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Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Want to Fly

For the most part this has been a lazy week with only one child in the house.  Even though he is the youngest, he is the low maintenance child of the family.  Meaning, he goes to bed and gets up on his own, feeds himself breakfast, and makes himself microwave meals without my help. 

He does however, like to be entertained and go places frequently. They don't have to be expensive places.  He just wants to get out of the house, change his environment, see and do something to change the flow of things.  We can go to the mall, just to walk and look.  We don't have to buy anything.  He also loves to go out to eat.  I don't know where he got that from. (I say with sarcasm.)  That is a trait on my side of the family and since my husband and I have been married, and we are no longer in dire straits for money, he loves it too.  We waste a lot of money on this habit.

On Thanksgiving day Blue comes down to the kitchen as my mom and I are cooking and asks, "So what are we going to do today?"
"We're doing it," I reply.
"You mean I can't go anywhere?"
"Well, you were invited to your friends house in the neighborhood.  You can get dressed and go over there."
"They probably won't answer if I call."
"Well, there's only one way to find out."

This friend's mother seldom answers the phone for some reason.  I explained that it doesn't matter.  He was invited, and anytime he wanted to go, I would take him.  He wasn't really satisfied with this answer.  He wanted to go somewhere FUN!  And that wasn't happening...and so we have a miniature meltdown.

"Son...you told me that you wanted to be at home for the holidays this year.  You also said you wanted peace.  I gave you that.  I sent your brother to California so that we could have a peaceful, quiet holiday.  Yet, somehow you're still not happy.  I don't understand."

A few "Skittles" and minutes later, he pulled himself together, took a shower, got dressed and headed off to his friends house.  They played games, and jumped on the trampoline for a while.  They had a good time.  He called for me to pick him up in time for dinner.

I'd spent the entire day cooking. My mother who taught me how to cook, was there only as my assistant.  I wanted her to TAKE OVER...no such luck.  I found it all so anti-climatic  -all day cooking for a meal that was over in less than a half-hour without any fanfare.

The prodigal son (our 22 year-old) returned to the nest along with his girlfriend for dinner.  We are all a little pissed with him, since he hasn't called or come to visit in several weeks.  Lately, it seems like the only time he comes  or calls is when he needs something.  We are terribly disappointed at how self-centered and selfish he has turned out to be.  He has little or no time for his brothers who really could use the example of a neuro-typical big brother, a mentor in their lives.  Instead, both of the younger boys know that they can't depend on their brother to be there for them.  He may come through, he may not.  We tried for the sake of the holiday to keep things pleasant and peaceful.  And we almost made it...but I won't get into that.

The turkey was moist.  I cooked it upside down, in a bag so that all the juice flows into the breast. I added a two expensive cheeses to my macaroni, to give it a little pizazz.  Everyone said they  loved my experimental stuffing.  It was Emeril's recipe that he made on "Good Morning America" -Wild mushroom stuffing.  I thought it was just o.k.  It was delicious the next day as leftovers.

In my younger days, I used to so look forward to the holiday season.  It was all about the social aspects of it -all of the parties and family gatherings.  Now it just seems it's all about work!  Cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping, more cleaning, and then putting away the decorations.  The next holiday meal I cook will be beg, borrowed, picked-up, catered -whatever! I refuse to be on my feet all day, too exhausted to really enjoy the meal.

I think I'd rather make like a bird and fly away!

"Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence."
Erma Bombeck

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks for Giving

For Thanksgiving I decided to give ourselves the gift of peace in our home.  I sent one of my storms off to sunny southern California to visit with my family.

On the day he left I posted on facebook, "My little devil is off to Los Angeles a.k.a. Hollywood where he will be playing the part of Angel for the rest of the family." He really does behave so much better when I am not around.  He saves all the ugliness and meltdowns just for me. Lucky me!
My first painting from Art Lessons With "Blue"

 He is 15 now and according to American Airlines, considered to be an adult for the purpose of traveling with them.  He has flown several times before -alone.  I always fly him direct.  I take no chances on him being able to figure out how to get from one flight to the next, or heaven forbid, if he got stuck somewhere.  This time, I noted his reservation as a 15 year-old with autism traveling alone.  Of course, I had to justify this with "special services" stating that he had "no behavior issues" and that he would be able to handle it if they had an emergency landing.  Of course, I had no idea weather or not this was true.  I would just have to trust God, American Airlines employees, and my sons ability to use his cell phone to call me if he were confused about anything. 

I confess...I was desperate for him to go.  Everything would have to be alright.

I wanted to be able to walk him to the gate, to see him get on the plane and for a family member to pick him up at the gate in Los Angeles.  I can't imagine him finding his way down to baggage claim without getting terribly confused.  Heaven forbid, if he got down there and didn't see the family member who was there to meet him.

"Why'd you have to tell them I have autism? There going to think I'm like a baby," he says.
"No they're going to think you have high-functioning autism, and they will help watch out for you and keep you from getting lost. Having a disability doesn't have to be all bad.  It's allowing me to walk you to the plane." Not to mention, they let him pre-board! Nice!

So he made it there safely.  My nephew Damon, was late to pick him up because of security in the busy LAX airport. Thank God they kept him at the gate until my nephew got there.  He called me from his cell as soon as he got off the plane and put the American Airlines employee on the phone, who assured me that he was fine and would be at the gate with her until the family member arrived.

He spent that night with big Damon and his son, little Damon.  They went to "In and Out" (his favorite California burger joint) and watched the planes land and take off.   The following morning they went off to the barbershop to get haircuts.  My brother Kevin picked him up from there and they spent the day together along with my nephew Karsen.  Uncle Kevin took him to lunch and to Best Buy to hang out.

From there he went to my Dad's (his grandfather) spent the night and showed him how to use facebook.  Yes...my dad "Hollywood" (as he is called by his friends) is 81 years oldm and he's on facebook.  I no longer have to worry about all the cursing my dad does.  He and my son can go neck and neck in the cursing department.

Everyone came together at my sister Sheilas house on Thanksgiving day.  Red got to see all of his California cousins, aunts and uncles.  He ate the meal without complaint.  Last year, I spent all day cooking for him to say to me, "Do I have to eat this?"

Thanksgiving night, he finally got to see his favorite uncle, my brother Ward Jr.  They have so much in common.  They can talk for hours about photography, video, HD, Blu Ray and all things electronic.  He was looking forward to doing some video editing projects with his uncle.

On Friday, Uncle Ward, and big Damon took him to the "Los Angeles Auto Show".  He loves and knows quite a bit about exotic cars. He took his camera to take pictures and video. With all of this activity, and being surrounded by family love, one would think he doesn't have anything to complain about right?

He has called me every single day not to tell me what an awesome time he is having, but to do what?  COMPLAIN!  


"My camera ran out of battery already.  I really need a new camera."
"I want a camera like Uncle Wards."
"I really need to be administrator on my computer."
"I really need to upgrade my Blu-Ray playback software when I get home."
"Why can't you just buy me..."

Wow! I try to drown him out by asking positive questions about what he's doing and who is is spending time with. Finally, I told him. "Look! You're on vacation in California and I am not. If you're not calling to tell to tell me what a good time you're having...don't call me at all."

Thanks for Giving me this trip Mom...you're the best!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dogs Barking

Monday morning I got sucked into the abyss of pleading and ultimately arguing with Red to get him up, out the door and to school on time.  On the drive home I found myself angry and frustrated.  My heart was pounding and racing.  I was pissed at myself for allowing him to change my consciousness.

Then I thought, what can I do differently?  He seems to thrive on upsetting me.  How can I get him to do what I want, without getting sucked into his darkness?  It seems like the more I talk to him, the more frustrated he gets, and therefore he moves slower.  I don't think he even knows the definition of hurry or fast.  He has one speed...S-L-O-W.  He turns the simplest request into a power struggle.

I have to figure out ways to get him moving, using as few words as possible.  I decided to set alarms and put them all over his room so that he will have to get up to turn them off.  That night I set his cellphone to go off at 7 a.m. with a ringtone that involves a dog barking. 

 
Shortly after it goes off, I enter the room, say nothing, open the blinds which allows the sun to come streaming in. It smacks him right between the eyes.  Then, I open the window to let in some good old, fresh, fall, morning air.  "Stop!...What are you doing?!" he yells.  "Good morning, " I say casually.

Subtly, I grab the cell phone and program it to go off again in 10 minutes. He was down the stairs, dressed shortly thereafter. 

On the way to school...I said little to nothing.  Thus he has no audience or response for an argument.  He was on time.  I congratulated myself.  Though, somehow, I knew it wouldn't always be this simple.  It was however, a good start.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tale of Two Brothers

At 4 a.m. I hear a loud determined knock at my bedroom door.  It's Blue. "I need a breathing treatment," he says. The weather has changed suddenly.  It's the coldest night we've had so far this season.  His asthma has obviously flared up.  "I'm freezing," he adds.

I get up, throw on my pajama pants to go and find his inhaler.  I give him a couple of puffs.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you," he says sincerely.
"Don't worry about it," I respond -so pleased that he is thinking of me and how I may feel being awakened in the middle of the night.

At 6 a.m. there is another loud knock at my door.  Before I can answer, Red burst through the door and pokes me.

"Did I really fall asleep at 7 o'clock?" he asks.

Why does that matter while I am getting my last 45 minutes of sleep?   He wants to know something.  He wants to know it now.  Could that question wait until I actually get up? Sure -but there is no thought of anyone other than himself.

"I don't know what time you fell asleep.  It really doesn't matter right now.  Why are you waking me up?"
"I just want to know what time I went to sleep."

Cut to breakfast.  It's a cold morning, I want to make a hot breakfast for both boys.  Blue comes down to eat first.  He eats his waffles and I make him an egg over easy.

"Thank you for breakfast mom," he says.
"You are so welcome son," I respond.

Red fell asleep last night without eating a real dinner.  I prepared hot waffles and scrambled eggs for him as well. I wanted him to have a solid breakfast before he took his medicine and went out into the cold morning.

His response:  "I don't want those waffles.  I want cereal."

I made this boy hot waffles and eggs, which he likes.  Does he show any appreciation? NO! There is no thank you. It just doesn't occur to him, unless he is prompted.  He says exactly what's on his mind despite how it comes across or how it makes someone feel.

He ate the waffles and eggs and of course was too full for any yucky old cereal. He enjoyed it, but didn't say so. 

This goes to show us all just how autism (more specifically Aspergers) can show up differently in each individual.  Just look at the contrast between these two brothers.

Some people with Aspergers can come across as real jerks.  It's not intentional.  It's just how they think.  Can they be taught to think differently, to say please and thank you? Sure...will they actually mean it? Maybe...maybe not.  I wish my son good luck getting and maintaining a relationship with a wife someday if he doesn't learn how to be appreciative.  Of course, I'm just his mother, the one who gave birth to him and spends every waking moment thinking about his well being.  Why do I deserve any gratitude?

Thankfully, I love these two brothers unconditionally -even if one of them makes me want to slap him into next week!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Perfection

Last night I wrote out a contract for Red -my 15 year old to get his blu-ray drive installed.  There are four objectives:

1) Be ready for school on time.
2) Use respectful language to your family
3) No purposeful teasing of your brother
4) Take showers without talking back

He booed, hissed and screamed unfair. He said I was asking him to be perfect. I actually gave him some room for imperfection.  Out of 5 possible tokens for the day, if he gets 4, he will meet his objective.  So far, he is having an awesome day.  

Unfortunately for me, today was early release day in our school district.  I'm sure the teachers were thrilled.  I however was not.  This is the day I usually take my mom to get her hair done, followed by lunch with a cocktail.  I can taste the margarita I missed right now -damn it! 

So the boys come home hungry. Blue -starts to make his Stouffers chicken and mashed potatoes.  Red -grabs a box of cereal.  Blue goes ballistic! 

"You can't eat now! Get out of here!" He can not stand the sounds his brother makes when eating.  He wants to control when, where and how much he eats.  Of course he can't do that, but I do whatever I can to keep the peace around here.

Blue proceeds to grab the cereal box from Red, and ads a few kicks and punches for good measure.  Mind you -he is 100 pounds lighter than the big brother he is hitting.  I get that it bothers him to hear the sounds of his brother chewing.  I get that he is upset because it's raining today.  That always puts him on edge to say the least.  It has gotten better.  At least he's not hiding in the bathroom when it's just drizzling thanks to the new medicine. I was just telling my friend that it seems like I have my sweet son back...well not today.  I guess I can't expect perfection.  

I separate the boys -had Blue retreat to his room while Red smacked on his cereal downstairs.  I'm running up and down trying to keep them apart.  When Blue is angry -the mere sight or sound of his brother sends him into a tailspin.  

After things died down Blue passes me a note.  We write back and forth:

"Do you hate me?"
"I don't hate anyone."
"Are you mad at me?" 
"No.  I'm just tired."
"Why can't you give Red away to the state?" 
"This time he didn't do anything wrong.  He just wanted to have a snack -just like you."
"Was it my fault?"
"You could have let me handle it and just removed yourself like I was asking?"
"I know that, but why didn't it happen?"
"Because you were really angry. You can't help that. I just wish you would realize that I am trying to HELP you."
"I'm sorry." 
"Me too."

By the time everyone was quiet...mommy was exhausted! I sat down and tried to soothe myself by doing some online browsing.  My eye lids were like heavy blankets.  I could hardly keep them open.  These episodes just zap me. I left Craigslist and Soma Intimates behind, went upstairs and took an afternoon nap. The cold and rain may not do much for Blues mood...but it's some kind of wonderful to crawl underneath the covers and sleep my blues away.