Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Momma. Love, Audrey.

My favorite birthday gift...

The Ultimate Super Duper Quadruple Special Dispensation to the Power of Infinity...

...that's what you get if you have multiple children with special needs. 

I had to share a response that I received to my last post from the mother of Audrey's most beloved classmate, Grace Anne:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, for expressing my sentiments so well. UUHHG! Bus company staff! WHERE DO THEY FIND THESE PEOPLE? I have to send my kids off in the morning in two different directions to two different Autism Schools. Although there are many things I hate about that statement, I really HATE that their commute is an hour, and that that hour (10 hours a week per kid, mind you) is spent with strangers, some stranger than others! We had a transportation aide who was clearly a crack addict(which is what I call anyone who is over-medicated with pain killers and then goes to work with children as if they were stocking canned pears at Jewel.) Then, there was the bus staff who would ask Grace Anne to dance, and take pictures of her with her cell phone! (I searched for it on You-Tube every night!) And according to her teacher, that same bus driver dropped off a box of Maxim magazines to "donate" to the school. That's messed up. Finally, there was the driver who would lay on her horn as soon as she pulled up to my house at 8am. As if the cavalry of short yellow buses didn't draw enough attention to our house in the morning.
So in each of these cases, I called the bus company and told them that the staff that was transporting my child was not an appropriate role model for my child and I would be driving them to school until they could find a suitable replacement. Adding that after one week, I will be formally requesting mileage reimbursement. Got the school to corroborate by reporting any inappropriate behavior they witnessed IN WRITING, and they were replaced immediately! Some of these drivers/aides are the people that later, in the distant future, we will NOT be surprised to find out that they are not from here. And when I say HERE, or course, I mean Earth.
Thanks for the daily dose of validation that "it's not me, it's everyone else."

Another member of the Autism Army, fighting tooth and nail for her kids every single day.  Thanks Aimee!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Special Dispensation

A few weeks ago I posted about Audrey's new school transportation situation.  Her new driver refused to take my advice about a better route that I knew could significantly trim her nearly one-hour commute, and eventually I had to escalate the issue to her manager.

The day after I spoke to the manager, Audrey did indeed arrive home earlier.  But now I had to deal with the attitude of the driver, who was clearly pissed off that I had gone over her head.  She was seriously obnoxious and came at me with, "Well, today wasn't a good example because it's their early day.  And we're only 5 minutes earlier anyway.  Just 5 minutes!  5 minutes!"  She was still yelling "5 minutes!" out of her window and madly gesticulating at me with her outstretched digits as I skedaddled it into the house. 

I was a little rattled from the confrontation, but after a few minutes are started getting really angry.  What kind of a person would do such a thing?  This person is clearly aware that I have a child with special needs.  She knows that Audrey has autism.  Did it ever cross her mind that maybe she should perhaps CLIMB OFF MY FUCKING ASS BECAUSE I'VE ALREADY GOT ENOUGH STRESS IN MY FUCKING LIFE WITHOUT GETTING YELLED AT BY A FUCKING BUS DRIVER, YOU SOUL-LESS HEARTLESS SPAWN OF SATAN?????

Do you ever feel like that?  No?  Just me?  OK.  Never mind. 

Maybe it makes me a primadonna, but sometimes I feel that we special needs parents should get special dispensation from some of the douchebaggery out there.  It's one thing to get randomly flipped off while I'm driving -- that person couldn't possibly know that I am a special needs parent and clearly just likes to crap on all of his fellow citizens with impunity.  But it's another thing to know about my situation and still do so.

How far should we take this special dispensation?  Well, I've never gotten pulled over for speeding while Audrey was in the car with me, but if I ever did I picture me pointing into the backseat and saying "SHE'S AUTISTIC!" and getting off immediately.  Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  C'mon, throw me a frickin' bone people.

I know one time for sure that I will be throwing down the big Autism Card and HARD...if I ever get audited by the IRS.  Can you say "medical expense deduction"?  It's not hard for us to get over the whatever-the-hell percent over that whoozie-whatzie income number, and once we do, I load that pig up with everything I've got.  You want to argue with me, bean-counter boy?  You want to take on the mother of an autistic child who we pour all of our income into for therapies that our insurance won't cover?  I will fuck you up.

I'm going to jail, aren't I?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Hokey Poke-Me-In-The-Eye

Audrey has trouble getting her body to do what she wants it to do sometimes.  For the 99.9% of the time, when she's only asking her body to do the basics -- walk, run, jump, climb stairs -- it's all good.  But then an occupational therapist will ask her to do some random thing, or a really lame children's band will play The Hokey Pokey, and suddenly her motor planning deficits are shockingly apparent.

Here's Audrey giving The Hokey Pokey a go.  She's completely befuddled by the "left hip" and  "backside" (although this video proves that she can indeed find her ass with both hands), has more success with "head" and I gave up the ghost at "whole self".

At least she's got the "turn yourself around" part down.  Hopefully there won't be too many other instances in Audrey's life where she is asked to "put her backside in and shake it all around". 

That's always my "talk me down from the ledge" rationale when I start getting bummed about her lack of coordination -- I've already given up the dream of her becoming a great athlete, so who cares if she can't dance The Hokey Pokey or ride a bike or catch a ball.  But I know that practicing such things is really good for her brain, and that she really should work on them.  Her OT will try to get her to do these weirdo exercises that again she may never be called upon to do, but the fact is that she just should be able to do them.

One of them was lifting up one knee and touching it with her opposite hand.  Simple, right?  Even the old ladies in the Golden Years aerobics classes can bust that move.  But those cross-body moves are really difficult for Audrey and she kept touching her knee with the hand from the same side.  So we practiced and practiced until she was able to get it.  The OT also had her do the classic DUI move of stretching her arms out and touching her fingers to her nose.  She did it no problem on the first try.  Lucky that the OT demonstrated that move because momma may not have passed.   Then the OT asked her to close her eyes and do the same thing.  Oops...doh...not there...ouch...that was your eye...OK, now she's peeking...try again...a little to the right.  Geez.  And I was counting on her to drive home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dancin' in the Park: We Like Chips With Our Shake

Every Tuesday night during the summer, our little town has concerts in the park.  Last week, a children's band was featured, and since we hadn't been to one this season I thought that this would be the one to check out. 

Well, they were kinda terrible.  Audrey loves music and loves to dance, but this band was constantly stopping the music asking for audience participation.  I swear we were listening to them scream annoying questions at the audience more than we were hearing music.

"March march march march march, marching like a........?  C'mon!  Just yell it out!  Let's hear ya!  It could be anything!  Like a chicken!  Or a horse!  Or a soldier!"

I felt like a drunk in the lawn seats at Alpine Valley, "Shut up and plaayyyyyyyy!" 

The special needs arm of our park district takes a group of disabled adults to these concerts, and we always sit by our peeps for the show.  We like to be amongst our own and sometimes we even know some of the aids.  Anyway, no matter what the question, one of the guys behind us would repeatedly yell out at the top of his lungs, "BAG OF POTATO CHIPS!".  Which I thought was the most awesome thing because the singer did not know what to do with this. 

They started singing "The Wheels on the Bus":
"Who else is on the bus?  C'mon!"

I wanted to yell out "Free Bird", but I knew that they'd just take it as a suggestion.  "The free bird on the bus goes tweet, tweet, tweet, all through the town."  So I jumped on the potato chip bandwagon.

We love our peeps. 

Coming tomorrow, Part II:   The Hokey Pokey, the ultimate party song or a kid-with-no-body-awareness' worst nightmare?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meet the Therapists: Raven

Raven is another therapist on our home ABA team along with Lauren.  She has also been with us for the duration of our just over two year old program.  Unlike Lauren, who our consultant brought to the team, Raven came to us via a craigslist ad.  That's right, when it came to curing my daughter's autism I turned to the same place that I do to bogart free moving boxes.  Only the best for my gal!

Raven wrote me a very nice long email in response to my ad.  She had a wealth of experience with autism, and I was psyched to bring a little diversity to the team.  Because of course I assumed that Raven would look something like this:

Well, not exactly like that.  C'mon, give me some credit.  I thought she would look like this: 

So imagine my surprise when Raven showed up for an interview looking like this: 

What?  I'd been had!  What kind of a person is named Raven and is NOT African-American?  I felt like Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld when she found out that Donna Chang wasn't Chinese. 

Turns out that Raven was born around Halloween and has some kind of a Wiccan priestess for a mother...she has a sister named Pagen, which is pronounced "pagan".  Contrary to what this upbringing might indicate, Raven is a Christian, church-going gal just like Lauren.  She has nephews on the autism spectrum, has worked an overnight shift in a group home, and teaches 8th graders.  So I caved in to The Man and hired the honky.  And despite her race, Raven has been a great asset to our team.  With her resume, suffice to say that there is nothing that Audrey could ever do to shock her.

And when Audrey's new transportation service started in June and they told me that there would be an aid in the van named Ebony...well, I just couldn't assume anymore, could I?  I told Raven that maybe she wasn't alone in the white-woman-with-a-black-name world.  After I met Ebony for the first time, I couldn't wait to grab my cell phone and text Raven. 

"Nope.  Still just you."

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Guest in the House of Hoot

Today, I have my first guest-blogging gig over at the fabulous Susie's Motherhoot.  Please click on over there
and check it out!

I'm blogging about that little widget that you can see over to right asking people to vote for Audrey's school for autistic children.  They have a chance to win $50,000 through the Pepsi Refresh Project.  When I wrote the post for Susie, her school was in 132nd place.  As of this morning, they've moved up a bit.  Anyhoo, go check out the post in which I size up our competition.

For those of you who may be visiting from CEP, I hope that you will stay a while and take a look around.  If you are so inclined, I would love it if you could give me either a Google or Facebook follow.  You can do so down and to the right...

I don't write too much about school, and the few times that I have, I always change the kids' names.  Here's a post about Audrey's homage to one of her therapists during Staff Appreciation Week.  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Miss Betty's Kitchen

Audrey's latest YouTube obsession is a strange one.  We've gone from every single version of "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "Five Little Ducks" (the Japanese ones are my favorite) to cooking shows.  Her favorite is Betty's Kitchen.  Miss Betty is a southern belle with a honey-dripping accent who whips up dishes for church potlucks and her grandson Carter. 
Audrey likes to watch the ones where Betty is making White Chocolate Blondies and Skillet Fudge, but her all-time favorite is the Friendship Fruit Dip recipe (not to be confused with the Quickie Fruit Dip recipe).  I think both Audrey and I know that one by heart.  See the 2,115 views?  Audrey can claim at least half of those.  Somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, Betty is wondering who her new fan is that can't get enough fruit dip.

Betty has a firm grasp of the obvious...
"I'm using reconstituted lemon juice, but if I had fresh lemons I would squeeze some of that in here."
"I used a knife to cut the brownies into a grid shape."
 ...I don't know if it's that or the accent, but she is strangely soothing to the point of being almost hypnotizing. 

Whenever Audrey watches something this many times, you can set your watch to when she'll start working some of the lines into her "conversations".  So here she was this morning, my hand to God, making just like Miss Betty:
"Welcome to Audrey's kitchen.  Today we're making cereal.  You poooooouuuuurrrrr the milk into the bowl.  Then we're going to add cereal."
Next time, I'll try to catch it on video so that I can post it to YouTube and give Miss Betty a run for her money.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pass the Pinot #5: Children's Birthday Parties

Here's one that I think a lot of people can agree on:  the horrors of the children's birthday party.  For the first few years there is the family version, which always reminds me of the old Seinfeld joke about how your first and last birthday parties are basically the same, "These are your friends!"  

Everyone claims to hate these parties, but, let's face it, for typical parents what's the worse case scenario?  Some forced merriment with a hated sister-in-law?  A migraine headache and a couple of sugar-buzzed kids?

For parents of a special needs child, it can be one of the more depressing opportunities to see your child falling short of their peers.  Especially if the party is for a child that is the same age as your special needs child, or, worse yet, younger.  You get to hang out with all of the mothers who were pregnant at the same time as you, but somehow managed to grunt out a "normal" kid.  While their kids are off organizing a pickup game of Kick the Can and making new friends left and right, your kid is off playing with the 9-month old sister's baby toys.  You drive yourself crazy trying to corral them into playing the party games, but they are completely uninterested and your attempts to get them involved only make their deficits more obvious to everyone.

To make matters worse, I've recently discovered that once kids hit kindergarten and start throwing the school-friend parties, parents don't stick around at all.  They drop their kids off at the birthday boy or girl's house, Chuck E Cheese, a jumpy house place, a pool, Pedophile Lonnie's House of Caves...they don't care, as long as they get a couple of hours to themselves. 

The birthday celebrant brings a stack of invitations to school and passes one out to every kid in class.  Something tells me that the parents hosting the party aren't bargaining on you dropping off your autistic child.  Can you imagine?  "Good luck!  See you in two!"

The first typical kids birthday party that Audrey was invited to was her friend Renee's, who is one of a few typically-developing peers that we have over for therapist-supervised playdates to help Audrey with her social and play skills.  Renee had her party at a place that was sort of like Build-A-Bear, but better because you got to stuff the bear with candy.  Even though I was the only parent that stayed for the party, it was a completely comfortable situation because the family knows Audrey well and they are wonderful and gracious and completely understanding of her disability.  Audrey didn't understand the games very well, and I had to constantly run interference between her and the cake.  If I took my eyes off of her for a second, she would have been face-down and ears-deep in it with a plastic princess lodged in one nostril.

After the party, Renee sent out photo thank-you cards.  Here's a fun game...see if you can pick out the autistic kid!

It was only her first one.  She'll get better at it.  Please God, let her get better at it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Carnival of Sorts

This past weekend was our little burg's summer carnival.  We used to have a pretty big, city-sponsored event, but even Downers Grove is broke so it was cancelled.  The Rotary Club stepped in to sponsor a much smaller, scaled-back "festival" that consisted of a handful of rides and some food trailers.  Our old fest used to get bands like Foghat and Molly Hatchet.  Hey, at least I've heard of them.  The new fest's headliner was a U2 cover band.  It doesn't count if you've only heard of the band that they're covering. 

Because the Rotarians were running the show, the row of card tables that you had to pass to get to the rides was dominated by more conservative organizations than before.  There were church preschools and Gideons handing out Bibles.  One woman thrust a pamphlet at me and asked if I was interested in Christian counseling.  Was it the bald spots or the shoulder twitch that gave me away? 
Funnel cake or curly fries: WWJD?

It was hotter 'n balls out.   They had misters to cool you down, and as soon Audrey realized that they had a function other than to visually stim on it was hard to tear her away.  But tear her away I had to because I had made the unfortunate mistake of purchasing a $25 sheet of tickets not realizing that we were going to have had our fill after about 15 minutes.  So I had to force Audrey to go on rides.  Just as an aside, what is it about those sheets of tickets that makes you forget how to do basic math?  It's 3 tickets to ride the ferris wheel, and you think "Well, gee, that seems reasonable."  Meanwhile, you've gotten 22 tickets for $25, and even if you can't figure that out to the penny, you know that it's more than a buck a ticket.  The two of us riding the ferris wheel twice came to $13.64.  Oh well, it was the only breeze to be had so it might have been worth it.

Audrey prostrate on a flying elephant

We used all but 3 tickets.  I'll keep those for my scrapbook, along with my New Testaments and family therapy brochure.  You never know when I might need them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sexy in 6x

So my bloggy friend Susie over at Motherhoot wrote a great post last week about how girls today dress like hootchies.  Susie has three sons -- 17 year old twins and an 11 year old -- and is obviously concerned that slutty girls will be all there is for them to choose from.  I'm not sure that they share her concern, but that's another story.  Susie puts the responsibility for this on the mothers of these daughters who allow them to leave the house looking like Times Square hookers, and I don't disagree.

I'm here to tell you that this phenomenon starts much earlier than high school or junior high.  Or even 2nd grade.  As soon as Audrey grew out of toddler size clothes and into 6x it became much more difficult to find her cute, little-girlish clothes.  All of a sudden everything seemed to have metallic patches, glitter thread, rhinestone studs, or Hannah Montana's likeness on it.  I should qualify all of this by saying that it's difficult to find cute girls clothes on the cheap, e.g.: at Kohl's and Target where I was used to shopping for her.  If I was willing to spend the money for Lands End or Mini-Boden or Hanna Andersson, she could look like Violet Affleck.  But I'm not, so she doesn't.

One of our bigger issues is shoes.  Audrey didn't walk until she was almost 2, and still has poor gross motor skills.  Which is fancy talk for being clumsy and uncoordinated.  She needs a lot of stability in her shoes, and can't manage anything like flip-flops or clogs.  And once your feet grow past size 10, the shoes become increasingly backless and heeled.  Meaning that you can't get these anymore...
 Just these... 


Audrey could never manage those ^ , let alone these...
Yes, these are for realsies.  Girls shoes sold by Target, starting in size 12 which is Audrey's current size.  Audrey would break an ankle, at minimum, before walking 5 steps in these.  Since her legs have the circumference of a 9-iron, she would probably break a lot more.  But even if she could walk in these without risking traction, I would never buy them.  They're ugly and completely age-inappropriate.  Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to Lohans.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meet Lauren

I've mentioned Lauren a lot on my blog.  She is a member of Audrey's home ABA therapy team and has been working with Audrey for over 2 years now.  She has been Audrey's aid for her ballet lessons, summer camp, and is her favorite texting partner.

Here's everything that you need to know about Lauren:

When I put my fake-my-own-death plan into motion, she will be the one finding Audrey on her doorstep in a 4-ft long Moses basket since I missed my window to drop her off at the fire station by 6 years, 2 months, and 12 days.

She does this crazy hard smile and head tilt thing (see it's right there ^) in every photo of her that is so cheesy even Audrey mocks it.

Audrey mocking Lauren in a jumpy house

Audrey mocking Lauren in the ER

Lauren is a good, church-going Christian who has refused to come over to the dark side even after listening to my profanity-laced gossip and even after I forced her to pull Sunday morning therapy sessions for 2 years.

She and her 3 sisters are X-treme Couponers.  You know, those ones that you've seen on the news that check out with 3 cartloads of groceries and somehow the store owes them money.  Lauren gets up at 2:00am every year to shop on Black Friday.  I stay in bed and give her my shopping list.

For Audrey's 5th birthday, I wasn't in the mood for a party so Lauren organized one for Audrey and two typically-developing peers that we have regular playdates with.
 Gift bags and mountains of stuff to fill them with courtesy of Lauren

Lauren comes from a great family who were amongst the earliest followers of this blog.  To this day, there are more members of her family than mine who follow.  God, my family sucks.  Her boyfriend Joe's porn name is Bear Cumnor.  He's not really a porn star, I just mean the pet/street thing.  I know, enough already.  But that is a pretty good one.

OK, so that's probably not everything...I'm sure that I'm forgetting a lot.  The most important thing is that I'm so glad that she is in our life and a part of our family, and that I wasn't deterred all those many moons ago by the stoner-sounding out-going message on her cell phone and the fact that she didn't call me back for like 2 weeks (but really...what the hell?).  Audrey adores her like the sibling that she will never have and the spare mother that she needs when her real one won't come out from under the porch.  Thanks for everything Lauren!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Pirouette, A Plie, and a Dollop of a Frallop

Is there anywhere that Audrey will not bust out her ballet moves? No there is not. 

Audrey likes to prance, and her style is so special that I've invented a new word for it. She frallops, which is a cross between a frolic and a gallop. Sometimes she does it in place and it looks a little bit like the old "running man" dance. Hammer time! Unfortunately, I've not been able to capture that on video. Whenever I try to, she stops dancing and runs at me like Sean Penn at the paparazzi. It's almost as if she thinks that I'm going to embarrass her by posting the video of her on the internet for the whole world to see.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Survivor: Downers Grove

So I learned both from a local Yahoo group and my bloggy friend j* at Teaching the Boy, that the folks at Hopeful Parents were soliciting applications for a special needs family to star in their own reality TV show.  The show is meant to raise awareness of special needs children and the challenges that their parents face on a daily basis.

The website laid out some of the requirements: 
We will consider families who can show a core stability and I can stop reading right now. 
OK, OK, I'll let you read the rest:
who would be capable of having camera crews of three to four people in their home for two to three days at a stretch, who are articulate and well-studied in their child's disorders, and who exhibit forceful personalities in finding solutions.

OK, so no on the core stability. 

Camera crews:  Do I have to feed them, or will there be Kraft Services?  If it's the latter, can I eat off of the Kraft Services table?  Will they be using our bathrooms or will there be Porta Potties set up in the backyard?  If it's the latter, can I use the Porta Potties?

Articulate and well-studied in their child's disorders:  I'm the longshoreman of special needs parents.  I'm fluent in profanity and all of my knowledge comes from on-the-job-training.  Now fuck off.

Forceful personalities in finding solutions:  Are two out of those five words enough?

The tribal council ceremonies would get pretty redundant as we would each vote ourselves off of the island week after week.  And then there would be the gut-wrenching scene when we are told that this show doesn't work that way and we all have to stay.

Anyway, I've missed my chance, because the window for submissions is now closed.  According to the website, they were "inundated with responses".  I hope that all goes well for the lucky winners.  I promise to be on the front lines wearing my FREE (TBD) t-shirt when the DCFS hauls the poor mother away.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Audrey's Kisses

So a while back when I was tagged for a meme (still not sure), I brought up the old game where you take your childhood pet's name and street that you grew up on to come up with your porn name.  And some of you out there really ought to consider a career change based on the names alone.

Anyway, I thought about what Audrey's name would be when she grows up and plays this game.  But because it would just be wrong to link Audrey and porn in the same thought, I'm going to instead call it her 1940's-film-noir-gangster-moll name.  Because that's really more what it sounds like.  She would talk in that clipped staccato way that they all do in those movies, see?  She'd be a hotsy-totsy dame hanging out at the gin mill with gams up to her neck, using obsolete words like...well, every word in this sentence.

"Swopey Redwing told me you been makin' time with that tramp Pixie Brewster."
"Don't flip your wig, doll.  They're all wet.  I only got eyes for you."
"Why don't you take a powder?  Kisses Rubino ain't nobody's fool!

HA!  Kisses Rubino.  That will be Audrey's pet/street name.  So awesome.  I'm going to get to work on the screenplay...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hot QOTD (Quote of the Day)

I was trying to get Audrey to dial the hysteria down a notch.  I believe she was objecting to the fact that her gluten-free waffle was Van's rather Nature's Path, proving that her sense of taste is as heightened as the rest of them.

Anyway, she came back at me with this: "I'm not yelling at you!  I'm yelling at the other drivers!"

Where does she get this stuff?  Forget about the headrest-mounted DVD players, the child-friendly feature that I'd like to see as standard in all cars are noise-cancelling headphones.  On the bright side, this is by far the least profane thing that she's repeated from our travels around town.  Ear muffs!

Is This the Happiest That I Will Be All Day?

Recently, there was a discussion on a blog forum that I belong to about why, if mothers love their kids so much, do they spend so much time blogging and on that very same discussion forum.  As you can imagine this generated some interesting debate. 

Along those same lines, a recent New York magazine had this tantalizing headline, "I Love My Children.  I Hate My Life."  Inside, the title of the article is "All Joy and No Fun:  Why Parents Hate Parenting".  It is a fascinating article, although kind of long, so I'll summarize here:
  • Study after study has shown that parents are not happy.  In one study, women ranked child care 16th in pleasurability out of 19 activities, with housework among the activities that ranked higher.  I don't think that blogging was amongst the 19 activities, but one would suppose that it would rank even higher. 
  • Parents get progressively unhappier with each additional child.  I was the 3rd child out of 4, so this explains a lot.
  • This phenomenon is a relatively recent one.  Parents were a lot happier when their children pulled in a paycheck.  Having your kids work a 14-hour shift down at the smelter was a two-fer:  it contributed to the household income and solved your daycare problems.
The article ends on a more uplifting note, so if you don't have time to read the whole thing and, even if you did, don't care to read about how horrible your life is (if you are single and/or childless, you will definitely want to read it in its entirety), just cut to the last page.  Here we learn that the word "happy" is the problem.  While our moment-to-moment happiness is in the crapper, we are rewarded with longer-term satisfaction and a lack of regret over not having children.  Moral:  if you can gut it out, it's going to look a whole lot better in your rear view mirror.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

iLove the iPhone

The iPhone and iPad have revolutionized the world of assisted technology for those with autism.  Non-verbal autistics can now communicate using iPhone/Pad applications.  So rather than paying up to $10,000 for an augmentative communication device, they can now get similar functionality with an iPhone and an app like proloquo2go (pictured) for a total cost of around $400. 

In addition to assisted communication, there are iPhone apps to support ABA therapy, writing your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP), and even one for those on a gluten-free diet that catalogs the menus of all major restaurant chains (I can save you the $3.99 for this app...the roast chicken with vegetables is the only GF thing on the menu).

The iPhone has certainly revolutionized my autistic daughter's life, but not because we've purchased any of the above apps.  No, we haven't purchased anything nearly that constructive, because we haven't made it past the games.  For those of you who don't know, children with autism have a difficult time line at a store checkout, for the food to come in a restaurant, in traffic to get to their destination.  That's where the iPhone comes in and why the games are far and away the most useful "autism" apps there are.  For just $.99 per game, I get complete peace of mind.  I no longer have to scan the checkout lines looking for the least stupid cashier and making sure that I don't get behind a senior citizen with a checkbook in hand.  Get a debit card already grandma!

The first game that I purchased for Audrey was a cupcake-making game.  First you pick out your cupcake liner, choose the batter, put it in the oven, set the timer, and then shake your iPhone to get them out of the tin.  Pretty cute.  Then you pick out your toppings and decorate.  Here's an example of a yummy one with candy shamrocks, chocolate bunnies, gummy bears, candy hearts, peppermints, gum drops, circus peanuts, kiwi, and bacon.
Then we discovered a pizza-making app...with the exact same topping selection. 
And with foil-covered soccer balls and gold coins! 
If  I count the candy shamrocks as a vegetable, all food groups are represented.  So besides getting us through great-grandma's 89th birthday dinner, Audrey is also learning all about good nutrition.  The obvious downside to these games is that you cannot eat your creation once it's done.  You can, however, email it.  Which has had the unfortunate consequence of Audrey thinking that she can now email any inanimate object and her saying things like "I want to email my bed to Lauren."  Still so worth it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Crazy Olympics

In one of my first posts back in April, I wrote about the constant drinking references in some popular parenting books like Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, et al.  Back in those olden days of  87 days ago, I was only checking out my library bookshelves and Amazon for evidence to support my theory that parents of typical children are "a bunch of drunken pussies", as I so eloquently put it back then.  Little did I know that I needn't have looked further than the blogosphere, where Vodkamom is one of the most popular mommy bloggers and the drinking references are as plentiful as the children's pseudonym "Peanut". 

But even more so than having a taste for the hooch, have you noticed the references to the crazy?  A significant portion of bloggers are zany, loony tunes, stark raving mad, insane, stressed-out, neurotic, obsessive, bonkers, drooling mad, bat-shit, nut jobbers.  It seems that if you are not running down your street screaming and naked with your hair on fire, you need not apply to be a mommy blogger. 

Our culture has done quite a 180 from the Diary of a Mad Housewife days when women would no sooner admit to lunacy than they would leave the house without lipstick on.  They quietly horked back their "mother's little helpers" and kept the crazy to themselves.  And while that was horribly unhealthy and sometimes even tragic, and it is generally a good thing that women today can freely cop to the stresses of motherhood, not every little thing that happens in the course of a day spent with a child can be technically classified as "crazy".  Like if something happens to 50% of mothers on a daily basis...guess what? Not that crazy. 

I'm a fine one to talk, you say?  After all, the crazy is right there in the name of my blog.  Unhinged.  Yeah, I see it.  What about it?  You wanna try to out-crazy a mother of child with autism.  Go ahead, make my day. 

Here's a little primer on the crazy arithmetic for you:
Your baby boy hosing you down during a diaper change = not crazy.
Our kids shoving their noses into our pits to get a deep whiff of BO in front of a God and country = crazy.

Your toddler having a tantrum in Target = happens 873 times per day in every Target on the face of the earth = completely unbonkers.
Us having to find a way to Target while making only left turns = nutty.

Your kid smearing themselves from head to toe with Go-gurt = quit trying to act like it's crazy because you know it's totally cute or you wouldn't have posted the picture.
Our kids smearing themselves from head to toe with shit = the least cute thing in the history of the world.

For those of you joining our blog in progress, I've written a few posts about the stresses of motherhood as documented in typical parenting books and added the special needs parenting perspective.  So far I've covered:
Unsolicited advice
Competition with other mothers

I'm going to be wrapping this exercise up with one more post about children's birthday parties, and then I'll rest my case and let the kangaroo court render their verdict.

Monday, July 5, 2010

All About the Benjamin

I was going to say that the 4th of July is a particularly difficult holiday to explain to Audrey, but aren't they all?  Leprechauns, skeletons, giant bunnies, elves, witches, ghosts, and a bearded fat man dressed like Huggy Bear.

And just when I thought that I wasn't going to have to explain a crazily-costumed character, here comes an old guy dressed in black buckled boots and a fancy waistcoat bringing up the rear of our town's parade that was not Santa Claus but a Benjamin Franklin impersonator.  I'm not even going to try to explain who he is.  I'll pretend like it's because Audrey wouldn't understand, but it's mainly because I don't remember much of my history.  Something about a kite and a key and a $100 bill.

I can only hope that American history becomes one of Audrey's obsessions someday, as it does for many autistic middle-schoolers that can list all of the presidents in order and recite the Declaration of Independence by heart, so that she can refresh my memory about what the fireworks and mattress sales are all about.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Directing Traffic

Audrey started her school's summer session on Monday, and even though it is the same school that she's been attending since last August, she was in for one big change.  And, no, it wasn't that she would smash her face in on her first day by falling off of a swing that was one foot off the ground.  She is being driven to school by a new transportation company.  Which is quite a big change for someone who hates change of any kind.  No more posh Lincoln Town Cars, no more suit-and-tie private drivers (that's right, no more Brian Da Limo Driver), and no more solo ride.

She now rides in a big white Suburban, with her driver Miss Greer, Miss Ebony the aid, and her old (pre-) school friend TJ who now attends the same school as Audrey. 

I was stressed about this change for weeks, mainly because on top of everything else there is horrendous construction on the route to school.  The school is almost 25 miles away, which is bad enough.  It's a straight shot up an expressway though, and the ride was just 30-35 minutes before the construction started.  Now it's a nightmare.  Brian always knew where all the bottlenecks were and how to get around them, but would the new driver?  Um, no.

We did a meet-and-greet the week before to prepare Audrey.  OK, me.  I started subtly (or maybe not) grilling them about their planned route.  Miss Greer was insisting that she would never think about getting on the highway and that she would take surface streets the whole way.  The hair on my legs stood on end, and I turned into the Holly Hunter character in Broadcast News.  "No, here's what you want to do.  Take 355 to Army Trail Road, then shoot up Route 53, cut over to the Elgin-O'Hare, and backdoor it up Meacham Road."  Then I elbowed her into the passenger seat and took over the wheel.

Then she starts talking about installing a DVD player or playing music CD's during the ride, which prompted me to whip out my highest and mightiest "Do you have any familiarity with autism?"  I then proceeded to enumerate all of the ways in which this could end in tragedy:  Audrey would get completely stuck on the DVD/CD and not be able to make the commute without it, and then God forbid one day you forget to bring a certain DVD or CD, or it starts skipping, or you arrive at school before it reaches the end, or you start it at a different point and then the "correct" scene is not showing/song is not playing at the exact same time as it usually is when she passes a certain billboard or street sign, and then she will start melting down and you will have no earthly idea why.  And why would you?  Because you don't care that "The Muffin Man" is playing at the precise moment that you pass the Lube 'N Go at 55th and Belmont.  But she does.  Trust me, you do not even want to start down this path.

Another crisis averted.  Is it any wonder that I'm constantly exhausted?  Anything else that I can take care of for you while I'm at it?  Hmmmm....let's see.  Just spit-balling here, but you might also want to rethink those horizontal stripes, take out a home equity loan to pay off that credit card debt, and don't even think about marrying that deadbeat boyfriend of yours because he's never going to change.  You're welcome.