So Crazy Right Now

February 9, 2013 at 8:23 am | Posted in Kids, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Do I have to get slapped in the face with crazy the second I wake up?

“Oh, Michelle, you’re not crazy. Don’t say that about yourself!”

It’s not me I’m talking about, people.

Let’s start with the first thing I see/hear if I make the mistake of not getting up before everyone else in the house does: Monty the licker. Don’t get too excited. Monty is a CAT. He’s a crazy, obsessive-compulsive, over-bearing, hyper-demanding CAT who will come into my bedroom first thing in the morning screaming like a banshee and start LICKING… me, the comforter, the sheets, the pillows… anything he can get his tongue on. I have no idea why he does this and I have never met a cat like him. He came from the shelter as a “stray” (although after years of having him we’re pretty sure someone dropped his nutty ass off) and now he lives with us. Lucky, lucky us.

That’s crazy #1 to start my day.iPhone Download 2012 057

Next comes a whole heap of hooey from number-one son, who leaps into my bed (risking a severe licking from said cat) ranting about the dream he just had. You know, the one about the talking buffalo from Bugaboo Creek (I can’t believe I was stupid enough to take him there. I thought it would be fun. I thought he would get a kick out of it. [I certainly didn’t go for the gourmet food, although I’m still fantasizing about the 10,000 lb. chocolate cake we had for dessert.] I must have forgotten for 5 1/2 seconds that kids with Asberger’s Syndrome are anxious and literal and the first questions he would ask about the giant talking buffalo head on the wall was, “Can he get out of there? Is he going to come over here? Can he see me? Is he talking to me? When is he going to talk again? Does he know my name? How did he get up there? Where’s his owner? When can we go home?” And that a trip to the bathroom would entail hands clapped over ears [even though the buffalo was not talking] and a 20-minutes-out-of-our-way walk to successfully circumnavigate said buffalo without a chance encounter.). And so, of course, the mania about the talking buffalo continued on the 30-minute car ride home and then right into the night, where Brady insisted he had spent his dream time wandering the house trying to save himself and our family from it. And all this because “Trick”, his giant stuffed horse (whom he regularly pretends is a stuffed cat even though he has 26 stuffed cats), was pretending to be a giant talking Buffalo all night long and continually bamboolzing Brady with his shenanigans.

And that, my friends, was crazy #2 to start my day.Brady Michael Buck Teeth

Then, number-two son, being fascinated and flummoxed by all things big brother, picks up on Brady’s train of thought (if you can call it that) and is high-tailing it through the house shrieking that there’s a buffalo in their room and we should head for the hills. Brady screams back that it is only TRICK (the giant stuffed horse/cat) PRETENDING to be a buffalo, and so a bellowing fight ensues between the boy in my bed and the boy in the hall. This goes on until Michael can be convinced to join us and take his licking like a man. Meanwhile, I’m still just trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes and shake off the dream I had about frozen margaritas at a swim-up bar in Cozumel. As if.

That was crazy #3.Michael Kissing

And so eventually we all stumble downstairs, where my wound-just-a-little-too-tight husband is insisting that there’s a strange red light on in the back-up power generator and since there’s a BLIZZARD coming (Or maybe it’s just 4 inches of snow, I never know for sure with his overreactive nature. Also, have you ever noticed how men over-call the number of inches something is? Like snow or… other stuff? That’s a topic for another day.) I’d better cancel all my plans and hunker down to wait for the generator company to make an emergency service call. Now. Today. Before it’s too late.

Come on. Red wine keeps. Is it really an emergency if the power goes out?

Hello, crazy #4.Boys2Men

And finally, the chaos in my own mind, whirling and swirling about what needs to get done today, what can’t possibly get done today, and how much Advil it’s going to take to get me through the day. And, course, what color eye shadow I am going to wear. Priorities, people.

So now you see why I always try to get up before everyone else. A mother’s work is never done, but at least she can fend off the crazy a little better when fortified by a cup of tea and a few minutes of pre-dawn silence. Here’s to 5:30 a.m. May it arrive free of wet beds and bad dreams. Those are for 6:10 a.m.

xo

Model Behavior

January 26, 2013 at 7:58 am | Posted in Kids | 10 Comments
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“Children with Asperger’s Syndrome need very clear and concise social guidelines,” said Brady’s wonderful and well-meaning therapist. “Social norms and behaviors are like a foreign language to them. They need to be taught very specifically how to handle social situations. Brady will mirror your behaviors and reactions to the world at large. YOU are his best and more important role model.”

Oh great.

Maybe that’s why my kid can swear like a truck driver. (But honestly, why give truck drivers the bad rap? The expression should be “swear-like-a-Catholic-school-raised-middle-aged-marketing-professional-turned-housewife” because really, I am amazing at it.)
Monty

Or maybe that’s why he falls apart at the slightest frustration. Demands perfection from himself. Lies in bed and worries at night. Falls in love with every animal he meets and then frets about them for the rest of his life.

But I can’t say I’ve ever thrown myself on the floor when a stranger in a store smiled at me. Or shouted “Nipples!!” when someone asked me how I am today. Those are pure Brady.

This behavior modeling thing is a lot of pressure to put on a mother who already puts a lot of pressure on herself. I’m back to that perfection thing again: If I’m not a perfect mother, how can I raise incredible kids? Notice I didn’t say “perfect” kids. I don’t need my kids to be perfect, just me. Something about having no regrets. How will I live with myself if they don’t turn out all right?

And what is the ‘perfect’ behavior to model for your kids anyway? Is it ok to show them your weaker side? Like that you get completely pissed off, too, when you can’t get that last drop of (organic) ketchup out of the squeeze bottle? (You paid about $4 more for it, you damn well better get to enjoy it on your locally-grown bison burger. Or your Ballpark Frank. Whatever gets you through the meal.) Is it a bad thing for them to see that you lose your patience while driving and drop a few choice words?

(Recent conversation in the car:
Brady: “Cut it out, you jerk-off!”
Me: “Jerk-off?? Where did you hear that?”
Brady: “You say it, Mom, when you’re mad at some idiot in front of you who’s not going fast enough.”
Me: “Oh… uh… Well, don’t say it, it’s not nice.”
Better than some of the other words I’ve chosen in the past, I guess.)

What about when I’m tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted? How about when I’m Cute Bradyhormonal? Are you trying to tell me that my kid’s going to grow up to be a chocolate-gobbling, wine-swilling, weep-at-Hallmark-commercials wussy boy? Or what?

This parenting stuff is hard, and it’s totally compounded by having a child you needs a lot more from you than your average kid. And don’t most parents hand down a whole heap of crazy to their kids anyway? Haven’t we seen some of the best and brightest come from really screwed up homes? And vice versa – nuts from seemingly perfect backgrounds? I know we’re dealing with something different when it comes to Asperger’s because these beautiful children are so very literal and need such clear and complete guidance. But really, how badly can I mess it up? (Ok, probably pretty badly if I’m not careful. Maybe Mommy needs a little more herbal tea…)

So I ask you, how did your parents contribute to your complete and total insanity? And what are you doing to wreck your kids’ lives? Also, if it takes a village to raise a child, can I send Brady over to your house when he’s really driving me nuts? Then you can explain why it’s not ok to leap into the chair of an unsuspecting guest, rake your fingers through her long dark hair, and throw your blanket over her head in a crazed giggling fit. I’m sure you can handle it.

xo

All I Can Handle

August 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Kids | 18 Comments
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When I found out my son, Brady, has Asperger’s Syndrome, it knocked the wind right out of me. We had been working with a “Generalized Anxiety” diagnosis for some time, and I knew he had some sensory and social issues, but I was still unprepared to hear the words “These test results strongly point to Asperger’s.”

Finding out that life is going to be harder for your child is devastating. I know we are not talking about cancer or another life-threatening illness, but we are talking about a life-long condition that can be debilitating. My husband and I were (and still are) prepared to give our kids every advantage we could afford them in life, but a condition like Asperger’s Syndrome means a few giant steps backward to just getting the everyday stuff under control.

I know this might ruffle some feathers, but I just need to indulge myself and vent a little: It really annoys the hell out of me when I read posts and blogs from mothers who swear they are totally fine with their kids’ autism. They claim their child is a treasure and they wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure their children are wonderful and sweet and funny and endearing, but the disorder that is autism certainly is not. Do they mean to tell me that they jumped for joy when they found out their kid was going to struggle way more than the average child with normal, everyday events, such as saying ‘hi’ to a little boy on the playground or going to the supermarket?

That they thought, “Oh, delightful!” when it occurred to them that their child would likely be ostracized by other kids and would find it nearly impossible to read the expressions on their teachers’ faces?  Is it perfectly all right with them when the following scenario takes place?:

“Brady, we’re going to a birthday party tomorrow!”

You should see the panic on his face.

“NO, Mommy!! I don’t want to go! I’ll stay with Daddy! Or Miss Sheyla! (trusted babysitter) I don’t want to go to the party!”

“But Brady, it’s your friend, Jimmy, from school. He invited you!”

“I don’t want to GO, Mom! It won’t be fun. I’ll run away from the car when we get there!”

He runs for his blanket and scrunches it up over his face and neck.

“It won’t be scary, honey. You’ll have a good time with the kids and party games. There will be a bounce house!”

“But there will be other kids there! And they’ll sing stupid Happy Birthday TOO LOUD!!”

Fetal position on the couch.

“Oh, sweetie, can’t we just go, and if you’re not having fun then we’ll leave?”

“No, Mom, NO! I don’t want to go!”

Is this what we had in mind when we were carrying that luscious little bundle in our bellies? That we would be forcing them to go to amusement parks and dreading family dinners out and agonizing over the days’ schedule because a single bump in the road sends them reeling?

I love my son with all my heart, and I understand that he is who he is, flaws and all, but I really can’t “embrace” his autism. It’s not the road I had planned. It’s not the journey I wanted him or I to make. It’s certainly not going to be easy.

We’re lucky enough to live in a state that offers many services to children with these types of disabilities. And through research and referrals, we’ve found a number of wonderful private practitioners as well. Brady receives occupational therapy, social (play) therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy (sessions that I am involved in and learning from as well), homeopathic remedies, naturopathic remedies, and osteopathic treatments. If it seems like a ridiculous amount of intervention, it probably is, but we want to give him every opportunity to thrive.

Some days he does so well his behavior is nearly that of a “typical” child. Other days, it’s obvious that he is struggling, fraught with anxiety and over-stimulation, and it’s so hard on all of us. I often lie in bed at night and worry about him – whether or not he’ll make friends in first grade, how he’ll ever manage to ride the school bus, if he’ll be able to form a long-term relationship or get married someday. And I’d like to be like those other mothers who seem just fine with it all. Perhaps they didn’t have super-high hopes for their kids or aren’t crazy Type-A over-achievers like me. Or maybe they’re just calmer and more accepting than I am. Having a kid with autism teaches you a lot about autism, but it also teaches you so much about yourself and what you can handle.

I hope I can handle it.

xo

Things You Can Do

April 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Kids | 4 Comments
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Things you can’t do when you have a kid with anxiety:

  • Watch the news (although I wouldn’t do this in front of a typical kid, either, these days)
  • Listen to loud/raucous music
  • Turn on the radio when you are cleaning the house after he goes to bed (you might not hear him call down to make sure you’re still there for the 4,637th time, resulting in extreme panic and an unexpected visit from said child)
  • Talk about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny before the age of 5 (“WHAT???!!! A strange guy (or giant talking rabbit) breaks into your house while you’re sleeping and brings things in and moves stuff around and you’re not supposed to see him and then you just pretend everything is ALL RIGHT???!!!”)
  • Sign them up for any type of performance (this just might be accomplished if they can wear sunglasses for the camera flashes, headphones for the loud music/clapping, and a suit of armor for all other contingencies)
  • Expect them to behave appropriately when nice people in a store say hello to them (no, clinging to my arm with your head pressed into my side so hard you’re practically breaking my rib while whining “Mooooommmmmmyyyyy!” is NOT age-appropriate for a 6-year-old)
  • Go see fireworks
  • Run back into the house for 5 seconds with the car still in the garage because you forgot your phone (not without your little darling in tow, anyway)
  • Take a shower or use the bathroom with complete privacy (they might not be in there with you, but they are certainly very close by)
  • Let them play video games with their cousins (Where should I begin? The weird characters, the violence, the noise, the distressing storylines…)
  • Go to Disneyworld (Again, where should I begin? The costumes, the crowds, the overstimulation…)

Things you can do when you have a kid with anxiety:

  • Threaten to leave them alone when you can’t get them to do what you want (sorry, but sometimes you have to pull out all the stops!)
  • Turn your head for 5 seconds in a store (they would never dare leave your side or try to hide from you)
  • Trust that they will not jump into the lake/pool/road when you are not looking (heck, they won’t even do it when you ARE looking)
  • Be pretty sure they won’t get bitten by the neighbor’s dog (they’d climb a tree rather than let the thing within 6 feet of them)
  • Know they won’t become part of the gang of rogue 6-year-olds at school (they can’t let the teacher out of their site long enough to misbehave that badly)
  • Not worry about them falling off the jungle gym (seriously, they’d  have to climb up there first)
  • Enjoy a quiet house without the constant drone of TV, radio or video games
  • Snuggle on the deck and look at the stars
  • Read lots of books together
  • Have quiet talks about important things like where the moon goes in the morning, why you can’t see angels, and how horses talk to each other
  • Love them like crazy

I love you my sweet Brady James.

xo

Anxiety Boy

April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Kids | 3 Comments
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“Mommy, you’re still here, right??”

I hear this phrase 20, 30, 60 times a day, especially at night when I have just put Brady to bed. Even if I am in the next room and he can hear me moving around, even if we have just spoken 2 minutes ago, even if I have coached and counseled and cajoled him through his fear of my disappearing off the face of the earth the second he can no longer see me and he seems ok, he still repeats this phrase almost constantly throughout the day.

That’s what it is like to have a kid with anxiety.

And that is just the tip of iceberg. E-VER-Y-THING is a big deal. In Brady’s mind, a malfunctioning toy will never work again. A lost shoe is gone forever. A trip to the grocery store is enough to send him into hysterics on the off chance that he will see a neighbor whom he has decided is scary (for no reason I can see). All of these things result in instant tantrums, complete with screaming, kicking, wailing and throwing things or running away – all with absolutely no warning. We go from just fine to completely out of control in seconds flat. And once I get him through the tantrum and back on track, every little out-of-the-ordinary happening requires a lengthy explanation of what just happened and why, when it may or may not happen again, and whether or not it is truly threatening to him in any way.

Case in point: We just returned from a short trip to Maryland to visit the grandparents. On the way through the airport we passed a baggage carousel that was just about to start up, so a light began flashing and there was a loud beeping sound. Brady clapped his hands over his ears and with a contorted little face wanted to know WHAT, WHY, WHEN, HOW???????  Once I explained to him how the carousel worked, he just couldn’t let it go. He had to hear the explanation of how the lights and beeper warn people that the bags are coming off the plane over and over and over again. He couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Going through the security line was torture as Brady could not focus on taking off his coat or placing his bag on the belt or walking through the scanner. He just had to keep asking about that buzzer and light and whether or not they would go off again. Will it go off when I put my bag on the belt? No, Brady. Will it flash and beep when I walk through the scanner? (Please, God) No, Brady. Will I hear it again when we’re walking through the terminal? No, Brady. Will it happen when we’re on the plane? NO, BRADY!!!!!!!

The poor child. And his poor mother (me)!

Kids like him can sometimes be hard to love. They are constant and exhausting. Logic is of no use. The best you can do is try to re-program their anxious thoughts and give them baptism by fire – doing a little bit of the things that scare them until they realize they can manage it. But it takes SO MUCH more work than doing things with typical kids. Some days I just don’t have the strength or patience for it and I think I just can’t handle it anymore.

And then I look at his sweet little face sound asleep on his pillow, cradled against his favorite ‘blue blanket,’ and I know I just have to keep pushing on for that innocent little mind and body. Somehow we have to get through this stuff. Somehow he will make it through the scary pitfalls of riding the school bus, playing a team sport, applying to college. Somehow he will become a strong, capable, independent man. He just has to. And I just have to stay strong for him and for our family. There’s no other choice. And it’s too late to turn back now.

xo

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