Friday, October 31, 2008
The following is from my memoir. I put it up here before, so if you've already read it, you might want to skip it. Have a happy Halloween!
Union Center Halloween
If only I had a mom like Stacy’s? Stacy’s mom sewed her an awesome costume. Since she started working nights it seems like mom doesn’t help me with anything? Trick-or-treating is tonight and we still don’t know what we’re going to be. At supper Christopher says, “I want to be a pirate!” Mom nods at him and smiles, “Okay.”
When we get done eating, she puts Chris in a pair of black pants and one of her white striped button down shirts. She knots it at the waist. She ties a red bandana over his head and draws a little triangle beard on his chin with make-up. She paints an eye-patch on him, and he’s done. I still don’t have anything.
“Maybe you could be a hobo?” she asks.
“I could help with make-up and you could carry a sack on a stick?”
Thinking of Stacy’s bright dinosaur costume, with its googley eyes and it's colorful tail, I fold my arms and tell her,“I’m not going to be a hobo.”
“Or a ghost?” she says, emptying three bags of candy into the white popcorn bowl.
“That is so lame.” I shift my feet and cross my arms again. She runs her hands through the candy, mixing it up. Chris and I stare at the lollipops, Resee’s cups, and Hershey’s kisses.
“Well, I don’t know what you want to be, but you better figure it out soon,” she says. “You’ve only got another hour.”
She looks at the candy and then at us. “It’s not for you. It’s for the trick-or-treaters. Stay out of it.”
The second she turns her back, me and Chris each grab a Hershey’s Kiss.Chocolate melts in my mouth and as it glides down my throat I have an idea. I’ll be a Hershey’s kiss! Grabbing a piece of construction paper, a marker and some scissors, I head upstairs to my room. I cut out a long white strip and print KISSES on it, and it looks just like the wrapper in my hand. There, that was easy. Now I just need a little tin foil. In the kitchen, I sneak the foil out of the cabinet, and head outside through the back porch. My hands are full with my kisses flag and the foil and some more candy that I stole as I walked out. The garage doors slide sideways like barn doors and I lean in to push them open with my shoulder. White chalk rubs off on my shirt from the chipped paint. Once inside I leave the doors open, eat the candy, and then start to wrap the foil all around me.
It isn’t working. My face is getting hot and this stupid foil is just getting all crinkled up? How can I get it to puff out at the bottom? No matter what I do it isn’t right? I hear something and when I glance outside, other kids have already starting trick-or-treating. Ghosts. Hobos. Witches. More pirates, walking up and down the shoulder of Route 26. Tears start to come and my throat feels tight. Why does nothing ever work out for me?
Suddenly, Dad’s black Chevy pick-up crunches onto the gravel driveway and he parks in front of the garage. He gets out and walks over to me and I wipe my tears fast with the back of my hand. His jeans are brown from dirt. He’s got a dark beard now, and a belly. With his red plaid shirt and his steel toed work boots he looks like a real lumberjack and he’s scowling mean at me.
“What the hell are you doing with all that foil?” he barks.
“I was trying to make a costume. I wanted to be a Hershey’s kiss, but I can’t get it right.” My shoulders slump. He says nothing and I don‘t know if I‘m in trouble. Hoping he‘ll feel sorry for me I say, “It’s no use. I’ll just have to be a ghost.”
Dad puts his thumb and pointer on his dark scruffy beard and stands there stroking it, looking at me a while. Then he says, “Wait here a minute. ”
He walks across the yard and into the house through the back porch. He didn’t even seem that mad about me wasting the foil?He comes out with some wire hangars, and a tiny shade from his bedside lamp. With his thick fingers he unwraps the hangars from their tightly coiled necks like it’s nothing and straightens them out into long wire lines.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“You’ll see,” he says and he winks at me. I jerk my head back and smile big. Dad isn’t usually a winker. In no time he’s made a wire frame out of hangars. He puts it over me and it’s kinda like a giant bird cage. I stick my arms out and he wraps the foil around the frame, covering it in smooth shiny silver. It’s the right shape! Puffed out at the bottom and everything! I grin. Dad’s never helped me with anything before and I don’t talk because I don’t want to mess it up. Next, he takes the lampshade and covers it with foil, making it cone shaped on top. He presses my flag into it and squishes the foil around it to make it stick. He puts it on my head, steps back, and shakes his head.
“That’s not gonna stay,” he grunts. He searches the dirty greasy shelves of the garage until he finds some duct tape and he tapes the flag onto the foil. He stands back, folds his arms, raises his eyebrows and smiles. Stepping out of the garage I have to pull one of my arms inside my costume to hold the frame up off the ground. I don’t care though, because I’m a Hershey’s kiss, and not a stupid hobo or a dumb ghost. Mom and Chris come outside and her mouth opens when she sees me, but no words come out. She looks at Dad, smiles, and shakes her head. She looks happy, but kind of sad too. I'm hoping they don’t start fighting and ruin everything. Dad leans against his truck and talks to mom for a minute. Me and Chris are dancing around the driveway. “Arrgggg!” he says, and I laugh because he isn’t a very scary pirate. Dad gets in his truck, and heads down the road toward the bar and we‘re heading off to trick-or-treat! My stomach drops when I remember I forgot to tell Dad thanks.
At every door, people say,“Will you look at this? “ or “How clever!” or they’ll call over their shoulder, “Come here, you’ve gotta see this!“
My arm is tired from holding up my costume and it’s hard not to bump into people, but I’m smiling all night because this is the best Halloween ever.
“My Dad helped me make it,” I tell them, like it‘s no big thing.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Not that I'm going to totally give it away, but I just need to talk about it a little, you know?
I thought the movie did a pretty good job staying true to the book, but they glossed over the black Madonna too much. That was an integral part of the book and it was just a teeny part of the movie.
Also....the open jar. They did not explain the open jar! We named our book group in Virginia The Open Jar Book Group. It was that important! For God's sake, elaborate on the open jar!
Other than that, it was fabulous. The actress that played May was out of this world. Alecia Keys was wonderful as June. And you know how I feel about Queen Latifah. August wasn't her "sexiest" role, but she played it well. Of course there's the freakishly talented Dakota Fanning. What can you say about that little phenom?
Well, better run.
All this doing nothing today has made me sleepy.
I didn't get a blessed thing done all day!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
My heart sank.
No one was actively picking on her, but is this what she goes through every day? Isolation?
The next day, I arrived before recess, backed the mini-van into the parking lot and crawled into the back seat, confident the tinted windows would prevent anyone from seeing me.
Riley ran outside with her class. She walked around with one little girl for a bit. They found a jump rope and made a giant skip-it game. She stood in the middle holding the rope, spinning in circles. The other girls jumped as it made its way around to them. After a while she handed off the rope and did some jumping herself while someone else spun it, nice and slow.
After, she ran over to the swings. She was not fast enough to secure a swing whenever one opened up, but she didn't cry. After a little wait, another little girl held onto a swing for her until she could grab it. Higher, higher, she pumped her legs,hair flying, smile on her face. When the whistle blew, she slowed the swing down, transitioned into lining up, and went inside, no fuss, no muss.
Today was the second day of Operation Playground and Hot Toddy joined me. It's cold here and we shivered in the car, crouching down, trying to be inconspicuous. It was pretty much the same as day one. She was not left out. She was participating. She was having fun. Living her life.
What we see in any given moment is never the big picture.
I'm glad I didn't make a stink about the snapshot I saw last week.
It probably won't be our last secret mission. Next next time we're bringing hot chocolate and a blanket.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
If she pulls her covers up over her head, I know it's going to be a rough start to the day. Sometimes I can sing her right out of bed. I'd Do Anything, from Oliver Twist, sung in a soft gentle whisper works. She writhes out of her covers like a snake being charmed out of a basket,full eye contact, truly doing "anything" for Mommy.
Lately, I've discovered a new trick, using her love of animals. She's decided she wants to earn money for a new Webkinz, so she has her first chore. (Even though she is eight, she's never had chores before. Getting dressed was her chore. Getting through the day was her chore. It was all either of us had the energy for). But now, she's getting paid twenty five cents for feeding the cats. That's fifty cents a day!
We've put the food and water bowls in the hall outside her door.
When the cats start their morning yammering, I tell them sweetly,
"I'm sorry, I can't feed you. That's Riley's job. Go tell Riley you're hungry."
Never would I insist she get up. I might as well shoot myself in the foot.
She lifts the blankets she was hiding under and smiling proud, trots out into the hall to feed her charges. It completely snaps her out of I don't want to go to school mode.
With kids on the spectrum, everything is an angle.
And the game is always changing.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Riley looked up from her food(mashed potatos is the new fave), and said,
"I wish we could have another baby."
The back of my hand flew to my forehead, and I let out a huge, "Ugh."
"Don't give me.....Ugh(the back of her hand flew to her forehead and she duplicated the exact noise I had made)! I want a baby sister!"
The referencing my speech and gestures!
The wanting of a baby. It wasn't so long ago that the thought of babies induced panic. You see, they cry and when they do, it hurt her ears.
She's not getting a baby sister. At least not one of the human variety. Though I would go to the ends of the earth for this girl. After all, she does it for me everyday.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Did we have a little James Carville/Mary Matalin action going on right here in the neighborhood?
The house was really beautiful. Quite affluent, but cottagy. Homey. Well maintained.
How do they do it? How do people with opposite political views live together? Do they just agree not to discuss it? Have they somehow developed a way to dialogue respectfully? Whenever I talk politics or observe others doing the same, it is nothing more than one up-man-ship. And what kills me is that the people doing the talking try to act like what they are saying is all their own idea, when it is mostly just a regurgitation of what they've heard others say. I do it myself. That's why, if at all possible, I don't engage.
No one is going to convince anyone else of anything.
Through my whole walk I thought of that house. Those signs. It gave me some sort of hope. As I looped back I passed it again. This time I looked more closely. There the signs stood side by side, one for McCain, and the other one said, "NO-BAMA."
F@#! it all to hell. I need to get some glasses.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The facilitator, who is a psychologist, asked for an example of a time that provides us frustration with our kids and I volunteered that Riley exasperates me by taking forever on the potty. So we tapped. We tapped and tapped and the facilitator encouraged the other mothers to apply their own situations to the exercise. As we tapped along, she said different things,
"Riley takes forever on the potty but I'm okay."
"It's not the end of the world if we're late."
"She's trying her best even when she takes a long time."
Tap, tap, tap, this is stupid.
Then, "I forgive myself for being frustrated with Riley on the potty."
Tap, tap, tap...lump in my throat.
"No one taught me how to mother this child."
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tears.
"We're doing the best we can, Riley and me."
"Even though I get frustrated with Riley, I'm still a good person."
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"I'm still learning."
"I am so grateful for this child and all we're learning together."
"I forgive myself."
"I love this baby."All five of us "special needs" moms were reaching for the tissues.
Then she led us through a meditation in which we imagined a safe place, and invited our child to join us.
"What would your child say to you?" she asked.
In my mind Riley entered the space and with her big eyes, silently, soul to soul my sweet girl said, "Thank you Mommy."
Friday, October 17, 2008
This longing for a dog does not make sense. It doesn't.
Yet I can't shake it.
Each night, as soon as we put the kids to bed, the cats want my attention. They get on my nerves all up in my face with their meows, "Pet me! Pet me! MRAAAAOOOWWWW!"
We do not need a dog.
Yet, I spend my time looking at puppies on www.petfinder.com, knowing we are not getting a dog. I add The Daily Puppy to my links, but it's crazy.
We do not need a dog. It just doesn't make sense.
And then I read A Friend Like Henry, and it made sense a little.
And then I got a comment from Georgia Peach, which made me research service dogs for kids with autism.
And then I called and talked with the director of this program.
And then I asked to be connected with other families who had adopted service dogs for their kids on the spectrum.
And then I got flooded with warm, positive e-mails from a lot of people who say their service dog was the best thing that ever happened to their kid.
And now I think about this longing I've been having, the one that makes no sense.
And I wonder if maybe, it does.
"It was fine. Not that I need the third degree."
I say this, because I'll do just about anything to make him laugh.
The third degree works every time.
We'll both be home and the phone will ring, I'll pick up, chat for a while.
He'll ask, "Who was that?"
"My sister. Not that I need the third degree."
He always threatens to stop speaking to me, after he laughs.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
And the dogs! The dogs! I won't spoil it for you.
And if you've read it already, don't spoil it for me, okay?
Only 429 pages to go!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
With that in mind, I should have never read this.
A Friend Like Henry is about one family's journey with autism, and how with the help of a special dog, the parents were able to gradually bring their son out of his own world and into theirs.
One of the ways they did this, was by creating a "voice" for Henry the dog. Some people with autism find direct conversation too threatening. A dog's voice, (or a puppet for that matter) can be much more effective. Little Dale, would not respond to his parents but would do anything for Henry. They were able to use his love of Henry to coax him into conversations and activities. Gradually they were able to use Henry's voice less and less and their son was able to communicate freely with them.
I've my own experience and know many other parents who have been blown off by pediatricians and have had to fight tooth and nail for services for their kids on the spectrum. This book has its share of that and those parts weren't easy reading for me, but I did enjoy A Friend Like Henry.
Being the salty girl I am, one of my favorite parts is when the mother sits the now adolescent Dale down and teaches him how to deal with bullies at school. (I see no problem teaching kids on the spectrum what typicals learn naturally, especially if it is for their own protection). They practice until Dale gets his "Fuck off!" just right. He uses it effectively and does not get bothered by bullies on the playground again.
The clincher of the book, of course, is Henry. The sweetness of this precious giving, loving, devoted, big old fat beautiful boy drips off the page.
I, I mean we, need a dog!
for the children.
So yesterday was the big day. She stepped off to school with her Daddy, in brand new glittery Hannah Montana Crocs with two new Jibits. As they got closer to school she started to fret. Not unusual for a Monday, transitioning back from the weekend is sometimes hard for her.
They dropped Seth off at kindergarten, and as they headed toward Riley's classroom she broke down and told HT what the problem was.
"They are just too pretty! Everyone is going to be looking at me." The thought of being swarmed by a crowd of admiring third graders was too much.
Todd talked her down, and they made it to class.
Picture HT waving his arms, drawing a finger across his throat, trying to give the teacher an ix-nay on the ritty-pay, as she glided over to Riley exclaiming,
"LOOK AT RILEY'S NEW SHOES! HOW PRETTY!"
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Every time I shift my head, that damn ant scuttles around in there. Each crackly footstep is pure torture. Has he already eaten a chunk? No way to tell, but I know you can't live long without your brain.
Laying in my sleeping bag, I think of Mom. She dropped me off at camp, planning to pick me up in a week. How was she to know it was the last time she'd ever see me, alive. How could this be happening to me, her favorite daughter? The one much nicer than her first born daughter, Kelli. Poor Mom. And what about Gramma? She's old! The grief from losing me might just kill her.
So many things I'll never get to do. I'll never go to junior high. Never play Sandy in the reproduction of the movie Grease when I grow up, as planned. I'll miss every future episode of Laverne and Shirley. My best friend Stacy will find another best friend and forget all about me. No she won't. She'll get a locket and put my picture in it and remember me forever.
Suddenly, Becky comes bursting through the door, whistle around her neck. She's the counselor for our cabin and her boyfriend is the counselor for the boy's cabin across the way. I won't live long enough to ever have a boyfriend.
"What's up kid? I've been looking all over for you," she says, snapping her gum.
There are no words for how I feel.
Becky comes over. Looks at me closer.
"You sick or something?"
Sobbing, I nod my head.
Becky walks me to the nurse.
The nurse is nice, but even with her fancy tackle box filled with bandages and stuff, I know there's nothing she can do. Once an ant starts munching on your brain, you're toast. I can't bring myself to utter the words of my misfortune out loud, but she notices me pull at my ear.
"Do you have an ear ache?"
She tips my head sideways and pulls my ear lobe up and back. A trickle of water runs out, and the ant stops moving.
"You just had some water in there. Did you go swimming today?"
I nod. Smile.
Mom really lucked out this time.
Friday, October 10, 2008
"We can probably get one," I told him, squeezing his little hand.
We walked a few more sidewalk paces and he said,
"Do they even make McCain signs?"
I chuckled, "I think I've seen a few of them, here or there."
"Well I'm voting for Obama."
"You've gotta be 18 to vote, but Mommy and Daddy will vote, and our votes will be for you, okay?"
"Okay," he sighed, then added, "I wish I could vote a hundred times."
"Me too buddy."
Basically, it's hard to be Riley. It's hard to be her mom.
As my finger wavered over the "publish" button, a thought from A Course in Miracles came to my mind, basically, something like, you cannot solve the problem from the level of the problem.
I hit "save" instead.
This morning, my daily Abraham-Hicks e-mail arrived. It said something like, "you cannot complain about what is, and be a vibrational match to the solution."
The point of these type of teachings is not to go all Pollyanna. The point is to put your brain into a different place, by whatever means, to work a different groove, so that you can actually make some headway.
I'm not quite there yet, but I sure hope to be.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I get my hair cut at John Robert's Spas, and always receive great service. Inquiring about this, I found out the owner is a customer service guru. He writes books on the subject and has become a service consultant for many other businesses.
Note to business owners, it's good to give great service. You never know when one of your customers might be a writer.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I can't remember the last time I laughed like that. Sure there's HT, and he's a hoot, but it isn't the same (no offense Honey).
Autism's introduction into our lives brought a certain serious quality, and for me, social isolation. It didn't help that we moved a lot. During the worst times, the television show Sex and the City brought much needed comic relief, but also a certain loneliness, "Where are my girls?"
Well, I do have "girls." It's just that they're all over the place. DC, Albuquerque, Georgia, New York, NC, PA,PORTLAND. We can't exactly get together for brunch to dish.
I might have gone mad without the blogging community.
I'm finding people here in Cleveland. Really wonderful people. Most of whom I don't know well enough to feel comfortable making them pee their pants.
I'll get you my pretties.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
I am not perfect, but I still love myself.
I don't have to get it right every time.
I don't have to do it perfect, because I'm still learning.
I keep trying, even when I'm afraid.
I can go at my own pace.
I'm a good kid.
I'm a good kid.
I'm a good kid.
May the movement and the words meld together to give you confidence and peace little girl.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
I turned forty!
HT got a vasectomy!
Riley had her first sleep over(at our house and it went sooooooo great)!
Todd's parents visited from New York!
We went out to dinner and I overdosed on birthday cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory!
I worked on a freelance piece I'm not ready to tell you about.
We went on a beautiful fall walk with the kids.
I talked to a dear friend on the phone.
I got birthday cards and messages from lots of friends and family.
Now, I'm up in my office, taking a breather, soaking in all my blessings.
As Chelsea Handler says, "What... a whirlwind!"
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Hot Toddy comes in and I ask,
"Is this too much....(for lack of a better word)
boob-age...on the side here?"
He steps back. After a good long look he shakes his head,
"Nope, just enough."
Not just a hat rack, people.