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.)