Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unconventional Christmas

This year was a different kind of Christmas for our family.  We've taken strange to a whole new level, but strange can be a good thing when you have a family like ours. We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve this year.  Everyone was pleased with their gifts.  Blue did not get his IPad, but he did get the Apple T.V. and a new television for his room.  The one he had was more than 25 years old. He was happy.  Red, got gift cards galore which along with money he has earned doing chores, will put him close to scoring that camcorder he wants.

Our eldest son and his girl came to the house.  We shared a meal together, which I ordered.  That's right I did not cook! Blue and I did bake Toll House and sugar cookies for dessert.  We all exchanged gifts.  I couldn't believe they brought Blue a turtle (which of course, I will end up being responsible for).  In fact, since Blue was leaving the very next day, guess who's been feeding it while he's gone?!

We celebrated Christmas Eve because half of our crew (Dad and Blue) were leaving on Christmas morning to go to North Carolina and Georgia to visit with my husband's brothers and their kids.

It may seem a bit odd that our whole family isn't spending the holiday together.  But you see, we don't have one of those conventional kind of families, where everyone sits around the fire singing Christmas carols while  eating milk and cookies.  The truth of the matter is that the boys are quirky, anxious and they fight quite a bit which takes away from the "fun" of it all.

Now last year we all went away together to visit my husband's parents.  Parts of the trip were fun...but overall, it was exhausting!  I spent most of the time trying to keep meltdowns from happening. All of the cousins were together at Grandpa's house.  They played, made videos, opened presents, etc.  Blue didn't sleep well most of this time because he likes to sleep alone, with no sounds to disturb him.  This is a little difficult to accomplish when the house is overflowing with family.

After Christmas, we all headed to Florida to go to Universal Studios.   Red was under a great deal of pressure to be well behaved around his grandparents, so as soon as they were out of sight, he'd have these horrible melt-downs, which we would try to keep as quiet as possible so that the grandparents wouldn't feel the need to get involved, which of course would make matters worse.

The truth of the matter is...it was a very expensive, exhausting trip.  Most of our family vacations leave me thinking, "Why did we do that?  That wasn't fun!"

So this year we decided to break up the party a little bit.  And the truth is, yes, I confess..I couldn't be happier!

Red took a trip earlier this summer with his Dad, were he was very well behaved (because I wasn't around).  He also took a trip by himself to see my family in California, where he had a complete blast.  Blue had a trip alone with me and Dad to Sea World this summer (that one wasn't so fun).  He was still pretty anxious during that time.

Blue has calmed down quite a bit, so he and his dad are off visiting his uncles and cousins. There are no moms involved on this trip and the boys are having a great time.  They had a white Christmas where he got to play in the snow.  He has slept pretty well, except the first night that he shared a hotel room with his dad (the snore monster).  After that night he shared a room with his cousin and slept much better.
So this Mom spent Christmas day sitting on her butt by the fire...eating cookies for breakfast, drinking wine and eating leftovers for dinner.  Red went to have dinner and play video games with a friend while I flipped from one Christmas movie to the next.  My Mom went off to California to visit my brother for the holidays, so I was literally all alone on Christmas.

Don't tell anyone...but this may very well be the best Christmas ever!

Red, Harry and Blue, December 2010
Happy Holidays to you and Yours! 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ten Dollar Tree

I walk out of the store where I bought so many bottles of wine I'm sure they thought I was having a party. Nope...just stocking up for the holidays.  No parties are planned.  We drive through the parking lot and as we pass the grocery store, there is a lone tree standing in front with a sign that says $10.00.  It looks like a Nobel Fir around 5 or 6 feet tall. U-turn!

There is no one outside monitoring the plants so I rush inside to customer service and ask, "What do I have to do to get that tree?" I pay for it at the service desk.  They call a couple of young, strapping guys to come over to package it up and load it into my SUV. 

For over a week I'd been asking my wonderful husband to go with me to pick one out.  He's been so busy with work, among other excuses, so it hadn't happened yet. I had given up and was about to pull out the old handy artificial tree out of the garage.  As much as I have come to loath that fake tree -there's only a week left until Christmas.  It seemed pointless to buy a live tree at this point. $10.00 changed everything.

Now I'm not saying it's the most perfect tree I've ever seen.  There are a few gaps in it, but it's natural.  The thing about nature and art in my opinion, is there is no such thing as perfection.  It is what it is.

My prodigal son (22) returned home last night to help his father put the tree into the stand.  He was in a charming mood after a week full of drama. (That's a whole other story!)  I thought he and his girlfriend were coming over to help decorate, but I ended up doing most of the decorating myself, along with Blue.  I really didn't want any help anyway.  I wanted to do it my way, as my husband would tell you, that's how I want everything

Hubby put on our vast selection of Christmas music...(his addiction of choice -music and cookies, mine - martinis and wine).  BTW -he hates when I write about him.  He and my eldest son went out to get take out.  The rest of us (Mom, son's girlfriend V- and Blue) sang, danced, drank wine (Mom and I) and finished trimming the tree.  As we finished, Red descended down from his room and put a huge smile on his face when he saw the tree. He put the star on the top.  It is so rare to see a genuine smile on his face, so that was awesome.

Tree decorating, music, wine, good food and all children present made for a simple yet beautiful night.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmastime... part 2

Does the average 15 year-old these days have any sense of money?  I think most kids, at least the ones from middle-class families, who have never known a hungry day -struggle with what it means to do without.  These boys have never lived in government housing as I did growing up.  They have always lived in a house, one house better than the next.  There has never been a Christmas (that they knew about) that we struggled to get presents under the tree.  We've had them, but they didn't know that we had to charge nearly everything and took months to pay it off.

We are trying to instill some values in them.  It ain't easy!

This year we told Red for Christmas he will get money as a gift from us.  It will not be enough money for the 1080p HD video camcorder.  He will have to add whatever he gets from his relatives, scrimp, save, sell his old camera, work, do chores or whatever it takes to get the rest of the money.  We hope that way he will at least get a glimpse into what it's like to have to wait and save for something of such value. Mom and Dad are not going to simply hand it over. 

If we continue on the same course, what the heck will he ask for next year?  Or I should say, next month because undoubtedly he will be asking for something else within weeks of Christmas. 

He does work periodically editing videos for friends and family members, sometimes even for teachers at school.  He makes an introduction, transitions, mixes still photos with video and ends it with a list of credits like a professional movie.

Luckily, his dad has a work-related video project that he can work on over the break that he will pay him for.  This will add to his savings.  At the same time, hopefully it will keep him occupied some over the break. 

Last night, Blue blew a gasket when I told him he could stop editing his list because I'm done shopping.  In his eyes that means I'm not getting him anything he asked for.  I can't tell you how he arrived at that deduction.

"Do you have any idea how much I am worried about Christmas!?" he said.

I left the house to meet my husband for dinner while Blue wasn't talking to me.  By the time I came home, he had taken a nap, calmed down and sincerely apologized.  Not like the scripted apology I often get from Red as he continues doing whatever it is that he is apologizing for.

I will have to admit, Red sent me a very eloquently written e-mail with his list. (Actually he has sent me about 6 revised lists.)  The e-mail was well thought out, structured, very detailed and the grammar was perfect.  He even came across as asking, not demanding.  Maybe all of his communication should be in writing.  When he gets to talking -there's no telling what will come out of his mouth.

Sometimes when I repeat back to him what he has said he tells me, "You can't listen to everything I say!  I didn't mean that." 

That's another fabulous Asperger's trait -being brutally honest, and sometimes talking without thinking.  There is definitely no planning or thought of how what he is saying sounds or how it makes another person feel.

I can not say here, in this forum what will really be under the tree this year.  What I can promise is that we will be creative and do the best that we can with the resources we have. 

The boys don't know this yet...but we're going to spend next week shopping for another family who is less fortunate than we are.  Think it will make them pay attention and have a little more gratitude?

That is my Christmas wish.

Christmastime and The Living Ain't Easy

For some reason this year the boys are especially anxious about Christmas. They've made their list. They checked them twice (to the tenth power). They know they've been naughty an nice, and yet they still have extremely high expectations.

Their lists would require at least a thousand dollars in spending (so...not going to happen). Blue's list includes an IPad, or the latest version of the Ipod Touch (even though we got the new one last year). A new HD television for his room, an Apple T.V., a trampoline and a couple of video games.

There is a little flexibility built-in to this list, however it has been made vividly clear that there must be something Apple under the tree. Otherwise his Christmas will be "ruined!" Preferably that something Apple should be an IPad.

"The Ipad is really the only thing I want," he says assuredly.

How do you deal with that? All I want is something that costs a minimum of 500 dollars!

Well of course, I want to get it for him, but big bad Dad -the more rational one in this marriage says no.

"He's too young to be responsible for something so expensive. If he losses it...he will be devastated."

Well that's true...but he's such a good hardworking kid...of course Mommy wants to spoil him.

Red's list is shorter...but no less expensive. An HD camcorder, 1080p, good image stabilization, good lighting, and so on. Not a cheap hand-held Flip or one like we got him Last Year! Yes...that's right. We got him one last year that didn't last 3 months before he was complaining how crappy it was! Yes -he actually used the word crappy in reference to a gift.

Because he acts so entitled and ungrateful -I am less inclined to give him what he wants. (Ya think!?) He is also 15 years-old and getting closer to adulthood. Yet, he has no appreciation for the value of money.

To be continued...
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hello Readers and Today's Funny

Thank you for stopping by!  I just get so tickled when I check my stats and see that I've had visitors from all over the world.  Shout out to my readers who came by today from Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, Seoul Korea (I think that's my sister-in-law who is serving as an officer in the Army) Moldova (had to look that one up, Eastern Europe) Rome (one of my favorite places in the world) Brazil and of course all over the United States! 

The goal of this blog is to help educate others about what it's like to live with, and raise children with Aspergers.  Lucky me! I have a double whammy -two adolescent boys with it.  Apparently, this is an issue that people are dealing around the corner and across the globe.  

So when my son asks me why I'm writing about him I can say -I'm writing about you so that people in the world will understand what it's like to live in your shoes.  So that when you go out to get a job, or go to college people will be familiar with Aspergers.  I also write so that parents who are dealing with this issue will know that they are not alone in the joys, pain and frustrations that we face on a daily basis. 

Thanks again for reading!  

Today's Funny:  

I took the boys for an adventurous hike in a wooded area not far from our house. Both of them have gained a few pounds due to the medication that they are taking in addition to their limited diet, which I am working on, one day at at time. 

Red absolutely did not want to go.  He complained the entire time.  We walked so far,  until he had no choice but to keep following us.  I promised him that the walk would ultimately make him feel better, help him sleep better and give him more energy during the day. 

We're walking on a trail and we come to a fork in the road, one path is paved, the other is rocky and hilly.  I chose the rocky one -symbolic of my life.  The boys both hesitated.  

"Mom...I don't know if this is such a good idea," says Blue.
"Are you serious? We could die," says Red.
I keep walking. "Just be careful, don't go too fast and watch out for the rocks," I cautioned them.  
"I'm going to be really mad if one of us dies," Red says.  Really? I laugh out loud. 
"What if you're the one who dies? I guess you can't exactly be mad then," says Blue.

Maybe you had to be there...but I thought it was hilarious -brilliant really.    

Worst Mom Ever!

The boys spent their weekend here at home with their dad and my mom.  I am so happy and proud of the bond that my husband shares with our youngest son Blue.  They like to go to breakfast together on the weekends. They love to go to the movies and play these geeky computer games together.  Red -on the other hand, is a teen who wants little or nothing to do with his father right now.  He appears to view his father as the enemy most of the time, that is unless he wants or needs something from him.  I refuse to help him with anything to do with his computer so that he will NEED his father for something and have no choice but to go to him and attempt to be respectful.

I had the best weekend ever, or at least recently.  My girlfriend came in from L.A. to hang with me and go to Lake Austin Spa for the day.  Rebecca and I met over 20 years ago working for the same employer.  We have been there for each other through all of life's changes.  We once both dated twin brothers.  We could have been sister-in-laws.  We've been there through our single years, devastating break-ups, career changes, marriage and motherhood.

While she was here...we partied, relaxed at the spa, shared some exquisite meals and cocktails, closed down a night club like we used to in the good old days.  I feel so blessed to have friendships that I have maintained for a lifetime.  I love that I have people who know me -the real me, and they love me anyway.

So all was good on the home front over the weekend...or so I thought until Monday morning.  First of all, on Sunday evening, I came home and passed out around 7 p.m.  This sister can not party the way she used to. I slept until 7 a.m. the next morning when my alarm went off.  Well, it actually went off at 6:40 a.m., but I hit snooze twice.  When I did lift my head from the pillow, I felt a little groggy.  It took me a couple of minutes to get my bearings.

I wandered into Blue's room at 7:08 a.m. to make sure he was awake.  He had been waking up on his own for the past week or so, early, because he wants to be on time for the bus and not be rushed.  He was livid! "You woke me up late!  My morning is ruined! It's all your fault!  Just forget it...I'm not going to school!"  Now this is my cooperative child  -the one who is the total opposite of his brother.  He went on and on and on.  He read me up and down until I put it to a halt.  He even went into, "You're the worst mom EVER!"

Ha! That will teach you to leave me all weekend!  Of course, he didn't say that.  He may not have even been aware that this is what the rant was all about.  Somehow, I know that was the underlying reason.  Even though, he was well taken care of, and had a totally awesome weekend, he did not appreciate me not being here. And to top it off -I had the audacity to stay at the Westin -Domain, where the Apple Store is located (his favorite place on earth).

By the time I picked him up from school, he was in a much better mood.  He sincerely apologized about what happened that morning.  After the doctors appointment, we stopped over at the Domain where I had left my favorite pillow in the hotel room. (Yes -I'm like Linus with his blanket.) We also stopped by the Apple Store where he answered all of my questions about the differences between the laptops and th IPAD.  All was good between us.

The next morning over breakfast out of the blue he asks, "Mom, do you ever worry about being a good mom?"
"Yes.  I worry all the time."
"Like when?"
"Like when you guys are sad or upset and I want to fix it. Like when you feel bad about having Aspergers. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing.  If I have the right supports in place for you at school."
"Well, you shouldn't worry, because you are.  You are a good mom."

This more than made up for the rant the morning before.  The moment was priceless and so is he.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Blogging...

When you have a blog...you have no editor.  You do have an edit button, but you have to find your own mistakes and/or bad choices.  That is unless you have family who reads your blog and is shocked and appalled by what you have written and they feel the need to point it out to you.

Hence...one of my family members brought to my attention something rather ugly that I said in a post about one of my children.  It wasn't exactly about the child -but the child's behavior. I love my children dearly.  I hope that comes across here.  I do not however always "like" their behavior -in fact sometimes I hate it.  I am appalled by it. I want to run away from it. Therefore my writing may not come across as this loving, rosy picture of a life that I wish I had, but I don't.

One day my children may read this blog.  There may be some things that I write that they don't like.  I hope that when and if they do read it, they can see the big picture.  Mom is writing this blog to help educate the world about the reality of Aspergers -the good, the bad and the ugly.  Temple Grandin's story wasn't all pretty.  She had some pretty bad meltdowns at times.  Her story was real and so is ours.

These are my confessions! Yes...like Usher (the singer/songwriter -and his confessions were a bit scandalous as well).  Thus this is called "Confessions of An Aspergers Mom".  It's not called "What is your personal Opinion?" (although you are welcome to leave them as a comment) or "Life is Rosy at My House!"

I have read other blogs in the autism community where mothers come across as angelic.  Where the love of their children shines through so clearly -your heart is warmed by it.  There are blogs that are all about inspiration -what huge accomplishments children with autism have made.  There are completely educational, very professionally written blogs that can be quite frankly, rather intimidating.  Then there are those that fall somewhere in-between -the real nitty gritty, the nuts and bolts of every day life and the struggle of raising special needs children, or the not so pretty side of what having a disability Aspergers is really like. I love them all. Each blog has something special to bring to the table. I love being a part of this community.

Yes -I use creative license at times in order to make the writing humorous.  Exaggeration may be used to make a point.  That is my prerogative as a writer.  For me writing is a therapeutic release.  Most things that I say are a matter of opinion -my opinion and I am entitled to it.

Writing is an Art.  If  an artist sits around thinking about what others will think of their work -they may very well be too afraid to allow the world to see their art.  If the artist looks at other's work and says, "Wow -that is so good! I could never be that good."  There would be no art, or what we have would be extremely limited.

There is room in the world for every artist, every story and every struggle -even if the picture isn't always so pretty.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eating Vegetables? No Way...

I received this video when my son was in California visiting my family.  I thought I'd fall out of my chair...

I don't really need to write anything else after this.  The images say it all.  This is my son who hasn't had a well balanced meal in...I can't remember how long.  If he did have one here at home, it came along with a serious battle.  Here he is eating, enthusiastically no less, alongside his cousin at my nephew's house.

The cook was my nephew who is a big guy, probably around 6 foot 2, with a deep, intimidating voice.  He's really as sweet as a teddy bear.  He is an excellent father and more like an uncle to my kids than a cousin, probably because he's in his thirties.  He has always taken time and interest in my boys, every since they were babies. He's not the kind of guy who's going to knock you upside the head if you don't eat your vegetables, but my son probably isn't so sure about that.

The truth is, my son manages to behave well with any member of the family, who doesn't live in this house.  He used to behave well for my mother, before she moved in with us.  All she had to do was call and tell him, "Get in the shower and stop giving your mother a hard time." He was in the shower before I could hang up the phone.  Now, he covers his ears when she admonishes him.

The images on this video made me suddenly feel inadequate as a mother. (What else is new?)  Of course it's all my fault that he doesn't eat healthily hear at home.  It's because I let him get away with it.  It's because I give him a choice.  It's because there's too much junk food here in the house.  Oh and the best one of all...it's because I hate cooking!

If I must say so myself, I am a pretty good cook.  I still like to cook and entertain my friends, that is when I'm not to exhausted.  The art of cooking and eating well, runs in my family.  My mom, my dad, my brother and my sister, are all excellent cooks.  In fact, we compete over who makes the best macaroni and cheese, the best chili, and the best caramel cake.

Most of the time however, cooking feels like just another chore on my long list.  It's not particularly enjoyable when your children do not appreciate it.  It's a lot of freaking work to cook only to have people look at you like you're serving poop on a plate.

I cook a good meal, and even my husband turns his nose up at leftovers.  He loves my cooking, but I guess only the first time I serve it.  He calls me from work and if leftovers are on the menu I get, "I'll stop and pick something up."  (He will totally deny it when and if he reads this.)

So getting Red -my 15 year-old, Aspergers boy to eat healthy is just one of the many battles that give me combat fatigue.  Blue is a little more flexible in the eating department.  He drinks vegetable/fruit juice daily, and will eat a few bites of veggies if they are put on his plate.  He won't be happy about it...but he'll do it.

After I picked my bottom lip off of the floor, and finished beating myself up...I came back to reality and realized that most children behave better for other people than they do for their parents.  The contrast in our particular situation is just so vast. I find that with Aspergers, most things are to the extreme and come along with a good deal of drama.

I am his mother...he feels no need to impress me.  He doesn't have to put on the pretense of being the nice boy who everyone loves and will want to have around.  At least he has the ability to pull his crap together when he needs to, right? He knows, that I love him unconditionally.  He believes that I have no choice but to put up with his shenanigans.  I have no choice but to have him live in our home.

Or do I?


A special shout out of  THANKS to all of my family who loved, entertained and spent time with my special boy.  I can't tell you how much I appreciated the much needed reprieve.  Auntie Sheila, Uncle Damon and little Damon, Uncle Ward, Auntie Sandy, Cousin Erin, Uncle Kevin and cousin Karsen, Grandfather and Mary.  

p.s. When can he come back???  :-)