Four

D recently turned four and I’m just now being emotional about it.  I was watching an episode of Atypical on Netflix where the family came across a list of the mom’s hopes for her teenage son on the spectrum.  One of the things she listed was that he would be able to communicate effectively.  My eyes immediately welled up.

Baby A looked up at me and said, “Mommy, you sad?”  I told her I wasn’t.  The truth was nothing had struck so close to home in a long time and I was caught completely off guard.  I worry about D all the time.  It’s not the popular thing to say as an ASD parent, but it’s always in the back of my mind.  On his birthday, I woke up and had a reassuring feeling that he would talk this year.  I know he’ll talk.

If he could only tell me what he needs:  a hug, some space, a squishy ball.  I would settle for what he wants:  a snack, something to drink, or run around for an hour.  It’s a game of charades we seldom win but when we do it feels like a miracle.  I cried when I saw this particular episode in part because I know I’m not alone.  How many other moms would love to hear their children call to them, or hear them say they love her?

A couple of weeks ago we had an appointment at the house with his case manager and Speech Language Pathologist (SLP).  I have been modeling words for him for about a year, in the form of “Momma” ::wait for him to say it:: “I” ::wait:: “want” ::wait:: “*object or desired action*” ::wait::.  After five separate prompts he started to say “I” by himself.  By the end of our appointment he had said “I want chase” three times independently.  It was by far one of the happiest days of my life.  Granted, it sounded like, “I.  Want.  Chase” but he was able to speak those three words by himself and knew what they meant.

Musings of an Oil Change

I’m waiting at the dealership and it never ceases to amaze me how people will watch the most mind-numbing things on TV.  There are about ten people in the lounge, all of us absorbing Alaskan Bush People.  I wish I was kidding.  Alaskan Bush People.

So far I have watched a young woman (a.k.a Snowbird) slather mud all over her face and “hunt” with a bow and arrow, her confessionals revealing a need for orthodontic work.  When and how did reality TV take over the world?  I’m thinking about canceling our DirectTV account and sticking with Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime.  It’s not like I have time to watch regular programming anyway, it doesn’t look like I’m missing much.

I had an English professor in college who didn’t own a single TV.  He didn’t have one for years and he claimed he couldn’t be happier.  He felt he became a better writer because of it, he was more productive and got plenty of rest.  So I performed an experiment.

I was pregnant with D when I finally decided to do it.  The TV was off limits for two weeks.  To be honest, it wasn’t all that difficult – mostly because I was five months pregnant with D.  Some of the best sleep I had in a long time and consequently I was much more pleasant to be around.  I also found myself able to concentrate for longer periods of time on my homework and retain what I studied.  I was able to read a book, walk my dog for a much longer period of time, and even tried to make different meals.  The latter didn’t work out too well BUT I felt I had the time and energy to try.

 

“I don’t want you to judge me”

My brother called me at work on Tuesday.  The foreboding tone of the preceding text messages made me brace myself.  In hindsight, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  My mom is filing for divorce.

I was so silent he kept asking if I was okay.  I was, am.  His voice was cracking in between the pauses in his speech.  My mother had told him she had been unhappy for ten years now.  She told my dad she wanted a divorce six months ago.  The one phrase that is seared into my head is, “I don’t want you to judge me.”  She cried when she said that my brother.  He assured her that there was no way he could judge her because she did her best to raise us.

That phrase has been digging a hole in my brain since Tuesday.  “I don’t want you to judge me.”  My mother has always believed she was the smartest person in the room.  Within the last three years she has attempted to shroud herself in secrecy, as if we wouldn’t notice.  Whenever we ask who she was talking to or who she’s texting she always has a rude response.  I have learned to decipher what she’s saying through her Freudian slips and I’m positive this is one of them.  Why would we judge her if the sole reason she is filing for divorce is because she is unhappy?  How could we ever fault her for that?  It’s such a buffer statement coming from her, she has never cared what anyone has thought about her.

I have known my mother my whole life.  This is her attempt to soften the blow of what’s to come.  This will more than likely be a financially contentious divorce.  If this is really about her being unhappy why the secrecy?  Why wait until now to say something about being miserable for ten years?

In all reality, I saw this coming and in a previous blog I said I wished she would have left already.  It’s obvious she’s miserable.  The divorce itself is probably the best thing for both of them, aside from the headache of splitting up assets.  At least now I know why my dad had that look in his eye when he was here.

Dear Daughter

To my youngest child,

My sincerest hope for you is that we can have a happy and healthy mother/daughter relationship. Of course I also pray for the best and brightest future for your happy self. You are a remarkable little human at two, full of life and potential.

I still remember the sleepless nights we spent together in the early days, every inch of you screaming that something wasn’t right. The week we spent in the NICU when you barely weighed 7 lbs is still fresh in my head. We brought you home again and I watched you thrive. Physically, you are small for your age, always below the 30th percentile of your peers – but you are years ahead in astuteness.

Your refusal to nap stems from a need to express yourself through a mashup of Patty Cake/Shake It Off/Happy Birthday/Let It Go/Old MacDonald, complete with dance moves. We can’t get enough of your creativity even if it means no more quiet time for us. The pure little spirit you embody is enormous and it reminds me of a simpler time. I hope you remember how much you make me smile.

It’s not always but you can be the sweetest little girl. You comfort your big brother when he’s having a difficult time, rubbing his back and telling him it’s ok. Sometimes you even give us random kisses and tell us you love us. I’m not sure where you get this from and I’m not complaining.

Every day I come home from work I hear, “Mommy!” You bring me a book so we can read it together before I can set my things down. Your favorites are: ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’, ‘Elmo Says’, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’, anything with Llama Llama and everything by Dr. Seuss. I hope you always remember you’re a smart young lady.

You’ve taught me to appreciate the clouds and the rain, to listen to the birds and the crickets again. You’ve reminded me to observe and learn like you do, because a zebra looks so much like a horse and there’s a difference between a chick and a duck.

We have so many adventures ahead of us.

Love,

Mom

Home Improvement

I have a question for my fellow home dwellers: how do you go about refurbishing your home? Where do you know which room to start in? I feel completely overwhelmed just asking the internet.

We have a drawer beside our sink that is gorilla glued shut because the face of it fell off after I slammed it too hard in a moment of frustration. Not my proudest moment but one of the more embarrassing ones for sure. There’s also the hole in the drywall below the bottom banister that needs to be repaired, courtesy of our childproof gate. The entire upstairs and downstairs needs quarter round molding because we ripped up the carpet and laminated wood and put in real engineered wood. (Yes, it’s really engineered.)

The master bath – let’s just say the previous owners thought it would be a good idea to put in carpet throughout the entire master bath. Who made that a thing? And why? The shower needs to be updated also. I don’t even want to get started with the fans and light fixtures around here. My dad has changed out light bulbs every visit and somehow we always end up with a painful flickering light. Painful to the point I feel like I’m about to have a seizure.

We don’t have a dog, she’s more like a mythological creature that managed to rip off both doors off of the 12 x 8 shed. She has dug up most of the sprinklers in our backyard, bit holes in our drywall, and destroyed a few hundred dollars worth of shoes and clothes. To say she’s just a dog is a severe understatement.

I haven’t even scratched the surface. ::insert laughing and/or crying emoji – they both apply:: Did I mention eighty percent of the interior of the house needs to be painted?

Back to School

It’s the beginning of the second full week of school and yesterday was the second bad day D has had this year.  The first one was Monday.  I am slowly learning a lesson here: everyone has bad days, even my 3 year old son.

Most of the time D is a sweet, playful boy with the biggest symmetrical dimples.  He loves to be squeezed and sometimes has other mild sensory needs. Some days though, he would just rather be alone and do his own thing, especially if there are any unannounced or unexpected changes. It just so happens my dad left Sunday – whom D misses a lot, and his regular aide at school had to take the week off. Two major shifts in his regularly scheduled programming has been tough on my little man.

The thing is I have a conniption when my coffee isn’t just right but my son is expected to resume normal operation even though he’s struggling to understand some high level changes in his world. At first I would stress about it, but as it keeps happening I’m accepting that it will eventually happen again.

There is an amplification of his bad days because of his diagnosis and that’s one of my biggest hurdles: resisting the urge to become defensive when my son’s behavior is documented. For those of us who have mostly nonverbal children, it can be twice as worrisome. He can’t tell me what stresses him to the point of a meltdown or give me clues about his day. All I get is a sheet of paper 📝 with a check mark ✅ next to a mood option.

At home he is as happy a clam, playful and sensory seeking as usual. No indications of what transpired in class at all.

I have no idea when things will settle down for him but there’s no rush on my end. Yes, he is on the spectrum, but that doesn’t negate his need to be a three year old.

Pottery Barn Kids Review

A few helpful links before we get started:

What is a PECS book

What is a PPCD

Small Pottery Barn Kids Backpack

I have been nagging the internet for useable/understandable feedback on the difference between a small and large size backpack from Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) for a while now. Even the YouTube reviews weren’t helpful. So, if you’re that parent with a 3y/o that needs to carry his PECS book wherever he goes so he can communicate or participates in a PPCD and needs a backpack big enough for a three-ring binder during the school year – read on.

The hunt was on for a durable backpack D could use at school AND extracurricular activities.  I had heard good things about the quality of PBK products and felt it was worth the splurge.  Here is my honest review.

I should preface this by saying D is 44″ tall and 52 lbs at 3 years old.

On the outside it is well put together and I’m happy with the quality. It’s bigger than the Skip Hop bags that are common these days.

D’s small PECS book fits nicely inside, no issues closing or opening at all still plenty of room for a change of clothes, diapers and wipes.

The red binder is what was issued to D at PPCD for his daily sheets and this is also how his teacher sends flyers home.

This is what that red binder looks like inside.

Needless to say I had to purchase another backpack for PPCD. 😒

Papa

My dad was in town last week and it was great.  This morning Baby A walked into D’s room where he had stayed and said, “Papa?  Hello?  Papa?”  It broke my heart.  Our kids have such a strong bond with my dad, even though they’ve only seen him a handful of times in their lives.

And yes, I did shed more than a couple of tears after I dropped him off at the airport, because honestly, he’s my favorite parent.  In the back of my mind I think I knew my kids would miss him in the morning, contributing to the water works.  D had a particularly rough day at school and his mood was annotated as “mad”.

I’m sure things will feel normal by the end of the week.  During his time here there was a cloud over him.  I have a feeling it had to do with my mom, who was also here for part of his stay.  They have not been on speaking terms for a few months now and it was incredibly awkward.  My husband has often made the observation that they are complete opposites, similar only in that they are parents to four children it seems like.

It might sound inappropriate, but I wish my mom would have left a long time ago.  It’s tiring to hear about how much she’s upset with him or that he is so lacking in certain areas for her.  She won’t though, she is incapable of being financially independent.  It got embarrassing to go out with the both of them:  my dad would pay her way in and she would try to buy a separate ticket for herself.  He would pay for her meal and she would have cash out at the register.

I want to have an honest conversation with my dad but he is very reserved when it comes to things of this manner.  He didn’t even tell me he had prostate cancer until after he had completed his treatment.  His justification was that he didn’t want to worry me.

In a perfect world my dad would be able to move down here and live close to his grandchildren.  The week he was here he was their Papa:  they went to the zoo, pool, park and museum and they loved every minute of it.  We miss him terribly already.

The New and Improved

We had to part ways with our nanny/sitter last month.  If I ever get the time to explain the reasons why, I’ll write the book.  She was a very sweet girl but completely lacking in self-motivation and a basic understanding of how to care for children.

We have someone new caring for them, let’s call her L.  I was worried about how she’d manage at first – D is rough with everyone and she has a very petite frame.  It turns out she has 2 nephews on the spectrum and experience watching both of them.  Much to my initial surprise, D and Baby A LOVE her.  To the point where D would much rather hold her hand when we are on outings and in fact seeks out L’s hand.

I.  Am.  Elated.

She loves our kids so much and it shows in how she cares for them.  I came home one day and Baby A was singing Patty Cake complete with the hand gestures.  How is it that some people can care for other children as if they were their own but others can barely seem to keep them alive?

I came home last month and the previous sitter told me not to take off my shoes because D had thrown a glass bowl and it shattered in the dining room.  As she’s saying this, I see both D and Baby A run past her into the dining room ::get this:: without any shoes on their feet.  I was beyond pissed upset.  There were shards of glass EVERYWHERE -dining room, living room, kitchen.

The next day I came home and my house looked like a hurricane went through it, she was sitting at my dining room table on her laptop, on my WiFi.  Eventually, D sprayed bleach into his eyes.  Thinking back on it, I’m surprised she lasted that long. I wouldn’t hire her to care for a cat.  Disclaimer: Not a cat fan.

Sometimes You Just Have To

… shake it off.  A special thanks to  Momlifewithchiari for nominating me for the ‘Three Day Lyrical Challenge’!  Her blog is all things parenting, DIY, nails, memes and living with chronic pain.  I have always enjoyed listening to music and find it therapeutic in some cases.  And also, because Monday.

The Rules Are Simple:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Share one of your favorite song/lyrics one at a time for three days.

3. Nominate three other bloggers each day.  (If you read this please consider yourself nominated)

The Song/Lyrics I Want To Share With You Today Is:

Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

This song manages to put a smile on my face when I need to remember not to sweat the small stuff, or even the big stuff that’s just not worth it.  We only have so much energy in a day, put it to good use on the things that really matter.  Whether it’s that one family member that knows how to work your last nerve or a rough day on the job remember to keep your eye on the prize – and by all means, when you get a moment:  shake it off.

 

 

I stay out too late, got nothin’ in my brain
That’s what people say, mmm hmm, that’s what people say, mmm hmm
I go on too many dates, but I can’t make ’em stay
At least that’s what people say mmm mmm, that’s what people say mmm mmm
But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind, sayin’ gonna be alright
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
I’ll never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see mmm mmm, that’s what they don’t see mmm mmm
I’m dancing on my own (dancing on my own), I’ll make the moves up as I go (moves up as I go)
And that’s what they don’t know mmm mmm, that’s what they don’t know mmm mmm
But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music in my mind saying it’s gonna be alright
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats in the world
You could have been getting down to this sick beat
My ex-man brought his new girlfriend
She’s like “oh my God”, but I’m just gonna shake it
And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Won’t you come on over, baby, we can shake, shake, shake, yeah oh
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (haters gonna hate me)
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake (the fakers baby)
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off