Archive for October, 2008

A Family of Autists

Posted in Autism, Motherhood with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2008 by Ms. Ex

“Artistic?  He’s artistic? Well, I guess he gets that from you.”

“No, Mom. I said autistic – they told us he’s autistic. And he has ADHD, but I guess we already knew that.”

“Oh. What, because he has tantrums? He’ll grow out of it, you’ll see. Your brother was like that, he would hold his breath until he turned blue and passed out, and now he’s perfectly…um…well, anyway, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

And maybe he will be.  Little E of weaponry atop the china cabinet fame. Little E with the big personality, with the adorable quirks, with what looks like a slight touch of sociopathy. My baby, my little guy.

I always say he was different from the very first day he was born. He cried inconsolably. He did not look at me. He never smiled. He would push a baby stroller around our driveway for hours on end, all by himself, no matter how cold or miserable the weather. I’m talking fourteen months old, here. It was the only reprieve I got from the incredibly overwhelming need for touch he had.

I realize that is a different thing for an autistic child, needing touch. But it is not that he’s affectionate, necessarily, but that he’s touching me to fill his own black hole of…something. Craving?

We spent hours with the doctor, his resident (intern? I got confused in the introductions part of the journey today), and his nurse.  I went hoping to finally get some direction, some idea of what E’s issues are, if any.  And I got some direction, some ideas. And some extremely difficult news.

It’s really not as if I didn’t know. I think I have known on some level for a long time, but I also kept believing that I must be wrong. It is so mild, surely it must be something else. Something less…permanent. You see, I went in with this child that, despite the soul-sucking challenges, I have managed to parent fairly well considering our personalities. Mine being obsessive, his being the same about different things. I went in thinking that maybe this crack team of experts would say – “AHA! We know exactly what you need to do to keep E from dislocating the arm of his little brother and giving you another corneal abrasion, while simultaneously convincing him to eat something that is not brown.  Or white.”

I left knowing my son is a hair’s breadth from geniosity (geniusosity? geniousness?), but cannot draw a circle. That he can learn to read, but might not fare well making friends. That my gorgeous, precious, spirited boy is now my gorgeous, precious, spirited, autistic boy.

It is a relief. It is a sentence of some kind. It is the end, the beginning, the middle of long roads ahead. I cry. I stop. I form plans. I research. I cry some more. We mothers, we like to know. But, by the very nature of our jobs, we also sometimes like to play pretend, just a tiny bit longer.

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Playing House

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by Ms. Ex

Autumn in Virginia has begun. The first cold morning found me shivering under too-thin blankets, and even the shine of blue sky wasn’t enough to warm me. The cold slows down my blood, my thoughts.  So I do what I always do when I get that feeling of change and a slow ending, or a slower beginning. I made a pot roast.

At nineteen, homemaking is magical and mysterious – a passage into being a real grownup, a claim that a person stakes. Squatter’s rights to adulthood. At nineteen, the Paul Revere cookware bought at a flea market fills you with something like pride, something maybe like I TOLD YOU SO. I told you I could do this. Despite leaving home without the tools for even liking myself, let alone for cooking and housekeeping, I set up the tiny apartment and made it home. Coffee will never taste as good as it did from that Salvation Army coffee maker.

On the bed lay the quilt my grandmother made from scraps of clothing from her four girls’ childhood. I know she must have taught my mother to sew, and I wonder why it never crossed my mother’s mind to pass that knowledge on to me. And then I think of their growing up, and the frugality of the parents of that era, and maybe my mother did not want to leave that legacy. Maybe she did not think I needed to sew, or cook and shop frugally. Maybe when she said it is just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man, she was thinking of herself and not me at all.

Because it was fall when we moved in to the apartment, this time of year always reminds me of new starts, and of looking at things differently.  Warm and simple, furnished with second hand things: the bed from Roger, whose story is infinitely sadder than mine, the couch from Hannah, the quilt from my mother. Every thing I touched held memory, my own or someone else’s. I felt surrounded by love, by the beginning of healing from a long, difficult time.  But I had no idea what I was doing.

In addition to not learning how to sew, I was never taught to cook. My mother lacked creativity in the kitchen, preferring prepared foods, or fast food takeout meals. She wasn’t completely bereft of skills, but she saved them for special occasions like the alcohol-soaked parties she and my dad would throw with a regularity that, now that I have my own children to care for, horrifies me.

I wanted to fit neatly into the picture of happy homemaker. I wanted to understand how women do what they do, cooking and cleaning and clipping coupons. But I didn’t know how. Then one day my boyfriend’s mother pulled me aside and asked if she could share a recipe with me. It was for pot roast. The weather was getting colder, much like it did recently. Leaves were flaming the trees; the smell of woodstoves seeped into the air. Pot roast sounded marvelous. So unlike my usual “no thanks I can figure this out on my own” self, I instead allowed her to take me under her wing. I allowed her to teach me. For the brief time I knew her, Sarah proved more of a mother than mine had ever been, at least in traditional ways. She shared her family stories with me, invited me to be a part of her clan. We talked about the mundane and practical. I found it relaxing and educational, and I began to experiment in the kitchen.

Eighteen years have passed since I got my first recipe for potroast. I have grown as a person, as a mother, as a pretty darn good cook. But pot roast made the way I learned to at nineteen is the only food I crave at the onset of fall. When my home smells of earthy root vegetables and sweet onions for hours, and I know I can look forward to something hot and filling, physically and emotionally, at the end of the day – then I can remember what simple feels like.

Things I Would Never Do

Posted in Motherhood with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2008 by Ms. Ex

I am constantly amazed at the things I swear I would never do…that I now do.  Thankfully, those things do not include breastfeeding an eight year old, like this woman.  Be warned – this one can cause some uneasy feelings, no matter how vigorous a breastfeeding defender you are.

That said, I can almost, almost understand.  And in case you missed it, I said almost.  The problem is one of perspective. You have this little baby, and he grows, but he is still your baby, right? He is still your littlest one, your wee munchkin. So it is hard to see it for what it is, until, as my friend said, he comes in from playing outside and lays across your lap with big dirty sneakers on, or the next babe comes along. Then suddenly, that two or three year old’s head is huge – definitively huge, and it suddenly seems as if it might be time for something different.

Yes, it’s a sad moment, but whew! Thank goodness for perspective, right? Otherwise, some women might breastfeed until their kid is like, eight. Or something disturbing like that. I know I might catch some flack here.  I am about as pro-bf’ing as any LLL-ing, homebirthing, attachment parenting mama. But there are limits.

I’m just realizing that those limits can sometimes be a forest obscured by trees.

Top 10 Reasons to Only Go Places With Nice Bathrooms

Posted in Mental Stability, Motherhood, Why you should maybe rethink the whole reproducing thing with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by Ms. Ex

If I could have filmed a particular scene of my life today without revealing any naughty bits, I totally would have.  Picture this: I’m in one stall of a Chick-Fil-A bathroom, and my four year old is in the one next door. Luckily, I have on drawstring pants, which one can undo while holding a squiriming squid, er, toddler. So while I am trying to see in the bowl to make sure the squat is properly aimed, all the while struggling to keep said toddler from touching anything (this is a public restroom, after all), the four year old finishes, and slides under the bathroom door into my stall!

Oh, the horror!

P.S. Yeah, I know it isn’t ten reasons – but trust me, it’s reason enough.

I’m a Super Star

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 5, 2008 by Ms. Ex

My mate, ever the funny one, told me one time, “We love ourselves, but we don’t think we’re worth it.”  He was absolutely right, about both of us.  I do battle with the doubtful voice in my head daily, although I am a quitter and usually give up after the first feeling of inadequacy.

At least, I used to.  Maybe my age helps, plus having a companion who expects great things from me, but lately I’ve felt an increasing need to push through difficult spots instead of avoiding them.  It has made for some painful moments (okay, days).  Sometimes, almost more than I can bear.  Almost, because, although I feel a disgust for myself most of the time, there is some small thing in me that believes I KICK ASS.

I went to a public reading today, an open mic sort of thing, and I read my writing out loud in front of people for the first time. I felt sick all day, ready to throw up. But something kicked in while I sat there listening to people.  I may do this thing, this public kind of show, because I want people to love me, but the truth is I’ve chosen writing to get that love because I’m good at it.

My mate couldn’t be there, so I got my friend M to video tape it, and I wanted to tell everyone, “I need to watch myself so I can improve, because I’m going to be a famous writer so I will have to do this a lot.”  I don’t know where that came from, and I sure didn’t say it, but I believed it when I thought it.

And after I read my short story, I believed it even more. I moved those people, I made them feel things, with nothing but words.  Me!

I don’t think I will be famous any time soon.  In fact, I might never be.  I am willing to admit that I will survive, even if the whole world doesn’t love me, or even like me.  But the next time I think I’m not worth it, I hope I can remember that moment when I finished reading, and it didn’t matter to me what they thought. Because I thought I rocked.

Sometimes It’s Just About the Deadline

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 2, 2008 by Ms. Ex

I have my first public reading Saturday.  I had chosen a piece of short fiction that I wrote, but my Mate indicated it might be too graphic for a mixed audience.  It’s not bad, really.  His limits are just, well…limiting. But I looked at it and thought about reading it out loud, in front of people I can actually see, and I’m not so sure anymore.

Me: “But I won’t be able to revise it in time and I wanted to read it and I don’t have anything else ready but poetry and that’s too short!”

He: “So you’re telling me you can’t work within a deadline?  Isn’t that what writers do?  How are you going to do this for a living if you can’t make deadlines?”

Dammit.  He played upon my stubborn bone, so now I am busy trying to fix it (part of the reason for this lame post).  It’s not that I’m against reworking something.  It’s more a question of uncertainty.  Is it too bold?  Is it inappropriate?  I guess that depends upon the audience.  I have certainly seen much more explicit sex in “Best Short Stories of” compilations. But this is me, and I am not shy, but rather fiery and opinionated without the self-esteem to do much with it. I will be near to throwing up when I get up to read to those people, do I really need the added hassle of reading something sexy?  Or should I be true to the story?

I think I might leave it, with only minor changes. I do want to be memorable; maybe I won’t need that gorilla suit after all.