Drastic Decision

I want to share that I have made a very drastic decision in my life. I have chosen, with the help of my son and former spouse, to take my eldest son out of school for the remainder of this school year. When my son came to me (we were already seeing signs of struggle) crying one night and said completely unprompted, “If you want to see my full light, my full truth, and my full happiness, then you will not make me go back to school.”

I had already been considering taking him out. We loved his teacher, but she left. The new teacher didn’t get it. With Michael’s beautiful, heartfelt plea full of crocodile tears, there was my answer. I waited to make the decision until it was perfectly clear, and it could not have been more clear than to hear those words from my son.

My youngest son attends the same school. We will have to move through the awkwardness of pulling one child out and keeping one child in. Yes, there will be awkwardness in that. It’s a very small school. How my younger son will react and deal with it is yet to be determined. Will he be jealous? Will he be glad to have a break from his brother? Will he even notice anything is different? I know not. It will work out. It always does.

I write to say, “Take care of your children now.” The choices are hard, but I figure I only have one shot at his learning and experience. This will not be easy by any means. I’ve tried homeschooling before. It didn’t go so well, but it’s years later. I have a job that I have to keep as well. We will all have some MAJOR shifting to do.

I know that he will go to school next year for sixth grade. We already have that confirmed. And for those who do not know, my son has a label which is Asperger’s. I do not like the label, but it will help to make sense of his school issues. He had a new teacher this year who simply didn’t get it and wasn’t going to be able to serve him the way he needs to be served.

No, we will not receive any tuition back. Yes, my former spouse and I will have to spend more money than we want. Yes, I am filled to the brim with anxiety about finances and being able to be with my son for extended times . . .

And . . . and yes, my son knows that his needs will be met and he doesn’t have to be afraid or confused or anxious about going to school each day.

In love to all who parent—it’s a tough and beautiful road.

Advertisements

Hang It Anywhere

Part I: Excerpt from my life this previous Sunday I was SOOO mad this morning at a certain individual, who I may have had two children with, that as I drove away from the gas station ( a horn was honking furiously), I MAY have heard some thunks and klonks and then maybe I noticed the pump hose still attached to my van and not at all attached to the station. Uhhh.

I already had tears in my eyes as I walked into the gas station. I told the guy, “I’ve completely wrecked your gas station.”

Blank stare.

“I drove off with the pump, sir. What do we do now?”

Blank stare, no words, furrowed brow. In my complete and utter madness, I clearly had lost all ability to communicate with the natives. My primate self decided to get more specific.

I pointed outside. “Pump #2, you’ll notice there is no hose connected anymore.”

He looked outside. He looked back at me. He sighed. Got paper and pencil and handed it to me.

“Just leave your name and number; sometimes they charge to reconnect.”

“What do I do with the hose?”

“Hang it anywhere.”

 

Part II: Wednesday

My son was with me when this all went down Sunday. Have I indicated that he is emotionally connected to me? I don’t think I’ve covered that as of yet. Well, when I’m in a bad mood and don’t realize it, I often find that Michael is in a twist (emotional upheaval). When I do happen to notice that Michael is in a bad mood and struggling, more times than not I will realize my own bad mood. At that point, I can either name it or shift it and he immediately calms down.

So how did my madness affect Michael? He was a freaking mess the entire day! He just witnessed his mother doing something that very clearly he knew was not normal because she was mad at his father. So on top of me being maniacal and raging (which is not very maniacal and raging compared to most people), we had to be in this crazy space together all day long.

My boyfriend and his little girl were scheduled to come over and this could change everything. My thought, if I had a rational one, was that maybe I could talk to my boyfriend about this. I know even as I type this that that was a crock of bull. I was so far into the emotions of my former spouse’s stuff, it would have been pretty near impossible to reach me. I divorced that guy for a reason; this being one of them! I even pulled a hose out of a gas station and STILL I was feeling crazy and completely disconnected from my body.

Well, my boyfriend and his little girl came over for the visit, and I warned that guy, after he got here, about what I thought he was walking into. My boyfriend and his little girl left earlier than normal after I asked them to, as kindly as you can ask someone to please leave before I say more hurtful things. It was too much and I was finding it hard to be kind and hospitable. That poor guy got a big apology from me the next day and still will receive more. I was not able to work it out and talk it through. Nope. Not that day.

That night, though, a major shift occurred. I built a roaring fire before dinner, because truly there is nothing like a roaring fire built by an angry woman. Michael, Mason, and I sat down with the talking stick. We have a talking stick in our house where the person holding the stick is the only one allowed to speak. It’s a GREAT tool for those of you who struggle with “devoted communicators.” We don’t use it often, so it is still highly effective.

We had a conversation using the talking stick about how Michael is unkind to Mason and what are some ways we can stop that. I was raging alone; Michael was raging on Mason. It was not OK. The conversation was a really beautiful time together and we really did relax into that moment and become more present. And the truth and honesty was stupendous. At one point, Michael says, “Well, I could just say nice things.” This was in response to the question: “What are some ways to be kind to Mason rather than to say hurtful things?” So Mason grabs the stick and says, “Why don’t you just do that then?”

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? “Why don’t you just do that then?”

The gas pump attendant hasn’t called me. I kinda wish he would in an odd sort of way, maybe to validate that I really did pull a pump hose out of a gas station. Although, I know I did without a shadow of a doubt. Michael is all too eager to share our story with others as it does have a nice dramatic feel that invokes reactions of shock.

The three of us are in a better space today. Wednesday. I woke up happy this morning and know that I have moved through my anger and can live another day without the dark cloud over me. I don’t know what I’ll do about the incident that started all of this. That is not for today though. Today is to relish my happiness and to welcome it back. Today is to look my kids in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry I left you for a few days. I’m back.” Today is the day to write this piece so that I don’t forget this part of my story. And today is the day to thank you, dear reader, for reading and being part of my story. Thank you.

And please thank your local gas station attendants for what they do. You never know, the woman before you could have wrecked their entire gas station.

Perfectly Roasted Marshmallows

This is taken from a writing prompt from a Fall Writing Retreat Playdate I attended. The prompt: Think of a place where you feel perfectly content.

In Front of My Fireplace

Winter is not my favorite season. I don’t like to be cold. At all. I will tell you, though, that winter holds my perfect moments. Moments in front of my fireplace.

Mason will curl himself onto my lap, while Michael bops around talking and talking. Michael, with all of his beautiful energy, jumps on the mini-trampoline, he comes over to lean on me at times, and then walks off again, to move his energy all around the living room.

There is no place to go. There is nothing to do. Ahhh, nothing to do except to roast the perfect marshmallow. Mason and I have so much patience. We could sit for hours on end with our marshmallow sticks topped with two marshmallows (we almost never roast just one at a time), just gazing at the fire. Turning the marshmallows this way and that, slowly round and round for the perfect browning color. Michael doesn’t have the patience for such still work. Good. I get to roast his marshmallows for him. Score for me.

It’s the most important and productive nonwork in the moment. My fingers are all sticky, which makes it that much more perfect. At least one of my fingers is dotted with black soot from tending to the fire. And my pyromaniacal tendencies get quenched with hours of log burning fire that I get to start and tend to. It doesn’t get too hot either, except if we can only find very short kabob sticks for roasting. Then we have to strategically place our hands just outside the fireplace in order to get the perfectly roasted marshmallow. Know this, our nonwork act of camp side fire roasting of marshmallows is an art form all its own. This is not your typical set the marshmallow on fire, blow it out, and eat the charred sugar glob. This is watch the marshmallow until it is the perfect golden brown on all sides with the middle cooked just so that it is getting wobbly on the stick. Ahhh, perfection, almost every time.

Mason and I have a new trick now too. He places one sheet of newspaper on the fire and we watch with entranced gazes as the fire WHOOSHES instantly into a tall roaring flame and then back down again. I always say, because this happens now quite often, “This probably isn’t my best Mommy decision, but I love the fire, so as long as we’re all here and safe, it’s OK.” They both smile, knowing my Mommy choices are sometimes questionable.

I’m comforted to complete peace in front of our fire, with Mason curled on my lap and Michael free to roam and talk all he wants. Mason and I are used to being quiet. The fire is also speaking to us. The perfect moment was created by the three of us, plus the fire, plus the kitties, and I will savor it for as long as I can. Which is who-cares-how-long . . . nobody cares. Perfection.

Support and Looking Back

I have been on this different-brained journey for Michael’s entire life. He came out with a very clear expectation of how life was going to be. And with that expectation, he was given the gift of communication when things did not go the way he thought it should. That communication includes loud screaming and crying and threats.

I started journaling several years ago to attempt to keep my sanity and create a healthy habit for myself. I also work really hard at maintaining beneficial support systems in my life. Following is an email that I wrote in July 2011, although it seems more likely it was sent in 2010—but my ability for geography and chronologaly (yes, I just made up that awesome word!) is almost nonexistent.

My Asperger’s son who is now eight has had “episodes” of epic proportion as of late. I now have emergency psychiatric hospitals and clinics ready to program into my cell phone. My son, Michael, has threatened suicide over a math problem in the last few months (he was seven at the time). He has screamed at me to “kill him on purpose” because his brother was promised a Frosty from Wendy’s. He threatened to burn down our house. He locked me out of the house a few weeks ago because his brother got to the front door first. He’s eight now.

He has a severe case of whatever-this-is (currently labeled Asperger’s syndrome—form of autism) and it takes over when he can’t make sense of life and feels out of control and completely confused . . . and then it blows out like a candle. It is terrifying, devastating, loud, confusing, and deflating.

He will be getting a psychiatric evaluation as these episodes are escalating in severity of threats. He has not tried to harm himself or burn anything and I really don’t think he wants to . . . I live in constant fear of what will happen next. I have questions that seem to have no answers. I have a son that could potentially be hospitalized (tears) due to his mental condition for safety reasons. How? Why? What to do? What not to do? Rhetorical questions?

When he was one year old, if I didn’t put his shoes on in the order he wanted them on (sock L, sock R, shoe L, shoe R), it would take about fifteen minutes to calm him down from the crying and screaming. I didn’t have another child to compare this behavior to, so it seemed normal, and when describing it, people said hundreds of different things.

The above episode’ are what it looks like at eight years old. I am currently living in fear of what it will look like at ten and twelve. He’s got tools he’s being exposed to in social groups, individual counseling, and occupational therapy. He doesn’t seem to be able to put them into practice as of yet. I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever be able to. What do I honestly know anyway? Hmmm?

I feel that all will be well for moments at a time. Other times I feel overwhelmed with the unknown of where I’m headed. I am softly smiling thinking of all of you, who I feel will hold me while I’m on my journey to the unknown with my son. He’s such an incredible gift and at times I have felt like he’s a living prophet. He’s truly amazing and now I am witnessing an emerging part of him that terrifies me.

 

I received truly enormous support back. As I reread that, it says “I am currently living in fear of what it will look like at ten and twelve.” Well, he’s ten now and I’d love to share what it looks like. He is on a wonderful medication that has calmed his tantrums to an incredible minimum. He has been in therapy for so many years and his “toolkit” for social skills and life skills is chock full of awesome tools that we all use. He totally struggles and he still gets in and out of the car first. If he doesn’t get in and out first, there is a loud, threatening breakdown. But the breakdown doesn’t last as long, and he can sometimes talk his way through them with minimal support. He still hangs on me when he needs grounding, and I am happy to be that for him (a safe coat rack?). So I want to share my celebration of how his maturity and medication and therapeutic practices has created a young ten-year-old boy who is capable of being in loving relationships and can go to school everyday with minimal calls from the teacher.

Know that my life is pretty much devoted to his well-being and the tools I can offer him. We currently have an in-home therapist that is making helpful changes to our way of life and how we relate as a family (me, Michael, who’s ten, and Mason, who’s seven). It’s a work in progress. And I’m thrilled to say that I don’t have emergency psych ward phone numbers in my cell phone anymore. I may still need them, but for right now, I’m not basking in fear. And that is a huge celebration.

Suffering

I suffer while it feels like I watch my child suffer on a daily basis. Life is so much for him and his beautiful different brain. Going to the office supply store today turned into a major incident because of some finger page turner thingy-bobs. I wish the finger page turner thingy-bobs didn’t have so much impact on my son, and in effect, on me. But alas, the finger page turner thingy-bobs do in fact impact my son, and therefore they impact me. And it feels like suffering. And it is simply how we move through life and that is the way it is.

HELP! It Fell Down and We Can’t Get Up!

We have a therapeutic swing hanging in the boyz bedroom (well, usually anyway). It’s totally awesome and the kids love it and it’s been up for probably two years now. When Michael was going to an Occupational Therapist, he requested to be in the “bag swing” the entire session. She had to cajole him to do other things, but they always came back to the “bag swing” (it’s a bag swing like this: http://www.laceandfabric.com/Autistic-Products-Body-Sock-Body-Bag-Silly-Sacks-Swings_c16.htm) time and again. It looks like they are still selling them, awesome.

As you may or may not know, therapy and medications and private schools are all VERY pricey. And so being the genius that I am, I purchased a “bag swing” for my own home. Oh. MY . GOOD. GRACIOUS. GAMMY. GOO. The first night he went into the swing, it felt like he had taken some awesome drug to settle him instantly. It was CraZy. Truly, my mind had difficulty grasping the calm that instantly came over Michael after just a few minutes in the swing. I remember he even noticed it. It was a good thing, that’s what we all knew.

Well, about one week ago as Michael was swinging in the swing, BLAMMO! He falls plum from the sky and lands crashing on the floor with a big, big Thud. He was totally fine and I called the guy who hung the swing the next day and expressed in my calmest desperation “COME TODAY MAN, HE NEEDS TO SWING!”, “When is your first available time to help us re-hang the swing?”

Our handy-man was able to come out the next morning as luck would have it and the swing swung again. The part that failed after two years you ask? The steel rod broke clear in half! When I went to get the replacement part, the guy at the hardware store said he’d never seen anything like it before. We got the ‘high-class’ one this time that was a bit more expensive, but totally worth it. It swung again, until it didn’t. Two nights later. And so, said repair man cursed a bit and came back out. He needs another part, but “it should work for a few more days.” “Thwonk!”, this time it was Mason that fell from the sky, and he fell hard. 😦  Big hip ouchy for him.

It’s been two days and the handy-man has a new plan and a new part, but can’t come out until early next week. I know we’ll make it, but it’s a big honkin’ bummer that the calm inducing swing is out of service until then.

 

 

Sending in love and in the hopes to end the feeling of isolation while living with a different brain, whether yours, your child’s or someone else.

The Hardest Part for Me

Here is one of the most real, deflating, and crazy-making parts of my journey with my different-brained son. And know our journey started from the VERY beginning; Michael came out with a different brain from day one. I’m sure it is the norm to receive unsolicited parenting advice. I’m guessing every new mom gets strong suggestions on what they are doing wrong, right, and what they will look forward to and on and on the chatting will go. However, this whole thing with a different brainer—well, it just gets hairy and sludgy, even with the best intentioned person.

Michael’s diagnosis includes OCD, sensory integration, Asperger’s (but that’s replaced here with Different Brain), and some slight impulse issues. He takes an SSRI, a commonly used antidepressant, and without that, life plummets. This story is about a trip he takes without me. He goes to visit other people some time ago (vague is intentional) and Michael comes back completely tangled. Tangled means irritable, crying, having outbursts, being unkind, and miserable. It’s a sad state of affairs when he’s tangled inside. L And so we wait. Because the tangle wants to untangle, and it will come out when the time is right. The time became right and what I heard was shocking. It was sad. It felt uneducated. It created a fury in me (the kind a Mama Bear feels when her cub is in danger I imagine). My son was told that he doesn’t have OCD. He was told that he could learn to not have OCD. And he was told that the way I speak to him makes him have OCD. This is the essence of what I remember Michael telling me about this incident. No, I am not kidding. I sure wish that I was because, dear reader, THIS is the hardest part of the different-brained journey in my opinion.

As humans we identify with other people. But our perceived identity can be threatened if people are different. Michael looks like your typical ten-year-old boy . . . kinda. He’s beautiful with his long brown hair falling down to the center of his back. But when he is screaming about not being able to drink a glass of water because someone touched the outside first, people don’t know how to respond. I assure you, you are in relationship with his limbic system at that moment. It’s going to take some tools from our brain toolkit to get him out of his OCD brain stuckness. Good luck is what I tell people. Seriously, it’s gonna take some time and some gentle talking and love. But “teaching” him to drink the water because he doesn’t really have OCD—not so much. After he finished telling me the entire story and he cried and I probably cried, too, here are a few things I made sure he knew:

I told Michael about people and the good intentions they have (mostly).

I told him that it’s perfectly OK to be who he is.

I explained that other people need to be managed, and some simply will never fully understand everything about him.

And I explained how I didn’t agree with how his glass of water incident was handled and I wish it had been different.

I have not always been so calm, cool, and collected with my responses of people who criticize Michael and tell him he needs to learn to behave or be a different way. It’s taken ten years, a second child, one divorce, six schools, three therapists, 100 mg daily, and a whole lotta livin’ to get to where I am today. I trust that Michael will one day be able to kindly, respectfully, and powerfully stand up for himself. Right now, though, I am his mother, and I assure you, I will stand in front of him when needed. I am his advocate, his protector, his champion, and his care giver. ROAR!

Major lesson I see here: We have NO IDEA where people and their children are coming from. We need to turn any judgment we may feel into compassion. Humanity thanks us in advance.

 

 

HELP! It Fell Down and We Can’t Get Up!

We have a therapeutic swing hanging in the boys’ bedroom (well, usually anyway). It’s totally awesome and the kids love it. It’s been up for probably two years now. When Michael was going to an occupational therapist, he requested to be in the “bag swing” the entire session. She had to cajole him to do other things, but they always came back to the bag swing (it’s a bag swing like this: http://www.laceandfabric.com/Autistic-Products-Body-Sock-Body-Bag-Silly-Sacks-Swings_c16.htm) time and again. It looks like they are still selling them. Awesome.

As you may or may not know, therapy and medications and private schools are all very pricey. Being the genius that I am, I purchased a bag swing for my own home. Oh. MY . GOOD. GRACIOUS. GAMMY. GOO. The first night he went into the swing, it felt like he had taken some awesome drug to settle him instantly. It was CraZy. Truly, my mind had difficulty grasping the calm that instantly came over Michael after just a few minutes in the swing. I remember he even noticed it. It was a good thing; that’s what we all knew.

Well, about one week ago as Michael was swinging in the swing, BLAMMO! He fell plumb from the sky and crashed on the floor with a big, big thud. He was totally fine, and I called the guy who hung the swing the next day and asked in my calmest desperation, “When is your first available time to help us rehang the swing?”

Our handyman was able to come out the next morning as luck would have it, and the swing swung again. The part that failed after two years, you ask? The steel rod broke clear in half! When I went to get the replacement part, the guy at the hardware store said he’d never seen anything like it before. We got the “high-class” one this time that was a bit more expensive, but totally worth it. It swung again, until it didn’t. Two nights later. Said repair man cursed a bit and came back out. He needed another part, but “it should work for a few more days.” Thwonk! This time it was Mason that fell from the sky, and he fell hard. 😦 Big hip ouchy for him.

It’s been two days and the handyman has a new plan and a new part, but he can’t come out until early next week. I know we’ll make it, but it’s a big honkin’ bummer that the calm-inducing swing is out of service until then.

 

 

Sending in love and in the hopes of ending the feeling of isolation while living with a different brain, whether yours, your child’s, or someone else’s.