A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Monday, June 20, 2016

He Didn't Want To Get Married and Have Kids, You Know

My Mom always stressed to me that it matters so so much who you have children with.  She'd point out people we knew with crazy ex's or to use the vernacular, crazy babymamas, crazy babydaddys, and remind me that if you have a child with someone - you're stuck with them forever in some way shape or form. You better make sure it's someone you can handle having to share parenting with.

That might sound "not romantic" but my Mom was exceedingly pragmatic about life matters. There were things she never sugar coated because she wanted to make sure I GOT IT without question.

Therefore, on days like the one pictured above which was July 4, 2005 when I essentially had 3 babies on my hands, I knew I was lucky that I had them with the right person.
Our days are never easy, even leisurely days are harder work than I really share. But the ability to have those days and be happy together is the best thing about having him as the father of my children.
We spent yesterday doing what Dad wanted to do, to celebrate all he does. We started with breakfast/brunch (Dad's favorite meal) and headed over to the Chattahoochee river to the nature center to explore.
We were truly amazed by this nature center and the amount of things available to do there. We didn't see a quarter of it, because it was hot and we were there at the end of their day. I'd like to go back and rent a kayak and go down the Chattahoochee - I think I am going ot put that on my agenda for this summer.

And as for him, the guy I dated so long ago who didn't want to get married, didn't want to have kids, wanted to travel the world instead of settling down? He's my everything, he's their everything. He's the cog that keeps the machine of our family going. He's the Dad. He know's what's important. He admits when he's wrong or fails. He is a guy who chooses to do things his kids will love and will teach them something on his special day rather than not.

He's a guy who got a painted Terra Cotta Warrior for father's day, from a little boy who doens't talk but who we took to SEE the Terra Cotta Warriors a few years ago. Living proof even our Special little guys learn something from our adventures.

Then and now , he's in the Daddy Business and he's one of the best at it.
My Mom approved of my choice. Really, that's the best endorsement he could've ever gotten.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Three Things Makes me Tired

I'm getting too used to not doing anything. This morning I sat staring at kids tv for two solid hours. I could've changed the channel to Ancient Aliens or mysteries of the Bible or something but the remote was across the room. I had a comfy seat and a pillow and a coffee and honestly, this gummy drop game on my phone isn't going to play itself.
Yesterday though, I was a busy bee.
To start with I had to go to a goverment office to get a password reset. In 2016 every place in the world allows you to request a password reset via an automatic process. Click, get email, clink link, reset. It's magic. Except the goverment. If you need a password reset from the government you better drag your ass down to their office miles and miles away.

I'm a pro at this now because I've actually screwed up their online thing twice, TWICE. The first time wasn't my fault but the second definitely was. Now that I know the system I can be in and out in thirty minutes. Walk in, fill out the form at the front - don't go up to the desk to explain your problem.  Lots of people make that mistake. FYI NO ONE CARES. Fill out your form and circle the specifity of your visit (it doesn't say to do this, but I find it helps them get you sorted faster). You drop the form in a BIG RED BOX next to the people at the desk who don't want to talk to you. Smile at them. Say hi, or good morning or something. That's a trick I learned from my mom. It's really sort of basic, but honestly when you're in a position of needing service of some sort, smile and be super polite. People take note. They smile back. This time the man at the desk took my form out immediately - there were other forms below it - so let's hear it for being polite.

At this point you just take a seat, turn on mobile data (no wifi in the government offices for the masses, sorry) and chill. The previously mentioned Gummy Drop game is a good distraction while you wait.

Eventually your name is called (14 minutes this time. A government officee record.) I explain the problem, get reset and move on with my day. BOOM. Done.

Weird what you can achieve proficieny at, isn't it?

After that I signed up to do a taste test which turned out to NOT be a taste test but a survey about containers of cottage cheese. I was asked questions like "can you get a spoon in to this container?" and I questioned the sanity of their usual customers. I did get to suggest designs for containers. That was actually sort of weirdly fun. If you see cottage cheese containers with a flowery lid - YOU'RE WELCOME I made your cottage cheese prettier.

They had snacks, which was pretty tasty.

After that - it was gymnastics with the girl. She did the gymnastics, I played the part of the doting parent who wanted her to be braver than she was. In fairness I am scared to death of the balance beam too, so I was reassuring afterward. But I guess I want her to be braver and tougher than me, so my heart yearns for her to toughen up sometimes. Only sometimes though.

Today I feel like a ball of sloth. I've been grinding my teeth which I do when I'm stressed out. I've eaten right, fed the kids well and have moved to black coffee vs. cream and sugar and I'm heading to the gym after while. My head and teeth are screaming though and I just feel like...something.

I'm unsettled. I'm worried. I'm fine. I'm here, I'm there, I'm everywhere. So beware.

(I sang that last bit, remnants of childhood songs that I forget the greater meaning of.)

I think I'm going to take some ibuprofen and drag my kids outside. Maybe sunshine will unclench my jaw.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Autism Parenting Isn't On Your Schedule

The first problem with an day as an autism parent is thinking you've got it under control. I woke up with a BRILLIANT amount of undisturbed sleep today.
My Fitbit told me that I didn't even have restless time in the night, I slept like the dead all night. It was the first night I didn't have 8+ restless times, or even awake times in the mix. That little line showing "restless" is really me waking up as Charlie touched my arm gently a couple of times.

All signs at this point in the day pointed to GOOD.

I served breakfast and Miles didn't eat. That's USUALLY a sign that something is up, he didn't even come DOWN to eat. He didn't get upset about being CALLED to eat (usually if it's gonna be a bad day he'll meltdown over being told to come eat. Why? Autism.) However, no resonse, no protest, no anything seemed...off. But I thought "Maybe just MAYBE he's just chill." We recently moved the todder bed from Julia's room and are using it as a kids daybed/sofa in the computer room and he LOVES that, he's behind me in it at this very moment reading.

After breakfast I decided it was time to get back to the business of getting healthy. I set my fitbit to track my walk/run/stumble/struggle and told Louis if Miles came down to pour him some Cheerios at least.

I set out for my walk. After a mile and a half of huffing and puffing fat girl hell I returned home and collapsed in my chair.  I slammed one water then two and then realized my blood sugar felt a bit off, so I should eat something. My hubby was good enough to pick me up some egg bagels (one of my faves of the grocery store variety) so I popped those in the toaster and marveled at the amazing red horror my face was. "That can't be healthy..." I think as Miles comes into the kitchen. He wants food, so I pause and pour him a bowl of cereal, make some toast, sausage and applesauce for him and he sits happily in the dining room feasting on his bachelor breakfast, no one around to bother him seems to make him happy sometimes.

I resume making myself something, should I have an apple? Am I that hungry? When he says "I need help" and turns around. The entire back of his pants is soaking wets and...slightly brown.

Holy....fill in the blank.

We dash upstairs and to my delight it was just a ridiculous amoutn of pee - there wasn't any poop in his diaper at all. TMI? Don't care. This is my LIFE. I changed Charlie too for good measure, get Miles new shorts, go downstairs and disenfect that chair just in case and then wash my hands forever.

THEN, resume my food. Cream cheese, oh good it's not light because I WANT ALL THE FAT RIGHT NOW I AM SO HUNGRY. Apple? Maybe apple. Apple could be really good. I'm conscious of HOW MUCH cream cheese I put on, pour more water, grab my Margaret Atwood book from the library and collapse in my chair. The oldst boy is killing things in Mordor, the girl is going upstairs to "make her bed" or something and I am at peace.

At that moment, Miles comes flying DOWN the stairs...and said "HELP PANTS!"

And shows me the poop running down his leg.


Imagine if you will a truck driver who has eaten nothing but truck stop food (which actually can be pretty good if you've ever been to one) for days and was also constipated for days but suddenly is now not constipated. Imagine that trucker depositing natures call into my 12 year old's diaper, if you will.

And now imagine you're me.

There is cleaning there is so much cleaning and then I realize there is nothing for it but to simply bathe him. To the shower we go, scrubbing with a soap called Happy that doesn't smell as good as it sounds - but smells WAY BETTER than poop. Scrubbing the hair, scrubbing all of him while he giggles because showers are funny.

He thinks he's had a hilarious adventure, eating alone, getting a shower, really he's having this grand day. Plus I'm pretty sure HE FEELS BETTER than whatever he felt like 20 minutes ago.

I get him dressed and sorted, change Charlie AGAIN and walk slowly and stiffly down the stairs. My food, water and book are still waiting. Both the food and water are cold, which is bad and good.
I eat and read and consider my own shower, which by now I've had dear reader. You'd smell me from your seat had I not.

That's autism parenting. Plan, plan, plan REACT REACT REACT REACT. Sometimes not in that order.

He's behind me reading, clean and shiny and happy. It's a pretty good day after all.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Sometimes It's About Art

I know I've established that we like to go look at art. That's totally true. But why is that? Is it because we think it will make our children smart? Yeah, we actually do. It's good for them. Do they like it? Nope, not always. Sometimes they are annoyed or aggravated or 13 and it's just not what they want to do. But sometimes, like the other day, we were looking for something on the inexpensive side to do and it just so happens that the art museum at UGA is my favorite price, FREE.

Free for a family of six is like the best word ever.

There was a lot to see before we even got inside. Julia plunged her hands into the fountain, and slapped them against the wall shouting "ART! BEHOLD!" which was fairly entertaining.

What's it like to take two severely autistic 12 year olds to an art museum? Well, first I'd say you need to back up and know what you need to do first to be prepared FOR said Art Museum.

We pack a backpack everywhere we go with extra clothes, wipes (for face and butts in separate places) and diapers and some sundries. Museums don't always allow those, so you'll need to be prepared to check it. Before we do that and go in, we hit the bathrooms.

This place had huge clean restrooms that were lovely. We changed diapers and got everyone freshened up for our journey into culture and entertainment.

At that point, things are as good as they are going to get. The husband and I learned long ago that with kids it's nearly impossible to read all the little signs of info. At best we trade off one of us wrangling kids and one of us quickly reading the information placards on the pieces we are most interested in. Sometimes it's quiet enough that we can sit them on a bench and BOTH of us quickly read and try to absorb what we're seeing.
Sometimes you look over and see a moment, though, between siblings, that you might not have gotten at an amusment park or some loud "kid oriented" place.  Every once in a while, you see that they're bonding and making their own memories and that's priceless to me.
Relatively good behavior was rewarded this day with a stroll in downtown Athens and a bit of Ben and Jerry's - which was amazing.
The best things in life aren't always free but on this day they were very close to it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Junkie With A Paint Brush

Our annual passes to the High Museum of Art are ending, so for one of our last trips we took the kids to see the Basquiat exhibit. I was pretty excited, not having seen a lot of his work in person.

I've always taken my kids to art musuems. Since they were in strollers or in baby Bjorn strapped to my chest, we've strolled through galleries, from Dali to DaVinci, we have always taken our kids. I think Frank Zappa had it right, although he was referring to age suggestions on toys, that you shouldn't ever assume what a kid can embrace and learn from. They aren't always super into it, that's for sure.

But here is what is great when you've made viewing and talking about art part of your life. When you've done that, made it normal and not something "FANCY" or "BEYOND" what they should ken, you get to have conversations like the one I had late that evening with Louis.
"So I was kind of disappointed in the Basquiat exhibit," he starts out hesitantly.

I was making my bed, and paused for him to come join me on the other side. "How come?" I asked, wondering where this was going.
"It wasn't what I expected," he continued. "It was sort of, junk. I didn't really like it. I don't get how that's art."

"Well, art can be lots of things," I fluff the comforter and invite him to sit down. "After all, the point of a lot of modern art is to break down the idea of what art HAS to be. Sometimes when we're looking at art, what we're looking at is someone challenging us to accept their work, and by doing that to redefine what's beautiful. If nothing else, it makes us think - and talk."
He shrugged. "I don't see what's so interesting in a junkie with a paint brush. I really thought it would be cool, I didn't like it at all."

"It's not like the Dutch masters where you can't believe it's not a photograph," I continued. "Or other schools of art where different kinds of form and discipline were what mattered. His work is just his own, unique to him and his vision. That's kind of what makes it interested.

He got up to get his pajamas, "I liked some other stuff we saw better."

The best part of the entire conversation was that my kid has some very real opinions on art. He's not mature enough to see the bigger vision of the art world but that's ok. He's 13 and he's having thoughts that I love, because it lets us engage on topics that will carry him through the rest of his life.

I'll always remember how much my own mother loved the Dutch masters, and how sad I was that she never got to see them in person as I did. Someday when I'm gone, art will still be on this Earth and he'll be able to share it with the people he loves, and remember what his mother loved. Maybe he'll get to see pieces I never did - and think of me.

I love that he didn't like Basquiat. But he SAW Basquiat. That's what matters to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hope Is The Thing

We went last night to the Relay for Life event at the Fairgrounds. It had been a few years since we went to this, but we had such a good time last time and we had nothing going on so we decided why not go check out the fun.

Our Relay for Life event is really amazing. It's the only one I've ever been to, and it's like this incredible festival on steroids. People are singing, and dancing, and celebrating. There are games and gifts and just this undefinable JOY in the air. You see hugs, you see tears, you see people walking around in silly costumes and just exuding their happiness and giving it out to others freely.

What I learned last night is this, while the mood at these events is probably all about the same, I'm not wrong in feeling WONDER at the size and scope of ours. Why? Because...
This thing is the largest in the world. That rather explains A LOT.

What makes it really wonderful is how all of the booths have activities, little games and things for the kids who are too small to understand the "bigger" meaning of the event, but these things still create a positive association for the event that I think is important.
We didn't scratch the surface on the activities that were available to do, for sure. But we are many and it's hard to wrangle us through stuff so I think we did ok.

There were clowns to meet and even Chopper was there, our old friend from the Braves games.

We had some BBQ and hot dogs under a tent with Chinese lanterns and enjoyed the warm southern evening as night fell. It was al fresco tent dining at it's finest.
Yes Charlie is in love with that Coke.

It's such a juxtaposition, to be surrounded by all the luminaries in memory of those who died from the various kinds of cancer but to feel so much happiness. Maybe that's really the point of Relay for Life. It's not just here to remind us to celebrate the lives of those who didn't make it or who are still struggling with cancer, it's also to remind us to celebrate ALL of our lives. Celebrate even on the days that seem crappy. Celebrate when things aren't going the way you want.

I heard someone say, recently, upon hearing that I had four children "Oh - you are so rich." Julia echoed it as we ate our dinner, "We're rich." She was saying this because we had both coke AND cookies with our dinner I think. 

The truth is, we are. We're SO rich. We're filthy rich. We will never have all the money or all the things or the best house or the best car.  But I don't really care about any of that. What I have is the most important stuff in the whole world. 
I woke up today feeling tired and achy and I'd like a nap, on the beach preferably. But since that isn't happening I should also note that I woke up happy, and in love with my family. Life is really good. I feel like I soaked up so much good energy at Relay For Life that I'm good for a long time.
Hope floats. Always.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Until May 6th I was Singular

On May 6th, 1979 my dad and I took Mom to the hospital. We went to the IU Med Center in Indianapolis to check her in for the night. The next morning we were going to have a baby. I remember them checking her in, doing her vitals.

I remember them listening for the baby's heartbeat and not hearing anything. I remember the look on my parent's faces, and the nurse saying it was ok, the baby was probably turned. I remember the dread, thinking we had another baby that had died and my dad becoming gruff and declaring that we'd leave and let them take care of Mom.

Dad took me and dropped me off at Grandmas, and I remember we didn't even get any clothes for school that next day. He just dropped me off and went wherever he went. The rest of my evening was with my Grandma and my Uncle George.

Grandma and I went to the IGA and I always affirm that you didn't really grow up in a small town in the midwest if you haven't shopped at the IGA. She let me pick out whatever I wanted for dinner, from the frozen food section because she wasn't in a cooking mood. This was an amazing treat in my world - and I chose french fries and fish sticks. We also picked up a half gallon of ice milk.

Grandma said it "hafe" instead of HALF. I have no idea what part of the Hoosier accent that was.

I didn't know that my choice of french fries and fish sticks would be my dinner for the next two weeks, but when I was ten I thought it was pretty fun.

We watched 60 Minutes after dinner and then I had to let Grandma wash my feet before I was allowed to slip into the crisply starched white sheets of her bed. I tried not to think about being worried, and Grandma read me "Betsy Ross Girl of Old Philadelphia" which was full of thee's and thy's and I thought it was funny.

I woke up the next day and before noon I had gained a brother.

I was singular in all those years before that day. There had been the girl baby that died, but even she never drew a breath. I was always singular, alone in our family. The oldest grandchild on both sides, I felt doomed to be the ONLY child in our little family. I wanted a boy, and I got my fondest wish.

Mom often told me that, as a child, when she said her prayers at night she'd pray for one of her dolls to become a baby so she could have a sibling. She said she asked her Daddy again and again if they could get another baby. But they were old when they adopted her, plus - it was the war. Babies were plenty during the war. I suppose they didn't think they could get another baby, or perhaps they truly didn't want one.

I just know that it was so important to my mother to give me what she didn't have - a sibling.

I told the story of the baby to my therapist the last time I was there and her response shocked me. She said "Your mother loved you amazingly to go through all that and try again. She really didn't want you to be alone, did she?" I hadn't told her about how Mom had been an only child, nor how she had longed not to be. But she got it, maybe as a woman, maybe from the things I said, about how important it was to my mother for Matt to be in my life.

The days I had in my family up until May 6th 1979 were good. We were three and it was a good, happy life for the most part. But on May 7th it was better. And it was better every day after.

Monday, May 09, 2016

When I Move Away

My six year old is asking me about moving away. She wants to know if when she is an adult if she can move away.

This line of questioning is irritating me, considerably.

I mean, of course she can move away. She will go to college and then probably have a job I hope, some career time, a life of her own before she mets the right girl or guy and settles down for whatever version of adult life she really wants.

She's making a list of the things she's going to take, apparently MY jewelry is going with her. "You aren't taking my jewelry," I said dryly and she's taking inventory of my possessions. "What about if you're dead?" she asks.

I pause and respond that if I'm dead she can have some of my jewelry but she should ask Louis if he wants any of it. "He's a boy he won't want it." I reiterate that she will be required to ask Louis.

She concedes this and returns the the picture of the castle that she's going to move into, when she moves away. She says she's going to have it built special, as she's going to be a real princess when she doesn't live here anymore. With pen in hand, she says "Can you please tell me the number of the moving company? I want to have it handy when the time comes."

Now this is serious. She's making plans.

I told her it was 1-800 Move and she got it pretty close to right I am impressed.

The thing is, I'm nowhere near the neighborhood of ready to consider this. She's making her six year old life plans of castle dwelling and jewelry pilfering and I'm getting choked up because some version of this very thing is ACTUALLY going to happen to me. It's going to happen FOR her and TO me. That sucks a lot, in my opinion.

Except that it doesn't. It's the point of raising humans. You raise them tall and strong and you teach them to think and you send them out in the world to do things. I am struggling with the idea that the last bit is unavoidable, even as much as I know it truly is.

She came back by, with her paper and phone number, and asked me how many suitcases I thought I would need. I asked her what for, and she replied "Well Mommy you have to come live in the castle with me. How can I live somewhere without my Mommy?"


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Medical Science Is Great Except When It sucks

Several years ago I had a surgical procedure that was an alternative to hysterectomy. When I did it, I was experiencing chaos in my innards in frequency greater than every 28 days and it was terrible. I liked the idea of not having to worry about it monthly, or ever again.

I've written about the fact that it does get a bit frustrating to still have the PMS swings and whatnot but let's face it, there is nothing bad about NOT having your period to trouble you (unless it's something you want hey I'm not here to judge live and let live etc).

It's a pain. Literally. I've always felt like it should have an on and off switch. "I'd like to be able to reproduce now, CLICK - ON." Something like that. Alas no, and since the age of 10 I had cripping horrible monthly cycles. They promised me it was 100% effective, and that it was a perfect alternative to hysterectomy which had it's appeal BIG time.

However, over the past few years I've had this issue - suddenly I'll be just doubled over with this intense pain. Not to be too graphic, it feels like you're about to have the worlds worst butt explosion. But nothing would happen and I would be confused by the pain. Then I realized it was happening in a pattern. OH ABOUT EVERY 28-30 days. Now, one instance of crippling pain became a couple of times a day as time went on, and then I'd spot maybe once or twice.

Not what was advertised.

When I was at my OBGYN last time, I told him about it, and he explained to me that two things were probably going on. I had my procedure done when the process was still very new - so they may have over estimated it's longevity - some people (including me) seem to have the power to heal better than anticipated so our uterus HEALED THYSELF and is now once again working itself back to functioning.

The other thing for me as an individual ist that my uterus had all those little nooks and crannies in it because it's deformed and since they were working blind, it's possible that they missed a spot here or there and that's speeding up my "healing" process. Of course I can always have a hysterectomy if it becomes unbearable.

Today I'm having cramps from hell. Nothing else. Just exquisite, soul ripping cramps that make me quite unhappy that I won't be getting handed a baby at the end of it all. Seriously NOT COOL UTERUS.

This is my "I can't with this." Face. That's how the kids talk. I'm trying to stay hip.

Oh no, I said hip. I failed.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Diamond Birthdays Part Two

We went nontraditional in terms of cake for Miles and Charlie's 12th. They don't much like cake, or don't like it on a regular basis. More often than not they get upset at being asked to eat it, and that's no way to spend your birthday. The husband decided to make chocolate rice krispie treats crusted with M&Ms because hey, at least we know they like M&Ms.
We took them bowling, because we know they like bowling as it's something they do for Special Olympics. We made it a little family bowling party, and since it was a league night the place was hoppin' and fun.
Their favorite bit might have been the food, as we ordered apps and more apps and just ate this and that and the other thing all night, nibbling on junk food in a way that 12 year old boys can only dream of.
It's weird to have kids that you're guessing what they like. At various points that evening they would get aggravated. You want to have a birthday party for them that's special, that they like. But when they can't TELL you want they like, you're just winging it the best you can.
There were definitely some happy times, though. Big smiles and giggles but who knows if this is how they wanted to spend their birthday? I don't have any clue.
I changed diapers a couple of times for my twelve year olds, in the bowling alley bathrooms. Despite that, my two little boys ate lots of treats picked out just for them, drank their weight in Pepsi and bowled their little hearts out. I think they had fun.
It's harder and harder, the older they get. The gap between them and the children who aren't disabled becomes more and more apparent, things will get more and more challenging. It's hard to think about my little tiny boys becoming teenagers. It's hard to imagine them being 12.
But regardless of any of that, my trepidations of them growing but not growing up, their aggravation over the noise, the diapers, the stress of having TWO severely autistic little boys out in public, we six were out for a night out and we had fun.

We ate junk food and there were presents and it was a birthday after all. We six were together and in the end, that's all that we need to make a day perfect.

Happy Birthday to Miles and Charlie, the first living twins ever born in my family. I love you guys so much. You have no idea.