Come on over :)

Hello to you…

If I were a more tech savvy girl, I would not have to up and move.  I know there once was a way to keep the blog but change the name but, being the old fashioned and stubborn girl I am ….it eluded me.

So, I am going to stay on wordpress but am blogging under “Wisdom from the Sisterhood”.  Some of you have already come to visit…thank you.  I love the community we have here, I love what I learn from you all and I love the sharing that we do.  So don’t be a stranger, come on over.  And, you know, if I could serve up some cupcakes to you…I sure would.  I will put up recipes though :).

Hope to see you sooooon!

j

Autism Humor: “Mom, I’m A HOARDER!”

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My son had trouble going to sleep last night. Not an unusual occurrence for him due to the meds we take but I still like to nip it in the bud.  I could hear noises coming from the room and, as I stepped in, I saw he had started to clean.  The cleaning part was unusual.  Normally I’d find him with a Nintendo hidden under his pillow so I was at first happy to see he was just cleaning.  Nonetheless, I told him it was time to sleep.

A few minutes later, he emerged from his room, and before I can usher him back to his bed he says, “Mom, I can’t sleep. I think I’m a hoarder.”

Trying not to laugh out loud, I tell him, “Buddy, how do you even know that word?” to which he replies, “I heard it at school and I think I am because I won’t get rid of my toys.”

I hid my smile and said, “You are not a hoarder, my friend, and I know that because I can still see the floor in your room and your toys all still live in your bins. When I can’t see your floor anymore, we’ll talk. Until then, you’re okie dokie and not a hoarder.”

“Really?”He asked me with the last of his voice landing in a very high pitch and giving sound to his utter shock.

“Yep,” I told him, “Really and truly.”

Relieved, that at least for the time being he is not a hoarder after all, the boy was able to sleep.

Boy Brain and The Undies Fairy

Parenting is not easy.

Some days are definitely easier than others.  Sometimes it flows with sweetness and light and other times it feels like it takes actual rocket science to really understand the dynamics at work with kids.  On some choice days, it feels like combat and, personally, I find fourth grade homework combat to be the worst.

Lately, after nearly fifteen years of parenting, the parenting vault has kindly open one of it’s windows to me.  Stuff I probably should have caught on to a long time ago but I was too busy doing it my own way to really take notice.  Parenting stuff that I have listened to others quote for years but that never quite sunk into my brain.  Yesterday, I got it…the truth that hit me like a brick wall …drumroll please…here goes…

The TRUTH is: Sometimes you have to let go of the rule book and choose your battles.  I know, I know…totally simple and you’ve heard it too but, really and truly, The Undies Fairy is proof that it is true!

My youngest son, the non-autistic-sports-oriented-boy-brained-wild-man I am raising, stopped wearing underwear shortly after he earned the right to have them.  He was out of diapers at three and then by four or five (I am not good with exact days.  Unfortunately, my brain is not that good anymore) my boy went on strike.  No underwear would grace the inside of his clothing for five more years.  At the time, thinking I was the mom and I could win the battle, I even went out and bought all the most sought after character undies.  We bought Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, Ben 10, Thomas the Tank Engine, Spider Man, Batman, Star Wars, Iron Man, Transformers, The Hulk…you name, we owned it.  But, despite my temptations and mild bribery, he would have nothing to do with the wearing of undergarments.

My boy went commando. I will tell you with complete honesty that a five year old commando is hard to explain to the pediatrician.

In kindergarten, he and I even had an intellectual conversation as to why he did not want to wear them and I asked him to try once more…to which he replied, “Mom, I’ve tried, but they sweat me.”  The doctor tried to appeal to his pain aversion by telling him stories of peepers stuck in zippers.  My significant other appealed to him from a chaffing point of view.  I even appealed to him from a sports point of view.  What if another child tackled you a little hard and held on a little too tight?  He is a very active and skinny boy and it wouldn’t take much for his pants to slide right down and EXPOSE all his assets!  He cut me off at the pass and nonchalantly assured me he’d wear a belt and cinch it up tight.  His logic didn’t stop me though and I didn’t give up.  Instead, I bought briefs, boxers and even boxer briefs but the boy was staunch in his decision to remain commando.  He would have nothing to do with any of the styles I offered.  Not even Sponge Bob or Captain America!  Commando remained and I finally gave in to his choices last summer when I threw all the still packaged undies into a bag for Goodwill.  I was certain some child would appreciate the depth of characters and style options we’d invested in.

And, then it happened.  Last week, The Underwear Fairy visited my boy.  Thank you, Underwear Fairy!  My boy, out of the blue, asked me to buy him some boxers.  BOXERS!!  Yes, mom did a happy dance quietly inside my own head and, of course, since we had tossed all our old boxers, we went shopping at Target so he could choose some cool NEW ones.  His older sister, in an odd turn of events as I stood back watching the scene unfold, even helped him pick out the “cooler” colors.

This morning has been BLISS as I pridefully watched him head off to school in his turquoise and black plaid “cool colored” boxers.  No one else may know he is wearing them and no one else may understand what a momentous day this in my life…but I do and I will continue to do my happy dance…out loud now that the kids have gone.  I will continue to beam until he walks back in the door after school and I can casually see if he kept them on or if they are missing. Hidden I would guess in the boys bathroom trash can if I had to guess.

The really big lesson learned from The Underwear Fairy is that I realized I could have given up the fight years ago.  I wasted a lot of time, energy and grief with my own rule book about what kids are SUPPOSED to do.  I never really needed to stock his drawers (totally unintentionally but funny nonetheless) with every character known to children.  It wasn’t worth one minute of the struggle I put into it and all the struggle in the world didn’t change it one bit. In his own time he made the choices that were right for him.

The boy will be who he will be and he won’t be like all the other kids and that is okay.  When he wants to conform he will and when he doesn’t…well…he won’t and that is just who he is.  PERIOD.  We are not a family who always follows the rule book so I am not sure why it has taken me so long to figure this one out.  Autism has taught us that particular lesson and the whole family benefits from that kind of hard fought autism wisdom.  And, yes, Mom is sometimes the last one to get it but, eventually, the brick wall lands hard on my head and it finally sinks in.  The parenting journey is just as much about learning to be better parents as it is about teaching kids right and wrong.  So please don’t be like me and make The Undies Fairy waste a perfectly good brick wall on your noggin too.  Just wait for it and let your child grow and be who they are.  It might intersect with who you want them to be and it might not but every child will be the unique individual they were meant to be if we step out of the way and let them be!

Thank you Underwear Fairy :).

Parenting: Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Okay, I have a pet peeve I’m going to share.  This last week the monster reared its ugly head again and although I try hard to be accepting and tolerant, this one is getting to me….so I am sharing with you.

Did I miss the generational memo that some knucklehead sent out that said parenting was supposed to be easy?  There seems to be this sentiment among parents today that parenting was supposed to be fun and easy and comprised of little Ken and Barbie dolls that speak on command, don’t talk back and don’t fill their diapers with the smelly stuff.  Some parents seem to be suffering under the delusion that children were supposed to be another fun night out and they seem downright resentful of the realities of parenting.  I have even started hearing a lot of grown-ups complaining that life with kids is just too tough, not what they signed up for, and a whole lot of other drivel that reeks of self indulgence.

It seems someone in my generation, or the generation shortly after, has started this rumor and there are some of my generational people and generational neighbors who have bought into this big whopper…hook line and sinker.  Lately this rumor has gained such popularity that parents are actually flocking to web sites to vent their frustrations anonymously as to how their life with children is just such a struggle.  From one parent complaining that she isn’t able to get her manicures with regularity because it interferes with her kids’ activities to another saying she just can’t stand always tending to others anymore.  One mom complained she never knew she’d lose all her free time and sometimes she opens her wine bottle and never closes it back up.  Another complaint stated that parenting is so much harder than it was in past generations?

Really?

Who started this rumor?  Who would be so gullible as to believe such a rumor?  Can they be serious?  Our generation has so much at their fingertips, so many advances, that this almost doesn’t warrant the justification of a response.  But…I would be so remiss if I did not point out at least the most obvious.  When you get down to the nitty gritty and admit it, our generation, unless they are trying to be green, doesn’t have to struggle with cloth diapers or even glass bottles.  And, as far as the parent’s complaint that there is so much more competition today to meet the pressure of excessive scheduling, I would say past generations probably had us beat in the backbone department and they also indulged the whims of their children less back then (and I say that as a child who was raised in those “days”).  Back in the “day”, parents also had a handle on the value of using the word “no”.

I have to say as well that from what I have heard and read, most of the complaints have come from parents who live a life with a spouse in the house and who do not have a child with a disability and have never once faced down a deadly disease taking hold of their child.  So, truly, what are you complaining about?

Let me please set the record straight, without any candy coating, and tell you the truth about parenting:

Parenting is hard.  Some days are messy and loud and mushy.  Of course it’s full time.  Of course it’s going to be both dirty and smelly and the little people you had such fun creating are going to be absolutely and decidedly uncivilized.  Multiply that by ten if you have boys but get used to it because that is their job.  The days are going to be long and the house is going to be consistently messy…no matter how many times you clean it up.  Whoever led you to believe that having children was simply a way to allow you to keep up with your trendy neighbors led you wildly astray.  These kids you are creating are little “people” and they did not ask to come into this world.  You chose them.  They are not props.  And, to be clear, I want to make sure I say this as well:  manicures, spa days, nights out, drinking binges, luxury vehicles, Bunco parties and ‘escape the kids’ vacations are not owed to you….they are OPTIONAL.

If you want to know what it’s like to face a real daily challenge in the parenting arena, just holler at me and I will hook you up with parents who face REAL struggles every day with children who have disabilities and diseases.  Not once have I heard these parents complain about their lack of manicures or show resentment for the all nighters they pull with their children.  They are some of the most stand up, knock your socks off parents I have ever met.  They truly wow me.  From the friend of mine who has already lost a spouse to cancer and is still battling cancer with their child… to another friend whose autistic child not only doesn’t sleep but also has daily meltdowns that last several hours long …to yet another friend whose child is nearing the teen years and is non verbal and not potty trained.

These are the only kind of parents who are allowed to vent.

  • Parents of children with disabilities are the parents who are allowed to vent.
  • Parents of children who have pure melt downs (these are NOT tantrums) that last four hours straight are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children that do not sleep at night, because their brains will not settle, are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children whose cognitive levels will never reach their actual age level are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children who have physical disabilities are allowed to vent.
  • Single parents are allowed to vent.
  • Parents of children who struggle with any kind of disease are allowed to vent.

If you involve yourself in this level of parenting then by all means, vent, complain and scream out to the world because you truly face parenting challenges every single day.  The really quirky thing about this pet peeve of mine is that the parents who are “allowed” to vent…they really don’t.  They may seek solace and comfort in a trusted few friends who understand their challenges but I don’t know of one who would sit there and whine and complain about their children.  Not one.  They no doubt see the challenges in their life but the ones I know step right up and they find the smile and the humor, even the humanity of it all, before they let the inner diva start broadcasting.

I would ask the DIVA parents, before they vent anonymously…what is there really to complain about?  If your children are healthy, I am not sure I understand why you need to complain at all.  If your complaint is that you are no longer able to practice self indulgence or live a self centered life, then please put on your big girl panties, or your big boy chonies, and deal with it.  Suck it up if you must because parenting is hard work.  Welcome to life.  Give your children a parent and a role model who is a grown up and who can look past the manicures, the wine and the escape vacations to tend to your children without resentment or complaint.

Sure…we all have rough days….days are long and hard, some are even unbearable,  and that is part of parenting.  Vacations are great and we all need a break on occasion but those vacations are for AFTER everything else is taken care of.  When the children’s needs are met, then by all means, do some taking care of you.  And, next time, before you complain and whine or drink yourself into oblivion, take a look at your blessings.  Look around you at all you have and all you have been given and ask yourself what it is you are complaining about.

Okay…my pet peeve is complete.  Thank you for your patience J.

Autism Awarenes: Yeah, it’s autism. So what?

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Today was our beach day.

I was trying hard with four children to get out the door by 7:30 a.m.  We were off to Jellybowl and there was still a bit left to do. I had three kids plus one friend to get organized, sandwiches to make, a dog to feed and a cat to appease.  The kids needed to get dressed, remember their rash guards and beach shoes and mom needed to remember to find the sunscreen, pack chairs, gather enough towels, bring clean comfy clothes for the drive home and enough drinks to keep everyone hydrated (but not too many since I would need to  carry them all up and over the train tracks).  I’m pretty good about the chairs and towels but I have forgotten the sunscreen before and it is never pretty.  I didn’t grow up using sunscreen so it is not top on my list.  But today I have been entrusted with a friend’s child so I can’t mess that one up.

Ok, I digress.  Away from the sunscreen and back to my point.  This is about autism.  Really, it is.  Just wait for it…

So in the middle of the chaos after I have just finished cleaning up the zucchini bread mess the dog left in the kitchen (because we did not adequately protect the zucchini bread my daughter made from the food obsessed labrador) and I am in the middle of brushing my teeth when my fourteen year old comes in to my bathroom to finish drying her hair.  It’s all good.  We co-habitate well and we share pretty well too.  And, at the same time as my daughter begins to unravel the cord on the hair dryer, my twelve year old comes in to ask if I will tie his swim trunks.  He is all about being naked at home and not ashamed of his body in our halls but being on the beach and losing your shorts is an entirely different story.  He wants to be certain his shorts stay up.

With my toothbrush in hand and the toothpaste slop dripping off, I ask him to wait a minute.  He stands there patiently, waiting pretty well and then his sister does this thing she has started doing.  She is fourteen, he is her little brother and the really neat thing I see that morning is that he is just her brother… before he is her autistic brother, and she does this thing.  She steps in to help in.  Without a word, without a huff or complaint, without announcing it to me and before she plugs in the dryer she instinctively reaches down and, in a motherly fashion beyond her years, she ties his shorts.  He says thank you and goes on his way.  Without fanfare, she asks, “Isn’t this autism day or something?”  I finish brushing my teeth and tell her, “It’s autism awareness day.”  It’s a quiet conversation between us.  I tell her what the world is doing.  She asks what we are doing.  I tell her we are going to Jellybowl.  I tell her she can wear blue if she wants to.

I smile quietly to myself so that I don’t shine too much light on it.  This is all normal for her now.  I realize as we are speaking to each other that…. autism is natural to her.  Autism was never really part of her existence.  Well, it was and it wasn’t.  Everything about autism is familiar to her but it just never had a defined name.  It was not applauded or hated.  It was just us and, because of that, autism is different to her than it is even to me.  It was just her little brother.  We never spoke about autism or being less or giving him special privileges.  He was just her brother and she treated him just like a brother.  She never asked what was wrong with him, he was just part of her world and she just accepted who he was.  His value was simply equal to hers and her other littler brother.  Yes, he might have been quirky or strange at times but it was normal to her.  He is simply the older of her two little brothers.

She was twelve before she ever spoke the word.  She was twelve before she ever asked what autism was.  She was twelve before she asked if her brother was.  I had books on the shelf and she was helping me organize them.  Actually, being the girl she is, she asked if she could organize the shelf.  When she was finished, she asked, “Mom, is my brother autistic? You have a lot of books about autism.”  And, that was the beginning or her understanding and maybe even putting together the pieces of her memories.  It wasn’t a big conversation.  I think I said something like, “Yeah, he is.  But that doesn’t mean we treat him any different.  We expect as much out of him as we do anyone.  He is just as capable as any of us and just as intelligent.  This doesn’t change anything.”  Her response, in that oh so lovely twelve year old tone, was something like, “I know, Mom.”

And, she is the sibling.  She is the next generation.  She is amazing.  She knows autism on a different level than most and it is just part of life.  It is neither less nor is it more.  It just is.  She is the awareness others seek.  And, there is little fan fare.  We don’t hang banners, we don’t do walks, we accept and love it and bring it to the world in our quite way and when others ask, we say, “Yeah, it’s autism.”  And, they say, “That’s autism?”  And, we say, “Yeah, it’s autism.  Yeah, that’s what it looks like.”  It looked different at three than it does at twelve but, yeah, that’s what it looks like. It was a lot crazier at three and at five and at seven than it is at twelve but he is still himself.  Autism is part of him but it is not all of him.  Yeah, it’s autism but it’s more than that too because he is more than autism.

My daughter is a straight A student who has an IQ that mine never ventured anywhere in the vicinity of and I have great hopes for her.  She is remarkable and I hope one day that because autism is no natural to her that she will be the awareness in her generation that says, “Yeah, it’s autism.  So what?”  And not the kind of “so what” that says we don’t care about your needs because you are not like us but rather the best kind of “so what” that says, “What’s your point?”  The kind of “so what” that says we all have the same value and WILL be treated equally.  And the acceptance that follows the awareness begins with her as a role model for autism’s “So What-ness.”  By birth she has become an autism ambassador but, the really cool thing, is it is so natural to her…she doesn’t even know it.  She simply accepts it as normal.

I hope she becomes a scientist or a doctor or the POTUS and with her strength and her ability I hope she sets the tone for her generation to begin to see autism through new eyes.  Her kind of eyes that see iridescence rather than a lessening of value.   In my biggest dreams (mine and not hers I have to tell you, LOL) I imagine her becoming a doctor who works with kids.  And, with her understanding, I imagine her telling these new parents, “Hey there.  Yes, I do have the diagnosis.  We have found that your child is a bit iridescent.  Yeah, you’re right, he/she is going to be quirky.  It’s a kind of quirky sparkle that you may not be used to and you may need some support with it.  I know, it won’t be easy and some days will just down right suck but, take heart, these iridescent kids are crazy brilliant.  You just have to be patient.  Part of their brilliance gets stuck in their sparkle and it takes a little longer for these iridescent kids to sort it all out.  Don’t give up and don’t lower your standards though because he/she sure is going to surprise you. OH, and hey…let me tell you about my brother.”

And, I know, not everyone will agree with me.  I get it.  Autism is different for everyone.  But this is my dream…that one day the awareness will be so internalized that no one will care about the differences, or the tantrums or the lack of eye contact because we will also have a plan of action, a path to follow.  I hope one day that people will understand more so they will point and blame less.  I hope one day play groups won’t gripe and complain about their inability to socialize as easily as others and teachers won’t feel they are doing favors or being slighted by taking these kids into their classes.  That it won’t take specialized training to prepare teachers for autistic students because teachers and school districts will be expected to teach all students together and equally.    And, when the world is trying to point fingers and lessen those with autism I hope she, and others like her, stand up with their young peers and begin a new generation that says, “Yeah, it’s autism. So what? It’s all good.  We are all the same.”