My journey to appreciate my life through the recognition of and creation of smile worthy moments! As a mother of two, one of which was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome/ADHD, I've found that humor and reflection can go a long way...
I went out to get a few items from the craft store and ended up in the jewelry making aisle. Let me say upfront, I have absolutely no talent in the craft arena. I have attempted all sorts of hobbies and tend to fail miserably at them.
But... I saw a puzzle piece pendant, the symbol of autism awareness due to the puzzling condition. I have been wanting one of those that I could wear, but I hadn't really seen any that harkened to me. This particular pendant was a bit large and was supposed to be decorated with tiny crystals to color it to your particular awareness preference. I wasn't particularly keen on sparkly crystals, so I almost put the pendant back.
Then... Some pretty cool charms caught my eye and I saw that they already had bracelets that I didn't have to "make" or buy special closures and what not. It looked pretty simple. I picked out an uber industrial looking bracelet and some nostalgic charms to go with it. I knew my son would love the charms.
After simply adding the charms, I decided to change the tiny toggle that the bracelet was already equipped with. This is where the proverbial shit hit the fan and the craft reminded me that in his ring, I get knocked down. A little tiny ball fell off a tiny pin that held the bracelet together. It all hinged on the pin.
My husband got out the soldering iron (We have one of those things? Cool... Can I make little tiny sculptures out of paper clips or something? Wait, one craft bout at a time.) and that little wheel of solder (is that what that wire looking thing is called?). We managed to just make a new ball on the end of that tiny little pin. There were quite a few tries and that craft sure tried puzzling us with all its bobbing and weaving, but we soldered and succeeded. Craft defeated!
Now, I have this really cool bracelet to show for it and a way to show my support for a puzzling condition that will not defeat us either. I can't wait to add more charms when I find ones that my daughter will like as well. I need a few that will down play the size of the puzzle piece a little, but I don't mind that charm being a little big anyway. It makes me smile...
I had been awaiting this day for a few weeks. The local library hosted a presentation and book signing by Jesse A. Saperstein, author of Atypical: Life with Asperger's in 20 1/3 Chapters and there was no way I was going to miss that. Better yet, I was going to take my son. As far as we know, he hasn't met another Aspergian and I felt like this would be a great opportunity for him to see a fellow Aspy who was not only showing success, but confidence as well, after a life of dealing with antagonists, misconceptions and a turbulent transition into adulthood.
My son has expressed how he can feel alone at times. Through photography and his explanation of his art, he has conveyed a feeling being different and solitary, and believe me, as his mom, that's never easy for me to hear. That said, I want him to feel comfortable with his feelings, accepting of his differences and know that there are others who feel very much the same way. Hell, it seems to me that we all would want feel that way, right? This was the day where he could see that there are others like him, even in his own community.
We got there early, and as more and more people took their seats, I found myself watching the mannerisms of those that settled in to see if I could spy other Aspergians and maybe another parent with whom I could make a connection. But then Jesse entered.
After watching the YouTube video of one of his presentations (the one above) and reading his book, I knew what to expect to an extent. While, I was not surprised by his candor or frankness, I wasn't expecting his compassionate ability to think on his feet for the sake of another in an uncomfortable position. At one point in today's talk, he held up a mirror and asked us all to take time to look into our mirrors at home and say a positive thing about ourselves. He offered up the opportunity for someone in the audience to share something special about themselves while looking into his mirror. Two boys had gotten up and made comments that left them radiating with pride. But one boy just couldn't think of anything at first. Then, he returned to say that he was horrible at math and he wasn't able to get past that. With quick wit, Jesse turned the statement around to make the comment become a more positive statement regarding honesty and that boy returned to his seat with a smile.
My son struggled to control himself during the presentation. He chose not to take his ADHD medication, and without it, he has less self-restraint. During times that he feels a bit uncomfortable, overwhelmed or even bored, like today where he probably felt a little of all of that at various times, he can find it difficult to be still. He may rock a bit, kick his legs, slightly roll his head, fidget with his fingers, make awkward facial expressions and even talk childishly. I believe it's his form of stimming, but since his symptoms of Asperger's is milder than many on the spectrum, his stimming is usually a little milder as well. When he's on medication, those actions are non-existent so many don't realize he even has those behaviors. Despite seeing many of the kids in the audience with the same difficulties, it's still difficult for me to watch. I just know what kind of misjudgement that type of behavior can bring upon him, and I'd love to protect him from all forms of erroneous impressions no matter how unrealistic that may be. Seeing Jesse describing how he manages these behaviors, I have hope that my son will find his way as well.
As we stood in line for the book signing, my son showed more of his stimming. When we got to Jesse, he childishly said "Hello"with eyes wide and a mouth even broader. He continued his silly voice to answer when Jesse asked him what he was going to be for Halloween. I tried to break the ice for my son a bit, by getting him to share what he liked best about Jesse's presentation. With normal voice returned, he shared his excitement over an anecdote involving a Studebaker (the antique car aficionado that he is grasped onto that one small mention of a car). He then preceded to contradict the man about the size of a Studebaker. Oh boy... Well, it's not an ideal discussion, but I do like seeing him show confidence. Confidence dispels stimming.
We both left smiling about what we heard and learned about compromise, understanding, and acceptance. I certainly felt motivated to continue to advocate, and surprisingly more motivated to continue with my writing. My son hasn't completely shared his thoughts on today with me yet, but based on his smiles, I think he did get more from it than a Studebaker comment. But then again, I guess that could've just been the candy he got from waiting in line. Nah, I don't think so.
I know I got a lot more of out of it. Even his inscription gave me a thrill and a little more clout with my boy. The last line of the note stated to my son that his mom is awesome. Now, I know he doesn't know me from Adam and he was being gracious, but I sure don't think my son needs to know that! It brought a smile to my face and made me walk just a little bit taller. Awesome is something to live up to at least and I'll do whatever I can to be just that. So thank you, Jesse A. Saperstein, for the lessons of a lifetime and for the simple yet meaningful accolade. I look forward to seeing your future endeavors and will be cheering you on along the way!
I've been on hiatus due to going out of town and having a crummy time. I should've taken the time to find a smile no matter what was happening that was making me stray from my personal second star to the right, but I'm breaking away from the deviated path and finding my way back to Never Never Land once again.
My motivation to get going again? My children showed great courage today. Others may not have even noticed it or seen the importance of it, but my heart felt it and my smile returned.
My son stepped off the bus by himself today because his sister had joined an after school activity, and as he slipped out of his shoes and headed toward the pantry, he began to tell me a little about his day. Usually, I hear about the latest and greatest toy that all the kids are into right now and how someone has a rare one of whatever that toy is. Yep, I heard about all that today too, but he told me about something else that happened.
He told his friend, a friend he considers to be his best friend, that he has ADHD and Aspergers. He has never shared that with any of his peers before. He explained to me that his friend asked him what Aspergers was and my son said he wasn't sure. It's a syndrome he tries to clarify. Apparently, this spawned a conversation where my son said that this syndrome can cause him to get mad. This friend of his, whom I really enjoy and I am thrilled my son has in his life, must have thought this sounded pretty cool... kinda like the Hulk maybe. He asked if my son could get mad now! Love it.
His friend didn't treat him differently or ridicule him. He probably (actually, I'm pretty positive) already realized that my son could get mad easily anyway, but he didn't make my son feel ashamed. My son shared this sensitive information for the first time and it was a very big and brave step for him. I'm so very happy over it.
My daughter's display of bravery was a little different, but smile inducing all the same. Tonight, during a personal safety/anti-bullying demonstration held during a cub scout meeting, she joined in the activities as the only girl. Standing up next to boys wearing uniforms, and wearing her purple dress, flower headband and sparkly light up shoes, she tried her best to keep up and stand up tall next to the boys. This was after she was too afraid to walk across the gym to join them until they became close enough that she could slip into the line undetected. While the kids sat and listened to the instructor, she paid attention. When the instructor asked questions, she sat still... except once. She bravely raised her hand and spilled forth the answer in her tiny voice. For my very shy and anxious little girl, that was a big deal. I was so thrilled that she raised her hand! After hearing all the boys loudly vocalizing their "Yes SIR" and "Thank you SIR" replies, I expected to hear her get lost in the mix, but she spoke up without a problem. In my eyes, she shown brighter than the purple dress and twinkling shoes.
I welcome my smiles with open arms and put aside the infractions that pushed it from me.
Hey Mom. Two words that never fail to make me look and, in general, make me smile. My daughter rarely says these words together. If she needs me, she just says Mom. If she is greeting me, it's a much more showy display. Something along the lines of "Mooommm!" in a growly, ecstatic way and she runs to me, grinning ear to ear, to tackle me around the waist. I would tell how much that just wraps me up with love and joy, but I'll spare you.
My son is the one that uses the "Hey Mom" phrase. He typically has two inflections. There's the "Hey, Mom?" which has a slight rise in his voice that lets me know to prepare for a question that could involve me either doing something completely simple or turning down a completely irrational request. "Um, sorry bud. We can't build a cannon today..." or "Well, I'm pretty sure you need a special permit to build a full size rocket in the backyard."
But the other way he he says "Hey Mom" is when he's greeting me. His greeting is the antithesis of my daughter's. It's completely nonchalant and monotone, but occasionally I will get an "Oh, Hey Mom" which makes me feel like he wasn't expecting me or something. I love the way he greets me, though. He gets off the bus, sees me and "Hey Mom." He then walks right past me into the house.
Today, when I heard his greeting, I really did smile. When ever I get a call in the middle of a weekday, I cringe! Really, I do. Today was no exception. I answered the phone and it was, *Sigh, the school nurse. My boy wasn't feeling so well.
As I got to the school and started to walk towards the building, I hear "Hey Mom." The window to the nurse's office was open and was calling out to me from inside. I smiled before I even saw him, and then I looked up and he was smiling at me. This is where I would say that I felt like my heart could've just burst from loving that kid so much, but I'll save you from that type of saccharine mush.
Speaking of mushy yuckiness, my son got sick in the car and my daughter wasn't too thrilled about that. I hear "Uh, Mom, it doesn't smell so good" from my daughter. Just picture this... She's pinching her nose with her right hand, her left shoulder is up against her left ear (covered by huge headphones already) and she's reaching across the top of her head to put her left hand over her right ear (also covered by huge headphones already) and all the while, she's desperately trying to continue playing her video game (which is why she's wearing headphones). I guess she didn't want to hear or smell any thing that involved my son being sick. She's taught me many things, and one of which is how to cover both ears and plug your nose at the same time. She was much happier when I pulled over quick at a gas station to throw out the throw up. Actually, I think we all were...
I'm a bit behind on getting my thoughts down today. If I have a prayer's chance of getting up in the morning, I had better keep this one short.
I will take the time to say that I'm still loving my son's teacher! We had our second monthly meeting (that's right, she offered to meet with me monthly just to see how things are going) and I explained that there are significant improvements in my son's stress levels (yay!!), but he was still having social issues on the bus. I went into the story about what happened recently when my son decided to demand that he be given his seat back (he used please). Her reply was awesome! She instantly understood that my son wasn't the instigator and the worst he did was stand up for himself. Why should he be a doormat anyway? Hoorah! Now, she wasn't saying he should start fighting anyone, but if he's being targeted, why can't he verbally speak out? Some may not agree, but I liked her attitude. I felt better that she saw his side of the story, and knew he was a good kid who would stand up against what he thought was wrong. Why should we suppress that?
I get a smile out of how he will hold the door open for others, say thank you when I get him a drink of water, but I love hearing about when he saw that a boy left his lunch box behind and he personally ensured that it was returned to the classmate. I love seeing him wave and smile at a boy that has special needs and isn't always socially accepted by peers (and right after he waved to that boy, an older girl made an ugly face at my son... yea, my kid's the problem here). When he complained about a classmate that shut the door on another classmate with crutches instead of holding the door open, I can't help but think he will be the kid who will not tolerate injustice.
I felt like being a little taller today. Maybe the whole stay at home mom thing has been getting to me, but I have had a desire to kick it up a notch when I do the whole away from home mom thing, so I went for the heels today. I didn't have a whole heck of a lot to do really, but I wasn't about to stay home in my pajamas all day.
The shoes hurt the ball of my feet. And the feeling in my pinkie toe on my left foot will hopefully return by tomorrow, but who cares! I walked like I was born with those shoes on! I stood up straight, and tried to look important. The point is I felt good!
After the kids got off the bus and homework was done, we headed out to the library. Yes, I wore the heels again. By then, the numbness had started in so I had nothing to lose.
I love our local library! It's huge for one thing, for a small town at least. The staff is great there, they have amazing programs and it's all around fantastic. My daughter made a beeline to the Junie B. Jones books and I'm proud of the fact that she knew where they were! Then, my son had it in his head to get a skateboarding book for the non-fiction section, so upstairs we trotted! He knew exactly where those books would be located. On the descent from the second floor, a librarian commented on my daughter's great shoes and my daughter beamed brighter than her light up shoes!
During my own book search (I wasn't nearly as prepared as my kids), I looked back to ensure my crew was in tow. Yep, but how they managed to stick with me is a mystery as both of them had their noses in their books and their eyes glued to the pages. They both managed to tear themselves away and I lead them to the audiobooks section.
After listening to Artemis Fowl during our last four hour car ride, my kids have decided that listening to a book is way better than actually reading one! There are cool accents! My son had a couple of books he wanted to read, but had been intimidated by their huge size (and to be perfectly honest, they would take him FOREVER and he's required to read 25 books this year so we can't take that long). He hopped on the computer and requested the titles. He felt quite accomplished!
Then, there she was! The substitute teacher that taught my son during the best three months of third grade, when his teacher was on maternity leave. She was happy to see him, she asked how he liked school, she encouraged him. She also asked me who his teacher was and new that it really mattered! I loved her! She should be cloned! She's now in a different district due to cuts, but of course my son still gets to see his less than favorite teacher from last year on a regular basis. Grrr... But that's okay, because he's doing great anyway and walked away from the chance meeting with a big smile!
During check out, a librarian greeted my son who was front and center. She said "Hey, weren't you in the first grade book club?! I remember you!" He lit up! She remembered him! He loved that group, but it had been a long time since those meetings! He was rolling in pride!
This morning I wore heels to be taller. By the end of the library trip, I walked taller simply because my kids were radiantly happy! I didn't need the heels after all and I'm sure my feet would have preferred that I would have figured that out much sooner than I actually did. Heh, they'll heal!
This time last year, I was worried beyond stress about what was going on with my son. The hours of homework that he couldn't complete, the frozen way in which he attempted to write and yet, couldn't manage to get anything on paper, the daily struggles socially and the constant learning I had to accomplish to make his life better took it's toll on me.
I read book after book, went from one type of physician to the next, stayed in constant communication with the school, cried through psychologist appointments, hovered over homework and projects, and provided reminders to chew food and brush teeth and, believe me, there was no turning it all off at night. It was always on my mind. What should I be doing now to help my son? It caused me to be tired, stressed out, and tense to the point that my back muscles jumped when rubbed.
All of that worry and studying has done us tremendously well! My son now has a diagnosis, he has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) along with an educational support team unlike any we've ever had. I'm still learning and I'm still advocating for my son, but I'm not so worried anymore.
I am finding support as well. With the Special Education Parent Teacher Organization (SEPTO), I have been able to meet other parents with the same concerns as I. Every child is unique, but every parent shares the same concerns. To hear what other parents are going through and to also hear what makes their child so damn awesome! I felt like I was part of a unit. I shared my experiences, concerns and plans and I listened while other moms and dads did the same.
I feel like I can relax a little now! Oh, I'm ever vigilant when it comes to finding solutions to help us during trying times and my whole body shutters when I read "Main Office" on the caller ID, but I go to bed thinking of my music or fall asleep while giving myself a reiki treatment. I haven't had to go to sleep wondering what would happen next with every pounding beat of my heart. It feels amazing to have a teacher who listens to me, modifies homework, sends home study guides and actually posts the home work on the the school website!
I'm thrilled to have support and to be feeling better about where we all our right now. My son is getting to enjoy being a student, instead of crying about the hardship. The support of SEPTO makes me smile! The support of my husband during every chapter I read up upon and for dealing with the inevitable meltdown just around the corner also makes me smile. Seeing my son happy to return to school after scraping through his third grade class brings about endless smiles. This place where we all are in our lives now feels so much more freeing and uplifting and I know we're on the right path. We hit bumps in the road, but we'll make it. We have support and we have each other. With all of that, we can do anything and there's nothing that could enhance a smile more!
So I'm home after a really long day of packing, traveling, and helping my son study for a test. The latter being the hardest part since he just couldn't retain anything he learned from this weekend or today. We studied before we left for home, we studied off and on during the trip, and we continued studying after arriving home and taking a play break. At one point, I laid my head on the cold enamel top table and repeated "Concord, New Hampshire-- Concord, New Hampshire-- Concord, Concord" and, maybe I blacked out here, but I think I even said "I don't care if you pronounce it Concurd or Con Cord, just write Concord down and remember it, please..."
So after laying down and trying to find my chi for a few minutes, the kids showered and got ready for bed, bedtime reading was done and I wend from finding my chi to finding my remote. I had to catch up with my DVR, I HAD TO!!!
I think it says a lot about my husband, the football fan and watcher of shows like Dexter and Sons of Anarchy, that he will sit right next to me while I watch an hour and half long episode of Project Runway. That man must love me. That really hit me more tonight and sent me into a good laugh when during the newest episode, I made a comment about a character on the show and I couldn't think of his name. My husband chimed up with "Who, Burt?" Yep, thank you. Not only for reminding me of the designer's name that I couldn't retain much like my son couldn't retain Providence, Rhode Island, but for joining me to watch a show that I know he couldn't care less about and actually paying attention to it for me. I appreciate that and I smile because of it.
Does that mean I have to watch Dexter now? Just the opening title sequence turns my stomach... oh boy...
The dining room table was filled tonight with family. My children, my parents, my sister and her fiance and my dear friend, Giovanni. It was a good meal with good company. I don't think I could ask for more. Well, my husband wasn't here since he had to work during the days the kids had off from school, but he was off fishing (and he caught fish!) so he did get enjoy himself too.
After dinner and sitting around a bit, we got out the old game, Scattergories, and enjoyed a few rounds with laughs. It reminded me of when I was a kid and the grown ups with gather 'round Grandma's kitchen table after a big meal and play a game. I remember watching them have such a good time when I was too young to play along, much like my kids did tonight. I remember when I was allowed to join them when I got to be of the age to keep up. We gave my son a chance to play tonight, but it proved to be a little too soon for him tonight. He laughed regardless.
Nights like this bring a smile to face not only because of the fun I had this evening, but from the memories that are conjured up again from times too far distant. Family is happiness for me and with which I will never be apart from a reason to smile.