Making David Sedaris Proud

It’s been a year since the girls and I have lived together sans their father here.  He moved out a year ago.  Last year was a year in transition to say the least, but everyone is emerging in very good shape.  In better shape.

Personalities are revealing themselves in ways that may not have been permitted before.  As a parent, it’s reassuring to see.  As another human being who lives here, in the fray with a 13 year-old, an almost 16 year-old, and an almost 18 year-old, I find it extremely entertaining (yeah, Grace is almost 16!).

A few weeks ago, one of our family pets, Q the parakeet, died suddenly as in he literally keeled over.  Q was a very interactive bird.  He was very loud and screechy (a trait Doireann in particular disliked), but it’s because he loved attention.  Eadaoin loved him.  She had picked him out to be her bird.

On the night he died, I recall talking to him before I showered.  As soon as I opened the bathroom door wearing nothing but a towel, Milly approached me and whispered, “Mom, look at Q.”  I immediately felt dread.  I approached his cage and looked for Q.  He was lying on the bottom of the cage in a contorted pose, his wing entangled in the cage bars.

“Oh my god, what happened?! Is he alive? I just saw him a few minutes ago!” I shouted.

I reached into his cage to try to remove him, and I found that his feet had grasped onto the bottom of the cage which prevented me from removing him.  I had to undo his tiny grip, and it wasn’t easy.  Each little birdy toe was interlaced within the slats of the bottom of the cage.   I kept thinking, “How am I going to get him out of this cage without breaking his feet?”

Milly and Grace were hovering around me and the cage at this point.

“Is he alive? Is he alive? He can’t be dead! Eadaoin will be so upset.  Oh no…” Milly repeated.

I tried to reassure them, but I was fairly certain Q had died.  It looked like he had suffered a seizure based upon the final pose of his body.  I was having a helluva time removing him from his cage, and I noticed that my towel was slipping.

“Maybe he’s alive! Maybe he’s alive!” Milly suggested hopefully.

“Honey, I think he has probably died,” I finally said with both my hands still in the cage.

Grace was wringing her hands and trying not to cry.  My towel was going to fall off.

“What if he’s really alive?” Milly asked.

“He’s not alive,” Grace answered rather emphatically.

“He could be!” she countered.

“Look at him! He’s lifeless.  He’s dead, Milly!” Grace shouted to match Milly’s energy.

“He could be…you know…in one of those…what are they called?” Milly stammered.

“A coma?!” I answered, shocked, momentarily distracted from trying to get poor Q out of his cage.

“Oh my god, Milly, the bird doesn’t have locked-in syndrome! What in the world…he’s dead!” Grace said very pointedly.

“Well, I can hope, right?” Milly retorted, her fists balled up by her side.

“No, you can’t! You can’t hope for something to be in a coma when it’s died! That’s ridiculous…”

Interrupting the banter, I all but yelled out, “Hey! Eadaoin’s bird has died here! Stop it! And my towel is going to fall off.  Help me!”

That’s the moment I paused everything in my mind.  I observed the scenario.  Both my hands are in a bird cage while I stand almost naked, dripping wet, handling a dead parakeet while my daughters are literally yelling at each other over the possibility of our obviously dead bird having locked-in syndrome.  It was absurd.

I was eventually able to remove Q from his cage.  He had, in fact, died.  There was no doubt about it.  Everyone held him, and Milly spoke words of kindness to him as she held him: “You were always a loud bird, but we loved you.”

Eadaoin was predictably heartbroken.  She told me that she didn’t want to even see him, but, upon my suggestion that it would help her mourn him, she held him anyway.  Then, in a scene of sweet sadness, she pet his face and held him next to her heart.

Milly found a box, gently placed Q in it, and announced that she wanted to bury him in our backyard.  She also announced that she wanted to do it alone.  Eadaoin was too sad to be at his funeral, and I told Milly that I didn’t mind if she did it alone.  I could hear her singing a song to him from the kitchen.  I half expected to hear “Taps”.  She is a very serious girl.

I began to feel melancholy in observing everyone’s grief for their deceased pet.  I was sad, too, that he had died.  Milly came inside after burying Q, washed her hands, and leaned against the counter.  She looked thoughtful.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She nodded and bit her lip.

I felt myself become anxious.  Maybe I should not have honored her request.  Did I make a bad decision? I don’t always know the right things to do.  Parenting is damn hard.

“Mom…” Milly asked tentatively.

“Yes?” I replied hesitantly afraid of what she was going to ask me.

“You’re sure that he’s dead, right?” Milly asked.

Suddenly, a loud shout from the living room boomed throughout the house.

“Oh my god! He doesn’t have locked-in syndrome! He’s dead!!!!!”

Breathing out a sigh of relief, I quietly laughed.  Yeah, everyone is okay.  Everything is fine.

 

 

IEPs and Sexual Predators

I had a very interesting day yesterday.  I want to share the good news first.  I’m not sure if I’ve posted here that I open-enrolled Milly into a different school district this year.  I removed her from our home district at the end of the first semester of her third grade year in order to enroll her in a virtual school where she would no longer be subject to the culture and mistreatment of our home district while also preserving her IEP.

Simply put, our home district wouldn’t implement her IEP.  These days, it feels like it takes an act of God through the appearance of Moses himself to get a district to give you an IEP.  It’s as if they view themselves to be Pharaoh.  Entirely above the federal law stated clearly in IDEA and explained even more clearly in the Federal Registry.  At least that’s how my district behaves.  They finally gave Grace an IEP after our state’s Department of Education, at the bidding of The Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities appointed by our governor, rang them up early one morning and slapped their wrists for “bad behavior”.  Illegal behavior really.

Milly wasn’t ready to return to a brick and mortar school last year, so I did the unthinkable.  I homeschooled an autistic girl.  She needs social interactions to reinforce social thinking scenarios as well as practice, but her anxiety was so high that she wasn’t able to socialize much if at all.  So, we pursued academics at home while we worked on skills independently.  Finally, at the end of her fourth grade year, she told me that she was ready to return to a public school environment, and she was even ready to go somewhere new even if it was hard and meant making new friends.  So, that’s what we did.

But her IEP had expired which meant that we had to start all over again with evaluations.  I hate IEP evaluations.

Yesterday, I went to Milly’s IEP meeting wherein we discussed the evaluation results.  She got her IEP! What’s more, everyone at this school is there to help her.  This school is nothing like her former school.  Her teacher adores her and fully understands autism spectrum disorders.  Milly takes her breaks in the principal’s office with the principal who helps her with breathing exercises.  The environment of the school is validating and cares for the well-being of children.  I feel so much better sending my daughter there knowing that she is cared for and about, and she will now be guaranteed services appropriate to her needs.

One topic that was raised during the IEP meeting was the notion that Milly had good boundaries around adults which was unusual for a child her age.  She was reluctant to disclose information about herself, and she did not willingly go with staff members whom she had not met to another place in the building even if said staff person insisted that they were trustworthy because they were a teacher or school employee.  Milly was suspicious because they were a stranger.  It was pointed out by the autism specialist that this was an important quality to have particularly for an ASD girl.

Special needs children and adolescents are often targets for abuse particularly sexual abuse because they often cannot read social cues or discern the intent of another person.  They are often too trusting of others–even strangers.  Or, due to an inability to communicate, they are abused simply due to predator hubris–“I’ll hurt you whenever and however I please! It’s not like you can tell anyone!”

This was on my mind yesterday when I left the meeting.  I have four daughters.  I have and continue to raise them to be aware of themselves and others.  The world is full of good people, but there are people out there who are not good.  People who mean to do harm to vulnerable innocents.

And, wouldn’t you know, I met one yesterday at my local Caribou.  I took Milly out for an afternoon coffee beverage.  She thinks the Vanilla Coolers are fairly awesome so she begs me to take her to our local Caribou almost every day.  I had a jones for coffee (my constant state of existence) so I relented.  That local Caribou has become my Cheers.  I dropped my grey pashmina in there last week, and two employees yelled my name while waving it in the air.  I was both embarrassed and comforted.  First of all, how often do I wear that thing, and, secondly, how often am I there? Everyone really does know my name!

While I was licking the whipped cream from the top of my coffee drink, I noticed a man staring at me.  Not glancing.  Ogling.  With his mouth hanging open.  I made eye contact with him.  He continued to stare.  He stared at my mouth.  He was seated in such a way that his back was supposed to be to me.  In order to watch me drink my coffee, he had to turn his entire body around.  I felt more than a little disgusted by his behavior.  As soon as Milly started licking the whipped cream from her straw, his eyes darted to her mouth.  He leaned in to his stare and shifted in his chair.  She’s 11 for crying out loud! I watched him watch my daughter drink her coffee beverage, and I felt anger with a mix of fear.

This man didn’t hide.  Oh no, he started rubbing himself as he watched my daughter continue to lick her straw.  Right there in a public place! He shifted and rocked and rubbed all the while staring with his mouth hanging open.  He never blinked.

I had seen him before.  I brought Eadaoin, Grace, and Milly to Caribou a few weeks ago, and he sat behind them in a corner.  He had done the same thing then, but I couldn’t see his hands.  I saw him shifting, rocking, and staring then, too.  We actually left because we were so uncomfortable.  He wouldn’t stop staring at us.  I had hoped to never see him again.

In the middle of his predatory ruminations, three high school girls came in, ordered coffee, and sat at a table just a few feet from him.  He looked like he might explode.  He was undressing them with his eyes.  He ogled their behinds, their chests, and continued to shift and rock in his chair.  Then a girl who looked to be about 10 years-old walked by him, and I saw him wrench his body in his chair to stare at her.  He behaved like a starving kid in a candy shop.  I wanted to vomit.

I stared at this man.  He made eye contact with me numerous times.  Milly asked me if I was okay.  She said I looked like I was going to kill someone.  Finally, I texted a friend.  I needed to do something.  He told me to tell the manager.  It took me a moment to find my courage.  I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.  There was a part of me that was irrationally fearful of him.  Instead, I pretended to text someone and took a picture of him with my phone.  I know the manager, and she was there! I walked over to her.

“Pretend that I’m showing you pictures of my kids and laugh,” I said quietly.

She looked alarmed.

“Just do it.  Laugh.”

She laughed.

“There is a man in here watching women, young women, and girls.  He sits in here, pretends to work on a laptop, watches these girls and women, and rubs himself or gets off by rocking and rhythmically shifting in his chair.  I’ve seen him do it today, and I saw him do it another time.  I’m going to show you a picture of him now.  Tell me it’s cute because he’s probably watching.”

She looked sickened but tried to follow along.  As soon as she saw the picture, she said, “I know who that is.”

I saw her jaw clinch.  She looked as angry as I felt.  I could tell that she was trying to figure out what to do.  The assistant manager is a male.  She was going to start by alerting him.  Most of the employees are women.  I then told her to laugh as I walked away.  It had to look like we were talking about something funny.  So, she laughed.  I laughed.

I went back to the table, got Milly, and left.

That’s not an easy thing to do.  I was trembling when I left.  It’s easier to walk away.  It’s easier to never return, but that’s my place! I go there! I’m not going to allow a sexual predator to “window shop” and do nothing! I also want my daughters to know that we can do something.  We don’t have to sit there and take it as women.  If a man is behaving in a predatory way, then we can and should say something.  We are right to do so because young girls and adolescent girls often don’t notice or notice but feel helpless to do anything simply because they don’t know what to do; or, they’re too scared to do anything.

I pondered the possibility that this could be a misunderstanding.  What if this man simply had a scorching case of jock itch and lacked any and all social skills? Then, someone needs to school him on how to behave in public:

  • It is not appropriate to scratch, rub, and rock oneself in public.  Go to the bathroom if you must repeatedly touch your crotch.
  • It is never appropriate to stare at people to that extent particularly while rubbing one’s groin.
  • Men should not ogle little girls, adolescent girls, and women.  If a man wants to stare at women for hours on end, then pay for that privilege and go to a strip bar.
  • If a man has an STI or some kind of health issue that affects “groin comfort” to the extent that he cannot even sit still, then stay home while the issue is being treated.

All in all, it was a very interesting day.  I hope today is boring.

 

 

 

Hooked on A Feeling

Ever since we saw “Guardians of The Galaxy” Milly has been singing songs from the soundtrack particularly Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling”.  As soon as we get in the car, she grabs my iPod, hooks it up, and selects the song.

Aah yes, the familiar strains of “Hooked on A Feeling”.  I’ve always felt bad for the studio singers, wondering what they looked like standing there singing the opening chorus with such commitment and feeling:

“Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga Chaka-Ooga Ooga-Chaka…”

This song is like Milly’s cup of morning coffee.  She cranks it up as I’m driving her to school, and then she car dances to it.  She doesn’t hide her car dancing in any way.  She looks like she’s having a seizure, flailing around in the front seat.  I have to drive with a straight face, or she’ll think I’m laughing at her.  ASD kids often think this way.  Truth be told, I would be laughing at her a little bit because it’s funny.  She’s hilarious but trying to explain the nuance to her isn’t worth it.  So, I keep it together.  It’s not funny.  Ahem.

The part of this scenario that is a little unsettling to my maternal DNA, however, is the singing.  Milly belts out this song like a drunken bar maid.  Have you listened to the lyrics? I never paid attention.  Lyrics have never been something I really noticed.  Case in point, “Greased Lightning” from the movie “Grease”.  “Grease” was my all-time favorite movie until I saw “Xanadu” at which point that became the best thing I’d ever seen.  I had every song from “Grease” memorized and could sing them on command.  Prancing around the house at six years of age, I would jump on the couch like John Travolta and shout, “The chicks’ll cream, for Greased Lightning!”  When I watched “Grease” at a friend’s house during my senior year of high school, listening to “Greased Lightning” was a revelation and a shock to my system.

“The chicks will…CREAM? Are you kidding me? I sang that when I was in Kindergarten! What the what?! And what’s with Kenickie’s condom breaking in the backseat of his car with Rizzo? This isn’t a kids’ movie!”

Well, “Hooked on A Feeling” isn’t a kids’ song either.  Listen to this!

Lips as sweet as candy
Its taste is on my mind
Girl, you got me thirsty
For another cup o’ wine

And this!

All the good love
When we’re all alone
Keep it up girl
Yeah, you turn me on

It’s a classic pop song full of sexual innuendo, but it sounds so weird coming out of my 11 year-old daughter’s mouth as she does her morning calisthenics car dancing when I drive her to school! I wonder if that’s how my mother felt listening to me sing “Greased Lightning”?

Yesterday, as we were out enjoying what is likely to be one of our last really wonderful autumnal days, Milly had once again decided to be the car DJ.  She was scrolling through all the artists and came across Ginuwine.  I winced.  I honestly can’t remember how Ginuwine got on my iPod, but I knew exactly what song it was.  “Pony”.  The lyrics were suddenly right there.  Oh Lord, let’s not play that song.

“Ginuwine.  That’s Donna’s cousin on ‘Parks and Recreation’.  Can I listen to this song?”

“Uh…well, hmmm.  I think there are….”

And she hit play.  That grinding bass started and then Ginuwine’s singing, “I’m just a bachelor lookin’ for a partner, Someone who knows how to ride without even fallin’ off…”

Eadaoin was in the backseat.  “Why is this song called ‘Pony’?”

“I think that we should find another song.  This song is too sexy for younger ears, Milly.”

“What’s so sexy about it?”

The more I make a big deal out of something, the more she’s going to want it.  So, I have to play it off like it’s nothing.  This is human nature.  I, however, do not want to explain the meaning of this song’s chorus to my daughter!

“If you’re horny, let’s do it.  Ride it, my pony.  My saddle’s waiting.  Come and jump on it!”

I asked myself why, in fact, I had that song? Why?! Then I remembered.  It’s Channing Tatum’s fault.  I went out for a girls’ night to see “Magic Mike”.  Channing danced so…er…nicely to this song that I was inspired to buy it.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  Beyond that, what I knew for certain is that I did not want to be asked: “What does horny mean?” I hate that word for one, and I also…just didn’t feel like it.  She can hold onto her childhood a little longer.  She can be in middle school when she learns what ‘horny’ means.

In the middle of my maternal ruminations, Eadaoin shouted at me.  “Mom! I know what this song means! I know why it’s called ‘Pony’! I’ve figured it out! That’s disgusting!! Mom! How could you? How could you have a song like this on your iPod! Mom!!! Just…MOM!” she said in an obvious shaming tone.

I grinned.  She obviously doesn’t want to know what ‘horny’ really means either.

And I’m so happy about that.  I will wear that badge of shame applied to me by daughter with pride this morning as I take Milly to school and NOT laugh at her as she, once again, car dances and sings her heart out to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling”.

I know I’m definitely hooked on a feeling.  I love my girls.

 

The Day The Sh*t Hit The Fan

keep-calm-and-let-the-shit-hit-the-fan

I’m a verbal processor.  I just have to get this off my chest and put this somewhere so that I can deal with it.  So, I’m going to put it on my blog because…? Because.  I don’t know why.  It might clear my head.

Something happened today, and my brain is stuck.  I can’t quite accept it.  I don’t understand it.  And…I’m pissed.

We all know by now that I have four daughters.  My youngest daughter, Milly, is on the autism spectrum.  She’s high functioning.  What does this mean? It means that she has a co-morbid anxiety disorder that is either simmering at a slow burn or burning so hot that she isn’t very functional.  It depends on the day.  It also means that she has a big time theory of mind deficit.  She has huge problems with social skills, and she is developmentally delayed by about two years.  She’s chronologically ten years-old, but she is really about eight years-old socially and emotionally.  She also struggles with language pragmatics so she doesn’t understand puns and idioms very well unless she’s learned them.  This is all very textbook stuff for an HFA kid.  Nothing new here.  Also common to HFA-ASD kids? Poor emotional regulation and sensory processing issues combined with issues with flexibility and/or rigidity.  If there’s a rule, then Milly will know it and expect that we all follow it.  Combine all that with gestalt processing and it’s quite the roller coaster ride around here every.single.day.  It’s okay though.  She’s my kid, and I love her.

We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time helping her.  She’s had play therapy, skills training, therapy with a clinical psychologist who specialized in working with people on the autism spectrum, and I write books and materials for children, families, and professionals who work with individuals on the autism spectrum so I direct a lot of time and energy towards my daughter so that her autism will work for her rather than against her.  Milly does very well.  Many people who meet her tell me that they would never know that she’s autistic unless you’re someone who knows what to look for.  If you are, then you’ll spot her as ASD in under a minute.

There are, however, always bumps in the road.  I can’t change her nature.  She is who she is.  Recently, there has been some discord in our neighborhood.  We live on a block with a few kids of varying ages.  Milly is an extrovert which makes her seem unusual for an Aspie.  She is the extroverted autist.  She loves to play with other kids, but she can’t read their body language very well.  And, quite frankly, she can be a bit too direct.  She tries to cope with her social anxiety by controlling the social situations which is common to almost everyone with social anxiety, but, in Milly’s case, it has come out sideways.  She has started excluding certain neighborhood children because she doesn’t have the social savvy to deal with them.  She doesn’t want to feel fearful or anxious because that’s an uncomfortable way to feel so when these kids come around she simply says, “You can’t play with us.”  Apparently, these children go home crying.  Looking back on my own childhood I recall that one doesn’t need to be autistic to engage in this sort of social interaction.  I recall plenty of kids excluding other kids.  I’m not justifying this sort of thing.  Why do most people hate gym class? Well, for one thing, we get excluded.  Someone gets picked last for a certain team.  Someone else doesn’t want to play with someone else.  All the politics of recess and gym class.  Worlds collide.  Feelings get hurt.  How do you handle it?

Me? I watch.  I decide when I need to get involved.  I know certain things about child development.  For example, a 7 year-old child will be able to recognize that a problem exists but may not necessarily be able to solve that problem.  Parents are required to help in the problem-solving.  So, what’s the problem?  Oh, Lord, it’s all about Pokémon.  God save us from Pokémon!

Two boys from down the block are hot on Milly’s tail to trade Pokémon cards with her.  She outright refuses.  Why might you ask? A year ago Milly traded cards with these boys.  A few weeks ago, these boys were banging our door down claiming to want their cards back.  They were reneging on their trades! The Aspie, rule-lovin’ Milly could not abide by this.  She was completely offended and could not understand their reasoning.  If you trade a card, then the trade stands.  She returned one card, and then she vowed never to trade with them again.  That was it.  All or nothing.  These boys returned every single day.  EVERY DAY! They insisted on trading cards again which really meant that they wanted their cards back.  Milly steadfastly held her position.  Nope.  No can do.  She sent them home crying.

I watched.  I asked Milly about the situation.  What was her goal here?

“Mom, they don’t want to play with me.  They want their cards back.  They don’t care about me.  Besides, they’re mean boys.  They don’t play nice things, and they always tell me that they hate me.  I don’t like them.”

I chose not to intervene.  She had a point.  I listened to how she spoke to them.  She was respectful.  She wasn’t mean, curt, or surly.  I’m not a parent who believes that her children are above wrongdoing.  On the contrary, I know that my kids will screw up.  I expect it.  We learn from our failures.  I thought that perhaps this might be an opportunity for these boys to learn something.  Don’t trade a card if you really like it.  Also, integrity matters.  Be a person that keeps your word.  But, that would indicate that there was a parent on the backside actually parenting! The reason I don’t let Milly play with these boys now is because one of these boys told Milly that he knew how to make girls feel “really good”.  When Milly asked him what he meant by that, he responded, “I can tickle you in your vagina.  You’d like that.”  Nope.  There are other kids to play with in our neighborhood.  There will be no “special tickling” going on.  By the way, the boy was four years-old when he said that.  Little boys don’t come by that sort of knowledge by accident.  Know what I mean?

So, after all this, Milly is excluding these two boys.  She doesn’t like them.  She is anxious when they come around for a few reasons some more obvious than others.  I have never been a proponent of exclusion.  It hurts people particularly children.  I’m simply explaining it and the context for it.  Today, these two boys knocked on our door yet again insisting that Milly return one of their Pokémon cards.  Once again, Milly said, “No.  I’m not doing that.  We traded fair and square.”  The boys brought along a friend who also wanted to trade, and, as is totally characteristic of my socially inept daughter, she said that she would trade with him because she didn’t know him.  This, of course, hurt the feelings of the boys.  Milly didn’t understand what she had done.  To her, it was all very clear.  Very black and white.  In her mind, the two neighbor boys were untrustworthy and unsafe.  One of them wanted to get into her panties and the other was essentially a liar.  This new boy, however, might be a very nice boy and should be given the benefit of the doubt.  So, she invited the new boy inside to trade!

Shit is now hitting the fan unbeknownst to my husband and me.

My husband and I were in the backyard.  We were getting our beds ready for planting herbs and vegetables.  We were commenting on how beautiful the weather was.  Suddenly, Milly comes running toward us sobbing and hyperventilating.  She was trying to speak, but she couldn’t.  I thought she was hurt so I started scanning her body for injuries.  All I managed to understand was something along the lines of, “Tanya was in the house and she was yelling at me and she was saying that I was bad and…and….and…and…”

I looked at my husband.  He looked at me.  “What do you mean that Tanya was in the house? Are you saying that she actually came into our house?”  She was stuttering and choking.  She nodded.

The mother of the two boys had actually come into our home.  She had not knocked.  Milly had not let her in.  She barged in.  She blocked the door.  She yelled at our daughter.  She could see that we were not present.  She verbally attacked her.  She completely mistreated her.  She has been informed numerous times that Milly has an autism spectrum disorder.  Apparently, this did not matter to her.  From what I have been told, what she said was wildly inappropriate.  It borders on abusive.  In any case, it was traumatic, and it victimized Milly.

We had a guest today, one of Grace’s friends.  She happened to walk through the living room when Tanya was yelling at Milly, and this girl told me that she saw Tanya in our home and also heard her tone.  She described it as threatening and mean.

My husband went ballistic, and I was livid.  Who just barges into another person’s home and verbally assaults a child? I mean, who does that? This is where I’m stuck.  This is what my brain can’t accept.  I was shaking.  Seeing my daughter cry caused my viscera to boil, but I knew that I couldn’t turn that loose onto Tanya.  That would make me just like her.  We had to talk to her about this, but how? We’ve lived peacefully in our neighborhood and at peace with our neighbors for fourteen years.  Suddenly, one woman can just waltz into our home and mistreat a vulnerable child, and we’re left trying to figure out how to handle it.

We walked over to Tanya’s house, and all I could think to ask her was, “Did you come into my home without my permission and confront my child as if she were an adult without the presence of her parents? Did you do that?” That’s all I cared about because, frankly, that was all that mattered to me.  Kids excluding kids? That’s childhood! Victimizing a child with a developmental disability because you feel entitled to do so? That’s simply wrong! And it makes you the perpetrator!

So, we knocked on her door, and she came out all smiles.  We asked what was going on, and she immediately made Milly the problem.  “My boys just want to play but your daughter just continues to exclude them! So, you now, I just don’t get it.”  My response? “Well, I’m not really interested in that right now.  That can be discussed in a moment.  What I really want to know is if you went into my home uninvited and confronted my daughter without my permission and without my presence? Did you do that?”

Her expression changed and she evaded.  She immediately went on the attack and called Milly a bully.  She attacked her personhood.  I said, “Stop.  You are evading the question.  Did you go into my home and verbally assault my child without my permission and without my presence?”

She didn’t like that.  She put her hand up and said, “How dare you tell me to stop! Did you just tell me stop?”  She then attacked Milly’s character.  She then went on to say that she didn’t believe that she was really autistic.  She was older than her children and ought to know the social rules.  We explained what autism was.  We explained to her as we have so many times before what that developmental disability means, and she just smirked at us.  She blamed Milly for her sons’ unhappiness and insisted that her sons have every right to play with whom they want, and our daughter is the one who can’t play with anyone anymore.  That’s how it has to be.  She has to go home when they come calling.

I then told her that she had yet again evaded the most important question, and I expected an answer.  Had she come into my home without my permission and engaged my daughter in a confrontation without my permission or presence? She sneered and then she lied.  She said that she never came into the house.  That was a lie, and she showed no remorse for anything that she said.  It was at that point that my husband lost it.

He quietly approached her in his easygoing Texan manner and said in what I would call a menacing tone, “I don’t give a fuck what you think your children are entitled to.  You do not walk into other people’s houses and mistreat their children particularly when you know their parents are in the backyard.  That is wrong and don’t you ever do that again.”  As soon as I heard my husband say ‘fuck’ I knew that we were done.  My husband is a brilliant negotiator.  He does it at work all the time, but he was seething watching this woman lie, evade, and justify her almost abusive actions as well as her blatant trespassing.  I waited for her reaction.  It was predictable.

She told us to get the fuck off her lawn and shouted that we both had Munchausers (sic).  She then slammed her door.

We both stood there in shock.  I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think it would be wrong if I shouted out, ‘Don’t you mean Munchausen by proxy?’ I mean if she’s gonna insult us she should at least get it right, don’t you think?”

I look forward to living a life that has no drama whatsoever.  Munchausen by proxy? Really?! If I wanted this much drama in my life I would have gone to Julliard and been a drama queen like I planned when I was 17.  This life? No one wants this much attention.

I mean…unless you really do have Munchausen by proxy, I guess.  ::shudder::

Do you think Tanya would like to sit in the Behavioral Health ER or ride out a mixed state or pay for all the medications or talk a child off a suicidal ledge or deal with an Aspie having an anxiety attack or go to DBT skills group once a week for the next 21 weeks or sit for hours while your child endures neuropsychological testing or help your child cope with severe emotional pain so that they don’t cut or use the holding technique on an autistic child so that they can emotionally regulate rather than self-harm? Do you think she would like that? Do you think she would be so tempted to treat her boys like special snowflakes entitled to the world at the expense of everyone else once her boys actually see what the world is really like? Or at least someone else’s world? I wonder…

Shit.  Lord have mercy!

 

I Need Some Ruby Slippers

In which MJ has a bad moment

I woke up at 5:45 AM yesterday morning with a migraine.  One of those nasty ones that sits behind the eye.  I caught it in time because the Zomig did its job, but my daily rhythm is always thrown off due to the drug hangover.  I can’t ever seem to get my act together.

Grace came home early from school yesterday.  The Toradol injection has not completely put an end to her migraine this time.  Yesterday, she was caught in the migrainous wave of pain again.  I was frustrated by this.  I wanted her to feel better.  Milly was bouncing off the walls because she’s got a particularly bad case of March Madness.  We’re all waiting for an official thaw, and there’s only more snow in the forecast.  Doireann slipped on some ice while walking our neighbor’s massive English Labrador and hurt her wrist, and Eadaoin is simply being herself.  My husband appears to be caught up in some weird flight of ideas which is giving him insomnia.  He’s been unable to sleep for almost a week, but he’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning.  I wouldn’t call him hypomanic.  I’d just call him alert and hyperfocused.  He’s used to marinating in ennui and not being able to get up in the morning.  Alert? Able to get up? Ideas flowing? Not his normal.

So, everyone is squirrelly, and in my experience squirrelliness does not lead to good things.

Milly hounded me all day to take her to Target.  She wanted out of the house.  It was above zero yesterday.  Finally.  Perhaps leaving the house was a good idea even in my Zomig-induced stupor.  Suddenly, Doireann wanted to come along as well.  “Some person is stealing all my underwear!” she declared rather loudly while leering at Eadaoin.  We all know that it’s Eadaoin.  Eadaoin seems to be the one to hoard everyone else’s missing laundry.  If I’ve got an unmatched pair of socks, then I can go to Eadaoin to find its match although she maintains her innocence on all counts by saying every single time, “How did that get there?”

On our way to Target Doireann asked me to withdraw cash for her at the bank (money from her paycheck).  Upon my return to the car, I saw that Milly was covering her face while Doireann was fumbling with her words, yelling and laughing and gesticulating.  She sort of sounded and looked like a chicken.  I handed Doireann her cash and shouted over her, “What’s going on?”

“Mom, Mom, so, Milly forgot to lock the door, and I told her that she needed to do it, right? But, right as she turned to lock the door this African-American man was getting out of his car right next to us! And, he is standing like right next the car window.  Milly looks him in the face.  He looks at her.  And, that’s the moment she locks the car door! She can’t do that! He thinks that she locked the door because he’s black! Like, we’re racists or something!”

I just started laughing.  Doireann was having a fit in the backseat, and Milly was practically crying.  “I don’t understand! What did I do wrong?” I tried to tell them both that I just greeted this man as I was leaving the ATM.  He was smiling and laughing.  He didn’t look mad at all.  I explained to Milly that locking one’s door in front of anyone as they pass can sometimes imply that the way they look causes one to feel unsafe.  So, when a white girl sees an African-American man standing outside her car window at which point she locks her car door, her actions might imply that she feels unsafe.  Some people might say that she did this because he was black or looked threatening.  They might play the Race Card.  Milly, of course, had a very hard time understanding this because of a theory of mind (ToM) deficit.  She knows why she locked the car door.  She expected the man outside the car window to know the same thing.  She forgot to do it at the moment when I left the car.  Why should it matter that she locked the car door when a stranger was standing next to her car window? She wasn’t communicating anything to him when she did that because there was nothing to communicate on her part.  Nothing was implied, but it doesn’t mean that something was not implied in the other person’s mind.  That’s theory of mind–an ability to understand what someone else might think about the same situation even if you think something different.  ToM is very hard for people on the autism spectrum.  Heck, it’s hard for neurotypical people.  Ever listen to a couple argue? There are ToM fails all over the place.

As I pulled into the Target parking lot, Milly was shutdown.  All she knew was that she didn’t mean anything by locking the door.  Doireann would not let it go, and I found the exchange awkward, funny, and fairly typical for our family.  Milly, however, found no humor in any of it.  I tried to engage her.  No dice.  As I was putting my keys into my bag, she got out of the car, looked me directly in the face, and SLAMMED the door as hard as she could.

That did it.

I can take a lot.  I endure a lot on most days.  I don’t mind.  It’s life.  We all have our battles to fight.  But, when my daughter slammed that car door in my face, I just wanted to sit in the car and cry.  I didn’t want to be Mom anymore.  I didn’t want to try anymore.  I just felt done.  My head still hurt.  I didn’t want to go home either.  More of Grace shuffling around the house and staring at me.  More of my husband refusing to do the right thing.  More teenaged drama.  More autistic, sensory seeking that knew no bounds when I finally did go home.  More sarcasm.  I imagined myself in a cabin on Lake Superior.  Alone.  Peaceful.  Nice.  I had to get out of the car though and deal with my very angry daughter.  Doireann knew that I had reached my end.  I stopped talking.  I didn’t want to say anything that I couldn’t take back so I just shut my mouth.  If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.  That’s my rule.   It’s a good rule.  It works.  It’s hard on children though, and I know that.  It looks like I’m ignoring them or holding the relationship hostage.  I’m not.  I’m trying to preserve the connection by not saying something to hurt it.  I usually have to say something like, “I’m angry right now.  Please give me some space to process that feeling.  I don’t want to say something hurtful.”  Only I was about to cry right there in the parking lot and speaking would have destroyed my somewhat calm veneer.

We survived Target.  Milly came home and talked to her dad.  I filled him in this morning.  Apparently, she thought that we thought she was a racist.  I don’t know how that got communicated, but that sounds like a connection she would make in the heat of the moment.  She feels anything intense, shuts down her higher thinking processes, and, consequently, makes the strangest connections.  The clean-up after the fact is just as important as the initial effort.  It’s exhausting.

Just for a few days, I would really like a break.  I just want off the roller coaster.  Just for a little while.  I promise, I’ll get back on again.  I will.

I think that’s what they call magical thinking.  Either I’m in Kansas and want to go to Oz or the other way around? Oh, I’m so confused.

Hey Glinda, where are you?

Glinda the Good Witch of the North 1

Just close your eyes and ask Calgon to take you away. There, there now…

Milly Meets Lavender

Recall how I spoke about Milly, my Aspie 10 year-old, and her new fascination with sexuality.  We had The Talk with her, and now she’s bursting with questions about “doing it”.  I thought we were finally past the worst of it.  She stopped asking me if I liked “neck kissing” like the ladies on TV.  She stopped asking my husband and me what we were really doing in our bedroom when our door was locked.  After all, we don’t always lock the door.  Why lock the door only sometimes? Were we having sex?

Aspies are not subtle.  It’s positively grating and unnerving, but, on some level, I thought it might be good for me.  Let’s just get it all out there.  Yes, men have penises.  Women have vaginas.  Men put their penises in women’s vaginas.  They roll around a lot when doing this.

It doesn’t sound the least bit fun when I put it like that, does it? I’m trying to imagine some guy in a bar saying to me, “So, I’d really like to put my penis in your vagina.  Whadya say?” I shudder at the thought.  I think that’s how Milly is imagining it.  She is very literal in her interpretation of events.  Sex must sound positively disgusting to her then.

So, imagine Milly’s confusion and my husband’s amusement when, last night, Milly decides to go digging in his sock drawer for a flashlight.  The sock drawer seems to be a place to hide things for many people.  For years, we have hidden a variety of things under the socks in my husband’s sock drawer because the girls weren’t tall enough to reach it.  Secondly, there has never been a reason for any of the children to go looking in their father’s sock drawer.  They don’t wear men’s socks after all.

Milly is different.  She thinks like her father.  He keeps a flashlight in his sock drawer ergo she will look in his sock drawer for a flashlight.  Would she think to ask out of respect for our privacy? Hell, no.  Her only goal is to find a flashlight.  Did she find what she was looking for? No.  She found something altogether different.

She found Lavender.  My vibrator.

She hoisted the lavender vibe high in the air and declared more than asked, “Wow! What’s THIS?” I wasn’t home.  Thank God.  My husband looked up from his computer, and, apparently, tried to look insouciant.

“It’s nothing.”

“But, what is it?”

“Nothing.  Put it back.”

“What is it?”

“It’s not a flashlight.  Put it back.”

She reluctantly returned Lavender to her resting place and continued searching for a flashlight.

My husband quietly informed me of last night’s events this morning as I drank my morning coffee.  Not only does Milly find everything I try to hide, but she also has the hearing of a dog–“I can hear you, you know,” she shouted from two rooms away.  I asked my husband if Milly figured out what Lavender was for.  He just laughed and shook his head.

I can see it now.  “Does Dad massage you with that purple thing? Why is it shaped like a penis? What do you do with it? Where do you put it? Why do you have one? Does it belong to Dad? Does he use it on his feet? Is that why he has it in his sock drawer? Why is it purple?”  The next time the door is locked: “What’s going on in there? I hear a noise.  Is that purple thing out?”

The sad thing is…this is the most action Lavender has seen in a year.

I gotta get these kids out of the house more.

FragEEElay

The holidays are seductive in their nostalgia.  As soon as the cooler weather arrives (or perhaps the warmer weather in the Southern hemisphere?), I begin to think about what’s on the way.  I used to think of the forthcoming onslaught.  The frenzied shopping, the familial demands, and that Xanax prescription hidden in the back of my closet, tucked away for just the right moment.  No more.

I cleaned things up around here.  No more mean relatives for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  No more obligatory holiday parties with family members we haven’t seen in five years “just because” it’s what we’re supposed to do.  I know too many people who hate the holidays because of the stress, and I didn’t want to be one of those people anymore.  I thought I had done a pretty good job of a seeking out and eradicating the holiday awfulness until…

The girls had an extended Thanksgiving Holiday break.  This translated into three days home during the week and the following weekend.  Five days.  Doireann is almost 17 now.  She sort of skipped being a typical teenaged girl and went straight to 65 year-old curmudgeon.  She’s the embodiment of Crankshaft from the comic strip.

crankshaft_081219

Eadaoin, on the other hand, is the embodiment of a 15 year-old girl but amplified 100 times due to her mood and anxiety disorders.  On one day, she might be relatively stable.  The next day she’s crying and moody.  The day after, she might be awake at 3 AM eating marshmallows in the living room while watching cartoons.  She is prone to panic attacks and crying in public at the drop of a hat.  Due to her mood lability, she can be quite rude and self-centered.

Grace is herself.  She tries to do well every day.  Currently, she tries to deal with Eadaoin who is wrapped up in her own world much like Grace was a year ago.

And then there is Milly, the 10 year-old Aspie who just wishes her sisters would get their shit together.  Typically, Aspies are about two years behind developmentally so Milly is about 8 years-old emotionally.  She is beginning to play with toys and games appropriate for a girl who is in the second grade.  She is also trying out new behaviors that I’d really like her to forsake, but all children do this.  They watch other children essentially act like assholes, and then they come home and give it a whirl.  “Hey, I just saw a kid throw a granola bar at his mom’s face.  I wonder what would happen if I did that? Hmmm…that kid is throwing himself to the ground and yelling at his mom.  What would happen if I did that? That kid just flipped his mom off with his attitude.  I wonder what would happen if I did that?”  Some kids do it only once and get a clue.  Some kids are tenacious and must experiment many times before they form a proper hypothesis, gather enough evidence, and come to a conclusion.  Milly seems to be the latter.

So, what do you get when you put all four of these children together for five days during two major holidays–Thanksgiving and Hanukkah? Mayhem.  You get mayhem.  The first night of Hanukkah was peaceful, but there was an argument about lighting the candle.  Grace was fearful about a fire starting, and Doireann had to say something snarky.  Enter the Powder Keg.  I had to stay up late to finish all the pie baking for Thanksgiving so I woke up on Thanksgiving Day with a migraine.  No matter.  Drugs and coffee took care of that.  The Powder Keg sat in the room with everyone waiting to be lit.  The bickering began.  Like hens clucking and pecking, the girls were at each other all day long.  We made it through the Thanksgiving Feast for which I was grateful.  The next day it was tense.  More fighting.  More problem solving.  Eadaoin was instigating.  Milly was antagonizing.  Grace was pacing.  Doireann was avoiding.  My husband was reacting. I was protecting the Powder Keg.  Saturday arrived.  The day we buy the Christmas Tree.  Yes, yes, we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas.  We’re one of those families.  Tensions were running high.  Everyone demanded that the tree meet certain specifications.

“It must be fluffy like a wedding dress!”

“It should be tall!”

“It should be majestic.”

“Come on, you guys, it needs to fit into the living room!”

Then Eadaoin got lost in the nursery, and everyone panicked.  I sent my husband to find her.  He found her by the koi…of course.  Decorating the tree was like herding feral cats.  It wasn’t fun at all.  It was an exercise in torture.  By the time I got into bed an argument broke out between Eadaoin and Grace.  How could they still have energy to argue at midnight? Why are they still awake? Why do I have children? Will the Powder Keg explode?

Sunday arrived, and I was dragging.  My husband was hiding in the bedroom, and the children were looking sheepish.  I wanted to run away to the art museum alone which was my plan.  I had mediated numerous arguments, dealt with one too many bad attitudes, and not enjoyed the holiday break at all.  I just wanted some peace and beauty, but I had to wear the chauffeur hat and take Eadaoin to a tea party.  My husband and I decided to use our time last night to visit the museum and grab a bite to eat.  Finally, a moment of peace.  No children fighting.  No bipolar moodiness.  No schizophrenic sadness or lability.  No autistic rigidity.  Just the two of us.  A little holiday festivity and no children to spoil it (I do love them, you know).

When we arrived at our domicile, we were smacked in the face with an atmosphere of both contrition and defiance.  Doireann had cleaned the kitchen and was folding laundry.  I have never seen her fold anyone’s laundry but her own.  She had a repentant look upon her face.  She shrugged and said, “Yeah, we’ve been jerks all weekend.  I figured I could do something to help out around here.”  Words failed me which Milly was more than happy to make up for with her larger than life attitude.  “I want a tent in my room! But someone won’t buy me a tent so I made a fort in the living room! And, no, I don’t want to clean it up now because I’m playing with it.” I had just about had enough of her over-the-top attitude, and I could hear my husband draw in a deep breath; I figured he was ready to take her out as well.  Bill Cosby once said,  “You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me, I’ll make another one look just like you.”  I thought of him last night as Milly squared her shoulders and stood her ground, protecting her fort.  I searched myself for self-control.  I really just wanted to cry.  That Powder Keg just might go off, and it might go off inside me! I was spending all this money on Christmas gifts…why? I faced off with my daughter and said, “Your fort has twenty minutes to live.  Enjoy it.  Then, it will be put away.  You will then get ready for bed.  That’s the deal.  And, you will also think very hard about your tone of voice and attitude.  Understand?”  She gave me a defiant look.

I proceeded to the dining room wherein I unpacked one final ornament.  The “funny” ornament.  Every tree needs one.  Ours isn’t unusual.  It just makes me laugh.

leg-lamp-ornament

It’s a major award!

Yes, it is the infamous major award “leg lamp” from the American Christmas film “A Christmas Story”.  If you haven’t seen the film, this very tacky and gauche lamp was won by Ralphie’s father.  It arrived one night during a cold December, and Ralphie’s father adored it.  He displayed it in the front window of their home, and Ralphie’s mother loathed it.

Electric sex gleaming in the window indeed!

Just like Ralphie’s father, I was going to hang the Leg Lamp ornament on our tree; it was my final act of attempting to celebrate the holiday–my children’s bad behavior be damned!  Milly insisted with a mix of childishness and defiance, however, that she hang the Leg Lamp ornament on the tree.  I acquiesced.  Life has a way of imitating art sometimes, and  just a few seconds later I heard the sound of glass shattering.

Like Ralphie’s father, I ran into the living room and looked at my daughter.  “What happened?”  Her bottom lip was quivering.  Tears were streaming down her face.  “I didn’t mean to break it! I’m sorry, Mama!” The Leg Lamp ornament was broken.  The girls had gathered.  My husband just stood there.  “Well, isn’t that just typical,” he said.  Grace pointed out,”Well, that’s sort of funny that the Leg Lamp ornament broke.  It’s just like the movie.”  In the moment, I didn’t think it was funny at all.  I had reached the end of myself.  I saw the irony.  I could say nothing.  Actually, I could say a lot of things which is why I chose to make myself go to my room.  I just turned around and exited the scene.  I could hear Milly wailing.  I let my husband handle it.  I sat in my room and cried for about five minutes.  Then, I came out.  I hung up the broken Leg Lamp ornament.  It’s a testament to our Thanksgiving holiday.  We made it through five days of being together and survived.

The Leg Lamp didn’t.  It’s a good thing humans aren’t fragEEElay like Leg Lamps.