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Friday, December 26, 2014

Let it Snow

This is another installment of my 'Conversations with Bec'.  Bec lives in a place that gets very hot...but not very cold.  So last year, I took pictures and video when snow would fall, and show her lots of different things that I thought someone who didn't ever really have to deal with snow would appreciate, or think were neat. 

And along the way, I also tried to disabuse her of the notion that the snow was always awesome, that it was also an enormous pain in the ass.  So while sometimes it's fluffy, sometimes it's sparkly, sometimes it's crystalline...it's also wet and cold and treacherous and annoying. 

One day a wet snow was falling, and I had just finished grocery shopping.  I was pushing my grocery cart to the car, and the wheels were building up a layer of snow on them that was growing, the way you build a snowman, until the snow was so thick that the wheels wouldn't turn anymore, because they were interfering with the undercarriage of the cart.  The cart had to skid over the snow like a sleigh the last 50 feet to the car because the wheels wouldn't turn anymore.  That was the day I sent her a video of me slopping the snow off the windshield of my car complaining about how wet and crappy it can be. 

Another day I shot a video of a salt truck, because I figured she'd probably never seen a salt truck, or really thought about the necessity of salt trucks in general.

That kind of thing. 

She cobbled various soundbites together and made this gem for me for Christmas.  I love it even more than the first one. 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Outrage and Offense

Slate published a really fascinating..."article"?  that tracks the things people found offensive and outrageous in 2014.  It's ongoing.  Each day has a little picture that you can click to see what Americans found offensive ON THAT DAY.  It allows you to vote on whether the issue in particular was truly offensive, or overblown.  Here's the article:  "The Year of Outrage"

Usually something like this I'd just share on facebook so people could check it out themselves, but I thought my reaction to one of the issues was amusing so I wanted to post this quickie.  I was clicking through some of the topics, not all, when I saw Patton Oswalt's picture.  I've always liked his comedy.   I couldn't remember him making the news though, and clicked it.  Here's what popped up:

I love this idea.  He didn't actually make an offensive tweet...he just apologized for a hypothetical offensive tweet.  That was the joke.  And the guy who responded in outrage via twitter...is...I GUESS offended because by framing an apology to a hypothetical tweet that he never created, somehow Oswalt used the "victims" for humor. 

And I got pissed off about this.  Like..."outraged"...if you like.  And that made me laugh because of course how fitting to post something about outraged Americans and get outraged about it.  What victims?  How did they suffer?  There was no joke.  The offense had to be manufactured...you had to use your OWN MIND to create a joke that would be offensive to a hypothetical victim...the irony of this is DELICIOUS.  If there is no actual joke, then in order to be offended about it from the victim's standpoint...you have to create an offensive joke in your mind in order to be outraged by it.  YOU make the offensive joke.  The extent to which some people will strain and stretch in order to reach offense is amazing to me. 

And I'd have probably just chuckled at this to myself, but it made me think about the endless autism wars I see and once participated in (and I suppose if I'm being fair, still do, to the extent that living in the autism blogosphere does not allow me to remain completely on the fence) and how offended each "side" gets about the others' views. 

And this seemed like a really great way to illustrate how you should really strive not to get too upset when someone gets outraged by your thoughts on a topic.  Your path defines your view, and nobody will have the same path you do.  From where you stand on it, you see only what your experience allows you to see, not what someone else sees from what they've experienced.  And you can hedge your bet with all the lawyeresque caveats you can think of and STILL someone will call you to the carpet for being a narrow minded asshole or...much much worse. 

The next time you make your opinion known (whether it's in the autism community, politics, whatever your passion du jour happens to be), if it's well-considered, if it's sensitive to those issues about which you are aware, if it's well-meant (oh I know..."well-meaning" is profanity 'round these parts), but someone crucifies you for it...please remember this.  Someone can ALWAYS find something about which to be offended.  ALWAYS.  And remember too, that their being offended does not make your opinion "wrong" necessarily. 

And try to learn from it.  I'm not saying blow it off.  And I'm also not saying...SAY ALL THE OFFENSIVE THINGS!  Because...don't be an asshole.  But what I am saying is, they're not in the right just because they're mad at you for saying something.  Because we can all find something about which to be offended in ANY statement of opinion.   

Try not to be so hurt when someone is offended by something you've said that you never intended to cause offense with.  Try to understand why what you said was offensive to that person.  Try to see it from their perspective (you won't be able to completely, but you can try) and learn when to walk away from statements you've made that you don't believe in strongly enough to continue to offend the other person.  But don't be so hurt that it damages your mental makeup...because there's ALWAYS something for people to be offended about.  And some of them are just as ridiculous as the guy responding to Oswalt's tweet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ornamental

I'm sort of pissed at myself in hindsight.  When I grew out my facial hair, it was not originally out of any desire to go hipster.  My wife likes when I let it grow out, and for the longest time I fought it, growing it just after Thanksgiving, keeping it cropped short, then shaving it in the Spring, like a lamb.  But last year I grew it out...and then just never shaved it.  It's still really short, more like a two week shadow than a proper beard, but the look has grown on me.

Heh...grown on me.

Anyway, as I said, I grew it out as long as it's ever been not in an effort to go hipster chic, but for something more important...and before you say Movember...no.  No, I needed a longer beard to lend authenticity to my goat man/satyr Halloween costume.  A proper goat man has a beard.  So I grew
one.
  
It was only after I shaved it all off and let it grow slowly back to its two week growth length that I saw something on Facebook and I realized what I had to do.  And by then it was too late.  I haven't trimmed my beard for a week and a half, but there's no way that I can pull off in the remaining two weeks what I wish I could do...what would probably take a couple months to do...

And now I'm pissed, because if I'd have kept growing it I would have the most kickass Christmas beard EVAR.
 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chicamon!

We watch a loooooooot of Wiggles here.  A lot.  We've seen so many of their videos.  We finally even saw them live.  Something that's confused me though...lately in all the videos Anthony says something that sounds like "Chicamon".  He does it in a way that suggests it's "cool".  Like sometimes he'll say, "Chicamon!  Oh yeah, man, oh yeah."  And he'll be wearing "cool" clothes when he says it.  Or I guess what passes for cool.  In the 1930's.

Anyway, one morning Lily and I were busy watching the Wiggles and I asked my friend Bec about it.  I figured she's an Aussie...maybe she knows what it means.  Maybe Aussies are constantly saying "Chicamon" about shit and we all just sort of shake our heads and mutter, "crazy aussies" under our breaths like when Benny Bandicoot says, "a whole bunch of galahs in an outback billabong" in one Wiggles episode and I just shake my head and wonder why.  (According to http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html that means, "a whole bunch of loud birds in an oxbow lake cut off by a change in the watercourse.")  Whatever, Benny.

Anyway...for my birthday, Bec took the audio messages I sent her on Facebook, and my Bitstrip character...and ANIMATED THEM!!!  It's animated Jim!  Seriously, I couldn't love it more.  Honestly, Bec had no idea what my expressions or gestures were when I sent those messages, but...she's like REALLY close. 

By the way, we think that what Anthony is saying is "Gee C'mon".  Because Bec says that Aussies say "c'mon" a lot.  Regardless of what it is, it makes virtually no contextual sense the way that dipshit uses it in the Wiggle videos. 

Without further adieu...Cartoon Jim's Vlog about Chicamon!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Going up

Emma's on day three of her grievous knee injury.  Not to make light of it...because she is injured, and a doctor with a medical degree and everything diagnosed her with "Maybe a knee sprain". 

This elicited a scoff of indignation from Emma who I think was holding out for something more serious, more 'interesting'..."*Maybe* a sprain.  What's that?"  Her "maybe" dripped with sarcasm so effortlessly thick I couldn't help but feel a surge of pride.  Suspicion of medical profession?  Check.

She'd been told she could ditch the crutches whenever she felt comfortable without them, but she decided that her first day back at school she needed them.  I suspect, however, that it was because she felt the presence of crutches would aid her plea to use ...the school elevator.

She got a key to the elevator yesterday.  She's allowed to take two friends with her for "safety reasons". 

This morning she came down without the crutches and told me she was going to try to do school today without them.  I argued that she should wait until this weekend.  We compromised.  She's took the crutches to school but will stash them in her locker unless she needs them. 

"They'll fit in your locker?" I asked skeptically.
"Stand up," she replied.
I stood. 
"You're my locker."
I stood stiffer and straighter.  She reached for the handle, imagining where it might be, then holding the crutches up in front of me.  She touched my forehead measuring it as the height of the locker. 
"Click."
She looked at me.  "What was that?"
"I'm a locker.  I clicked when you touched me.  I'm getting into my role."
She rolled her eyes at me.  "Yeah, they'll fit," she said.

I drove her to the bus stop.  She felt ready to ride the bus today too.  Yesterday she didn't think that would work.  Today things are looking up. 

For me too.  I'm more myself again.  Back to even keel.  Chipper.  Going up, feeling better.  My emotional elevator, Emma's leg, and the school's elevator...all heading to the top floor once more.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

For Whom The Bell Does Not Necessarily Toll

Yesterday and the day before were a bit of a shitstorm stress-wise. 

At some point on Tuesday I realized that I'd let my driver's license expire.  Not by a lot, but by enough that if I'd been pulled over I'd get a ticket for driving with an expired license. 

That night Emma came home from dance crying.  I carried her from a friend's car into the house.  The back of her leg.  We weren't sure what the issue was.

I got an email from the pharmacy.  My prescriptions were ready.  Still. 

A collection agency called.  Outstanding doctor bills I could have sworn I paid. 

I wanted to print something out for Emma.  The printer was out of ink.  That stupid fucking printer.  And alllllll that expensive fucking ink.

I had nobody to take care of Emma the next day and needed to go to a doctor's appointment with Leslie.

What.  The.  Fuck.

I lost my mojo.  You might argue there was no mojo to lose, but if I do possess any mojo at all it is a certain unflappableness in the face of all life's little adventures.  We'll take care of it.  There's plenty of time.  Don't worry so much.  I've got this.  That sort of mojo.  Whether you want to call that maintaining a positive outlook or...denial...that is the mojo I lost the day before yesterday.

And I knew I'd lost it.  I watched my pleasant demeanor slip slickly out of my grasp fully aware that I was sinking into a dark and angry place.  Something small and burning was blossoming like a blown cinder glowing furiously orange-red in the pit of my stomach.  Sometimes you don't notice.  Sometimes you aren't aware of how angry you are, how stressed you are, how worried you are.  Sometimes that realization hits you out of nowhere while you're in the middle of absolutely losing your shit on someone or something farrrrr in excess of what the situation warrants.  And you realize in mid-shout...holy crap I am losing my everloving shit for almost no reason at all. 

But that wasn't the case.  Some small dispassionate percentage of my mojo remained in control enough to look at it all and say...dude...you're totally fucking stressed out.  I guess I should be grateful for that tiny bit that remained, allowing me to bite down on the worst of my angry retorts and stifle the volume of my voice for the most part when I noticed it's frustrated crescendo, though I still managed to drag my wife's spirits down into it with me.  Hopefully we're both climbing back out of it today. 

I knew that we needed to handle one thing at a time.  And Leslie helped a lot.  She called the bill collector and straightened out the debt collection.  They'd bungled it.  She asked my dad to go pick up the prescriptions that we hadn't had a chance to retrieve.  She called the pediatrician to start the ball rolling on Emma's knee. 

I called off work for the day.  I got my father to come sit with Emma while we were at Leslie's appointment until I could get home.  I called an orthopedic practice to talk about an appointment for Emma.  When they didn't return calls, we left Leslie's appointment, and went to the Driver's Center to get my license renewed, got some lunch, and then I took Emma to the ER. 
Four more years!  Four more years!
The ER was blessedly slow.  They got in to see her right away (versus the two hours minimum wait we usually encounter).  Sprained knee.  While at the ER, I got ahold of the orthopedic surgeon and made an appointment for next week to discuss her chronic leg problems. 

When we left the girl who registered us was so busy talking to her girlfriend about "what happened after the collection notice" that she couldn't be troubled to wait for me to find my parking ticket to validate it.  She slid a free parking ticket across the counter, said, "just use this" and turned back to her conversation.  Woohoo!

Worried it would take too long, Leslie got her parents to come to the house and wait for Lily to get off the bus.  I got out before she had a chance to cancel them, but they helped around the house and left me free to go buy a printer at Best Buy.

By the end of the night last night the constriction around my chest started to loosen.  There were still a few more barks and bites, but I hope that I was more myself, my missing mojo flowing back into the place where the cinders had been, quenching them with inaudible hisses only I could sense.  Which I guess is also problematic.  Nobody knows you're feeling less stressed unless you tell them.  Leslie asked me this morning if I was feeling better about where things stood and it surprised me.  In my head I think I was wondering..."isn't it obvious?"  It's not.

Nobody can feel that invisible band loosen.  So you need to tell people.  Same when it tightens.  And, like I said, typically, it doesn't...so I think the people I love get surprised and worried when I'm not myself.  And they don't understand the reason for it.  They see all the stressful stuff you're dealing with day in and day out, don't get me wrong.  But usually that stuff just rolls off you like water off a ducks back.  They don't know the cinders are there burning a hole in your stomach.  They don't feel the band constricting around your chest as it tightens.  And that's when, if you're able, you need to say, "I'm really stressed out right now.  I'm worried.  I need help." 

I felt better when I went to bed last night. 

At 4:30 this morning, Lily sat up in bed and performed her equivalent of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman".  I tucked her in and told her it wasn't time to get up yet.  Calmed her.  Got her back to sleep.  I stumbled back into my bed at 5:00...still a half hour left.

Someone nudged me.  Ugh...did I not hear my alarm?  Was Leslie nudging me out of bed?  I opened my eyes to see the darkened silhouette of a completely clothed Emma standing by the bed. 

"Dad, wake up."
wait...WHAT???

It took my brain too long to figure out what was going on, but the iPhone said, "6:26".  I'd overslept by an hour.  Thank GOD I fiddlefuck around getting ready every day.  I sent Emma to get started on her breakfast and leaped into action, showering and getting dressed and ready and downstairs before the clock struck 7. 

Leslie had gotten up and helped Emma get started.  I felt bad about that.  I'd wanted to let her sleep in.  By the time I caught up to my normal schedule things were back in order.  It was too late to let Leslie sleep in, so I got her coffee and drove Emma to school (so she wouldn't have to navigate to the bus on crutches). 

I think things are back to normal now...or what passes for normal around my house.  I still don't know why the alarm didn't go off.  Maybe I turned it off when I got back into bed after calming Lily down.  I'm not sure.  Maybe I just really needed that extra hour of sleep. 

I'm hoping it goes off tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Trick or Treaters

The bad news is, I haven't written a post since the end of the 30(one) days of Random.  The good news is...that was only four days ago! 

I feel like probably people are worn out talking about how Halloween went, at least in the autism community.  Holidays are such a hot button topic, but maybe I'm just jaded because I see it so much on Facebook. 

A few weeks ago I wrote a post for Glade Run about giving Lily a break from the things that I expect her to enjoy, "Halloween Break".  In it, I more or less indicated that as much as I enjoy Halloween, if Lily doesn't enjoy it, then maybe it's not super important for me to perseverate on getting her to go house-to-house.

We do still try though, and this year...well...this year she did it.  And she didn't just "do" it.  She did it.  She wanted her costume on.  She herself told Leslie (and Papa, who took her door to door so that someone would be home) that it was time to go.  She went to the houses (maybe a little too willingly) and said the words.  Mostly.

Lily walked with her papa to our neighbors.  When they opened the door to her she said, "Trick or treaters" and walked in.  She walked down the hall and investigated their kitchen before papa retrieved her and they moved on to the next house...where she similarly said "trick or treaters" and also walked into their home and walked around to see what was up.

Our neighbors know Lily.  It was no big deal.  At one point someone corrected her.  I don't know if it was papa, trying to get her to say "trick or treat" or if it was one of the neighbors.  Lily said, "I like trick or treaters" and kept saying it.  I liked that.

Meanwhile, one neighborhood to the north, Emma and her friends along with me and my friend, roamed the streets collecting candy.  I got a rock.  And a beer.  It was a success.

At our house we had record numbers of children swarming our home looking for treats.  Like...25 maybe.  Seriously...that's our record.  25.  Last year we had six.  Lots of leftovers.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Grand Finale

Day 31...

Day 31??  What the...it's 30 days of random, I thought?  It is.  This is the wrapup.  The yoga pants (1) on the taut ass of this series of blog posts.  So, please stay long enough to open up the cookie of my thoughts and consume the creamy center of my meaning (2).  The same person who has given me most of my ideas, about cats, for example (3) also suggested this grand finale, so, like a lemming (4), I decided to do it.  You "owe" her for this post.

The point of the exercise, the reason I jumped (5) was to stretch my creativity a little, get in a habit of writing more frequently, and also remind people that I still have a blog.  I THINK it was successful overall.  The things that I spoke with most "expertise" on were a piece of cake (6) to write and for the most part seemed the most successful.  That makes sense to me because most of the people who read this blog came here looking for autism-related parenting stuff in the first place, so my "demographic" is obviously driving the success of those posts.  So having the special needs piece be most successful certainly didn't make me depressed (7).

Some of the posts were crap, let's face it, but I never promised Shakespeare (8).  To return to the Chopped analogy when I started this exercise, I know those basket ingredients don't always turn out to be five star dishes.  But I will say I'm proud of myself for having stuck with it, doggedly attacking the topics like a honeybadger (9), though perhaps unlike the honeybadger, some topics got the better of me.

Some topics were slow, and gradual like a sprouting chia pet (10), while others took off like fire...which was good (11).  Some topics didn't seem to go together...like pairing blueberries(12) and candy corns(13) at Thanksgiving Dinner(14)...but I muddled through them anyway. 



And though I did get stretched a bit thin at times, finding balance (15) wasn't as hard as I thought.  The special needs of this exercise did lead to some marital strife (16) as I tried to justify why I needed time alone to write when I had other responsibilities looming.  I genuinely felt stressed anticipating not being able to complete a post by the daily deadline.  But I'd rather have frozen to death or been burned alive than miss that date (17).

I was surprised people said they'd miss the dailies.  A blog post a day, unlike an apple (18), will NOT keep the doctor away, but I guess maybe it staved off boredom, and kept people from picking their noses...or worse, their friends' noses (19).  It IS my intention to blog more frequently.  Maybe it won't be EVERY day like this has been, but it will certainly be more than the every three weeks I'd dropped to before reviving.  It will be less random, more family-centric, and probably more autism-centric too.  I'll even draw pictures on occasion.  I really like drawing, and it gives me an excuse to exercise that as well.

I did feel like posting every day didn't necessarily produce as polished a product...it was like Matthew Modine in Space Jams versus The Mummy (20) (and yes...I know it wasn't Matthew Modine).  I typically like to have a picture or two in a post just to break the monotony of the words.  That said, I was able to incorporate a couple pictures of my smart, pretty daughters (21) and our Halloween costumes (22) in addition to sketching here and there or graphing.  If I was incorporating how much time I spent on this into the graph of "how I spend my time" (23), I think the numbers would be very different.

Hopefully you found something as useful as a measuring tape in a junk drawer (24), or as entertaining as a book on a desert island (25), or as inspiring as sibling love (26).  If this is your first exposure (heh) to the blog, I hope you'll add it to your playlist (27) and if not, I hope it has climbed its way into your list of favorites (28).

After the initial learning curve (29) peaked, I felt confident (30) I'd be able to finish.

And if you haven't figured it out yet (and you HAVE to have figured it out by now) the final challenge was to ATTEMPT (call it a partial win) to incorporate every 30 days of random topic into one final post.

Here are the posts and how they stacked up popularity-wise...

The most recent probably doesn't have the benefit of a few extra days viewing, but it looks like nobody really cares about cats or blueberries or nosepicking and fire, for that matter.  I didn't bother attempting to tie the dates posted into the data, but I suspect those topics posted over weekends, regardless of how compelling, suffered for it.

That's it, kids!  The great 30(1) days of Random has concluded.  Now I just have to decide if I'm doing Nanowrimo or not...


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cats

The final official day of the 30 days of random is "Cats".  Not the musical, which I've never seen, and which is vaguely unsettling, but the furry little animals about which the musical was made.  I assume.

So cats in general means Dobby specifically.  Cats are a spectrum.  A good friend of mine told me that.  Or maybe it was gender.  I can't remember.  But until I do, I'm going to just say "X" is a spectrum where X = "whatever we happen to be talking about".  Also, the same friend says I plagiarize her, so if you enjoy this blog, you should know, that it's really mostly not my own work, it's hers, and I just put my words on her ideas.  I THINK that's what she was getting at.

Things I've noticed about Dobby:

1)  He will choose to lie down on top of something that does not seem like it would be comfortable.  Always.  So shoes for example...we pile our shoes by the door.  Dobby will walk over to the shoes, and just sort of...collapse across them.  Then he'll sleep.  On the shoes.

2)  He is destroying the upstairs carpet.  He picks the transition strip between rooms, insinuates his little claws in there, and then pulls and scratches and claws it until the carpet thread separates from the pile and little fibers are scattered all over the upstairs hallway.  Emma says, "Well...weren't we getting hardwood anyway?"  I think she's still afraid we'll give him away.  "Yes, Emma, we are.  But not today.  And not tomorrow.  So in the meantime, Dobby is tearing our carpet to shreds."

3)  At night when he's awake, but lounging, he does so just at the top of the stairs.  In the dark.  So that I trip over him and fall down the stairs and die and he can eat my corpse (I assume).

4)  He will stalk over to you as if he's ready to jump on your lap and get attention, but then stand there and look at you while you make a total ass of yourself saying, "come on, Dobby, come here, come on baby, hop up, come on Dobby...etc."  You'll pat your lap or the chair or whatever the whole time you're doing it, and like three or four times you'll see his muscles tense and he'll start to move, as if to jump up next to you...I think it's when he senses you're running out of steam...and then about three minutes later he'll just walk away.

5)  He meows plaintively and scratches your legs when he's hungry.  You get his food out and he twines his way between your legs as you carry it to his dish, nearly tripping you, then you put the food in his bowl and he sniffs it and walks away.

6)  He sheds.  A lot.

7)  He senses when you're about to take his picture and he moves.  He can be fast asleep.  You could be doing jumping jacks next to his head and he'd just sleep through it, but the second you get a camera out, he's off in a blur.

8)  My wife and I are allergic to him, but the kids aren't. 

9)  He has a majestic tail.

10)  He scratches the shit out of our leather furniture.

11)  He's still our cute little Dobbykins, and he's family now, despite his many many MANY problems, he'll always have a place in our home.  Our tattered, smelly, fur strewn home.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marriage and Special Needs Kids

Day 29 is "The effect of special needs kids on marriage".  Because this is a serious topic, and because it's one of the last two, I considered making it the last topic...but my big facebook autism support group's share day is on Wednesday, and because this is something lots of them can relate to...I'm posting it today instead. 

On our 12th anniversary I posted something specifically about the effects of autism on marriage, and I'm not going to read that three year old post again, but it's here if you'd like to read it...Anniversary Dates and Divorce Rates.

I think since the time I posted that someone came out with some study(ies) or other that showed the effect was "bad", but I didn't read the study and it doesn't change my own experience anyway.

So here, in a nutshell, is what I think:  There are reasons, legitimate reasons, to get a divorce.  There are reasons that people get divorces that seem less legitimate. 

So let me set aside what I would consider the legitimate reasons to divorce, like abuse, for example.  I want all the legitimate reasons for divorce over in this corner over here *points to corner*.  I'm not talking about those.

Also, let me say, that if you feel there is NO legitimate reason for divorce EVER...I'm setting that in the corner as well.  I don't want to debate the sanctity of Marriage with you.  But you're a dumbass if you think there is NO reason why a divorce is legitimately the right thing to do.  But I'm not debating it...dumbass.

What we're left with are all the wrong reasons to get a divorce.  Whatever those might be.  People are selfish, and if you decide, selfishly, that you want to exchange the old worn out wife for the new younger model for no reason other than she's aging (even as you yourself age) and aging is yucky...that would be a good example. 

So there are allllll sorts of selfish stupid reasons to get a divorce.  Getting a divorce because you can't handle the stresses of raising your own children is just one of them. 

My point is this:  IF your marriage fails, and IF you have special needs kids, THEN you need to understand that the person who walks away because of that is a douche.  And that special needs kids didn't lead to that divorce, selfishness did.

Having Lily in our lives has actually strengthened our partnership.  It requires that we communicate more.  It requires that I take a more active role as a parent.  Co-parenting is good for a marriage.  Sharing work around the house, whether that work be child-rearing or doing the laundry, is good for the marriage.  Because when I share the work with her, she's happier and doesn't resent me for leaving her responsible for everything while I hit the bar.

There's a weird sort of topic split here that I'm not really going to explore, but I'll point it out..."marriage/special needs" vs. "parenting/special needs", and I guess I'm going to just gloss over it and say that I feel like the two are very closely related.  When I'm a better parent I'm also a better husband, because the shared responsibility means less weight falls on her shoulders and leaves her more time to enjoy the family and our life together. 

Does having a special needs child make me a better husband?  Not directly, but the additional attention that Lily requires means that we have to communicate more, and it means that she can't do it all alone, which means I have to help out more.  More communication and more active helping out make me a better husband. 

I get that people get stressed out about their special needs kids, and I've said in the past that you can just cross out the word "special needs" and the sentence is still just as true.  But that stress isn't about the marriage necessarily, and making it about the marriage isn't justified. 

I reread like the last four paragraphs and they all say almost the same exact thing, but I'm too lazy to go up and edit it more succinctly.  My main point is that special needs kids don't REALLY impact your marriage in any way.  You love that person or you don't.  You're a partner to that person or you're not.  The circumstances that add stress to you life...aren't related to that partner (unless that person is the reason you're stressed, but that subject is over in the corner).  They're no less stressful, but they're misguided if they're aimed at your spouse.  If you have a good marriage, having special needs kids won't make it any better or any worse, but your reaction to the stresses of parenting might, if you take it out on your partner.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Smart, Pretty Daughters

Day 28's official topic is, "How hard it is to have two daughters smarter and prettier than you are."  This will be probably one of the shortest posts of this 30 day period.

It's not hard. It's so bloody simple.  I think that almost every parent hopes and prays when his children are born that they'll be happy, healthy, intelligent, funny, beautiful, well-liked, successful, etc.  I cannot imagine any decent father being upset that his kids ended up being happier, healthier, smarter, prettier, more popular, richer, more respected, than he is/was. 

So while I have a pretty positive opinion of myself...I want nothing more than for my kids to be better than I am in every and any category imaginable. 

How hard is it?  As hard as lying in bed.  As hard as leaving the dishes until tomorrow.  As hard as drinking a cold beer on a hot day.  As hard as cutting warm butter with a hot knife.

It's eeeeeeeeeasy. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner

Day 27's topic is Thanksgiving Dinner.  I picked today to publish it because it is happening in one month's time.  November 27th is a Thursday, so you'd better have your ducks in a row...er...turkeys.

I have written about Thanksgiving a couple times before.  I won't link you to them, you can search if you want, I don't remember there being anything particularly poignant about them. 

Here's what you should know about Thanksgiving:

1)  I don't like it.
2)  I don't really like turkey all that much
3)  I don't like stuffing that much
4)  I don't like my food to touch
5)  I don't really care for pumpkin pie
6)  I don't like being asked to share my feelings on demand

So what Thanksgiving is...and what it's meant to be are two different things.  What it IS is a celebration of gluttony.  I sound kind of jaded, but I mean at the heart of it, most grown ups are not really spending a lot of time focusing on "giving thanks", they're more focused on "eating a lot of food".

And I want to address number 6 above briefly before moving on..."I don't like being asked to share what I'm thankful for with a lot of people on command."  It makes me extremely uncomfortable.  So when people are actually observing Thanksgiving more in a manner that keeps with the original intention?  I don't like that any better.  Maybe even less.

So back to rest of the list...Turkey is mandatory, and everyone oohs and ahhhs over turkey, but essentially it's a glorified chicken.  And since I don't like stuffing, and mashed potatoes are soso...and I don't do gravy because...issues...and because I don't like the way the red juice of the cranberry sauce seeps into the edges of the mashed potatoes and the stuffing, staining it red and giving it cranberry-like tastes...I don't like thanksgiving dinner.  And I eat it every year.  And it is good...but it's not so good that I'd make it the centerpiece of a damned holiday and virtually require people to eat it and enjoy it.  No.  Not that good at all. 

I like that there's football.  So I like that it gives me something else to focus on besides the turkey.  But I'd skip probably Thanksgiving every year if tradition/family allowed.  But they won't.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Balancing Act II

Day 26 is officially "Balancing Siblings"...buuuuuut.  I think the person really meant balancing offspring.  Because I only have one sibling, my sister, and I don't really need to balance her on anything.  She's pretty balanced.  I lavish ALL my sibling attention on her, which is to say, not that much because she's constantly gone, and I'm a guy, and there's a bunch of stuff here to do...but ALL of what's leftover for siblings...is hers.




Okay, that said, I think this is more about balancing attention for your kids.  This isn't "special needs" specific.  More parenting-specific.  Any time you have two, I think you try to make sure that both children's needs are met attention-wise, but having an autistic child does complicate that a little. 

When I was first starting this blog I wrote something called "Balancing Act".  It was like my sixth ever blog post.  I didn't reread it, but I'm sure I'd be mortified if I did.  Go back and read about it if you'd like to point and laugh at me.  Anyway, that's why this one is called "Balancing Act II".
 
Okay, back to the topic at hand:  the difficuty of balancing your kids' needs.  The complication is this:  Lily needs more attention.  Franky, she doesn't even want more attention.  But she needs more, because without our attention...shit happens. 

So setting aside what all of the extra attention might entail, just take it from me, she needs more.  And so Emma will always end up getting the short end of the stick if we aren't constantly careful. 

This is something I feel really guilty about, but Emma is awesome at sharing her parents with Lily.  She's such an amazing big sister.  So she understands when Lily gets an extra turn on the TV because if she's not watching something she enjoys while we're feeding her, for example, then it makes feeding her more complicated.  What that means is...unless we really pay attention, Emma's turns/needs/attention get neglected. 

I mentioned it in one of the earlier posts.  Maybe it was the sibling post about Emma being a special needs sibling, but when I am not aware of whether I'm being fair to both kids...that is when I know I'm not being fair to both kids, because that balance isn't natural.  It doesn't just sort of 'even out'.  I have to pay attention to the balance at all times or it will shift in Lily's favor. 

Sometimes I talk to Emma about it.  I ask her to please come to me if she feels like she's not being considered or she's not getting her turns...but that's hard for a 12 year old.  Ultimately every minute I'm not conscious of maintaining that balance it tips in Lily's favor. 

Emma and Lily's relationship is so special.  There's really only one thing that can fuck it up...me.  I never want Emma to feel that Lily's needs supersede hers.  I never want that feeling to morph into jealousy or envy.  So this balancing act is possibly the most important thing I do as a parent to two children.

I try to talk to Emma about the attention she gets and how it differs from Lily's.  I explain that when Lily goes to bed we watch movies and eat popcorn, or sometimes we go off on our own and shop or go geocaching or play video games.  Those are things that Lily can't (at least not yet) participate in, and they're special for her.  I try to make sure that the things Emma likes doing are things that get done.  I try to make sure that the promises made get kept regardless of convenience.  I try to make the turn-taking even out.

Because although that balance is really hard, maybe even practically impossible, it is suuuuuper important.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blueberries

Day 25...Blueberries.

Sometimes I struggle figuring out what to write for these topics.  But the people have spoken and they people want to learn my feelings on blueberries.

Blueberries are expensive as shit.  I don't know why exactly, but maybe it's because they're really only in season in the spring (that's right...right?) so maybe they're really expensive berries to raise and make money on.  I don't know. 

They're not REALLY even blue.  I always try to think of foods that are blue that occur in nature, and the only one that seems like it's even close is the blueberry, but it's more...purplish blue-ish.  So what are some blue foods.  I'm coming up blank.

Blueberries get fuzzy really fast.  When I pack lunches for Lily I usually cut up strawberries for her so they're in bite size pieces, then sprinkle a bunch of blueberries in the bowl because she gets tired of all one taste and likes a little variety.  So we always have blueberries.  Anyway, sometimes I forget them because I get lazy and don't want to cut strawberries, so the strawberries grow fuzz and get soft and mushy and the blueberries almost grow like...white moss on them.  And I toss them.

Blueberries are called a "super food" so I think that means you should eat them to be healthy. 

Outback used to have a really good blueberry martini.  I haven't been there in a while so I'm not sure they still do, but it was awesome as fru-fru drinks go.

Finally...blueberries are either really sweet, or too tart, but rarely tartly sweet.  And the sweet version is not super flavorful, and the tart version isn't the "good" kind of tart...more like..."are you sure these are ripe" tart.  So I don't blueberries. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Playlists

Day 24...Playlists...

A week or two ago, the topic was my five favorite bands.  This topic will have a similar feel.  Mainly...I don't listen to music anymore.  I mean, I'm not against it or anything, but when I listen is when the kids are in the car and so it's always top 40, because my stuff is too dark for them.

So...lemme look at my playlists as they currently stand:

Classical Music (no idea).  I think this is actually just the genre spiked out on my phone.  OH!!!  No.  I take that back.  I made a playlist years ago to put in Lily's room to listen to while she was going to bed.  Tchaikovsky and Mozart.  That's it.


And I must have deleted all my other playlists, so in the interest of having SOMETHING about which to write...I'll look at my Top 25 Most Played:

 The last two pics are essentially the same thing but I took it because the last song, "Chocolate" got cut off. 

That's it.  That's what I mostly listen to when I choose to listen to music, apparently.  It's sort of not really even relevant though because even when I DO listen to music it's just Pure Pop on iTunes radio for the girls.  If we hear something cool I'll download it so we have it.  

That's it.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Autism Learning Curve

Day 23 is...*takes deeeeeeep breath*...

"The parental autism wire; the intricate fascinating woven web of networking the autism parents enter into and create to find and absorb information when their child is diagnosed."

But I'm just going to call it "The learning curve".


All I can really point to is my own experience.  Lily was diagnosed ADHD when she was about 2 1/2.  The doc wanted to wait six months until she turned three in order to diagnose her on the spectrum, so six months later, we went back to her office and she RE-diagnosed her PDD NOS with ADHD.  This gave her an autism diagnosis and Leslie and I entered the octagon.

This isn't really about our reactions to diagnosis, but is more about what happens to parents when they get the diagnosis, along with some generalities of my own thrown in for 'seasoning'.

Okay...we became "aware".  The becoming aware thing is like buying a new car.  When I first moved to Pittsburgh I was driving a Ford Mustang.  And no, not the 5.0L Mustang, or I'd probably be dead...the four cylinder "looks like a Mustang, drives like a Tercel" Mustang.  So after the first year or so living in Pittsburgh, I bought my first ever new car from the dealer.  A 1996 Volkswagen Jetta.  It had a CD player (in the trunk) with a six disc changer, yo!  I'm getting to my point.  After I bought my Jetta, I started noticing ALL THE OTHER JETTAS!!!  Holy shit!  Who knew how many Jettas there were!  Obviously they were always there, but I didn't really "become aware" of them until I had a personal interest in Jettas.  Lily's autism became our Jetta.  Look at ALL THE AUTISM!!

Over the years that Leslie and I have been married, we've become "aware" of lots of things, but one thing that I think my own experience has taught me..."spreading awareness" is a very low rate of return for time invested.  I'm not saying that it's not still a great idea to educate or whatever...but just don't expect to change the world with your campaign to spread awareness.  People become aware when they have a personal interest in becoming aware, regardless of how much information with which you inundate them.  Whether it's awareness of autism, or disability rights, or hemophilia, or cancer, or whatever...there's SO MUCH ...MUCHNESS out there, you just can't be aware of it all.  You're overloaded with ribbons and armbands and blue porchlights and purple flags and god knows what all.  I guess what I'm saying...don't be too surprised or too disappointed at the ignorance you encounter, and don't be so damned hurt or broken about how judgmental people are...you were those same exact judgemental ignorant people exactly one day before you "became aware". 

*Steps off soapbox*

So we started noticing autism stuff everywhere.  My wife worked for a company (still does actually) that provides residential housing, treatment and education for autistic kids (and others) and so I think HER path was a lot different than mine.  I was the googler.  I was the blog reader. 

The first resource I noticed was Autism Speaks.  I noticed them because they're huge and impossible to miss.  They became my source for everything autism related.  (Until something huger and less impossible to miss comes up, you Autism Speaks haters will have to make your peace with that and just compete to get YOUR message out.)  So my path immediately took me down to the corner of Cure Avenue and Tragedy Boulevard where I meandered for maybe a month or so.  Because they were the only narrative I knew...they were the gospel.  I wasn't a bad person because of it (and if that's where you are...neither are you) it's just all I knew. 


Somewhere along the line I started reading blogs.  I think it was through twitter initially, but I can't remember.  I searched #autism on twitter and added everyone that it returned.  Pretty soon my twitter feed was essentially all things autism.  That meant I got both sides of every story...but it also meant I really had no idea what to believe.  They all seemed equally authentic...from the people blaming big pharma and pimping faith or snake oil to the people mocking them as conspiracy theorists and woo peddlers.  I thought "Natural News" was a trusted source.  I wasn't a bad person because of it (and neither are you if that's where you're at)...it's just all I knew.

But I noticed the blog links and read them.  Then when I found a blog I liked, I read and commented everything.  Then I followed every blog that person linked on their page.  Then I read and commented everything on those blogs.  I started finding groups of people that I identified with.  I started writing my own autism blog.  Pretty soon the people who I was constantly peppering with comments were commenting my blog, and we had a dialogue going.  They became my 'tribe'.  I suppose if I'd found different people first, my tribe might look a lot different.  But I'm happy with it.



Around that time I had realized that Autism Speaks wasn't for me.  That it was too hard to fight people any time the name came up.  That their message wasn't my message and their path wasn't necessarily my path.  I started looking for local charities.  I got in touch with my current charity on the recommendation of an autistic adult who blogged and lived locally.  The charity thing is nice.  They have so many more connections locally  And no matter how much information you get in general from social media and blogging and google...sometimes it's nice to know there's somebody just down the street who gets it.
 
Next came facebook. Joining groups that the people whose blogs I read were in.  Talking to them in forums about autism in 'real time' instead of commenting then checking back.


That's when I really started bumping into people who bumped back.  They had a different view/path than I did.  They were offended by my view.  Fuck them, I thought, at least initially.  How dare you take offense!  This is my daughter!!  And they weren't bad people for being offended by me.  But I didn't know that yet. 


I eventually tried extremely hard to make friends with those people.  I found that the harder I tried, the harder it hit me when I'd get slapped down by someone with a different view, and eventually I stopped trying to be friends with the people who didn't want to be friends with me.  I just recognized that they were on a different path than I was, and that it was okay.  And I even recognized that their path wasn't necessarily helpful for me to attempt to follow.  This is coming out sort of garbled and cryptic.  Let me restate:  Not only isn't your view of autism the only view, but your goals aren't the only goals.  Your goal may be "help my daughter be all she can be".  Their goal might be "end ableism".  And both goals are actually awesome, but that doesn't mean you can work together necessarily.  Because at the end of the day they want X...and you want Y...and sometimes those goals don't work hand-in-hand and they don't understand why you can't see that their goal is really what's MOST important and please drop everything and get with the program! 

But...you have to do what's best for you and your family.  I'm not saying "Stay out of autism politics" because sometimes that is what's best for you and your family in the long run.  I'm just saying...stay out of politics if you want to save yourself a shitload of stress, frustration, and hurt feelings.  Just recognize that whatever their feelings for your path and your experience, you should try to understand that the same passion that lights a fire in your belly does the same in theirs, and if you clash from time to time, then understand that we fight hardest about the things for which we're most passionate...disengage if the only thing keeping you in that fight is pride.  Because they're trying really hard to do good things just like you are.


How did I get back on the soapbox?  *steps off soapbox again...feels the burn in the thighs*

Okay...so diagnosis, google, links to big charity, twitter, blogs, alignment with local charity, facebook groups, and now...I'm an expert.  I kid.  

You grow and change throughout the whole process.  You find that the person who wanted to cure his daughter becomes the person who wants to cure the world to make it safer for his daughter instead.  You just...evolve.  That sounds condescending because it makes it seem like "I'm in a better place now...someday you will be too" but what I really mean is...all the truths you passionately defended when you started your journey will become the shit that makes you cringe later. 

Like somewhere out there right now is someone reading this who can probably remember a time when they BLASTED someone for saying "autistic" instead of "child with autism" but then over time and experience flip flopped and now says the exact opposite.  And the person you were who found "autistic" offensive is still just as good a person as the person you are now who finds "person with autism" to be ridiculous.  And maybe you'll look back at things you've written, or recall conversations, and maybe inwardly blush at what a dipshit you once were.


All of that stuff is me.  And I have no doubt that the stuff I believe in my heart of hearts right now will shift and morph and change with exposure and experience until I look back at this and inwardly blush and cringe at what a dipshit I once was (am).

And that is why it's really important not to be a judgmental dickhead when someone says something "wrong" to you.  When someone says "high functioning" or "mentally retarded" or "autistic" or "cure" or "Big Pharma"...stop.  Take a deep breath.  Weren't you just that same person not long ago?  Before you blast them back into whatever place they just got up enough courage to emerge from...remember when you were exactly where they are now.  


This learning curve is steep.  But after the sharp climb things start to settle down, and that's when the minutia that you pushed off in order to process the big stuff starts to seem more important because the really big stuff is behind you (or...at least "known").  

You can't spread awareness without spreading autism.  At least that's what I think.  I think people know what it is to an extent, but they're confused too.  And ultimately they really don't care to explore it any deeper because they have other shit to worry about.  So when a nationally syndicated talk show host like Michael Savage says that autism is a fraud and a racket...they become aware of it, and it becomes a fraud and a racket to them in exactly the same way that autism became a tragic disease needing a cure when the only voice I heard speaking the autism language was Autism Speaks.  That's where their awareness starts and stops.  1)  See autism mentioned, 2) Hear media portray autism as X, 3) Develop opinion that autism must be X.   4)  Think about stuff that is more interesting/personal.  Without a personal stake in the game, there's no true "awareness", nor is any likely to develop. 

So take that into consideration the next time someone says something to you that you find highly offensive.  They don't have the "benefit" of your learning curve.  They haven't absorbed the diagnosis, the social media, the groups, the charity, the jargon or the politics like you have.  It's not personal to them, so they don't understand how personal it is to you.  So try...try so very hard...to bite your tongue and "educate" without anger.  The person you piss off today immediately becomes deaf to your voice and cause.  

And some people out there on my path...and on other paths ignore that to the detriment of their cause.