What Corn Starch and Water Can Teach You (the Dalai Lama Would Agree)

It’s an amazingly sunny day with a perfect breeze. We have nothing to do and nowhere to go. “I’m starting a fire in the fire pit,” I say. “Do whatever you want.” Translation: I’m busy and will be here building my fire. If you don’t want to hang out here, please do whatever you want.

Michael proclaims that he wants to look up backyard experiments. He finds and announces the experiment he wants to do today . . . it’s with corn starch and water. It’s not what I expected. He’s done that one before, but today finds itself as one without expectation. It’s my favorite kind of day. I let him know, “Hunh, that’s not what I expected, but have fun.” And he disappears inside the house, while I sit on the driveway tending my fire.

On days like this we simply co-exist. Mason is content with playing the piano, eating a carrot, and just sitting with his feet facing the ceiling and his head pointing to the floor. Michael moves around with his typical energy—but he is calm within the constant movement. I don’t take his calm for granted. That calm is why it will be a perfect day for us and that calm is a necessary ingredient for this kind of day.

I’m so happy there are no plans. I just want to start a fire in the fire pit next to my garden. And if it takes three hours, then that is what I will do.

My fire is not lighting. Sigh. The wood I’m trying to burn is still “green.” Mason picked it up from the side of the road, and I didn’t really know if it would burn or not. I’m disappointed, for sure, but not sad or mad. I’m simply resigned to my fire not lighting and that’s OK. Pretty much I’m just sitting and staring at the garden after a good thirty minutes of trying to get this green wood to light.

The lesson for all of us

I decide to go in and check out what Michael and Mason have decided to do. Mason is reading upside-down. Michael is at the kitchen table covered in his blue gloopy-gloppy substance. Michael exclaims, “Hey, I know how this could be used for a meditative practice.”

Intrigued, I pull up a chair at the table and say, “I’m listening.”

“Well, when you move your hands slowly, the mixture is a liquid and flows freely.” He demonstrates with his hands in the blue goo. “But if you go quickly and try to force it, it breaks. Just like life.” He thrusts his hand into the bowl, and the mixture looks momentarily like dry cracked earth.

My first thought is how freaking happy I am to have him for a son. I think about how happy I am that he even knows about how life can *flow*. Do all kids know about being flexible as life comes at you? Do all kids who struggle with OCD understand, when things happen that aren’t predictable, that it is we who must adjust? I don’t think so. I don’t think that all kids are aware of the constant adjustments necessary to be in a flowing “dance,” if you will, within our daily lives.

I love when life flows. I absolutely love today, even though my fire didn’t happen. My son, per usual, is teaching me something of the great masters. He is my constant teacher and I his student. Today, I am sitting with him at our table, learning and remembering to move slowly with life. I am showing up for my lesson to stop trying to “force” my parts of my life.

Here’s my son with all of these “labels” (OCD, ASD, PDD, etc. ). And he is hugely aware of meditation and centering himself and calming his mind. He knows the benefits and power of peace within. He has learned about it and on some level, dare I say that I believe, he strives for it daily. It’s not easy for him by any means, but he understands what is needed to enjoy a calm life. That is the most important thing in my opinion.

I highly recommend that you take this gift from my son and go put your hands in some gloopy, gloppy goo (recipe below). I recommend that you really think about what you’re forcing in your life. I invite you to think about where you could be slower and more methodical. Because as you just learned, life, if you force it, could very well break. But if you move slowly with life, it will flow easily with you.

And I certainly invite you to show up for lessons when they are being taught, especially if your teacher is a child.

Sent with love and kindness.

The recipe

Mix together in a bowl:

1 cup of water

1.5 cups of corn starch

 

 

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Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?!

 

Stephan Pastis—the man is a writing genius and we are in the Pearls Before Swine fan club! One of my top five favorite strips is “Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?!”

Here’s what Urban Dictionary has to say about it:

According to the Pearls Before Swine strip from April 27, 2011, “It means, ‘I just burned you. What are you gonna do about it?’” It’s going to sweep the nation.

Rat: Dude, check it . . . I’ve invented a new expression . . . it’s Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?

Pastis: What the heck’s that s’posed to mean?

Rat: It means, I just burned you. What are you going to do about it? I’m hoping it sweeps the nation.

Pastis: I wouldn’t let it sweep my bathroom floor. Yo! Snap! Whassa matta hamma?!

Rat: It’s a sad day when a nerd cartoonist gets the better of you.

 

Here’s how Mason swept my nation one fine eve.

Prologue: Michael goes to a social skills class to learn two-way conversation and phone etiquette. I tell Mason, his younger brother, that I would like him to practice just like Michael has to. He can call anyone he would like to, but he needs to ask a question, listen to the answer, and then comment based on the response.

A few days later, Mason calls me from his cell phone and claims, “Hey Mom, I’m ready to practice my two-way communication.”

“Oh my God, that’s awesome! What do you want to ask me?”

Click.

Yo! Snap! Whassa matta hamma?!

Murder—and I Condone It

Desperate. I know it.

Defeated. Without a doubt.

Wanting it to end. Yes.

These are the deep, dark emotions of having a child who isn’t “typical.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50154011n

The above link will take you to a four minute and thirty second story about a woman who murdered her autistic son. According to the report, she then tried to end her own life. In this moment, I’m not sure how I feel about her living (she lived). Truth be told, I wish her pain could have ended. I wish she wouldn’t have been found. I wish she had been allowed to finish what she started. Her life may now be filled with peace because her son is no longer in pain, but I imagine the pain of what she did and what she will go through now will also be unbearable.

I hold a glimmer of hope that she may become a beacon and a spokesperson for the pain we are all feeling in the situation of raising children who have needs that are just barely met, only sometimes, mostly not though.

I do not know her pain, but the story I saw brought me to my knees with compassion, fury, and helplessness. Her autistic son was in writhing pain and had no way to express it except in a way that required five to six officers to restrain him. This woman’s autistic son seemed like an infant in a grown body—in a system that has no healthy way, YET, to effectively help him. Or her.

See, I don’t have a son who thrashes out and strikes me and is unable to communicate. But I know there are hundreds of thousands that do. I have a son who can verbalize and cry and pace and release his emotions with sounds and words. His words sure do hurt sometimes, but even that can be managed with therapy, medications, and compassion. I have a son who feels safe sharing his pain and this is because I am able to create a safe container for his huge emotions. I have the patience to help him through these times, even when he is giving his rage and anger to me and at me. I know I am not going to get a black eye because my son is in pain.

This woman did not have that safety. She was desperately doing all that she could, from what I saw in this video, to give her son the very best life. For him.

How long does he have to writhe in pain? How long does she have to watch helplessly as the powers-that-be tell her what she has to do? How long does she have to guess and fight for her son’s rights as a human being? And where can she go and what can she do while she fills out paperwork for help that will take hundreds of dollars and twenty-two days to gather. After that, it’s five months to wait for a response that has a 70 percent chance of being declined (not that I know anything about applying for benefits). And the cost—good golly, did she even have money to cover the state law enforcement costs, not to mention the medical bills? Staggering thought.

But in this big wide “People World” (as opposed to the safety for these children in “Video World”) as I refer to it, there is a slathering of judgment, misunderstanding, and violence. Violence from outsiders looking in with words, with mean looks, with unabashed judgment of what’s right and what’s wrong with each other. From where I stand, there really isn’t a whole lot of compassion for us parents of different brainers. I feel judged much of the time even though I know for a fact I did not teach my son to scream and cry when he doesn’t get his shoes on first. I’m not kidding.

This woman watched her son be wrestled down by more than five officers. This woman watched her son be restrained for days on end and had to spoon feed him. This woman slept on the floor, most likely to help soothe his pain if he woke up scared or hurting. And we can only imagine what else she had to deal with while all that was going on. What were her and her son experiencing between the start of the attack and the time it took to call for help and then for “help” to get there? Just think about the daily life this woman led. My head shakes and my heart goes out to support her and all of us in this.

I write my opinion, but what do I want? Dear reader, what do I want after seeing that heart wrenching story?

I want us all to turn our judgment into compassion. I want us to not condemn this woman for trying to end the insurmountable pain she and her son suffered. She’s right, her son deserves better than to be treated like an animal. And if that’s the best we can do as far as outside assistance for her and her son, then a big fat shame on us. And so, in this moment, I condone her choice. My heart breaks that she even had to go that far. This woman, who really seemed to care (because there are others who harm their children intentionally), had to make a choice because the pain was just. too. much. for. her.

There is another side to this, but for the sake of this post and this thought, I want to hold powerfully that I stand with her, holding her hand and giving her strength and even carrying her when she needs it. Yes, that feels really good to help carry her through this time.

So when you read this and are appalled by my support of her choice, try to walk one mile in her moccasins. And then and only then can you offer an opinion. No judgment, just an opinion of your feelings and your experience of witnessing. Just compassion. You don’t know what it’s like. If you do, I’m sure you share my opinion of support on some level.

I know not what I would have done. But I do know that in this moment, I have not one ounce of condemnation for that beautiful, caring mother who could bear the pain not one more moment.

I do want to bitchslap our society to wake up to the humanity and the struggle of our time. I want us all to wake up to each other and see each other for the pain we’re feeling, the hunger, the struggle, the challenge, the beauty of what it is to be human now. We can do better. We can stand as a people against what is hurting us. Yes, we can.

I send this with incredible sorrow, huge compassion, and my understanding for why this happened.

Mica

Smiles Again

For the past three months, I’ve been under more strain than I’ve been in . . . years, or ever maybe. It involves finances and protecting my children. So I’ve been stressed and more “mentally absent” than usual.

Yesterday my neighbor gave me some of her old art and craft supplies. In that was a bag of colored needlework floss, the kind I used to make friendship bracelets with. This morning I showed my oldest son, the one diagnosed with Asperger’s, how to make bracelets. My plan was to show him and then get my computer/finance work done.

Turns out it was difficult for him to do it on his own. He could do it, but two sets of hands were much more effective than one set of hands. I’m soooo proud to announce that I made the difficult decision to sit with my son. It was more difficult than one might imagine to sit and spend time with my child, with all the “stuff” to do . . . ya know. I went and got my coffee and sat with him and held each string as he knotted it around the next twice. I sat while he got fidgety and said, “I won’t let myself talk to my conscience because if I do, then I’ll be able to take a break, and I don’t want to take a break.” I sat with my son and took the most important thirty minutes of my day to be present with him. My other son is an incredible pianist, so while Michael and I were weaving the bracelet, Mason was creating a piano piece depicting a three-series Pokemon battle. His music soothes my soul for sure.

I’m smiling right now feeling great about my decision. I’m smiling right now thinking about how even after three months of worry, thirty minutes can shift my state of being. I’m smiling right now because my son has moved on to another type of weaving and is almost done with his next project. I’m smiling right now and it feels like it’s been way too long since I’ve smiled like this.

Yeah.

 

“This Life Is Chronic.”

“This life is chronic.” That’s what the lady said to me during a class I was taking. She had been a counselor and worked with different-brained children in her previous life and someone introduced us, of course. As we’re talking she says, “This life is chronic.” She didn’t say it twice; I’m just repeating the first sentence again. I didn’t know the actual definition of chronic in that moment, but it sure didn’t sound good to me. I smiled, because I had just met her and didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the conversation by asking what “chronic” meant, and we carried on. I don’t remember much of the conversation, except for that one sentence.

So I looked up the definition online at dictionary.com. Here’s what it says:

chron·ic – adjective

1.constant; habitual; inveterate: a chronic liar.

2.continuing a long time or recurring frequently: a chronic state of civil war.

3.having long had a disease, habit, weakness, or the like: a chronic invalid.

4.(of a disease) having long duration (opposed to acute).

Well, that’s not what I want. I want to walk into a doctor’s office and get this fixed. I sure don’t want to deal with moments like tonight all the time. I don’t want my other son to have to deal with moments like tonight. I don’t want my boyfriend and his daughter to have to deal with moments like tonight. And yet, moments like tonight happen on nights like tonight. Nights that start out beautiful and joyful. I remember the laughter and running around, a little bit.

I will not share about tonight, tonight. I am tired and I would curse a lot and I’m finding that people don’t love curse words. I do, but others don’t, and I still need to curse. It involved three beautiful children and a game named “Tag.” My different-brained son doesn’t play tag, so then why was he in the game? Alert! It went downhill very fast. Several hours later I am here writing this blog post because I need to share. Thank you.

Right now, before I go to bed, I am in need of space and quiet and solitude. I don’t know how long I’ll stay awake. I’m very tired. And I want to sleep, but for my own sanity and mental health, I need to “sit and stare” for a bit longer.

“This life is chronic,” a blogger said to you one night.

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.

The Seventh Place

This journey with different brainers really is a fascinating odyssey. One part of the journey is all about where we belong. Or not.

Here’s Michael’s school journey thus far:

  1. Charter school for the highly gifted. Got kicked out due to residency issues. Not fined or anything, but asked to leave. WOW.
  2. Public school #1 – We went to curriculum night and the end of school “targets” were what he covered the first day of his kindergarten year. We didn’t stay there.
  3. Home school. I was going through a divorce and moving and had a different-brained/high-need kid and a two year old. Duh.
  4. Public school #2 – One of the best teachers EVER! She was kind and intuitive and it was one of the best years ever.
  5. Public school #2, next teacher – Michael screamed and cried every day after school. We got our diagnosis this year. I kept him out of school as much as possible, at least once every eight to ten days. Worst year of all.
  6. Brand new school for high-functioning autistic kids or kids on the spectrum who didn’t make it in public schools. Fail. At least for us.
  7. Quaker school with two of the most fabulous teachers EVER! I give credit where credit is due, and these teachers were like gifts from humanity to my family. Score.

I just found out this morning that our school will not be able to accommodate sixth grade.