March 14, 2017

Autism Sucks

It was a rough night in the Slacker house. Autism and teenage-dom combined to beat me and MC down while not making Bubba any happier either. These incidents make me weary. Just exhausted. And you know what kept going through my head during all of it? I hate Autism. It truly sucks.

April is Autism Awareness month but I wonder if there's anyone left in this country who isn't aware of Autism. Between celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and shows like The Big Bang Theory, Autism is out there. I imagine it's a trending "alternative lifestyle" at the moment. After all, who doesn't want to hang with Sheldon Cooper?

If t-shirt and meme manufacturers are to be believed, I am supposed to be grateful for this wonderful journey we are on. After all, it's a "blessing" to have a special needs child, and I am apparently a warrior mom chosen specifically by God for my awesome parenting skills and then "gifted" with an Autistic child. If only the "best" moms were given children with special needs, what does that say about all the other moms? Does someone actually think God is sitting there saying, "Betty Sue is only going to be a mediocre mom so she only rates a neurotypical child." Please.

Let me tell you the reality of being a mom of a special needs--oh, I'm sorry, I think the PC term now is "differently abled"--kid. The reality is that I get so frustrated that I want to tear my hair out, scream, throw things, stomp my feet in a temper tantrum, cry. The reality is that I do these, sometimes all at the same time. The reality is that my child will never be able to hold a job, live on his own, or even get his driver's license. The reality is my heart breaks constantly knowing he doesn't have a single friend because people think he's weird. Those that genuinely care and make an effort, he rebuffs. The reality is that he no longer trusts adults because he sees them as a symbol that he's in trouble. The reality is that getting him to bathe, brush his teeth, eat food that doesn't go from freezer to microwave, go outside, or even leave the house are battles that sometimes I just can't handle fighting. The reality is that his brother and sister tolerate him because he's family, but they never choose to do anything with him, and they don't have his back when they're out.

And I'm one of the lucky ones.

You see, Bubba talks. He can use the bathroom and shower independently. He can get his own food;
he can eat regular food. He sleeps through the night. He makes eye contact. He understands sarcasm and is sometimes empathetic. He's fully integrated at school. He likes physical contact and often wants to snuggle with me. He's no longer violent. Autism robs kids of a normal life. It robs them of friends, acceptance, peace, communication, and independence. And it can rob parents of seeing their kids smile, hearing them laugh or saying "I love you", and of the simple things like hugs.

Oh, but think of all you've learned! Yes, I've learned to be patient while my son screams for hours because he doesn't want to write or he doesn't want to do his chores the way we want him to. I've learned to be ready to leave any event if he throws a fit or it's just a sensory overload for him. I've learned to put aside my dreams of him getting married and having children or even just having a close bond with his siblings. I've learned to ignore the looks I get when my 5'10" 16 year old wants to hold my hand and snuggle in public...and when he acts like a toddler who didn't get what he wanted. I've learned to paste on a fake smile when well-meaning people offer advice that worked for them with their kids. The "you really should try..." and "...THEN he'd straighten up" little nuggets of wisdom that make me laugh--I've learned to keep quiet and just offer a polite thanks when they're shared. I've learned that traditional doctors know squat about Autism and specifically my child, and I've researched and studied more treatments and therapies than I ever thought possible.

But I have also learned to put Bubba in God's hands. It's the only things that's kept the two of us alive.

So you can have your Autism Awareness month. I live it--24/7, 365. I'm aware. It IS a journey, it IS an adventure, and we celebrate every single milestone and accomplishment my sweet child makes. Would I trade him in or wish for a different child? Not on your life. I thank God every day for Bubba; that kid brings me incredible joy and he can light up a room. But would I take Autism away from him if I could? In. A. Heartbeat.

Autism, Autism Awareness, Autism Awareness month, special needs

October 4, 2015

Life Lesson #3

Life Lesson #3: The Best Meals Come With a Sacrifice

 MC and I worked with another dad from the youth group this morning to cook up enough pancakes and bacon to feed the 100 or so teens who had spent the night at the church building for a lock-in. After several false starts, we finally started bustin' everything out and, wouldn't you know, I ended up burning my fingers. (We also set off the smoke alarm, but that's a story for another day.)
Here's the thing about matter how hard I try, I almost always get some type of burn, even a small one, when I cook. Granted, I'm not really making a concerted effort most of the time to NOT get burned, but I'm sure I get burned more per amount of meals cooked than the average person.
When deep frying anything, it's a sure bet that I will at least have oil splatter marks dotting up and down my arm, if not a blister or two from hot oil. The same can be said for cooking bacon. I have a 2 inch scar on my arm from where I scraped it along the inside of the oven when baking potatoes. At one point, I had a crescent shaped burn on the inside of my wrist from where I touched it against the rim of my skillet. My kids are so used to hearing me say "Ouch" when I'm cooking that I think they would really be shocked to find out pain is not actually part of the cooking process.
While cooking may, in fact, be hazardous to my health, I believe it brings nothing but goodness to my family, and it's worth whatever price my body has to pay. After I cook dinner, we gather around the table to eat together and enjoy food that wasn't served in a bag and didn't come with "microwave only" cooking directions. MC and the minions end up with full bellies and smiling faces and it makes this mama's heart happy.
I may not be the best cook, I may not provide as many home cooked meals as I should, and I may not offer gourmet meals, or a worldly array of cuisine, but I can say that I always put a bit of myself into preparing food for my family.
I just wish it didn't have to be so literal.

October 3, 2015

Life Lesson #2

Life Lesson #2: High School Never Changes

I went to an open house at Howdy's high school where they had the parents follow their kids' schedules. We got to spend about 15 minutes in each class meeting the teachers and hearing about what goes on in the day to day for our kids.
What really struck me was how little things had changed.
Most of the teachers were pretty cool, but there's always that one. You know which one I'm talking about. The one who sees it as his personal mission that every child who walks through his hallowed doors isn't merely successful in high school but also prepared for advanced college work. Once all the parents sat down in his class, he gave us paper and pencils and told us we had a quiz. Talk about instant bonding. All our heads snapped up immediately and we met each others' wide eyed stares with the same panicked look that conveyed what we were all thinking: "Test?! There's a test? But I didn't study!" He then proceeded to ask us questions about our school district, questions only the most obsessively informed person (or, you know, the one who actually knows what all those levies and bonds are about) would actually know. We all failed miserably.
My high school wasn't anywhere near as huge as Howdy's, but even I had to struggle to get from one end of the campus to the other without having to break out in an unacceptable run. And wouldn't you know that Howdy's schedule required him to go from one corner of the school all the way out to the farthest room there is. In fact, I overheard the principal saying he'd never actually been to that classroom(!). Of course the class after that was just as far away. It's tough to do when you're a teen; it's life-threatening to do as a middle-aged adult.
Remember walking down the halls and having to navigate around those couples who didn't care to keep their make-out sessions private? Yeah, that doesn't change as you get older. Apparently a set of parents met up at the school after both had driven straight from work to the open house. Their very "warm" embrace was observed by the principal, who then took it upon himself to announce over the PA system that PDA is not acceptable at the school--even if you're an adult. Em-barr-assing!
But the thing that instantly transported me back to my days at Franklin Pierce High School was the gym. As soon as I stepped onto that wood floor, the smell hit me. Decades worth of ground-in, fermented sweat stench and foot funk were so steeped into the walls and the floor that even a warehouse full of Lysol couldn't cut through the stank. That is a uniquely high school smell that no one can really claim to miss.
I guess it's true what they say--the more things change, the more they stay the same.

October 1, 2015

31 Days of Life Lessons

A friend of mine, who also happens to be a professional blogger, posted a link about a blog challenge that intrigued me. It's called Write 31 Days. The idea is to choose one topic to focus on and write a new blog post each day in October on that topic. I have been completely lax in my blogging this year and I thought this would be a great way to kick myself into gear and get back to writing. After much debate, I finally chose my topic and (just in the nick of time) I'm ready for my first post of the month. Now, without further ado, I present to you...

After 40 years of questionable luck and faithfully adhering to Murphy's Law, I feel like I've learned a thing or two. Some of the lessons I've learned were obvious lessons that all of us experience as we transition into adult hood, while other lessons were more unique to me and the odd situations I seem to find myself in. Either way, I hope that when our 31 days together are up, you find yourself a little bit wiser than you were before.

Life Lesson #1: Deadlines Are My Friend

I've discovered the hard way through the years that unless I have a specific deadline for something, it will never get finished. If I have something that I'm working on or even just the idea of something  I would like to do, I have to have a set-in-stone, someone-else-is-counting-on-me deadline or it gets set aside for things of higher priority. So the trick to getting things done around here?  Set a due date.

Now this doesn't mean that having a set deadline makes me work any smarter. (This is me, after all.) Knowing when something is due just tells me how many days I have to put it off until I hit the last minute. In fact, the last minute is my favorite minute because that's when I get the most done. This makes for a lot of sleepless nights and scrambling to get things done, but hey--they get done.


September 12, 2015

How Are Your Housekeeping Skills?

In the spirit of absolute honesty and full disclosure, I have tell you what happened this morning when I finally ventured out of my bedroom. It's only because we have a sharing, committed relationship that is not based on judgment or one-upmanship that I feel I can share this with you and be so vulnerable. I feel it is my duty to share my warts-and-all life so that others will know they are not alone...or maybe just so you all feel better about your own life. I'm good either way.

MC and I head into the kitchen to scrounge up something for breakfast.
MC says, "Something in here reeks."
I completely agree that our kitchen has lost that fresh scent that it rarely has.
Me: "I'm sure it's the trash. I think it still has chicken pieces I cut off when I made dinner the other night." And, yup--the trash is definitely not smelling so hot.
Turning to get a bowl for cereal, I notice dishes from my lunch from Tuesday.
Me: "Or maybe it's this."
As I open the lid, the smell hits me. Oh yeah, I found the culprit. I wash out the dishes, happy the smell will now dissipate.
Only, while at the sink, I realize the glass dish used to cook Wednesday's meatloaf is sitting on the counter--and it's filled with water, "soaking".
Me, after moving the dish and activating the odor: "Oh, it's DEFINITELY this thing!" The smell is just shy of horrendous and I proceed to wash out the dish AND the sink.
Convinced that A.) the smell would now go away, and B.) we are terrible housekeepers, I return my attention to breakfast.
Then MC says, " could be this."
I turn and see him pointing out the cooler that was holding a tray of barbecue beans from Thursday. The beans had been put away but there was still plenty of sauce in and around the tray and spilled all over the inside of the cooler.

It might be time to hire a housekeeper.

Oh wait, I'd have to clean first.

June 8, 2015

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick....

 You know when you're watching TV and a commercial comes on for a local burger joint, and they keep flashing close ups of that big, juicy burger? The one that's all loaded up with your favorite condiments and even though it's close to midnight and you already had dinner all you can think is, "Man, I have GOT to have a hamburger!"? But it's too late and so you just go to bed...but you wake up craving that burger and it's all you can think about until you finally give in and treat yourself to a juicy, quarter pound hamburger for lunch?

The same thing happens to me. Only with pregnant women. And I don't want to eat them.

Walking across the parking lot after Sassy's 6th grade graduation, I passed a woman with a very round pregnant belly. And I swear my biological clock started to hyperventilate. It didn't just start to tick, it started
ferociously beating out a rhythm that put the Riverdance cloggers to shame and could be heard for 17 square miles. I might have gone a little weak kneed for a moment, but I managed to get myself to my car before I chased her down for an unwelcome belly rub. I did not want to explain to MC why a random stranger had to bring a restraining order against me.

Yes, I have 3 beautiful little minions who make me happy, but the problem is that I have 3 beautiful minions who make me happy. They make me want to have more beautiful little minions. When MC and I got married, we wanted 5 or 6 kids. I grew up with 3, he grew up with 5--we agreed on a houseful. But after Bubba's diagnosis of Autism and everything we'd already been dealing with in that regard, we made the heartbreaking decision that 2 was probably going to be our limit. Sassy was a surprise. To be honest, the thought of another one to take care of at that time was not a happy prospect.

But life got better and easier to handle. Enough so that we revisited our earlier decision to limit our number to 3. While we had shut down MC's baby making factory, opening it back up was still a possibility. It took a lot of research, discussion, and prayer for us to decide NOT to go there. It was the high probability of having another Autistic child (one who may not be as high functioning as Bubba) that tipped the scales.

So we looked into adoption.

We began the process while we were living in WA and had already attended our first class when we made the decision to move to TX. Unfortunately, it took a lot longer to get settled here than we anticipated. And when it came time to look into starting the process here, we once again included the kids in our discussion of adding to the family. Only the boys were now much less enthusiastic--Howdy especially. While we both really wanted to bring more children into our family and give them a forever home, we had to consider the needs of our Autistic and our sensory challenged boys. Their well-being had to be the number one priority. So, for now, adoption is out. We remain a 5 person family.

While I've made peace with that, I still get that crazy baby fever. I loved being pregnant and sometimes get a little sad that I won't experience it again. Usually all it takes to get over it is to remind myself of having to birth that baby, middle of the night feedings, explosive diapers, and the way my fingers cramp when holding those teeny, tiny baby spoons. Also, I have to admit that it's really nice to be able to walk through a store and have my kids follow me independently, to not have to stop everything and figure out how to maneuver 3 kids and a grocery cart into the restroom. It's nice to have kids who are old to enough to share books, music, and movies with. And I'm loving that my son is old enough now to get his license and share in the carpooling duties.

But that doesn't mean I'm immune to sweet chubby cheeks and corn niblet toes. The smell of a baby is better than Obsession, and nothing feels better than a little one sleeping on my shoulder. And while I can control myself fairly well around strangers who are pregnant, I'm not above accosting someone I know just so I can feel her prego belly.

So I'm asking my pregnant friends for forgiveness in advance. And to please reconsider that restraining order.

December 23, 2014

A Cup of Courage

For the last week I have been enamored with a plastic object.

It started late in the week. I was heading off to work and I saw that someone had dropped one of those insulated cups made to look like a fast food drink cup. You know the kind...
This one was clear with a green tinted lid. It was lying on its side next to a car parked at the curb. It looked as if someone had accidentally knocked it out of the car as they were getting out. My thought as I drove by was that surely the owner would see it when entering the car, and hopefully it wouldn't be crushed before then.

On my way home that afternoon, the car was gone but the cup was still there. How did the cup manage to survive the car pulling away without getting hit? What a clever little drink cup. It was still there in the morning and again that evening. This started my fixation.

Every time I left the house I would look for the cup and coming home I'd do the same. Sometimes it would  get pretty daring with how far out into the street it would venture, but then it would have second thoughts and roll closer to the curb. I actually had to take care to go around it several times to avoid crushing the thing after it had become especially adventurous. This went on for several days with no damage to the cup so surely I wasn't the only one playing the chicken game with a drink cup. After all, no one else had hit it either.

I believe everyone else on the street was as enraptured as I was at watching the tale unfold of the little cup that had been abandoned in the street but then decided to make the most of it, living fearlessly and laughing in the face of danger. That's it, little cup, be BRAVE!

But on Sunday morning, the cup's audacity finally caught up with it. On the way home I noticed there was now a large hole in its side, as if maybe it had survived a close encounter with the side of a tire. It was still holding strong in the street, however, despite the battle wound. But how long could it last with that kind of damage?

The answer? Not long. Leaving the house for work on Monday I was saddened to see hundreds of clear and green shards of acrylic scattered across the road. That poor little drink cup was no more. I can only assume that its demise what brought about by a foreigner to the street, someone who hadn't witnessed the struggles and triumphs of our orphaned cup, someone who had no idea that they had just snuffed out a mini ray of sunshine.

I wanted to stop the car and sweep up the pieces--it just seemed cruel to leave the remnants out in the street like that--but I wasn't sure I could explain why I was blocking the street to pick up trash. So I just mourned in silence.

It was a good cup, a brave cup. For a few days it filled me with anticipation, brought a slice of whimsy, and even offered up a bit of hope. Things looked bleak for that little cup but it made the most out of the hand that life had dealt it. I can't help but be inspired.

Or maybe I just need to socialize more...