July 26, 2012

Questionable Wisdom

I am an evil, evil mommy.

This morning, at the inhumane time of 6:45, Howdy and I checked into the oral surgeon's office where he was to get teeth pulled in preparation for braces. We had been informed that they might go ahead and take out his wisdom teeth in addition to his 4 bicuspids as long as they had him sedated, and yup, they confirmed they were going to do just that. I got to sit with him while they gave him some laughing gas and then cringed in sympathy as they set up an IV. The poor kid--he's never even had a cavity, never been in the hospital, and considering that we opt out of vaccines, he's hardly had any shots. Talk about jumping in with both feet.

I sat in the waiting room and it wasn't long before a nurse came out to tell me all went well. I was given instructions, a pile of prescriptions to have filled and asked to wait at the car while they wheeled him out in the wheelchair. My heart dropped when I finally got a look at him. His mouth was so stuffed full of gauze that he couldn't even close his lips and tears were pouring down his face. I felt a little better after the nurse reminded me that the anesthetic was making him emotional. I had to help him into the car as his legs didn't want to work properly. He cried some more as I buckled him in. I told him it was okay and he responded with, "Eye ohhh"--which I interpreted as "I know"--and a goofy, definitely drug-induced smile.

Here's where the evil part comes in. As I run around the car to get in on my side, I start giggling. I just couldn't help it. He reminded me of that YouTube video that was going around of that guy who just got out of the dentist. He was just so out of it, crying and laughing at the same time. I got in and buckled and saw tears rolling down my baby's cheeks so I wiped them off. He tried to crack his eyes open, but they didn't obey very well. He tried to pull down the visor to look in the mirror but it took a few tries before he could judge the depth correctly. Then he said, "Fah bah wah bah wah." Despite my best efforts, I couldn't interpret that one so he repeated himself, "Bah wah ha yaya." (I had to suppress more giggling.) I told him just to relax, we were heading home, and then I put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot. His face scrunched up and he sobbed a bit more. I reassured him, which only made him laugh. He knew it was the drugs making him weepy but he couldn't help himself, so he just cried and then let out that Beevis and Butthead laugh when he did. I wiped his tears and then turned my head away to let out my own (hopefully) quiet laughter.

As we pulled onto the street, he tried to say something else. "Honey, I'm sorry, but I can't understand a thing you are trying to say when you have a mouth full of gauze." So he tried to pantomime what he wanted. He pointed to the clock on the dash and then outlined a big square. Then he acted like he was dipping something into a cup and putting into his mouth. Completely confused, I had to take a wild guess, "You're hungry?" He shook his head no and then made the telephone sign with his hand. "You want my phone? You can't call anyone." He pantomimed again. "You want to text?" He holds two thumbs up with a big, cheese ball grin. Yes, that's it. He wanted to text so I could understand him. Great idea. It took him a few minutes but then he handed it over and it said, "Feel weird". Ya think? Then he texted, "Where were you?" I was only allowed to stay until he got his IV in and then I was escorted to the waiting room, but of course, he didn't remember any of it.

He tried to lay the seat back but couldn't seem to locate the lever. I told him it's on his right side but he kept fishing around both sides until he finally found it. He couldn't figure out how to operate it though. "Howdy, lift up. Up." With his eyes closed and that stoner smile in place he flashed me the peace sign. What?? Am I supposed to know what that means? Eventually he got his seat down and rested until we get home. I had to carry most of his weight going into the house as his legs still didn't want to work, and when I had to let go of him to close the door I made him grab the couch so he wouldn't fall over. He cried again when I sat him on the bed and so we repeated the reassuring/laughing routine once again. I took off his shoes, propped up a bunch of pillows and told him to lie back. He reached out blindly with his hand but couldn't seem to locate the pillows that were right next to him. Finally, I had to guide/drag him into place and he settled in.

Thinking I had awhile to fill prescriptions and make a grocery store stop while he slept, I got ready to head out, leaving him in his dad's care. Just as I grab my shoes and purse, we heard that muffled voice. MC and I went in and checked on Howdy, and of course we couldn't understand a word so we handed him a pad of paper and a pencil. He wanted to know what happened--he couldn't remember anything. He didn't even know how he got in his bed. And, by the way, what is in his mouth? We explained everything to him, again, and then eventually I gave him a bell to ring since we couldn't hear him attempting to call us, but I warned him I would only tolerate it for today.

He's doing alright now--in pain, but he was able to get his pain meds down without too much hassle. He rang his bell a few times and every time I went in he forgot what he wanted or he didn't know why he even rang. I just checked and/or changed his gauze and then he went right back to sleep. I think he's finally starting to come down off the anesthesia since he's awake enough to request a movie in his bedroom. The sad thing is, he still thinks he'll be fine to go to the movies with his youth group this evening. At the moment he can't even remember his own name. I don't think a night at the movies is in his immediate future.

I tried to videotape him when he was loopy but he nixed that one. The funny thing is, I know when I tell him everything he did while drugged up, he's going to wish he could see it. Instead I'm just having a ball telling everyone how goofy he acts when he's higher than a kite. I could barely get the words out when I was relaying it all to MC because I was laughing so hard. In fact--

Great. There goes the bell again. I'm starting to think I may have been a little high when I gave him that thing...

July 16, 2012

And The Secret Is...

I am not a "live life on the edge" type of person. I'd say I'm more of a "read about everyone's adventures from the safety of my own home" kind of gal. I've told you that I am not a big fan of water slides; I'm actually not a fan of most amusement park rides. They are just too fast, too spinny, too knee-weakening, make-me-barf scary. But every once in awhile I'll get a little daring, step out on a limb. A time or two, I have even braved the roller coasters--usually with my sisters. How I end up getting talked into these things I'm not entirely sure, but it happens. Standing in line with everyone, the excitement is contagious. The screams and laughter and smiles from the people already on the ride, the anticipation building as I get closer to the front of the line. I even start to wonder, "Why don't I ever go on these rides? This is going to be so. much. FUN."

And then it's our turn. We are locked in, a lap bar and harness to keep us in place. The operator asks everyone if they're ready, to which we all scream, "YEAH!", even if we don't mean it because at this point it's too late to say anything else. With a jerk, the cars start moving forward...clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. Now we are slowly starting to climb, and again that anticipation is building as we all know what awaits us at the top of the track. I grip that lap bar, bracing myself for that 20 foot drop that will cause my stomach to get left behind and have to make a mad dash to catch up. We're almost there...almost there. People are starting to throw their hands up as the first car goes over and then gravity takes up the rest and we all follow, screaming, dropping, flying, my eyes closed tight. In seconds, we have sped through that death-defying drop and are propelled up again, only to be swung around tight corners and twisty bends. I see what's coming and I suddenly remember why I avoid the roller coasters. We are about to be hurtled through a loop-de-loop. This time our climb is even higher, the drop steeper as we build up the momentum we need to be turned upside down and still keep going. I tell myself I'm going to keep my eyes open so I can experience it with all of my senses; if I'm going to do it, I want to do it right. But at the last second, I chicken out--I close my eyes.  It's enough to know what awaits us on the other side of the loop; all I can handle is to feel the ride, screaming until my voice is hoarse.

The rest of the ride is less heart-in-my-throat-thrilling but still fun. As we disembark the ride, we laugh and admit that, while we peed our pants, we did actually enjoy the ride. Are we ready to go through it again? Not quite. But we admit that the fear was worth enduring because of the sheer rush of the experience.

Seventeen years ago today, I took the biggest plunge of my life. I willingly, anxiously, joyfully joined my life to that of MC and vowed to love this man for the rest of my life, come what may. People are always impressed that we've made it 17 years and I find that a bit sad, because what they are saying is they don't expect anyone to actually stay married that long. When we hear of couples who've been married for 20, 40, 60 years, the question always comes up, "What's your secret?" Because there must be some kind of magical secret that has kept them together for so long, right?

Can I be honest with you? MC and I have had some tough times. We don't fight argue a lot, but we do. And we have very different ways of approaching these arguments. I'm a poke-the-sleeping-bear-until-he-gets-mad-enough-to-growl kind of person, whereas MC is a let's-discuss-this-in-a-reasonable-way person (which only makes me poke harder because really, where is all the drama in being reasonable?). Recently though, we had a "disagreement"; we did not see eye to eye on an issue and it caused some problems. BIG problems in my mind, not so big in his. But it was bad enough that, for the first time, I barely spoke to him for 2 days. It wasn't that I was trying to punish him by ignoring him (he might actually like the break), it was just that every time I tried to say something, that hurt and anger would churn up to the surface and I would start to cry. Through it all, I had to wonder, "How are we going to get past this?" What I never wondered? "WILL we get past this?"

Being married to MC is easy. Living with someone and adapting my life to theirs can be a challenge, but honoring that promise I made to love this man every day for the rest of my life? Easy. Here is the secret to staying married for 17 years--you made a promise, now keep it. Revolutionary, right? You know how I knew that we would get through this recent struggle? Because NOT getting through it was not an option. Whatever it took to keep this marriage and our relationship together is what we were going to do. And I knew without a doubt that he was on the same page. Sometimes it may take a day or so for one (or both) of us to stew over something and pray about it before we are able to come at it with a clear head and be able to discuss it with an open and fair mind, but we will get there. That is the only solution that we will entertain. Sometimes tears are involved, sometimes raised voices (usually on my part), but never harsh words because we will be together for the next 50 or 60 years, and we don't want to put something out there that may haunt us in the future.

We've had those long climbs where we could see that something frightening was waiting just ahead. We've traveled twisty roads and been jerked around corners that we didn't see coming. Sometimes life has dealt us things that we just had to close our eyes and hurtle through because they were just a little too much to take in with all of our senses. But we've also experienced that rush of adrenaline and pure, undiluted joy. We've had those moments that bring smiles to our faces and laughter to our ears, moments of wonder and amazement, moments when we know that the ride is so worth whatever dips and scares are temporarily thrown at us. Through it all, we always know exactly what awaits us at the end--a long life of raising our children and loving each other.

Are we a cheesy, Hallmark card couple? Absolutely--and proud of it! Knock it if you want, gag if you must, but know that there is a reason we are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. Whatever it takes, we honor the vow we made to each other and to God to nurture that which He has put together. And not just because we feel obligated, but because we are the other's best friend. My son recently got his feelings hurt when I said if everyone on the planet disappeared and I was left with MC, I could still live a very happy, fulfilling life. This isn't to say that I would choose for something to happen to my children or that I wouldn't be lost without them, but I was making the point that I truly enjoy being with MC. The ups have far outweighed the downs in our life, and I am constantly amazed at how "perfect" we are together. He makes me laugh, he encourages me, he supports me, he is a great father to our children and a genuinely good man. 

We both have our insecurities. He's gone completely grey and is losing his hair. My muffin top has morphed into the whole muffin, and I frequently have to explain to my family that they have no dinner because I haven't cooked it and no underwear because I forgot about laundry. We both need reassurances sometimes, but I think that's just part of being human. What I do know? No one will ever love this man like I do, and I am the only woman for him.  I don't have to wake up every day and tell myself "today I will love my husband"--that's just a given. That vow was said 17 years ago and still stands to this day. Nothing is going to change that. Period. End of story.

Wait...that's not a proper ending to the story...

And They Lived Happily Ever After! (that's better)

July 5, 2012

Autism FAIL

One of the best things that ever happened to me and Bubba  in regards to his Autism was the introduction of a certain preschool teacher, Karen Duggan (yes, I'm using her real name as I can never thank her enough for her total awesomeness). While I had resigned myself to my role as "mom of a disabled kid" and having to do most things for Bubba, she recognized that he was capable of much more than I was giving him credit for and pushed us both beyond what I would have thought either of us could handle. I learned that I can have expectations for Bubba in spite of the fact that he has Autism, and it's okay for me to push him to reach those expectations. And he has done amazing. He went from being a 4 year old in diapers who couldn't speak a word and needed constant direction and a very rigid schedule to being a happy, verbose 11 year old who has been accepted in the gifted program at his school. This is not solely due to his (amazing) preschool teacher. This has been a team effort that involved therapists, teachers, aides and family, but I think having the building blocks put into place thanks to what I learned from Teacher Karen have made a huge difference.

(*Editor's note: As I've said countless times, every Autistic kid is different and the expectations we've set for Bubba won't always be realistic for other Autistic kids.*)

Last summer, we were too busy moving to do much of anything, but the year before Bubba got to attend his second year at camp--this time without either myself or his Daddy. He did alright. We got a couple of phone calls during the week where he asked to come home. It wasn't that he couldn't handle it or that he was misbehaving. The problem? He was bored. This year, when I heard about all the fun things they had scheduled for the elementary kids at Camp Goddard, I thought, perfect! Lots of kids from church were going and they all said it was so fun--swimming, archery, museums--and it was highly structured so I thought it sounded like a great fit for Bubba.

As I checked Bubba and Sassy in on Monday morning (he got to go with his sissy--how fun!), I made sure to make the rounds to all the counselors in his cabin, letting them know what to expect from Bubba. How he gets upset if he loses, how he might throw a fit if things don't go his way. The best solution? Distraction. And while other parents were informing the nurse of which medications their kids needed in case of an emergency, my emergency kit for Bubba included brand new books. If distraction didn't work and Bubba was causing problems, I advised sending him to the nurse for some quiet reading time (his 2nd favorite activity, behind video games). Was I nervous sending him off to camp for 5 days? Of course. I'm always nervous sending him anywhere without me, but I kept reminding myself of all the fun, structured activities they had planned and I was sure he was going to do fine.

*sigh* I so hate to be wrong.

It seems that in my quest to make sure Bubba is independent and treated like every other kid, I sometimes forget that he isn't like every other kid. He is different; he thinks differently, he acts differently, he interprets the world around him differently. If MC and I had been in this mind set when we were looking into camp, we would've realized that the only people who are truly capable of helping Bubba navigate new situations are the two of us. One of us should have gone to camp with him.

But we didn't. And I got a call at 6:30pm on Tuesday night--about 34 hours after the whole train of buses and vans pulled away from the church building and heading out for camp--that I needed to come and pick Bubba up. Something had set him off and he was being disruptive. He was fighting with the counselors, refusing to behave, yelling and screaming--generally acting as an overstimulated Autistic kid. Knowing Bubba as I do, I am sure that the thing that set him off was just the last straw and not the real reason behind his meltdown but it doesn't matter. The fact is, while the people running the camp are an amazing group of people, they were not equipped to deal with Bubba's tantrum.

So MC and I scarfed down the burgers he had just finished grilling, nixed our date night plans and called to make arrangements for Howdy to spend the night with a friend. Then we set off on the 2 1/2 hour drive to pick up Bubba from camp in Oklahoma. The whole way there, I yo-yo'd between guilt over having sent Bubba to camp when he wasn't ready, guilt over anyone else having to deal with him, and frustration that Bubba seems to do so well and yet he couldn't handle camp (I didn't say any of these were necessarily well-founded, it's just what I was feeling).

As soon as Bubba heard we were coming, he calmed down and behaved, and by the time we pulled in, he had rejoined the activities and was enjoying a s'more. We visited with his counselors and the camp director for 5 minutes or so and then set off on the drive home. Bubba was sound asleep in the back seat before we made it to the freeway. We drove about 315 miles round trip, getting back home at midnight. The good news was we were out late enough to avoid any rush hour traffic, and I still got to spend time with MC, even if it wasn't at the movie like we had planned.

There's a fine line between wanting your children to live up to your expectations and knowing what their limitations are, and sometimes I struggle with finding that line. Our first instinct was to come up with some kind of punishment for Bubba for not behaving at camp but then we had to remind ourselves that Bubba is not like other kids. It's a testament to how far he's come and how much he's improved that we have to keep reminding ourselves that he isn't a typical kid. And so life around here is always anything but typical.