Monthly Archives: October 2007

Boo!

Happy Halloween, everyone!Baxter took this of me last week and I’ve been saving it for you. Blurry, but special, no?
Photos of the actual trick-or-treaters will be available after tonight’s Halloween extravaganza.

Mama’s Little Elf


Gross Out Songs

Like most kids of a certain age, my kids like gross. I’ve already described how Lyle uses his potty words in the bathroom – that is, by racing into the bathroom when overcome by the urge to shout out his litany: “Pee-pee, poop, penis, butt, and bottom!!!” I love that “bottom” is a bathroom word to him, and I also want to add that I never said he couldn’t talk about his penis outside the bathroom, okay? Just wanted to make that clear.

Anyway.

We now have a new ritual added to the bedtime routine. In the past, we all laid down on the big bed outside the boys’ room and sang some sweet good night songs. However, thanks to Matt, we now also sing “gross-out songs” before bed. Yes, on any given night you might hear something along the lines of “Pee pee, poop, and throw up, too…hope there’s no dog poop on my shoe” to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. It’s always improvised and always met with gales of giggles. From all of us.

Ain’t we got fun?

Kitchen Counter: Found!

Hey, look, everyone! I found the kitchen counter!

Turns out it was green all along. Who knew?Just goes to show you what can be accomplished by staying up really late.

Maybe now I will stop YAMMERING ON about it on this blog.

(But don’t count on it.)

The Letter of the Day

As I might have anticipated, this kid-free weekend was brought to us by the letter P… P for “productive”, “pumpkin pie”, and, well, maybe also a little “panic” thrown in.

Panic might be overstating the case, but I’ll bet you all know what happens when you start to organize the house. You open the storage room downstairs (which should have a big “Beware: Can of Worms!” warning on the door), preparing to finally move the big rug into it and – Holy too much crap, Batman! – you find yourself two hours later still moving boxes from one closet to another, with a huge pile of Goodwill donations by the back door. At the end of the day, you have accomplished a great deal, really, you have – the only trouble is, much of the impact is actually invisible to the naked eye, and you still can’t see the kitchen counter or your desk. Nor have any pictures gone up. You face reality all over again – that the work is really, truly never done, and while you are thrilled with what you have accomplished, you’d feel much better if you had the next two weeks available to keep going.

In the midst of the chaos, I received the phone call I’d been expecting and – to be honest – dreading just a little bit. It was a nice woman from church following up on my offer to make a meal for one of the couples who has recently had a baby. It’s true: I had told her this would be a good weekend (my time is flexible, after all). So, yes, yes, of course I can make a meal for these new parents tomorrow night. Absolutely. (Gulp.) Overwhelmed, I put it out of my mind and enjoyed a fun evening out with Matt.

I was up early today, happy to rise when I was good and ready. (Too bad I was “good and ready” quite so early.) Enjoying a leisurely few minutes at the computer, I discovered that not one but two bloggers I read regularly had posted delicious-sounding fall recipes this morning! How did you all know that I needed inspiration today? I am happy to report that I have made both Jennifer Graf Groneberg’s lentil soup and Kristen’s pear bread this afternoon. With a nice salad thrown in, this will make a wonderful dinner for these first-time parents tonight. My kitchen smells absolutely fantastic.

I’m starting to suspect that the personal satisfaction I receive from doing things for others is making the difference in my stress level (that is, keeping it strangely low). Could it be that the sense of well-being that comes from lovingly preparing a hearty fall meal for a sleep-deprived couple I’ve never met – and beginning the planning process for a fabulous non-profit (more on this soon!) – leaves me feeling like it’s all going to be okay?

I don’t have to be in control of everything. I don’t need to freak out about getting to the surface of that kitchen counter or being caught up on every bit of paperwork because I am spending a lot of my time and energy right now on much bigger and more important things. Perhaps this helps to put in perspective the feeling of never being caught up enough in my own life.

Maybe, just maybe, this weekend’s P was actually for “perfect”.

Full-nest Syndrome

Have you ever felt concerned about your lack of stress?

I am actually worried about not being worried tonight. The weirdest thing is, I’m not much of a worrier most of the time. But I am strangely calm at a time when, truth be told, I have no right to be. I don’t know exactly what-all I’m supposed to be doing with my evening, but I can tell you with certainty that it’s not: a) having a nice long chat with my husband over a yummy dinner delivered from the Heartland Cafe; b) catching up on email and blogs; or c) going to bed early and reading until I fall asleep.

No, I’m pretty sure my time is supposed to be spent doing something like the following: a) unearthing the kitchen counter; b) writing October therapy notes and doing the end of the month billing for my practice; or c) writing one of those many progress reports or insurance documents that families have asked for. But I’m not doing those things right now, nor have I done them for the past couple of days when I had a moment. I’m really behind on things. And I’m totally calm about it. This is unlike me.

Maybe this is the calm before the storm. (I do see the storm that is the period between Halloween and Christmas on the horizon. It’s a-comin’. Halloween, Baxter’s birthday, work days at nursery school, evening meetings, evaluations I said I would do for new clients (what was I thinking?!), and then sailing on into Christmas and our trip to California. Yee-ikes.)

Matt’s parents are taking the boys for the weekend. Yes, again! Although we have some fun things planned for ourselves, we are going to spend a goodly chunk of our quiet time working indoors on household chores that are long overdue. A few more pictures will be hung, some furniture will be rearranged, and errands will be run. So perhaps the promise of this upcoming productivity is enough to keep my stress at bay right now.

It reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon Matt stuck to our fridge tonight: a psychologist says to the thirtysomething woman lying on the couch, “You may be suffering from what’s known as full-nest syndrome.

Amen to that.

Book Review – Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

I have posted a review of the new book Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison at The Family Room. It’s a truly wonderful and fascinating book, so come on over and read all about it.

While you’re hanging out in The Family Room, stop and read Susan’s review of Autism: The Musical because she gives it a more in-depth review than I did and we really need to get the word out about this incredible documentary.

Furthermore, Susan points us to a very helpful new post explaining the mysteries of the IEP process (to the extent that any of us can explain them) written by Kariana this week over on Silicon Valley Moms Blog, one of the sister sites to the Chicago Moms Blog.

Thanks, Susan, for keeping us all in the know!

Santa’s Elves are Watching

Am I the very last parent in America to use Santa’s elves as incentive for good behavior? It’s freakin’ amazing what the boys’ll do for a good report from those little guys.

It’s not even Halloween, for god’s sake, and I’m pulling it out already. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Baxter keeps stealing those toy catalogs from the mailbox while I’m at work and is making the world’s longest Christmas list. In October. Thanks, Fisher-Price.

It might not be listed in the “Right Things To Do” category in the current edition of Trends in Parenting*, but it works wonders.

Because you just never know when they might be peeking in the windows.

I’m just saying.

* Don’t go running off to Google that journal. I made it up.

Transformation

The little blond boy and I walked together down the stairs of my office building in Bucktown. Step, wait, step, stop. He is tall for his age, and thin. He wears round glasses, giving him a look of intelligence. Look up at the ceiling, glance towards the window, hoping to get a glimpse of an airplane passing by. He is intelligent. Though he doesn’t speak more than a few words, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this child is taking everything in. Step, step, wait, step, stop. There’s nothing speedy about this process, nor should there be. Due to developmental delays, this child has a significant motor planning challenge, and although his movement is greatly improved and he can even run (on firm ground) when he wants to, there is no hurry to get downstairs and out to the car.

From around the corner of the hallway rushed a muscular, nice-looking man in his 30s. Given his helmet, cycling garb, speed, and perfectly-wrapped mailing envelope, I took him to be a bike messenger. “Let’s move over, buddy,” I said to the child, helping him move closer to the railing. Looking up at the man, I smiled and said, “We take our time.”

The man slowed his pace, saying, “That’s okay.” He followed our choppy walk down the next flight of stairs, watching this child without a trace of pity. Without gawking curiosity. His uncommonly steady gaze was one of unfolding respect and understanding. At the bottom of the stairs, he held the door for us. He saw the child’s caregiver approaching and asked, “Are you coming in here?” and then stepped back to let her in. I don’t know how long he stood by. Had he moved on by the time the child had dropped to the ground, crying in frustration and pinching us because it was time for him to get into the car and he hadn’t spent enough time gazing at the sky? I don’t know.

All I know is that this child touched that man somehow today. I wondered if there was a child with special needs in the man’s family or among his friends. Or was it simply that he was able to respect the effort it takes some of us to walk down the stairs when others are able to scurry down quickly and pedal off onto city streets, relying on rapid decision-making and perfect motor coordination to survive in the urban traffic?

I respect that man greatly for slowing his pace to match the little boy’s, and to offer us assistance in such a positive manner. But my intuition is that the man received more from those few minutes than either the boy or I did. I believe that, in some way, the man was transformed by whatever came over him when he made the decision to walk down the stairs with us instead of ahead of us.

*****
I had the enormous good fortune of viewing the documentary “Autism: The Musical” last Thursday night. This description summarizes it well:

The film follows [5] children over the course of six months, as they create, prepare and then perform a live musical play on stage. Led by an intrepid acting coach who is herself the mother of an autistic child, this team of children defies their diagnosis. As it follows their journey, the audience not only better understands the nature of what autism is, but celebrates the joyful spirit of each child.

At this point, “Autism: The Musical” is touring a very small number of cities in the United States and is in each city for only 3 days. If I had gone on Tuesday night, I would have made an attempt to go all three nights, bringing more people with me each time. It’s quite possible that I would have completely run out of Kleenex, however. The film is beautiful, honest, and inspiring. I began to dream and scheme of bigger and better things that I could do professionally for families and children with autism immediately. (More on that later.) If you happen to be reading this from San Francisco, it’s playing there this week; it will also be in Boston in a couple of weeks. The website has more information.

It would be difficult to say what I loved best about this film, but one of the most joyful parts for me was to watch the transformation of one of the mothers; this mother described in grim detail the way she initially felt about her daughter’s diagnosis. How her hopes for her daughter’s future were wrapped up in her desire for her child to fit in and to be like everyone else, and how painful her lack of acceptance of who her daughter really was became for both of them. To see this woman let go, relaxing and enjoying her daughter as a teenager – joking and dancing around the house with her – was as heartwarming to me as anything else in the movie. She talked about the fact that having her daughter in her life transformed her into a completely different person; what she was saying was, it changed her for the better.

****

I can’t speak for a parent of a child with autism, but I too have been changed for the better by the children I work with. My whole notion of success is completely different. I am able to grasp at what might appear to be a fleeting, abstract change in a child’s behavior and see it as an enormous success, something tangible, a solid rung on the elusive developmental ladder. I celebrate the gestures more than the words, the process more than the product, and the social friendships more than the academics. I keep going back for the hugs, the small steps, the joy in the children’s faces. For the warm, loving relationships that the experts like to tell us are impossible for children with autism, but that my colleagues and I are able to cultivate with every single child with this diagnosis.

And for watching a strong, healthy man instantly humbled by a quiet young boy making his way down the stairs on a Monday morning.

I’m No MLK

I can’t believe how much I’m posting about the kids this weekend. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been with them non-stop while Matt’s away, or if they have simply hit a new level of fabulousness, but here’s another one for you…

On the way home from church yesterday Baxter and I were idly chatting about what I was going to try to get sorted out around the house when we got home. I told him, “I have a dream, Baxter, that this week Daddy and I will finally move the rolled up carpet from the living room down to the storage room!”

Baxter responded drily, “Well, it’s a really good thing you aren’t Martin Luther King, Mommy, because I don’t think thousands of people would be coming out to hear that dream speech!”

The kid has a point. I guess I’d better watch what I say.