Monday, December 27, 2010

The Message of the Ancients

So while staying here in lovely Alburqueque with my husband's family, we took a little trip to see some local Indian petroglyphs. A good outing for the boy, as it was his first real hike/rock climbing adventure. It really was a good trip for him since it didn't involve being trapped inside with loudly-lovable family members spinning him into a fever pitch with their attention and mostly-unprovoked light saber aggressions.


Fresh air.

You can make as much noise as you like without A) piercing everyone's eardrums within a Starbuck's radius with your gummi-bear-powered soprano squeal or B) annoying every adult in the room (read mommy) with your 83-decibel sound effects you are realistically providing for the police car you are using as a toy/weapon against innocent felines.

We climbed 300 feet up to the top of the mesa, seeing ancient petroglyphs - including a primative scrawlin' of Kokopelli. It was this religious studies nerd's dream. The air was clear, the weather mild, the view spectacular. You could see all the way to the casino! My brother-in-law pointed this out three times. He's a giver.

And what did my little man remember? That the center console in the back seat of Uncle P's car folded down and held exactly two--count 'em--two bottles of water. That's more than one! And these bottles could be removed, replaced, knocked out, placed in, crumpled, gnarled, counted and discounted, all from the comfort of his illegal-but-already-in-the-car booster seat. He became master of his domain, a kingof console contraptions, and the refreshment-related machinations of this stalwart automotive feature became his practiced superpower. Maybe once we're home, we'll carve a cupholder into a rock, and future generations will understand the mighty power of this day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Return of the Light

Today marks Yule--an ancient holiday originating in Northern Europe when the people needed a reminder that is can't stay this dark forever and that eventually, the light will creep into the castle a little too early, and the work day would last a little too long, and they'd be yearning for days of warm fires, mead and a little greenery in the hall. It WAS going to get better. Yeah, it's been dark for a while, and Sven really needs to slow down on the wenching if he refuses to shower, and those stores set aside for winter need to last. The solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but the following days will get longer. So just take it easy on the mead there, and realize the light will return.

I have to admit, even if I didn't celebrate Yule, this would still be an important time of the year for me. This is also the time of year my son was born. A day after solstice, as a matter of fact. On that first day that had just a little bit more light.

I won't bore you with cliché analogies about how he is the light of my life (urp). He is, but I try to keep those sentiments to myself, else a large target for the pelting of rotten vegetables becomes visible. So instead, imma take this image in a different direction.

I was commenting to a friend about last night's lunar eclipse that coincides with this year's solstice (not visible here in LA though due to this Ark-worthy storm rolling through) and that it's a great symbol. We must endure the dark in order to revel in the light. And that is what Yule is about. You burn the largest log, you bring green into the hall and you celebrate with those winter stores with those you love and live with. You remind yourselves that it will be warm again. Not tomorrow, mind, but it will warm up.

And really, that has been our journey this year with Autism. It was dark earlier in the year. All I could imagine were the negatives and the uglies. But like a good cask of mead--early intervention, a fantastic pre-school teacher, more "direction" for me and our home activities, and this blog have made the light more possible. And that light that is coming includes even more therapy, the growing of my Autie community of blogger friends and fans, and Benji himself. Everyday he shows more improvement and growth. Everyday, there is a little more light.

Forgive my Wiccan aside here, but I have to share this. When I was pregnant with him, I read my Tarot cards regularly--especially before we knew whether he was male or female. And almost every time one card would come up--the knight of swords: the bearer of the sword of light and truth. That's how I knew he was a boy--little did I know that card would come to mean so much more. It was a truth that stung, but really, he is that light. As simple as that.

So lift your glasses friends, and gather around the warmth of a good fire. Regale your loved ones with tales of daring and truth, and cherish these times of rest. Do not fear the dark--without it we would never appreciate the light.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got another glass of wassail to spike…

Blessed Yule, y'all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Special Needs Blog Hop: What I Want for Xmas

Our house can be nuts this time of year--and I'm not just referring to the bowls on the coffee table. This is that time of year when the Hannukiah gets lit(that's the menorah, y'all), Yule logs are placed on the fire, and Christmas trees are decorated. For our house, all three are important. I celebrate Hannukah and Yule, and my husband celebrates Xmas. It can get a little hectic, what with all the presents and various flames, and I always feel a little harried this time of year. And since my old man works in the "industry"(that's high-falutin LA talk for the tv/film industry) we always end up with a week off at the end of the year when the studios shut down--which is then declared vacay time by the same old man. so not only am I lighting fires, preparing sufganiyot, hanging tinsel, and wrapping presents, I'm also making lists and packing suitcases.

But if that weren't enough, little man's birthday is on the 22nd.

For the love of…

so since this is such a stressful time of year, here's my list. I wish for...

1. Everyone to stop beating each other up over what holiday is celebrated. Just have some eggnog spiked with brandy and chill the f--- out.
2. For my kid to get to celebrate his birthday at school, just once in his life. Everyone should get the opportunity to waste the last half hour of school with cupcakes and flavored sugar water.
3. For people to stop asking me the question--"so what exactly IS Hannukah?" Google it for chrissakes.
4. the diabetic coma that is Christmas baking to calm down. Yes. You make a tasty macaroon. Wow. That's a nice fudge. Yummy, is that cinnamon? Could someone pass me an insulin shot?
5. for someone to find every copy of "Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer" and destroy them all. It's more vital to destroy this song than the polio virus. IT. MUST. BE. STOPPED!
6. For stores this time of year to be a little less….less. I mean, must every aisle be packed with your surplus? And by surplus, I mean cheap DVD players, Chocolate gift sets, and Shake weights. NO ONE is gonna buy that crap, are they?
7. For people to take it easy on retail folk and delivery people. This time of year SU-HUCKS for them. So if they're tired and a little snippy, just say thank you and move on. Do not use this as a moment for moral teaching.

Yeah, I've got an Autism list too--but it's not a very sexy list. Yeah, I wish the potty training fairy would come and flip the switch in Ben's brain to make him figure it out. I wish his speech would clear up a little so that others wouldn't get so frustrated--frustrating him in turn--when trying to understand him. I wish he'd eat something other than noodles, rice and chicken nuggets. And I wish strangers wouldn't look at me like I've got two heads and a baboon on my shoulder when they ask Ben questions and he doesn't answer them. (or better yet says" NO!")

But as my mother often said to me in my youth, "If wishes were horses, beggers would ride." She often spoke to me in old English rhyme…

But I only have one xmas wish, really. I want Ben to have a good time. Last year, he began to understand the concept of "presents"--and this year, he's put together waiting. (he would wake up from his nap to find a newly wrapped hannukah present by the menorah, but had to wait until daddy got home to open it) I know the next days will be filled with too much stimulation, people he doesn't know, excitement, crankiness, possible deviations from his diet, airplane travel (and the inevitable TSA pat-down) and possibly snow. My only wish is that he gain a little bit of knowledge and have time to play and be merry. I'll worry about the GF bread and airplane bottles of liquor.

I hope everyone here has a fantastic holiday(s). And if not, I hope you have a full liquor cabinet. And a lock on the bathroom door. And return tickets.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Pocket Full of Awesome

So yesterday, in a desperate need to actually LEAVE the house for something other than a trip to the grocery, I took the Old Man and the Little Man to the Renegade Craft Fair being held here in Los Angeles. A short walk (or so we thought) from the Chinatown subway station. On what turned out to be an almost 90-degree December day. Thanks, for nothing, Winter Warlock. Just for that, I’m only using spray deodorant for the next month.

Anywho--I loves me a good craft fair. And Renegade is a favorite, because it's a bit more "artsy" than "crafty." No poodle-shaped hot water bottle cozies in sight--but I did find devotional candles with the "Saint Dorothy" ala Wizard of Oz, and cool t-shirts of Star Wars Dia De Los Muertos skulls. Where are the pics, you ask? Did I buy tons and put the bank account in peril? Share! Share! Share!

Alas, the only thing I bought yesterday was some tasty food from some local food trucks…and a beer for the old man.

The issue was the fact that my son was already tired and cranky when we got off the train. And that was…

Before we had to walk half a mile to the actual fair.
Before any peanut butter sandwiches were consumed.
Before the heat index approached the level of “You should have sinned less.”
Before we were huddling for shade under a tree that offered about as much cover as we’d get from a nearby-standing Olson twin. Yeah, the one with the eating disorder. I cannot feel empathy for a woman who literally can’t bring herself to eat pie. With whipped cream.


My OLD MAN (we) hates crowds.

Now, had we left perhaps an hour or hour.5 earlier, it would have no doubt been a tasty excursion, with lovely handmade artifacts straining the seams of my backpack in a beautiful, lumpy nylon kind of way. But we didn’t leave that early, and without Doc Brown and Marty McFly nearby, we were gonna be stuck in THIS imperfect space-time continuum. And me sadly without my flask.

The train ride itself was almost an hour of mind-numbing, patience-testing waiting and riding. By the time we got there, Ben was already a little over-stimulated / pooped.

The Old Man offered to take Ben while I snuffled about, checking out the booths manned by people who have more talent than myself (along with an unfathomable ability to market themselves), but it just didn't feel right. Even after eating that tasty lunch in a “shady” spot, I felt like a meltdown from Ben was imminent. And knowing how I feel when I’m the one who has to deal with one of his meltdowns solo, I just didn't feel right leaving him with the old man while I checked out tchotchkes. Not to mention that the fair was filled with my absolute least-favorite kind of people: PEOPLE.

Have I mentioned that I don't like people? Like, people in general. People suck.

Yes, those people, too.

I commented in a previous post about the rise of rudeness, but even people who think they are being polite get on my nerves. Example: I was trying to check out the devotional candles I mentioned earlier, but there were two people standing directly in front of the table, refusing to give an INCH so that someone else might be able to look (and I wasn't the only one--me and another lady were waiting to pounce once a centimeter of space was visible). And it wasn't as if they were talking to the artist, who was sitting cool and comfortable in the non-public space behind the table, or even discussing the candles themselves--but rather the role of Judy Garland in film. REALLY? Not just the Wizard of Oz either, but her entire cinematic career. And these Oz-heads couldn't dare take two steps to the left with this riveting biographical bent to allow other patrons to peruse wares, because, methinks, walking might have left them unable to simultaneously speak.

You see where I'm going here?

So we walked around, and I looked where I could, my old man sipped his beer and Ben continued to get stimulated.

When I'd had enough hippies hawking wares, my kid yankin’ on my arm like demons were chasing him, and the old man cringing with each collision between hippie stranger and his personal space, I declared an end to the festivities and paraded us back the half mile to the train station.

All this time I kept waiting for Ben to erupt. His little cheeks were pink from the heat (a lovely genetic trait he acquired from me--ahhh, to be fair skinned), and he was shufflin' his feet and walking as slowly as possible. I figured that any minute he would begin The Dance of Protest®--prolly right as we were in an enclosed train and underground. I was flinch-y with anticipation of meltdown madness while guilt was beginning to soak through my bandana for dragging him out into This Wretched Day of Shweatiness.

But no…Little Man held it together. He was disappointed to find his water cup empty while we waited, but dealt with it in his own way (with the help of daddy tickles). He followed us along all through Union Station to our destination subway platform without complaint--no doubt enjoying the escalators, a personal obsession of his. But a bigger surprise awaited me on the final train home…

We had boarded the train, and he was established at the window that displayed nothing but black emptiness. At the first stop he exhibited some frustration, wanting to get off the train. Good Lord, I thought. Here we go. So I looked at the map and told him he had 12 more stops. That seemed to quiet him a little, and he broke into a few verses of Jingle bells to pass the time (and by verses, I mean the same verse repeated ad nauseum). At the next stop, we told him “11 more stops!” and he looked at us like we were powdered-lipped crack heads lookin for a hit between frenetic bouts of itchiness. Next stop, we told him “Ten more stops!” and he frankly ignored us. Fair enough--it was a dumb game anyway. We rode along in relative silence, Ben babbling to himself about something only he could understand, and a few stops later, he turned to look at us and said, "7 more stops." Daddy looked at the map and a smile crept across his face: Ben was right. We congratulated him and rode on. At each stop, except for 2, he told us the number of stops left--without prompting. Seriously. My kid was doing math. MY kid. He's not even technically 4 yet. (That’s the cube root of 64, donchaknow?)

Ok--it wasn't exactly math, but it kinda was. And for MY kid to do this is a goddamned miracle. You might say I come from a long line of mathematically-challenged people. Not horribly so--I can do most math up through pre-calculus--but I am certainly not speedy at it. To witness me adding or subtracting big numbers in my head can be a lesson in comedy for others (jerks), but I still get the right answer, if given a generous amount of time and a one-to-seven ounces of triple-distilled vodka. When my former high school students would complain to me about how hard their math classes were, I would use myself as the example that it CAN be done--you just gotta work harder. (I taught history BTW--as far from math as I could get--and don't even get me started on how challenging my Econ class was…) So, every time my kid embraces numbers and how they work, I am awestruck and proud. You go, Einstein! You make math your bitch! Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.

We made it home without a meltdown, and with a little more awe in our pocket. Each time I read about what kids with Autism can't do, I like to go into that pocket and revel in what Ben CAN do. Cause it's an awesome pocket.

Next challenge: Santa Claus...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Morning Glory

The other night, the old man and I went out to see Louis C.K. I really dig Louis, because he talks about the things we think about, perhaps fleetingly, before we run from that thought with all speed--you know, the kind of thought we WOULDN'T share publicly or even privately, because we don't want to be eviscerated, or arrested. And he just parades them out, expanding on them, glorying in them, and making you laugh because you KNOW you've thought it, at least once. And the stuff he says about his kids is HILARIOUS. Other parents might not agree, but then they love the sound of their little precious singing itsy bitsy spider 52 times (isn't that just adorable? And he can do a little dance too!). The rest of us secretly wish for a STFU button. We don't tell people that, but we do. And if you don't, well, you must be deaf. Or hopped up on something.

Anyway, I bring up Louis because one of his bits was about the fact that his kids wake him up at 6 in the morning. And as he went into this bit, I was almost getting high from the lack of oxygen I was laughing so much, because he was describing our little weasel. You know the kind of kid--when he wakes up he is UP! wide eyed, ready to take on the world, with a banana and his favorite DVD.

I was greeted with this child today at 545. AM.

Lemme splain a little back story. I am NOT that person. If I could get back to my natural state, I would stay up until 3 and sleep until noon. I used to do my best writing (when I actually thought I would write a novel one day--HAH!) in the wee hours of the morning--usually when I crawled home from the bar. I was a walking cliché--cigarette dangling, fingers typing furiously, cocktail at the ready. Its where I found my voice--that sassy, who the fuck are you attitude that seems to permeate my existence.

Now, I will say that my previous profession trained me out of the night owl routine. As a former teacher, I used to get up in the wee hours so I could a) beat the commute through LA, b) get into my classroom and have a cup, or 5, of coffee and c) get my shit together before the first surly teen would enter my room. If I didn't, they wouldn't be the only grumps in my room. I did it for them. And to keep my job. And to quash the urge to commit homicide. And because no one was using the copier that time of the morning. (score!)

So, I've been getting up early for a few years now, but when I was teaching, I'd always get the summer break to live it up and sleep off the hangover. It was a good trade, making the sacrifices worth it. SO when the boy was born, and I gave up my sanity to feed him directly from my body, I knew I would HAVE to wake up for that morning feed, and my morning training came into play. After a year he actually weaned himself from that feed, but he still got up early. And I got (GET) up with him--because that was (IS)my job.

But there is no summer vacay in sight.

And the doctor told me to stop drinking caffeine.


So, when Louis started cursing his children for being early birds, my face began to hurt from all the laughter. I wasn't wishing for a STFU button--I was wishing for a lock on his bedroom door, and a month's supply of Ambien. AND the ability to sleep through every little mousy noise he makes when he gets up. Cause I hear them all. Every cough and sniffle and verse of Mighty Machines. And unfortunately, when I wake up, I am UP. begrudgingly. Not wide eyed and bushy-tailed (have I ever been) but awake enough to know that laying back down will do no Goddamned good, so I might as well make a pot of coffee (decaf, DAMMIT) and peel someone's banana. And that isn't even close to a euphemism.

Seems the bulk of my cussing happen at this time. Go figure. And now that our little darling has finally picked up a little more echolalia/language acquisition, I can't even do THAT with any gusto anymore.

It's like the whole frickin world is trying to turn me into a morning person. KNOCK IT OFF!

Oddly enough, I saw Louis at, of all places, the fabric store a few days later. With his kids, getting something prolly for a project or the myriad other things that kids do. And I was reminded of the part of his bit that made me laugh, but was also the most poignant. The reason we think these things about our kids is that when you are being a good parent--when you are really DOING it to the best of your ability, it sucks. It's exhausting, and annoying, and nothing like your life before kids. But you have to. That's what sucks. You know deep down that you HAVE to. Doesn't matter if your kid is typical or not. Whatever it is you have to do to be a good parent, you HAVE to, because that's what makes them into awesome human beings *you hope.*

Thanks for the laugh, Louis. And the affirmation that while I may think things that I wouldn't DARE tell another person, I am doing a good job. So are you, brother. so are you.

(and let me say, if you get a chance to see Louis in concert--do so. 90 minutes of non-stop laughs--he does that job well too.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


So, it's that time of year when we take a moment to think about what it is for which we are grateful. Besides being grateful for understanding the rule of dangling participles (see previous sentence--and if you still don't get it, take a grammar refresher), and the fact that Kahlua and coffee is a damn fine combination, there are a few more things on that list. I'm not really the kid of person to say this crap--so better to write it here and then hide away with my blushes:

I am grateful for:

1) Motherhood. As much as I may bitch and moan and wish every morning for those pre-baby days of sleeping in and having responsibility to NO ONE, it has changed me for the better. While I may miss the carefree days of being able to pop out and do what ever activity struck me 2 minutes ago, it has mellowed me a little. It is the ultimate "hey! Think about someone else!" lesson you can get, and I do what I can to not only keep my son alive day-to-day, but to take that energy and give it to others as well. You might say it’s the ultimate pair of big girl panties you can get, and they are strapped on with duct tape and love.

2) Marriage. Again-as much as I piss and moan… well, that's not true. I'm of the opinion that bitching and moaning about one's marriage partner is overrated. Is my husband perfect? Hardly. But neither am I. The beauty of marriage is that you HAVE to deal with those imperfections, and that you know the other person is dealing with yours. I always know that, no matter what, my husband has my back, and that I can bring anything to him, positive or negative, and he will listen. Like when I tell him later today that there is no Peach Schnapps in this house. He will listen carefully before checking the bar and then writing it on the grocery list. But seriously, he's the only one whose been brave enough to deal with my baggage, and there's no one else with whom I'd rather grow wrinkly.

3) Family. This word perhaps has different meaning for me than for others. I don't just mean blood--because I think family is something bigger and greater than DNA. It’s the unconditionality that some people give you, no matter what. It's knowing that you are always home when you are with people that love you. It is taking the time to lift people up when they need it, and accepting them for just who they are. That's how I'm raising my son to look at it anyway. And while he obviously loves his Savta and Grandma, he also unconditionally loves all his "aunties" and "uncles"--and yes--that includes my favorite checker at Ralphs. Love is love, without strings, without judgment.

(and yes Manny, that includes you too! This family wouldn't be whole without you watching over our safety!)

4) intellect: I like that I have the ability, and freedom to think what I want. And to express it. And to just USE it. I don't have to be told by my government or media how to think--I gained that right when I began to make my own decisions. And nothing irks me more than to have someone take time out of their day to try to convince me to think like they do--and I mean in a harsh--"you should think like this" way, and not the "hey, this is how I live" way. I like taking time to make decisions, I like rolling an idea around in my head for a while, chewing on it, arguing with it, savoring it, rejecting it, and ultimately making peace with it. That's what the brain is for. Not to hold useless facts and regurgitate inanities. Any idiot with a keyboard and the internet can do that. It's what you DO with those facts that matter.

5) Difference. Autism came into our lives, and spent a good amount of time bitch slapping me until I acknowledged it's presence. And there are days when I wish she would just chill out for a moment so that I can catch my breath, and to spare my son the agonizing frustration he ultimately feels when he cannot communicate his needs, or when life is just to goddamn intense. But at the end of the day--even those hellish ones--I am grateful for who he is, warts and all. He will always see the world differently than I do, and I will spend the rest of my life being privy to that view. He is my constant reminder that we cannot all be perfect, and without our differences, we would be the most boring race in the universe. He may discover something none of us ever thought about, or he may compose a piece of music no one has ever heard before. He may have the right temperament to make the sacrifices needed to live on another planet, for all I know. He is amazing, and I am grateful for everyday he puts his little hand in mine.

Now, for my usual readers, I suppose this is where I am supposed to remark that I am also grateful for happy hour and a lock on the bathroom door. And I am. But I think those are gimmes. And in the end they are just things. Which are nice to have, but ultimately transitory. This house could burn down--but I'd still have all the things for which I am grateful--and that's all that matters to me.

(not to say I am wishing for disaster. it would still suck.)

So, while you gather around the table to celebrate our American holiday of gluttony--take a moment to give thanks--and not only that Aunt Hester brought more than one bottle of wine. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I had a little moment today. Thought I would share.

Because we lack a magnetic fridge, I post Ben's schoolwork on the pantry door. Right now it's covered with work from last year, summer school, and a few items from this year. Today as I was making some tea, (Sadly NOT for a toddy) I turned and looked at one of his pieces from summer school. Its entitled Self Portrait.

Now, any 3 year old would have made a picture just like it. It's a multitude of scribbled lines in multiple colors with no shape or reason. At the time he had no concept of the work "draw"--he's just starting to pick it up now--and no idea whatsoever of "Self". The ability to "draw" comes with time--typical or no. And as for the concept of self--well, he'll get it one day. (hell, I've met some 30 somethings drinking cheap beer who barely had a grasp of it…) But it struck me this morning how this self portrait was a bit more true to life than imagined.

Lemme tell a story about the first time I saw a Van Gogh. (and don't worry, this is not a preface to saying my son is an artistic genius) My mother and I were at the Getty, and we walked into a gallery that held one of Van Gogh's iris paintings. Now, I'll admit I've never been a big fan, but when I came face to face with this painting, I burst into tears. Literally. I am not shitting you. Tears streaming down my face. A blubbering idiot over a picture of flowers. Because in that moment--I got it. I understood his madness, his despair, his intensity. When you come into the presence (and I think you have to be right there, to see the color, the brushstrokes--a book just doesn't cut it) of a van gogh, you suddenly see the world as he saw it--and it is so intense and maddening that, for me at least, it was too much. I have never forgotten that experience. At that moment, I understood all those damn art classes I had to take for my general ed requirements.

And today, as I stood and looked at this page, I felt it again. Ben experiences so much at once--his senses on overload, his mind racing from one thing to the next. All of it a blur sometimes, incomprehensible most of the time, a multitude of thoughts and emotions of which he cannot make sense. As much as this is the scribbles of a 3 year old who was told to draw himself--words he didn't really understand at the time--he did create a self portrait. This IS my little man--in all it's color and beauty, as well as its frenetic energy.

It was a fitting reminder to me today as we fight through this latest round of whining/growing/detox/general malaise that is being a child with Autism. I am finding that behavior can be cyclical. He can have weeks of fantastic behavior, and then a week of being demon spawn. Lately it feels like we've been getting the grand tour from Dante himself, but I know it won't last. (at least I HOPE it won't last) He's had a rough couple of days, having given up gluten, probably going through withdrawals or he may possibly have a cold, or he's hitting a growth spurt, or the time change has messed him up, or he ate raisins. As you can see, the reasons can be like his actions and subsequently, like this drawing.

I think when I start to remove things here in order to put more up, I'll keep this one around. As a reminder to me of what it's like to see the world through someone else's vision--whether they realized they were showing it to you or not.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I've Lost My Mojo

I like to bake. And no, I am not making a Humboldt County reference. Eggs + flour + sugar = happiness. And not just because I like cake. (Which is like saying the housewives of Beverly Hills like plastic surgery)I like the fact that I can whip something together from scratch, and have folks ooh and aaah over it like I split the atom. I've even fancied the idea of learning to do it professionally (but fear the subsequent pounds on my ass that would follow). I like that I am the "dessert" at a potluck. (don't get me wrong, when it comes to savory cooking, I can keep hungry off a starving man, but I ain't Bobby Flay.) But I have been reminded that pride goeth before the alcoholic binge…

What does this have to do with parenting a child with autism, you ask? Well, it's because of Benji that I've been humbled in the world of baking. As of this week, we are officially Gluten free (well, Ben and Mr Mommy are) and the kitchen as I know it isn't working for me.

I should state here that the Gluten free Casein free diet has shown to be effective (anecdotally) in @50% of Autism cases. (its hard to get good empirical evidence because once parents put a kid on it and see improvement, they don't wanna take them off to prove the science) In my opinion it's a big enough stat. that you have to try, even if you have doubts, as I do.

Now there are MANY parents of children with Autism that aren't even willing to try because they see the glass half empty. Frankly, what can it hurt to try it for 6 months (*time period I've predetermined through no scientific study*) ? If you see no improvement, break out the chips ahoy in 6 months and celebrate the fact that you tried!

My previously stated doubt come from some unscientific observations I have made. I've noticed that this diet seems to be effective with those kids that also have gut problems. Which my son does not have. He's an optimum pooper. So, I am walking into this with a fairly skeptic eye. (which, honestly is how I approach all Autism treatments. There are 408 of them out there. If one was the end-all be-all, I THINK we'd know by now. Still, you gotta try) So, with a cocked eyebrow and shaker at the ready, I have brought us into the GFCF world.

We've been CF (no milk proteins) since September. In fact, I will prolly test dairy in a few weeks, once we're at least two-three weeks GF. Sometimes, Gluten can damage the gut enough that milk proteins (casein) cannot be tolerated. Remove the gluten, and you can then digest dairy. Sometimes. Kinda like sometimes you can drink Jager shots and not act like a dumbass. Sometimes.

Or it could be he has not problem with dairy at all and this last month has just been an annoyance to all of us. aaahh, the joys of science.

So, GF savory cooking is easy. Meat + rice or quinoa + vegetable=dinner. Eggs, GF pancakes, more eggs, and eggs= breakfast. Bloody Marys are optional.

But lunch has been, for some time now, the ubiquitous Peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter & honey to be exact--since we switched to Feingold and his usual jams were removed. But he likes it, and he gets a daily dose of raw honey. But that bread. That soft, spongy, multigrain wonder that served as the PB vehicle…it tasks me.

See--I make all our bread. From scratch. ALL of it. With a bread maker to do all the kneading, all I have to do is shape and bake. It requires some time on my part--but only that I "be around" for each step.

But now wheat gluten is gone, and I am left with a variety of flours that smell and taste funny, and must be measured just so, with the perfect ratio of liquids, everything at a proper temperature, holding my tongue just right, and whispering a prayer every 23 minutes. So far I have attempted two loaves from scratch--and yielded two bricks. (in my defense--Benji still ate them--slathered in PB & honey), but it 's messin' with my mojo.

I even bought a new breadmaker (I needed a new pan anyway for cross contamination issues, so why not replace my dinosaur with a new fangled wonder. It's got a GF setting and it even makes jam!) That's what yielded brick #2.

So today I caved. I bought a mix. Two to be precise, to see how they taste and work. Both are highly rated by users (I've done my internet research) and are similarly priced, so it will just come down to taste and performance.

(I can report that the mix loaf did, in fact, rise. And then fell like the Berlin wall. So it’s a concave bread. WE can practice our alphabet--C! C is for crying, which mommy does when the bread doesn't turn out right. U! U is for unhappy, unsatisfied, and unstable--mommy or the bread--you decide. Still--it's taller than the last two, so it's sort-of a victory. V! Victory. right.)

And for those of you thinking, why not just buy a loaf of GF bread? I did examine one pre-made GF loaf today. It was heavy enough to be useful as a doorstop. OR to thwart a bear or zombie attack. But that thing was so heavy, I have no doubt it would do as much damage to your stomach eating it than getting hit in the gut with it. I think I'll stick to baking. Or a poor facsimile of baking. Or drinking a beer while I stare at the ingredients and will them to become bread. Something like that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Jackassery of Others

Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect, and I don't live to be. But before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.
--Bob Marley

This is my third attempt to write this entry. Sometimes an issue is difficult to write about--but I had no idea how hard this one would be.

Today's entry is about other people. People who are…well…douchebags. Many of these people are people who do not have, nor do they know any kids with Autism. Some of them also happen to think they are the best parents around. And some of them don’t even want kids, but yet esteem their own opinion of parenting and all the strategies they read about once in a People magazine while waiting to get their nails done. Some of them are even parents of Special Needs kids, but have a system they "swear" by, and no other strategy matters. Most of them are people who, I must assume, have never had, in the old terms, any "home training". (that's southern for manners, y'all)

Parents of kids with Autism, or any variety of explosive disorders already know where I'm going.

Yeah, I'm talking to you miss Snooty McSnicker and your gang of giggling cohorts. And to you Frowny McWrinkly and your narrow nose of disapproval. And especially to you, Angie Mcstagewhisper, who feel it is necessary to voice your opinion just loud enough to hear, even if it is hurtful and ignorant. You are one of the reasons I had to give up coffee and start drinking chamomile tea. YOU are the reason I am angry 70% of the time and YOU are the reason this country is going to hell in handbasket dressed with fireproof ribbons!

*takes a deep breath*

(Disclaimer: yes I know this isn't a phenomenon limited to parents of kids with special needs--Typical parents experience it too. Perhaps not as commonly as we do, but they can get it too--especially if their kid is having a bad day. I get that. Its just that our kids have bad days A LOT, so this topic is near and dear.)

My question to these people is this: Who the hell are you?

Yeah, I know it's annoying that my kid is crying in the middle of Ralphs. And I suppose you think I should "just leave" so that you can buy your processed foods in peace, instead of enduring my kid for maybe 10 minutes of your life, while I have to deal with him all day? Or that I should just give him whatever it is he wants to "shut him up", because it is somehow smarter to spoil a kid and teach him to be a tyrant? Or better yet, that I have "spared the rod" and therefore have a child with poor training.

(and these are just the things I've heard)

Ok, you say--why let the comments of others bother you? Sure, why don't I just go out in public and let people say nasty things to me and just let it slide off my back? Yes, I know their opinions don't matter. Yes, i know they're just uneducated eejits with no sense of propreity. And yes, i know i shouldn't worry about the opinions of people whom i do not respect. (contrary to some of their voiced and unvoiced opinions, i'm not the moron here) But I challenge you with this: you step out every day and have at least one stranger say something negative to you, and never hear a positive thing from any of those strangers, and then tell me to just pour a cocktail and ignore what others say.

*gets the shaker ready*

Look, you deal with something enough, occasionally you gotta say something. If people keep cutting you off in traffic, eventually you flip someone off. If someone cuts in line repeatedly at Disneyland, eventually, they get the beat down. If the bartender keeps ignoring your empty glass, chances are his tip will no longer find it's way underneath your coaster. It's the American sense of "karma" (not really how it works, but the idea tends to keep some people in check) So if I hear one more unsolicited comment about the character of my child or how to raise him, I may have to open up a can of economy sized verbal whoop-ass. It’s really just an effort to keep sane, really. It has nothing to do with the fact that you're an asshole.

You know, now that I think about it, I think I've held my tongue plenty of times when it would have been funny and hurtful to say somehting. I think it was enough to warrant a little tit for tat. So perhaps you will let me share a few thoughts I kept to myself over the past few years:

--You do NOT look good in that top--in fact it makes you look like a tramp. Would Jackie O be caught dead with camel toe? Then neither should you.

­ --What, did you spend the morning eating paste?

­ --No, I'm sorry, your kid isn't that cute. In fact, he's a little bug-eyed.

­ --Seriously--you're letting your kid have ANOTHER ice cream cone? Mix in a salad for chrissakes.

­ --Nice work. Can I take a day to suck at your job, too?

­ --Why don't we save some time and just send you home to re-dress yourself.

See? The world is much nicer if we just keep these things to ourselves--or at least blog about them in an anonymous fashion so that the original recipient isn't hurt or insulted. By all means--take a moment and update your FB status with your opinion about my parenting, but maybe you can remember your good manners and keep your comment there, and not 2 feet from my ear--loud enough to hear but just out of striking range? Coward.

Or better yet--here's an idea: take a moment and think about what that mom or dad is dealing with. It might be bigger than anything you've ever had to deal with. And it probably does not have an instant off switch to make your world more peaceful. And realize this, if you are annoyed by it, I'd say it's a good guess that the parents DIRECTLY DEALING WITH IT are annoyed as well.

I don't know--maybe it's the Midwest upbringing. I mean, I was taught that if you don't have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. That includes all opinions and views on Jesus too. That's why G-d created liquor--to keep your mouth busy. It was one thing to think all manner of things about parents of whom you do not approve, but it was a social taboo to state it out loud in their presence. hell, i remember any time my grandmother would say ANYTHING about someone else, she had the decency to wait until she got home (or in the car) and even then she STILL whispered it as if the taboo police were right outside. To make a remark that could be heard by ALL was a sign of "poor breeding" or "lack of home training" and was the one thing that would single you out as white trash. That and the dirty cut offs with a torn monster truck rally tee. And a sixer of Natty light.

I've noticed it in the last few years--the uprising of rudeness. I mean, it's one thing to stop in the middle of a grocery aisle not allowing anyone to pass while you peruse the choice of Jell-o flavors, but we are way beyond that now. There is some sort of entitlement/my opinion is the most important/how dare you drink milk in my presence attitude that has taken over. And it is this attitude that seems to justify people telling me or any other stranger around that my child is monster.

So here's the deal, douchbags. If I ever turn to you while my son is screaming his head off for a chocolate milk I would never let him have in the first place, and ask you, "what do you think of this situation?" you will then be free to regale me of all opinions, bible verses, song lyrics and casserole recipes that you think are appropriate at that moment. Because I would have asked for it. Until then, shut it.

I can't stop the looks and the frowny head waggles, and while it may bug me, at least you are keeping your mouth shut until I am gone. And good for you for trying to have some semblance of manners. I cannot teach you compassion. I only hope that at some point in your life, you will learn some, and maybe instead of judging me, you'll pat me on the back, make a joke, or even pour me a drink. Until then, I can only model the behavior that would be helpful at that moment, and then later eviscerate you online. Yeah, I'm talking about you, miss picklepuss at Ralph's last Friday, over by the eggs. And btw, that top made you look ten pounds heavier AND a middle aged tramp--which is no mean feat.

As I come down from this well deserved tyrade, I am reminded of an old lesson. Having recently returned to some of my Wiccan habits, I remind myself daily of the one basic teaching, or rede: "an if it harm none, do what ye will". Similar lessons exist in all religions. So here's a thought: maybe it would benefit us all to return to the spirit of that lesson and just give everyone a break. Odds are, they've got their own issues to deal with, just like you do. Ain't nobody got the right answer, because everyone has their own paradigm to live. So ease up a little, eh? And move your friggin' cart over when you stop in an aisle at the grocery, for petesakes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Tonight marks Rosh Hashanah, a.k.a. the Jewish New Year. Now, I know I don't talk much religion with y'all--just being polite really, since my beliefs tend to differ from…well…society...including my own Jewish community. But this is a big day, and as I've been preparing myself to greet the year 5771, I have, of course, turned my thoughts to my own parenting and wifing, as well as the care of myself. This time of year--as many New Year's celebrations can be--usually bring about thoughts of renewal and change. And indeed, it is always good to reevaluate what's going right and what's going wrong in your life and make adjustments as need be. For instance, my blender is a consumer model, and I think we all know that a professional model blender is more fitting for me.

This is the opportunity one takes to "change your life". Now, I am not in the habit of making "new year's resolutions", but I am in the habit of listening to my doctor when she tells me a few things. Turns out I had to see her last week because of some chest pain, and was told I have anxiety.

Nice. Like I need something ELSE to worry about.

It's not a coincidence that these pains started in earnest when I got the official diagnosis that Ben has Autism. I suppose there was a part of me that was hoping the "evaluation team" would come back with a report saying my child was just having a strange reaction to Pirate Booty, and to cut back a little. Or at least that my 3-year-old pirate should cut down on the pillaging and looting.

So, now is it not only time to start a new phase of therapy and work with Ben, it's also time for me to make some adjustments. Not only in my actions, but in my thinking. Easier said than done, I suppose.

It is easy for Autism moms (and dads) to stop caring for themselves because their focus is so targeted on their kid(s). Which therapy do I engage, how do I pay for it, how much floortime have I given today, when to change the diet, how can I get him a few more playdates, how to quell the meltdown, how to NOT sock other people when they look at you funny, how to sneak a flask into Mommy & Me Class--it's completely understandable how Anxiety can take over.

So now I guess it's time for me to relax. It's funny, though, I thought I WAS relaxing. Lately I've been taking the time to really examine my thinking about Ben's Autism and how I look at it. And that's not lip service folks. I've made a concerted effort to work in more yoga & meditation, and to ask Mr. Mommy for help when I feel overworked. I've been focusing on letting the negative go, and embracing positive thinking. I'm making a serious attempt to release myself from attachment and live in the now--right now. ( My old professor Harry Wells would be proud: he spent a great deal of time during my education trying to teach me the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. I was quite attached to my local brewery, you see.) I guess now that I am actually working on healthy thinking, my body has finally relaxed enough to let me know its been working on overtime for too long. It decided to catch up. And not just on drinking.

So...out with the coffee, in the with herbal tea. (snarl) Goodbye, chocolate. Hello, yoga. Goodbye, heroin. Hello, methadone...OK, not really, but I'm convinced that quitting coffee is harder!

So today, as I think about the last year whilst methodically chewing another chalky antacid, I will focus on what I need to do to take care of me--besides a daily cocktail and harping on the inequities of life. These next ten days between today and Yom Kippur, I need to focus my actions to be "inscribed in the book of life". It is the belief that G-d opens the book of life on Rosh Hashanah--a sort of muster for those in attendance, and closes it on Yom Kippur. This book contains your destiny, and it is a Jew's goal through the days of awe to recognize and confess your sins before G-d with true remorse so that you'll be put on the muster for another year. While I am not a literalist--I do like this concept of reevaluating and getting your shit together for another year. And while I may not believe that G-d is in charge of my destiny, I do know that I have to do more to make sure I am healthy and strong to keep up with all the men in my life: Mr. Mommy, Benji, and of course the terror of Fredonia Drive, Manny the seven-pound security task force Chihuahua . I need to be inscribed in THEIR Book of Life. It's a signature I'm willing to renew every year.

L'shanah Tovah, ya'll. May your year be sweet. You know, like Manischewitz--the FIRST time you try it.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Benji has a game he likes to play--it's called "play Thomas?" Here's what it sounds like:

(mommy typing furiously on her computer)

Ben: play Thomas, please? (big doe eyes)

Mommy: you want to play Thomas? (duh, dumbass)

Ben: (jumping up & down) Play Thomas! Play Thomas!

(mommy gets up to go arrange the track for Ben. She sets up the track and places a few cars on it. For a few minutes mommy & Benji play with the train cars, adding them on to one long train, watching them go through the tunnel. Then unexpectedly, Ben pulls up the track causing major derailments and proceeds to destroy the whole track system, leaving the train table in a post-Katrina-like shambles. Ben then runs out of the room.)

Mommy sighs and grabs a beer.

It's pretty much the same each time--a few variations mind you. Sometimes I pour a glass of wine. But I've noticed that Ben has this fixation to destroy the tracks each time he is "finished" with playing Thomas--and that my only function in this game is to set the stage for Godzilla to roll through.

So the other day, when Ben came to me asking to "play Thomas," I was a little peeved at the idea. Other moms may get this--the idea that I'm only here to serve meals and set up train tracks was beginning to grate. So this time I switched tracks, so to speak. When I went into his room, I told him that I wasn't going to set up the tracks, but that I would help him. Of course, I don't think he understood a word of that, but he did seem to understand that I wasn't setting up the tracks when he pushed one into my hand and I pushed it back to him. The usual whine/cry/shout fest began, but them I told him to put one down on the table, pointing to one piece of track already there. With a little fine motor wrestling, he attached the track piece. So I handed him another. And another. And suddenly a track was being created, with the pieces he wanted, going in the direction he wanted. My only job was to "help fix it" when we came to the closure and it needed some engineering with the last pieces. That track was his, and I think he knew it. It did not get torn up for the majority of the day--I think Godzilla or Mothra struck @ 4:48pm, but I did not personally witness the attack.

Later that night--after I filled Mr. Mommy in on the new plan of attack, Ben built an even more elaborate track with his daddy. (they usually play trains better than Ben and I do, so he was more willing to be patient and get help from daddy and resist his internal urge to destroy) That track was still standing 24 hours later. Hell, I think it's still standing now--only missing a bridge piece that frankly falls off if you just look at it wrong, so I'm not sure that counts. I'm not saying it won't fall before the day is over, but he seems to have taken some pride in that track.

What happened here wasn't just brilliant parenting on my part, but rather a type of therapy called "floortime." it involves getting down on the floor and playing with your kid. It's a little more work than that--but you get the picture. You play with your kid, looking for and creating opportunities for communication, letting them guide/rule the play. You play the way THEY want to play, not the way you want to, obstructing or guiding when they get too focused or inward. Now granted, he wanted me to set up the tracks, and i didn't--but this was the "obstruction" part of my play. It's not just about him being a play tyrant.

The method was developed by Stanley Greenspan in order to help kids on the spectrum and like conditions to learn to communicate effectively. What I love about it, other than the utter simplicity of it, is that it seems so positive. There are mental steps each kids has to meet, and once they are met, you move on to the next one. Kid is changing body language when you engage him? He's ready to start making eye contact and getting your attention. Kid is making eye contact and pointing? He's ready for closing conversation "circles" (back and forth conversation in its simplest form). Closing more than one circle? She's ready for more pretend play and emotional ideas. It is scaffolding at its very best. That's a fancy term that will be familiar to my teacher friends--its building upon what you have instead of bombarding them with what you know. Benji was obviously ready to move on to the next level--he knew how the tracks were built--having watched mommy create them, and he had also developed the finer motor skills to put them together. A little budge (or rather hard shove) from me, and he was on his way. When it comes to scaffolding, you can always spot the good teacher and therapist: they can do it effortlessly (or seemingly so).

For me, I will admit, floortime can be a struggle. Raised as an only child, and fairly a loner in all things, play doesn't involve a lot of speech for me. I can get down on the floor and play with Benji anytime, but it isn't always effective speech time. Sometimes we're just building Lincoln Logs (old school baby!) quietly, and sometimes we're just kicking a ball back and forth. I don't have a natural inspiration to turn this into a lesson for speech other than "don't hit the TV with the ball" . In this kind of activity, or anything creative, I'm not a chatty Cathy. In my own studio, whether alone or working with others, my workspace is generally quiet. I actually have to remind myself to turn on some music--it isn't a natural inclination to do so. Even at the bar, which is a social place by nature, I'm not the chatty one. I will respond to conversation--well, WORTHWILE conversation--but I rarely initiate it, except perhaps to shake my empty glass at the bartender. So to imbed speech into Ben's play isn't just work for him.

That being said, floortime is an awesome way to get to know your kid. When they aren't as communicative, it can be hard to get a grasp of who they really are, other than an occasional screaming pile of hair or banana chugging monster. But by getting down on the floor and playing the way THEY want to, you start to get a clear picture of the personality inside your offspring. And sometimes you need that change of perspective. As grown-ups, we tend to get comfortable in one world view--we own the world and control it--but how liberating it can be to see the world from a kid's point of view! Not worrying about cleaning up the latest spill, not thinking about bills to be paid and the TV fall line-up but instead marvelling in the mix of colors on the paper and hands, creating a scenario where trains knock down walls of pigs and chickens or feeling the joy of being surrounded by bubbles on a hot day. Floortime definitely takes you out of the mundane--something a lot of adults could use. Yeah--I'm talking to you miss "I can't stop talking on my phone while I drive and drink a soy latte."

If you think about it, it's kinda awesome. I have a legitimate and scientific reason to postpone my chores and play with my kid. You hear that, Laundry? Now, if only I had the same scientific backing for a daily cocktail...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

reality vs. reality

So, I found myself the other day watching one of those shows about "real" housewives. I catch myself watching them from time to time--never enough to know what the hell is going on, but often enough to fulfill my need to just hate on someone. And their hair alone sure makes it easy.

Then I started thinking--what if they made a show about the "real" moms of Autism? Not the celebrity moms who have almost all avenues open to them, but the REAL moms--you know the ones. The frazzled, haven't worn make-up in a year, tired of eating gluten free pasta, wishing she could just put in earplugs at some point in the day, and definitely 2 cocktails short? Yeah, her. What would THAT show look like?

I've noticed these shows break down into the following kinds of episodes:

Dinner parties:

A lot of us have adopted special diets for our kids. Evidence has shown that it does help some kids (I think I saw a doctor say about 50%--which makes it a pain to try, but also a necessity). So our dinner parties would have to be a gluten-free, nutless potluck--hardly Real Housewives material. There might (read WILL) be recipe swapping, especially if Bertha brought a gluten free dish that actually tastes good and the kids haven't resorted to creating giraffe-based murals on the walls with it. This would also be an effort to get our kids to socialize, which they may or may not do. But they will eye one another suspiciously, and perhaps take a moment to try the black-bean-and-beet hummus with homemade pita chips. Or maybe it's the hummus they're eying suspiciously. I know I am. It looks a little like a lumpy bowl of Steve Buscemi.


In our world these are referred to as playdates. Again, an attempt to force socialization. Because even if they won't talk to one another, they have to learn to be next to one another without throwing punches. It's the precursor to developing "personal space." Something we all have to learn--like the asshat at the bar standing a "tad" too close to you and NOT picking up on the body language and verbal clues that you would rather he take a hike into traffic than tell you about his pet iguana and its crazy lettuce-eating antics.

By the way, never feed an iguana lettuce. At least not sober. Ya gotta get the iguana drunk first. Rookie mistake.


So instead of hitting Rodeo Drive or whatnot, this would be an episode of how we get the errands run with our kids in tow. Keeping them occupied in the cart; keeping their hands off of EVERY item within their reach; listening to their whines, your whines, and the people around you's whine, while you try to shop for your own wine; coping with the meltdown just as you get to the checkout stand--this close to escaping--and having to see every dirty look and "harrumph" from the old biddies around you. Luckily though, the screaming tends to drown out any comments, and the biddies are easily distracted by the haunting fluorescent light shining off of the tabloids that steer their "family values."


This usually accompanies the Outings episode. It's what we're doing when we're chillin' on the side of the playground while our kids get busy eating sand or obsessively going down the slide. Usually about whose marriage is on the rocks, what some old biddy said to us while we were shopping, how much a particular therapy or treatment costs, or the latest crazy antics of our child in public.

Of course that's just the venting stuff. It's also where we share the milestones met, and the little things that may not mean much to the Typical moms, but mean the world to us. The kids of events, like your kid saying "I love you" or giving you a spontaneous hug, that require around of cocktails and a few handkerchiefs.


Hmmm. I suppose any time you get a bunch of women together, one of these is bound to occur. Although I'm not sure what we'd fight about? Vaccine causality vs. genetics? DAN! vs. ABA? Being a "everything is rainbows and puppies" kind of mom vs. "pass me the vodka"? Sounds like my kind of fight - the kind I can win, as I am well-armed with tiny, plastic cocktail swords in 4 colors.


I don't know what kind of man we'd be trying to steal, unless it was someone's therapist or doctor.

"I heard she was taking her son to him, but she just doesn't appreciate what he's trying to do!"
"Why does SHE get the good therapist?"
"If he would only see my son for a few minutes, I know it would change everything!"

Because, let's face it ladies--we are too exhausted to be spending our time trying to make time with someone else's husband. We barely have time for our own--why would we want ANOTHER one?


Inevitably someone on these shows needs help in some way to get themselves out of the whorish--I mean selfish--I mean, oh hell--situations in which they find themselves. An intervention with the Autism moms would probably sound like this:

"Bertha--we're here to help. No--put down that damn gluten-free pasta and listen. You need to take a break. You're making us all crazy. Your son has Autism. It's not the end of the world. And he hates that pasta--we all do. Stop trying to be the perfect mom, and just be a mom. Your son will appreciate it more if you play with him more and see the world from his point of view. By all means, keep trying new things and trying to improve his situation as best you can. But remember--you have to take care of yourself too. Have a spa day. On us. But just this once, mind you. We're trying to maintain our sanity here too, so chill out, or I'll leave a bag of soiled diapers in your Lexus SUV."

In the end, it probably wouldn't be a very entertaining show because, well, it's just day to day living. We don't live for the camera, so it wouldn't always be a flattering light. We're not as skinny and made-up as those "real" women: we don't always have time to get put together. We're too busy parenting--which is something I notice those "real" women don't seem to do much. Maybe it's why we like to watch them--to think "at least I'm not that bitch." Or at least a glorious moment to think, "My kid has better manners than most Orange County housewives. I guess I've earned another drink."

Friday, August 6, 2010


So, my boy inherited a thick, beautiful head of hair. Thick like mine is (when it's short), blonde (like mine was in my youth--ah sweet youth!) and coarse. (I don't know who the hell gave him that one--both mr. mommy and I have soft fine hair, as do his grandmothers. I swear--his hair feels asian!) He also inherited my cowlick(s) which can be quite comedic as his hair gets longer. Lately, it was starting to get "moppy", and ever efficient mommy that I am, I declared it was time for a haircut.

He's had 4 so far. Or maybe 5. Let's just say it ain't a regular thing. First--his hair doesn't grow that fast, and second, like most toddlers, he hates having his haircut. Hates. I'm using the word hate here to describe a haircut. Hate.

I try to take him to my hairdresser, who will cut his hair for a reasonable fee. And while he gets a fabulous haircut--it is physically and mentally exhausting for all of us when we are done. She has a specific haircutting area--he never wants to stay in it. I never bring the right toy. He won't sit in a barber's chair for nothing. He WILL NOT wear that noisy cape. And he doesn't, not anyone, no way, forget it lady and your sharp scissors, want ANYONE touching his HAIR.

None of this surprises me. He rarely lets me comb it either (thus the comedic cowlicks). I'm not even convinced he likes me washing it. (but he tolerates it because he LOVES the rinsing part) He doesn't like us to dry his hair with a towel. He used to like the blowdryer, but that lasted all of a week. When it comes to this boys hair--HANDS OFF!

So, since the three times we've had Tonia cut his hair were so exhausting, I tried one of those "kid" places. The one I tried a while back sported a particular floating object--yellow in color. It was the only time Ben sat in a chair--and got the crappiest haircut I've ever seen. Nothing to thin out the thickness, or address the cowlicks. I had to spend more time on his hair after that cut than any other he's had.

So my thought this last week was this--he sat in the chair at the crappy haircut place…maybe he will again at a different haircut place. Maybe the stimuli in these places will be enough to engage him briefly enough to let a professional get in there and cut.

So I packed snacks and his favorite DVD into my purse and we headed off to Woodland hills to a "kid friendly" and even "Autism friendly" salon.

WE get there and the place is LOUD. Benji is interested in the toys, not the chair. Strike one. The DVD players advertised online are not working and may have never worked. So the DVD I spent 15 minutes looking for that morning is useless. He is more interested in the train table. OK, she says, I'll cut while he plays. And I think--yeah! That's how we have to do it. I try to keep him in one place and she gets in there, cutting here, snipping there, thinning, thinning. And I think, this is going to work. IT really is. It's going to work.

"All done hands"

This was my son's way of saying, quit it lady! Oh dear. Only half of his head is cut at this point, so it's not like I can say, oh, just trim a little bit more and we're good to go. No. We're committed to a cut now, and it has to continue.

So now begins the chase. He wants to play on the airhockey(!) table. I corral him back to the haircut area. A few more snips. More running away, more herding, more snips. Now, I called this place because they advertised an autism friendly haircut--meaning it would not be rushed. Guess what. Her next appt. showed up and here we were, trying to finish this cut because the other mom had a snooty look on her face.

Then came the clippers.

Yeah--we'd had that discussion. I told her he doesn't like them. But to finish his cut (yes--we had gotten to that point, phew!) she had to either take clippers to the side, or snip with the sharp scissors, which required stillness. So I grab him, put him on my lap, hold his arms down and she gets one side done. With the clippers. The other side was well nigh impossible. So I told her to leave it with a few pieces I knew I could trim at home once he calmed down, paid the lady and high tailed it out of there. Once we were in the car, we were both able to take a breath and enjoy a moment of silence. That's before Ben began his mantra of "go through tunnel"--which is kind-of this phrase which could mean:

a) literally drive me through a tunnel
b) I want to go
c) I'm hungry
d) you're the worst mommy in the world, and I curse the day you ever brought me to this wretched salon with all its stimuli and smells and you let that lady touch my hair and to top it off you wouldn't even let me play airhockey! I'm calling child protective services as soon as we get home!

D is variable, by the way, usually in reference to whatever messed-up activity I just had him participate in.

So after we get home, alcohol is consumed and naps are handed out, I google "haircutting + toddlers+autism" Even without the "autism" search, the answer is a resounding "DO IT YOURSELF, DUMBASS!" which is what my gut told me about a year ago. I kinda knew with that last visit to Tonia that I should just learn to cut it myself and be done with this stress! But, as stated in previous posts, I don't always listen to my gut. I kept getting convinced that he needed a pro to cut his hair. And that was because I wanted it short. I mean short short. Practically high and tight. And he is cute as hell with short hair. But you know what, he's also cute as hell with the mop--a little cuter, maybe. And with a pair of scissors and a DAY (or 3)to cut his hair, I can probably keep it at a moppy exisitence until he is old enough to a) sit still and b) not scream in bloody terror at anyone wielding scissors. Luckily though, this week's cut is pretty short. So I've got a good 6 months before I have to even make a snip...

p.s.--sorry there's no photo. blogger just isn't cooperating this morning... but you can check out my FB page

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Social Rules

So, the other day I posted a link with a forum discussing "social rules" as those on the spectrum (that's the autism spectrum) see it. It was a poignant, funny and almost spot-on observation of those they call "NTs" or "neurotypicals" (for a lot of us, that's you and me)

It got me thinking about the social games we play. Personally, I've never been a social butterfly--I find a lot of the games people play to be inane and not worth my time. And no, I'm not on the spectrum, I just don't like people. I believe the term is misanthrope. Day to day interactions with people make me want to punch them in the face. Read the works of Jonathan Swift and you'll see where I'm coming from.

But I also recognize that humans are a social animals, and our need to be recognized and to recognize is strong. Before marrying, I was a bit of a barfly(shocking, I know)--did a lot of my writing tucked away in the corner of my favorite bar, sipping girly drinks and writing blather. Even though I wasn't always engaging folks, I still felt a need to be among people and watch their silly antics. (actually, I did a lot of character sketches there--making up stories for the people I watched. Good practice for any writer IMHO.) I remember once a philosophy professor said in class that if we went through life not being acknowledged or recognized by other humans, we would go insane. Now, I could have lived without being recognized by some of the sausages that frequent that bar, but then who would I fantasize about punching?

I suppose I've always envied the person who could walk into a room and control it with a smile and witty statement. They are the masters of all these social rules. I've got a couple of these rules down--I've been known to be charming when I want to be--but I don't think I could master them all. For one thing, that would mean being nice to people I really find irritating. For another, it would require more alcohol.

As I read through these rules, Some of them really spoke to me--made me stop and think about how observant and true they really are.

#3. How are you isn't literal, you are supposed to say "fine" then "How are you?" back.

It makes me think--should we even be asking this if we don't want to hear the truth? Or would we be annoyed that someone did not inquire over our health? Honesty--REAL honesty, has a bite that we might not be ready for in our social society. I mean, do I tell the clerk at Ralph's, when she asks, that I am constipated? Or that I am having the kind of day that makes we want to get into my truck and drive away from this life? Or that I constantly cheat on my "diet" so that I never lose any weight, which leads to feeling of guilt, which leads to more cheating? Am I ready to hear that she is being harassed by her boss, or that she has a new corn and her feet hurt? So we just smile at one another and say "fine", or maybe a little "a little tired, but ok", and we go about our day knowing that all is right in the world, if not in need of a beer or two.

And knowing we all lie about that answer, don't we all look askance at the person who answers with a resounding "GREAT! COULDN'T BE BETTER!" I don't know about you, but my first thought is usually--huh. Wonder where he hid the body?

#5. If someone asks you what you did over the weekend, and in honest, you stayed at home and enjoyed your special interest alone all weekend... DON'T tell them. Lie and say you hung out with friends.

Is it such a sin to say I laid around in my PJ's all weekend ? That I never left the house? When did it become a social problem to enjoy a little relaxation? It seems we all want to hear that we were swept away to a luxurious spa where we were waited on hand and foot by lovely men who rubbed our feet and did our laundry. OR that we drove two hours to get to the beach, dug out a little patch of sand, sweated in the hot sun, got a headache and then got sand all over the car when we got back in, only to drive two hours back. Call me anti-social, but I'll stick to my usual plans of lounging about reading bad fiction and convincing my husband to order in.

#8. If you hear one of your friends lie or embellish the truth to impress a guy/girl; don't point it out in front of said guy/girl.

Well, I guess I kinda agree on that one. Unless of course it involves removing a wedding ring or hiding the fact they drive a mini van with three carseats.

28. At all times, pretend like you know what you are doing. Other people are predisposed to believe you.

I'll say I learned this one in the classroom. If you are standing in a room of 30+ teenagers, and you look the least bit hesitant--they will pounce on you like hyenas at a kill. And laugh just as much. But I suppose it does fall into other realms as well. I mean, we are attracted to confidence. Who out there wants to have a drink with a spineless person who can't even decide if they want a martini or a manhattan?

42. if someone asks what you think about the work they have done, they do not want to know what you think. 

As far as I can tell they want: 
a) comment about a feature of the work to show understanding 
b) compliment their brilliance 
c) pretend you don't understand a second part so they get to explain

Um--I think we'd better own up to this one. I mean, how often do you really want to hear how something you have created needs more work? I wonder--do people on the spectrum take criticism better? (experiences I've had--I doubt it.) As good as it is for one's writing, I have ALWAYS dreaded the crit. Who wants to hear that your character development is shallow, or that the story line is cliché and not worth reading? (and yes--these are criticisms I have heard, and I still hate those people…)

That first choice--that one really rang out to me, because in essence we just want to be understood. I wrote a short story once for a creative writing class that I thought was brilliant. Actually it was crap--but at the time... During the crit, my "peers" (I use that term loosely since none of them could drink me under the table) questioned my villain's motives and methods. I had decided to use a woman instead of a man in a traditional killing role, and they raked me over the coals for it. And it wasn't that they attacked my method that irked me, it was that they didn't understand what I was trying to do. All I wanted to hear was

a) wow, using a woman in that role is new and exciting!
b) I only wish I could write dialogue like you do! (that one I did hear--what an observant fellow!)
c) why didn't she just have a drink?

When really, the issue was that I didn't write it in a way that made them understand. It wasn't their ignorance, it was mine. But who wants to admit they're a dumbass?

Rule # 58 - Do not run from police officers because you want to avoid social interaction.

Well, you'd THINK this one is obvious. Then you turn on the TV and watch a slow speed chase--that actually goes though your neighborhood, only to end badly just up the street. At 3am. Seriously--do people actually get away?

67. Truth is NOT important in most conversation beside serious academic discussions. Exaggerations can smooth or even make the conversation more funny 

My blog is evidence of this. I mean, if I drank half as much as I write about, I'd be sauced right now. Or would I? This might require a few tests...

btw--here's the link to that page:

Monday, July 26, 2010


So, there is an almost daily battle in this house @ 3 or 4 pm--which is "TV Permitted" time. It goes something like this...

Ben(in BenjiSpeak™): I want a movie

Mom: OK! What would you like to watch?

Ben: I want movie?

Mom: Yes. Which movie would you like to watch?

Ben: Watch movie, please?

Mom: (takes a breath) Ok, Benji. What would you like to watch?

Ben: (crying/whining) movie please!

Mom: (sigh) Benji? What movie? Would you like (insert movie name here)?

Ben: no

(repeat last two lines with different movie titles until you start rooting AGAINST the Lorax or find yourself wishing the man in the yellow hat would make a batch of monkey stew!)

Mom: OK. Let's try this. (Mom grabs the remote and turns on random movie from collection.)

Ben: No! All done (insert obviously asinine movie that he has yearned for before as if it were hoarded water in mommy-caused desert)

Now at this point I turn off the TV and tell him that it won't come back on until he tells me what he'd like to watch. This has two effects:

a) he shuts down and runs off crying
b) he cries right there for a few minutes and then, after a few minutes of silence, mentions a movie in the quietest voice he has. Like a shy secret, or the second line of clumsy expositional dialogue in teen angst pilot about vampires or how hard it is to live in a rich zipcode.

So then I have to get him to repeat the movie's name five or ten million times so I can understand him. Once I do, said show is turned on (he always asks with a quiet please), and he is happy for a few minutes. These minutes often boast a delightful waft of coconut rum, and are always measured in what I like to refer to as "shaker time."

Now, for those of you who are Super Parents® and looked at that dialogue thinking, "Well, why don't you just do (insert unsolicited parental advice here)," there is a reason I drag this out. We ARE working on his communication, and as such, when he is trying to tell me something, I try to help him do just that. Yeah, it's about as much fun as emptying the diaper pail, or chaperoning a junior prom, but a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do.

The obvious problem here is that Ben doesn't understand the concept that "movie" is a generic term, which contains many titles. I try to spend a little time during this battle--if he's not whiny/frustrated/screaming like a banshee to try to explain the concept. Repetition is key, and I can see his wheels turning when I talk--it's just that some of the words coming out of my mouth don't really register. Thus repetition. Eventually all those words will make it to his brain and the light bulb will go off. (This is how we got "please" into his vocabulary--although it's not quite working for "Thank you".) When I get result B, I know that it's working, but he's still unsure of it all--thus the quiet voice.

But learning moment aside, this can be a frustrating moment for both Benji & mommy. Especially if mommy has had a long day, is hormonal, or needs a drink. Then that conversation is a bit of a hair pulling exercise in impatience. And mixology.

This was the time to use some research. In Autistic circles (or ovals...sometimes ellipses, but I digress), one becomes familiar with the "visual schedule". Since many people with autism "think in pictures", sometimes it helps to create something visual to help kids (and adults!) along. It might be as simple as a picture of a toilet and then another picture of the sink in a bathroom, to "remind" kids to wash their hands after potty. Or there may be multiple pictures of very step in the potty procedure. (yes, the picture for "make pee-pee is...interesting) Like with any kid--typical or no--it depends on your kid. Generally, Ben does well with verbal cues, so I haven't really engaged the visual schedule. I can usually give him simple one step commands like " go get your shoes" or "hand mommy that vodka bottle" (although we are venturing into multiple step commands as well--Mixed drinks, here we come!), and he'll follow along--well, as much as a 3yo listens to you tell him to put his toys away, take his shoes off, or please stop playing with that coconut bra, it's for mommy! Well, really it's for daddy. OK, a little for mommy.

So, as I pulled my hair out for the gazillionth time, I realized it was time for a liquor store run and an attempt at the visual schedule. Ben knows he wants to watch a movie, but he doesn't remember all the movies we have, and frankly mommy has been so good at reading his mind for so long, he is confused as to why he needs to start clarifying his needs.

So I sat down at the computer and saved jpegs of all the movies we have on our TiVos® and DVRs. (Hey, Mr. Mommy works in the industry--we have A LOT of TVs in the house. It's all tax-deductible!) I printed them up on photo paper, ran them through my trusty laminating machine, and currently these cards are in a pocket chart on the wall. Eventually I'll have a board with velcro next to the TV where he can look and choose, but for now, the pocket chart will do. He's been really excited about it so far--mostly from a labeling point of view. He loves bringing me a card and telling me what it is. It's great to see, even if I don't need to be reminded at this point which one is Wall-E and which one is EVA (eeeeeeeeevaaaaah!). And he has used the movie board correctly a few times as well, to request either Olivia (his new favorite cartoon) or The Bee Movie. Perhaps we should add a "NAP" card.

Of course, now the new lesson begins:

Ben: Bee movie, please?

Mommy: no. No TV for now. Later.

Ben: (whining) Bee movie?

Mommy: not right now. Maybe later. Now its time for (insert approved mommy activity here)

Ben: NO! No (insert obviously not toddler approved activity) Bee movie please! (crying)

Mommy: No. Let's go get mommy a drink instead...

The Muppets won't take Manhattan as strong as I like to mix mine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Future Bullies of America

So, this past weekend, we took the squirt to a birthday party in the valley for one of his (and our) friends. True to form, he showed absolutely no interest in the party, but since it was in a park, he was interested in the adjacent monkey bars/slide/sandbox combo. Hell, add a wetbar, and who wouldn't be, right?

He previously hasn't been too interested in sand--and we thought maybe he had acquired his father's hatred for the substance, but Saturday proved us wrong. I think at one point he was just rolling around in it. Zoe (said birthday girl) had a cool toy that would turn wheels when sand was put into it, and I think he played with that (after Zoe was done, of course) for a good 1/2 hour. Oddly enough, it was a toy I had contemplated purchasing on more than one occasion, but since he had shown no interest in the sand toys I had gotten him before, I figured that one would be a waste as well. Lesson learned. *adds to her to-do list*

But all birthday party and sand encounters aside, it was a playground event with some other kids that got under my skin--and made me wanna hurl verbal epithets at a couple of pathetic marmots.

Ok--lemme 'splain a little back story. I think I've pointed out that one of the ways Ben likes to engage kids is with a little rough-house. He's a boy--they do that. It's that contact that he likes. Sometimes he'll push (not hard) and sometimes he'll …well…or lack of a better word, "girlfight". It's hard to describe this visual--so bear with me. Imagine a big bucket of ping pong balls. Now imagine sticking both hands into that bucket and just mixing the balls up in a frenzy. This is sorta what Ben will do to another kid's hands or arms--as if he were going to play a frenzied game of "miss mary mack". (howz THAT for the old school reference?) That's usually when I have to step in and tell Ben to stop--which just confuses the poor boy, because he thought he was engaging a friend. I can see, in his mind, he is sharing a wonderful feeling of "mixing"--but little Kyler or Francis usually don't agree.

So anyway, back to the park. Ben is doing pretty well, taking his turn on the slide--not pushing, and enjoying the slide and the sand at the end of it. He hasn’t knocked anyone down or thrown sand in anyone's eyes, so I'm callin' it a good day. I turn to talk to my husband briefly, and then turn back to Ben, only to find him "mixing" it up with another kid--we'll call him Tanner McWhiney. A kid smaller than him--but prolly the same age. And before I can step in, said child runs to his mother--we'll call her Haley McSnooty, sitting on the other side of the playground.

I keep an eye on them to make sure she isn't gonna come over and chew me out--but she ain't getting' up from her well earned Starbucks sippin' spot. That spot was no doubt marked for weeks with careful urination and musk rubbings. It was prime real estate. Not to mention she's with another mommy friend(why not--let's call her Piper McSidekick). She says something to her son and sends him back out to play.

Ok--I'll give Haley the benefit of the doubt. She prolly told her son, as I would have, "well, stay away from him"--sage advice. But did little Tanner listen? What 3 year old does?

I walk over to Ben and give him a verbal reminder to take turns, be gentle and be nice. He then continues to go on the slide, and at the bottom, look for his new friend--who constantly runs back to mommy when Ben just looks at him. Haley is showing some annoyance with little Tanner, because she would much rather be sippin' her Macchiato and discussing her friend's bikini wax. She tells her son--"tell him not to hit"

What? Had she been paying attention, she'd see that my son hadn't laid a hand on hers since the "mix-up". (and honestly--even then he just smacked his hands. I'm not saying my kid was right, but come on--grow a pair) So what is little Tanner going to his mother and saying? And why is she lookin' at me as if I were the invading Hun army? I am quite obviously of valkyrie descent; I just left my horned hat in the car so as not to frighten the children...

Do I go get my kid, who at this point isn't engaging with anyone except the sand fairies? (seriously--it was EVERYWHERE) or do I stand back and let this scenario play out? I mean--little Tanner would run if Ben would even LOOK at him, so what were the chances that something would happen?

I think, ok--be proactive. I smile at the moms and say (rather loudly since they seem to be setting up residency or at least growing mold from their lack of movement) that Ben doesn’t understand those words and doesn't mean to be mean. He's just playing, and that I'm keeping an eye on it. *smile*

Snooty glances back. Great. So much for diplomacy. Skinny bitches. What? Too true?

The playing continues on. At this point my husband is at my side, no doubt recognizing the need to keep another set of eyes on Ben. And honestly, this puts me into a state of mind that bothers me most--apologizing for Ben. Not that I want him to ride roughshod over ever kid smaller than him, but this idea that I have to be the first to apologize for my kids' behavior when there are typical kids all around acting worse than he is get under my skin like a new tattoo needle. I know how important it is for Ben to be raised with good--no, GREAT manners. And on top of that, he is physically showing that he may well be bigger and stronger than a lot of kids, so I know that I will need to "gentle" him so that he doesn't take advantage of that strength other than in a good way. I am paying attention--I GET it. But when I have to watch my kid like a hawk, when other parents are letting their kids terrorize the playground, I get a little irate.

Anyway, Ben is climbing up onto the slide, which has two platforms that lead up to the slide. Tanner's little friend is on one of the platforms, and pushes Ben away when he climbs too close to her. Now, Ben likes pressure--he likes to be pushed, it makes him laugh. So he looked at this little girl and thought they were playing a game. So he pushed back--and when I say push, I don’t mean a hard shove--I mean a slow lean, if that makes sense. And he smiled and laughed. Anyone who knows him would say--hey look at that--he engaging that little girl! Yay! And little Tanner steps up and pushes Ben aside, which only made Ben laugh again. Ben then climbed up and away from the kids and went down the slide to play in the sand once again.

Little Tanner at this point says to his friend (loud enough for all adults around the playground to hear) "lets go fight that boy!". I look over at Haley and Piper--nothing. That must have either been some bikini wax to keep that conversation so strong, or they were drinking Starbuck's new "I'm too important to pay attention to others" caramel frappaccino. So I keep an eye on Tanner to see if he plans to follow through with his words. He grabs his friend, dragging her along and says it again.

Since Haley and Piper are showing no signs of consciousness or conscientiousness--both words being too long for their combined vocabulary--I step in. I reach Benji before they do and tell little Tanner that Benji doesn't know he's being rough--he just think he's having fun. This is how he plays sometimes. Fighting is NOT how we solve this. And the steam in Tanner's sails is deflated. He and his friend run off to their mommies--who still have not looked up from their conversation--although I can tell from their body language that they heard every word. That's ok ladies--I'll take a moment to parent your children--you just keep sipping your coffee.

I let Ben play a little longer before we made our goodbyes at the birthday party.

Now, I know--sure this is just a playground story, and what does it matter? They were just self involved women who paid no attention to their kids--what else is new in LA?

Except, while I've been educating myself not only about the disorder of ASD, I've also been scanning the message boards and chat rooms frequented by parents with children with Autism. You wanna know a common topic? Bullying. With their children as targets.

It makes sense. I read one article that used the herd euphemism: if you feed on the outskirts of the herd, you are open to predator attack. So of course kids that are "different" or "quirky" are the targets--they are often seen as without any protection. And when they lash out to protect themselves, they can often be blamed for the situation entirely. Autism has the misfortune of being a disorder that it not always "visible", and the adults in a school don't always know what's going on enough to know that Johnny may well have been within his rights to sock that kid. I've read news stories about Autistic kids being expelled or eve arrested for defending themselves, or placed into a situation that provoked a violent outburst.

And I'm not saying this is just an Autism problem--it's just the lens I'm looking through at present. I know a lot of kids have to deal with bullying--typical or not. And it has really gotten out of hand. I worked in a few schools--and I could see with perfect clarity that the adults (including myself) had no idea how to deal with bullying. And the bullies know it.

Now, I'm in no way saying that little Tanner was a bully, or that he will become one. But the lack of parental involvement during this incident gave me pause, and made me think, if anything can foster a bully, it's a complicit attitude of the parents.

Don’t get me wrong--I know there are times you just gotta sit down with your girl and talk about how bleach won't clean your grout. I get that you haven't had a chance in the last twenty minutes to sit down and drink your sugary coffee drink and bitch about how fat you are now that you're a size 6. I get that your kid whines, and whines, and clings to you like you're his mother or something, in order to get attention so much that you wish he'd just go play just out of earshot while you have a shot. But hear this: if your kid steps up to my kid again, I'm not stepping in. And I've seen him hit--he's a natural. You can just consider it an intervention. That stings.

Friday, July 16, 2010


One of the things you might find discussed AD NAUSEUM in all the websites, books, lectures, etc. is how the impact of a special needs child can change your relationships. Now usually, they are referring to marriages or romantic relationships--and yes, there is an impact. But I'm not here to talk about marriage. Sure, Pete and I felt the impact of the label, and the recognition of what the future may, or may not hold. But--oddly enough--having the truth of the situation, and the acknowledgement that we really have to live in the NOW actually helped us. There was no more push to be "perfect" as we tried to get our son to "catch-up". In accepting him as he is, we continued our promise to accept one another as we are.

Do we still annoy one other on occasion? Well yes. This IS a marriage for chrissakes.

Friends, however can be a different story. Friends aren't bound by vows or checking accounts, although chances are, they've seen you drunk as much as your spouse has, maybe even more. (seriously--BURN those pictures) I found that even before the label and the therapy and the new paradigm, when the differences became more obvious, friends began to fall into different categories.

First and foremost are the golden friends. The one's who've been there, thick and thin. They were the first ones to call when word got out that a label was placed. They are the ones who read my blog even though no one else does. They are the ones I know I could call in the middle of a serious problem and say, please take my boy for the night, and do it without question (I can never say thank you enough, Krista.) They are the ones who get up and do a happy dance every time Ben does something awesome. In short, they are family--maybe not blood, but family nonetheless. These are the friends to be cherished--and rewarded with pie and expensive bottles of wine.

On the other side of that, there are the friends with whom you completely lose touch--the ones who ran when they saw or heard that Ben was "different" from their kids. I'm happy to say, they weren't many, and frankly--their absence is for the better, no? I mean, if they are freaked out by my kid, does my kid need to be around them? I think not. You can recognize the signs of these friends when you start getting the repeated blow-offs. I’m not talking the, "oh my kid is sick, can we meet next week?" typical blow offs that happen to ALL of us. I'm talking the, "my kid is sick, but not sick enough to do something fun with other parents that is then bragged about on FB." And then maybe you see that person at the park from time to time, and you get the fake hug and the "yeah, we should TOTALLY hang out," and that's the end of the conversation. They don't really ask about your kid, but are perfectly willing to tell you EVERYTHING about theirs. Luckily, they prolly don't read my blog, (since they've been unfriended) and even if they did, they're prolly too stupid to put it together that i'm writing about them (Wow, I'm like a Carly Simon song over here...)

It’s a weird place when you are confronted with these "friends." You don't wanna be paranoid, you don't wanna think they are THAT shallow--because, after all, they were your friends, right? But remember that clairvoyant gut of mine? When it comes to character analysis, she hasn't been wrong yet. It would be helpful if she'd speak up a little earlier, though...

Then there are the new mommy friends--the ones that "get it" because your life is their life, give or take a margarita. These are the mommies of kids who are in school with yours, dealing with the same tantrums, the same quirks, the same vocabulary, the same concerns. Its strange, but they are sort of "instant friendships"--maybe because we get to relax--there's no explaining here. Sharing of new ideas, maybe, but no apologies over your kid grabbing toys, or not wanting to play, or screaming in protest when hugged. We can have those moments that transpire in a look that says--yeah, it's that kind of day. And we can share the joy of seeing our kids make eye contact and running together--because we know that's a HUGE step for them in the realm of play. (hey Yasmine!)

Then there are the friends that, well, maybe don't mean to blow you off, but do. Because they are confused. A golden friend reminded me of this the other day. Sometimes, they just don't know what to say--to me. They don't know that they can just sit down, have a cup of coffee and talk about the crap we talked about before the diagnosis. Because, turns out, Ben and I are still the same people. Some of my vocabulary has changed, and paradigm has shifted slightly, but I'm still heavy handed with the liquor in my cocktails, and bake a tasty whole wheat banana/zucchini bread. And unless you came over and called my kid a retard, there really isn't anything you could say that would offend me. Well, unless you criticized my banana bread--but you already knew that. If you have questions, I can supply answers. And our kids "might" play together, although I wouldn't hold your breath.

Now, I can't talk about friendships without taking account of my own actions as well. Sometimes--well, who we kiddin? When you hear the words, when you get immersed in this new world, you hide. Hell, I was down for a good month--lucky to get my toilets scrubbed, let alone step out in public for anything other than the ubiquitous grocery run. And I was prepped--we had been in therapy for a few months, and I was ready to hear what was going to be said--and it STILL knocked me on my ass. It is the tendency of new moms of special needs kids to hide--not that we're hiding our kids, but we are hiding ourselves. I know personally, I didn't want to burden my friends with tears that showed up unexpectedly while I got my emotions under some semblence of control. And honestly--I didn't want to hear about your kids. I didn't want to hear how great they were doing, how the doctor thinks they might be gifted, how milestones are being passed by. I didn't want to have to hide my jealousy, my frustration, my anger. But I'm not hiding anymore, even though I'll still cry at the drop of a hat--its usually over the sort of things I would normally cry about--soup commercials or Hallmark cards. (Look, I'm entering peri-menopause on top of all this, so my hormones ain't gonna be right for at least a decade or more…)

There is a Wiccan belief that I've always cherished: when you make friends with someone--a child is born. (not literally, unless they're a friend with benefits, I guess) Each friendship is a child to be nurtured and cherished. Prolly why I'm not the social butterfly(that and my general misanthropic views). The relationships i have are precious, and must be cared for--for each is their own individual gift. So, if you've been hesitant to call, feel free to pick up the phone. And if you called me yesterday, you can call me again today. Although--any of you who know me know I prefer email than actually TALKING to someone...