Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Which We Remembered How to Be Girls Again

Back story:

It started with a haircut.  Long overdue, I might add.  No, really, to the point that the stylist exhaled when she whipped me around to view the finished product, and said in a relieved tone, "That looks SO much better."

Um, thanks?

Oh well, I was in a good mood, and these people were forever on my good side, so I smiled, tipped generously, and was off to T's house.  We fueled up on coffee and tried to pretend we had any clue what we were doing.

There may or may not have been a soundtrack to this day.  Said playlist may or may not be found here:

Don't judge me.

First stop was the mall.  It turns out there are lots of other stores inside these places called malls that do not include children's items.  Who knew??

One of the most fun parts of this mall experience was discovering stores we had never seen before and did not know existed.  Better, we were able to walk into them with no clear purpose in mind and gawk.

It's like they knew I was coming.  AND was only reasonably certain both of my legs had received the shave treatment that morning.

And then there was this:

Which led us both to marvel that there is a market for lacy things that cost a fortune and yet serve very little purpose, and T to remark thoughtfully, "It's like there's a target on her butt."

She said it, not me.

Next up was makeup.  I'm not sure why it took a little cajoling to get the sales chick to warm up to us, but it was all worth it when she introduced us to these products:

Yes, you are reading those names right.  If you don't believe me, go here and here.


Pretty soon, we were spackled and sparkly and yes, lighter in the pocket book on our way out the door.

There was the mid-day meal, during which we fantasized about being Ladies Who Lunch before realizing quickly that we are, in reality, Ladies Who Are Poor and Have to Work.  But it was nice to dream for about five hot seconds.

Lunch was followed by a viewing of One For the Money, in which we first realized Katherine Heigl's Jersey accent is atrocious, and maybe it totally makes sense that she wants to come back to Grey's Anatomy.  Then it got better, and we realized we would be TOTALLY badass bounty hunters.

It was 2:00 when we left the theater, and we hit upon the brilliant idea of getting mani/pedis.  But as neither of us has had recent experience with mani/pedis, we were all, "Where do we go?" and "I dunno, let's try this place I heard was cheap."


It ended up not being too bad, aside from the fact that we really (really) did not know what to do and when to put what where.  And the trying to talk over the massage chairs that were trying to beat us to death.  And the random guy that came in for a manicure, stayed for all of three minutes before he left in a huff, only to return twenty minutes later claiming that his technician had cut him.  TWICE.

We were exceedingly glad the manager seemed to like us, and didn't look at us like she did at that guy.  I'm pretty sure she had plans to follow him to his car and slash his tires.  It's a good thing for him that the two of us look like we'd make good witnesses in a court of law.

After this point in the day, I was pretty sure my kids were beginning to forget what I looked like, and my husband may or may not have been close to the brink of insanity, so we helpfully decided we would meet back at T's house, with kids in tow to ensure that they lived through the day let them have a little fun too.

The kids all had a blast...
as evidenced by Swamp People Jr., here...

...but, just to ensure that no day is complete without at least a little bit of drama, above Jr. Swamper promptly split the back of his head open by falling out of a chair and onto a tile floor.  After a panicked after-hours call to the doc, and T's subtle remonstrance to remember my oxygen mask (or maybe she was just trying to get me to place SOMETHING over my mouth at this point, I don't know), he soon was cleaned, pressure-applied and blood-flow-free.  Once I got him home, I had to jury-rig a bedtime bandage.

Because I am just THAT redneck

Well, the night is over, but we sure made a crap-load of memories today, and have sworn we will make time for this at LEAST once a quarter from now on.  
Yes, we missed our families, but they were waiting for us when we got home.  It may have felt like an eternity to us being away from them, but they survived just fine without us for a few hours.  And, even though the kids went to bed extremely late and will likely be up at the crack of OH-MY-GOD-IT'S-SO-EARLY tomorrow, we'll be in much better moods then, thanks to today.

Well, at least after a few cups of coffee.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Substituting An Oxygen Mask for a Paper Bag

So, a few weeks ago, through a string of posts that would be exhausting to detail, I found this post.  It got me thinking - not a deep, thoughtful contemplative session, mind you, as I'm pretty sure that part of my brain has put up a Do Not Disturb sign in a frantic attempt to defend itself against against the barrage of autism coming its way.  Nope, I read the post, went "Hmm.  Well, that was nicely put." and went on about my day.

It stayed with me, though.  It was around the time that I noticed I had apparently only shaved one leg that morning (and shortly after nearly getting into a shouting match with an insurance company employee), that I thought it might be worth a closer read.  After said read, I decided that it's time.  Time to trade my paper bag for an oxygen mask.

With the excuse of birthday money to spend, I am getting together with my closest friend for a girls' day out this weekend.  Well, it's intended to be a girls' day out, but since neither of us is entirely sure what a girls' day out looks like anymore, it may end up being a girls' lunch, followed by bewildered girls' wandering around the mall. Bewildered, because we will not be there to shop for children's clothes or toys.  In fact, shopping for anyone other than us is going to be forbidden.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a list, I have also compiled the following:

- We will bring at least $50 in "blow" money.  The legal kind.*

-We will not feel guilty for spending said money.  No talk of savings, tuition or home improvement projects.  For that day, we will be 16 years old again, with nothing better to spend our allowance on than frivolous things that make us feel good.

- We will do at least one thing that we will laugh about later, and probably be too embarrassed to tell anyone else about.  I don't know what it's going to be yet, but I'm sure an opportunity will present itself.

- There will be no talk of stressors.  No autism, no kids-not-listening, no I-can't-get-to-the-housework, no insurance woes, no work.  I'm not sure what that leaves, but we're going to come up with something or die trying.

- Cell phones = off.  I'm not sure yet which one of us is going to go into withdrawals first, but as an emergency plan, I am building in two minutes into every hour for EMERGENCY PHONE CHECKAGE ONLY.  This one may have to be put into writing.  And signed in blood.

The most important goal of this girls' day out is to let ourselves do something for ourselves without feeling guilty about it.  We will remember the times our husbands took time out to play video games, or wander around a hardware store for no good reason, or buy a game/shoes (yes, shoes)/man-toy without stopping to analyze the effect on The Family Budget.  And we will stop and realize that maybe this is one of the reasons they aren't stressed to the breaking point 23 hours out of every day.

Because when things happen, our families deserve us at our fully oxygenated, calm-and-with-an-emergency-plan best.  If it takes a spa pedicure to get there, so be it.

I'm going to get my Zen on, dammit.

*To anyone this may not make sense to, I am not, in fact, a drug addict.  Just to clarify.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This is what we wanted...right?

My breaking point and I, we are eye to eye these days.  We play this game of chicken, which would be funny, except it's not.  Some days I realize all the things I have to be thankful for, and I'm in a good place.  Other days, the Breaking Point starts breathing down my neck, and it all just seems too much to deal with, the decisions to be made too great in importance.  One of these days, possibly one day soon, one of us is going to have to give, even if just for a short period.  So far, it ain't me, although things are touch and go.  

We met with our school district, to get the ball rolling for Little C.  I already had a bit of a sinking feeling about how this was going to go.  His praise of late has been effusive among therapists and teachers alike, his progress impressive.  In our prior meeting with school district staff, they stressed that just because our baby had a medical diagnosis did not mean he would meet the criteria for an EDUCATIONAL diagnosis, necessarily.  He had to be evaluated.

And that's when I heard the whistling of that damn shoe starting its descent.

Yes, little man's progress has been out of this world.  When I think of the lost, confused, frustrated child of nine months ago, he seems almost foreign to me.  Now my baby is happy all most of the time, he speaks effusively, if not always clearly.  His frustrations come and go, but are generally manageable.  His therapists think he is the cutest, sweetest thing ever, and we are so proud of him.  Twice over the holidays, I heard someone proclaim, "If you hadn't told me he had a disability, I never would have known!"

But I know.

As much as it lifts my hopes to hear that sentiment, these are words spoken by people around my baby for short periods of time.  For every bright smile he gives them, my mother's heart bears the bruise of another time - an instruction given that is met with only a look of incomprehension.  For every word he speaks to show off to strangers, there are half as many times when a whine or tantrum is considered a perfectly sufficient form of communication for Mom.  These incidents are lessening, yes, but it is always - ALWAYS - a battle.  Nothing comes easy for my boy.  

Now that I am more involved in this community of ours, I hear stories enough to make me grateful - extremely grateful - that my child is doing as well as he is.  He sings the Itsy Bitsy Spider song, cries out "MOMMY!" every day when I pick him up, he will ask politely (and sometimes not so politely) for "milk, peas" when he is thirsty.  He has made a great deal of progress.

But he is still autistic.

This label will never leave him, I am convinced.  It may change as the years come and go - maybe coming with qualifiers, or descriptives that gentle the blow.  But he will always be affected by (or "have") autism.  He is a fighter, tackling each new skill put in front of him, but I cannot escape the feeling of helplessness when it is ALWAYS a learning process.  The things that come so naturally to other children are WORK for my boy.  And that's why I think he will need help for a good bit of time to come.

As we sat in that evaluation room, watching the educators carefully take their notes and smile with delight occasionally at something or other my little ham did, my husband and I were experiencing very different reactions.  He, filled with pride, listing off all the things little C had accomplished in a mere nine months, pointing out all his strengths and remaining positive about his weaknesses.  

Me?  I was proud, yes, but also weary.  For here was another battle presented to us.  My baby is autistic, but apparently not autistic "enough."  The skills he performed in that evaluation, the rudimentary questions he answered, all were hard won through nine months of hard work at intensive therapy, and at that end of that interview, we were told that little C did not qualify for services as things stood.  Nine months ago, I would have told you those words were exactly what I wanted to hear.  Now, they scare me to death.  He's in a great groove now, the shining star in his own little special needs universe.  But real school?  It's not anywhere near that universe, and without services, I don't know what to expect.  

It's hard to explain, this feeling of parental intuition I have.  The women interviewing my baby had doubtless seen many children all over the spectrum come and go, and they seemed confident in their pronouncement that he was doing, "So great!"  How to explain the feeling I get when he is mid-stream showing off a new skill, and then is reduced to abject panic when a motorcycle guns its engine on the street outside?  How he can list every letter in the alphabet, spelling numerous words, but cannot tell me about his day?  
He may have long stretches where he follows the "rules" of what he's been taught to do and can appear almost completely normal to an outsider - but who will understand that yes, he IS doing great...until he's not?  Our ultimate goal for him is to be functioning as a completely typical child, in a typical classroom, among typical peers.  But I worry, out of my mind at times, that we're just not there - YET.  

Our school system doesn't have the best track record for services, although it is not the worst among the parishes, so I'm hoping for the best.

Until then, there's just that Breaking Point and me.  Playing chicken.