The Blame Game

Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)Apparently, being a tween with autism means everything is your mom’s fault.  No really.  I think it’s a thing.  That’s what someone told me.  And in our house, it is certainly bearing true.

This week it all started with my gleeful purging of the broken, un-played with junk in The Boy’s room.  You see, a little voice told me to either take the trash bags out of the house, or at the very least, tie them up.  But no, I don’t need to listen to no stinkin’ little voices…  And The Boy promptly raged at me when he figured out I had thrown away some unopened McDonald’s toys from like, eight years ago.  So much for my glee.  Everything was my fault.  I am the meanest mom ever.  He wants to move away and not live with me anymore.

He was angry, and I could understand it.  But I had reason on my side (fat lot of good that does you when you are arguing with someone on the spectrum).  I ended up having to sacrifice three McD’s toys from my plunder, and all was well.

Until today when I picked him up from kids club after school.  And he was missing another salvaged dollar store toy, a fake blackberry.  And it was all my FAULT.  I LOST IT.  I am so mean. Why would I throw out his TOY??  Except he had salvaged it and brought it to school, so it clearly wasn’t my fault that it was missing again.  There I go with the logic again…

Wouldn’t get into the car.  Wouldn’t get out of the car when we got home. Raged some more about how awful I am.

But I don’t just sit there and take it.  He loses screen time if he can’t be respectful with me.  Therefore he lost screen time both days.  Once he was able to calm down, I thought of some chore he could do to earn it back, and again all was well.  Until something else will be ALL MY FAULT again.

Sigh.

I hope everything won’t be my fault forever.

Snow Day – The Boy = Toy Purge!

Today was a snow day for me, and not for The Boy. (Picture me grinning and laughing maniacally, and rubbing my hands together with glee.)  Time to tackle The Boy’s room.

The Boy is a collector, and as I’ve said before, like lots of kids with autism, just won’t give anything up.  Not for the poor kids with no toys, not for money, not for anything!  “Mine, mine, all mine!” he must be chanting in his brain.  But like the old lesson with the petri dish from school, if everything continues to grow, you run out of space.

Enter Christmas and a December birthday.  And two sets of parents (and grandparents).  Toy explosion.  And then he dumped those damned fusion beads everywhere.. TWICE!!  I was ready to tear my hair out, and his worst fear (and my biggest fantasy) was that I would come in and vacuum them all up.  (Do not, whatever you do, allow those beastly little things in your house.  They will find their way to every nook and cranny and will defy you when you attempt to pick them up.  They also hurt when you step on them in bare feet.  They are the bane of my existence.)

I got the call this morning, and The Boy did not, so I packed him off to school, and came back to hop into bed and dream about tackling his room.  That lasted less than an hour – I was so excited to get crackin’!

My strategy is to hide out-of-favor toys for a period in the basement.  This ensures that the one thing I think he will never ever remember that has now gone underground can be found again when he says, “Hey!  Where did that green squishy worm thing go?”  If nothing gets asked for after a certain period, it all gets donated or freecycled.  There is a closet-full now.  Some are destined for the center program for severe special needs in our district.  Others will be put in a box randomly for “porch pick-up” by families who are willing to take a “grab bag”.  Some of these things are brand new, still in the wrappers, too, but I don’t care.

Finally, the boy is getting old enough where he likes videos and clothes and money as gifts, and not the toys.  It’s just the will to hang on that prevents us from getting to where we need to be.  Most of the time, I am honest and upfront with The Boy because I want to model behavior I’d like to see in him.  But when you are dealing with a hoarder/toy addict, sometimes you have to take drastic measures.

I left some for him to sort through and put away later tonight.

But you better believe I hoisted that vacuum in there with a certain amount of satisfaction, and sucked a bunch of those babies up – looked like the old fisher price corn popper.  It’s almost as fun as putting piles of paper through a shredder.

fp corn popper

I Look Forward To…

Big, kinda scary changes coming up right quick for us.  But, all I can think about are all of the beautiful things I am looking forward to, like:

  • Forgetting what the negative sign and the little snowflake look like on my car dash display
  • Hanging out with my mom on a regular basis, which I haven’t been able to do since high school
  • Our newish mattress already down there.  If you can be in love with a thing, I should be engaged to it.  Especially since I bought my current one (here) in 1997.  Although, that’s not as old as the one in our guest bedroom at the new house.  That one is as old as this NBC logo:IMG_0629
  • My super stove in my new-to-me, ready-to-be-organized, hugest-kitchen-I’ve-ever-had:IMG_0816
  • A… slower… pace…
  • This:DSC00489
  • A real, live, breathing partner who has promised to do all the dishes.  Maybe that should be in our vows…
  • Not hearing sirens every freakin’ night and — Were those gunshots?  I think those were gunshots…
  • Sweet tea everywhere
  • Sunshine:ferry ride

Liebster Award

Well, Thank You! to Joy at I Can Say Mama for nominating me for the Liebster award!

 

LiebsterAward

 

I am so honored!!  Awards are fun, but they can be a blessing in disguise because they tend to be a lot of work…  Here are the rules:

1. You must thank the person who gave you this award (Thanks, Joy!)
2. You must display the Liebster heart on your blog
3. You should nominate 3-5 or 11 (there are different rules out there) up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 subscribers
4. Each person must post 11 things about themselves
5. Answer the questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
6. Create 11 questions for those you nominate to answer
7. Notify your nominees and provide a link back to your post
8. Don’t give the award back to the blog that gave it to you

#1 and #2 are above, and #3 will be below, so #4…

1. I owned a Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox in elementary school.

2.  My dad sang, my mom was in the band, my grandma was in the band, my grandpa played guitar, my great-uncle played banjo, and my other grandpa was a huge opera fan.  Guess that’s why I’m into music.

3.  I hate the word “moist”.  And lately “pastries” is bugging me, too.

4.  I love it when something I read makes me laugh out loud.  David Sedaris is one of the only authors who can do this.

5.  I don’t watch TV.  Not because I think it’s bad for you (although it does tend to control people’s lives).  It’s because my TV is in the basement and I hate being cold.

6.  I have really sensitive skin that makes it look like I have a hickey when I scratch my neck, or have an earring post that is too long.  This is fun when you teach at a middle school.

7.  I loved being pregnant.  Except for the having to puke for the first three months.  Other than that it really was amazing.

8.  I love to read.  Especially murder mysteries.  Especially Scandinavian murder mysteries.

9.  I know I mentioned it already, but I really, really hate being cold.

10. My guilty pleasure food-wise is cookies.  I rarely eat just one.

11.  I’ve had really long hair, and really short hair, and have settled on short hair because long hair is too much work.

And now, as if you wanted to know even more about me, Joy’s questions for me:

1. What household task do you hate the most?  My least favorite chore is cleaning the toilet.  Especially with boys in the house.  My second least favorite is doing dishes.
2. Which positive event or situation from your childhood do you remember the most?  I remember going to McDonald’s for lunch on my birthday with my teacher – she and another teacher drove a few of us (!) and we got to ride in the way-back of a station wagon.  It was awesome. (This is not a “most anything” memory – just a good one.)
3. If you had a time machine to go back in time, would you change anything in your life? What would it be?  I don’t think so.  Everything that has passed has brought me to where I am today, and I am quite happy.
4. Do you do any sports?  I played a little volleyball over the years in school, and coached it, as well.
5. Which famous person would you choose to have dinner with?  Maybe Barack Obama.  Maybe the Dalai Lama. (Hey! That rhymes!)
6. Name three things (not persons!) you cannot live without.  My world would be a sadder place right now without my fireplace, sweet tea, and my Kitchenaid mixer.
7. Something you would love to be able to do but never learned or are not talented enough for?  I still want to learn to speak Italian.  Just haven’t had the time.
8. What is your most favourite song of all time?  Being a musician, this is tough.  One of my favorites right now (makes me cry every freakin’ time) is “A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes.
9. What would you do if you won 1 million Dollars in the lottery?  Save and invest enough for us to be comfortable for the rest of our lives and donate the rest to charity.  And buy myself a really nice camera.
10. Your favourite meal?  Steak.  Always has been, always will be.
11. What do you see when you look out of the window right now?  Snow (ugh.)

Questions for my nominees:

1.  What do you wish you could do better?

2.  Who are you most like in your family?

3.  What’s the first thing on your to-do list right now?

4.  What’s for dinner tonight?

5.  What major goal have you accomplished in your life?

6.  Is there something that you quit doing that you wish you hadn’t?  What was it?

7.  Who was your favorite teacher in elementary school?

8.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

9.  What is your favorite tool in your house (could be anything you use to accomplish a task)?

10.  What would you do with a free hour in your day?

11.  Favorite spot on Earth?

I nominate these great people for The Liebster Award (and I apologize if you have over 200 followers – I still think you are awesome!):

Momma Sunshine from Sunshine on My Shoulder

Debi from Spirit of Autism

Forgotten from Fairy Tale Forgotten

Missy from Aggravation Station

Miss Riki from Refreshingly Riki

Single Moms to Special Needs Kids

I read a sad Facebook post on the Single Mothers who have Children with Autism Facebook page, that started, “YOU MIGHT BE A SINGLE PARENT OF A CHILD WITH AUTISM IF…” and listed 25 (25!!?) ways to identify yourself in that category, many having to do with the inability to even think about dating. I know this post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but to me it seemed rather sad. And I guess it had to do with the repetition on the theme (and the assumption) that there is no hope for you in the dating world if you have a child with autism, and aren’t you better off anyway, being alone?

Does every single mom to a child with autism end up with a great guy? Heck no. I know how incredibly lucky I am.

But.

I’m happy today because I stuck my neck out there and risked it all. I’m happy today because I decided I wasn’t going to be lonely for the rest of my life. Yes, you read that right, I DECIDED. I’m happy today because I valued myself as a person, no less than my son.

After my divorce, I was told, point blank, that no man would ever date me if they found out my son had autism. And I half-believed it. I joined the online dating scene, landed a semi-regular guy to see, and it was over in about a month. I was devastated until my gynecologist (Yep, you read that right, too!) asked, “Did you love him?” and I said, “Uh… No.” “Then you’re free!” he said, and it clicked. He was so not right for me, and I was not really myself for that month (although it was so nice to be back in the swing of things again!). I learned a lot.

Then I dated “Bachelor #2”. That’s actually what I called him, although not to his face. That lasted two, count ’em TWO dates. You can read all about it here.

And then I gave up. I started to believe I would never find a partner and would only be lucky to date a guy here and there. So I quit. I quit the online dating scene, and didn’t pursue much of anything for a long time.

But.

I had already known The Man a few years. We came into contact a couple months later. And then we hung out again a couple months later. And then again a couple months later, and every freakin’ time I walked away with a huge crush, and a long list of reasons why it wouldn’t work. And a few months later, inspired by a blog post (I’d link it, but I can’t remember which exact one it was…), and Fidelity by Regina Spektor, I decided that I wasn’t going to settle, and I was going to take a risk with my heart, if a risk was made available. And it was.

And here I am. Single Mother who has Child with Autism and a Partner (fiancé!).

I’m certainly not writing about this to brag, and this hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops, not by a long shot. But it was definitely worth sticking my neck out for. And because I am happier, we are all happier. Much, much happier.

And I know how tough it is to make arrangements to just get out of the house. I KNOW. Listen! I don’t even have family in the area! I am lucky enough to be able to afford a babysitter, but even if I couldn’t, I’d hook myself up with a friend and swap time, or apply for respite from one of the many great nonprofits out there that provide it.

Single Mothers who have Children with Autism, you and your happiness are worth the time, effort, and risk.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

I’m Failing at Exercise

I’m failing.  I am not exercising.  I hopped on the bike for 20 minutes last weekend, and was fine until Tuesday, when my right thigh was so sore, it felt like I couldn’t use it properly.  Which meant I had to rest it, and not do any exercise (right?).  Plus Monday and Tuesday were both extremely long days, with nary an hour in which to work out until 9:30pm.  So it wasn’t really my fault.  And then it was the end of the marking period, and I had stuff to do.  See all the excuses I can come up with?

And I have, and Ack!  I’m failing, and I hate it.  Failing and I just don’t jive.  Plus this added weight on my hips and thighs is making things not fit, and if we end up getting married this summer I will never find a dress that is two sizes bigger on the bottom than on the top, and my knees hurt more and I need to lose this extra weight!!!

Ugh.

I have figured out that I cannot commit to working out everyday.  It is unrealistic and it just won’t happen.  So while I love slimkicker (remember slimkicker?) I just can’t do a challenge which includes doing something daily.  Lesson learned.  Check!

I have also figured out that I have come to depend on Time Out (remember Time Out?) because I turned it off awhile ago, and have spent way too many hours (upon hours) at the computer in the last few weeks.  Turn it back on.  Check!

rest stop

Finally, I need to get back into my get work done, reward with fun stuff routine (remember the Pomodoro technique?).  It has been all fun stuff, leading to my big fat…  Well, you get the picture.  Get it done.  Check!

These are my goals.  To get back on track with these things. Anybody else hitting a wall?  I’m ready to get over it.

We’re Trying an Old Idea for a Slightly New Reason

This is not a new idea.  Parents of NT (neuro-typical) kids have used these for eons to get their kids to be organized and to help them get ready more efficiently in the morning.  But I’m using it for slightly different reasons…

“What is it, already??” you are asking… It is the 6 Shelf Sweater Sorter:

kinda hard to see, I know - bad lighting in The Boy's room

kinda hard to see, I know – bad lighting in The Boy’s room

Ta-Da!

Yes, yes.  Organization, check.  Efficient Use of Time, check.  Not wearing the same clothes everyday, wha..??

My child has a signature outfit – he wears it every opportunity he can (which is sometimes several days in a row).  He has a thing with clothes.  The summer between splitting up and the official divorce, The Boy wore the same lime green T-shirt every single day.  Lots of tiny little loads of wash for me.

How does he get away with wearing the same thing several days in a row?  He wears a different hoodie, zips it all the way up, and waits to appear until we have to walk out the door.  And there are times when I do not fight it, even when I should.  To help me enforce the social code of not-wearing-the-same-outfit-every-single-day, I enlisted the help of the 6 Shelf Sweater Sorter.  Each shelf is a place for an outfit for each day of the week, except for Sunday, because we often spend one entire day of the weekend in our jammies anyway.  Tonight, we placed an entire week’s worth of outfits (including socks, underwear, and hoodies) into the sorter, and I’m hoping that The Boy will follow the implied and implicit rules of the Sorter, that he will wear what is in the space for that designated day, and he will not change his mind and scrounge things off the floor to wear.

If this fails, I will have to go to Old Navy and buy 6 more of every piece in his signature outfit.

I really hope this works…

Testing His Hypothesis

The Boy has a science project: develop and test a hypothesis.  His wonderful ASD teacher suggested hooking him with a subject he likes.  The Boy and I read through the assignment, and one of the suggestions was “Test what food your pet likes…” — we didn’t even finish the sentence, and he started hopping around, saying we should do that with “Gary”.

“Gary” is his imaginary cat.  Or rather, Fantastic Babysitter picked up a tiny little stuffed kitty, and wrote an adoption letter from the shelter (and included a tiny little litter box, food tray, etc.), and The Boy promptly named him “Gary”.  You know, like the snail.  From Spongebob.  Anyway, when we leave the house now, The Boy has to get on his imaginary phone and call the cat sitter to come over to watch Gary…

Gary, chillin' in the bathroom

Anyway, I told him that if we were to do this, we would have to use a real cat.  I contacted Fantastic Babysitter who has a plethora of animals, and asked if we could, you know, borrow one for an experiment…  No, I explained the premise, and she said yes!  The Boy and I will be cooking up some homemade cat treats, and purchasing some store-bought ones as well, to test his hypothesis that the average cat would enjoy homemade treats more than store-bought ones.

If his obsession is with pets in general, and cats in particular at the moment, then we shall run with it.  I just hope it is relatively short-lived.  He asked the other day when I would grow out of my cat allergy, and it just about broke my heart…

Puberty: Review

GuideWell, The Boy and I just read through The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up by Terri Couwenhoven and I think it was a success.  I didn’t prep him too much, just told him I had a book I wanted to read with him.  We sat down on the couch and I showed him the cover, and we started reading.  At first, he was a little uncomfortable (what 11 year old boy wouldn’t be, reading about puberty with his mom?), especially at the illustrations, but as we kept going, he seemed to absorb the information, and be more comfortable talking about it with me.

It was a lot of information all at once (it took us about 20 minutes), and I know we will have to review a few times, but we did hammer home the difference between public and private, as well as who are the people in his life who are OK to answer questions about this type of thing.  These two things are the most important of all, I think, and this book does an excellent job explaining, as well as creating opening for discussion in both of these areas.

In my last post about this book, I mentioned that it doesn’t talk about sexuality, and it doesn’t.  However it does talk about having a crush, or sexual feelings toward another person, and what signals that person may give if they do not feel the same way.  It also talks about ways to manage these feelings, which I think is appropriate to add in a book like this.  I prefaced this subject with The Boy as being further down the road, in high school, maybe.

I felt like we had a successful conversation about the changes he is or is about to go through, and I feel like both of us are more prepared, which is about all I can ask from any book of this type.  I highly recommend this book as a way to start the conversation.

But What Do I Do?

I spent some time on divorce forums after the split, hoping to find a community, mostly to help me work through my anger and hostility toward my ex.  I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to feel this way, and I still had some raw emotions, even though we hadn’t really loved each other in a long, long while.  In those forums, people would inevitably post questions about what to do when…

  • their ex didn’t pay child support
  • their ex didn’t show up for visitation
  • their ex yelled at them on the phone
  • their ex didn’t call enough
  • their ex cancelled plans at the last minute
  • their ex brought the girlfriend to parent-teacher conferences

and so on, and so on…

“But what do I do??” they would plead.

After awhile, even I knew the answer to every single question like this:  “Nothing!”

You do not have control over your ex.  You can’t make him (or her) do (or not do) anything.  The only thing you can control is your reaction to his/her actions. (Notice I didn’t say feelings – you can’t control feelings, and anything you feel is natural – let it be).  The ex doesn’t pay child support?  Find a way to live without it, and keep track.  Find out what your state agency will do for you and when.  Give them a friendly phone call and ask for enforcement.  The ex doesn’t show up for visitation?  Have a back up plan (always), and use it.  The ex yells at you on the phone?  Hang up.  The ex doesn’t call enough?  His/her loss.  (This is a hard one, when you know your child may be hurting.  Help them to know how much they are loved, use a backup plan, and know that in the end, your child will learn valuable lessons from this, and love you even more for being there for them).  The ex cancels plans?  Use your resources to cover childcare if necessary, and use your backup plan.  The ex brought the girlfriend to conferences?  In the whole scheme of things, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.  In any case, it’s out of your control, and as much as it is hard to accept sometimes, worrying about things that are not in your control is a waste of energy.  Save it for the big battles.

That being said, you can cordially express your displeasure with the ex about any of these things.  But don’t expect an appropriate, cordial response.  Document everything, know your rights, and if they are being violated (or your parenting agreement is not being met, etc.), step up and say something.  But always ask yourself if you are really just trying to control the situation.  Trying to control your ex will get you nothing but a headache.