You gotta let some stuff slide. Because in a death match between you and your standards of cleanliness VS the creamy heavan of ranch dressing? The dressing is gonna win. Every time.
She called...and emailed me the report. And oh man, it's good news. We have a long road ahead for sure (I'll explain in a bit) but for now (and hopefully forever) autism is off the mother effing table!!!! At least for the next year to eighteen months. If you could only see my enormous and ridiculous grin. It hurts my face. When I talked with her over the phone she indicated that she didn't get "an autism feel" from Mr. Pants. And that in her opinion, Mr Pants has a severe speech and language disorder that is affecting his congnitive development. She acknowledged his sensory issues and believe they are playing into it as well. And his repetitive behaviors put him at risk for OCD. All of those together, she believes, are creating the other behaviors that are presenting concerns similair to kids on the autism spectrum. Two things are keeping him from receiving a diagnosis of autism. Those two things are eye contact and reciprocal social behaviors (ie: he totally shows love, gives love and desires love. And all of those other emotions too like happiness, sadness, anger and excitement). He tested within the spectrum for three of the five catagories but WAY off the spectrum for those two and because they need to be on the spectrum for all five catagories, autism has been ruled out. For now. The year between two and three is critical though and we will need to be mindful of his progress and skill aquisition. We need to be sure he isn't losing skills after he masters them. That would be bad and we would need to have him re-evaulated sooner should that happen. BUT (and it's an enormous BUT), Doc doesn't think that will be an issue with him. She really doesn't. And oh my good gravy it is making me insane with excitement! See my biggest fear for my baby boy was that he would be ostracized by his peers for being unable to connect socially. That he would be treated differently. Cruelly. For something that he could not help or understand. And while I know this could always still happen, I am so effing grateful that it won't be because he can not make friends. And that if it does happen to him, he will be able to communicate his feelings and accept support and help. He doesn't have to be popular or even involved in school activities. That stuff will never matter to me. My wish for him is that he will be able to grow a relationship with his baby sister, make a friend at school and someday find an emotional connection in a partnership with whomever he loves. And oh boy, the tears are flowing as I write this. All signs point to he will be able to (HELL YES!). I'm a happy mess.
So now we have to ramp up the therapy. It's time to kick it up several notches. He is communicating below the first percentile for kids his age. And that's just about as bad as it can get for a kid without autism. We need to help his growing brain make more connections and keep them and place all of our efforts on developing his expressive and receptive communcation. And this doesn't mean just words or speaking English. This means all of the facets of communication. Speaking, relaying ideas, understanding concepts, distinguishing between objects and understanding nuance. We have some work to do! Hopefully as his ability to communicate grows, his stress responses (the OCD stuff: opening & closing, tuning out, patterns etc) will diminish. Fingers crossed. He seems to be dealing very well with his vestibular and other sensory issues (but I totally knew that). Something that stood out is that they believe that his vision is affected somehow. So that's on the list of things to get evaluated now too. Wouldn't I feel like an asshat if he's needed glasses this whole time? Aaaaaand, my brain hurts. It's a lot to take in, because my mama heart stops at "not autism" and swoons. But we have work to do. And I have no doubt that Mr. Pants is up for this challange. And his mama and daddy will be right there cheering him on. But for today and the next few days, I'm just gonna play and snuggle with my boy. Who I am so proud of. And it never mattered what was coming in the report, no amount of anything was gonna change that.
Since we began this journey that lil dude is on, I have received so many contacts and messages of encouragement . So I want to thank everyone who is rooting for my boy. Thank you so so so much. He is a wild little guy who is funny and exceptional. And it makes my heart swoon that others see his light too.
I am pretty new to the blogosphere and I am certainly super green. I have no idea what I'm doing sometimes even. Really, I don't. But I have always loved to write. For years and years I didn't write a thing. Then in 2010, my friend died and I wrote a eulogy for him. It opened a door in my heart that had long been closed. I was able to say how deeply I loved him and in doing that, it helped. I take it out sometimes and read it when I am missing him. It still helps. It was this experience that made me want to write again. But I had no idea how. So I tabled it. Again. Then one day while chatting with some online mamas, I casually mentioned that I had been working on a blog and was trying to get brave enough to launch it. My friend Kelly was right there to cheer me on and she invited me to read her blog, Excitement on the Side. I read a few posts and was completely hooked. She was so candid. So open. So friggin funny. And her potty mouth rivaled mine (scratch that, hers is better). But trucker mouth aside, she has a nack for beautifully putting into words experiences we have as human beings that are uncomfortable while at the same time, cracking me up challanging herself to a day of complimenting her co-workers as she works to complete the challanges in This Book Will Change Your Life (she has promised to finish, even if it takes her twenty years). She lets you right on in to her heart, writing letters to her rock star little girl, Emily, every year for her birthday . With Emily, her new super cool husband (MQD) and a little baby on the way, she is living a life that she fought incredibly hard for. She is real. She is unique. But she is also just like any other woman that has hit road blocks and detours on the path to finding love, peace and the comfort that comes in deciding not to be afraid to live. I love that about her. I have learned so much from her. But it was this post about her grandpa and this one about not being a single mom anymore that touched my heart and made her so much more real to me. I don't know if I ever told her that. So seriously, go read her and get sucked into her world like I do. Find her on Facebook and give her a like. You will not be sorry. Because in addition to her story, you are sure to stumble on some amazing pictures of her dressed as a clown or showing off her shoes or ziplining. And that's awesome.
Thank you Kelly. Thank you for encouraging me to write. I am so very grateful to you for that. You are an insperation to me ,as a friend, a mom and as a collector of costuming. I hope that you know that. And if you didn't, then now you do. And now everyone else does too. xo.
Don't bother trying to quietly do the dishes so your two year old won't hear you. It's a really stupid idea. Because there is no such thing as quietly doing the dishes and two year olds have preternatural hearing. You end up doing one dish at a time and walking back and forth like , "Who? Me? I wasn't doing the dishes". I mean, it was actually louder than when you just do the dishes like normal. And it took seven hours. And crushed his little dreams. So next time just throw down some damn towels and let the poor boy help you. Let's not be ridiculous.
Now we all know that I am a hippie. I discovered this over the summer after hippie camp. In a moment of clarity it washed over me that I had been deluding myself for years that I was not, in fact, a hippie. Turns out, I am indeed. So, you probably assume I am a cosleeper. BUT I have a lot of non hippie friends (ie: friends who are most definitely not hippies) who co-sleep with their babes. So, um, yeah. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, I received some emails about cosleeping after I wrote a bit about it. So I thought I'd write some more about it.
Now co-sleeping or bed sharing is most definitely not for everyone. Some parents dig it. Some parents don't. There are babies that do better in cribs or prefer the no contact sleep. There are some babies born with velcro on their bellies (Oh hello, Miss Plum!). And every kind of baby in between. For us, it started out as survival. Plain and simple. Mr. Pants was my first baby and I had planned on having him in a basinet in the room with me for the first three months and then moving him into his own crib, in his own room. That's the way I had seen it done in many many families and it worked for them. So I didn't think about it much. But then, Mr. Pants comes along and everything I thought that I thought was blown out of the water.
It didn't matter where he slept, he only slept for forty five minutes to an hour. Like ever. In the bassinet, in the cosleeper in the bed, in the crib for naptime, in the bouncer, stroller and even the floor. There was no difference where you put him. He had a limit. And when time was up, so was he. So he never left the cosleeper in our bed (until he outgrew it and then was just in the bed). I tried bringing the crib in our room. Then I sidecarred it. Then one day after about six or so months of trying this and that and everything else, I was all, "what am I doing? Just let it be and quit worrying about it" and the rest is history.
We are a cosleeping family. We have no magic sleep solutions or dillusions that we are doing things any better than anyone else. We are just doing what works for us. And it does work for us. Take Mr. Pants, a nursing baby who woke up to nurse all. night. long. or woke in a panic (for reasons that we now understand) and needed to float around in some water to calm down when nursing didn't work. Now take me, the nursing mama, who also had a full time job outside the home. Let's just say that most days I looked like a train hit me and then backed up and hit me again, then the engineer jumped out and dumped a bucket of homely all over me and made me wear yoga pants. Seriously, I was tired. So cosleeping/bedsharing saved me a bit. Half of the time I could just stay laying down and nurse him back to sleep, never getting out of bed. And that was the clincher for me. It's what we became familiar with. So when Plum arrived, we never even set up the crib. I just pulled the cosleeper out of the closet, washed it up and placed in the bed. Done and done.
People say weird things to us when it comes up like "Oh you poor thing!" Hmm, I wasn't complaining about it. You asked me how the kids slept, I told you. I'm not a poor thing, it's cool. For realz. My personal favorite comment came from a pediatrician when Mr. Pants was about 12 months old. She asked where he slept at night and I told her. She looked at me like I was an alien and immediately turned her face away. "Well, at least he's old enough and big enough to defend himself now", she said.
Now, if you know me at all, you will be super impressed with my self control at that point. I gave her a dismissive laugh, as if to say "Oh, you! Silly doctor!" and then said something like "he's perfectly fine and safe". But what I wanted to say was, "Who in the mother hell do you think you are doctor? Shut your stupid face!". When I told Daddy her comment he responded, "Defend himself from what? Gremlins? Dream Ninjas?". I love Daddy Pants. Sigh. But I digress. She was appalled, is the point. It was all over her face. I thought that was weird.
Growing up I had a bajillion cousins. A few of which regularly slept in the same bed as their moms and dads. Some of the best memories I have about sleep during my childhood are when my mama would snuggle in bed with me when I was scared of a storm or not feeling well. I felt safe and I felt warmth and love. Such a great feeling. I knew that if I needed to, it was ok to go get in mama's bed. And as I grew, the need got less and less and I was very happy to sleep on my own.
If I had to guess, I'd say the 100% of families have coslept. At least once. Nights when the kids come into the room afraid from a storm or a bad dream. Nights when your little one is sick and sad and needs mama or daddy to hold them. Comfort them. Have you ever thrown open the covers as an invitation to a little voice at the door at 3 am? Have you ever said, "come here, baby girl" in response to the tap on your shoulder? Then you have coslept. Bed shared, even. The only difference for us is that we do this nightly for the first few years. And we don't mind it. The day is coming when our kids want nothing to do with us (little ingrates!). So I am definitely enjoying this time when they actually want to be close. Because I have a feeling that the pulling away when I try and give them a hug before their first day of school, or the looming "Mooooooom. You're embarrassing me", is closer than I will ever be comfortable with. So tonight, I will snuggle my littles, while they are still letting me. Because everyday brings us closer to handing them the keys to the car. And oh man, I'm having heart palpatations just thinking about that.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph (sorry mom)!! I am so mad right now I could spit nails! I am having a full blown hissy fit and want to break something. Meanwhile Mr. Pants is decorating my living room with toilet paper and I don't even care. On Monday, the receptionist -> for the doctor -> who needs to talk to me -> before I can get the report -> about whether or not my kid has autism, called me. She asked me what times yesterday and today would work to receive a call from the doctor. I told her. She told me what times the doctor had booked up and to not expect a call but to remain ready all other times. Guess what? No call. Nope. Not even from the receptionist saying that something came up and they needed to call me another time this week. Nothing. So I just want to say out loud. F&%#!!! I carried my phone with me every single second for two days. Waiting. Does Dr. I'm Rude realize that carrying a cell phone with the ringer on into the bedroom to nurse your baby sleep is dangerous? Or has she considered just for one minute that maybe JUST maybe I have been patiently waiting (which I hate to do) and torn up inside wondering what the hell is wrong with my son? I mean, she has to understand that right? That every single day, I go back and forth a million effing times. He has it. He doesn't. He's acting bizzaro. He's perfectly normal. At the end of everyday I force myself to say out loud, "He is going to be ok" in the hopes that I will eventually convince myself enough to stop waivering. I do believe it. Usually. But I work very very hard to hold that line while the voices in my head try very very hard to muss it. And it doesn't help when you say you will call and you don't. Because if you had called, I could have told you that some things are getting really hard for us. That he is lining things up and grouping and spinning more. That is tantrums have become really difficult for me to physically handle. And I have no choice but to try or he hurts himself or his sister. I took his skull to the bridge of my nose yesterday and saw stars. My two year almost broke my nose. And it didn't phase him. Not one bit. I need to tell you this stuff Dr. I Won't Call You Back. Because the last MONTH since we saw you guys has been a rollercoaster. And I need to know what is typical and what is not. I need to talk to someone who knows what you know. I don't begrudge you your honeymoon or even the extended time it is taking to get me a report/the answers that were promised to me weeks ago. What I do wish though is that you would call me. Like you said you would.
As I crazily typed this, Mr. Pants came over to see what all the fuss was about and diffused me in about 15 seconds. So I turned my phone on and got a little bit of it. Thanks little dude. You read your mama like a book. Which, incidentally, is not a characteristic of autism. <- see what I did there?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Once upon a time there was an 18 year old girl named Sarah*.
She was talented and beautiful and in love. She'd just graduated from high school and was set to marry her sweetheart. The dreamy and mysterious Henry*. She loved music and acting and kids. She was the oldest of five so she knew a thing or two about taking care of little ones. She had a dream, like many kids, that she would marry and have babies and live a life in love with her people. What she didn't see coming was the nightmare.
See Henry was living a violent and terrible childhood and Sarah thought she could save him. Save him from the pain of his father's fist and the deep wounds of his mother's biting words. Sarah thought that if she could love Henry enough, he would be ok. But he wasn't ok. And for the next five years Sarah lived in a world of unimaginable pain. A world where the man she loved, wounded her both physically and emotionally.
Out of that five years came two little boys. They were Sarah's only solace. They were her perfect babies and she loved them fiercely. It wasn't lost on Sarah though that she was raising her babies in a world of fear and pain just as Henry had lived. But it wasn't very easy to just up and leave. In 1974 there were no shelters to go to or police to call. Well sure, she could call the police but they would tell Henry to take a walk and cool down and they'd leave. Leaving her there to endure the payment for having called them in the first place. So what could she do?
He'd tell her that he would kill her if she left him. He had a gun. She knew because he had placed it to her head before. He'd beaten her so severely before she thought she could die if he didn't stop. So what would keep him from killing her if she left him?
Not a damn thing.
So she stayed and she tried to keep him happy. Walking on thin cracked ice and trying not to fall through. Trying to obey his rules to the letter but the rules kept changing and she couldn't keep up. She watched at family gatherings as Henry's father berated, belittled and even still struck him, knowing that when they got home, she would pay for the shame that it brought him.
It was a terrifying life.
Then in the winter of 1975, pregnant with her third child, she had a moment. It was a very clear moment. She knew she had to try. To hear her tell it, the world fell away and there was a calm that washed over her. She knew that staying meant a life of violence for her and her children. She knew that eventually he would kill her and she knew what that would mean for her kids.
So she stood up. She left. She had nothing but her and her babies. She lived in fear of Henry for quite a while. She lived off government assistance and scraped and survived. And she stayed gone. And in the summer of 1975 she gave birth to her third baby. A girl. This was especially remarkable because for years Henry had bragged that he just didn't make girls. Girls were weak. He only made boys. Yet there she was. A pink and screaming baby girl.
Now, I know Sarah by another name. I call her mom.
Growing up, our family was never perfect but families never are. I will never forget the first time my mom told me her story. She was very brief and didn't give a lot of detail but because I was at the age where I started hearing things (read: eavesdropping) and asking questions, she had no choice but to give me a few answers. I am nothing if not persistent (read: horribly naggy til I find out what I think others are not telling me). I remember at first being a bit confused but that passed quickly and was replaced by awe. I was in awe of her. The self-esteem of young girls can be a fragile thing and at the time, mine was at an all-time low. So here was my mom telling me that she escaped this violence and kept us safe. My tween ears heard, "My mom's a badass!"
Today as an adult and mother to my own babes, I still think that. I remember after Mr. Pants was born I called my mom. All I said was "Mom, I get it. I get it"
Because of her bravery, I lived a life that was safe. So do Mr. Pants and Plum. And one further? Because of that clear moment when the world fell away for her and she stood up and took her life back, she gave me mine and made it possible for my babies to live in this world. Because of my mother's love, I am loving my babies. I'm starting to go down that Fate Train again, I know. But just thinking about the other side of this coin gives me shivers. Knowing that in that moment, my brave mom pointed me, yet unborn, in the direction of my loving husband and my children. What a gift. What an amazing moment. So I'd like to tell her that I love her. And that she is the bravest woman I know. And that it doesn't matter that we are imperfect. Because we are perfect for each other. I have to tell her she is amazing. I have to thank her a million more times. She stood up. And because she did, I am free too.
I love you mom.
If you or someone you know needs help. You can start here.
* Names have been changed
Mama: Zero, Mr. Pants: A Million. That's the scoreboard a dear friend presented me with recently when I told her about my day. It's funny how a perfectly good day can be swirled down the toilet by a suped up combo of tired, sick mama and a jazzed (super bizzaro jazzed), over stimulated, over tired Mr. Pants. The picture to your left is what happens. I didn't think to snap the pic until after I had cleaned up an entire roll of unrolled toilet paper (I think I should be proud of his first TPing experienece. Sigh.) My child had gone bonkers all. day. long. There was peeing into food (please let the thrill of this be replaced very soon by something less horrifying and vomit inducing), the eating of a refidgerator magnet (I'm not even kidding) and going into the fridge about 17,068 times on a seek and destroy mission. He ate ketchup straight from the bottle and ran laps through the house (Do I even need to tell you he was naked? You just assume that now, right?). He practiced an ancient form of Karate known only to him and tried to hurdle his sister everytime I wasn't looking (as a result, poor Miss Plum spends more than her fair share of time in the excersaucer safe zone. Bring on the Guilt Pie!) He threw the couch cushions off the couch and used them as his very own cushion swimming pool and he smeared peanut butter all over the windows. I'm am completely serious when I tell you that I found myself swaying with my eyes closed in the hall way. I was also humming. And gently tapping my knee into the wall rythmically. I know that I looked certifiable. Because at that moment in time, I was. Now you may be asking yourself, "Couldn't you stop him? What were you doing? Does he have ADHD?". To that I submit, "Um, no.", "Running interference and hoping for the best." and " No but I am starting to suspect he may be a two year old with sensory issues."
So after a long day of manimal-ing through his life he begins to saunter and hum (classic "I'm tired" cues from Mr. Pants) and falls asleep sitting up naked on the couch. For many reasons (the biggest of which being that I want him to still like me when he's old enough to read this himself), I can not post that picture. But I did get one of the ketchup debacle because eventually my best sanity keeping option is to snap pictures for evidence. It also helps to look back and see that while I may have been ready to run screaming from the house after duct taping my sweet angel to the floor, we lived through it to start over. And we always start over. Some days are good, some are bad and others are great, inspiring and straight up awesome. It's the latter that helps us get through the former. My parenting rule of thumb is that when we are in the muck and things look to be completely hopeless, they aren't. Eventually they change. You just have to ride it out. Stay calm, move forward. Ride it out. At some point everyone falls asleep. Because his battery must recharge. Eventually he will power down. No one (not even a sensory seeking two year old) can stay awake forever.
Let me tell you a funny little story about how I failed as a mother. It's been on my mind lately because I have been patting myself on the back too much. Every time I give myself props I think about the time I ran screaming from the house, leaving my helpless children inside. Yep. I totally did. I fell holding Mr. Pants the other day and protected him so well that only I got hurt (go me!). I overcame my fear of arachnids long enough to rescue both of my children from them several times in the last few weeks (Like really really GO ME!!). But I do not always come through for my kids. There are times when I absolutely fail. I was patting myself on the back like a snob when I was reminded of the day I left the loves of my life to the mercy of a ferocious skunk.
It was a beautiful summer morning and both babies were sleeping in like perfect little children. I got my morning coffee and took it to the deck to enjoy the sun. Leaving the sliding glass door open a bit so I could hear if they awoke, I sat down on a lawn chair to relax a bit and get ready for the day. A few minutes in to my relaxation, I heard a rustling next to me. I look to my right and standing RIGHT. FRIGGIN. NEXT. TO. ME. was a skunk. During the day! Stumbling around like he was on some kind of walk of shame after an all-night bender, this beast was looking right at me.
So now most mamas probably would have run into the house and closed the door. Me? I ran screaming into the yard. Away from the house. FAR away from the house. As I stopped and turned I saw the little effer standing right next to the OPEN door to my house with my sleeping babies inside.
I start to yell at it. Because maybe skunks can listen to reason? "Please don't go in my house. AHHHH!!!! PLEEEEASE!!!!"
It looks at me with a wondering look. I imagine it thought that the giant biped screaming at it was pretty damn scary and hindsight tells me that perhaps a calmer, quieter approach would have been best. But that skunk was flirting with the threshold of my house as if to say "keep it up crazy lady and I WILL run into this safe house to escape you".
So I stopped and started to whisper "please don't go into the house, please don't go into the house, please don't go into the house". I imagine it was a pretty awesome sight for the neighbors (who already cannot stand us). Me in my pj's and no bra, twitching and whispering to myself while clasping my hands together in some kind of plea, stomping the ground in what probably looked like a pee dance.
About this time is when the skunk changed the game and got brave. I'm sure he had sized me up for the wuss that I am and he decided that his best defense was to charge. So he did. Right toward me. Good grief this thing had balls. I scream and start jumping up and down. He is startled long enough to stop in his tracks (and I suspect this is when he peed out of his butt a little, you know it's pretty obvious when they do that). And he darts to the right near the bush but not far enough to create a safe and assured distance between us to allow me back in my house.
We begin a dance. A heart pounding, sweat inducing, locked eye contact, insano dance. He'd move a few feet, then me.Then him. Then me. My ingenious idea to toss a branch and get him to run was the dumbest shit I have ever done. He did not go for it and butt peed some more. I spent the next five minutes (five years?) dancing with this crazed woodland creature. Until finally he was far enough away from the house for me to make a break for it. I Chariots of Fire-ed that run. Yes I did.
Back in the house I collapse exhausted on the floor (my children come by their drama honestly). I am safe! The babies are safe! I have WON! As I regain my composure, Mr. Pants walks out from his room. I imagine what might have happened had the skunk made it into the house and he came face to face with it. "Ooh look at the pretty baby kitty!" Good Lord. Thank God that the skunk's instincts to live (and perhaps find his home after a night of wild berry eating?) were on point. Because my motherly instinct to protect my children had not had their morning coffee yet. Coming down from the trauma (let me have my drama), it occurred to me that this ferocious animal was actually the teeniest little skunky I have ever seen. If I had to guess, I'd say he was a teenager skunk at the most. Maybe four pounds total? And as the shame washed over me, I tiptoed out to the deck to retrieve my abandoned coffee.