Thursday, April 30, 2009


My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. ~Erma Bombeck

OK I know this will come as a shock to everyone but I don't like to do housework... I mean if it was meant to be fun wouldn't they have named it something else?? Like house whoooppeeeee or housewheeeeee! ??? Unfortunately I wasn't smart enough to have hidden my dislike for housework from my children... if I had it to do over again I would have been doing some serious housewhheeee whenever they were around so much so that they would be BEGGING me to allow them the pleasure of scrubbing the toilets!!! Remember when our little folks wanted to wash the dishes? Most of us were so busy all we could think of is the mess they would make, would they do a good job etc.... now they are older and wiser and no one is lined up by my kitchen sink begging to wash a dish! I figure my house is just clean enough that the health department wouldn't shut me down if they arrived to do a surprise inspection.

I can honestly say that my kids can't say that their mother ever put them off because she was doing housework. I think when they are older they will appreciate that there was never any "good" furniture they weren't allowed to sit on. There was hardly ever a freshly mopped floor they were banned from walking over although now and then there was a dirty footprint that remained for weeks until I mopped again after someone walked over the floor and was surprised to find it wet from being cleaned rather than wet from the latest spill!! Also my kids didn't have their nostrils assailed by the acrid smells of bleach, ammonia and other cleaning products. My hubby likes the smell of pine cleaner .... I like the smell of living! I figure he gets a live tree at Christmas so that's my contribution to his desire to smell pine!! My threshold for dirt is much higher than James'... that's the main reason he usually does the vacuuming, mopping and laundry. I can't complain that my husband doesn't help with the housework but I certainly can't fault him if he complains that his wife isn't much help!

As my kids get older they will sometimes have those "got to clean this crap up!" meltdowns that we all have.... I have to say it's nice to see them have one now and then since I often wonder what the level of filth would have to be to illicit some action from them! The sad thing is that I think my kids probably have the "clean" gene and I have just snuffed it out! My Grandmother is a clean freak... there were chores my Mom wasn't even allowed to do because she might not get it good enough! When she and my Dad got married there were things she didn't know how to do that he had to teach her since he had grown up one of the oldest of 7 kids and knew how to do most everything involved in housekeeping.

I don't know why I can't seem to get it together I mean I am an adult, I wasn't raised in a messy house yet I keep a messy house!! I don't think I am lazy, I mean I find time to all sorts of other stuff! My room was messy when I was a kid... my father would threaten to back a dump truck up and use a shovel to clean it out once and for all! I always sort of hoped he would! I found it overwhelming! I am sentimental and keep too much stuff and then I don't have any sort of system for keeping the stuff... I mean really there has to be a system out there ?? I worry that my kids will either grow up, move out and live in a pigsty or be neat freaks because they are scarred from their life of living in clutter! Can't they just be balanced? I am sure I am screwing them up with yet another of my shortcomings!

Anyway I keep hearing that kids rarely say they would prefer a clean house over real time spent with their parents and that older adults rarely lament their lack of clean laundry over spending time with their kids so hopefully we will all turn out ok! I would much rather spend my time messing things up with my kids than keeping everything museum clean!

Oh well I suppose I should go and clean the kitchen and unpack a few more boxes to assuage my guilt!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Autism Awareness

I haven't posted in a while and realized today as I was reading a friend's blog that I have almost let all of April get by without getting in my plug for Autism Awareness Month.

Just a few simple facts... 1 in 150 is the rate of autism currently... that means essentially that everywhere you go every single day you are likely to come across a person with autism. That most likely you have a family member somewhere in your extended family that is living with autism! The rate of autism is higher in boys than in girls.

The most important thing I think people should know about autism is .... if you have met one person with autism ... you have met one person with autism! The next time you see a mother struggling with her child in a public place please be kind and consider that you may be witnessing autism and not just a poorly behaved child or an inept parent!

People with autism struggle with sensory issues...meaning that the world is often too bright, too loud, too intrusive and just too TOO for their comfort! They struggle with speaking and understanding...some are nonverbal and some are very chatty but may not always make sense as they do not understand that what is in their brains isn't in everyone else's brains at the same time. They don't understand personal space or social norms....those nonverbal cues the rest of us get escape their notice. Sometimes their cognitive abilities are less than others and sometimes greater. Most of all it's pretty hard to be them so be kind and gentle.

Today I became an Internet stalker...yep folks that's my confession! It's kind of a long story exactly how that came about but here goes! I have a friend who I have known since our oldest children attended preschool together. She was in nursing school at the time and I often helped out with childcare when her regular provider was unavailable. She was there when my child was diagnosed with a genetic syndrome and then later with autism. She was supportive but at a loss as to what to do to help me. Being my friend was the best thing she could do and she did it well! She remarried and had more children and moved to a town 30 minutes away. She realized when her daughter was just a few years old that something was amiss. Soon she called and told me those words every mom in our club dreads hearing "We received bad news about Catharine today..." she began.... " they think she has autism" My heart shattered into a million pieces for her and for the beautiful Catharine and for my sweet Ainsley.

This was followed by her determination to find answers to help her child... special diets, therapeutic riding programs, medications, supplements, therapies of all sorts. She sent me a card during that time explaining that she now understood why I would sometimes drop out of her life for months on end because sometimes it's so easy to get so focused on helping your child and sometimes in wallowing in self pity that you forget your friends. She was now a card carrying member of the club. She got it. How I had wished for a friend who got it! Now I was so sorry and worried that God had misunderstood my wish!

Flash forward a few years and my family relocated 3 hours away followed by her husband being deployed to Japan and her going to Pennsylvania to live with her parents while her husband was away. A few years in we just lost touch! Today I was determined I was going to find her... I searched Facebook and didn't find her but did locate her son which said he was now living in the town we had both started off in. I had been looking for her in Northern VA , Maryland and Pennsylvania where I had thought they were planning to live once her husband left the military! With this new information I Googled my friend's name and found her listed as a helper in a local soccer league and then more listings in her church newsletter. I found an email and sent her a short note explaining how I found her and hoping to reconnect. She responded also happy that we had found each other again!

Another thing I found while stalking her was an article she'd written for a magazine her sister in law started. She also has a child with special needs although I do not know what her diagnosis is... I just remember them being in those beginning stages of "hmmm something seems off with my child" when I last saw them. I am frequently amazed at what superhuman lengths those of us in the club go to to help our children and to share information with the world. We all want a world that can embrace our children and see beyond their deficits and see their gifts! In a perfect world having autism or Down Syndrome or any other diagnosis thought of as a disability would just be one more thing we know about that person much the same as knowing their family is Irish or they have blue eyes.

I have heard Mel Levine speak many times and I once heard him comment that childhood is the only time in life that we spend so much time focusing on our weaknesses rather than our strengths! As adults we gravitate towards things we do well or enjoy and no one chastises us for not being good at everything yet we do it to children without a thought! My child is an amazing artist ...just amazing and sometimes it just sort of aggravates me when people say "wow I can't believe she can draw like that" when their expression somewhat adds "since she has autism, is mentally retarded, has a genetic syndrome" Everything our children can do is somehow diminished because they have a special needs diagnosis.

I read an article today by a mother of a child with autism where she called autism an intruder. She isn't fond of this intruder and is tired of people making nicey nice comments about it. I agree with alot of what she says! I have a friend who grew very tired of people patting her and saying "well God just knew he was giving this special child to a wonderful mother who could handle it" and once replied to some poor well meaning church lady "well if that is true in my next life I am going to come back as a horrible b*%$#!" I have to agree that I sure hope God isn't sitting up there deciding which of us are "good" enough to receive such a child! I can't imagine that God would intentionally make any one's life hard or use a child to teach other people a lesson. That would be too cruel!

My child is perhaps the wake up call I needed to help me sort my priorities, to help me slow down and appreciate life more. She's perhaps the help I needed in showing my soft underbelly to the world that thought I had it all together. She's made me "more" and I strive daily to help the world know she isn't "less" because of a label.

So the next time you see a poor harried mother dragging her screaming child through Wal-mart or trying so hard to reason with a child intent on having every variation of My Little Pony all at once cut them some slack... you may be seeing a mother who is a card carrying member of my club ! I bought a tshirt for a friend's child that read "I am not a brat, I have autism, Please be kind to my mother" . Hopefully one person will see that and take a step back and offer help or better yet not offer "help" because spanking does NOT cure autism!

If you are happy and you know it... flap your hands!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Aging Siblings

Two weeks ago my grandmother had a heart attack and subsequent triple bypass... during this time I went home and spent the time helping out as I could. I don't often get to spend time alone with my parents so while the occasion wasn't happy the resulting closeness was a welcome event. My dad had been away on a trip with his younger brother to visit another younger brother in Missouri and returned early in the week so he could be around when his youngest brother had surgery for prostate cancer. (which went well according to the surgeon...we wait and month to see if they got it all!)

Anyway I also spent many hours sitting with my mom and her sisters and her aunt waiting for the cardiologists and surgeons etc to take care of my grandmother. It's an interesting dynamic to watch my mother and her sisters.... her older and younger sister are so completely different from her and her now deceased brother. My mother is easy going, quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and when crossed can whip out a temper that will surprise even the most prepared. Her sisters are loud, opinionated, not terribly bright, selfish and whip out the legendary family temper so quickly and often that no one takes them seriously most of the time. My mother's youngest sister has never had a child and it shows so apparently in situations like this where you have to push through being tired, you have to put off being hungry because other things are more important at that moment... not her... when she was tired at the hospital she went back to the hotel and went to sleep, when she was hungry she left and had a meal, when she was bored she went shopping. I kept checking my location because she behaved as though she was at a poorly chosen resort for a vacation that wasn't going her way. My mom's oldest sister holds the distinction of being the only human on the planet that has suffered...she lost her husband to cancer several years ago and that was a very sad and horrible thing but come on let's get some perspective other folks have had hard things in their lives too. She is always more tired, hungry or has suffered more as a result of whatever ailment is being shared than anyone else. I try to treat both of them as I do other people with special needs... they can't help being the way they are and we all love them anyway even when the way they behave seems to make no sense!

Anyway the point of this wasn't to point out family members and their personality flaws but to appreciate the special time of spending alone time with my parents. My Dad is getting along in years... not really old enough to be considered elderly at 65 but his health is beginning to decline some and it's just odd to see him having more problems getting around, not as strong as he once was , his vision poor and so forth. He had a bad case of gout while I was there and honestly the man is so stubborn I almost had to sit on him to get him to stay off of it! He was determined to visit his brother which required a 30 minute drive in one direction and lengthy walk into the hospital to find his room... he refused the wheelchair that I offered... then he wanted to visit my Grandmother which required another 30-45 minute drive in the other direction and another long walk. That night his foot was horribly sore and swollen and he wondered why!?

We spent the next day sitting around a lot and talking which is always fun. Every time I learn more about my dad and his childhood and other experiences. It's funny the things I didn't know about my dad and the things I thought I knew but didn't. He was pretty funny talking about how when he was a kid his family would visit his aunts who lived in other areas often with all of them ending up visiting at the same time at one aunts house. The boys used to make fun of how the aunts would sit around comparing ailments, medications and general health. My Dad said his recent trip to his brothers they suddenly found themselves sitting there comparing medications, blood sugar levels, what their doctors said that conflicted with what the others doctor's said and so forth! They immediately got up and went sightseeing to shake off the feeling of having aged !

My Dad and his brothers spent lots of their time debating and "traveling" by Atlas. During their week together they often ended up calling in an "expert" to settle an argument or to verify information since the brother they visited had just recently given his computer to his daughter and didn't have Google to consult! One night they called my mom to have her Google Lake Erie to settle an argument about some geography they vaguely remembered from childhood travels. Another night they called a cousin to jog their memory about a place they had visited in West Virginia and could no longer remember the name of. Then yet another day they called their elderly aunt in New York to ask another geography question about something that was near her house they all remembered differently from childhood. I just imagine how entertaining being a fly on the wall during those debates would have been! They are all very opinionated, smart and stubborn! They all claim the others are too stubborn to admit defeat but since they all think they are right no one thinks they should admit defeat! HA!

Spending time with my parents like this especially with their siblings makes me think about my kids and wonder what it will be like when they are all older and dealing with all the things that come into your life as you go through life. I think lots of families end up "assigning" roles to children that they continue to play out as they grow up... the "pretty" one, the "smart" one, the "responsible" one etc. I mostly hope my kids will grow up and still love each other, still respect each and care deeply about one another. I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future when I may not be here and know they appreciate one another that they value their relationships with their siblings and maintain their closeness. My children have a factor that some children do not in that they will all be involved in making decisions for the care taking and well being of their special needs sibling. I sometimes feel guilty that I may be leaving this burden to them but then I see them going out of their way to compliment their sister, to admire something she does well, to envy her thick, beautiful hair she is letting grow out, to listen to her tell them about a video game or movie for perhaps the 100th time. No one is making them love her or make concessions for her... they just do and for that I am exceedingly grateful!