Monday, November 29, 2010

No Excuses Allowed

Sometimes it's just plain and simple bad behavior. It's not a result of sensory overload, it's not because they are on the autism spectrum, it's not due to a lack of social understanding, it's just bad behavior.

Today my 11 year old was angry because he had to make a choice between two things he wanted and it was very clear that no amount of tears, questioning and whining was going to result in getting both things. He was offered options, the options were explained and he was told that expected, appropriate behavior would receive a reward. Despite all of that, when he was asked if he had made a decision about what he wanted he replied, "yes, I want you to go to hell."

When the staff member called me about the situation, he was already on the bus heading home. Luckily for him, I was en route to pick up the younger kids from school and wouldn't be home for another hour. I made a phone call home to let his dad know what happened and told him to ban our little angel from all computer and video games until further notice. I also made sure he knew to pass along the fact that I was NOT HAPPY.

There was no discussion with my son when I got home - there was nothing to discuss. There was a very concise, crystal clear talk from me expressing my disappointment and spelling out the consequences of both today's behavior and any future behavior of this type. Rest assured, by the time I finished talking he was very certain I meant every word I said and that any repeat of this behavior would lead to a very boring, very miserable life for a long time.

What struck me the most was his teacher's remark that she was going to write an incident report about his behavior but there wouldn't be a consequence issued at school. WHOA!! Oh yes, there was going to be a consequence at school - the same consequence that would be given to a student who isn't on the autism spectrum. ASD had nothing to do with his reactions today; it was bad behavior, plain and simple, and that is not acceptable. (He has been given detention after school at my insistence.)

I will fight for him when a behavior is a result of his ASD and lack of coping or social skills. I have fought for him many times and will always be his biggest advocate. Today, he didn't need me to stand behind him and explain how his brain works differently, how his lack of social skills contributed to his behavior or why he should be taught how to use coping skills in a situation
instead of punished. Today, he needed me to hold him accountable for his poor choices, set firm boundaries and expectations for him and ensure that he was given consequences that "fit the crime".

A part of raising my boys on the autism spectrum will always be to educate, inform, explain and sometimes even defend their behavior in a situation. But today, my job is to teach him that ASD is not an excuse to get out of trouble when he chooses to behave badly.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

I know my list is pretty hefty this year, so if you can only deliver on a couple of my Christmas wishes I understand completely and will be grateful for what I receive. The ones I want the most are marked if you have to choose between which ones to give me.

*1.)  I'd like to take a picture of my children dressed in adorable Christmas outfits that reminds our Christmas card recipients of the Waltons, not the Simpsons. I'd like for each child to look at the camera, smile, not give bunny ears to the sibling they are sitting next to and for those adorable clothes to be hole and stain free just long enough for the perfect picture to be taken. I'd like to get the picture a) in time to send as a Christmas card and b) without selling my soul to Satan.

*2.) I'd like the 2 1/2 hour drive to my Mom's to be filled with either sounds of laughing, caroling children who aren't fighting, wrestling, crying or asking to stop at a gas station every 11 minutes OR the sound of five children sleeping throughout the entire drive. If you can't do either of those, I'd like a handful of Xanax and Starbucks' Skinny Vanilla latte to get me through the drive.

*3.) I want Christmas Eve and Christmas day to be fever, vomiting, diarrhea, strep throat, weird rash, trip to the ER free.

4.) I want all toys to come with directions in English that are written with words a person can understand without having a PhD in engineering. I'd also like for the packaging on these toys to be able to be opened by a woman of normal strength using only a simple pair of scissors.

Like I said, it's a hefty wish list - but all in all I've been a pretty good girl this year. If my list is too grand, I'll settle for a drive without someone being car sick and a nap.

Thanks Santa <3  The cookies and milk will be in the regular spot :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

There's a lot of conversation at our house about how 'change' does not always equal 'bad'. Teaching flexibility and adaptability are daily lessons. Like today for example - I did the unthinkable - I helped my youngest get ready to go play by putting on sock/shoe, sock/shoe instead of sock/sock, shoe/shoe. A lesson in flexibility :)  So if any of my brood reads this blog post before they are ready, I could be in for some LONG conversations....

A Letter to My Children (Biological and Otherwise)

Change is NOT always a good thing; sometimes changing is actually bad. 

There is a BIG difference between changing what you do and how you do it and changing YOU. There will be times in your life when you need to do the work to change yourself: when you realize that a new attitude towards someone or something will make you a better person, a time when you see that a long held belief is wrong, a time when you find that it is a part of you that is holding you back from your dreams and goals. It is at those moments when changing you is necessary.

And then there will be times when you start thinking that if you'll change yourself, your beliefs, your values, you will be accepted by 'the crowd'. Or maybe, just maybe, if you change who you are that guy/that girl will finally notice you and want to be with you. Those are the moments when I want you to remember that you are amazing, incredible, extraordinarily unique and special. It is when the thoughts of changing for someone else enter you mind that I need you draw on your inner strength, the love of family and TRUE friends, and NOT CHANGE a single thing!

You see, when you change who you are for anyone other than yourself, you lose more than you will ever, ever gain. It sounds old fashioned and possibly trite, but the people who deserve your friendship, your heart, your presence in their life, will want you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

The people who deserve the wonder of you will appreciate and admire your passion about things that are important to you, they will find your quirks endearing (even when those quirks are kind of annoying, too!), they will love that you make your own decisions and stand strong in what you believe is right. 

The guy or girl who deserves your time and devotion won't ask you to choose them over what is important to you. The guy or girl who professes their undying love to you and then says, "If you really love me you'll..." ISN'T the guy or girl who loves you, and they certainly don't deserve you! 

Never be guilted into changing your priorities or being someone other than you! There are few things worse than becoming a 'fake'. Have you noticed the inside of a Barbie or Ken doll is empty? They're plastic, fake dolls of people. Don't be Barbie/Ken!

When you change who you are for someone else, you begin to feel hollow inside. That is how you know the difference between changing for yourself and changing for another person. Changing for yourself leaves you with feelings of pride, fulfillment and happiness; changing for someone else will lead to feelings of sadness, confusion and disappointment. It is much easier to be the real you than to 'fake it' and deal with the consequences that are sure to come.

Finally, know that I LOVE YOU, unconditionally, just because you're YOU. There will never be another person in the world who is just like you! And really, anyone who wants you to be anything else is just too stupid to waste your time being around :) 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sorry to those who have missed me, I've been blogging slacker. To be honest, life has been kind of blech lately and I didn't have anything witty, insightful or inspirational to post. Then I realized tonight that the blech days were why I started writing this blog - everyone has them, whether you are parenting "normal" or challenged kids, and everyone needs to know that they aren't in the boat alone.

At some point between conception and child birth most women start believing that they are solely responsible for everything that happens or doesn't happen in regard to their child(ren). Suddenly we have this irrational feeling that we have to be everything, all the time, to our family: the chef, the maid, the doctor, the care taker, the psychologist, the tutor, the chauffeur....we take it on willingly and usually happily. 

And then one day, for no reason we can readily identify, we are running on empty. It's the feeling of "I've given everything I have, I have no more left. I need a refill and I need it BAD." Those are my blech days. The days where I muddle through the responsibilities of every day life because I have to, not because I'm enjoying any part of it. They are the no energy, no desire to anything, no extra effort days. In the words of my Mom, they're the "fake it til ya' make it" days.

Mommy (and Daddy) friends, having a few days like this is NORMAL. Let's face it, there are very few people in the world who feel truly fulfilled by loading the dishwasher and doing laundry. Picking up toys, taking out the trash, and cooking meals that at least one person responds to with "Do I HAVE to eat this?" rarely leads to a feeling of being appreciated. Homework struggles, sibling squabbles and bedtime battles do not result in perky, I love my life moments.

The question is, what do we do to refuel? How do we move from blech to bliss? I bet you're expecting some kind of wisdom about now - answers to the questions above. Try not to be too disappointed, because I've got nothing! All I can tell you is you're not alone. We all have those days and we all get through them, it just takes some of us a little longer to shake the blechs than others.

For me, music, a long bath, time with another mom who "gets it" and writing help a lot. Out of those things, time with a friend who will listen, laugh, and let me vent a little helps the most. There's nothing quite like the bond between mommy friends. Mommy friends are the people who have your back, the ones who make you laugh when you want cry and scream, the girls you can have drinks with and not worry about what you say or being politically correct, they are the people you tell your secrets and dreams to without fear of becoming the latest bus stop gossip. Mommy friends know you, and they like you anyway :)

I'm a lucky girl. I have a circle of mommy friends who keep me sane, make me laugh and are there for me on the blech days. You girls know who you are and if I haven't told you recently, I love you! Without you, I'm pretty sure I'd be a long term guest at the Rubber Ramada ;)

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Well, that's what I get for trying to write/post at this hour - an incomplete bolg entry that published. Trust me, I KNOW there were more quotes and stories there when I hit publish! Never fear, I'll share them later, after I've gotten some obviously much needed sleep.
I promised a lighter subject matter post, and I don't break my promises :)

Over the course of 13 years of parenting, I have been a witness to things done and said that leave me breathless from laughing so hard. It's like having a caravan of comedians living with me, except they usually have no clue why what they said is hysterical - and we all know that's a big part of why it's so funny! I try to make sure I jot down these gems when a kiddo says one, but some are so good they will be stuck in my head for all of eternity. While I don't use my childrens' names in my posts, tonight I'll use an initial. Although, any of you who actually have spent time with my brood could probably guess who said what....

"I thinked it would be happy, but it was NOT!" (C. age 3) This is the response my mother got when asking "why on earth would you try to flush a wooden block down Mommaw's potty?" Loosely translated: It seemed like a good idea at the time and I thought it would be funny - now, I'm thinking nope, it wasn't either of those.

"Owww! He just hit me in my tentacals!" (N. age 5) All I'm going to say is that I really tried teaching the proper terms for body parts.....obviously 5 was a little too young for some of them.

"Why are they making us learn Spanish, anyway? I already speak English goodly!" (S. age 7) Why yes, that was very goodly English, honey! Make sure you ask Mrs. H your question today so she knows just how well you know English, okay? Poor Mrs. H - I hope she didn't bite off her tongue or have a heart attack ;)

"For the truth, you mean? I really wanted to know if it would fit. It does, but it doesn't fit back out." (A. age 4) This is the answer the ER doc got when asking why he put a bead up his nose. Apparently, this is a pretty common answer to the question.....

"Leaves turn red in Fall and 2+2=4. I'm so glad God made me genius." (R. age 4) No self esteem issues here....little man was quite proud of his knowledge and thankful for its source :)

"Are you going to make any dinner or just stay sitting there? I'm starving." (C. age 6) My precious baby asked me this while I was sitting on the kitchen floor doing Lamaze breathing at 35 weeks prego with number 5. And yes, in between some serious contractions I did get the little monster, I mean angel, a decent dinner!

"You can't! No parents partner with their kid's school, except maybe in Mexico!" (N. age 13) Want to see a teenager have a Come to Jesus moment? Tell them you're going to meet with his teachers and principal to discuss how you can help with his academic development and study skills. Nuff said.....and oh, how the grades began improving QUICKLY.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm going to make a confession tonight. There was a point about 18 months - 2 years ago when I actually allowed myself to think "If he sat in a corner rocking back and forth and didn't talk parts of this would be so much easier." I still feel horrible for those five minutes I spent thinking that way. So many parents would trade everything they have for a child like my 11 year old! 

At that point he had just started receiving services after we finally got an educational diagnosis. God bless the autism consultant that patiently walked with me through the behavioral and academic challenges that were daily events. There are people who owe their lives to her, because I was on a Mommy warpath and was done playing nice! Not to mention that I'd be checked into the Rubber Ramada with a pretty jacket that lets me hug myself if she weren't around to offer friendship, kindness, support and remind me of all the real progress she's seen in the last two years. 

Flash forward to today. My littlest man had his first appointment with our pediatric neurologist in order to be medically diagnosed as having an ASD. (He was evaluated by the school corp. in March of 2010 and received an educational diagnosis.) This appointment didn't go as planned - in fact, I left shocked and a little angry. My two oldest have been seeing him regularly since 2002 and 2004 and I've always sung this doc's praises so today threw me for a major loop.

After briefly looking at baby boy's school evaluations and talking to me for a few minutes, he decided that neuro-psych testing is necessary because my son "talks too well, has a high IQ and doesn't flap or spin". I was reeling! It isn't that I'm opposed to more testing but that the doc was so uninformed. He actually said, "it could be Asperger's but not an ASD." HELLO!! Asperger's IS an ASD. That's why it's called a spectrum disorder Mr. Doctor. I have accepted that I will always have people say things like "Oh, I didn't know kids with autism could talk". Or "Autism spectrum, really? He seems so smart!"  I just never imagined I'd have to explain ASD's to a pediatric neurologist....

So, tonight you all get a little of me on my soap box giving the What Is An ASD infomercial:

1. Autism is a SPECTRUM disorder - by definition, every person will behave, react to stimuli and be socially adept at VARYING levels. Think of it like a line with point A being the child you see in the Lifetime movie of the week and point Z being the child who talks very well, gets A's in school but can't make friends and "doesn't get it" when it comes to social interactions.

2. Typically, children with an ASD are very smart! I know one child who can disassemble and reassemble nearly any electronic device on the market and he's 7. He uses words I have to look up in engineering books! Don't make the mistake of thinking people on the spectrum aren't smart - or you'll end up looking not very smart yourself.

3. Early intervention is of supreme importance. I know this firsthand, because my little man has gotten the benefit of everything I learned while navigating the path with his older brother. I saw the signs early and knew what I was seeing. He had the opportunity to attend a developmental pre-k program and is now in a wonderful program for children with developmental delays at his public elementary school. You wouldn't ignore a fever that lasted for a month, don't ignore the signs and symptoms of a developmental delay. For great information on early warning signs check out

4. People, especially children, who have an ASD want to make friends and fit in socially, but they don't know how. You want to know the best, easiest way to help a child who has autism? Teach YOUR child(ren) that everyone is to be treated with kindness and respect, that being different is okay, that watching someone being teased and picked on but doing nothing is the same thing as being a bully.

That ends my soap box sermon for the night ;) I've already got ideas for tomorrow's post, and I promise, it'll be stuff that leaves you smiling and laughing! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember all those things we heard from our mothers while we were growing up that we swore we'd never say to our own children? The things that drove us crazy, made us mad as hell, and somehow eventually turned us into mothers who now realize how lucky we are to have heard them and use those same phrases with our kiddos?

I have some favorites, ones I seem to say most, ones that hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Thanks Mom, for giving me an arsenal of tried and true Mom-isms :)

Well it didn't just grow legs and walk away
I bet I say this at least once a day, usually in a frustrated and low volume voice while looking for a lost glove, jacket, backpack, etc. This is my fall back when one of my angels is just positive that they put whatever we're in search of "right here". Let's face it - if they'd put it right there we wouldn't be looking for the item! Unless, of course, it grew legs and walked away.

Did you look with your Ray Charles glasses on?
One of my Mom's all time favorites! This is best said when a child has screamed "Mom, MOM! I can't find it ANYWHERE!" and you locate the toy/book/shoe within 60 seconds. I say this a lot when someone can't seem to find what they are looking for in the fridge.

All God's children want something, honey
My stand-by response to the endless I want requests. Mom, I want a pony that lives in my room; Mom, I want an iPod touch; Mom, I want 12 new video games; Mom, I want candy for dinner and to stay up til midnight. There's usually no use in explaining the why of my resounding NO. Why get into a lengthy discussion of animal care, family finances and nutrition when you can say All God's children want something honey, give a hug/pat on the head/kiss and move on to other topics?

Even if your temperature is 105 and you are bleeding from the eyes, you are NEVER staying home from school again!
I heard this one when I was 7 and managed to convince my Mom I really wasn't faking and should stay home from school. Not completely sure and wanting to make sure I learned a lesson, Mom banished me to my bed to nap and read because I was w-a-y too sick to do anything else. Well, let's just say that little girls too sick for school shouldn't jump on the bed, grab the curtains to steady themselves and then end up pulling the curtain rod and pieces of drywall out of the wall........I didn't ask to stay home or call home sick again until junior high.

It's okay if you don't like me, I'll ALWAYS LOVE YOU!
This is the one that made me see red. When all I wanted was to push Mom's buttons or make her feel bad for punishing me she said this in the most sugary, sincere voice. UGH! Now that I'm a mom I completely understand why she said it - it was the truth and she knew it would make me mad! Plus, there's no good smart mouth come back for that statement. ;) The more serious side of this saying is that my Mom knew it was important that I knew without a doubt that she would love me when I was happy, sad, mad or bratty - that is the one thing every child deserves to believe with all their heart.

And my very, very favorite of all-time:
Turn down that tribal voodoo war s#@& music NOW!
I think she said it once and oh, the laughing that ensued! My siblings and I nearly wet ourselves when we heard that one. She wasn't meaning to be funny - she really meant every word she said - but who wouldn't laugh at their Mom yelling that?! Twenty years later, uttered from my lips, it sent my kids into fits of giggles :)

Hopefully reading my short list has sparked memories of your Mom's famous lines. Don't forget to thank her for passing on her gems of motherly wisdom!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I knew it was coming, and yet the feelings of guilt, sadness and anger still surface. I officially requested a learning disabilities evaluation for my 9 year old son today. My all boy all the time, golden hearted, beautiful child failed English and had a D- in spelling on his report card. I know for a fact it isn't due to a lack of trying or not studying. We've been struggling with these areas since kindergarten.

At four years old he started speech therapy. When you have to interpret 75% of what your child is saying for someone else you know there's an issue that needs addressed. Five years later he is still working on his speech and is still difficult to understand at times. Maybe the fact that he can't say the word correctly contributes to his inability to spell the word....but my mommy gut says there's more to it than that.

When he was in second grade I asked about his frequent letter reversals and struggles with reading, especially reading comprehension. I was told letter reversals are still common in that age group and to continue working with him on reading. I hired a wonderful tutor who worked with him once a week over summer vacation hoping that would "catch him up". Third grade showed minimal progress, at least he wasn't failing in any subject areas then. His teacher voiced concerns about his his handwriting and how difficult it was to get him to write anything at all. He was placed in the RtI (Response to Intervention) program for reading and seemed to be progressing satisfactorily. Again, I decided to wait and see.

Fourth grade has been HARD. Spelling worksheets are 30-45 minutes of crying, erasing over and over and frustration for both of us. Most of the time he can't even copy the word from the list correctly. And when he does finally get the word in the blank it is usually so poorly written it makes a doctor's handwriting look neat. And Heaven help us if he has to write more than a word on a blank. I swear, this reading log thing they are doing may be the death of me!

As I reflect on why I waited so long to request formal testing I can come up with only one horrific reason. I didn't want to face the fact that another child has something wrong with the way their brain works. This blog is titled Swimmin' in Alphabet Soup because more of my children than not have some sort of neurological diagnosis that makes their life harder than it should have to be. The idea of having another of my babies diagnosed with something makes me feel nauseous. Four out five? At some point you have to start thinking, "What have I done to them?! I carried them inside me, gave birth to them, read to them, played with them, was an involved parent even during preschool - what the heck did I do wrong?!"

Even when I manage to put that part of the guilt aside, there will always be the guilt I deserve for not fighting for him harder, earlier. I cannot even imagine how his little ego and academic self esteem have suffered because I let him struggle so hard, so long. In the midst of fighting battles against a 13 year old's ADHD and an 11 and 5 year olds' ASD, I let him slip through the cracks. There isn't any justification for that - my JOB is to make sure none of my children slip through the cracks, and I have failed my Sweet Boy until now.

The good thing about guilt is that it is an enormous motivator to make things right. He will be evaluated, we will find out exactly where his deficits lie and then we will work together to make him successful in the classroom. He WILL move beyond his current belief that he can't do it and recognize that not only can he do it, but he can do it great! I know this will happen for him, because I won't quit until he believes it - I will never, ever fail him again. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

I actually wrote this close to a year ago as a note on my Facebook page; a few edits later it is now today's blog post. Apologies to those who read it then and are now reading it again! Today, it is a very appropriate and relevant post about my house ;) I hope you enjoy it!

I have decided that I cannot be the only mother/wife on the planet with family members who need some remediation regarding household jobs. In an effort to help my friends keep their sanity (and see the floors and counters in their homes) I've decided to form the Owens Institute for the Chore Challenged. Below you will find classes currently available:

Treasuring the Empty Trash Can - If it's overflowing it needs to go out the door!

If the item you are trying to place in the trash can has to be balanced on the overflowing items already spilling out of the can, it's time to take the trash out! This course will cover how to remove the overflowing bag from the trash can, take said bag to the proper disposal area and place a new, empty bag in the trash can. Pictures of full vs. empty trash cans will be provided for reference.

Toss It In! - How to find and place your dirty laundry in the hamper/basket/pile all over the laundry room

While this comes as a shock to many a family member, it is NOT ok to disrobe in whatever room you happen to be in and leave the pile of clothes at your feet. Course will cover appropriate places to undress and where to place dirty clothing once removed from a body. Students will be provided with pictures of appropriate places for dirty laundry; please send either written directions or a map detailing the route to your laundry room/laundry hamper as many students are clueless as to where these things are located in their home.

Clearing a Path to Pleasantness - Basic picking up of items on the floor and returning them to their home

I've seen it a million times. Family members who will make a death defying leap over a pile of toys, or dishes that somehow made it to the family room floor, instead of picking the item(s) up off the floor and returning them to their appropriate place in the home. If you've been (or taken someone) to the ER for injuries related to tripping over toys, this is the course for you! Emphasis is placed on first noticing the pile on the floor and then recognizing the proper location to place the item.

Make a Match - How to place a PAIR of shoes in a location where you can find them again

If I had a nickle for every time I went in search of a shoe that was "lost"....Students successfully completing this course will recognize two matching shoes and master the art of putting both shoes, together, in a predetermined spot where they will be found with ease the next day. Students will need to wear/bring a pair of matching shoes to each class.

Sanford and Son Sabotage - Look! There's a lawn under all that stuff!

If you currently have enough bikes, scooters, balls and other outside toys scattered across your front lawn to cause people to think you are having a yard sale, you are not alone. Participants will learn the proper procedure for placing their outside playthings in a garage or other designated area. The use of bike kickstands, where to place a helmet so it can be found the next day and how to ensure there is room left for parking a car in the garage will be extensively covered and practiced.


1. Students must be out of diapers and able to use the bathroom without assistance, regardless of the age of the student.