Monday, February 20, 2012

The Writing Wars

Getting a little kid to sit down and write can be a challenge. Especially a boy. Getting an autistic kid to sit down and write is horrifying. I would rather have to change dirty diapers, clean toilets, or be tied naked to a red ant hill covered in honey. I AM SERIOUS.

I LOVE this!

The boy has always struggled with writing. Handwriting Without Tears, while a great program didn't help. Exercises to help fine motor control haven't helped. Making individual boxes for each word hasn't helped. Trying to teach him cursive at 6 years old didn't help. Bribery, threatening and tears have not helped.  He has been using an Alpha Smart keyboard since 2nd grade. THAT is helpful.

Now that he is supposedly "mainstreamed" the teacher puts a certain amount of expectation on him to write. I don't necessarily disagree- but sometimes - like the recent project we had to do- typing it all would make it so much easier on him. AND ME!

We had a cooking project to do. The Boy said he wanted to make butterscotch chip cookies. I was thrilled! Something new! So we got a recipe and he followed it, and did 90% of the work himself- even putting it in the oven himself. It was fun, and he learned some cool stuff, and his cookies turned out great!

Now comes the hard part. Having to write it down. I have been putting this project off because of this very reason. We baked the cookies yesterday. At 12:30 today- I told him it was time to finish his project. He said he did. I told him, we need to write all of it down. That was at 12:30. We finished at 3:50. Yes folks, for over THREE HOURS I did everything in my power to get him to follow the directions. From a "break after each sentence, to bathroom trips to smoke breaks for mom- this has been the shittiest day off with the kids in recent memory.

Why all the fighting? Well- anything that requires him to write or draw (this had both) is a fight. He HATES it. It stresses us both out.  But the grading rubric clearly states it had to be written. (I typed it too- the hell with it) And after re-writing because of illegibility, many erased lines, tears, near meltdown, (for both of us) and me considering taking a shot of tequila at about 2:30-ish...this is what we finally got.

This is the finished product
Grading Rubric
This is after 3 + hours

The best part of this whole thing was the cooking. He really enjoyed it, and so did I. So I leave you with some pictures of the actual baking portion of the project- enjoy!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Welcome to The Pity Party- BYOB

So welcome to my pity party. Pull up a chair. No invite necessary, but you have to BYOB- bring yer own bitching AND bring yer own booze.

If you don't believe in pity parties, feeling sorry for yourself etc. well bully for you. Go spout some motivational catch phrases elsewhere and let me wallow.  I am only  human and I feel the need to rage against the universe and bitch for a bit.  If this isn't for you- then move along- I really won't be offended.  I'll just drink more wine. Well, actually coffee that I desperately wish was spiked with Baileys. 

So let's look at the list of reasons I am throwing this shindig today

1) My husband took a second job that requires him to work all fucking weekend. This was a CHOICE mind you- supposedly going to help finances. While I have yet to reap the benefits of this, I have certainly become a lot more irritated. Even when I put aside being a bitch for a minute and see that he doesn't really want to do it either- it seems to be a losing situation all around- so don't do it..mkay?  But if I say that to him, then I am Queen Selfish Bitch, and I play that role all to often.  But right now I am feeling very disconnected from my marriage and my husband and I am not sure if a couple hundred bucks extra a month is worth it. 

2)My job is now going to require me to stay until 6:00 every night since someone quit. Normally this wouldn't be an issue- because the mister would come pick The Boy up and Teenzilla wouldn't be alone for so long in the afternoons and dinner would be served at a decent hour.  But since he will be working 2 nights a week - The Boy stays with me, dinner will be late (anything past 6:00 is late for me- especially on a school night)

3)I missed out on any kind of Valentines Day. Yup- hubby was working. I don't want much, I mean I did get some cool cookie sheets which I asked for, but I was kind of hoping to at least get taken out to dinner...but because of this job sitch- that ain't happening. 

4) I have been on this insane creative cooking spree- wanting to try new things, new ingredients and all that. The Boy eats NOTHING. So, to make sure his scrawny ass gets something to eat, I cook separate dinners- something I swore I would never do again after the oldest was spoiled my his nana in the exact  same way. Took forever to break him!  But it is what it is, and I just hope with age and continued effort on my part- he will eventually start at least tolerating something new on his plate.

5) I have applied for 62 scholarships in the last 3 months. I also applied for my FAFSA. No word on any of the scholarships yet, FAFSA said I qualify for up to 10K in loans that the University of my choice would apprise me of.  I see so many friends finishing college and I am happy for them, yet jealous as well. And I hate for my happiness for my friends to be tainted with petty jealousy.   I am feeling my almost 39 years and am starting to think I am just too fucking old for this shit.

So there it is- my bullshit white people problems all laid out for people to mock or judge. I needed this today- writing is a supremely cathartic exercise- and while I am still boo-hooing in my coffee (which I  still wish was spiked with Bailey's) I am gonna go shower and make the most of the day that is left I guess.  I can suppress the pessimistic, whiny bitch  and let the optimist thrive. Then I will put on my flowing hippie dress and dance in a meadow...oops..that broody bitch just keeps getting out. Sorry I am not sorry. 

*The bright spot in all this gray? In 5 days I am going to get to see some amazing friends. Candice, Nikki, Danielle, and Rene- I can't WAIT for our weekend of debauchery. You really have no idea!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quirky the Kid

So this is a blog I wrote quite awhile ago- and it never got published for some weird reason... so here ya go!

Quirky. adjective, quirk·i·er, quirk·i·est. having or full of quirks. 

Well what the hell is a “quirk”? To me quirky is liking ketchup on your scrambled eggs, or mixing polka dots and stripes- innocuous things to be sure.

How about when it comes to autism? Can “quirky” really be used to describe an autistic person’s behaviors? It all depends on where on the spectrum an individual falls I suppose, from very high functioning (like my son)and Aspergers, to low functioning, unable to communicate, unable to care for themselves, need I go on?

I think that sometimes people like to say that individuals with autism are quirky because it makes their behavior seem lovable, easier to deal with- giving you the warm fuzzies as opposed to the heebie jeebies.

Quirky sounds like fun, silly dancing in the rain behavior, NOT the behavior my son shows sometimes. Some of the behavior is seriously socially disabling. Sure, when he bows from the waist when meeting someone new like a character out of a Charles Dickens novel, that is silly and well, quirky. But-when he refuses to talk about anything except dinosaurs and has no idea how to begin or end a conversation and has no respect for personal space, or when he repeatedly hits himself in the head, or scratches his face when he is frustrated or upset – THAT is most definitely NOT quirky. That is the ugly, hard to explain behavior that is common in all forms of autism.

Now that my son had been “mainstreamed” his quirks are being noticed a lot more. The school he was in before had 2 autistic classes- the rest of the school was well aware of the autistic kids and they were just a part of the school- no biggie. Sure there was some teasing, but for the most part it was a very safe, understanding environment that I had no major concerns about at all. But from the beginning the goal was to send him back to his “home” school and when the time came I was very happy/worried/sad/ excited.

In just a few weeks of school he has already had some negative experiences .His “quirks” are looked at as “weird” (which I admit, they can be) His frustration over the higher expectations are wearing on us both already.

He i s(only) 9 years old and I know I can’t protect him from everything ( I picture myself going all Hand That Rocks the Cradle on the little punks who might tease him) but he is such a loving soul, such a trusting kid- my greatest fear is he will be taken advantage of and my helplessness is crippling at times.

For now, I can only try to teach him that sometimes his incessant chatter about dinosaurs, his wanting to hug everyone, and how he uses TV and movie dialog in conversation, and his peculiar way of greeting others might not be seen as “quirky” and might get him teasing he doesn’t understand.

He knows he is different, but he is not quite sure why. He wants acceptance, and he strives to please… just like the rest of us. I just worry about him, that’s all, not having any friends. Not knowing how to make friends. Not understanding how to be a friend. I know he wants to. He just doesn’t know how. And it's so hard to teach. Hopefully, with extracurriculars like football he will come out of school with a friend or 2. That is my ultimate hope- just one or 2 nice friends- then I can breathe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be My Valentine♥ Oh hell- let's just have sex.

Be my sexy Valentine

Whether you're cynical or a hopeless romantic, most of us feel a collective sense of sexual anticipation (obligation?) surrounding Valentine’s Day. It's one of those sexually charged holidays, right up there with birthdays and anniversaries - you're just SUPPOSED to have sex to celebrate.

Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of weird? Feeling obligated to give it up because it's a holiday supposedly for lovers- that is NOT how it should feel.  I'm not even sure who I'm obligated to - me? My husband? St. Valentine? Hallmark?

What do you think? Will you be having sex tomorrow? Do you feel any sense of obligation? What other romantic gestures will you make?  Maybe just some cuddling is in order. Maybe a favorite movie, or a nice dinner. There are a lot of ways to show love and affection without the pressure of having to have sex, but any one of which could lead to getting sweaty in the bedroom after the kids are asleep.

Maybe it is my killer PMS talking. Maybe it is the fact my hubby will be working. I  guess I will have to be happy making heart shaped pizza and having strawberry milkshakes for dessert with my kiddos.  Maybe my mister will pick up a bottle of my favorite pink bubbly as a surprise. (I know you are reading this honey- so that is a not so subtle hint!) 

 In any case- my Valentine of 15 years knows I love him, and I know he loves me. So here's to the lovers, new and established. I hope you all have a nice, romantic happy day tomorrow. I know I will- no matter what!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentines Day and other Holidays with Autism

I remember school holiday parties with Teenzilla- elaborate goody bags for her classmates, some fancy treat for the party, and of course getting her all dolled up too.  Things are sooooo much different with The Boy.

First off- all of the sugar fueled hysteria that is a class holiday party stresses him out. Games and crafts hold no interest for him, and he is such a picky eater that the food doesn't matter to him either.

When he was in the AI (autistic impaired) class - they always had VERY low key celebrations. Usually these included just the class of 5-6 kids, so it was quieter and much more relaxed. They had the opportunity to go visit their mainstream classrooms for their celebrations- but The Boy would go for all of 5 minutes and immediately want to go back to his other class.  He is doing the same thing in his new school- with the exception of Halloween, when he was completely mainstreamed and not just part time. Now that he spends a good part of his day in a contained special ed class- he still chooses to have his party time with the small group of students as opposed to the big shindig in the other class.
See how much he doesn't give a shit?

This should (and does to some extent) take the pressure off of me to do elaborate goody bags and all that hoopla. I still make heart shaped breakfast and all that. But I have to say I kinda miss doing all that fun stuff. Even for an unimaginative, manipulative interpretation of romance "holiday" most folks know as Valentines Day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Extreme Parenting = Epic Win!

So Facebook is blowing up about this dad- and his extreme method of teaching his over privileged daughter a lesson. I think he is a genius! I don't give 2 shits about the use of a gun either. It wouldn't be my way of handling it- but that is really not the main issue.

The issue is this family has a teenage daughter. Teenagers in general are hormonal, overly dramatic, whiny pains in the ass. Teenage girls- well they are a ridiculous hot mess that would take several blogs to describe. I know this because I once was one, and I now have one.  This girl apparently feels that she is entitled to everything she wants, without doing anything in return for free room and board and all her fancy gadgets that allow her to disrespect her family in such a way.   So after already being in trouble for a similar infraction, dad stepped up his game and showed little miss exactly who was boss.

And I say GOOD FOR YOU TOMMY!!! As the mom to a now 21 year old son who was given pretty much everything he wanted and excuses made for bad behavior growing up- who is now paying the price for a series of fuck ups that I take partial blame for, I can truly say-had I been a less permissive parent with him, he may not have gotten into the trouble he did.  (yes, that is a horrible run on sentence, but I am in a hurry!)

Teenzilla has a much different upbringing. I allow her to have an opinion, I allow her to vent, but it still comes down to I am THE PARENT and I will do what I feel is best. Yes I may take her opinion into consideration, but that is all. And for the most part she isn't a disrespectful little asshole that feels like I OWE her something. She has her moments- she isn't perfect, but she is a good kid, and I am a lucky mom. I still stalk the hell outta her Facebook and other assorted online activities, not to catch her doing something wrong, but as a matter of safety.And if I DO happen to catch her being an asshole- it will be dealt with accordingly.  I read her text messages on her phone too. That is MY job. HER job is to put away dishes, pick up the house, put her laundry away, babysit when asked and just be a productive member of the household. In return she gets a roof over her head, a bed to sleep in, a computer, and iPod and a cell phone. All of which have been taken away one time or another for disrespectful behavior or not following the rules.

Then there is The Boy. Parenting a child on the autism spectrum is a weird thing sometimes. I still expect him to be respectful, although sometimes what seems like a lack of respect is his literal interpretation of the world around him. I still correct it- and I know the difference between him seeing things in black and white, and him being rude.

So I give Tommy Jordan a big thumbs up and applaud him for taking his parenting skills to the extreme.  Here is his FB status update about his daughter- and if this doesn't tell you his approach worked- nothing will.

For those that wondered, commented, criticized, and just in general wanted to know:
My daughter came through it fine. 

Yes, she's in trouble, and yes she's grounded, but that doesn't mean every moment of her life has to be miserable. She's going to come to terms with the changes that will be present for a while; no TV privileges, no Internet, etc.

In the meantime, once the initial anger passed, she sat with me reviewing some of the comments that have come in via Facebook and YouTube. One person even suggested collecting the shell casings and auctioning them on eBay. I said I’d do it if it would help contribute to her college fund! When I told her about it, she thought a minute, got a funny calculating expression on her face and said, “in that case you should shoot my phone too. We can use more bullets and I’ll go half-sies with ya on it! It’s not like I’m going to need it any time soon. And I can use the money we get to buy a new one.”

While the whole point of this story isn’t funny, what is funny to me is how weak some people out there think kids are. Our kids are as strong as we help them to be. My daughter took a horrible day in her life, had her crying fit, then got over it, accepted her punishment, and hasn’t let it (or people’s comments) destroy her strength. I don’t get any credit for that. She’s strong and able to overcome almost anything life throws at her.

Since this unsuspectingly threw her into the limelight much more strongly than either of us intended, I asked her if she wanted to make her own response video, and told her I’d let her do it if she wanted to. She doesn’t like being in front of the camera, so she declined, but I’ve told her if she wants to write a response or post a video response, I’d be OK with it. It’s only fair considering the viral nature of the whole thing. So far she’s not really interested. Quite frankly it seems she’s gotten bored of it much faster than the general public has. If that changes I’ll post it here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why am I watching cartoons? My kid's aren't even here!

11-year-old eccentric Catbearrabbit

Today I was puttering around the house, with the TV on as usual providing background noise.  I had been watching  Big Bang Theory ( a decidedly "grown up" show) on demand- and wandered away as I often do when my ADHD kicks in. When  the show ended- it reverted back to regular programming which had been on Cartoon Network earlier. I heard the familiar sounds of one of the kid's favorite shows and I wandered back into the living room, drawn by the music.

This is no fun
I sat down with the intention of changing the channel, or better still, just turning off the idiot box. Next thing I knew- it was 15 minutes later and I had been fully absorbed and entertained by this cartoon (it was Chowder BTW) and there was NOT ONE KID in my house.  I quickly turned the TV off and went to go do adult things , like laundry and scrubbing toilets.

But for 15 minutes, I was lost in the brightly colored world of cartoons, and I was happy. It never occurred to me that I didn't HAVE to watch, there were no kids fighting  for more TV time, sitting mesmerized, almost drooling while watching  brain rotting cartoon hi-jinks. It was just me, all by myself, and I reverted to an 8 year old on a Saturday morning.

I will probably do this again- hell, I may have done it subconsciously already!  And no- I am not going to disseminate today's cartoons, and whether or not Spongebob is a bad influence- because frankly, I find Spongebob funny- stupid yes, but funny.  I also like "grown up" cartoons like The Simpsons and Family Guy. And don't get me started on old school toons like Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, and Scooby Doo- because I love them too!  Every once in awhile- I think it is ok for a grown ass woman to sit and enjoy a kiddie cartoon sans kiddies. If I start sitting in the middle of the floor during the day, rocking back and forth nursing a bottle of wine while watching marathons of Spongebob and Phineas and Ferb then people might want to worry.

I know what we are going to do today!
Love Old school Toons
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Here we go again...

Every few weeks or so- the EXTREMELY controversial topic about vaccines and Autism resurfaces to wreak hell and havoc.   I have written about this before, and I am sure will write about it a dozen more times, and I don't expect everyone to agree with me,  I just ask if you disagree- keep it civil.

I am tired of the fighting that goes along with this subject. I am not a doctor, I am not a scientist. What I am is the mom of a child with High Functioning Autism, and there is a part of me that believes that vaccines played a role in it.  There is also a part of me that thinks that because I had gestational diabetes and gave myself insulin shots several times a day is a factor. There is also a part of me that thinks something just didn't develop right when I was growing him. Then- there is the part of me that just doesn't give a shit anymore- because he is doing great, and I am blessed to have a child on the high functioning end of the spectrum, and he is awesome The End.

There has been so much damn confusion on this issue.The now infamous Wakefield saga that began in 1997, where the media reported “Vaccine cause autism!” Since then, there have been accusation, retractions, lawsuits, and more. I blame the media in large part, because they confuse the issue,by claiming that the question has been resolved “once and for all,” and any alternate viewpoints are shot down, and parents that are worried, mad and confused are called "Anti Vaccine Nuts"  How come no mention is ever made on any other studies? What were the conclusions (if any) of  them?  It is so crazy and confusing, and at this point most parents just choose a side and stay with it.  Of course this is dependent on so many things, whether or not you have a child with autism, whether or not you saw a regression, whether or not this, that everything else.  But it really isn't black and white, and unfortunately battles rage on.

The media  reports the Wakefield study as the only reason that parents refuse vaccines, talks about how the findings of The Lancet Study were deemed fraudulent, and then uses the situation to stir up anger and fear towards those who don’t vaccinate. How is this helpful to ANYONE??   How does this do anything to help find out how to prevent the numbers from skyrocketing?  It doesn't.
We don’t know if vaccines cause autism. We do not have a final and definitive answer. We have no idea what causes autism- AT ALL! But you can bet your ass there is more than ONE cause, environmental, hereditary- it's all just white noise because of the bickering. 

Let me start by saying- that Wakefield’s paper DID NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE MMR, OR ANY VACCINE, CAUSED AUTISM. 

In Wakefield’s conclusions, he noted the correlation between autism and bowel disease, and also reported finding the measles virus. His final thoughts on the matter? That there was no possible way to say if the MMR vaccine was in any way involved in autism; it was merely an interesting side note, one that bore further research.

The media, as it often does ran with it.“MMR Causes Autism!” How irresponsible was this? It was the cause of  panic, and yes, many parents stopped vaccinating their children without doing any further research. I have NEVER recommended this to anyone who has asked me about vaccinations.  I firmly believe that parents do what they feel is best for their children- and if parents have concerns over vaccinating - RESEARCH!!  My mantra- Educate before you vaccinate!

In 2010, the matter again surfaced as more (false) accusations were brought against Dr. Wakefield, and they were forced to retract the entire paper. Which is  ridiculous, since  the purpose of the paper was to show a correlation between autism and bowel disease, and had nothing at all to do with vaccines. The relationship between autism and bowel disease still exists. But sadly, no one remembers, or even cares what the paper was initially about anyway. 

Parents are reassured over and over that there is “no link” based on “many studies.” At this point, most official media makes  parents who don’t vaccinate look like psychos hell bent on bringing back childhood diseases.  “First they blamed the MMR, but that’s not related. Then they blamed thimerosal, but it’s been removed and autism rates and still rising. Now they’re grasping at straws by trying to say that the vaccine schedule as a whole is causing it. Ridiculous.” Yes- parents have been called everything from, ridiculous, to stupid, to terrorists! Are you fucking kidding me??   

Honest concerns parents have about their child’s health and safety are completely ignored. It is disgusting that public officials are so non-responsive, evasive and blatantly hostile to parents that are asking important and intelligent questions.  And now, parents who do question vaccine safety are ridiculed and  labeled as "crazy", and doctors are literally "firing" parents who have the audacity to ask. 

After much digging I found this site Fourteen Studies.  There HAVE been many studies completed,  at least 19 that the media frequently cites. Pay attention, several of the studies are reviews, do not ask any relevant questions, and are written primarily by those with huge conflicts of interest (CDC employees, pharmaceutical employees in the vaccine division). For example, one study looks at differences between children who received all the same vaccines, but at different times. This does not  assess the effect of vaccines on childrens’ immune systems. These studies are primarily used to “prove” that there is no association, but they really deserve a second, third and fourth look.

There are 34 PUBLISHED studies suggesting there MAY be a link between vaccines and autism, but you NEVER hear about them do you? The point is — there are a lot of studies that have been done, and the conclusions currently support both sides of the issue. 

There is absolutely no way that anyone can say the question is completely settled, because it is  not. There are zillions of questions that haven’t even been asked yet. To date, there are no published studies comparing completely unvaccinated children with vaccinated children. There are no studies that look at the safety of the vaccine schedule as a whole. There are no studies that look at individual vaccines beyond a 6-week period. There are no studies that compare vaccines to a placebo, only to previously manufactured vaccines.
So parents are left  in a very difficult and frightening position, to try to make a decision about what is best for their children without all the information they need and nowhere to get it!

 It all really boils down to doing what we feel is best for OUR kids.  Parents need to feel safe asking questions about vaccinating, not made to feel like they are crazy, or bad. And until we all stop relying on everything the news tells us as gospel truth- there is no end in sight.