A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.
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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bring Her On and Let Her Scream

A close friend asked me this morning "So how much of the day do your twins scream?" and I was surprised by the question. I guess it's a great question though, and it wasn't meant meanly or rudely at all. The question was actually based in a concern for how we as parents handle it, how's the family handling this disability?

I guess that's when it struck me how lately I've been venting my frustrations in this space, my emotions driven by tears and anger and often just me looking for a way to cope. Just like HoneyBooBoo, it makes better entertainment when shit is off the rails but let's face it, even THAT family couldn't eat those huge bags of potato chips as individual servings EVERY day.
Sometimes it's not screaming and carrying on. Sometimes it's holding a baby doll and surfing YouTube for videos of people making food out of Play-Doh (that's a thing) or watching hotel commercials. A major difference is that I don't know when this peace and calm will erupt into hellfire and damnation. His love of doing what you see above can literally run hours. Those are good hours. SO VERY GOOD.

It's when the eruptions occur that I am driven into writing some days when my other options are nil. 12 year old boys are big, their tantrums are bigger.

But that's not who they are completely. They're also little boys, somewhere between 2 and 12 in great big bodies that don't match what's going on inside of their heads.
They love and snuggle. They're very affectionate. They laugh, they howl with laughter when something is funny. They love Snoopy and Elmo and lots of shows.

They're people. They're just people with brains that don't work right and because of it sometimes their world is wrong, and they don't know how to tell you what they need.

Sometimes, just sometimes, they are assholes.

They're selfish because they don't understand boundaries and social norms. That might not "technically" make them assholes but I can promise you their receptive language skills are strong, and they know when I say no and they start screaming that they are trying to FORCE the issue with bad behavior. They are like a two year old pushing your boundary.

Two year olds can be total assholes. So I stand by my previous statement.

Right now behind me is Miles (pictured above) humming Jingle Bells in a frantic hum that is too fast, as though the bells themselves were being chased by something scary. Charlie is twirling a string, his chi as we call it, and seeking his inner peace.

It's been like that most of today except a bit earlier when I asked Miles to please stop playing the Barney theme song slowed down to sound like some demonic dirge.

It's not always hell. It's really not.

But as an autism parent you can't ever stand down. I can't have a beer right now because they would literally stand behind me and scream until they got a drink of it, which they wouldn't, then that would make MORE screaming. OR I would have a drink, feel nice and  relaxed and chill and they'd crap all over the house - thus killing all my calm joy and in my opinion wasting a lovely drink.

Maybe they would just start screaming for reasons undefined. That happens. Something happened. You never know what. And then there is running and screaming. It's not a toddler it's a 12 year old boy running and screaming and flailing LIKE a toddler. But he's not, he's 12.

I guess my point is this - we can go whole days without screaming. No they don't scream all the time. They can say words and frequently do. "Poop" is one of the tops lately. Charming right?

I think the one who needs to scream most days is me. It's not a luxury that's well regarded sadly.

Friday, November 25, 2016

With Cigarettes and Whiskey

It's weird to write ugly things about your family. I'm not sure why that's true except that it's very American to pretend that we're all the Cleavers and keep that Jerry Springer portion of the family under wraps as much as possible. When you're relating tales of the most Springeresque part of your clan, good friends will nod and acknowledge, "Every family has one/it/them." You tend to tell the short sound bites, the funnier bits, usually in relation to something else that's happening. I guess that's how my mind got to wandering down the darker corridors of Thanksgiving past, the day arrived and I had time on my hands for recollection.

I had very different families growing up. One was divided into maternal family and paternal family and the gulf of education and socio-economics that defines the lot of us. One was divided by TIME - the time before Matt was born and the time AFTER Matt was born. Entire lifetimes of tragedy, grievance and sorrow occurred in the years between 1968 and 1979.

This isn't about that time.

It's about the first thing.

My mother told me once, rather bitterly, that on her wedding day while pinning on her corsage my grandmother said to her, "You know, I would never have married your daddy if I had met his people first." They were laborers, they worked with their hands. They worked hard. They built houses, they were brick masons, they were repairmen.

They were beneath her.

She told my mother that, I believe, because she'd just met the future in-laws and most likely they were what my son would refer to as "a show".  They smoked nonstop, drank brown liquor and were loud. They were uneducated, they were uncooth - my paternal grandmother having given birth to my dad at the tender age of 16 while my grandfather was at war.

They, were younger than I am now.

Holidays with these people were unpleasant. For reasons I won't ever QUITE understand we ended up there for Thanksgiving quite a lot. The houses, whether my grandparents or aunts were always choked with smoke, thick smoke that stuck to everything, that got into your clothes and you could almost lick off the nicotine. I can remember as a small child stepping outside into the freezing cold Indiana winter up in Advance, Indiana, and breathing in the FREEZING ass wind with relief. It was sometimes the only place I could breathe.

The smoke was the easy part.

My grandmother carried with her a huge bag which had her piddlin' in it, which amounted to cross stitch and embroidery she would never finish. At the bottom of said bag was a bottle of Wild Turkey. After an hour of two of not so surreptitiously adding it to her beverages she'd insist on trying to teach me how to cross stitch. My mother would wander by and in a quiet, ladylike way she'd remind me that the back of your work shouldn't look like shit or you're doing it wrong. Of course, she'd say it very nicely, and not with those words.

My grandmother was from a large family of 9 children and it seemed like every last one of them was some sort of alcoholic with the exception of Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally was, as they said, a witch. Her hair was dyed what my mother referred to as hillbilly red and piled high, like Loretta Lynn's hair if only it were red. She would sip coffee, smoke and tell fortunes at the kitchen table. She and her husband seemed like nice normal people in the loud, drunk holiday chaos. The rest of them, however, were a blur. There were hugs and kisses with smudged lipstick, and faces needing a closer shave - all reeking of the sweet burned smell of whiskey. Everyone looked old to me, so very old and slightly ill.

They liked to tell horrible stories, of people who died. Of how Butchie was run over in the driveway when he was four because someone didn't look behind the car (I can't even recall who, just that Butchie was a cousin I never met - my memory is failing about whose child he actually was), of Uncle Redd and his infamous trip through the Mechanicsburg Bridge (he died) and his time in prison. Of boyfriends and girlfriends lost gone or dead and how they went.  They'd laugh, and toast to the dead even little Butchie who was run over in his own driveway.

It taught me from a very young age that these were people to be cautious around, they wouldn't look out for you.

Fights would start sometimes before the meal, before the blessing. It would always be about some previous transgression, or some older grievance. My grandma stole my grandpa away from Aunt Sally in their youth - I would've always guess SHE had the biggest grievance but she rarely said a word. The words were slurred, angry, hateful. Sometimes things would be thrown or it would just be suggested we have the prayer and eat. People would retreat to corners and eat, and maybe make up after their blood sugar returned to normal or they'd leave quietly only to return and do it all again next year.

After everyone had eaten and the men were in the easy chairs watching the Lions or the Cowboys the other stories would start, about how Uncle Redd built Grandma and Grandpa's house after he got out of prison, because only Grandpa would come get him. It was his way of saying thank you. There would be other stories, jokes, happy memories and you had to soak up those stories - your tiny glimpses that these people weren't completely horrible were hard to come by and had to be appreciated.

Somewhere into the second football game the best thing that could happen would be that my grandma was asleep. If she WASN'T asleep that's when some of the craziest conversations of my life would take place. She would, in her Wild Turkey drunk slurred speech, start giving me MAN advice. How to get a man. How to (and this one is one of my faves) GET MY WAY with a man. I could literally see my mother seething as she politely let these conversations go on, knowing I was going to get a huge talking to about how INSANE my Grandma was. There was no way to escape her drunk hug as she advised, year after year, about how BLOWJOBS were really the secret. I started getting these conversations when I was about 10.

That's right, my grandma was giving me advice about giving blowjobs and how I needed to use them to make men give me my way. I was never exactly clear what my WAY was supposed to be about? Money? Shopping? It was all very vague and truly based on the pretty crap existence she seemed to be living hadn't worked out that well for her, really.

I've been thinking about these loud, obnoxious drunk relatives of mine for a while today.  We stopped spending as much time there somewhere around the time I was 12, apparently at some point either Mom put her foot down or Dad just got sick of it too. I have a vivid memory of being called out of my cousin's bedroom, where I had retreated with a book, to find we were packing up our stuff and leaving. I don't know why or what happened. I can't imagine WHAT the transgression was that was so great that my Dad pulled the plug on our holiday meal but it was something. I remember my Aunt and Grandma following down the driveway begging him to change his mind, walking in my socks on  the wet ground because I'd come so quickly I didn't put my shoes on and I didn't have time. I never asked what happened, but I know after that our visits were less frequent.

I can't imagine what was worse than glassware being thrown and oral sex advice being dished out by grandmas but apparently that thing had happened.

I think a large portion of my adult life has been spent endeavoring to be the opposite of those people.

Some days are better than others. But I'm trying, Ringo.



(Source: apanelofanalysts, via likiteesplit)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Match My Overcompensation

When I was growing up Mom always told me when I didn't feel good I should dress up. I'd feel better with my face on, a pretty dress, something that outwardly said LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM. There is some truth in that, some sort of Tony Robbins gibberish where how you outwardly behave then impacts how people treat you and then how people treat you impacts how you feel yadda yadda yadda.
It kinda works, is my point.

I have a similar tactic for when life is exploding in various forms with my kids. The more crazy autism is making my life and me, the more I dig in to some Betty Crocker- Pioneer woman version of myself. Yesterday was one of those days.

Miles has this thing where he demands I change him when he poops. That doesn't sound unreasonable, actually, and it isn't. I certainly wouldn't want to go around with poop in my pants. However Miles also has a sensory issue with poop. So - and now this is where it gets GRAPHIC so go ahead and look away now. I'm warning you.

He'll poop one tiny smidget of poop. A WEE poop. THEN, at THAT moment he'll start shouting in my face "POOP! POOP!" Yesterday by 9 am he'd done it six times. 'Why don't you set him on the potty?' you might ask with great incredulity because you've raised kids and know a thing or two about potty training. Well, gentle reader, I do. Frequently but not as frequently as I should. The main reason for this is simply that he tends to scream the whole time and frankly sometimes I'm just not fucking up to it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm human. Sometimes I'm just doing my best to function and what that includes is a level of skilled nursing I wasn't prepared to have to live. Sometimes chaos wins.

Yesterday however, I drank a bunch of coffee and pinned a bunch of workouts on Pinterest (because that burns calories amirite?) and decided I wasn't going to let the day be so very fucked. I was going to be a good MOM WHO DID THINGS WITH HER KIDS instead of some mom trying to dungeon in World of Warcraft on her very wittily named Demon Hunter (Murdurhobo, her name is Murdurhobo - I slay me) anyway I was going to DO STUFF.

Miles was my main trouble maker so I decided we'd bake something, anything, because he LOVES to help bake. My mom left me with a terrible applesauce bread recipe. I mean, it's just not good. I'd vowed for a long time to find a new one, mainly because she used to make some version of applesauce bread that was good and not like the recipe. I found one on the internet and Miles and I spent some quality time stirring and mixing.
In fact it was enough activity for him to chill him the eff out for a while. He got bored with planned activity when I put it into the oven and decided to go watch youtube videos of hotel commercials and people making pretend food out of playdoh (that's a thing, no really).

That was right about when Julia and Louis started fighting. He likes to tell her the shows she watches either aren't real or are stupid. He does this because he's 14. She then starts sobbing and gets mad and yells about how he ruins everything and it's just this whole brother/sister dynamic that is both soul sucking and annoying as hell. At that point I enlisted her to go with me outside to gather pinecones and some more firewood. 

She thinks that it's great, trudging through the forest edge, picking up pine cones and to top it off it was actually cold outside so it took her mind off the injustice that had been wrought by Shimmer and Shine being criticized. 
Adding things to the fire, twigs, pine cones, witches, is entertaining to the kids and so we sat and burned various things from the woods for a while and no one thought to be critical of a talking sponge who lives in a pineapple while we did it. 

This peace lasted a while. But the sun had to set and with it came more fighting, more demands for a diaper, time on the toilet with screaming the likes of which not heard since Torquemada was around, and general wearing down of my I AM A GOOD MOM I AM SPENDING TIME WITH MY KIDS mentality. 

I did choose a workout and did it and I admit I felt some better. I felt less like crying and screaming so that was a plus. It cleared my head to enough to realize it was time to do some more together stuff so I decided to make a potato side dish I'd seen online and Miles could help with - there was stirring involved. Julia came to consider helping but she was busy being Elsa apparently so it was just me and Miles. He ate a piece of raw potato and seemed upset with me that it wasn't as tasty as raw batter. While he stirred and I chopped, the sounds of Elsa and her brother playing Battlefront came from the living room - there was peace in the Empire apparently, after all.
These potatoes? Pretty damn good if I do say so myself. 

I cleaned up dinner and loaded the dishwasher and realized I HAD SURVIVED a day. It wasn't the worst day. It wasn't a cry in the shower because the world is so wrong day. My husband just had them for three solid days while I was gone and he needed a day away to watch football and chill -so it's not like I was unduly abandoned.

I'm not sure if my need to over-compensate when I'm so frustrated works well or if it just makes me super exhausted in the end. I just know it's my go-to coping tool so in it's own way I suppose it works for me. 

What I do know is that at the end of the day we five sat around a fire watching Luke learn about his heritage and snuggled as though there had been no stress in our day. There had been no fighting, no tantrums, no hysterical screaming when asked to use the potty. It was just us, snuggled up and in various stages of nodding off, happy and loving each other.

I guess that's the goal. Achievement unlocked - Happy Kids.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Mini Pretzels and Man Hands

My mini rant today is about the in flight snacks on airlines, specifically Delta. I told a close friend of mine that in Atlanta we're insanely brand loyal. We drink Coke, we fly Delta. So it's Delta on which I fly and Delta is the warm bosom of familiarity to me when I take to the skies.

Knowing their routines, their banter and chatter is comforting when you're racing through the skies at insane speeds and at 35k feet. I like knowing the DRILL.

But I find it annoying that on shorter hops their snacks are ABSOLUTE SHIT.

Once upon a time you got peanuts and a beverage. These were the dark, ancient times of air travel. It's possible these medieval times exist on other airlines but I don't know about it - as I'm from Atlanta and we fly DELTA.

In a perfect world, one just short of them serving you food, they offer the perfect accompaniment to their quite excellent coffee - BISCOFF cookies.

These cookies are so damned good they are almost a sin. They're like some delicious variation of what a pecan sandy aspires to be. Slightly caramelized, they are amazing both as an accompaniment to the delicious Starbucks coffee served or just dunked straight the hell in some black coffee.

On shorter hops,less than 90 minutes is the magic line in the sand based on my own travel experience, you get...MINI PRETZELS.

These are possibly the stupidest snack in the world. While you do have the option of getting a soda, water, juice or some more PRETZEL APPROPRIATE beverage with it - do you SEE how small this thing is? I think an adult doesn't actually have to chew them.

Additionally all the do is make you angry you didn't actually have a snack. Here's your pop, here's your  mini-pretzels for your giant man hands. Take it easy there GIGANTOR, don't eat them all at once!

I was thinking about this on the way home from Indy, about how this is one of the stupidest refreshment services I ever encounter. People might argue that they're free but I just paid a fortune in airfare no they aren't free they're calculated into the cost I can guarantee you that. So I'm PAYING for micro-pretzels. Nano-pretzels, if you will.

I think a huge problem with my level of dismay would be best stated as the complete lack of satisfaction they provide AS a snack. If someone had set out a huge tray of cheese and sliced a cheese cube in half and gave that to you, that's what eating these pretzels is like. It could be good, but it's just....eh.

Part of this whole "these don't satisfy anyone" may simply be due to the huge calorie deficit they represent.

Delta Airlines - Biscoff Cookies (2-pack)
Calories120Sodium
Total Fat5 gPotassium
Saturated2 gTotal Carbs
Polyunsaturated0 gDietary Fiber
Monounsaturated0 gSugars

Biscoff cookies come to the table with 120 calories and a bit of fat. They aren't a meal but generally I land after a couple of hours and I'm not going to die if I don't eat soon. In fact there were plenty of instances where I didn't get to eat for hours (mostly due to other people being quite rude) and Biscoff cookies kept me alive, like some sweet delicious foreign hard-tack . 

Mini-Pretzels though? 
Calories45Sodium
Total Fat1 gPotassium
Saturated0 gTotal Carbs
Polyunsaturated0 gDietary Fiber
Monounsaturated0 gSugars
This is the sort of snack that people who say things like "Oh dear I forgot to eat today" might consider a real snack. This is the devil's work, in snack form.

It's complete bullshit. That's what it is.

Luckily I was wise on my outgoing flight and ingested a chicken biscuit and a sweet tea because it's Atlanta, so when I landed in Indy I wasn't ready to eat the entire city. But on my return flight there were delays, there was so much WALKING, there was construction, there was nothing but annoyance on my sojourn north and I had no choice but to slam a bunch of popcorn chicken, fries and a peanut butter and chocolate shake from Sonic.

I hope you are happy with yourself, Delta.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Space Between...

....the tears we cry, is the laughter keeps us coming back for more.
                                                                                              ~ Dave Matthews

It gets harder and harder to be an autism parent as they age. I'd say we are in one of those "omg this sucks" times right now. I posted on FACEBOOK that my life exists in between changing shit filled diapers. This is possibly one of the truest things I've ever posted. It's raw, it's unedited and if you had to walk a mile in my shoes you'd get poop under your fingernails I can promise you that.


Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. It's just that getting to GOOD seems to be harder and harder.

It's not as though we won't work through this and find our way to "our" version of normal. I think we will somehow. It's just overwhelming some days. Sometimes it's overwhelming days in a row. Weekends when we go out improve their mood, but it doesn't do a damn thing for the fact that time is still just divided up into the spaces between when diapers need changed.
I have captured here a moment in time. The kids are playing in the nature center and being silly. This moment of parenting relaxing and joy is about to be interrupted by....MILES who has begun to pull on his diaper. Changing a 12 year old boy is a delight lemme tell you. Changing a 12 year old boy in a dank bathroom in a nature center, A+++.

This is every moment in our lives. LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE DIAPER. LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE DIAPER. Insert some screaming for no reason. LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE DIAPER.

Why aren't they potty trained at 12? I don't fucking know. You tell ME how to do it. When you sit a child on the potty at 12 and he nearly breaks the thing screaming and thrashing, it tends to run you down. Especially about the 10th time he does it.
Is it all bad? No it's not. But it's getting to this point where it's running us, as it does sometimes. Sometimes Autism runs the show around here and everything else suffers.
We do our best but we fail because we're humans. I just wish I knew how to make it better. How to mentally survive the never ending diapers that stretch out in front of me to eternity.

Some asshole shot this bald eagle with an arrow. He lost most of one wing because of it and can't fly. He's kept safe here at this retreat we visited a few days ago. Sometimes I think the husband and I feel a little bit like him. Trapped. Nothing really wrong, we've got food and shelter and what we need.

But we are trapped for the rest of our lives by autism. We'll never be free.

If you think that isn't daunting, bless your heart.