Thursday, March 28, 2013

Drunk Drivers

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in October of 2010.  Red was in his first year of high-school at the time.  I republish it today to demonstrate how much times have changed.  He is now attending his home campus high-school.  And has another bus driver and assistant.  

Now when he first started with this driver last year...she seemed to be a bit of a grump.  She was very impatient and would hardly speak when he got on the bus.  She would take off as soon as he got on, and wouldn't even look in my direction as I waved good-bye.  She was actually so bad that some of our neighbor's boys who also have autism, would no longer ride with her.  "She's mean!" they would say, because she was so abrupt and rude. These are two boys are some of the sweetest boys I know.   

Over the past year or so ...something happened and she has mellowed.  She bought Red and his friend these mini-speakers for their IPods for Christmas.  Then one day after Red and his friend had a difficult day, I saw her get out of her seat and hug my boy.  And then they bowed their heads and prayed.  It brought tears to my eyes.  

Since then, I have seen her reading a scripture to the boys before they took off from in front of the house.  This from the woman who used to take off before he could barely sit down! Another day, when he had not ridden for a few days, because of difficulties at school, she actually got out of her seat, off the bus and met him in the driveway with a great big ol' hug.  I think it's safe to say ...something has happened.  They have bonded and made quite a connection.  

Now yesterday, she actually walked all the way up to the front door! She was almost dancing with happiness to see him. The woman seemed so happy, I thought to myself, I want some of what she's taking! She was almost too happy! Red had missed riding the day before. I opened the door and thanked her for being so nice to him.  She said, "We love all of the kids who ride with us...but this boy is so special!" 

This was my Facebook Status after our encounter: 

O.k. now the bus driver is walking all the way up to the door. She would have come on in if I invited her. She really loves my boy! #ALittleLooneyIThink

One of my fans was actually offended by this.  So I replied to her...

"If it makes you feel any better ...I am MORE than a little looney!"  

Here is what I wrote two years ago about Red and his Drunk Drivers... 

"I don't want to ride with those Drunk Drivers!" That is the phrase of the month for Red, my 15 year-old son. I think he loves the way it rolls off his tongue, the melodic sound of it -drrrunk drrivers.  He must love it because he makes a point of saying everyday, several times a day.  It's one the many things that he does that drives me nuts.  There has to be something inside him that compels him to repeat things so often. I've read that people with autism do something called "scripting".  They get some sense of comfort from repeating certain phrases or words.  It's often something they've heard on a favorite movie or television show. 

We made this deal.  If he is ready on time, I take him to school and pick him up.  If he is not ready that morning on time, he will not have the privilege of riding in my car (torturing me with your meaningless conversation about all of the things you want me to buy for you) on the way home.  Instead -he has to ride the bus home with those "drrunk drrivers!" 

This was one of those, "I'm just too tired!" days.  He takes a half an hour to get out of bed.  To top it off, this time he actually came down the stairs, not dressed and laid on the floor in front of the refrigerator -I believe for the effect of pushing my buttons.  I don't say a word.  I just step on him on my way across the kitchen.
"Oops! Didn't expect their to be a body on the kitchen floor.  Sorry." 

When we pull up to the school he never gets straight out of the car.  I can have five cars pull in behind me, kids get out and are going through the front door and he is still sitting there.  That's when he decides to strike up a conversation about what he wants to buy, what he wants me to buy, why he needs it so badly, why I don't seem to understand why he needs it so badly.  Or he goes into a rant about why I'm so mean -or why I don't care about his feelings.  

If I'm so mean, why are you riding in my car instead of on the school bus?  Why am I not in bed, or at the gym instead of sitting here listening to you?  

Sometimes, I just get out of the car myself.  I start walking my dog Harry, so that Red no longer has an audience for his rant.

Since he sat in la la land at the breakfast table after he finished eating, then took 15 minutes to go upstairs and put his shoes on, and would not get out of the car once we got to school -he had the privilege of riding with the drunk drivers home from school today.  

Wonder if he'll be on time tomorrow?

P.S. Red is now 17 and in the 11th grade.  Most mornings he gets up on his own, makes his lunch and is ready on time for the bus.  I would say he does this 95% of the time.  That is a big improvement.  So for those of you fighting the morning routine with your autism kiddos...I want you to know there is hope! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mental Health Day

It was one of those mornings where I did not want to get out of bed.  The night before, by the skin of our teeth, we were able to have an evening out.  We had tickets to see Alicia Keys in concert.  Yeah...o.k. --so what if we were the old people in the crowd.  You know the people who needed earplugs, because although her voice was beautiful, the music was so damned loud, I thought my eardrum might burst.

The week had been more stressful than usual, if one is to believe that is possible.  I had a pre-IEP meeting for Red...where we tried to put together an elaborate plan to get him through graduation next year.  Guess what?  They want to get him out of there early.  That high-school campus and Red are like fire and dynamite.  I am praying that he will thrive once he gets out of that hot bed of social landmines --the cliques and the couples, the popular people that he wants so desperately to be one of.  He has been spending the majority of his time this year focusing on this social-nonsense.  In fact, when asked in the pre-I.E.P. meeting, what he would like to accomplish within the next year, he said, "I want to be popular!"  That's it! That's all!  No -I want to graduate, or I want to get more video editing experience.  Just -I want to be popular.  You know ...the impossible.  That's what I want. He says that's what he wants yet, his actions will bring about the polar opposite popularity.

After our after our long, drawn out, planning meeting, I drag my tired self to get something to eat, and drink at the place 'where everybody knows my name.'  I had just ordered an afternoon margarita and lunch when I get the phone call ...da da dum!!!! Drum roll please!

"...I think you need to come and get him.  We've never seen him quite like this.  He is cursing and yelling and he is not backing down.  He cursed at another AP and we don't want all of these folks to get involved in the situation," says his teacher.

Great! Cancel that drink that I desperately need! Bring me the food though.  I'm going to need my energy.

I'm shaking both from exhaustion and anxiety as I drive back to the school.  I find Red in a completely manic state.  He is making some pretty explicit threats of self-harm.  It seemed that there was no backing down, even after I arrive.  The campus officer ends up coming to have a chat with him.  There is something about that uniform, gun, and taser that calms him down pretty damn quick.  The officer is pretty awesome with him ...he is not antagonistic or threatening.  He is actually, unbelievably nice and supportive.  He brings Red back down to earth to the point where I can take him home.

By the time we get home, he is physically and emotionally drained.  I am able to get him to lay down and within minutes...he is fast asleep.  Meanwhile, I'm on the phone to his doctor and therapist about what to do.  We put a plan in place and I schedule an appointment for him to see his therapist the following day.

The following day, I also have a meeting scheduled with Blue's team of teachers.  His anger, anxiety and depression has been significant lately.  Hormones and puberty are wreaking havoc on his poor mind and body.  Medication tweaking has done very little if anything, to help him.

During Spring Break I did see more smiles than I had since school started, but once he started working on assignments for school wall went downhill fast.  He just became so overwhelmed.  He told me how unsupported he feels by his math teacher.  She has tried to avoid giving him the accommodations of his IEP.  He has been a great self-advocate this year, but this bitch is trying to intimidate him and make him feel bad for needing to use his extra-time accommodation. Wrong answer Sweetie! I may smile and be nice but don't mess with my boy or you will meet a bitch who will turn your world around.  

Blue and I both do an excellent job presenting the issues in this meeting.  I defer to him to tell the entire group how he has been feeling.  The Assistant Principal is also in attendance.  I am glad he's there because I want it on record how this math teacher has been behaving.  She sat there like a sour puss, hardly speaking at all until she didn't have much of a choice.  She appears to lack any compassion.  She definitely wins the award for the Most Unhelpful Teacher of the Year award.

Talking in front of his entire team of teachers, standing up and advocating for himself is very stressful for Blue.  However, he did rise to the occasion and made his mama proud.  Once we tackle these adolescent years, success is written all over this boy's future.  I just feel it in my bones.  Give him a few years to mature and watch out world!

The following evening we make arrangements for Blue to be at a friends house while we have Date Night with Alicia Keys.  His friend's mom brings him home just before bedtime.  My mistake.  I should have just let him stay there until we could pick him up.  He had a major meltdown just before we came home.  As tuck him in to bed, I try to get him to do some deep breathing.  He can hardly pull it together enough to really exhale.  Before I leave the room he says to me, "Mom...I don't trust God anymore.  Why is he letting this happen to me?"
That's it...finished! Heart. Broken.

It's well after midnight before he gets to sleep.  When I go to wake him for school the following day, he says, "I can't do it mom.  I can't go to school today.  I need a break."

Hubby had already tried to get Red out of bed, this same morning, to no avail.  I refused to poke and prod him out of bed.  So I have both of them sleeping when they are supposed to be at school.  I lay in my own bed seething with anger because Red is refusing to get up.  This is actually the second day that he would be at home from school.  But I'm done!  Something has to give.  I refuse to keep begging him to go to bed, and begging him to get up in the morning.  I am weary, depleted and exhausted, unable to move so I lay there trying to figure out what to do.  I decide to do nothing.   I let them sleep.

Blue hits the floor around 11:30 a.m.  Red doesn't hit it until 1 p.m.  Obviously, he was pretty tired.  I could have forced the issue and made him go to school, but then we may end up with a day like he had earlier this week ...completely falling apart.  The same for Blue really.  He needed some rest.  The difference being, that the night before...Red refused to go to bed.  So for him, there is a consequence of not getting up and going to school on this day.

"I'm sorry that you chose not to go to bed, and not to get up this morning.  There will be no electronics today.  No computer, no phone, nada.  We are going out to get some exercise, we are going to do some chores and we will make sure you get in bed early tonight.  If you do not get in bed on-time...that computer will not be in your room when you wake up in the morning,  and it will not return until you have gotten up on-time for school every day next week. That's the entire week.  Just so you're clear."

Of course, that's not fair! I'm the worst mom ever.  But at the beginning of this day, I was ready to pull the covers over my head and stay that way.  By the end of this day, after we exercise, get the boys haircuts, run errands and do our chores, both of the boys were more relaxed than I have seen them all week.  All in all I would say the Mental Health day was a success.

You can put money on the fact that they were both in bed on time.  And yes...Red did get up on his own the following morning and got himself out the door...independently.

Around the world in and back again....just another day in the crazy life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Facebook Life

O.K. I will admit it... My name is Karen and I'm a Facebook addict.  It's been 30 minutes since my last post and 30 seconds since I checked my notifications.

I am the Administrator of a Confessions Facebook Page.
I have a private Facebook Page that is for parents and those who are in any way connected to the autism community, where you can post statuses without your nosey friends and relatives being all up in your business.
I belong to a private Autism Bloggers group, with a bunch of chatty writers.  We share our blogs and statuses to do with life as a writer, and as a parent of someone with autism, as well as those who are actually living on and spectrum.  They are a one of the funniest groups of people I have never met. They are also a great group to procrastinate with.
I also belong to a few private groups for people with Aspergers and those who love someone who has Aspergers.
So yeah...Facebook has a habit of taking up a lot of my time.

As a matter of fact, in 2012 when I did this Year in Facebook Statuses App,  it revealed that on my personal page alone, I have written enough words for an entire book!  Shameful... I know.  Just think, If I spent all that time actually writing and publishing a book, maybe I'd be rich by now!  This year in review also revealed what I write the most about, politics (because of the election last year), mental health, and alcoholic beverages. Yep ...that's me in a nutshell!

So here is your chance to get to know me via some of my recent and favorite Facebook statuses.

"The people at Target should be shot for asking -did you find everything alright? Of course I found MORE THAN everything alright! That's why this bill is freakin $150.00 dollars!!!
Then they have the nerve to ask if you want to sign up for a credit card? #AreYouNuts?"

"Remember earth shoes? They were kinda ugly...but you feel like your walking on the moon. I love my new comfy, totally unsexy shoes."

"From the Editor of where I will be featured next week:
'You are a talented storyteller; one in a million. I think your stream of consciousness style is the best of any I have ever posted.'
My week has been made!"

"If you are single with no children I have some unsolicited advice for you...STaY that WaY as long as you can!"

"Great night with my hubby! Contract extended..."

"Talked to my Dad tonight.  I could hear his music all the way from L.A. (and I don't mean through the phone). Me -Dad are you trying to disturb your neighbors?  Him -These old mother -efers in this building can't hear!" 

"Seeing my doctor again.  Maybe she will commit me to a lovely mental health rehab this time.  I'm hoping for 30 days." 

"Dear God,
Thank you for the sunshine and my time with my God-children and dear friend today.  For my husband who I am so in love with Thank you for peace in this moment." 

Call from the groomers-"Mrs. K. Harry is ready to be picked up.  Just to let you know we are trying to close early today." In other words B*%#@ come get your dog!  Don't forget him this time!" 

"There is a certain danger in a drink tasting so good! Ruby red grapefruit juice and Ruby Red Absolute Vodka...and to all a good night." 

"Is it bad that I have two different computers open to facebook right now? #IMayHaveAProblem

"I think coffee is a bit like crack. There is nothing like that first sip. You spend the rest of the morning trying to get that feeling back...but it never happens...until the next day. #Andthereyouhaveit #answersoflifebyKaren"
"I have some awesome friends all over the U.S. & around the world. Some I have met through blogging but our connection is so beyond this medium. I'm feeling the love tonight. #YouGetMe #YouSeeMe #SoBlessed"
"I can be the sweetest person you'll ever meet, but if you mess with my kid, I can quickly turn into a bitch you wish you'd never met. Cole's math teacher is about to meet the other side of my personality. Don't worry...I will smile and be pleasant the whole time I am turning her world around. She's about to get a real education."

So what if I have 2 martini glasses and 1 wine glass in my bedroom. Maybe I was having a party up there. It it's a party of one...but I am damn good company!

Then of course there are also countless photos of my kids, my dog and my drinks!

I could go on all day! But I do have a life to live...well sort of.  I gotta get back to my Facebook!

In the comments below...leave me one of your craziest facebook statuses...or the one of mine you most identify with. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fog In an Alternate Universe

If I keep waiting for something positive to write about...I may not ever post on this blog again.  At least not anytime soon.  Instead, I will write my reality.

I've been helping out a single-mom friend of mine the past couple of days.  She is a teacher and is currently trying to get her National Board Certification which requires writing, extra time at work and periodically meetings after school.  I am glad to volunteer to help her with the daughter that I never had.  Skye is so smart and such a breath of sunshine especially, in comparison to my teenaged, angry boys.  I have to pick her up from her aftercare program on this particular evening.  I have already been playing taxi driver to my mom and the boys all day long and I'm tired.

As I'm leaving the house, Red is literally hanging on to the car door as I attempt to pull out of the driveway.

"Mom! I'm hungry can you please bring me something to eat?!"

There is plenty of food that he can easily prepare for himself at home, he would rather not.  He would rather dial my phone 28 times in a row, yelling and screaming asking me to bring him something.

No...I do not answer my phone 28 times.  I actually have to turn it off so that I can focus on driving.  The amount of energy he is wasting on this tirade is much more than he could have ever spent on actually cooking.  Which, in the end is exactly what he ends up doing anyway.  These antics are just the beginning of what will be a two-day tirade of terrible behavior and bad decisions.

The following day, my adopted little girl is sick --too sick to go to school.  Her mother needs to be at work, so I have her come to my house to rest.  She has a terrible fever that keeps coming back and she is just wiped out.

In the middle of the day, the phone rings and you guessed it --it's the high school.  I hear the voice of one of the Assistant Principles on the line.  Just absolutely freaking great!  So glad to hear from you! NoT!

Apparently, my son decided to use a few choice words with her in an area where other students could hear him, with absolutely no shame to his game.   As I am listening to the horror story on the phone, my heart is palpitating like an African drummer is inside my chest having a party.   I can't believe what I'm hearing is true of the boy who has been doing so well in the past several weeks at school.  He has been so busy helping the kids with disabilities.  He has made a new friend.  He's been spending time laughing and having a good time with other boys in his program.  Teachers have been rallying around him, trying to keep him focused on positive activities.  What the hell else can we do to help him --to love and support him?  Nothing!  I have ...we have given him our all.

Everything seemed to be going so well.  Why is this anger resurfacing seemingly out of nowhere?

The rest of the afternoon I am in a fog.  My mind is not clear at all.  I am driving around running errands not really knowing where I'm going, or what I'm doing.  Clerks in stores are asking me questions.  I am oblivious huh...what?  My ears are still feeling like I'm on an airplane, or in a tunnel.  They are plugged up from allergies.  Between that, and this extra layer of stress, I am walking around on earth feeling like I'm in an alternate universe.

My mind is racing with thoughts.  I know that my husband is leaving to go on a business trip this evening.  I'm feeling guilty that Red has not been to see his therapist lately.  The private therapist was just becoming too expensive and I haven't found him a new one yet.  I know he needs to process what has just happened at school and nothing I say will mean one freakin thing to him.  I am imagining an evening in hell.  Not only that, I am really angry with him.  I know that nothing I will say will be objective or teachable.  I am too emotional for that.

I can just imagine the fireworks when he walks through the door.  Skye is laying on my couch shivering with fever in and out of sleep.  Then Blue coming home from school at the same time and who knows what kind of drama will walk in the door with him.  I can see Red going off the deep end shooting off his mouth with lord only knows, what kind of language.  Blue will be trying to parent him, telling him how ridiculous he is being.  It will be a nightmare.

I send a text message to his Pastor and friend from his first church, where he was baptized.  I ask him if he can possibly come to talk to and pray with Red when he gets home from school.  He agrees to come by shortly after Red will get home.  LIFE SAVER!

Red comes home angry as expected.  Threats of dropping out of school are flying out of his mouth.  Then he starts with the blame game --blaming everyone else for what happened, etc.  I stop him in his tracks when I tell him Pastor R. is on his way over.

We are in the driveway talking when Pastor R. pulls up.  He walks over, gives Red a huge hug and says, "Rough Day huh?" He asks me if it's o.k. for the two of them to go for a walk.  In that moment I am overcome with gratitude and emotion.  How can I feel so stressed and blessed at the exact same time?

They walk, talk and pray for over an hour.

Meanwhile, girlfriend comes to pick up Skye whose fever has now spiked to 103.  As she is taking her to the car, she starts crying.  It was like she held it together all day long.  As soon as she saw her mommy...she lost it.  I have never seen this little angel crying.  It breaks my heart, as if I am not already an emotional wreck.

Blue has also just arrived home in time to witness Skye's tears.  It saddens him too.  He asks me to come, sit and talk with him on the front porch.  The next thing I know, tears are streaming from his eyes as well.  He tells me how bad he is feeling about himself, and that he just feels overwhelmed by everything in his life.  I hug him and try my best to stay strong for him.  I know that when I cry he gets even more emotional and confused, but boy is it hard to hold in all of the emotions I am feeling.

In the back of my mind I am thinking ...what else can happen today?  How much more can I take?  A little lightbulb goes off.   This boy is clearly depressed, in fact maybe more so than he has been in a long time.  This is the third time I've seen him weep in a week's time.  This isn't normal.  I have to figure out a way to help him through this.  My load is getting heavier by the minute.

I save my pity party for later.  I call my husband on the phone, both of us in our cars, bluetooth to bluetooth.  Me ...driving home after dropping Red at church, Hubby...on the road to Dallas for a business trip.  I just lose it completely with him.  Every emotion that I have been feeling throughout the day all comes boiling over out of my heart and through my eyes...the tears roll.  Hubby listens, lets me vent and yell and yes... even blame him.

When I am done, I take a breath or ten.  After hanging up with him, I sit in my car trying to pull myself together.  I think about everything I've just said to him.  Most of it wasn't very nice.  A few minutes later, I call him back and apologize.  Even in this moment of extreme stress, I am thankful that I have him as my partner.  In the middle of my feelings of being overwhelmed and sad, I feel the blessing of having him to go through this with me.

I remember my teenage years with such fondness.  Sure there were painful moments...break-ups with boyfriends, longing for independence from my strict mother, being teased because of my big nose.  I still remember the sting of that.  I did not however, have the social issues that my kids do.  I had a lot of friends and a lot of fun.  Adolescence for me was one of the happiest, most carefree times of my life.  It just breaks my heart to watch them go through such pain and anguish during a time in their lives that should be full of joy.

A mother just wants to see her child be happy and carefree.  I don't think that's too much to ask.