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Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Good Thing on a Night from Hell

Every once in a while we have one of those crazy nights where I feel like I seriously live in the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (the black family version).  On this night Red came this close (holds fingers together) to becoming homeless.  I went off the deep end! I was ready to explode completely. The whole house seemed to be going mad. But in the midst of all of the pandemonium, one good thing managed to happen.

Have I ever described my 2 teenage boys to you? Let's see, Red is about 5' foot 10" close to 11" and weighs ...a lot. Blue is catching up to him quickly at about 5' 9" close to 10" and he weighs ...a lot. I am about 5 ft. 1" and I weigh hardly anything.  I am so skinny. (Not!) But let's just say I weigh a hell of a lot less than either of them.

When the two of them go at it with their non-stop mouths, insulting each other, trying to intimidate each other, with typical sibling rivalry issues, it often turns physical with a quickness.  Blue is not afraid to smack the crap out of his big brother, but then he acts surprised when Red goes nuts in return. The next thing you know, what started as a silly sibling fight can turn into one of them ending up in complete meltdown and tearing up something in my house.  Sometimes I just let them go at it. Other times, when I know someone is already close to the edge, I try to prevent them going over.

We've all been a little done with Red over the past few weeks.  His antics in the house have been very disruptive and has everyone on edge and unhappy. He's been ranting about one thing or another and Blue has very little patience for that. The rants don't usually make a lot of sense and since everything needs to make sense to Blue, he feels the need to let his brother know how idiotic and irrational his thoughts are.  Blue often tells Red that his i.q. is much higher than his. He's in advanced classes, while Red was mostly in special education classes.

I will jump in when Red really has no defense, other than, "Shut up! You are not smarter than me!" I disallow Blue to use certain words against his brother like stupid and dumb.  I feel like these words are more hurtful than some of the curse words he uses.  I point out Red's special gifts.  The fact that he has a job, that he loves and is good at and is even working on developing his own business.  I point out the fact that Red is loving and kind to other kids with special needs.  He has a gift for working with and talking to seniors and has volunteered in a Senior Rehab center.

He's not dumb by any means.  He just focuses on what he's really good at and pretty much only wants to do that.  There's nothing wrong with that.

So on this night Red is ranting. Thee two of them are fighting.  I'm trying my best to juggle and keep them apart.  You go upstairs, while he is downstairs. You eat dinner, while he's doing homework. I need to go to the pharmacy but I'm afraid to leave the house for 10 minutes because all hell may break loose.  My husband is trying to stay out of everything, because his approach to discipline is the subject of one of Red's rants.
"Dad is a wannabe tough guy because he was in the military! The military is full of wannabe tough guys."
(This rant is based on some stupid video about a Marine who has become a police officer.  He clocks this guy for mouthing off to him and then says, "You're messing with a United States Marine! Don't disrespect me!")

He has somehow connected this Mr. Tough guy mentality with his father, who in his opinion often "soldiers up on him."  Of course, he makes no connection that we have spoken to him civilly over and over again, you know,  repeating don't, stop, quit, 2 or 10 times,  but we get no change in behavior.  We only get action from him when dad has to become Mr. Tough guy.

Red has told me straight out, if you have nothing to hold over his head, if he has nothing to lose, he will not listen to you.  Hence, he does well at work because he doesn't want to lose his job.  He doesn't make the connection that he has a soft place to land, to lose in this situation.  He is very close to losing the comfort of this home to live in.

On this night, as I am juggling to keep the boys apart, I am also trying to cook and serve dinner. I made two chicken breast especially for my husband. He doesn't eat wings which is mostly what I have prepared for the rest of us.  Red knows these two big pieces of chicken are specifically for dad.  But of course, he's like, "I want that piece!"
Begrudgingly, I agree to let him have one of the breasts along with his other pieces.

Shortly after, I have to leave the kitchen for a few minutes to talk to Blue.  When I return, you bet your butt Red ate ALL of the large pieces.  It was like he swallowed them whole because I wasn't gone that long.

I swear ...steam was coming out of my ears!  I was livid!  My husband who works hard to provide for this family, who had just returned from a business trip, would basically have nothing to eat because of Red, who pays for nothing in this house.  After all of the other havoc he was causing, this was just the last draw.

Of course this situation reminded me of Chris Rock, "Oh Lawd! You mean to tell me, you ate the big piece of chicken?!" Don't click this link this if you don't like profanity...

(*Also Warning if you are viewing this post from a smart phone you may not be able to see the link. Try it from a laptop or pc)


I make Blue get in the car with me, again because I'm trying to keep them apart.  I need to go around the corner to Walgreen's to pick up his allergy medicine. He can see how visibly shaken I am.   He's asking me why I'm so upset?  I basically blast him.

"Really? You're kidding me right? You two huge boys continually going at each other! Me trying to keep you from killing each other! And it's not all your brother! It's you too! You're like a moth to the flame! You have to get involved in every conversation. You insult him constantly! I'm sick and tired of all of it! To top it off...your brother just ate all of the dinner I prepared for your father! He has got to get out of my house! I'm done! I can't live like this anymore!"

This is a mild version of what I said.  My rant was laced with expletives and I didn't care.  Blue curses worse than I do, so he wasn't hearing anything he doesn't already know.  He was a little shocked to hear me using it.  I was between anger and tears ...completely falling apart.

When we got home I was ready to go upstairs and completely lay into Red. I was ready to tell him he has got to get the f*@# out of my house! Blue stopped me.

"Mom. Please don't go up there and lose it with Red. Can you please just take a second take some deep breaths and listen to this song?"
"A song! I don't want to listen to any song!"
"Please mom! Please! I promise you. Just listen to this."
I stopped. I listened.

His social skills teacher had showed him this video earlier in the day and now he was showing it to me. He made me stop before I acted.  Knowing that my actions would just lead to more explosion in the house.  It's like the saying, war begets war.  There was really no good to come of me exploding on Red who was already in an agitated state.  When he's like this, he's just looking for another fight and I was about to give it to him. 

The good thing was that I was able to reach Blue and he was able to reach me.  He did not engage with Red for the rest of the night and neither did I.  In fact, the following day when Blue came home from school, instead of going straight for the jugular with his brother, he was more patient and understanding. 

It will be interesting to see if he can stop and pull out the Mr. Rodgers song the next time he's ready to blow a gasket. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Asshatery 101

Our family may have very well just had our last trip with everyone together.  It was my mother's 75th birthday and a family reunion on her father's side of the family.  The boys had not been to St. Louis to see the family since before they could walk and talk.  I felt it was important that we all be there so that the boys would have an opportunity to meet their relatives. The fact that the planning committee requested that Red be the videographer for the event, sealed the deal on his going.

Over the past few weeks his behavior and attitude towards this family has royally sucked.  More than once I thought about eating the cost of his ticket and just canceling.  He is 18 years-old, but could not be left alone here at home.  There are no guarantees that the house would be locked, that he would eat properly or take his medicine regularly.  We would have to either send him somewhere, or have someone come here.  Both alternatives would cost even more money.  And so ...off we went.

The boys first got to meet my cousin Court who was absolutely, awesome with them.  They both were filled with anxiety over meeting all of these new people.  Court put them at ease instantly.  He reads my blog regularly and follows my Facebook page, so he had an idea of what to expect from the boys.  Although, there's nothing like meeting them in person.  He spoke their language.  He's young enough to know about the same music and popular culture that they are interested in.  He's just old enough to  have a little experience in life that he could relate to their experiences as young black men, being raised in a predominantly white culture and world. Court is a well spoken, college educated man who they related to rather well.  The boys were impressed with him. Both boys feel it is important to speak well and present the best of yourself so as not to be stereotyped and thought of in a negative manner by society.

Before the first Family Reunion dinner ...Blue started a anxiety-filled rant.  He was nervous about how the evening would go.  Red had been pouncing on him all day.  He pushed every button and was relentless in his taunting.  Red became stuck on how Blue doesn't get enough discipline.  How we let him get away with everything.  He's the only one who gets in trouble.  He actually brought this up at the table during the reunion dinner as we sat with extended family and he would not let it go.  I was kind of shocked by the fact that he was going there, in front of other people.  Usually, he reserves that behavior for just immediate family.  His behavior was so ugly, I had to get up and leave the room before I would end up losing it.

On our last night there, Red continued to pounce on Blue, with negative comments again during a family dinner situation.  My aunt and uncle were awesome at trying to distract him, allowing him to talk about himself and his interests to in order to get him to leave his brother alone and have a nice dinner.  He kept coming back to controversial subjects like racism and religion.  In the car on the way back to our hotel, again he pounced.  In fact, I may venture to say he was bullying Blue, calling him an atheist over and over again.  The irony in that of course, is how un-christ-like his own behavior was in the process.

The day that we traveled home didn't get much better. In fact, at DFW our second flight was delayed, and delayed and delayed, then finally another plane had to be brought in. He became anxious and visibly upset.  Imagine, a two-hundred plus pound angry looking, young, black, autistic teenager, pacing back and forth, going up to the staff continuously asking, "What's the problem?  How much longer do we have to wait?" Then he would come back to me and say, "I'm getting really angry!" Then, he would start to try to vent that anger on his brother, who actually did remarkably well in not responding.

Red is 18 years old now.  I can not protect him from everything.  With all that's been happening in the world lately, with police situations gone wrong, I couldn't help but worry, thinking at any moment, he would explode and would be taken down and detained by airport police.

He has traveled numerous times alone.  He has even been delayed and missed a flight in Chicago.  He NEVER behaved this way!  This is what made me say, I will NEVER do this again.  I will never travel with him and the entire family.  He was agitated by his father, and his brother.  The better Dad and Blue got along, the more upset Red became.  He was relentless with me.  "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom. I want to sit next to you! Mom listen to me!"

Blue is not perfect by any means.  He can push buttons also.  He can not mind his own business to save his life! The difference between Red and Blue, is that Blue can be redirected.  If you ask him to stop doing something, he will stop.  You can ask Red to stop and have to say it 10 times.  He won't listen until you become completely exasperated and are ready to lose it.  Then, he blames YOU for getting upset.  Then he blames his brother for not getting as much discipline as he does.

The next day after getting home, there was a moment of contrition where Red felt bad about his behavior.  He thought deeply about it when he was able to take a reprieve away from us, while at work.

He said, "Seems like no matter what I do, I can't stop being angry.  Even though I know that the way I treat you guys is making Dad want me to move out, I can't seem to stop treating you that way.  I need some other kind of help, maybe some other kind of therapy.  I can't stop this behavior. I know I need to do better to be able to keep living at home, but even that doesn't seem to stop me. Do you even think it's even possible for me to change?" (Honestly, I don't. At least not while he is living with us.)

"I think that people who respect their parents, have always respected their parents.  I never really have.  I really don't know what else to do," he said sadly.

I don't know what else to do either.

Last night, he went to church with his pastor and his girlfriend.  As soon as he got home, he started back up again.  "Blue needs more discipline!" Yelling, screaming, banging on doors, invading Blue's personal space, invading mine.

He goes to his room and starts playing annoying videos loudly.  I asked him to stop as his brother was doing homework.  He refused until I took the device away.  Then he starts screaming and pounding on Blue's door as he is trying to get to sleep so that he can get up for school the next day.

This was not a meltdown.  This was I'm pissed off and I'm going to piss you all off.  I don't care what you say.  I don't care how you feel.  I don't care about you being tired and ready for bed.  I don't care that Blue has to get up for school.  This was pure, unadulterated asshatery!

True enough, all negative behavior has a reason behind it.  At this point, I'm not sure exactly what it is. I don't even know if I care.  I just know that I am completely sick of it  and something has got to change.  It's not fair for the rest of us to have to live in fear of his antics.  It's not fair for Blue to have to deal with this when he's trying to get to sleep or do his homework on a school night.  This boy has got to go!

Where? I do not know. How? I really don't know. But he is pushing me to find out.

He keeps going on about how he wants to pursue his passion of video editing.  Hell! I want to pursue my passion of writing! But he sucks the life right out of me, till I have no creativity left in my body!

What he really wants is to have all of his money available to buy video equipment.  He says that moving out will prevent him from doing that.  He won't have the cushy life that he has here.  However, obviously he does not appreciate the cushion of living here.  He seems to be doing everything in his power to make it impossible for his cushy life to continue.

I told him today, "You know what's getting in your way of pursuing your passion? You are!"

My Facebook status after the night we got home...

"I feel like someone kicked my ass last night. Probably because someone did ...mentally."

My Facebook status this morning...

"Overwhelmed, exhausted and sad. I want to say, 'Jesus take the wheel,' but I know he needs me to do some work too. I guess I will just ask for guidance and strength." 

Something has got to give...I've only been saying that since he was 12.  When he was in high school, I would say, "I can't wait until this is over! Then everything will be so much better.  His stress level will be down.  He won't have as much to be angry about.  He'll be happier."

I could not have been more wrong.  It's just a new set of challenges that I don't know if I have the energy to face.

p.s.
Our weekend was not completely ruined. We did manage to have a really good time at our Family Reunion in between the antics.  I will have to write about that another day. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dating Red Part 2

So we are a couple of months into this relationship now.  It's going better than I ever could have expected.  I am seeing him grow and stretch, choosing her above his own selfish wants and needs, which is major for him. For example, she wants Chinese food.  He hates Chinese food, but he goes with her and makes it through the meal without complaint.  He comes home hungry of course.  But this is something that he would NEVER do for his family.  He may go with us.  He may find something to eat, but he would be majorly complaining the whole time.

He has gone to see a romantic comedy at the movies, when he really only likes action thrillers.  He has gone to the mall shopping with her countless times.  He usually HATES the mall.  Of course, the mall is probably a much more pleasant experience with a beautiful girl by your side.

It was her birthday the other day.  I was secretly thrilled that he has found a girl that shares in his love an enthusiasm for roller coasters.  He went with her family to an amusement park for the day. Score! He's out of my hair! 

I won't get into details, but when he came home he told me that she had kind of a hard time during parts of the day. She became very upset with her family members and had a bit of a meltdown.  Of course, I won't get into her diagnosis.  I don't even know what it is for sure.  Let's just say they seem have some similar issues.

I explained that a full day at an amusement park can be fun, but overwhelming at the same time. Blue has a meltdown at the end of almost every amusement park we've ever gone to.

He experienced the behavior as kind of unnerving.  I said to him, "You do understand that you have displayed very similar behavior."
He said, "Yes. But I don't see myself when I'm doing it.  So I guess I don't really know what it looks like."
I thought this was an incredibly insightful statement.  Sometimes he still surprises me.

After their date, she called to apologize for what he had seen that day.  He told her there was no need for apologies.  He understands.  He's been there and has had friends who have been there. He told her not to worry.  He is there for her, no matter what.  He doesn't give up on people just because they are having a hard time.  He also assured her that her family loves her.  That her parents are just doing their best to help her, but they are not perfect.

I thought I was going.to.die. Who is this mature person and what has he done with my kid? What is they say about autism and empathy? This kid has empathy, for sure! 

It's kind of cool when you hear your words of wisdom being regurgitated out of the mouth of one of your children as if it were his own original thought.  The part about her parents loving her, no matter what ...that was all me. The rest was all him and I could not be more proud.

If interested ...the first click here for the first Dating Red post

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Aspergers at Dinner

Having dinner together as a family is a simple, ordinary thing for most people. Very little in my life is simple or ordinary. The simplest things become complex when we put together the special personalities and idiosyncrasies of our immediate family.

Most nights, we eat in shifts.  Honestly, we try not to have the entire family sitting down all at once in order to keep the peace.

We have Red, who usually NEVER likes what we are eating or where we are going if we are dining out. He makes the face like he's tasting crap when he takes a bite of a dish he's unfamiliar with or a vegetable. He wants to completely dominate the conversation.  He chews loudly.  He practically inhales his food so fast, that I wonder how his body actually digests it.

We have Blue who loves to eat any and everything.  He doesn't want to talk about or hear about anything his brother has to say, especially if he starts talking about religion. Oy!

You have my mom, who interrupts me every time I open my mouth when I'm speaking to my children.  She completes my sentences before I get the chance.  Give her a good glass of wine or three, food served extra hot and she's happy.

Then you have my husband, who is a complete extravert when it comes to friends, colleagues or complete strangers. He is Mr. Personality! However, when it comes to having dinner with just us, you can tell he's trying his best just to get through eating the meal, so that he doesn't have to listen to Red talk anymore.  I call him the table manager.  He is constantly arranging, straightening and rearranging the table, all while trying to control the table manners of his teenage sons.

Once we went out to breakfast with both boys.  I think we were traveling.  He actually instructed Red through the whole meal.  Cut your pancakes with your knife and fork.  Now take a bite.  Drink some milk.  Eat some eggs.  Now wipe your mouth.  Take a few more bites of your pancakes now.  I thought.I.was.going.do.die. Red actually went along with it for some strange reason.

And then you have me.  I'm perfect.  Haha! Actually, I usually don't have much of an appetite, especially if I had to prepare the meal.  I usually eat just enough so that I can have wine. When dining out, I try to orchestrate a friendly, neutral conversation in which all hell will not break loose at least until after we finish eating the meal.

Tonights dining out Italian family style was ...um...not fun. Red really did try his level best to talk the entire time about his video editing in a rather negative light.  He talks about all of the things that are wrong with his videos because he doesn't have "professional" equipment.  Then he tries to start with the laundry list of things that he needs to buy for video editing.  I cut his conversation short and told everyone we would only talk about neutral, non-controversial subjects.  We could talk about movies, mutual friends, what we have planned for the week.  Things of that nature.

No matter how we tried, Red continually attempted to bring the conversation back around to himself.  If I was engaged in dialog with Blue, or my mom, he would interrupt. "Mom. Mom. Mom."

My husband sat there and said almost, absolutely nothing except for what he wanted to order.  He did reach in a couple of times to tell us to pass the bread, plates or whatever so that the table would stay arranged and spots would be open for the food as it was served.  He also would tell the boys when they had had enough bread, to use their napkins properly or whatever.

This was painful for me.  I didn't have enough wine to make it all better.

On the way home, husband still said very little.  The boys started a conversation about family.  Which cousin is the funniest, or something along those lines.  We actually shared a few laughs over this.  My husband's reaction? At one point he plugged his finger into his ear, because Red was laughing and talking while turning around to see us in the back seat.  In the process, I guess he got a little too close to dad's sensitive ears. (Aspie much?)

When I got home hubby bolted out to the store like he couldn't stand to be around us all another minute.  He needed a sensory break.  We've all been there right?

All I could think about was ...in just a few weeks, we have a family reunion. We are all supposed to travel to St. Louis together, stay in a hotel and spend lots of quality family time. Together.

I think I just might call in sick.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lost My Happy

I can't find my happy.  I think it's at the beach.   Unfortunately, there is no ocean anywhere near here.  The Gulf of Mexico is several hours south, and there are no plans on the books to head that way.

I grew up in L.A. where the Pacific Ocean was a 20 minute drive.  I don't think if I truly appreciated that luxury as I was growing up.  Now, I miss it so much my longing is palpable.  The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, sauntering aimlessly at the waters edge, collecting sea shells, the cool breeze and the sunset. What made me think I could survive these hot summers in Texas without it? What the hell was I thinking moving here?
Taken in Manhatten Beach California, 2013
*cries at the memory of cooler days
This happens to me every summer since the boys have been teenagers. My anti-anxiety meds feel like they stop working.  I end up spending so much more time with them.  Me time is short. Everyday I decide what part of myself to give away.  Do I give them my exercise time? Maybe I'll give them my shower.  Here you go kids ...take my writing time.  Enjoy!

When they were little, we spent most of our days by our neighborhood pool.  I would catch up on my novel reading. I had other girlfriends with little ones.  We would meet up poolside and hang out.  The boys would be so worn out by the pool, they would come home eat, watch movies and play games.  They were much more easily entertained.  Hours on end talking about their worries and problems was not a part of the equation.  These days that takes up a lot of my time and energy.  Listening to relentless, repetitive, negative dialog is exhausting.

When they were younger, we also took regular family vacations with the whole family.  The boys actually got along long enough for us to travel together and have it not to end up being an absolute nightmare.  As they came into the teen years, we seldom take whole family trips anymore, unless we go to visit family and there are plans for the boys not to spend the majority of the time together.  Otherwise, we do separate get aways.  My husband and I traveled to Napa in March, followed by a trip for me to L.A. to see my dad.  We had plans to go to New York in June, for our 20th anniversary.  That didn't happen due to my mom being in the hospital and as of yet, it has not been rescheduled.

This summer there were no other trips planned due to Red working, and Blue going to summer school and volunteering at at Special Needs camp.  So, it's mostly just me toting them around from camps, to summer school, work, friend's houses, or local city pools.  (Dropping them off at the pool is actually kind of cool.)  Then I add my mother to the mix, taking her to her medical appointments, to the hair salon and nail salon.  Also, running back and forth to the grocery store for her.

I could say ending up in this situation is bad planning on my part.  I should never plan on being in Texas all.summer.long.  Never! The only trip on the schedule right now is St. Louis at the end of August for a family reunion on my mom's side of the family.  That should be fun.  But it's not the beach, and it's not exactly cool weather.  In my opinion, anytime I have the teenagers with me, it is not considered a vacation.
I need some kind of boost to change my sucky attitude and perspective.  It's really sad when you know you're perspective is off and you're thinking in the extreme negative.  Yet, you just can't shake it.  When you reach the point where people are grinding on your nerves for nothing other than being who they are, who they've always been, but somehow, their very being just makes you angry, bitchy and you want to scream! Just leave me alone! Please! I know it's not really them, it's me.

I've been in this funk for going on 3 weeks now.  I honestly thought it was PMS, but the P has come and gone and the depression is still lingering --hanging around like an unwanted house guest. So I dunno?  What is this? Pre-menepause, hormonal imbalance, a different flavor of crazy or just plain old summertime blues?

I am fully aware of my negative mood and my negative thought patterns. My usual patience are very thin. I've apologized to my husband a few times for frankly, just being a bitch.  He was really sweet about the moodiness for the first few days, but now I think he's just about had it with me and I can't really blame him.  I hugged him this morning for the first time in almost two weeks.  I felt pretty good when I first woke up. Suddenly, I realized that I miss his affection and I miss showing it towards him.

It takes an extreme amount of patience and energy to deal with my children when I'm feeling like this.  I fight with every ounce of my being to muster that energy.  Getting angry, impatient and showing them my ugly side only sparks their anger and behaviors.  Having to remain calm when someone is melting down, attacking your already heightened senses, goes completely against human nature.  We naturally feel that fight or flight instinct, but fighting or flying away is not always an option when you have two teenagers with autism and anger issues.

So for the adults in my life, who don't have Aspergers (or maybe they do ...lately it REALLY feels like my husband definitely does, but that's a whole other blog post). They certainly have quirks and idiosyncrasies that I have very little patience leftover to deal with.  When my kids are talking at me constantly, and I am consistently playing fire-woman to their inner angst which turns into outer meltdowns and fights, I just don't have a lot left to be a loving, social, adult, wife, daughter and caregiver.

In my head, I know that I am blessed to have my mom here, living with me,  but when she is pushing the boys buttons, making my job harder or asking me to do things for her that she could easily do herself, I get irritated.  Sometimes, she just wants my attention because she doesn't get out very much.  I'm sorry, but when I have both boys talking at me for hours, the last thing I feel like doing some days is sitting and chatting.  I just want silence.

There are moments when I don't feel like putting on the happy face and personality to hang out with other adults, being nice and polite, holding in how I really feel, because who wants to hear it really?  I don't even want to share these feelings with my husband.  He is really busy with work and has a lot financial pressure.  I don't want to add my whining and sadness to his plate.  Besides, when he's this busy, he will probably end up saying something I really don't want to hear.  So I hold a lot of it in.  Except here...I let go.

Again, I know this is bad perspective.  This is what depression does it steals your positive attitude and ability to truly count your blessings.  Depression reverses the truth.  Part of me knows that I'm just being a whiny baby ...kind of ungrateful in way.  But who am I kidding ...these feelings are real.  My tears are real.  They are effecting me, my relationships and interactions with my family.  When I give too much of myself away,  resentment builds. And really, who do I have to blame except for myself?

I am longing to go on an adventure.  I want to go out and see the world, ...the cooler part of the world, where nature is beauty and can simply and easily be enjoyed.  I miss my friends in California.  I also have this longing to get on the road to meet a lot of the autism mom's that I have connected with through my Facebook autism support groups .  These women, get me.  There are even a few wonderful guys who do as well.  They don't judge me.  Some of them feel like sisters that I have never met.  I have been blessed to meet a few of them.  I've also met one of my brother's from another mother, J from Find My Eyes.  We get to hang out every time I go to L.A. now.  I wrote about our meeting meeting J and his family here.  What an awesome feeling to be able to connect with someone else who has kids who you love more than anything, yet they are the biggest pain in the ass that you've ever had in your whole life!

I wish I could tie this post up in a nice shiny bow and say that I know what to adjust my attitude, to find some semblance of my happy again. I hesitate to even share this because it feels so negative.  However, these feelings are lingering they don't seem to magically disappear just because I want them to.  I always think, maybe someone else out there is going through the same thing, and by reading my thoughts, they will feel less alone.  So here you are!

I have some ideas to work on getting my happy back and helping me make it through this long hot summer.  I can only hope that they work.
  • I need to plan more simple pleasures into my days.  (I would love to get back to painting on canvas). 
  • Plan me time ...I mean really put it on the calendar and stick to the plan.  
  • Take my showers back every day!  I mean don't leave the house without one because one of these boys is rushing me to get them here...or there.  Besides, it's too hot to be smelly. 
  • Steal my writing time.  Even if I need to run and hide in order to do so. 
  • Schedule time for thought, meditation, yoga and other exercise. 
Last week one of my autism mama friends shared this post with me about finding respite.  Bec Oakley the author has some awesome ideas on little ways for us to find a reprieve from the madness here on Snagglebox.com. Check it out.

I do know this for sure.  I have to look for my happy ...proactively.  It's not going to just show up without me doing some work. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The REAL List -Guest Post by LeeAnne Klopp Owens

My sister from another mister, LeAnne wrote the following essay about shopping for school supplies.  You know that awful thing that we all dread doing around this time of year.  She shared it with our private Facebook Support Group last week.  I thought it was so perfect, helpful and of course hilarious, I wanted to share it with a wider audience here at Confessions.
 
LeAnne is the mother of five children with a variety of needs from ADHD to ASD.  You read that right 5 children! Her son Chistopher wrote a hilarious and honest essay last year about Aspergers and Physical Education .  He allowed me to share it here.  After reading it,  my son Blue thinks Chris should start his own YouTube channel.  "Life According to Christopher."

LeAnne is author of Swimmin' in Alphabet Soup a wonderful blog where she shares stories about her unique family.  I admire her strength and most of all her ability to laugh through the craziness that is her life.

School Supply List - The REAL List

Buying school supplies for five minions, ranging from a senior in high school to a fourth grader, is a huge undertaking. Add in that two minions have attention deficit disorder and two are on the autism spectrum and it becomes a chore that ranks right under childbirth without medication. Because I'm a giving person who wants nothing more than to help my friends whenever I can, I'm going to share my school supply shopping plan of attack and the items you actually have to buy. Heed me friends, I've done this for a lot of years and I've now got it down to an exact science!

The most important rule in tackling the supply list shopping is to NEVER let a child go with you! It adds 4 hours and $200 to the total cost. If you don't take my advice I don't want to hear your whining when you get home with half the list, a case of wine and a migraine.

It is best to divide and conquer, to shop in waves so to speak. Tackle the adhd lists first:

Pens and pencils - Triple the amount listed, buying the least expensive #2 pencils and ballpoint pens available. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES send the amount on the list to school the first day. If you do, you will start day 2 of school with a child telling you they have no pencils or pens and raiding your extra supplies!

One Binder and Folder - The list for middle school and high school students will say to have a folder for each subject. DO NOT WASTE THE MONEY buying that many. Your child will stuff every single flippin' paper in ONE folder, if you're lucky enough to get them to use one folder, or jam rumpled papers in their backpack for you to dig through searching for the form that HAS to be turned in the next day or the world will cease to exist.

The Biggest Spiral Bound Notebook You Can Find - Loose leaf paper? Are you a masochist?!?!! Trust me, it is an accomplishment worthy of a chocolate fountain and free flowing champagne if your child can find assignments and notes in the one huge notebook. Giving them loose leaf paper is just asking to be on a teacher or principal's speed dial.

The Sturdiest Calculator you can afford - If they are on sale and you can swing it, buy three. And for the Love of all that's Holy, buy the extended warranty!

Sharpie Marker, Black - Use this to plaster your child's name on EVERYTHING, including their jacket/coat, backpack and maybe even their arm. Hey, laugh if you want but I've seen too many "No Name" papers to run the run the risk that he might not remember who he is......

Now, wave one is finished so take a day or two break and celebrate! Right after you hide everything you bought. DO NOT give school supplies to your adhd child and expect them to get into their backpack. YOU put them in the backpack the night before school starts, then hang the backpack (and lanyard if they wear one) on the knob of the door they use to leave in the morning.
 
We're ready for Wave 2 - The autism student supply list:

Pencils & Pens - Price is not considered for these. You know just like I do that he/she will use only ONE exact type and brand of each. Bite the bullet and buy them by the crate. Seriously, if you don't and get the call saying "He/She is refusing to work because they don't have the RIGHT pencil/pen" I will not feel badly for you. HIDE THESE from everyone else in the house. If you have a safe, lock them away. Again, trust me, it's for your own sanity.

A HUGE Binder and folders - A folder for each subject is good. Just remeber that at no point during this school year can the color, texture, look or feel of these folders change. Plan ahead and buy in bulk. One little rip in the pocket will be cause to curl into a fetal position and lament the loss so be prepared to replace folders at the first sign of any wear or tear!

Loose Leaf Paper - My advice is to clean the store out. Those little paper things on the side of a sheet torn from a spiral bound notebook are the enemy! It will take your child three times longer to make the paper "perfect" than it will to complete whatever assignment is on the paper. Not to mention the erasing holes in the paper, which leads to the paper being tossed and starting over, which leads to using MORE paper.....

Calculator - Make sure it is the EXACT one on the supply list. Your child will check and compare and woe to you if it doesn't match. Again, buy two or three - once they use it they will likely refuse to EVER change brand/model so have a stock pile.

White Out - Buy it by the gross.

Once you've bought all this, watched your child thoroughly examine each purchase and determine it is "right" you can load up backpacks with their guidance. Because everything will have an exact spot where it MUST go. Put the loaded backpack in "their spot" - you know, the spot in your house where if anyone else places something World War III commences and pour yourself a glass of wine or cup of coffee to celebrate a job well done.

Best of luck this school supply shopping year! Remember, it could be worse - it could still be summer vacation and the grocery bill that goes along with that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dating Red

I turned around, blinked my eyes and suddenly, Red is dating a girl.  If you follow our story, you know that dating has been a subject that's been on the agenda pretty much since he was able to talk.  He has always enjoyed the attention of the females.  In the toddler years, this was easy.  He was the cutest boy ever, with big brown eyes and super long eye lashes and a smile to die for.
I miss this innocent smile...Red, age 4

Come 4th grade that childish innocence and smile was traded for a scowl that read, Approach me if you dare! Which of course, made it much harder to find girls who were willing and able to look past that.  Of course, he was still as handsome as ever ...an impeccable dresser, who could easily wear a white shirt and all white Nike tennis shoes and come home without a spec of dirt to be found anywhere.

Still, he managed to pull in a girlfriend in the 4th grade.  She was the only black girl in his class and he one of two black guys. I guess that made him stand out in the crowd and somehow, he did it.  They "went out" together for maybe a month before things fell apart.  And by "went out," I mean she came to our house to play.  Her mom took them to a movie.  We took them both to a football game.  And then one day, it was over.  She started ignoring him suddenly and that was all she wrote!  He was livid! He cried.  He didn't understand what he had said or done.  It was a mess.  So he spent the balance of the school year hating her, majorly distracted by her mere presence and they were in the same classroom. Yeah.  That was fun.

Middle school was filled with more girl drama --two-week girlfriends, followed by months-long drama.  What did I do? Why doesn't she like me anymore? Why is she so mean to me?  High school was even worse.  He never actually landed a girl in that competitive setting.  He was too busy looking at the ones who were impossible to get --the cheerleaders and most popular girls who didn't give him a second glance.  He had tunnel vision.  I prompted him over and over again to take his blinders off --to look around and see all of the really sweet girls who didn't have anyone.  He couldn't do it.  He was  stuck on "certain" girls, which I thought would surely be the death of me.

When I say this latest dating situation came out of nowhere ...I mean, no.where.  For months he's been back on the, "It's not fair that I don't have a girlfriend" kick.  He moaned and ranted on Facebook about it.  He even blatantly said, it was my fault because I kept him away from all of the prettiest girls in high school.

Months ago, I heard him speak of this girl in his Adult Transition group, but not with any particular interest. And Red usually tells me EVERything.  In fact, sometimes he tells me things I don't even want to know.

They've been to a few social outings as a group.  They sat next to each other on the bus. "She chose to sit right next to me and the bus was almost empty," he said. 

When I met her, she just seemed very sweet, sincere and honest.  And apparently she is interested in getting to know my son better.  I just think it's kind of funny that the very first step in that process in their minds, was to put on Facebook that they are in a "relationship."

One night he's moaning about how long it's been since he's had a girlfriend.  The next day, I'm out having lunch.  I check Facebook to see that a girl has linked with him in "In a Relationship". What.The.Heck?

I downplay my reaction when I get home.  He actually seemed a little reserved about it as well.  He told me the status was her choice.

Since then, they have gone on 4 dates ...two trips to the mall for lunch and shopping, 1 trip to her church for service on Sunday and they volunteered together for a homeless program that her church sponsors on another day.

My worries are all about the fallout and what our family will have to go through if this all falls apart.  In the past, fallout from friendships and relationships have meant hell for our family, and by our family, I mean mostly me.

There are so many intangible things to learn in this process of an interpersonal relationship with the opposite sex. This is compounded of course by Aspergers and just plain old being naive and inexperienced.

However, I've been too this rodeo before with my older son.  I watched him fall in love and get his heart broken. We talked Slim about safe sex, if there really is any such thing.  We watched him make mistakes that we could see coming a mile away.  Sadly, many of us must learn things the hard way.  We refuse to learn from other people's experience.

It's my parental policy to try to keep the lines of communication open, so that there is no need for any sneaking around.  Lord knows ...I was really good at that when I was a teenager.  We will have to have numerous talks about the birds and the bees and all that goes along with that.  And I do mean numerous! I am hopeful that Red's strong Christian faith will be helpful in keeping things slow and easy for a while.  He believes that sex is reserved for marriage.  At this point however, he has no idea how the body can take over the mind in the heat of the moment.  I hope to be nearby with a fan to keep things cool.

One thing for sure, despite my worries and fears, I can not keep him from experiencing this step in his life.  I will be there with my eyes and ears open, hoping that it is a source of happiness and confidence building for them both.

I provided transportation for the most recent date, which gave me a chance to get to know her a bit.  Once I picked them up, he asked me if I could drop him off at church after we took her home.  We were closer to his church already.  I said, "Well I could take you now, but you would have to ask her how she feels about me dropping you off first and then taking her home."

He asked her. She responded, "I want him to ride home with me like a proper boyfriend is supposed to do."  And that is exactly what he did.