Completely Different Sense of Self

It is my personal belief that humans operate under a certain amount of selfish behavior.  Maybe it’s instinctive for survival, but no matter how much we attempt to speak to the contrary, we as people are a pretty selfish bunch.  Even the things we do to make the world a better place, the philanthropic and altruistic gestures, to some extent are done to make ourselves feel good, which can be construed as semi-selfish behavior.  Hell, even Paul Watson isn’t trolling the South Pole for just the sake of the whales, it makes him feel good, which is sort of selfish, but ultimately, a majority of what he does is pretty self-less.  Unless you’re a member of Greenpeace, or a Newfoundlander, then, well, you have your own views of Mr. Watson.  Nevertheless, a majority of what he does is for the good of the world.  I’m not out attacking Japanese whaling ships, but my goal is to do something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Today, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in an Autism charity event, sponsored by Autism Speaks.  My family and I trekked out to a sprawling park on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, and we walked.  Sure, prior to today, we raised nearly $1,000 for the organization, but today was all about the kids and families and learning about autism and just having a fantastic time.  We bonded with strangers, we took photos, we cried, we petted guide dogs, we had meltdowns, we snarfed down ice cream and we all stood up for a cause so much bigger than the 6,000 people who walked with us.  This was one of the more weighty experiences of my life which had nothing to do with me, personally.  The stake was about the other guy, the other person’s kid, so not about me, and you know what?  I liked it.  A lot.

The whole experience filled me with so many emotions and thoughts, the most profound of which seemed a little unexpected.  Today, I began to understand the massive shift that’s occured recently with some old friends and acqaintances, and why people I felt so connected to 10 or 20 years ago no longer seem to fit within my puzzle.  All along, I thought it was a change because I had children and others did not, or because my kids are slightly different from other kids and some might judge them unfairly, but neither one of those is the reason at all.  I am no longer that toss-caution-to-the-wind type of girl who jets off on a shopping excursion or vacation on a whim.  I don’t find myself in situations where I’m not in (at least a majority of) control anymore.  I realize the world is a big, big place, and there are other people who live in it…surprise!  And, some of those people (places and things) require some of my attention, time, money, passion or all of the above from time to time.  I’m alright with that.  I’m totally ok with not being so focused on what I have or what I do or what I wear, but maybe, even for just a day, stopping in the sunshine and taking a look around to see who and what I can have an impact on.  Then focusing on that for a little while.

By no means am I saying all the selfishness has left my body.  I’m just a little less, is all, and a whole lot better off for it.

June 8, 2009 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

So Much Crap, Such a Small Fan

Oh, hai!

Right!  A blog!  I have one!

It has been such a LONG time since I’ve been in the habit of blogging regularly, what with the weight of school and the crippling stress of the kids in preschool, and doctors appointments, and school, and homework, and exams, and projects around the house, and homework, and homework, and homework, and getting completely and totally disheartened with pretty much most of the entire blogging community for a while there.

And then, of course, there are the two stunning, sometimes cantankerous little souls who putter around my house wielding their opinions and agendas around like tiny ninja stars.  Now that they’re in school all day, thriving and flourishing there, I find myself with a tad bit of time on my hands, and some of those bits I plan to fill with some blawgin’.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

And, just to show you the seriousness of my threat undertaking, I even whipped out Photoshop to throw together a little  banner action.  You like?

If that’s not commitment, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.

May 18, 2009 at 3:03 am Leave a comment

I Would Kiss Them on the Mouth, If It Was Appropriate

The kids are almost through with their third, full week at the new school of fabulousness, and they are doing well.  That’s actually a great understatement.  They’re doing more than well.  They’re happy.  They are THRIVING.  They have acclimated nicely to their new environment, have made some new friends, and are even eager to embark on participating in the school’s full-day program.  To which I say, HUZZAH!  And, also?  Now Momma can stop worrying so much about her minions and go do something productive during daylight hours, like homework or working out at the gym or tossing a $20 in a slot machine at Foxwoods, rather than sit in the kitchen twitching as she waited for the inevitable phone call that she, yet again, needed to pick up her melting-down son, all the while wondering why she ever quit smoking.

Y’all, it is GOOD.

The staff we’ve come into contact with at this new school are scrumptious.  I don’t know how else to describe them, but they’re just a delectable group of women who, in the last few weeks, I’ve come to fiercely adore.  Let’s just say, I’ve already been daydreaming about their end-of-year gifts, a treat up until now I thought was ridonkulous expression of suckuperry, THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM OH MY GOD THE LOVE.

Just today, the aide in Sara’s class told me just what a wonderful addition she has been to the class.  She beamed on about how bright she is, about her photographic memory, and how she’s just so damn cute.  Later this afternoon, I got this little diddy in my email from Sara’s speech language pathologist:

I will look for her and bring her to my office after her lunch so her belly is full and she will be a happy girlie! But then again she is always a happy girl! I saw her today with my 10 am group. She did great! I just adore working with her! She is truly a gift in your life  they both are. I just happen to know Sara a bit more!

The exclamation points!  Oh, how I love to see exclamation points punctuating some fabulous compliment about my kids!   !!!  !  !!!!!!!!

Now, you’re probably wondering where all the praise and pomp and circumstance is about Max, right?  See, here’s the thing…his days at school have not warranted much commentary from his teacher.  After the first few days of having tough transitions in the classroom, Max now almost always happily abides by the schedule put forth by his teacher.  And, to cut off his tougher times at the pass, in swoops a special education teacher to give him regularly scheduled motor breaks and to work with him on a visual schedule and to more or less spray the entire room and hallways with rainbows and fairy dust that shoot from her ass.

Meanwhile, I’m under a weighty amount of homework at the moment seeing as the semester is rapidly coming to a close, I spent a good amount of last night being all Jerry McGuire-ish and establishing personal goals (it’s not a MEMO, it’s a MISSION STATEMENT, DAMNIT!), while all the positivity and unremarkableness about my kids sang in the background like the new soundtrack to my soul.  LIFE IS GOOD!

April 22, 2009 at 11:32 pm Leave a comment

The Most Cautiously Optimistic Week With Bonus Visit to NYC EVER

This past week was perhaps one of the more eventful ones of the last year or so.  Most notably, Max & Sara started attending a local magnet integrated school for preschoolers and kindergarteners.  Technically, it’s 50% children with special needs and 50% “typical peers”, a term I have come to loathe and be moderately amused by since what the fuck can be deemed “typical” at 3, 4 or 5 years of age?  Not much, that’s what, but I digress.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week were visiting days when the three of us hung around to check out their classrooms and respective teachers (because the kids were shoe horned into the program, they’re in separate classes), special education teachers, speech language pathologists and other staff.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this particular school, anectodally, doesn’t have the best reputation for being much more than a glorified free day care, since it’s a full-day, 5 day/week program that caters mostly to lower income families and their children.  With that being said, and granted, I’ve only been involved with the school and its staff for a month or so, but I can say with a great deal of confidence that my children are already being better served there than at their previous preschool.

Sure, it’s early on in the process and our exposure to services and such has been limited, but when the head of special ed comes and meets me at the front door at pick-up time on Thursday to reassure me that Sara, who I’d left in a heap of sobs and screams that morning, bucked up almost immediately after I’d left and she seemed to be acclimating herself to her class nicely.  And, as a special bonus, Max appears to be nearly ready to embark on a full-day schedule, as he tolerated most transitions and activities with a reasonable amount of patience. On Friday when I arrived, Sara’s class was just finishing up gym time and I was told Max would be out of the computer lab shortly.  “Seriously?  Gym and computer lab?  At THREE?” My new friend the special ed teacher chuckled, “Yep! And from what I hear, both kids did GREAT!”

It seems I was correct in my assessment that traditional, mainstream preschool just wasn’t for us.  This place seems like it’s the ticket, but I’m still only cautiously optimistic and will likely remain so until I have at least a few months of attendance under our belts.

So far, so good.

Last Tuesday, my husband was gracious enough to rearrange his schedule which allowed me to hop a train to NYC, where I attended the reading/book signing for Heather Armstrong‘s new book, It Sucked and I Cried.  The event took place at the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca, an area of the city I haven’t had the opportunity to explore much at all, so you can imagine how excited I was to have sometime to mill about and at the prospect of meeting one of my blogging heroes.  Unfortunately, because of some parking snags at my local train station, I missed my intended train, and didn’t arrive at Grand Central until nearly 6pm, allowing only an hour to make my way to Tribeca.  Anyone who is familiar with NYC at rush hour knows the pace at which mobs making their way home can move.  Despite what you may think, it’s SLOOOOW, and I walked in not long before Heather took the stage and had just enough time to grab a book and take a seat.  No matter what opinions you may have of Heather or of her blog, Dooce, that lady?  Is a funny motherfucker.  I mean, REALLY funny.  And tall.  But, mostly funny and quite entertaining.  She read a few passages from her book and took the time to sign copies of nearly every person who’d shown up that evening.  All told, not a shabby way to spend the night.

March 30, 2009 at 11:25 am 1 comment

A Different Type of Loss

The other day, Cecily wrote poignantly about reliving a specific memory related to the loss of her unborn twin sons, Zachary and Nicholas.  One of the last passages of her post sent me reeling.  Cec said,

Losses of children shape us, and change us forever. I am beginning to see that now, and accept that this deep grief is a permanent part of my landscape, although it is not as crippling as it once was. But yesterday was yet another profound kick to the chest, reminding me that my despair over losing my sons is not gone, and it probably never will be.

Loss and grief have been on my mind constantly as of late, especially at the current moment where we are delving deeper into the educational impact of autism and sensory processing issues on our two children.  Mostly, I look at other families, some my family and friends and others I see on the street, and I feel incredible almost debilitating pangs of jealousy.  My kids, no matter how much you may look at them and think, “There’s no way they have autism!  They look perfectly normal!”, they are different.  They will likely have great struggles in their lives, socially, academically.  They have certain, special needs.  They will be, and already have been on occasion, ostracized.  My children, for what it’s worth, will never be what society perceives to be, normal.

When the therapist advises us to purchase a certain toy or other gadget that might help in strengthening tone, improving oral-motor function or give a certain, sensory input, often I surf over to the website she suggests and the item is being modeled by a child in a wheelchair or on crutches or with some other obvious, physical disability.  Although it’s likely not very politically correct, I’ll admit, I twinge a little.  Because, on most days, I look at my kids and forget they’re different.  But then, there are the little wakeup calls…the developmental playgroup, the special, integrated preschool, the sheer exhaustion of trying to get two little people out the damn door in the morning.

The loss and grief comes when you realize that some of the expectations you had for your children have changed dramatically.  Instead of dreaming of the days when they wave goodbye on the first day of preschool or kindergarten, you consider it a victory when the teacher doesn’t call home to let you know your kid won’t come out of hiding in the bathroom after a  bell rang or that she can’t get your kid’s attention by calling out her name a dozen times.

Then, there’s being told constantly it seems that, “maybe they need more discipline,” or “you HAVE to MAKE him do it,” by well meaning others who don’t understand just how many times those phrases have been told to us, and how many times we’ve just had to let them roll off our backs, and how it’s just gotten old.  So, so old.

Thing is, this feeling of loss isn’t something new.  We struggled just to get pregnant.  We lost our first little bean at around 8 weeks after 18 months of early morning ultrasounds, belly injections and disappointing pregnancy tests.  On the day we met our little ones, we finally thought the hard work was behind us.  How incredibly naive of us to think such lofty things.

Don’t confuse my anger and confoundment with a wish for different children or even some other lifestyle, because I’d pick mine every time, twice on Sunday.  Along with the constant battles come so much hilarity, bravery, enlightenment and pure, undiluted love that most days?  My heart might shoot clear across the room from the fullness.

Like Cecily pointed out, our feelings of loss and grief, no matter what form they take, play a huge role in molding who we are, who we become in the future.  Those emotions wield so much power in our lives, it’s sometimes difficult to see past them.  Sometimes.  Not always, since in this game, there are no absolutes.

On those days, I need not look further than a few feet to see this…

DSC02775

Perfection. And everything else just fades away.

March 20, 2009 at 8:50 am 2 comments

A Whole New Hue of Pissed Off

I should be in bed right now.  I should be sleeping, fighting off this cold that I’m coming down with, but instead, I’m stressing and steaming.  I’m pissed off like I haven’t been in a long, long time.  And, can you imagine what I might be pissed off about?

The fucking stupid ass public education system, that’s what.

So, Thursday we have a PPT (planning and placement team) meeting for both Max and Sara’s transition into this new, fabulous, public, integrated preschool.  I’ve looked over the notices we received in the mail about a thousand times, scrutinizing it for any indication of what we might expect at this meeting.  D and I plan to attend, obviously, in addition to our child psychotherapist, several school staff members (each kid’s mainstream classroom teacher, special ed teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist) and a representative from the school district.  In other words, it’s a meeting of the minds.  During the same conversation that informed me to the scheduling of this meeting, I inquired as to when my children might be able to start school, as we are pulling them from their current school and would like them to be enrolled as soon as possible, and since the school year is quickly drawing to a close.  Not to mention, with two kids who suffer from sensory issues, the LAST thing I want is to put them in school for a few weeks just in time to snatch them back out for the summer and eff with their schedules which all but ensures that craziness will ensue.  The preschool liason from my home school district assured me they’d be able to begin immediately after the meeting.  Weeeee!

Not so fast, sweet cheeks.  As I’m sitting here reading this notice, I see NOTHING about developing an IEP (individualized education plan), which is required BY LAW for any special education student to start school.  And, for those of you unfamiliar with the special ed landscape, the IEP?  Is massive.  It’s almost comical how much time and information is put into such a document, but at the same time, it’s CRUCIAL to have a plan in place to deal with a special education student’s unique needs.

So, our meeting is Thursday, which also coincides with Max & Sara’s last day at their current preschool, and we have nothing on the agenda except to to around the room, introduce ourselves, and say, “So.  You think these kids need special ed?  Yep.  Ok.  Done.”

You can bet your bottom dollar I sent emails to all interested parties to clarify for me, exactly what the fuck it is we’re going to be doing at this meeting, besides exchange niceties and hear, ONCE AGAIN, that my kids need help.

Someone.  Please.  Stick a SPORK in my eye.  I’m not sure how much of this mess I can take.

March 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm 2 comments

Extreme Makeover, Accidental Edition

It started with our kitchen faucet. Over the past few months, our water pressure from the kitchen tap seemed to dwindle at an alarming rate.  My handy hubby decided to take a gander at the insides to do a quick clean out and see if he could up the pressure a bit.  20 minutes later and SHAZAM!  OOdles of free flowing water at a more than acceptable pressure.  D suggested that he do the exact same thing to our bathroom sink.

Something went terribly wrong once pliers hit the faucet.  Myself being plumbing impaired, I haven’t a clue as to what exactly transpired or how it happened, but the tap broke.  But!  Luckily!  We had a replacement faucet which we wanted to use anyway, so D went to work to switch out the old with the new.

As it turned out?  Our bathroom fixture was so old, it had literally rusted onto the pipes, with no chance of removal with out surgery.  Which, was only possible by removing our entire bathroom vanity.  Which, because of its advanced age, fell to pieces at the mere mention of removal.

Home Depot and Lowes both wanted, like, $400 for a new sink and vanity around the same size as our old one.  And, as is my response in most cases of home improvement sticker shock, I said, “I betcha Ikea has something nicer and for A LOT less money.”

Off to Ikea we went.  Our entire little family, for breakfast and some bathroom fixture shopping.

We purchased a new sink, vanity and cabinet, alright…in addition to two new dressers for the kids’ room (Malm, which are cheap as hell, but still…) and another one for me, since I’ve been without a dresser for quite a while.  Cha-ching…

Once we got our Swedish bounty home, assembled the dressers and began to move them into the spot we’d cleared for them in the kids’ room, we realized something vitally important that we missed.  THEY DID NOT FIT in the space allotted.  This then resulted in the relocation of a toy box and another toy storage system to the living room, much to my husband’s chagrin.

See, he’s not a fan of kids’ toys taking over our living space.  And, while I totally agree, it’s not as though we have a HUGE house and, therefore, we’re faced with limited options.

“Well,” I said, “perhaps we should start thinking about finishing the basement like we’ve been talking about.”

He agreed.  And so we’ve begun the planning and prepping stages of finishing a portion of our basement in order to create a playroom for our kids.  From a drippy faucet to major remodel in under 72 hours.  I believe that might be a record.

March 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm 1 comment

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