Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting older is a DRAG!

Getting older (I refuse to say "old") is a drag.  Although it is still better than the alternative, middle age is just weird sometimes.

Being the youngest in my family (with a 10 year age span) has allowed me to never feel "old".  After all, if my sisters aren't "old", how can I possibly be old

I also refuse to lie about my age.  Growing up my mom used to always say she was 27.  I was gullible and I believed her until her 40th birthday when some friends put a sign in our front yard.  Of course, she was 32 when I was born.  For some reason I have been a horrible judge of a person's age my entire life.

If I were ever to lie about my age, I think I would do it in reverse.  What if I were to tell you that I am 67 years old?  Don't I look dynamite for 67?!?!  What if I were to tell you I am 27 years old?  I don't look so good for 27.  Because I'm 47.  So I'm not going to lie to make myself sound younger! 

However 47 is pretty smack in the middle of middle age.  Here are some of the most annoying aspects of aging for me:

  • Hairs grow out of previously hairless follicles.  I plucked a doozy this morning from the top of the side of my nose (like a runaway eyebrow hair) except it was super pale and it was OVER an inch long.  WTF???  How did I miss that bugger for that long?
  • Right.  I can't see anymore.  When your hobby involves looking at small details, this is a really annoying part of aging.
  • Hot floods.  Nope, I don't get hot flashes, I get hot floods.  I am always about 3 degrees hotter than I used to be -- and DH already said I had a 2 degree temperature tolerance so this pretty much puts me always out of my comfort zone.  Best of all, my oldest sister had this for about 10 years.  I think I'm on year 3.  Great.  Only seven to go.
  • Everything creaks.  When I was little my mom noticed that my one knee ALWAYS popped when I squatted down -- like cracking your knuckles.  I haven't noticed my knee in ages because everything makes noises these days.  Trying to work out is a regular little symphony.
  • My entire shape has shifted.  OK, I have 20 extra pounds I would like to shed.  But still.  Eleven years ago I needed to lose 40 pounds and I'm pretty sure I didn't sag as bad then as I do now.  Sigh.
  • Then of course, actually losing weight or toning up takes more effort for the same (or lesser) results.  And naturally I have less energy to do the training.
Still life is fun.  When I think about the fact that my older brother died when he was 29, I am pretty happy to have made it to the ripe old age of 47.  I love my husband, kids and this crazy, mixed up thing we call life.  So while I might gripe about some of the less enjoyable aspects of middle age, overall I won't complain too much.  Well I might, but most of you probably wouldn't be able to hear me anyway!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good parenting does not always equal good children

I was doing some blog surfing today and came across Mommifried: 5 Things We Wish Our Kids Didn't Do and for the most part, I thought it was a cute blog post.  I don't really agree with the dressing themselves part but then again, I never had knock down drag out battles with the boyz.  Joe pretty much picks out his clothes (within limits) and Alan wears whatever I put on the bathroom sink that morning.  I would definitely have a harder time with girls who wanted to dress like little tramps.

But the picture/cartoon that accompanied the blog post just stuck in my craw.  The quote is "A good child does not make you a 'lucky' parent.  There's no such thing.  It's called good parenting.  That is a hard concept to grasp in today's society."
So does that mean a misbehaving child is also the parent's fault?

As the mom of two special needs kiddos, I resent that.  My kids can rarely be described as "good" and yet I think I'm a good parent.  I also know little gems that have grown up in abusive or neglectful environments.  So does that mean that they had good parenting?

I do understand the point I think she was trying to make.  Most of the time when a child is behaving properly and appears to be happy, good parenting was involved.  But there is a certain aspect of nature that cannot be denied.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The next step

Joe graduated from high school over a year ago.  I never thought it would be this hard to get him a job!  Although I know he interviews poorly (when asked if he would like doing something he usually answers truthfully "well I guess it would be okay if you paid me enough") he is a hard worker and really wants to be useful.

So after our college option disappeared for this fall, my interest in getting him busier peaked.  We reapplied to Vocational Rehab (which we had abandoned last fall because of a personality conflict with his employment specialist) and while we were waiting for the speedy government, his job coach at the coffee shop (Kim) heard about a local hospital who wanted to hire special needs folks.  He had an interview last week with a few folks from the hospital and several people from Kim's company.  He reluctantly let us dress him up in a suit.

Turns out he was the star of the interviews.  One other boy dressed up but Kim said it looked like his polo had been over with her truck and one girl had "hygiene issues".  Well that is one way to get Joe to stand out in a favorable way! He has his second interview with the hospital tomorrow.
Practicing dish washing ("Mom, not THAT kind of dish washing!")

Then yesterday Kim told me about a dishwasher position at a local restaurant.  This morning Joe told me that this week was very stressful and he was looking forward to no more interviews for awhile!

But he did go over to the restaurant with Kim today.  Although this isn't even Kim's job, she is trying so hard to get Joe a real job and I am truly touched.  Joe came home positively bubbly (for him) and told me that the restaurant wanted to hire him.  "And they even are going to pay me!"

He is still going to the hospital interview tomorrow but he told me he was pretty sure he wanted the dishwasher job.  Of course, I am torn.  Part of me says "go for the hospital" there is more long term benefits to working there.  The other part of me says "go for the restaurant" and work there until next fall and then reapply to college.  The hospital would probably pay more but it is also a 25 minute drive from home on a busy interstate.  Pros and cons to both.

But whatever route he chooses, my 6' 2" little boy will be working somewhere very soon -- and they are even going to pay him!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Writer's block

I have a really bad case of creativity block.

Some of this is certainly the fact that summer is here.  I have never been a big fan of warm weather.  Alan is home more and DH is currently on a business trip.  Sigh.

I haven't done much recently with my minis.

I've hardly even cooked much in my new kitchen.

I haven't written anything recently on this blog of which I am particularly happy.  Father's Day is coming up and I haven't even written a good tribute to DH.

So, since today is Thursday, I will take advantage of TBT and re-run my tribute from last year which is probably one of my all time favorite posts anyway.  So Happy Father's Day, DH!

Happy Father's Day, DH!

As regular readers know, I do not refer to my hubby by name, merely as DH.  Lest anyone be confused that does stand for Dear Husband NOT D*%# Husband.
The young and the clueless

DH and I met some 25 years ago and it wasn't exactly love at first sight.  We both thought the other had some goofy traits -- I was concerned about silly things like whether or not his clothes matched (they didn't) and he thought I needed to grow up (I did).  Obviously we did eventually reconcile these little problems.

So fast forward some seven years to Joe's birth.  I know that DH and I were terrified.  I would be hard pressed to say who was more so.  We were both the youngest in our family and although we both had nieces, we really had very limited experience with kids in general and babies in particular.  

We both have a vivid memory of leaving the hospital, getting out to the car with Joe and wondering how the heck did we get the car seat in the car?!?!?!   I am positive that he was not properly restrained for that first short drive.  Then there were diapers.  I think I had changed a grand total of two diapers before Joe was born and I'm pretty sure DH hadn't even changed that many.

I'm sure anyone who has ever cared for a newborn remembers that dreaded "transition" diaper.  That's the one with the consistency, color and smell of rancid tar.  We got Joe's at about 3 in the morning on his first night home.  While trying to clean it up (which took two of us) we were both christened along with the wall and floor of Joe's room -- ah, the special joys of little boys.  I was in so much pain from trying to breastfeed and a difficult birth that all I wanted to do was cry but DH just laughed which made me laugh and like so many things that would come later, he helped me get through.

Joe wasn't always an easy baby.  He would make himself go rigid and thrash like there was no tomorrow, but like many with autism he was the world's cutest toddler.  However, he only had about 10 words until he was almost 3 when we started our own version of ABA so he was definitely a challenge!

DH was always fantastic about coming with me to doctor after doctor and school meeting after school meeting.  I remember when we had home ABA with Joe and DH would make it to most of the team meetings.  Our ABA coordinator told us she didn't even know what most of the dads looked like and here was DH sitting in and contributing in most of the meetings. 

He would take Joe to the pool, the playground and even built a swing-set for him.  (And 14 years later, that swing-set is still in use by the younger child.)  But Dad and Joe are still pals and play tennis, chess and go for bike rides.

But I think what I like best about DH as a father is that he was never upset about the fact that Joe didn't play conventional sports.  We tried both t-ball and soccer when he was younger and they were complete disasters.  But it was never an issue.  I know so many guys that want to live vicariously through their male off-spring and DH was never that way.  He happily took Joe to gymnastics and later piano and bowling.  He taught him how to play tennis and we both taught him to ride a bike (with DH doing more of the running than yours truly!)

He also liked just relaxing and being silly with Joe.

Although he had a little denial before Joe was diagnosed he probably had less than me with Alan.  I was just convinced that lightning did NOT strike twice.  Alan was such a different baby than Joe -- cuddly, amazing eye contact, lots more babbling -- that I did not think he could possibly have autism. 

But once again, with DH's fantastic sense of humor and help, we got through all the sleepless nights, the poop smearing, the B-12 shots in Alan's butt while he slept, the bizarre climbing, the endless "Alan-proofing" of the basement, etc.  

The poor guy even has allergies but when Joe wanted a cat, DH said sure. 

And DH still has some of the ickier jobs with the boys.  He usually ends up taking Alan to the sedation dentist because it takes two males (DH and the doc) along with three nurses to hold him down and give him the initial shot.

And through all this, he remains my best friend and the person most likely to make me laugh.  Overall I couldn't ask for a better husband or Dad to my boyz!  

Love you, babe!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Passing the torch (or maybe the plunger)

For the last several years we have primarily used one respite provider (Nikki) with another (Genni) as a backup.  Both girls are getting married the last Saturday of this June.  This is so unfair.  These girls actually have a life outside of Alan???

Working with Alan in First grade
Ms. Nikki has been part of Alan's life since kindergarten.  She was a para in his kindergarten and first grade classroom.  When we left that school we started utilizing her as a babysitter.  When a new, private school opened in his third grade year we strongly encouraged/recommended Ms. Nikki for the position of assistant teacher.  Unfortunately Alan's OCD really spiraled out of control in sixth grade and we had go to back to the public schools.  Ms. Nikki actually likes her job at the private school and is still there. 

When we first got him his iPad he wanted nothing to do with it.  In an effort to encourage him to use it, Ms. Nikki gave him some private lessons.  For so many things, she has always been there for us anytime we've asked.

But the time has come to pass the torch (or in our house, maybe it is the plunger) and we need to find some new folks to watch Alan. So we've been trying to interview/utilize a few new babysitters.  Of course, DH's first comment was "They need to be old and ugly so they don't go and get married on us."  Um, pretty sure that is NOT something we can ask when we phone interview these people.

Luckily one lady that we know and trust (she is Alan's companion on camp weekends) has come through for us and is planning to watch him so we can actually attend Nikki's wedding.  (No, we aren't planning to bring Joe.)  Even though Nikki has assured us she will still be available to watch Alan after she is married, we are realistic enough to realize that her availability will be less.  Gosh forbid she actually have a "cupcake" (her nickname for Alan) of her own.

Ms. Nikki supporting the bike so Alan could ride
But back to the screening process.  Even though Alan is rarely violent I did put that he could be "violent occasionally" in my "feeler" e-mails that I sent out to several people.  The one person that contacted me within 10 minutes thought it was funny that I put that in.  She said most people didn't tell you that up front.  Seriously?  Who wants to surprise a provider with that?

In any case we are supposed to meet the new person today.  Minutes before she was scheduled to arrive we were plunging one of the toilets while the other boy was in a different bathroom.  Maybe instead of asking about their autism experience we should ask them about how good they are with a plunger.  Sigh.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

TBT - Do ya feel lucky?

Welcome to Julie's Boyz' version of Throw Back Thursday -- Blog Style (TBT-BS: got to love that acronym!)  I am taking Thursdays to rerun some of my older blog posts.  This one originally ran on March 27, 2013.

An assortment of "free time" pics for Alan's iPad from March 2013

Do ya feel lucky?

When I was younger, my mom used to always call me her "good luck charm".  I did seem to win an inordinate amount of random drawings.

On our honeymoon, DH and I went to Bahamas which is a big gambling place.  We both came very quickly to the twin conclusions that we were not particularly lucky and we really hated losing our hard earned money in a game of chance.

When our first baby was born, people were still throwing around numbers like 1 in 10,000 for autism so our knowledge of autism was next to nil.  Of course to add insult to injury, Rain Man had only come out a few years earlier so what knowledge we had was skewed as well.

Of course by the time Joe was diagnosed they were using numbers like 1 in 5000 but still I had several people assure me that it didn't run in families.  If I knew then what I know now, I would probably have stopped there and I also think I would have been a better mother.

I was reading Stuart Duncan yesterday and while I normally love his blog, yesterday's post just grated on me.  In Don't fear autism and certainly do not fear your own child he says basically that parents are not having children because they fear autism.  He says we should instead reassure prospective parents.

Reassure them that they most babies are born healthy?  I think they know this.  I think if anyone is not having a child because they are afraid their child would have autism, they are simply not the gambling type.

In the case of subsequent children once one is diagnosed, personally I think this a good thing.  When you are at a high risk for something you should be allowed to consider whether that risk is personally worth it.

When this generation of autistic children reaches adulthood, they will put a hell of an additional strain on the economy since most of them will not be functioning members of society.  If the 1 in 50 number is truly accurate, then at least 1 child in 50 will also need to have a career that focuses on the care of autistic adults.  That just boggles the mind.

Yes it is very possible (98% possible) that you will have a neurotypical child.  But a 2% risk to forever alter your life requires very careful consideration.

Could you be a good parent to a special needs child? 

Maybe these prospective parents know they are too selfish to give up their whole lifestyle forever if their child is severe.  Maybe mom and dad are both very into their careers and know that they could not make all the meetings that would be required.  Maybe they are struggling financially and have heard how costly it is to have a child with special needs.  Maybe their marriage is already rocky and the idea of raising a special needs child single-handed is daunting.

That is a choice.  Maybe they are just not gamblers.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Guerrilla warfare or why I appreciate teachers

As a mom to special needs kiddos, I guarantee you that I appreciate teachers more than your average parent -- even more than a parent who happens to teach.  I love my boyz but some days (especially Sundays), I tend to count the hours until Alan returns to school.  It is just emotionally draining at times.  I am unbelievably cut off from family and friends.

Even though I have teenagers, I can't leave them alone in the house for even the half hour it would take to run to the grocery store.  I have been known to put a video on for Luke and run up to the grocery store to pick up milk or prescriptions and I am wracked with guilt the entire time.  What if he climbs somewhere he is not supposed to climb?  What if he falls and hurts himself?  What if he opens a window and climbs out on the roof?  The first two have happened repeatedly and although the last one hasn't happened (yet) it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Now that Joe is driving, I can at least send him to the store, but there are certain things he is not capable of doing.  He won't use our medical flexible spending card.  He certainly will not look for the best deal when it comes to picking out soup, crackers, eggs, apples, etc.  He won't buy any sort of produce unless it is something he will eat.  Even though I have tried to show him how to pick out assorted veggies and meats, he is not comfortable buying them.  Luckily I have some pretty fantastic neighbors who have been known to share an egg or an onion occasionally.

As always, DH helps immeasurably.   But one of us always has to be on "Alan duty".  24/7/365  So when DH has to work on the weekends (it happens when you work for a utility!), or wants an afternoon off to work out, play a game with friends or even go see a movie by himself, that means I am on duty.  Don't get me wrong, I do NOT begrudge him that time, just like he does not begrudge me the time I spend on miniatures during the school days.  We both need that time "away".  But for the person responsible for Alan, it is "duty".

In many ways dealing with Alan is like guerrilla warfare.  According to Wikipedia, "Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants such as armed civilians or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military."

That pretty much sums it up.  Alan ambushes, sabotages, fights petty battles and is infinitely more mobile.  DH and I are still larger (albeit not for much longer), less-mobile and traditional.

Most of our "battles" are small.  But they are frustrating.  Sunday morning Alan was whiny.  I didn't know if the lack of structure was starting to get to him or what.  Finally in desperation I gave him an ibuprofen early in the afternoon.  Guess what?  He calmed down and was a doll the rest of the day.  Poor kid.  Something was hurting on him, but he couldn't tell me what.  All I had to go on was a whiny kid.  Very frustrating!

But all these little things only highlight why I appreciate teachers.  Teaching is truly a vocation.  At the start of summer vacation, I am sitting here appreciating his teachers every moment.