Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Freida. Because she just looks like a Freida.

After yesterday's uber-cheerful post, today I give you Freida. Or approximately 1/4 of Freida, whatever.
Let's just pretend I bought the head and not the rear end, shall we?

Who is Freida, you ask? Freida is a goat that I (mostly) bought through Heifer International, and she's going to change the lives of her recipients, along with her partner in crime for a child here in the States, Paul-The-Night-Night-Package.  Rather than blow that money on things I think I need, I decided to use it on something I know people less fortunate need.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I thought a lot about what I could do.  Unlike a national disaster, there are very few concrete things to do to help in this type of situation.

Thanks to the magic of social media, though, I came across this article, and got inspired.

Here's what we can do.  We can put a little more love out there in the world, in memory of those lost, one small act at a time.  It's what I would want for my child, because acts of kindness last so much longer than just writing a check.

Join me, and pass it on.
#26Acts


*To donate to Project Night Night, providing comfort for a homeless child, click here.

*To buy a surprisingly useful farm animal for a family struggling to feed their children, click here.

*If you're too poor to afford 1/4 of a goat, or just all gift-ed out, click here to find out how you (and your kids) can create a winter wonderland for the kids of Sandy Hook.




Monday, December 17, 2012

No words

I have thought long and hard about adding my voice to the many who have cried out for the victims of the CT school shooting in the last few days.  Part of me wanted to keep silent, for so many reasons.  Others have done it such justice (what justice can be had), how could I have more to say?  A more honest part of me simply did not want to dwell on the details of the horror.  Addressing it meant thinking about it, and I was not ready for that.

It did not happen to me--to ours--but it could have.  Newtown, CT is no more or less random a location than where we are, and mental illness certainly no less prevalent.  Although our television has remained firmly tuned to either children's programming or Christmas specials in the last few days, details have nonetheless leaked through to me.

I gave in yesterday, and wept at my computer for children who pleaded for Christmas while a stranger stalked them in halls that should have felt safe for them.  As I tucked our Christmas elf into yet another hiding place last night, I wondered how many of the parents of the children killed that day had done the same, never dreaming that it would be the last time they would see Christmas joy on their babies' faces.  My husband and I held each other last night in a rare moment of quiet, and I reflected on the six adults who would never go home to their loved ones again--the woman who wouldn't get her Christmas Eve marriage proposal, the mother who wouldn't get to see her own children grow, the psychologist and principal and brave, brave teachers who should have had the rest of their lives to pass on to others the selflessness they displayed that day.

Like other parents all across the country, I held my babies a little bit tighter last night, let them have that extra piece of Christmas candy, and shrugged off those clothes left lying on the floor.

It's amazing how little the small things matter when they're put into such large perspective.  My kids didn't know what was going on, but I enjoyed the look of hitting a gold mine on their faces, as they shoveled gingerbread-shaped marshmallows into their mouths.

I wondered, too, about the remaining family of the shooter--about the father that grieves both for a son that he could not save, and for the horror that he left in his wake. For the brother that must wonder what he could have done for his sibling, and when.  I don't know this family, or the dynamics of their relationship, but I know pointing the fingers of blame in their direction now helps nothing and no one.

My perspective is a little different here, as I'm the child of mental illness, you see.  It was on a night similar to this one that I ran out into the living room of our home when I was a child, to find my father brandishing a shotgun and screaming of "those people" coming for him.  I remember the alternating rage and panic that flitted across his face, and--only moments later--the calm conviction and earnestness in him as he detailed his delusion for us.  I remember the biting cold of the car that I sat in after my mother hustled me out of the house, and the vivid red of the ribbon on the Christmas bell that hung around my neck.

So, too, I remember an older brother, similarly afflicted, and the sight of him slowly, methodically removing a healthy tooth from his mouth.  I remember the look on his face as he did it--no pain, no fear, just a look of intense concentration that remains with me to this day, all because he was angry over something I can't even remember.  The sight of that tooth calmly left lying in a pool of blood on a night-side table is forever etched in my mind.

Since the shooting, my social media feeds have been filled with those crying out for more gun control, less gun control, first blaming Asperger's for the violence, then decrying the link.

In times like these, we all want to pinpoint a reason for the horror, something or someone concrete to blame, so that we can feel as if something like this can be avoided in the future, if we just enact one more law, if we just know what to look for next time.

Mental illness comes in so many different forms--some born of trauma, some born of genetics, and we may never know what truly went on that day in Newtown.  We'll certainly never understand it. Maybe someday minds greater than mine will come up with something to prevent this sort of horror, I don't know.

Until then, I'll focus on doing the only thing I do know how to do: raising my children to know that they are loved, every second of every day, and that there's nothing on this earth that they cannot come to me with.  In so doing, I hope that they will do the same for their children, and maybe eventually we can all populate the earth with more of the types of people who shepherd children into closets before taking bullets for them, and less of the madmen themselves.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pippa. And not the royal one.

It's situations like this that give me a good chuckle at my agnostic husband.
Also, they make me a little smug, and I kinda enjoy being smug, as I don't actually GET to be smug with good reason very often.
This week was a hard one. After losing our girl, we were all a little out of sorts. Big K especially had a hard time of it, and the kids could definitely tell. As groundbreaking as the words were, it still broke my heart to hear little C tell his daddy, "Don't cry. It's gonna be okay."
Never having had much use for any of the dogs, he himself was fine--but he was determined to comfort his daddy in any way he knew how.
We discussed the possibility of (eventually) getting another dog. We're big fans of rescue animals, so to us it's not about getting another pet as much as it's about saving a life, and enriching ours in the process. We agreed to take things slow, just start looking around and getting the lay of the land.
Big K found a dog on a rescue site that was going to be at a local pet store for adoption last weekend. He liked the look of him, his description seemed to mesh with our base criteria, so we agreed to go look. Just look, we decided. If it felt like it would be too soon, we'd let the kids play with the dogs a little, maybe get our name on a mailing list, and leave.
What followed was an almost magical situation, the kind in which I feel God knew exactly what we needed, and proceeded to drop it into our laps with a tidy little bow.
We showed up to see "Jasper," but couldn't find him amongst all of the other various canine candidates. A little disappointed, we were about to leave when we decided to ask the very busy looking lady at the table, just to make sure he wasn't there somewhere.
Turns out, ol' Jasper's foster mom was taking a smoke break outside with him, so out we went to check him out. We were disappointed again, initially. Jasper was on edge, marking his territory and barking agitatedly at passing dogs. We'd had in mind a more docile, friendly female, and we could tell he wasn't QUITE what we had in mind. Again, we turned to go.
Just then, we heard one volunteer talking to another about some horrible person who'd just DUMPED this poor little dog off with them, minutes before. The dog had been found wandering around a neighborhood, begging for scraps and bone thin. Attempts had been made to find any possible owners, but by all accounts she had been wandering, abandoned, for weeks.
When the workers explained to the woman that they were a non-profit organization completely dependent on volunteers and foster homes, and didn't have anywhere for this dog to GO just now, she snapped irritably, "Fine. Tell me where the nearest pound is."
Knowing that the pound would mean a death sentence for this dog, the wonderful volunteers took her, no questions asked.
Listening to their story, I had it in the back of my mind that surely the dog wasn't what we were looking for. She would be old--and we couldn't go through losing a dog again any time soon. Or she would be big--too much for our small-ish house and small-er kids. Worse--she would be short-tempered, and not at all suitable for a family with rambunctious children still learning the difference between roughness and play.
But we asked anyway.
She was small, we learned. A chihuahua-daschund mix, only ten months old or so--and initial reports were that she was very, very sweet. She was getting her shots just then, but would we like to stay and check her out? Even if it was just for the weekend, until they could find someone to foster her with?
Of course, we had to. How could we not?
She landed in my husband's arms, shaking like a leaf but pitifully eager for attention, and he looked at me and simply said, "Okay."
She's been with us for three days now, and Pippa (or "Hot Mess" as I've come to think of her) has made herself at home. Initially skittish, she is now bossing around our Italian greyhound, hoarding children's shoes the size of her head, and eating like a truck driver. In between, she has lavished affection on every one of us (even little C, who is decidedly NOT IMPRESSED with the little whirling dervish intent on stealing his shoes and determined to snuggle with him against his will).
There are few feelings more satisfying than rescuing an animal--watching them go from terrified and suspicious, to adoring and spoiled rotten.
And all for just the price of a little love.
Thanks for bringing that back to us, Pip.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hard Goodnight



"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."  
--Josh Billings

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
--Will Rogers

Almost ten years ago, when Big K and I were newly married, a bone-thin, terrified dog showed up in our back yard.  Being dog people, we took her in--just until we could find her owners, we assured ourselves.

She had a collar, but her condition spoke of profound neglect.  It took us days to get her inside the house, even longer for her to allow us to touch her.  By the time we got around to printing out "Found" posters, we were sure enough that she had been abused to turn around and take them right back down again.

A trip to the vet and a couple hundred dollars later, and she was officially ours.  We dubbed her Sassy.

It didn't take her long to settle into Princess mode.  Although initially more wary of Big K than of myself, she soon fell head over paws in love with him.  She was such a diva that she often would completely ignore me in favor of her new-found Daddy.  Up I would get in the morning, stumbling groggily to the back door to let the dogs out, and my dog would come running.  Sassy, on the other hand, was for all intents and purposes deaf to the sound of my voice--but as soon as her Daddy spoke, she would obediently and cheerfully trot to the back door.

He hung the moon and stars, for that dog.

I remember her sniffing curiously at Big C when we brought him home from the hospital, red faced and wrinkly in his infant carrier.  New baby territory was yet unexplored, and neither of us were sure how the dogs would react to this new intrusion into their lives.  

From the play mat, to the walker, to the curious-tugging-on-doggie-ears stage, though, she remained patient and tolerant with both babies.

If not always enthusiastic.

She would jump like her legs were spring loaded, and many a time I found myself in the kitchen, cooking, looking bemusedly around for whatever food item had just been lying on the countertop.

And then realize a second later that that damned dog was nowhere to be found.

As she got older, though, she took to the floor.  Plenty of flour and crumbs and various other things to be found there for her, after all.  I used to joke that she was never cuter than when I was in the kitchen, cooking.  She would sit there, head cocked to the side, patiently waiting for something--anything--to drop.

I always thought of her as Daddy's princess--so much so that I don't think I realized how much of my dog she had become too, until this weekend.   

This weekend, we had to say goodbye to our sweet girl, and I found myself in the kitchen, alone and crying because there was no furry little Hoover taking care of my kitchen crumbs.  No doe-like brown eyes, watching me patiently as I bustled around, occasionally meeting mine as if to say, "No rush.  I'll wait."

There's no grief like losing a child, but in our house, losing a dog comes damned close.  As much as I love my children, some days they are more of an effort than others.  Some days they are high maintenance, and exhausting, and they pout and grumble and fuss, and say things like, "YOU'RE NOT MY BEST FRIEND!" over a &^$%#ing cookie.

A dog loves their human like nothing and no one else on this earth does.  They love with no justification, no limitations, no ifs, buts, or maybes.  You are as much adored for discarded flour off of a kitchen floor as for a dish of filet mignon.

When you walk through the door, no matter what kind of day they've had, no matter what kind of mood you're in, that tail wags.  Every damned time.

There were plenty of days I wasn't deserving of that kind of love, but that never mattered to a dog.   Definitely not this dog.

It happened quickly, which was both a mercy (for her) and a heart-numbing shock (for us).  Two days later, we are still wandering around the house, listening for a second dog's bark and dropping crumbs we don't bother to pick up, because they'll never last long enough for us to find the broom, anyway.

Even gone, she is giving us gifts.

When informed that Sassy went to puppy heaven, and seeing his daddy cry, Big C walked quietly into the other room for a minute, and came back bearing this:

"I am sorry for Sassy to go away."

Then, emotionally exhausted, Big K fell asleep on the couch, where little C had crawled up to lay with him.  Quietly, lovingly, he comforted him like this for the longest amount of time I can remember him--or any 3-year old I know--snuggling with an adult.

Lack of empathy?  Really?  Tell me all about it.

As painful as it is losing a pet, every single one we've had has left an indelible impression on our hearts, leaving us different people than we were before.  If humans had the capacity for love that dogs do, the world would be a better place.

Goodnight, sweet girl.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eat More Peas

My 5 year old has taken to leaving me notes all around the house, along with developing an obsession with tape. He gets all kinds of creative with said notes, including this recent one, in which he "improved" on a school craft project he'd brought home.

This made my Thanksgiving. You're welcome.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post. Also, I Need More Coffee

So, I'm a little late with my Thanksgiving post.  At least I think I'm late, because I'm not entirely sure what day it is, thanks to a gluttony of Black Friday shopping and not enough coffee.  I can't exactly remember how much coffee I've had, but based on my current state of fatigue, I know it's not enough.  Regardless, the past three (four?) days have provided a lot to be thankful for.

The two little misters were due for checkups, including flu mists last week.  I like to think I am brave about many things, my friends, but bringing my children for shots is not one of them.  It is a necessary evil, but one I have determined it is best for my sanity to delegate to my husband.  After all, they are 50% his children too.  That 50% mostly comes into play for the unpleasant parts of parenting, I'm finding.

You learn as you go.

Anyway, after discovering I could substitute a mist for a shot in this particular instance, I declared this one of the NOT unpleasant things, and we showed up ready to go.  Well, I say "ready to go," but I had to repeat, "No, Big C, you are not getting a shot today.  It's a mist, baby, not a shot.  You inhale it.  It's not a shot.  I promise.  No, really" roughly a billion times.

He's a tad hard-headed.  And panicky.  Not sure where he gets that from.

So, mid-reassurance, we enter the Well Patient Waiting Room.  The waiting room that is, you know, reserved for mostly well patients, but which was subsequently dubbed in my head as the Room in Which I Almost Hugged a Random Stranger's Child.

That wouldn't have been weird, right?

Because this kid is forever going to be ingrained in my memory.  See, I don't see Little C in typical social situations very often, so this sneaked up on me a bit.  Baby boy strolled into that room, walked right up to another little boy his age, and proceeded to chatter away.  As I watched in stupification, he announced his name (albeit a little scripty-like), and played with this kid.  He was pointing out things to him and engaging him with toys.  

Me?  I tried not to cry.  And wondered if this kid's mom would call the police on me if I hugged him.  Because all I could think was, Good Lord, this.  THIS is progress.  A year and a half of therapy, at the start of which this kid had no idea how to socialize.  And this other kid's mom isn't so much as blinking at these skills, but Oh Lord, my kid is INITIATING PLAY WITH A STRANGER, UNPROMPTED, and making it all look so easy.  Typical Kid Mom isn't even looking up from her iPhone, and there is MAGIC happening right in front of her.

See?  Magic

"Look!"  I LOVE THAT WORD.

This was the first time I've ever been disappointed at how quickly we were taken back to see the doctor at a pediatrician's office.

Fresh off of that high was Thanksgiving Away from Home.  This event last year was--um--shall we say, not well received.  And by "not well received," I mean that we spent 3/4 of the holiday outside, away from the crowd of people and food that little C refused to eat, and stressed.  Really stressed.

It went less than well, that year.

But this year, little C was enamored of his cousins, talkative and playful, and was quite the life of the party.  A far cry from last year, to say the least.  How did we get this lucky? I found myself wondering.  

Then I realized that luck had nothing to do with it.  Hard work, by everyone from his therapists down to and especially Little C himself, is responsible for his progress.  

So this year, I am thankful for the kind of progress that leaves our relatives remarking on the change in Little C all Thanksgiving day long.  The kind of progress that enables a very sick Little C to lay his head on that mom's shoulder this weekend, and declare miserably, "Mommy.  My ear hurts."

The kind of progress that creates magic in a doctor's office waiting room.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quickie Confession

"Sometimes being the perfect parent just isn't worth the blood on the floor."

-Parenthood (probably)

My kids were playing outside today while I was inside mopping (side story: Little C now calls this "shocking," because he once remarked on the fact that I was mopping, and I replied, "Yes--shocking, I know."   He makes his shocked face EVERY TIME I mop now.  A regular comedian, that kid).

So anyway, they're playing outside, and I'm alternately mopping and running to the window to make sure everybody is a) still there and b) not bleeding.  During one of the mopping cycles (of course), Big C comes running in, screaming because he has apparently disturbed an ant pile and he is terrified his brother is going to get bitten.

After my initial "aww" moment at the realization that he's being so considerate of his brother, I panic a little.  Little C is still having fun outside, but I need to get him inside, because if there is an active ant pile in the yard, he will inevitably step in it.  But how to accomplish this?  Explaining the possibility of an ant-pile attack is not going to fly.  He will hear "let's go inside," and that's it.  

High drama will ensue, and I don't have the energy for drama right now.

So, a light-bulb goes off, and I do what any good reasonable parent would do.

"C!" I call.  "Want a snack?"

AND THAT IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH CRISES AFTER THREE CHILDREN.

The End.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cuteness On a Stick

It's nights like this that make all the other not-so-successful nights worthwhile.

Also, a surplus of bite sized Kit Kats and Twix bars don't hurt either.  Especially when there are so many of them in my kids' trick-or-treat bags that a glut few of them disappearing will go unnoticed.

But I digress.

Ahhh, Halloween.  You sucked last year, my friend.  You, with your carefully practiced trick-or-treat social skills pragmatic that quickly went to hell in a hand-basket.  You, with your bright, shiny treat bucket that remained pitifully all-but-empty when little C decided he was absolutely not interested in participating in this confusing, stress-inducing lunacy, thank-you-very-much.  We spent last year riding you out inside of the truck pulling a hayride for all of the other kids enjoying your festivities, with hands planted firmly over our ears.

Little C literally, me participating in spirit.

(I really, really wanted to, but figured it would probably look pretty weird, and somebody had to hold it together.)

This year, though--this year you pulled through for us, Halloween.

This year, little C was so excited about his costume (Cars 2, natch) that I was half convinced he was going to pass out the first time we put it on him.  We had to hide like it was a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the days before his first party, but it was worth it to see his face.

I am never taking this off.  EVER.


Then, by some miracle, Big C's behavior in school improved enough to ensure that he would, in fact, be trick-or-treating this year.

It was a close one, folks.

Halloween night arrived, and my baby SHINED.  The same kid that whimpered and hunched over in my lap last year couldn't ditch me fast enough this time.  He ran merrily after his brother, from house to house, chirping "Trick or Treat!" like a champ.  Sure, he was a little confused on the three-step process at first ( 1)"Trick or treat!" 2) Accept Candy 3) Say "Thank you," and proceed to the next house, in case you were wondering).  But we got it, people.

The neighbors--of course--thought he was the cutest thing ever, and didn't for a second think he was anything other than completely typical.

Which was great, except I totally wanted to act like a lunatic and tell everyone within hearing distance, after each visit, "He's autistic.  He just said TRICK OR TREAT, then took ONE PIECE of candy, and THEN SAID THANK YOU.  THIS IS MONUMENTAL."

It seemed a little anticlimactic to just wave and smile politely, then move on to the next house.

In the fray, with the rest of the hooligans

In short, tonight was a success, and I am ridiculously grateful for it.  Both children had a blast, I didn't lose either of them, and there's enough chocolate in my house at this moment that I should be able to siphon pieces off for weeks undetected.

WE WIN THIS ROUND, AUTISM.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crashing Down

It's been one of those nights.  A night that is ending (finally) with me cozying up to an entire bag of cookie dough, comfortable in the realization that the majority of it won't make it through the night.

I'm not even ashamed of it, because cookie dough is cheaper than anti-anxiety medication.

Tonight went well (mostly), until it didn't.  When it didn't, it crashed and burned in spectacular fashion--its soundtrack consisting of poorly withheld sobs (me) and hysterical, screeching cries (him).

This is one of the parts that really, really sucks, my friends.

The good days get you up on this ridiculous, addictive high, whispering words of encouragement and highlighting every accomplishment of your child's in this bright, fuzzy glow.  The brighter that glow, the more it crowds out the dark aspects of this !@#$%-ing spectrum, so the easier it is for that mother!@#$% to creep up on you.

We've been coasting here, lately.  Since Full Time Preschool inception, we've been in maintenance mode with Little C, for the most part--with the exception of a few social skill issues we need to work on.  Big C's been more of the "problem" in our household, being FIVE, with all of the accompanying drama and fights for independence.  His glaring intelligence is becoming a large bit of a problem, but I'm too exhausted to go down that rabbit hole right now.

I'm sad and I'm pissed and I'm feeling helpless, and it's all *Disney-Pixar-Cars-2's fault.

Last night's Facebook status:

Bought what I thought was a Cars 2 storybook at the book fair tonight, only to find out it was in fact some complicated as crap PROJECT book.

But I read the instructions like they were a freaking FAIRY TALE at bedtime.

The end.


I got away with it last night--but not this night, my friends. Big C was in timeout (again), so I seized on the opportunity for Mommy/baby boy time and we cracked that thing open.  Cars 2 (not 1, mind you, Cars 2) is a bit of a perseveration right now, and (naively) I thought Yay!  Play time, this will be fun. 

(I KNOW, RIGHT?)

Thirty seconds in, and we had a problem.

About two minutes away from nuclear explosion

See, that little fold-out track is meant to be driven on by those little cardboard cars over there to the side.  

The problem?  Four sets of "interchangeable" wheels, and eight cars.

Match, meet fuse.

It started with the complex hand movements.  Not flapping, per se, but his own little take on it.  He shifted anxiously from foot to foot.

"Mater needs wheels, Mom," and my heart broke.

I explained (with rising desperation) that we'd need to take the wheels off of Holly, or Lightening, or Finn, or Francesco, to give Mater wheels.

I might as well have not bothered.  Reasoning and rising anxiety are far from friends in this house.  I tried to demonstrate, removing a set of wheels from one of those treacherous little bastards, only to set off another stick of dynamite.

Boom.

Hands planted firmly on his ears, he wails helplessly, frantically.  "No, no, NO!"

I remain firm, (outwardly) calm, doing everything I know is "right," but it doesn't help.  I try tactic after tactic, to no avail.

His ship is sinking now.

What should have been fun, special play time for him was wrecked all to pieces by that @sshole autism.  The final crash and burn comes when I throw in the towel and put up the play set for tonight, carrying him to bed for what I hope will be calm-down time.  Although I know he needs the quiet, dark room to wind down out of his spiral, closing the doors on his cries feels like abandonment.  My head knows that the more I try to console him, the more futile my attempts will become, and the harder this will be next time.  

My heart, though...it's gonna take some more convincing.







Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mud In Interesting Places

Two months ago, I signed up to do a little race called The Warrior Dash.  At the time, I thought it would be a fun diversion from my normal fitness routine.  Although I was in pretty good shape at the time, I decided to use this race as a motivator to push myself further than I had ever pushed before.  And boy, did I.

Eight weeks of hard training brought me to this day.  In those weeks, I found out more about myself than I ever have before.  And yes, I'm aware of how touchy feel-y that sounds, but it's true.  At the time I started training, I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and not feeling very good about myself.  Eight weeks later, I have pushed myself to the brink, and am feeling pretty bad@ss.

"Before."  By all means, look anywhere but at the camera, kids.


The race was long.  I was running 5K's three times a week by the end of my training, so I figured I had the running part down pat.  What I didn't count on, however, was how much longer a 5K is when it's littered with insanity.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I started finding parallels between this race and my crazy, spectrum-y life.

I took off on my merry little way with the rest of the pack at the starting horn, fighting my way around the herd to try to get in a comfortable position.  When I was able to open it up, I felt great.

Until the first mud pit.  The crafty bastards who had designed this course had provided a handy little map on their website detailing all of the obstacles.  What they neglected to mention was that there were mud pits everywhere along the way.  Unmarked mud pits.

Lesson 1: Surprises are everywhere.

Soon enough, I was waist deep in water, slogging along with everyone else.  I learned pretty quickly to watch the guy in front of me very carefully.  He stood about 6'2", but invariably managed to step in every huge sinkhole there was, suddenly shrinking to an abrupt 5'0."  Which happened to be my entire height, so I considered it the better part of wisdom to navigate very carefully around this guy's trajectory.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to those who have gone before you.  It could well mean the difference between a manageable path and a needlessly difficult one.

Several mud pits were followed by several more extremely steep hills, and the necessity of getting up those steep hills while covered in sludge.  Yeah.  This was still before the first "official" obstacle.

Much as I was hard-headed and wanted to do this on my own, one kind-hearted guy offered me a hand up midway through the second ridiculously steep hill.  Gratefully, I took it.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you'll need a hand up--and when you need it, take it.

The thing about going up all those hills?  It means you have go go down a long way, too.  Which leads me to lesson #4, learned when I slid none-too-gracefully for about ten feet downhill, before landing unceremoniously on my behind.  The guy next to me burst out laughing, then lent me a hand up.

Lesson 4: People along your way will be there for you when you make an ass out of yourself.  I mean, they'll laugh at you first, but they'll be there for you afterward.

After that was a series of obstacles that were completely handle-able.

Crawling under barbed wire: Check.  Being little comes in handy here, since others army crawled, while I just cruised with the wire inches above my head.  TAKE THAT TALL, LONG-LEGGED MODEL TYPES.

Swimming through more muddy water, topped by traversing a catamaran: check.  I think you were supposed to trudge through the mud, but I was little enough to just swim, so I did a merry little dog paddle, and it worked for me.

Tightrope walking: Check.  My sense of direction may be crap, but I can balance with the best of them.  I practically ran across that sucker.

Then came the wall climb.  When I saw that thing, I realized they really hadn't been kidding when they'd required me to sign that death waiver.  It was twenty feet tall, accessible only by rope, with nary a net or cushion-y patch of grass on the other side.  Just dirt.  Two girls in front of me got two feet up, then bailed and walked around it.

Which only fueled my stubbornness.  I was going up that rope, dammit.

This is where being little comes in decidedly un-handy.  Said rope was apparently knotted by a man who did not take into account pint-sized women who might be running the course, and the knots were easily farther apart then my arm-span.  Don't ask me how I got to the top of that wall, but I soon found myself looking down at a very vertical drop on the other side.  And still no net.  There was no backing out then.

Hauling myself over that wall, and down the other side was one of the scariest things I've ever done.  I'm not at all afraid of heights, but this is hard to remember when you're twenty feet in the air and trying to figure out how you're going to haul your body over a two inch ledge, when the only rope you have is strapped to the other side, and therefore inaccessible.  Add to this that the same idiot who knotted the rope for a 6'2" guy also built the slats for going down with a long-legged Amazon in mind.

So what did I do?  I teetered and prayed my way over the wall, then dropped the @#$%^ difference between me and the Amazon's leg length.  The whole way down, for every slat.

Scariest thing ever?  Yep.

But I freaking flew the next stretch out to the beach, I felt so great.

Lesson #5: Scary things are possible, when you commit to them.

Next came the Teetering Traverse, a deceptively innocent-sounding name for what turned out to be a teeny-tiny ramp raised about ten feet off of the ground, which I was expected to navigate without plunging to certain debilitating injury.  I started out on it, and the guy coming behind me promptly muttered, "This just became a lot less fun."

Indeed, sir.

At the end of the ramp's drunken path, instead of a nice easy dismount, there was yet another drop, just slightly less than vertical.  At this point, though, after the wall and the stupid traverse, I said screw it, and just ran down the whole damned thing.

Lesson 6: Sometimes it's better not to think too hard.  Just do it.

More tough obstacles followed, but at a certain point, I started feeling like I could really do this.  These kinds of competitions had always been for other people, "extreme" sports people.  Not me.

But this was me.  I had already done more than I ever thought I'd be able to do, and not for a second had I stopped pushing myself, or given myself any excuse to stop or hold back.

I had been getting in my own way for a while now, but not today.  Today my kids were going to see me not just crossing the finish line, but running across it.

And that I did.  After hopping over cars, jumping across a fire pit, climbing (and descending) a twenty-foot wall, covering 3.5 muddy ground miles, and swimming through a barbed-wire infested mud pit, I ran across that line.  I accepted my medal, and my stupid hat.  I placed 224 out of 1234 women in my age group, with a time of 51:33.

And then I went and celebrated me.












Thursday, October 11, 2012

Well. That sneaked up on me.

Two weeks ago, I absentmindedly wrote a check for little C's fall pictures, then promptly forgot about it.  Somehow, writing a check for his fall pictures did not connect with the fact that he would actually be taking fall pictures.

I blame studying.  STUPID EDUCATION.

Anyway, it was kind of a blessing in disguise that I forgot all about it, because by some miracle, my husband happened to dress little C in a cute and matching outfit this morning (in lieu of our usual throw-on-whatever's-clean-and-easily-accessible method of dressing), so he was in pretty good shape for the photographers that his mom was oblivious about.

Really, it was all for the best, because the result was THIS:


His first official, honest-to-God, in-all-its-crazy-hair-glory Pre-K picture.  

COMPLETE WITH STUPID HANDS-ON-KNEE POSE.

I'm so proud.

Know why I'm proud?

Because the last time this kid was in front of a flash bulb, there was mass hysteria.  And by "mass," I mean him freaking out, and me freaking out MORE.  Hence, "mass."  One big mass of hysteria.

It was ugly enough that we never went back to a photography studio.

This picture sneaked up on me, because if I'd had time to remember that he was scheduled to take a picture that morning, I would also have remembered the frantic, tear-filled, ear-clutching disaster that was our last experience in a studio setting.

Which would not have been good for anyone.

I think I may have discovered the key to this parenting thing...

Stay too hectic tired stressed busy to freak out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Word

So.  I kinda started something on Facebook today.

I'm normally not the confrontational type, I promise.

No, really.

I find that the majority of people who want to argue with you on any given subject are usually the very people who are determined not to listen to a word you say, so it's kind of pointless, really.

But I made an exception tonight, on a subject I feel very strongly about, and about which I try to start a conversation when I can.

It started with this tweet by a fellow autism parent:


"Even though the insult came out of crossdresser  ,he, I mean she needs to apologize. 
#"

After reading what I felt was a very heartfelt and thought-provoking article, I re-posted the link itself on Twitter, copying to Facebook:

"Eloquently put. Insensitivity knows no political bias.  http://moms.today.com/_news/2012/10/09/14301189-dad-demands-apology-from-ann-coulter-for-using-retarded-as-an-insult
 
 #spreadthewordtoendtheword"

Go ahead, click through and read it.  It's good.

I'll wait...

...

Back?  Okay, good.  Moving on.

Within seconds, someone commented on the link via Facebook.  I won't post the verbatim here, but suffice it to say that he thought the article and its argument was "retarded."

My first reaction was a sigh of irritation.  My second was to start typing a reply, then immediately erase it, feeling it would be pointless to argue about something this person had obviously already made up his mind about.

Maybe it's age, maybe it's perspective, but it's no longer enough for me to know what I believe is right and wrong, I find myself constantly re-evaluating the why of my beliefs as well.  When someone has a differing opinion than I do, I want to know more--whether to reaffirm my own stance, or to re-evaluate it.  The only problem with this is that I tend to expect the same of others, and others don't always go along with this in real life like they do in my head.  Mostly, people are content to just believe what they've always believed, and get defensive when they're challenged.

For my part, I try to challenge respectfully, when I do at all.  This was one of those times that I chose to challenge.

I explained that I was fully aware that in most instances of the use of the word in everyday conversation, people mean no harm in using it.  I'd used the word myself, prior to smacking face-first into its impact.  I tried to explain, though, that meaning no harm is not the same as doing no harm.  Your perspective changes, I said, when it's you and yours on the other end of "harmless."  I explained that I felt the "R" word was the worst of the worst, in my opinion.  A black person can defend himself against his particular brand of slur.  A gay person can, as well.

But you know who can't?

My kid.  And countless other kids who take the brunt of this word every day.  Their lives are hard enough, I tried to explain, without someone sneering that word just because it makes them feel cool, or for sheer shock factor.  These kids' parents--their long-suffering, beleaguered, weary parents--deserve better than to be forced to try to explain this word to their precious children.

Their children whose hearts are a million times larger than anyone who would utter that hurtful word in such a way.

The conversation deteriorated from there.  The commenter seemed bent on making the post about politics, but our kids are bigger than politics, aren't they?  Disability is not Democratic or Republican.  Much as I tried to convey this, I'm not sure it got through.

All I know is that nothing changes if we all stay silent.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Things I've Learned Since Therapy Let Out

So, in a 180 degree turn from my last post, and in what is quickly becoming my typical manic-depressive style, this post will be significantly more light-hearted. YOU'RE WELCOME.

So, with that I give you Things I've Learned Since Therapy Let Out:

1) My husband is the king of awesome husbands. Really, in the land of Deadbeat Dads Are For Sissies, my husband reigns supreme and makes all of the other dads look like those clueless teenagers in high school who had those stupid eggs-as-parenting-lessons forced on them.
Every morning he gets up and wrestles the two tiny hooligans into eating, dressing in (mostly) appropriate clothing, and taking multiple potty breaks, all surreptitiously disguised as ACTUAL potty breaks, when they are really just elaborate stall tactics. He does all this while I am still groggy from not enough sleep (THANKS A LOT, STUDY HABITS) and guiltily sipping coffee while pretending not to hear Big C's 84th question of the morning.
In short, I got really lucky with that one, and I'm still kinda waiting for him to notice that he married a basket case. Although I'm sure that's not really a shock to him at this point.

2) Little C is apparently just masquerading as an autistic 3-year old, when in fact he is a ROCK STAR. Several staff members of the business in which his therapy center is housed have expressed dismay at his leaving, and more came to say goodbye on his last day. These are people who all apparently knew my kid, unbeknownst to me, and miss him. This while not ACTUALLY working with him.
Then, today, I picked him up from his second official all-pre-K-all-the-time day, and the staff members there were GUSHING over him.

Apparently he's a bit of a flirt, that kid.

Add to THIS the fact that no less than TWO other children were excitedly waving and calling goodbye to him BY NAME as we left, and it's official.

My 3-year old has better social skills than I do.

Not that it takes much, but still.

3) Non-therapy-schedule traffic in the morning sucks. I have spent the majority of my commute for the last two days gaping out of the window in HORROR at all of the extra cars on the road.

WHERE DO THEY ALL COME FROM, AND WHY DO THE LAWS OF TRAFFIC SEEM TO ESCAPE EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM?

4) Conversely, non-therapy-day afternoon traffic is amazing, resulting in my arriving home a full 35 MINUTES EARLY every day and giving me more precious time to spend with the tiny hooligans.

5) I will spend those 35 minutes panicking over what to DO with them, because I'm not really the June Clever type. WHAT IS THIS FREE TIME, AND WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

5) Despite the fact that I have spent the last year and a half lamenting over my awful commute, and how I just don't have TIME to cook when I get home so late every day, I will not, in fact, use my newfound free time to, um, actually feed anyone. Unless you call making peanut butter and banana sandwiches "feeding." In that case I'm golden.

(What? Peanut butter is good for growing boys. Plus, there's fruit. BONUS POINTS.)

6) 35 more minutes in the day for brotherly love=35 more minutes in the day for FIGHTING. As much as I adore the interaction, cut it out already, kids. There will be plenty of time for this later, when there are girls involved.

Or not. Strike that last part. Girls=Cooties.

The End.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Hard

This day was Hard. Capital H Hard. It kicked my @ss, as a matter of fact.

One thing I've discovered in the course of living the insanity that is my life, though, is this: Not all Hard things are good, but almost without exception, all good things are Hard.

Getting married (and working at a happy marriage) is Hard. Learning (and maintaining that knowledge) is Hard. Having (and raising) kids is Hard.

And today, leaving our therapy program behind was Hard.

Yes, I just winced in typing that sentence. Leaving something behind sounds so FINAL.

And maybe, in the context of full-time-program-therapy, it is.

But allow me to rephrase, because the end of the "program" is about the only thing final in this situation.

There's nothing final about the lessons learned in those halls. Nothing final about a set of parents and an autistic child learning--TOGETHER--how to navigate life from a new perspective. One neither felt anywhere close to being prepared for.

There is nothing final about leaving the people who have loved your child as their own. Who have bandaged his scrapes, soothed his fears and dried his tears. The people who have taught your child (and his parents) that he need not live a life restricted by his fears, or bound by the frustration of barriers in communication.

There is nothing final about leaving the memories made with those people--the silly songs you never thought you'd hear your child sing, the friends you never thought he'd make, the funny stories excitedly recounted at the end of the day.

There's nothing final about leaving people who would write such a wealth of heartfelt goodbye notes that they would leave that child's mother crying in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant. With carhops staring.

(It's possible that I may be gaining a reputation, by the way.)

In that other Hard time following little C's diagnosis, I found myself unable to look at baby pictures of him. Of course, they are scattered all over my desk at work, and I remember coming in to the office that first day after that fateful appointment.
I stared at them. And cried, as I was wont to do.

As I looked at his tiny face at three months, six months, nine months--a year, I couldn't stop myself from agonizing.

Was that the moment? That one? What about that one? Was he "okay" there, smiling up at the camera? What about there, examining that Easter egg so closely? That baby was healthy, happy, HE WAS GOING TO BE OKAY.

Right?

I didn't know the answer to that then, staring at those pictures through my tears. This week, as I assembled thank-you gifts for his therapists, I looked at those pictures again, and knew it. Really knew it.

That baby's going to be okay, and you don't ever really say goodbye to the people who have taught you that.

There was nothing FINAL about the goodbyes said today.

So allow me to rephrase...

If I only had the words.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alaska Loves Me

YOU GUYS.

I'd heard that Blogger was having some issues, so I logged in with a vague notion of making sure my ramblings were still where I left them, and THEN I SAW THIS:



Not only have I gotten a pretty crazy number of hits since my last post considering I only know about five people, but AT LEAST ONE PERSON WAS FROM ALASKA.

You know what that means, right?

It means my hit count can't POSSIBLY be entirely thanks to my mom, sitting at home hitting the refresh button.

Hello, validation.  Nice to meet you.

Seriously, thanks for reading my crazy ramblings, even if you did stumble across my site when what you were ACTUALLY looking for was cute cat videos on YouTube.

While drunk.

Okay, for now it's back to studying.  I'll probably have a suitably emotionally unbalanced post later in the week, after I have to pick up my kid from the clinic FOR THE LAST TIME.

I know.  Contain your excitement, please.  Pass the Xanex first, though.


**P.S.--Did you know that the coefficient of variation can be used to compare two distributions to determine which has the greater variability relative to expected value?

NEITHER DID DO DID I!!

P.P.S. -- FINE.  Here.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Listen Close to Me

Listen to Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts.
Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

It is one year, six months, and nineteen days ago.  I have spent the preceding months in a blissful state of denial that anything is "wrong" with my baby boy, who is just shy of two years old.  Finally, enough voices have banded together to nudge us into taking him for an evaluation with a neurologist, and there we sat.  My denial buzz is fading quickly as the doctor strides in--brisk, efficient, and as I size her up, my heart sinks as I realize that I cannot pass this woman off as a quack.  She is confident, her eyes are sharp with intelligence, and within ten minutes, she has my baby pegged.

"He has how many words in his vocabulary now?" she asks, chart and pen at the ready.

"Um, two," I mumble.  Sort of.

Scribble scribble, goes the pen.

"And he's not pointing?"  

It's not really a question, but I protest anyway.

"Well, he's reaching for things..."

"No," she cuts in.  "He needs to point.  One finger.  At an object.  With eye contact."

"Well...no."

Scribble scribble.

"Does he play with toys appropriately?"

"Mostly..."  I trail off, as I remember his "speech therapist" prodding him to play with a toy mailbox.  She is putting the mail and packages in the box, prompting him to play, again and again in my head, as C opens and closes the door.

Open, close.  Open, close.  Open, close.  

The doctor sees the lie in my eyes, and scribble, scribble goes the pen again.

When we are finished, her words are kind, but firm.  There is no room for denial in our lives anymore.  We do not get that luxury. 

She hands us a diagnosis sheet, and explains that he will need help.  

Aggressive help.  

Now.

Even with the right tools, the right people, the right therapy, he will be behind, she says.  He will enter school a year late.  

At least.

I stare down at the diagnosis sheet, numb.  

Just twenty-four hours ago, he "just" had a speech delay.  Now he has autism.  How did we get here?

**

It's a week later, and we are interviewing at a local therapy center.  The preceding days have been a blur of frantic Google searches and phone calls to anyone and everyone we could think of with an autism connection.  Anyone who might have answers.  Any answers.

Time is precious, the doctor had admonished, and we were desperate to take advantage of every second--so there we were, taking the first available appointment for an evaluation at this place I never thought we'd be.

I had pictured him in school, I had pictured him in sports uniforms, I had pictured him in a cap and gown, but I had never pictured my baby in therapy.

Funny, that.

I watch as he identifies letters and numbers on blocks, a skill we are so proud of.  

See? whispers my remaining doubt.  See how smart he is?

My mother's eyes see the knowledge, but miss the significance of the intelligence, the focus.  They miss so much else.  His gaze is cast down as he names his inanimate friends, and he is difficult to pull away from them.  Other toys are presented, but he shows only cursory interest, always going back to the letters.

Scratch, scratch goes another pen, on another chart.

Other evaluations are performed, other gentle questions asked, but by the end of our session, I have developed an irrational hatred for pens.

**

It is a few weeks even later, and insurance papers have been signed (with more pens), schedules arranged, and prayers are winging their way toward heaven at a frantic rate.  He starts his first week in therapy, and I am trying to convince myself he just needs a little boost, that's all.  He'll be fine.

He is fine.

Then a video comes home, demonstrating something-or-other that we needed to work on with him too.  I don't remember the skill, am not really sure I ever knew, because all I could see was my baby, sitting at a table, developing an enmity for a toy hammer.  

The therapist is hammering, hammering with the toy, then places it down in front of him.

"Your turn," she prompts gently, encouragingly.

Chunk goes the hammer, over his tiny shoulder.

Hammer, hammer, hammer, again.

"Your turn.  You do it, C."

Chunk, sails the hammer.

He is whining, confused, and as I watch, I realize with shock that he does not know what to do.  The toy's purpose is lost on him, and in his bewildered state, he is removing the object that is causing the frustration.   

In the weeks afterward, other objects follow the hammer's trajectory.  

Legos.  Dolls.  A mostly-fully soda can, in one memorable instance.

But one day, whether the light had finally dawned, or he just got tired of his therapists stalking him with hammers, he picked up the toy and hammered.

**

It is a year from the day we last sat in the neurologist's office.  C is a different child now than he was a year before, in some ways good, others not so much.  He is anxious in the waiting room, and I worry and fret that she will not see what we see in him.  

The progress.  The change.  The happy baby that has been inching his way back out, slaying the hearts of therapists and relatives alike.

I have come bearing progress charts, though, and her brows wing skyward as she reviews them.

"Keep it up," she prescribes.  "Don't change a thing."

The same doctor who pronounced that he needed help--now--was this time suggesting that C could "grow out" of his diagnosis.

We left her office happy, but slightly bewildered.  Was there such a thing as a recovering autistic?

**

It is one year, six months, and nineteen days since C received his autism diagnosis.  He is happier than any child I have ever known, and frighteningly intelligent.  His progress is amazing, and his newest "skill" is talking back.

"No," he insists nightly.  "I not gonna go to bed."

It is music to our ears, but I am careful to smile only as I turn away, after giving him my stern face.

Today, he is a newly minted preschooler, slaying the hearts of teachers and aids alike.

And today, he begins his first steps out on his own.  

His all-but-final evaluation is complete, and the consensus is that he has the tools he needs, now.  We have spent the last year, six months, and nineteen days developing them, shaping them, pushing him to use them.

All that's left now is to put them into practice. 

His most effective teachers now will be his peers.  There will be no following him around with pens.

Well, at least not more than once per month.  He's not totally being flung out into the blue.

So in a little over a week, we go cold turkey.  All Pre-K, all the time.  No more clinic.

My emotions are mixed.  I am so very, very proud of this kid.  He has worked so hard, and his therapists have worked even harder, to get him where he is today.  

I am sad, though, to say goodbye to our safe, cozy little bubble.  We have learned much there, and made some amazing relationships and connections.  We all are different people now than when we first passed through those clinic doors.  

Autism has shaped us, in a way we never expected.  For all the time I spent adjusting to seeing him in therapy, now I can't imagine him out.

I wonder if I'll ever have an answer for the parent that once asked me, fresh from diagnosis and understandably terrified, "Do you think it can be cured?"

One year, six months, and nineteen days' worth of therapy later, I don't know how to answer that.  There are those that would pronounce my child cured, I am sure.  The word makes me uncomfortable, though, because it seems to negate who he is.  The child he has fought to be, the struggles he has determined to overcome.

I like to think that he and his team have spent the last one year, six months, and nineteen days shaping his autistic-ness into strengths that he can be proud of, and mitigating the struggles that came along for the ride.

He is autistic.  He will always be.

But that fact doesn't deserve my terror anymore.








Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Here There and Everywhere

Sometimes I feel like parenthood is an Indie 500 race, but with more critical pit stops and fewer cute pit-crew guys.  At least I'm assuming they're cute, as I've never actually KNOWN any pit-crew guys.  They're probably all hillbilly slobs, but LEAVE ME MY ILLUSIONS, PLEASE.

Now that Big C is in kindergarten and actually learning things from someone other than Tad in the Leapfrog videos, AND little C is settling into part-time pre-K, AND I'm cramming for a major test, AND killing myself training, I'm pretty sure everything is a blur at this point.

Which may explain why the dog looked extremely confused tonight when I very wearily instructed him tonight to GO FIND YOUR BOOKSACK NOW.

The good news is that despite having more on my plate now than ever, I'm feeling better than ever, strangely enough.  After about two weeks of detoxing from junk food like an addict on crack, I'm finally forming some better eating habits, which is resulting in more energy for working out, which resulted in THIS last night:



It doesn't look like much, but it's the best time I've EVER posted, and at the longest distance.  And I felt GREAT doing it.  Add to this the hard nights put in working at Insanity (the workout routine, not the mental state at which I ROCK already), and I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, and feeling pretty confident going into this race thing.

Then, today, we get this in Big C's friendly little Kindergarten Parent/Teacher communication folder:


It's a reading/comprehension skill set test-y thingee.  Which I didn't even know he was being scored on, but for which the average score is 23 and my kid scored 88.  EIGHTY EIGHT.  Seriously off the charts.

I am proud and also so, so bewildered.  His teacher and I will be talking soon, methinks.

Next up is little C's observation at typical Pre-K, which is coming up Thursday. Read: Thursday Day of Anxiety (for Mom).  I'm hoping all goes well, although I can't actually say what exactly I'm hoping for.

Luckily, his therapists and way smarter than me and also extremely patient with all of my craziness concerns, so I'm sure I'll get a pretty comprehensive run down, after which I will nod sagely and act like I knew exactly how well he'd do all along.

They humor me.




Monday, September 10, 2012

A Well Read Man

So, it's been kind of nuts since my last post.  Never mind the fact that I am training like a maniac for this, now have a kindergartner AND a preschooler, and am STILL calling my kid-who-moved-three-states-away to the table for dinner just about every night, I just (insanely?) accepted an offer to co-chair on the board of our state's annual autism fundraising walk.

WHO ARE THESE MANIACS WHO ARE UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT I AM A RESPONSIBLE ADULT?

I mean, really.  Most days I am doing VERY well just to remember to brush my teeth AND shave my legs.  Personal hygiene is the first to go on the way to loss of sanity, I hear.

I also decided to start studying for a pretty-big-deal designation for work, which may or may not go well.  My kids are slowly stealing my brain cells, one by one, so who knows if I'll have any left come test-time.  The good news is that my kids seem to be absorbing said brain cells, and those fickle bastards seem to be working better for them than they did for me.

Tonight big C had his first kindergarten homework assignment.  I'm a little conflicted about this, as A) They have the rest of their school-aged lives for homework, why start in KINDERGARTEN? and B) They have the rest of their school-aged lives for homework, can't I have ONE MORE YEAR OF PEACE, PLEASE?

But still, my big boy ROCKS at homework.  Too much so, really.  I go back and forth on big C's abilities - maybe I'm just being that crazy mom who's convinced her kid's a genius and the teacher secretly HATES getting notes from.  Or maybe he's REALLY going to be gifted, in which case I worry myself silly that he won't be stimulated enough when the teacher is sending home assignments like "Learning Upper Vs. Lower Case Letters A, B and C," (accomplished at 19 months) "Recognizing and Writing My Written Name," (21 and 26 months) and "Writing a Simple Sentence" (32 months).

The kicker was the second part of his homework assignment - having Mom or Dad read a book to him for 10-15 minutes before bedtime.  This was just to get them into the routine of reading, the homework guide assured me.  Good habits start early.

Riiiiiight.  Come bedtime, Big C picked up one book (a tongue twister by Dr. Seuss) and little C picked up another (Cars 2, written for 6-7 year olds) and they BOTH started reading.  TO ME.

Um, am I not supposed to be the smart one here?  Being an adult, and all?  Shouldn't they need me for something?

There are many sucky things about autism.  Every time Big C panics at the mere THOUGHT of flushing the toilet at his grandparents, and every time Little C wails in helpless confusion at an unexpected schedule change, or walks around hoarding toys like he'll never see them again, I can't help but feel defeated.  No matter how hard we work, it always feels as if I'm doing SOMETHING wrong.

But tonight, hearing both of my boys read to me--it was magic.  I could see the pride in their eyes, and caught a tiny glimpse of the men in training that they are.  They were so confident, so at ease with themselves, that it was all I could do to blink away tears.

My babies have their weaknesses, but they also have their strengths, and it's my job to help them with the first and be damned proud of them for second.

If I accomplish nothing more than that, I think we're in pretty good shape, no?