosing.  (Examples given with addresses were our nurse at school for clinic supplies, or the local service league, or programs that serve meals to those in need, etc.)  We are truly a service minded family, and this could not have been more touching for our children to have the opportunity to give back.  Charlie was so excited that the mom even found us in the parking lot and gave him a bag!  

While I still have a headache, and not enough drugs to knock it out, I am moved by this family and their ability to give back to those in need, and do it with such class.  I haven't had motivation to write lately, but I want to say, this week, I am motivated to share how there is good in the world.  It starts with the celebration of life of a six year old and the desire to plant seeds of good works with those around us. My faith in humanity is fuller for having attended a birthday party.  Hmmm.  Who would have known?
Both our kidlets want their school nurse to get the money.  Nurse Charlene rocks!

Apr 17, 2013

The blog in which I share why we use China dishes on a daily basis.

Just over ten years ago this month, the hubs and I made a deeply personal decision to elope.  While neither of us had ever dreamed of a wedding ceremony, it worked for us.  Neither of us wanted gifts either.  We had all the things we already needed, and honestly, since we didn't invite people to share in the day, we didn't think registering was appropriate.  I had no desire for fancy China, or large kitchen appliances.  Years later, I love my Crock Pot that I bought just last year, and the same Walmart dishes we bought ourselves before we got married.  Other than that, I don't have a food processor, blender, bread maker, or anything else that most wives covet.  I just don't have a need for them, and space in this home is at a premium, designated for necessities.  However, I did inherit China from my grandmother, before she passed, and now, I use it, almost daily.

We had been living in our home a couple of years when my grandmother was moved to an assisted living community. When she moved, most of her belongings were divided amongst the family.  I inherited a heinous statue/lamp thing that we have recently learned to appreciate for it's newest location in the living room, and need for well placed light for reading.  I also received a nice silverware set and China dishes.  I had no desire to display the China, so I kept them in the boxes I received them in, and put them in the garage on a shelving unit.  Within a few months, I managed to hit that unit, knocking paint cans and that box to spill and shatter on the garage floor.  Luckily, I only managed to break some of the dishes.  

That was the day I decided to take some out, and use them, most days.  Grabbing a bagel this morning, I reached for a small plate.  I grabbed a China plate.  Tonight, I will be serving pulled pork, salad, and a piece of Texas toast.  Everyone usually gets a China plate for the toast.  I have a six and seven year old.  Why not use them?  What if they do drop it on the way to the sink?  It will break. It won't be the end of the world.  (For the record, they don't drop their plastic or ceramic plates we use, so why would they all of a sudden start dropping plates, anyway?)  

Moral of the story...  use the nice things you have.  You can't take them with you, unless you are Egyptian, and even then, I doubt you can enjoy them then.  

Apr 15, 2013

The blog in which we protect our children.

Growing up Jewish, each year, I remember having my family watch documentaries on the Holocaust.  It was horrifically graphic for me.  Not understanding why we- or ANYONE for that matter, would watch this, I asked.  My mom said it was so that we would never forget.  Another answer I got from a Hebrew school teacher was so that we wouldn't let it happen again.  I was fairly certain that I would have been able to remember the atrocities just as easily if they explained the same things with words.  I didn't need to see the actual footage.  The visions are etched in my brain forever, and I wish I didn't have them there.  I wish my parents had shielded my eyes, just long enough, so that one day, I might have made the decision to view it, or not.

I was in medical assistant school when 9-11 happened.  Luckily, it was the heart semester, and we had a TV in our room for use that day.  Once we heard, we left the the cardiac video in order to see the live feed of people jumping out of the WTC buildings, and the second plane hitting, and then, a tower, crumble before our eyes.   I left.  I couldn't take it anymore. While some people need to see it, I am not one of those people.  The need to feel safe is more important to me than seeing the horror.  It's there.  I know.  I can't stop it from happening.

I am ever vigilant for my children to feel safe.  Are they?  Well, to the best of our abilities, and with the protection of our Heavenly Father, they are.  I think they need to know what sort of things are happening, but depending on their age, depends on exactly what they should be told.  It's hard to determine what you want to explain, and what you want to keep from them.  I think about how they might hear things on the bus, at school, at after school activities, etc.  We don't have T.V., so it is easier for me to shelter and control what happens at home.

Consider your children, and those around you when you talk, view media, etc.  I found that I had to quickly shut the laptop after a child came running around the corner as I had scrolled through my Facebook wall to see a very graphic picture of a man that was critically injured today in Boston.  EEKS!  I was grateful that I was quick on the motion, but just as quick to talk to the children at bed time and prayers.  We talked about how a bomb went off, and killed some, and injured more.  Then, we prayed for those involved, their families, the "helpers," and asked for G-d to be near us all.  Psychology speaks of feeling safe during times like these.  Please help your children to see those "helpers" around us.  There are stories, mere hours after the fact, about how other racers finished the race and ran to the area hospitals just to give blood for those who will need it.  The first responders, the other racers, the family members- all doing what they can, to serve one another.

Apr 11, 2013

The blog in which Adventures with Ahrens goes to Stone Mountain.

It was an adventure alright.  No, seriously, it involved high levels of anxiety including a fashion fight with a six year old, Atlanta traffic, a lost wallet, eating of more junk food in an afternoon than is ever necessary, dancing, singing, loud fireworks, and talk of history I didn't even know I had in me!  Oh yeah... and then there's the "Unicorn."  I will have to blog that one on Randomobscuritites.com since it is a bit more "adult" in nature.  So... let's get started!

Even though we really don't have money to vacation, we can afford to get out and do a little "staycationing" this week.  I had work cancellations due to Spring Break, and Geoff is off all week, so why not?  The plan for today was to go to a hibachi where they cook with fire and play with knives at your table.  Well, that plan might have been fun, however, my migits don't care for Chinese food, and weren't looking forward to it.  They enjoyed all the classic tricks we saw on Youtube.com, and then told me that they didn't need to go.  So....  I thought to look and see if Stone Mountain Park had anything for us, and as it turned out, the Laser Show was scheduled for every night this week for Spring Break!  Woo hoo!  We had honestly tried going with the kidlets the last few years, and for whatever reason anxiety disorder,  it didn't work out.  Well, I knew the weather was going to be perfect, and we could arrange to leave mid afternoon, therefore, avoid the heaviest of traffic in Atlanta, and assuming this time of season would be much less crowded= less anxiety inducing, this seemed to be the perfect timing.  I was right, mostly.
Six year fashion fight involved the need to look good, regardless of the fact that it involved new, hand-me-down, winter boots on an 80 degree day where there is a lot of walking involved.  Eventually, my own mother's voice was rumbling through my head, "Pick your fights."  (It was rumbling through my head because she was in the same room.  How very convenient.) Sometimes, I need to remember this life lesson. In all fairness, this six year old child is an amazing child, who tolerates not only my craziness, but the rest of the members of the family with great love, patience,  and acceptance.    
We get on the road around 3: p.m.  If you live in or near Atlanta, you know, traffic begins around 4: p.m.  and ends around NEVER.  I had four highways to navigate in order to arrive at our destination.  The GPS said it should take approximately 50 minutes.  The show didn't start until 8:30 p.m., therefore, we packed our dinner and munchies, and planned on grabbing some ice cream for dessert from the park.  We get on the first highway, and find that shortly into the drive, there is something ahead that is stopping traffic.  I jump off the highway right before I would have to stop and wait on the highway, and detour.  Crisis averted, and we are able to jump back on the highway within a few miles.  On our merry way, and while it gets hairy, it is not horrific.  Then, it gets horrific.  We are moving along at a lovely clip, when I see it.  A sea of red lights, NOT moving. I quickly realize that I am not in a part of town I do not know, and I have no idea if it is me just imagining it, since I am the only person in the car having a panic attack in my head.  Then, as I am coming to yet another exit, I see up ahead just enough to read a sign that says, "Fire at ..... St., ALL lanes closed next 5.5 miles."  Easy answer.  ABORT! ABORT!  I jumped off the highway, and realized, that we were in a part of town that made my English speaking self a minority, and I was going to have to pull it together before I freaked my daughter out.  (Through the rear-view mirror, I sensed her feeding off my freakish anxiety.)  I pull into a gas station, and have a rapid, mental pep talk in order to even walk into the gas station to ask for help, since no one was outside at the pumps.

*I do not go into gas stations due to anxiety attacks.  Or banks, post offices, elevators, etc.  Essentially, criteria for why I would not enter a location is similar to that of the possible fatal side effects on most medications.  If anything bad EVER happened in that type of location, I will not be participating in activity there.

So, I am in the gas station, and there is a man of obvious Mexican descent standing off to the side, and the man at the register had an impressive collection of gold- in.his.mouth.  I wondered what his real job was that afforded him to wear gold teeth instead of the more common jewelry such as a ring, bracelet, necklace, or even an earring for the more progressive man.  So, I explained that I was not from the area. This fact should have been painfully obvious as I am a person without the ability to speak Spanish, dance, or have multiple "baby daddy."  I must not have enunciated, or spoke slowly enough for him, as he asked me why I couldn't take the highway to get to Stone Mountain.  I repeated the story of the highway closure, and he said, "Shew."  Then, he continued doing what he was doing.  He absentmindedly asked the man standing off to the side, and he quickly explained how to get there, without the highway. At first, I felt like the man was speaking in Spanish, but once my ears adjusted, I was able to understand his speech and learned that with the traffic at that time, we were within fifteen minutes of our destination.  So, it only took about an hour and a half, but we finally made it, and the anxiety of the drive was over.

I see that most activities cost money, however, there is a little village with a candy shop, souvenir stores and a glass store that does live demonstrations.  I suggested that we let the kidlets each pick out a little candy to enjoy while waiting for the Laser Show to begin.  That is a challenge- having Chaz make a decision is one of those difficult things for him.  That is something that he and the hubs both share in common.  Both of them struggle to make up their mind on things.  I wonder if that is an autistic trait?  Hmm...  So, I found this long, lollipop-like things on a stick, and because it was named "Unicorn," I assumed both kids would want it.  Nope.  Shay had picked out some gummy candy animal shapes on stick that she was excited about, and luckily, Chazman did want the "Unicorn" candy.  So, we were able to avert a potentially long term "event" of making a decision.  Often, I feel like decision making is an actual activity that we can log as an event of the day.

We walk out of the candy store and immediately head for the glass blowing store.  I had my own fun in the candy store noticing a little extra special something on the "Unicorn," but I then notice the adult humor carries over to glass blowing.
 Like, really?  What other types of "blowers" would you have on the premises of a glass shop?  Thank you for stating the obvious.
This is an area behind the viewing glass.  This is one of three separate areas that are used through out the glass formation process.  Honestly, must it be called that???

After that, we were hot, and Grandma decided that before we go back to the car to get our picnic dinner of healthy subs, we should eat dessert.  She treated us to the worst, expensive ice cream ever at a theme park, and an glutinous funnel cake that we ended up throwing away at least half of.  After spending $30.08 on that junk, we sat in a pollen covered area and cooled off.  Then, as we reached the car to gather our blankets, and picnic items to settle in on the lawn for the last hour and half before the show started, my mom realized the wallet she had used within the past thirty minutes, was now missing in action.   Within minutes, it was located, and a policeman made us jump through hoops to get it back.  (Actually, it wasn't that bad, but the guy was ridiculous.  In general, I have the upmost respect/admiration/gratitude for our public servants.  This guy pissed me off.)  

Wasting time before the show began involved eating dinner after setting up our spot, dancing, gymnastics, enjoying a dollar container of glow in the dark bracelets we managed to create bracelets and necklaces with, and enjoying the candy that we had bought the kidlets at that store.  Once the show began, we snuggled up, and I ended up with Shay in my lap since the fireworks were a bit too loud and spontaneous for her appreciation.  

Stone Mountain is a park created around a big rock that has the carving of some men on horses.  Yeah, look it up.  I am pretty sure you can glean greater educational resources online besides this blog.  

It's actually magnificent to see in person.  The Laser Show is a 45 minute laser graphic show that incorporates music, light effects and some fireworks.  This year was really a great show.  They change the show each year, however, they have some portions that they have done since the inception of the show in the 1980's.  (Those are the GA inspired songs and famous places/people.)  

I found myself challenging my history knowledge, and sadly, much of the history is depressing.  Shay was weighed down by the loss and devastation that was highlighted in the show.  From the Civil War to The Challenger, to Amelia Earhart, and other tragedies,  it was not only educational, but gave great pause to reflect on where we have been and what our history says about us.  When a child asks why there "was" war, it's hard to answer.  While this generation is growing up during a time of war, it's even more confusing to tell a child about past wars.  And then, to learn that some high school in GA still have a segregated prom as of this month, I was at a loss for words to explain the efficacy of wars. As the lasers were telling a story of our history, both my mother and I were rapidly explaining to our migits in our laps who the person was and why they were important. From Betsy Ross to Buzz Aldrin, we were on our toes and I cold not believe how much I actually knew.  (I swear, I am an idiot when it comes to the most basic of knowledge that I should have retained.  Ask me to sing a camp song I learned when I worked there in 1996, I can not only sing it, and all it's verses, but I can also add the hand motions as well.  What a waste of brain cells.)  

Luckily, the drive home took exactly 45 minutes, and the kidlets were awake and able to shower off the pollen and then brush their teeth.  All in all,  making memories was the name of the game, and I will never forget the moment we turned down the street and they saw the mountain ahead of us.  Or the moment(s) when my children had asked for the umpteenth time when the show was to begin, and I told them it had begun, and acted like I was watching it.  I asked them to be quiet and apologized when they complained that they didn't see anything.  Grandma didn't allow the charade to go on as long as I was willing to continue, but while I did get play, I enjoyed myself. And isn't that the important part?  

PS  randomobscurities.com will have the follow up on the aforementioned "Unicorn" lollipop in the hours/day.  

Apr 7, 2013

Adventures with Ahren's shares our autism story.

If I tell you that this is Autism Awareness month, I will ask that you not stop reading.  I know, you are well aware of this month and are being bombarded from every media outlet known, however, I want to share my personal account of what our family lives with when we tell someone that two of the four of us is autistic.

The hubs was always a little quirky.  Not that you could actually meet him and know the word autism was his link, but something just "wasn't right."  All my family and friends would just laugh it off and we would all look at each other and nod when he said or did something that was intrinsic to his way.  (Intrinsic.  Ewww... Ahhhh... That was fancy, right?)  He is, at best, socially awkward, even at home.  Luckily, we found a marriage counselor who was able to test and diagnose him, even in his late 30's.  I knew that if he accepted what I had been telling him, he might be more open to change.  I was right.

He is still very weird about change in plans and other small issues that go with the spectrum, but in general, his biggest handicap is communication due to severe hearing loss.  He was fitted with his first hearing aides when we were dating.  While still at a disadvantage, they do seem to help.

We have two children, a son, 7 year-old, Charlie.  Our daughter came exactly fourteen months later.  She is in kindergarten, and he is in first grade.  After we had his first birthday party, an in-law sent home some paper work with the hubs about autism, and how they thought this information would be useful to educate ourselves with.  Well, I was due with my daughter in the following two months, and honestly, that is not something you want to burden a pregnant mother with.  I was so angered, and hence, a seed was planted.  Over the following year, I read, researched, studied, and found everything I could on autism.  While Charlie was delayed in everything, all THREE of his pediatricians said he was fine.  At his second birthday, I knew.

My anger turned to sorrow and loss.  This wasn't what I imagined it would be like.  I had a hard enough time having two so close in age, yet one so behind and the other, quickly passing him on all the developmental milestones.  The night I read Jenny McCarthy's first book on Autism, I read it cover to cover, and cried, had panic attacks, and started cross referencing things I was reading about.  I was a medical assistant at the time, and medical jargon is like a second language to me, so I was fascinated to learn about the diets, supplements, and how biomedical treatments aided in their recovery.  Yes.  I used the word "recovery."  I finished the book, walked into the master bedroom, and told my husband that we were going to recover our son, and that I fully accepted that he was autistic.

I was unable to make any progress on my own.  I learned of all the organizations and all the support groups, but first, I went and paid out of pocket (thousands of dollars) to have him privately tested since all three of the pediatricians I saw refused to write a referral for him.  Without a referral, my insurance would not cover the cost of evaluations.  Unfortunately, Georgia is not a state you want to raise a special needs child in.  There is much more funding for disabilities in other states.  The north is actually really good about providing services, but we were in no position to move at that time, therefore, we have done all that we could, within our means.

After three separate days of evaluations, we returned to Dr. Robert Montgomery for the results.  He sat us down in his office, talked about many of the results, and finally, he must have sensed that I was not only ONE DAY post gall bladder removal surgery, but about a year into learning what I had researched well enough that I felt I should have written in medical journals about it.  "Mr. and Mrs. Ahrens, your son does, in fact, have autism."  I was happy to finally have the results, and was more than ready to move past the formality of going over each diagnosis, but rather, to move on to the "how do we fix this" part.  I can handle anything.  I just wanted to know.  Then, I quickly go into this solving mode.      This carries over in all aspects of life.  Lucky for those around me, I will always find a way to "fix" things.

Within the month, I had secured funding from family for him to be in an intensive ABA program that was five days a week, at $2,000 a month.  I had quit my job in order to take care of his therapy needs, and once we got really moving, he was evaluated for speech and occupation therapy needs.  We learned that his seemingly inability to feel pain was due to sensory integration dysfunction.  That also explained his love of spinning in circles for hours on end each day.  Or, as he did for hours during his evaluations, when given a room of toys to play with, he would chose a little Matchbox car, and run it along his entire body until someone took that toy out of his hand.  I learned, early on, to guide his "massaging" to my own back, and if I was lucky, I would get a massage as I nursed his little sister, and cried for the little boy who couldn't talk, sign, or even play with toys, normally.  Speech found that he had severe apraxia, and because he was under the "Babies Can't Wait" program, they found a lovely music therapist to come to our home each week.  I suppose babies CAN wait, since he didn't get his first speech therapist until his was nearly four years old.  His occupation therapist was really amazing at educating me.  She provided me with the brushing technique, and to this day, he still enjoys that.  We also set up a sensory play room for him.  Our favorite was a pack and play that housed a ton of huge pillows and other sensory objects for him to lie in.  We quickly learned that a weighted blanket, and weighted vests were also amazingly therapeutic for him.  He would not throw himself down as much.  Essentially, we were becoming therapists as the days wore on.

While he was always a happy, easy baby to care for, he was very ill from the the beginning, and spent nearly the first 14 months of his life on antibiotics.  I would venture to guess that he had about 16-20 rounds of antibiotics for ear infections and surgeries by that time.  Not once did I give a probiotic.  I, with the help of DOCTORS, killed his intestinal gut flora.  And from what I have learned- however the gut flora ends up by two years of age, becomes the norm that it will reset to for the rest of his life.  So, with a high yeast content, and an overgrowth of bacteria, we had a child with leaky gut that didn't get proper treatment until he was almost four years old.  Right before his third birthday, he had his very first "normal" bowel movement.  To this day, we still struggle with bowel issues with him, however, I have left the expense of the gluten/casein free diet, as well as the supplementation, and luckily, he is managing to adjust.  He was on all of that for four years.  It was one of the hardest parts of his recovery.  I would do it all over again, and trust that I did exactly what needed to be done.  From vitamin B12 shots that I gave at home every third day, to grinding up to 14 pills and mixing into a peanut butter sandwich I made on rice cakes, we got creative, and we saw results.  I had help from a doctor about an hour away from our home for almost a year, and the rest of the time, I treated him, based on what I was researching.  I sent away for testing I ordered myself, from Great Plains Labs.  I paid out of pocket, got the results, and walked into his pediatrician, who laughed and told me he would not treat the values that were abnormal. When I found the pediatrician in Tyrone, Ga, he put my son on months worth of anti fungals and an extremely dangerous to take antibiotic called Vancomycin.  I had known of this as an intravenous medication that was administered in hospitals for MRSA patients from the days of working in infectious disease.  I was sorta' freaked out.  I knew damage to the liver was a potential side effect, but with prayerful guidance, I felt like it was a chance worth taking.  Luckily, we saw the result of it within the month.

So, where is he now?  He is seven, in first grade, gets pulled out of class for special reading and language arts instruction due to learning deficits, and also receives speech and occupational therapy at school.  He sees his private speech therapist only once a week now, and his sister will jump to correct him when I am not at his side.  He learned to swim, unassisted, at nine months old.  He learned to ride a two wheel bike right after he turned five. This past summer, he did his first cart wheel out of nowhere, and after enrolling him in the YMCA gymnastics program, we quickly learned that his abilities far surpassed that program, and were encouraged to move him to another gym.  We found one, and after the third class, his coach suggested he join the advanced class next Fall, when they open enrollment again.  We bought him a trampoline for his birthday, had Grandpa build a bar and a beam, and ordered the nicest mat possible.  We learned that after school, he can do some back handsprings and practice spelling at the same time.  Connecting movement engages his long term learning, and his brain seems to be less "foggy."

Sounds dreamy, right?  Well, some moments are.  He is still in a night time pull up.  I accidentally bought the girl ones today, and sadly, he was more excited about that then the boy ones.  He has no boys that he plays with, and he and his little sister have this role reversal thing happening, and in general, they are each other's best buds.  She has been his translator for us from early on, and he adores her more than anyone in the world.  (I think sister even beats out Grandma!)  Education is his biggest challenge, next to relating neurotypically.

When I mention that he is on the autism spectrum, people, even educators, say, "I never would have known!"  Well, that is because he is a charming, sweet, sensitive child that in general, wants to please everyone around him, and to stay out of trouble.  He never tantrums, or has issue with change, loud noise, etc.  At school, he is a freakin' angel! EVERYONE knows and loves that kid.  He holds doors open for girls.  He never talks in school, so he stays out of trouble.  His one friend in school is the sweetest little girl that he says he will marry one day.  That gives me hope, seeing as he prefers to play the part of the princess more than the prince or the daddy, when playing make believe.  He can not watch most movies or TV shows since he is afraid of virtually EVERYTHING!  We don't have a TV service at home, and haven't for about 3 years now.  However, even the Disney movies scare him, so it is hard to attempt a movie rental or Netflix.  At dinner tonight, he insisted on rubbing and kissing on my father's head.  It was weird.  Even after we asked him to stop, he continued, without even realizing he was doing it.  Hugging on him is easy, but being hugged in return is hard.  He hugs you the way he wants to be hugged-- hard!  His speech is still very stressful to hear.  Understanding him is really hit or miss, and if you spend enough time with him, you can learn to piece things together well enough.  I am his mom, and even I need help.  Speech frustrates him easily, and who could blame him?

While he no longer has those small seizures where he would lay down and stare off into space on pavement, grass, bathroom floors, etc., he occasionally loses focus and you have to bring him "back."  Sometimes, I want to go "there" with him.  I want to be in his brain.  I want to see and experience the world as he does.  Other times, I am grateful I don't have too, and wonder if I am doing all I can for him.  While I am not only the mother to this amazing gift from G-d, I also play the part of WIFE to a man on the autism spectrum.

Yep.  Not until we were seven years into marriage did we learn that the quirkiness that is my husband is all tied to the spectrum.  Today, April 7, is my ten year anniversary.  It sucked scissors.  Autism, or just normal rut in marriage, it was a struggle.  After years of "training," my husband knows that I demand to be treated like a lady.  All that means is that I want doors opened for me.  I have successfully instilled this and the "lady's first" rule into my son.  He loves holding the door open in public.  Not such a fan of letting me brush his sister's teeth first, or for letting her get in the car first.  Anyway, we were leaving the restaurant, and I was steps ahead of everyone, and was simply going to step aside and wait for the hubs to arrive to open the door.  Instead, he yells, "No you don't open that!  I got it!"  I mean, across the length of the room.  Wow.  That really made me feel fantastical.  NOT. He didn't get the awkwardness of that.  I, the wife of ten years, explained it, in hopes that he will learn.  It's not that it's the worst thing in the world, but for years, I have had to be the social etiquette police with my own husband, and believe it or not, he has made progress.  It's just that while I do love him, it's a struggle to be wife and not mom some days with him.  I know I am not alone on this, and luckily for me, his world revolves around my needs and happiness.

So, while being mom to a child with autism is easier than being wife to one, it is what I was given, and when it comes down to it, I love my family, and will work forever to help it evolve, grow, mature and develop into whatever He has in store for us.  I am proud of both of my children for their amazing manners, kindness, consideration they give to others, and the love they share with anyone.  There is laughter amongst the sorrows, and tears amongst the triumphs from struggles.  We a family of four with a gorgeous rescue Collie,  in a home with a white picket fence, and some days, we forget about autism, therapies, night time pull ups, academic struggles, and speech disorders that makes us laugh when my son used to refer to his teddy bear as a "titty whore."    Good times.  That's all I can say about that ;o)

If you know someone on the spectrum, as we know many, you will see that they are all so different in their abilities and their needs.  Our family is fortunate to have a child that has no behavior challenges.  Most do.  Most have severe issues, and for us, our severity is only measured by our life.  I would venture to say that I have recovered my son like a recovering alcoholic is still an alcoholic.  Charlie is recovered to the point that he has learned to blend in with the crowd.

Not all children will have the same recovery story.  I love to share ours.  I feel like I was given this life and the ability to share it, for a reason.  Please share this story with anyone you believe might benefit.  Send them my way, and I am always available to talk about journey.  

Apr 1, 2013

The blog in which I can't find it- my award.

So, I have this one friend who teases me saying she thinks I am the "Mother of the Year."  Often, I ask if she has seen my award, because I haven't.  My six year old asked me to do something the other day.  I told her that she could, but time got away from us, and by the time she was ready to do it, I said, "No."  She said, "But you told me I could, before. Why not now?"  She wasn't whiny, but confused that I would change my mind.  I simply explained, "Sweetheart, I am trying to give you things to discuss with your therapist when you get older."  It's a gift, but she won't appreciate that until later.

As a mom, I am not what I thought I was going to be.  I thought I would be the mom that co-slept with my babies.  (PS Neither child ever slept with me at any time, and now, at six and seven years old, they have only slept in a bed with us about five times each.  And it is torture.  They kick, grind teeth, and the autistic one stinks for urine due to his inability to night time toilet train.) In fact, since I breast fed, they would come to bed for a feeding in the middle of the night, but I would wake them to put them back into their crib.  A crying baby does not scare me.

I have absolutely no emotion for a child who has to deal with disappointment either.  I'm like freakin' Grumpy Cat. "Mom, can I be an ice skater on t.v one day?  Me- "No.  You have never ice skated a day in your life.  You have missed your prime since professional skaters are skating as zygotes, and we don't have the money for that nonsense.  Sorry.  However, you "may" go to school and get married one day and then you can afford to take your own offspring to your local ice skating rink as a fun family outing."  I don't know how, but she totally accepted that and didn't push it.  Yes, I think honesty is important.

My house is freakishly organized.  My children are allowed to play with their toys.  But- ONLY in their rooms.  I don't allow toys in any other part of the house.  (The house is under 1,400 sq. ft.  You step out of one room and you are already in the "other part of the house.") So, they are allowed to play with their toys, but they are not allowed to leave the room if they don't clean it up.  We all go to bed with all the laundry put away each night, and clean rooms and generally, all dishes dried and put away. I vacuum each day, sometimes, more than once on the lower level.  (We have a Collie. And we eat.  And well, it gets messy and I like lines on the carpet and my son's gymnastics mat erases those.)  I assume medication would easily calm some of this down.  But then, I wouldn't be the mom that I am.

Yep, I play outside with my kids.  I like being outside. I like being active. (Yes, I know I am morbidly obese, but I would venture to say that I can keep up with my children as well as anyone who is not.)  This weekend I threw a football with my son.  I tried to hulu hoop with my daughter.  I run behind both my kids when I teach them to ride a bike.  I threw them into the pool without flotation devices when they were babies.  And guess what?  One learned to swim at nine months old, the other, at two years old.  Life lessons can not be taught too early.  However, they  CAN be taught too late.

My children know I love them.  I tell them all the time.  They also know before I say a word, if I am disappointed in them.  I actually disciplined my daughter for a rude child's behavior this morning- IN FRONT OF THE RUDE CHILD!  The little girl is a neighbor who's mother is a singe parent, and she works downtown.  I offered to allow her to leave her at my home in the mornings before the bus comes so that she isn't late to work.  The little girl is in first grade with my son.  She is consistently unkind to him, and sweet with my kindergarten-aged daughter.  She pulled some ridiculous stunt this morning and it upset my first grader.  I disciplined my daughter for not sticking up for her brother and pointing it out to the neighbor girl.  She didn't even do anything, and yet, she got a lecture.  Essentially, I did come full circle and address the offensive child.  She looked at me, blinked, and told me she had new sandals.  After school, without that child in our presence, I lit into my daughter on that one too.  I asked if she recognized how inappropriate that child was.  She, at six years old- knew it.  I'm doing it right.

I'm that hard core, hold incredibly high standards, and accept nothing less from my children than I can tolerate, and somehow, they are doing okay.  Am I "Mother of the Year" material?  Not so much.  I don't even want that sort of stress.  I love to hang out with my kids, and honestly, if I have helped to create two individuals that I enjoy spending time with, I think I am doing "it" right.

PS  To Scarlett, who made the M.O.T.Y. award comment again this evening- thanks for that.  But, each child needs a mother of the year.  You are that for your child.  How often do you see me allowing my small children to cliff dive in a restricted area of the lake?  See?  You are teaching your child to rely on faith.  (I might be grasping for something there, but honestly, you are exactly what your child needs. And if not- change it.)

PPS  My greatest accomplishment I have found as a mom has been that my children are closer than I ever imagined they would be. That they seek each other out in the middle of the night, and not me.  (I need my sleep to be uninterrupted.)  That they have their own secrets and that forever, they will be able to identify with each other due to whatever craziness I have made the norm for them.  I am forever grateful that they each have a fantastical sense of humor.  One more than the other, but I will continue working on that ;o)  Gotta' have goals!