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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.