Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Okay, over the last two years I’ve struggled… not so much that you’ve seen because I’ve basically written four posts in two years.  I have had a million excuses why I haven’t been writing – some I’ve given to you, all I’ve fed to myself.  But I need to get back into the habit.  I need to get writing again.  I need to get back to a point where I can take some time every day and be honest with myself, without feeling guilty for doing so.

Speaking of guilt – I’m full of it lately.  I’m especially guilty of being ridiculously impatient and short tempered.  As I sit here right now, It’s 6:24am.  The boys and I leave for the bus stop in exactly 21 minutes.  They’re playing together in Kaleb’s room – which means they are three feet away from me, separated only by a glass french door, a poorly made one at that.  And they’re loud.  Which is the name of the game when they actually get together (which is basically only when they think they’re supposed to be doing anything else), and that’s okay, as long as it’s good yelling.  But I’m still in “seeking coffee” mode, and hearing that entire container of LEGOs just spill out onto the floor as they run around with the world’s most obnoxious Christmas stuffed animals ever made… It’s all I can do to sit here and tell myself to shut the hell up.

They’re playing together.  That’s progress.  They’re playing together in Kaleb’s room and he’s not screaming at his brother to get out while Mason cries and sobs dramatically over some stupid toy he wants to look at (with his hands).  So what if there are now 4,562,847 LEGO pieces all over the carpet?  So what if it’s December 2nd and I’m officially over the “Let It Snow” song the ridiculous Polar Bear and Penguin are singing?  They’re playing.  And I’m drinking this cup of coffee so fast I may end up burning my esophagus in the process, in an effort to not care so damn much.

I need to get off my horse and look at my kids for who and what they are – tiny people with big voices, big imaginations, and apparently access to the world’s most annoying sounds locked in their little brains.  But they are just that – kids.  So why is it so damn hard for me to let them be?  Why is it so hard to sit here right now and keep myself from scolding them on their volume; their mess; their “backing up sounds” (which genuinely make you feel like someone is scratching your tombstone after about thirty seconds)?  Where did all of my patience go?  Where did the humor in the situation go?  Because that’s the honest problem here.  I stopped writing, because I stopped being able to find the situations funny.  It wasn’t funny when Kaleb continuously urinated all over his bedroom for six months straight.  It wasn’t funny when he suddenly lost 20lbs over two months, and there wasn’t a damn cause any doctor could find.  It wasn’t funny when Mason started peeing on his carpet, because he loves to emulate Kaleb.  It wasn’t funny when the dog started following suit, because, well, he’s a damn dog – if there’s pee, he’s gonna cover it up with his own.  Sometimes my life isn’t funny.  More so than not lately.

So I’m going to shake things up.  This is my space.  This is my place, my soapbox, and I’m going to use it.  But it won’t always be funny.  Sometimes it’ll be ugly.  Sometimes it’ll be heart-wrenching, and sometimes it’ll be gross, and maybe it’ll be funny on occasion.  But that’s my life – in true form – that’s what my world is.  I can’t sit here and pretend that there aren’t days I wake up and want to just scream.  That there aren’t times I lock myself in the bathroom just to cry for a few minutes – sometimes happy tears, sometimes tears that stem from frustration, anger, or fear.  Life is messy.  Life with autism is even more so.

I’m going to try.  I’m going to try to get back to a point where I can write on here and really let go of some of the impatience and frustration.  And I’m going to do it honestly.  Because I need this, and maybe some of you out there need it too.

Today though, I’d like to share a big moment.

Monday afternoon I was putting my empty Christmas bins back in the attic, while the boys were… just being themselves.  Kaleb was waiting for me to finish picking up because he wanted to do an ornament craft that required supplies I had to fish out of my closet.  Mason was… well I don’t really even know what Mase was doing, biding his time until I couldn’t see him, I suppose.  All of a sudden, as I’m coming down off the ladder the both of them start shrieking and screaming.  Mason is crying, Kaleb is shouting, pandemonium had broken out in the kitchen.

I ran in from the garage to figure out what was going on.  Turns out, Mason took the box of candy canes off the counter (thus, biding his time), which he was not supposed to do.  Kaleb then took the candy canes from Mase, which he is not supposed to do (if your brother does something wrong – come get mom – it’s not your job to police him, it’s mine).  Which started the shouting, which lead to smacking and hitting.  Lately, I’ve been in a “Welcome To Thunder-dome” mood – I’m not stepping in when you two go at it anymore.  Learn how to resolve your problems.  By the time I had reached the kitchen and Kaleb told me what happened, Mason had locked himself in his room and was sobbing dramatically (I’m going to make millions off this kid when Hollywood gets ahold of him).  Kaleb wanted me to get the craft supplies and I said no, sorry kid, but you don’t get rewarded for hitting your brother.  He told me he was sorry, and was promptly informed that I’m not the one who needed the apology, I’m not the one he hurt.

*Side note* I’ve been struggling a lot lately to explain to Kaleb the meaning behind a genuine apology.  He’ll do something wrong, and apologize only because he believes it will get him what he wants.  Suggestions on how to rectify this are greatly appreciated.

So, he goes to Mason’s door, and tries to talk to Mase, who yells at him (through a slew of dramatic sobs) to go away.  Kaleb comes back to me and says “Well, he’s never going to accept my apology.”  To which I reply, “Then I guess you’d better figure out a way to make things right.”  So for five minutes Kaleb just stands in the kitchen, thinking.

I’m out on the porch when Mason finally decides to leave his room, all hiccups and stifled sobs (seriously, when did my kid start manifesting Sarah Bernhardt?).  He walks out to the kitchen and Kaleb looks at him and says “Mason, I’m really sorry.  I shouldn’t have taken the candy canes and it was wrong to hit you”

*Whoa.  Back the truck up.  Did that just leave his mouth?  For real?!

Mase then says (again, he’s still doing the can’t catch my breath from crying so hard thing) “It wasn’t your fault.  It was my fault.  I shouldn’t have taken the candy canes.”

*WHAT?!  What is going on here?  Did I fall into an alternate universe?

Kaleb says “No, it was both of our fault.  You shouldn’t have taken the candy canes, but I shouldn’t have taken them from you, and we shouldn’t have hit each other.”

*That’s it.  Who are you and what have you done with my children?

After basically a repeat of the whole conversation when Mase once again tried to take all the blame and Kaleb once again took responsibility for his part in it, they both apologized and forgave each other.  Meanwhile I’m convinced I’m having a stroke, or maybe the stress has finally gotten to me and I’m hallucinating.

They came to me together and said they accepted each other’s apologies and asked if we could make ornaments.  Um.  Yeah.  Yep.  You can make all the ornaments you want after that little display.  And they did.

IMG_3824I was humbled, and flabbergasted, and astonished, and so very proud.  They might actually turn out to be okay humans one day.

It just reminds me, once more, that kids are full of surprises – and sometimes those surprises don’t even make you want to throw up in your mouth a little.

Happy Wednesday people, thanks for tuning in.

The Sound Of Silence…

First off, it is colder than hell outside.  And while you may think that’s an obvious (and somewhat stupid) statement – let me just say that for some people (*ahem, me) being cold is a whole lot worse than being hot!  And yeah, I’m in Florida.  No, thankfully it is NOT snowing.  Yet, YES, I am still bitching.  I’m cold when it’s 80, you can bet your fluffy down comforter I’m freezing when it’s 30.

Anyway, I started off saying a first, so let me get to the second.  I’ve finally figured them out.  My kids.  Frighteningly enough, part of the riddle has been solved.  No, really, it’s actually pretty scary.

Oh, and yeah, third.  I’m back.  Again.  I’ve been remiss.   Yada yada… busy, busy.  Life and all that crap.  So, I offer no more empty “I’m back for real and gonna make this a weekly thing” business, because I’m being honest, and I honestly cannot guarantee when I’ll actually write anything.  But I’m writing this, so I’m going to go ahead and be happy with that.

Back to the second.  The boys.  My favorite Monsters.  Holy realization moment.  Kaleb is me.  Mase is totally Daddy.  And while they both have parts of us in some ways (I’ll man up and take blame for the road rage) – it isn’t the same.  Allow me to explain…

I need recognition for things I do well.  No kidding, serious verbal recognition.  I thrive on it.  I will keep doing the things you verbally recognize and appreciate I do.  If you don’t … well.  I tend to stop doing them.  Because I feel like they (and I, by extension) go unnoticed.  I need visual stimulation.  I need to be able to escape from reality though books, music and other such things when I get overwhelmed with life, because otherwise I end up over-thinking everything and my anxiety gets bad enough that I stop functioning like a normal person should.  I require step-by-step instruction when introduced to something new because otherwise I will totally go off book, and let’s be honest – that never ends well.

I don’t respond to hounding or constant reminders – that feels more like a piano hanging over my head by a string than a motivation to remember something.  My memory is lax when it comes to a lot of things because there is almost always something bigger and more imminent looming in the forefront of my mind, even if that particular thing seems small to anyone else.  Threats never work with me, because it isn’t real if it isn’t right there in front of me.

I know, to an extent, how much this sucks for the people in my life who want to convey important things to me.  Because while I can spend hours, days, or weeks consumed with fictional worlds, I cannot genuinely envision my life without the things that are already in it.  I forget simple tasks, silly things people ask me to do for them, things I usually start to do (because they mean a lot to people who mean a lot), and then I get bogged down by other things.  Those big important things that are consuming my thoughts like endless riders on a Merry-Go-Round.  Or I get overwhelmed.  I don’t know what to do first.  I start a million things at once and finish exactly… none.  I let people down constantly.  I let myself down constantly.  Because the minute my mind leaves one topic, another crops up, and the one that is right there is the one that ends up being most important.  I can’t imagine how petty and selfish that must sound to you.

Honestly, it sounds horrible to me, and I’m talking about myself.

But this is me on my most honest level.

***Okay, I know I said before that I need recognition – but not on this.  I’m not looking for validation here.  I’m looking to be brutally honest with myself as a person.  So the first person who tries to offer me an excuse for the behavior I have just admitted to will be promptly showed the door ***

I’ve been like that forever.  Ask my mom.  She could ground me for weeks.  I would shrug and walk away.  What did I care?  But to take my most prized things?  My books, my music… the world would all but collapse as far as I was concerned.  I was actually a decent student. I did my homework.  Every day… but I’d forget to turn it in.  Every day.  I’d forget to put it in my bag.  It wasn’t because there was something else I wanted to do; it was more because I would finish that task and move on to something else that was now a big deal.  But even then…when I’d really get in trouble (and believe me, I totally deserved it when I did.  I was a sh*t), I’d scream, and I’d cry – but to what end?  Did I actually do what I was supposed to have done in the first place?  Eh…. Usually not.  I had the kind of attitude that would send people running for the hills faster than you could say “Call SuperNanny!”

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Kaleb’s like that.  He’s stubborn.   He has a few interests that really encompass him.  And he has a few passing interests, ones he could do without, but they entertain him when all else fails.  He’s got an incredible imagination, and an admirable amount of determination.  Add that to his confidence in himself and his growing skill-set… in 20 years he will be a force nobody will want to reckon with.  But as a child…

I want to go back in time and pick up every hair I must have caused my mother to pull out of her head.

His attention span is exactly that of a dead gnat – unless what he’s looking at involves a book of LEGO instructions, Marvel Superheroes, or something that will piss off his brother.  He forgets to do something about five seconds after you tell him, unless it is either A. written down; B. directly in front of him; or C. beneficial to him in some very literal way.    Everything is a personal attack.  And I do mean everything.  It is your fault he’s screaming, because you told him to use his napkin and he didn’t want to use his napkin, so therefore it is your fault he’s screaming.  See the logic?

That’s the thing.  You have to actually see the logic to understand him.  His world consists of exactly two things, and two things only:  What makes him happy, and What makes him not happy.  I wasn’t quite that bad as a kid.  But, the more I think about how he thinks, the more I understand it.  For Kaleb, everything is immediate.  We can put him in a five minute time-out, but at the end of that five minutes, his mind has wandered all over the place, and he genuinely might not remember why he was in trouble.  Sure he can remember every name of every Spiderman Nemesis – but that is inherently important to him.  At least, it’s a whole lot more important than remembering to use a napkin.

Then again, there are the times he just screams – I mean really, really screams… I think that’s honestly just to make me completely crazy.  Mason had to have taught him that.

I keep asking myself how do I get through to him?

The honest answer is…. I probably won’t.  I probably won’t be the one to do it.  For me, it was a couple of incredible teachers who banned together and changed a great many of my perspectives.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still a total shit when I was at home.  And my mom never stopped trying.  She never gave up on me, or the future she wanted for me.  I was just not ready to listen to her.  At the same time, for once she wasn’t the only one fighting for me.  I worked a bit harder for my future.  I responded to people differently.  I stopped forming so many arguments against my mom in my head and started listening to what she was saying, even though she didn’t know that (and still probably thinks talking to me is the equivalent of talking to a stack of bricks).

But as I pointed out in the beginning of all this – I am in many ways still who I was a kid.  I’m a more grown-up version, sure.  The problems have changed, they’ve gotten bigger, more challenging.  They aren’t just my problems anymore.  They’re the problems of everyone I love and care about.  Myself included.  But it’s sobering to realize as a parent, that there might be a lot more to that old saying about taking a village to raise a child.  Kaleb’s teachers get through to him in times when I can’t.  There are days when they ask me how we handle X, Y, & Z when all I want to do is ask how they got past A & B.

Then, there’s Mase.  Ooooohhhhh The Mase Bug.

It started off as a totally absurd Dora-Inspired nick-name.  The kind of thing that starts because it’s too late for the hospital to do anything but batten down the hatches and tell you to hold on.  An hour later you find yourself face-to-face with this little dude (who may just have the most expressive eyes on Earth), while silently still singing the song Dora sang to help the Mommy Bug-a-bug find her baby bug-a-bug in the episode you fell asleep watching with your toddler.  Or… maybe I wasn’t singing so silently.

Now, I actually think it might be a thingThe Mase Bug.  He’s cute.  He bats those ridiculous eyelashes over those big brown eyes and you want to smoosh his little cheeks.  He says goofy, silly things, and makes absolutely no sense, and you just adore it.  Despite the fact that he’s four, and has a perfectly functional vocabulary he is completely competent in using.

My curious, destructive, charming, deceptively smart boy.  He is his daddy’s clone.  He’s too smart, and too distracted.  By everything and nothing.  He may not being paying attention outwardly, but he is fully tuned in when you think he isn’t.  He wants everything his way, otherwise, well… you can just kiss that cute little butt of his and wish him safe travels – ‘cause he will cease existing in your world the minute you stop making sense in his.  Now, to be fair, both boys are very much like that.  But Kaleb lets you know when you’ve stepped off his planet (usually by screaming that you are wrong).  Mason just checks out.  He won’t return the key – I swear he’s a time travelling Muse for The Eagles.  He’ll check out any time he wants – but he won’t ever leave.

You can sit with him and talk and talk and talk to him until you are rainbow colored.  But unless what you are saying consists of certain key words or phrases, you could be talking ancient Greek.  ‘Cause he is not listening.  He’s thinking about a hundred different other things.  He isn’t building like his big brother.  He’s not dreaming of LEGOs or colored pencils.  He’s thinking about how one car went faster than the other, and he is wondering why.  He’s ripping apart brand new toys just to figure out where things are, where they’d be better suited, and why other things are missing.

He wants to watch me cook, because he wants to figure out what the difference is between a raw egg and a scrambled egg.  Start to finish, he has to understand the entire process or he is not satisfied.  He wants to know why the dome light comes on in the car when the door is opened but turns back off when it’s closed.  He doesn’t just want to know, but needs to know the how and the why.  He wants it faster, louder, and bigger.  And if he has to rip something apart to see what was different inside this toy, versus that toy – he will do it in a heartbeat.

He’s singled minded, and determined.  He’s brilliant, but stubbornly makes everyone show him how to do everything multiple times before he’s satisfied knowing he can do it himself.  He’s loving, but only to certain people at certain times.  He’s distant, but he feels so strongly for those he loves, it’s almost become a defense.   By all accounts – he’s just like Daddy. Smart, sweet, stubborn, with an insatiable curiosity, and a unique, yet disquieting way of viewing the world.

They are us.  Our product.  Both of them.  Beautiful.  Strong.  Stubborn.  Isolated inside a world filled with people that love them, but don’t quite understand them.  Sometimes angry at the hands they’ve been dealt, when they played so much better than everyone else at the table.  Loyal.  Fun.  Joyous.  Intelligent.  Underestimated.  Overestimated.  Such a delirious mix of light and dark.

I forget as a parent (a lot), how I was as a kid.  How singled minded I was.  How absolutely focused I got on the things that interested me.  The things that gave me joy just by doing them on my own.  The things that made me… “Me”.  I’ve become so focused as an adult on making my kids “well rounded” that I forget that a part of becoming an adult is honing those solo interests.  Screaming when you feel like you’re going to explode.  The tantrums and the fights about the fairness of life.  Those things that make me so mad as a parent – I honestly couldn’t count how many of those I put my mom through when I was growing up.  They’re a part of growing up.  You don’t just wake up one day and realize “I’m 4, I should be potty trained.”  Or, “I’m 7, I can tie my shoes.”  Those are things you learn as you go.  Things other people teach you.  Frustration, anger, sadness, confusion – that’s part of life whether you’re a child or an adult.  You only learn how to channel and process those things by watching the adults in your life.

Of course, no matter how much I kicked and screamed I still had to do my math homework – but I was a hell of a lot more prone to do it (and turn it in…) if that meant I got an extra 20 minutes to do something I genuinely enjoyed at the end of the day.  Some days that was watching Gilmore Girls with my mom (Yes, I just did totally out you Mom, sorry).  Some days that was sitting on the kitchen counter picking apples out of the pie mix Nana was making when (I thought) she wasn’t looking.  Or going upstairs and getting lost in a story.  Every day I was a different version of myself.  Some days I wanted companionship, some days I didn’t.  Even as a small child.  That’s an easy thing to forget.

I think maybe it’s time we all take a few minutes to remember ourselves as kids – our HONEST selves.  How we really were, not how we like to think we were, and try to imagine applying it our lives now.

Think about what motivates you now – what motivates your spouse – what motivates your kids…

And I don’t mean money, work, grown up crap.  I said think like a KID. A little kid.  Little kids don’t think about money – at least not in concrete terms.  They think about the abstract.  If you could do one thing at the end of the day for twenty minutes, what would it be?   What about your spouse?  Your kids?  Not a group activity – save that for the weekends or holidays.  Not some sibling activity to force your kids to get along (BTW, if you have one of those I am beyond open to suggestions).  Not something for someone else either.  Be selfish, be abstract.  Think like a child.  Find a true, free, honest reward for surviving the day.

I’d spend twenty minutes writing.  Or doing something to further it.  Research, outlines, whatever – something just for me.  I’d give Daddy twenty minutes of complete he-man time – no phones, no kids, no email, nothing but peace and the understanding that comes with a perfect match of man and machine (just for the record, if this wasn’t an abstract, I’d give him twenty minutes a day flying instead).  I’d give Kaleb 20 minutes of LEGO time.  I’d give Mason twenty minutes to talk about, throw, drive, or destroy any 3 toy vehicles of his choice.

If we all stopped looking at life like a race to be won, a battle to be waged – and started thinking about how to encourage the people next to us to be better, happier versions of themselves, instead of constantly trying to make everyone be like us, think like us, want what we want – just imagine how much better and happier we would all actually be…

The Munsters…

I’m baaaaaaack…

Though why I felt the need to make that sound like an ominous thing I have no idea.  Clearly, I’ve been gone for a while – and for that I apologize.  It’s been a simply insane 6 months.  So, today I’ll play catch up, and I swear I’ll do my best to get back on track with the Monster reports!

Let’s see, where should we start?

Oh!  I actually got married (those of you that know me are probably still pondering such a miraculous event, and those of you who were directly involved with the sanity *AKA Miss Lisa* are probably still sending thanks to the universe that it’s over)!  Growing up I never figured myself for the marrying kind.  I mean, let’s be honest here – I am a giant pain in the ass.  I’m stubborn, have an issue keeping my thoughts to myself, I absolutely loathe dishes and laundry (the two things that just never seem to go away), oh and then there’s the whole ‘crazy as a loon’ thing I’ve got going on too.  Somehow or another I managed to wind up with a man crazy and brave enough to want to marry me – and the fact that he still wanted to marry me in the midst of all of my fanatically insane wedding planning is a testament to either his own brand of lunacy, or the size of his you-know-whats!  So, anyway, here we are, married.  Eventually I’ll throw some pictures up for your viewing pleasure – after I finally pin the silly man down long enough to go through them.

So, now onto the more important things – the Monsters.

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Let’s start with the main man, Kaleb.

Oh, Kaleb.  My budding thief, word connoisseurfood snob *ahem, I mean critic*, scream king, master builder, tree house dreamer, beverage expert, and all around living breathing proof that insanity is hereditary.  First things first – it was time for a medication change.  After three years, we’d hit the limit with his current medication, and after his latest growth spurt (seriously, how freaking big is he going to get?!) it was no longer doing the job.  Allow me to explain that statement.  Kaleb went from a wily, crazy, creative, loud, messy monster to… well… the truth?  A total nightmare.  We couldn’t contain him.  And I don’t mean to sound like we didn’t try – because oh good golly did we ever.  But it so wasn’t happening.  He was completely out of control.  The violent mood swings and meltdowns increased 50 fold.  The ability to stop and listen long enough for words to sink in – completely vanished.  Grocery shopping turned into a marathon game of “get in, get out, quick quick quick before the screaming causes someone to kick us out”.  Dresser drawers destroyed, toys dismantled, books shredded, ear drums pierced.

Basically, it was time for a change.  Unfortunately, our family is more like the Musters than the Cleavers, and nothing ever goes right.  For starters, the boys’ insurance plans got changed in May (can we say pain in the ass?).  Which in turn, meant we changed pediatricians – something I’d been wanting to do for a while.  However, I clearly didn’t think through the consequences of changing doctors in the middle of a state-wide game of musical chairs.  Within days I had a call from Kaleb’s neurologist informing me that due to the new pediatrician, we needed an updated referral in order to go to our appointment the following week.  So, I immediately call the new doc, requesting the very simple act of faxing over a referral so we can go to his neuro to discuss the medication change.  And I was promptly informed that they wouldn’t do it without seeing him.  Which, due to the previously referenced game, they couldn’t do until October.  Ummmmm what?!  No.  Unacceptable.  Danger Will Robinison.  I cannot wait until October.  He needs his meds changed, and he needs it now.

He needs time to adjust before school starts.  We need time to decide the correct dosage, make sure there are no negative side effects (you know, like how he rabidly devoured anything with a hint of sugar within a five mile radius when he changed his ADHD meds last summer?), and you know – chill him the hell out!  So, now I had to play a new game.  Ring around the freaking rosy with the insurance company and every pediatrician’s office in the damn county.  After a week of frustrating phone calls, I threw in the towel and requested to be sent back to pediatric hell (AKA his previous doctor’s office).  Once done – quite quickly at that, I’m pretty sure the poor lady at the insurance company has started making signs to ward off evil every time she discovered it was me on the other end of her phone – I then had the delightful task of wrangling a referral out of the world’s worst doctor’s office.  Now, don’t get me wrong – it was never the doctor I had an issue with.  It was just everything else.  The fact that I’d show up fifteen minutes early for every appointment, yet never actually see anyone until two hours past my appointment time.  The fact that nobody ever calls you back – ever.  The fact that the dragon lady receptionist wouldn’t give you a straight answer if her life depended on it.

Regardless, there I was, making a very simple request – please send an updated referral to my son’s neurologist.  The very same one you have been sending once a year since he was 18 months old.  Not so difficult.  Or so one would think.  A full month went by with me calling the neurologist every three days only to confirm that they had not yet received the referral, then calling the pediatrician to once again request that it be sent.  Finally, the lady on the phone confirmed the doctor she was sending it to – who just so happened to be the sleep specialist Kaleb hasn’t seen in years – not the neurologist.  The next day we finally got to reschedule Kaleb’s appointment, wham bam thank you ma’am!  Of course, it was for three weeks away, pushing us ever closer to the start of school.  Now, we’ve got him on new meds – but of course we’re on the lowest dose possible to start, and have to wait six weeks to go back to increase the dose if necessary (which, it most certainly is).  In the meantime, Kaleb has been a busy boy – but more on that later!

Now, on to the Mini Monster…

Ah, Mason.  Little devil.  Seriously.  Yes, he’s cute.  He’s freaking adorable.  He’s melt-in-your-mouth-sweet when he wants something from you.  He’s inquisitive as all get-out, to an excessive degree.  I mean, how many times can one person hear “what’s that?” in a fifteen minute time span without starting the slide to complete madness?  He’s also stubborn, aggressive, picky, obsessed with cars (still) and deceptively manipulative.  Oh, have I also mentioned that the kid has an arm reminiscent of a child-version of Cy Young?  I’m not joking.  If you had any idea how many times I’ve been pegged in the head by that dead-on aim you’d end up with sympathy headaches.

Not too much has changed in the world of Mase in the past few months.  His vocab is better – strangers can almost understand him more often than not!  His fine motor skills… well, we’re working on that.  He still refuses to use utensils – not that he can’t, he’s just stubborn and lazy, and prefers the easy way (can you really blame him?).  He’s still obsessed with vehicles of all mode and make.  Trucks, cars, buses, emergency vehicles, trains, boats, planes, helicopters, you name it – if it has an engine and moves, we likely have a miniature version sitting somewhere in the house suspiciously positioned for maximum foot injury.  I have to get him a new copy of his “Things That Go!” Tag book for his birthday because he reads it so often it’s hanging on by a wing and a prayer.

Mason started full-day Pre-K this year.  Cue mom getting caught fist pumping and yelling “I’m Free!” in an elementary school parking lot.

All summer long we counted the days.  7 precious hours to actually accomplish something without having to drop everything every five seconds to prevent Monster 1 from strangling Monster 2.  Or Monster 2 from throwing a giant dump truck at Monster 1’s head.  Or the destruction of the house (massive fail on that one)… 7 chaos free hours, five days a week – imagine the possibilities!  Just imagine!  We certainly did.  Dreams of solo grocery store trips and actually eating my own lunch floated through my head like relentless torture.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids to death, and I’d do anything for them.  But holy crap.  Between Kaleb’s constant meltdowns and the two of them constantly at each other’s throats, it was just about impossible to even leave the house with them, let alone actually go do something fun.  Add in the cabin fever we were all experiencing by the end, and can you blame me?  I’m just proud I didn’t spend the entire first day of school curled up on the couch in my snuggy watching the freakin’ Vampire Diaries.

Anyway, back to Mase.  He’s officially a big kid now.  No, that does not mean he’s potty trained.  I swear the kid fluctuates between being convinced the toilet contains the devil, or determining the sole purpose of the device is to wash his favorite dinosaurs and matchbox cars.  But he is going to school full time now.  Now, originally, I was seriously skeptical.  Like considering getting a variance and driving him to and fro every day for the next two years to keep him in the school he was in instead of the new one.  Why, you ask?  Because he was being transferred to the school Kaleb was at 2 years ago.  The one that suspended him 17 times in a span of 3 months because the teacher quite simply (and this is a direct quote from her) “didn’t want to deal with him”.

Yeah, remember that?  Fun times.

However, I’ve got a whole lot more confidence this time around.  The reason?  There are actually a couple.  First, Mase isn’t Kaleb.  Was I worried about his brother’s reputation preceding him and making the road a bit bumpy?  Are you kidding?  I was terrified.  However, we finally got a lucky break.  When I went to the IEP meeting to discuss this upcoming year, I couldn’t have been more thrilled – he was getting a teacher I actually knew (not well, but well enough to have faith that things were going in a good direction), and liked.  I’d met her on multiple occasions while Kaleb attended the school, and I have a great deal of admiration for her – in much the same manner I do for Kaleb’s current teacher, who has turned into no less than a walking talking miracle for him.  So, that right there was a great big chunk of balm on my nerves.

The icing on the cake?  The administration has changed.  I don’t know where the old principal went, and quite frankly, I don’t care.  I don’t hate the woman, I’m sure she’s probably a generally nice lady who did her best.  However, I don’t take well to my child being treated like nothing more than a pest that won’t stop circling your head.  As much as I’d like to say she went out of her way to help him – it just isn’t true.  The VP at the school he’s at now?  I could, would, have, and will continue to say that he’s gone above and beyond.  It’s an insane comfort to know the people in charge of my child’s school actually care about the children – because I’ve met plenty that don’t in my short lifetime.  So, new administration, new teacher, new beginning.

So far Mase seems to be loving it – though I do feel bad – nobody sees the Mase-train coming until it’s steamrolled over them a couple dozen times.

So, there we have it.  New school year, new meds, oh and we finally got a golf cart!  We then promptly destroyed one of the batteries.  Yep.  We’re definitely more of the Munster type of family on this block.

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Everything Is Awesome…

So, I’m not going to lie, today’s IEP meeting was…

Freaking AMAZING!

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I am so pumped right now, I can’t even begin to describe it.  This was honestly the best IEP meeting I have ever had, and I could not possibly be happier.  It’s such an awesome relief to finally find a school with teachers and staff who really, genuinely care about my child and his progress.  Going from last year to what he has now is such a huge difference.

First of all – despite the events of the last two weeks, everyone previously agreed that Kaleb hit a bump in the road – but considered it a temporary set-back (one we are actively working on fixing), and they are getting rid of the harness!  I cannot wait to see the look on Kaleb’s face when he hears the news he’s been waiting to hear for months.  Second, he graduated out of OT!  I simply cannot believe it.  He’s been in Occupational Therapy since he was 2.  Now he’s finally met all of his goals, his gross and fine motor skills are up to par, and he’s good to go!  That was so unexpected, it’s still sinking in.

Another piece of awesome news?  Kaleb gets to keep his teacher next year!  He will technically be in first grade, but he will stay in the EBD classroom with the Godsend of a teacher he has now.  I am beyond relieved.  The thought of hashing out next year’s arrangement, dealing with a new teacher who may or may not understand how to work with Kaleb has been haunting my sleep for weeks.  To find out that he doesn’t have to deal with any of that (and neither do I!) is an incredible relief.  And let me just tell you a little something about this teacher, while I’m on the subject.  This is the kind of person who went out of her way to consult with a Gifted teacher (despite the fact that he won’t get the classification until at least next year) to figure out the best ways to challenge Kaleb’s strengths without going too far beyond the scope of what he’s able to handle.  She’s willing to go above and beyond to help him avoid potentially overwhelming situations, without stifling him or making him feel like an outcast.  She’s a freaking gift is what she is, and I’m so glad we get to have another year with her.

We talked about the gifted program (especially when the Gen-Ed teacher was consulting, and was visibly shocked by some of Kaleb’s reading and math abilities).  We hit a bit of a snag because they cannot test until at least a year has passed since the last test.  That wouldn’t be a big deal, except the school psychiatrist that Kaleb has spent the year working with and building a relationship with has gotten a promotion, and they’re bringing in someone new.  So, it was decided that we’d wait until the fall to re-do the test – giving Kaleb an opportunity to make sure he’s got his feet firmly planted under him, and he has a relationship with the new psychologist.  On a plus note, I asked if I could have our Developmental Pediatrician do a test of his own in June when we go for our yearly visit, and they all strongly encouraged it.

And, on top of everything else – the school nurse is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to administer Kaleb’s mid-day medicine.

Seriously, this school needs to win some “Everything Is Awesome” awards!

So, overall, this was the best IEP meeting ever.  I left feeling happy, a bit lighter, and definitely reassured that my child is in excellent hands day in and day out.  I can honestly say that’s never happened before.  I’ve always left feeling deflated, slightly disappointed, angry, or slightly sick.  This was such a breath of fresh air, and so desperately needed.

I want to say thank you to this school.  Your amazing teachers, support staff, therapists, behavioralists, and administration have taken a load off my mind, improved my child’s life every day, and I truly believe there aren’t enough ways to say thank you for that.

A Moment SUSPENDED in Time…

Just a few days ago I was thinking to myself… Holy Crap!  Kaleb might actually go an entire school year without getting suspended!  

Want to know what happened 24 hours later?  I realized I jinxed myself.  I came to this realization right about the same time his teacher was informing me that he’d been suspended.

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Yep.  Two days before the pinnacle IEP meeting to remove the harness (after working for months to prove that he could maintain control of himself), he goes and gets himself suspended.  And he earned it – big time.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised it didn’t happen Monday.  I guess on the positive side of things, I can definitely say the school didn’t want to suspend him – but he really didn’t give them a choice.  So, unlike the catastrophe of last year, this was fully merited on Kaleb’s part.  Not just because someone didn’t want to deal with him.

Then again, my 6 year old got suspended again.  Any upside is a moot point anyway.

Monday he got mad because there was no ketchup at lunch – so he threw his tray and punched another kid in the back.  Then at P.E. he didn’t want to jump rope the way he was being instructed to jump rope, and he punched another kid.  Terrific.  Then came yesterday.  Once again he got mad at lunch because he thought a kid was cutting line in front of him (which was not the case btw – he just wasn’t paying attention before) and once again threw his tray and punched a kid in the back.  Then comes the real kicker – literally.  He gets mad during P.E. again and walks up to a girl who for her own special needs (I wasn’t informed what kind) had to sit out of class that day.  He then rears back, and kicks her as hard as he can.  He then continues to do so until a crowd of other kids comes over to see what is going on, and he starts screaming “violent and unpleasant” things at everyone around him.  They end up having to pull him away.

What the hell?!

I’ll be the first to admit that he’s been devolving for the last couple weeks.  It’s been day after day of highly emotional, overwhelmed, over-reactive Kaleb for going on three weeks.  But what we haven’t seen at home is increased violence.  We’ve seen more screaming, more crying, more crawling under furniture and refusing to listen.  We’ve seen him meltdown at the drop of a hat, drop to the floor like a sack of flour, and get hysterical over the most seemingly insignificant things.  But he hasn’t physically lashed out.  Actually, that’s been more of Mason’s gig lately.  Mason’s the one using his ridiculously well aimed arm to throw, whack, and swat.  Kaleb hasn’t been an angel on that end – but he certainly hasn’t had any real change.  9 times out of 10 Mason is the one hitting Kaleb first – and Kaleb’s been just upset enough to come tattle-  rather than retaliate – most of the time.

At first I just thought it was the growth spurt he was going through.  The kid’s size 7 jeans when from resting on the top of his sneakers, to sitting three inches above his ankles in a matter of days.  And during this time he also started sleepwalking again, and looked extremely tired each morning.  So, I attributed the emotionally heightened state to that.  And it might still have something to do with it.  We might need to adjust his medication, or hell, at this point, I wouldn’t be completely against trying something new.  And the increased violence could also have something to do with a few new students being added to his class – which has definitely been known to trigger behavior issues in the past.

He’s been on his current medication for years.  As much as we didn’t want to go the medication route, his escalating violence made it almost impossible to even send him to school, and he really had no control over himself.  When Kaleb hits that meltdown mode, it’s like a switch is flipped and all cognitive thought goes out the window.  He’s 100% primal impulse.  There are many times when he genuinely can’t even remember what he did after the fact.  The medication helped with that – he obviously still has meltdowns, but he was able to stay in at least enough control of himself to minimize the damage, and he rarely sought to harm another person.  We’ve had to make some adjustments over the years, to accommodate his growth, as well as the tolerance levels building in his system.  But now we’re concerned about what we do when he hits the point where we can’t make any more adjustments – or when we hit a dosage level we are uncomfortable with.

Enter problem number 2 – Tuesday’s incident likely would have been worse – much worse – if he hadn’t been on his medication.  Because even with his escalating violent behavior, at least he still retained a small bit of control.  He didn’t completely check out while it was happening – which is when the real damage starts (you can asked my pre-medicated-Kaleb self about the concusions and severe bruises from head to toe), this I know for certain.

So, what do we do?  Do we try and increase again?  Do we try to switch things up?

I don’t know.  But I did make an emergency appointment with his neurologist for yesterday after Mason got on the bus (Shout-out to Aunt Brittany for saving my skin and getting Mason off the bus, and sitting with Kaleb for the IEP today), and re-confirmed his with his developmental pediatrician for his yearly appointment.  It’s time to gather the troops and nip this now before it gets worse.

Now, unlike 99% of the times he got suspended last year, Kaleb was seriously in the wrong this time – and I’m determined to make sure he understands why he’s in trouble.  This isn’t going to be two days of fun and mini-vacation.  We’re talking serious restriction this time around.  No TV, no Legos, no games, puzzles, or electronics.  The only things he is allowed to do are:  read, homework, clean, sleep, and eat.  This is the anti-fun time, and every single time he asks why I’m going to remind him of his suspension, and I’m going to explain again, why what he did was wrong.  Maybe it will sink in, maybe it won’t.  But it’s better than just doing nothing and blaming it on autism.  Kaleb was aware of what he was doing when he walked up and kicked that little girl, and he needs to understand why that is so very wrong.

And of course there’s the IEP meeting today.  Which is probably partly a waste of time – because I just don’t see them saying “Yep, lets get rid of the harness even though he clearly can’t control himself in school, and is therefore a potential danger to the other children around him.  Letting him loose on the bus sounds like the perfect solution for out of control behavior and violence.”  I can’t get mad if they want to keep the harness.  Honestly, I would be shocked if they said anything else.  The variables are too great.  He has tried so very hard over the past few months to prove that he was ready, and I’m so very proud of him for that.  And then he wrecked all of that hard work in minutes.  And that just sucks.  It sucks to know that he’s going to be set back by what he did.  But maybe he needs to be.  Maybe he needs to really understand how much one action can impact his life.

At the same time, I do want his Gifted testing redone, and since there’s obviously a problem with him right now, an already planned meeting is the best time to try and address it.  So, hopefully it’s only partly a waste of everyone’s time.  

Anyway, we drove to Orlando and we saw his “kid doctor” that he “loves because he is super nice and fun and listens” (this is why the drive is worth it). We decided that a change may be in the air, but some of that change is going to be determined by tomorrow’s meeting.  Which is hopefully not a waste of anyone’s time. Kaleb is brilliant, beautiful, creative, excited, enthusiastic, and his imagination is far beyond my own.  I just want to see him excel and grow, both emotionally and academically.  Which I have every confidence he will… as soon as he learns the value of self-control.

I so cannot wait until Friday.

Stronger…

I’ve noticed a reoccurring thread among a great deal of the other autism moms I know lately – it seems a lot of us are having a harder than normal time lately with our kids, and the “I hate Autism” bug is definitely going around.  For all of us, the journey into this world is different – but that doesn’t make it any less difficult.  In fact, honestly, I think those differences make it all the more difficult.  It’s tough to be able to relate in such an ever-changing world.  Some of us wish more than anything to be able to communicate with our children, while some of us would give anything to be able to take our kids out into the world without having to pack a Rambo style bag of sensory reinforcements.  Some of us want nothing more than to go an entire day without our child harming himself, or berating himself, or hating the life he has been given.

In the face of all this, it’s so easy to fall in step and get angry, which then turns around and only makes us feel more lost because we don’t really have anywhere we can direct the anger.  It isn’t our children’s fault they can’t stop spinning, or have complete meltdowns when something doesn’t work just right.  So who do we blame when we get mad?  Ourselves.  WE aren’t doing enough.  WE aren’t paying enough attention, listening hard enough, teaching the right way.  From there, it’s just as easy to start to hate ourselves, and to question every single thing we do as parents.  Mommy (and Daddy) guilt is hard enough with a neuro-typical child – but oh man, is it ever a beast when you have a kid with special needs.

So, I thought I’d focus in the other direction today.  I sat here this morning, thinking what good things have I learned from this?  In the 2,274 days that I have been a mother – I’ve learned a lot.  in the 3 1/2 years that I have “officially” been raising a child with autism, I’ve learned a hell of a lot more.  So, in the hopes that maybe some of us can be reminded of how lucky we are – despite the pain, the uncertainty, the constant battles waging inside ourselves, in our homes, and in our children’s lives – here is my list of good things autism has done for me:

1.Autism opened my mind, and my heart.

As some of you already know, I’m living a life far, far different than I had ever expected.  I didn’t grow up dreaming of big white weddings, picket fences, or any of the other things many little girls dreamed of.  Instead, my dreams were filled with packed courtrooms (yeah, I really did want to be a lawyer) and libraries the size of my house.  I had tall order dreams, and the attitude to match.  I didn’t have the time or patience for things like kids and family.  Did that ever change.  Kaleb was a surprise – and he flipped my world on its axis quicker than you can say “diaper”.  But it wasn’t until the real struggles started to kick in – the night terrors, the seizures, the sensory issues, the parade of therapists marching through our doors – it was then that I really, really realized just how strong I was going to have to be.  It was then that I started to look around me, at the other families I knew, and really appreciated each one of their individual struggles.  That was when I looked back at my past and saw just how foolish I was not to have taken the time for kids and family.

I stopped rolling my eyes at the mom struggling with the screaming child in the grocery store.  I stopped grumbling under my breath when it took someone ten minutes to vacate a parking spot because they couldn’t get their kid buckled in.  I started seeing, really seeing, what was going on around me.  And instead of being impatient, or irritated, I was sympathetic.  I was understanding.  It didn’t matter if the scene I was witnessing was with a special needs child or not – that parent was struggling in that moment, and I finally understood what that meant.  Because of this, because autism taught me to see with more than just my eyes, I am better.  I am a better friend, I am a better daughter, sister, spouse, and mother.  I no longer listen with just my ears, our touch with just my hands.  Being a mom to kids on the spectrum opened up an entire world I never knew I was missing.

2.  Autism has given me patience.

Loads, and loads of it.  Okay, this isn’t always true.  I will still yell at you if you cut me off on I-4, and I still want to scream inside when I get stuck in the checkout lane manned by the world’s slowest grocer.  However, it’s nothing compared to life pre-autism.  I can watch the same movie over and over and over again without becoming a babbling mess of crazy.  I will watch Planes with Mason ten times a day if he wants – just because I get to hear him repeat the movie, and his words get a little bit clearer each time.  To be able to hear him go from saying some incongruous babble to actually clearly repeating Dusty is a small miracle in my world.  I will sit and wait while Kaleb takes ten minutes to say something so completely odd, I spend half the day trying to figure out what it means.  But even knowing it’s coming, even with him starting off with “Mommy, almost because every time I told you once…” I’ll sit.  And I’ll wait.  Because it’s obviously important to him, or he wouldn’t push on and continue to try and get it out.  Because four years ago the kid couldn’t even say Mommy.

Do I suffer fools more gladly?  No.  I don’t think that will ever really change, it’s just who I am.  Do I stop, and take the time to help a stranger, even when I’m in a hurry?  Yes.  Because I’ve learned what it’s like to struggle with even the most mundane tasks.  I’ve come to understand how sometimes just having someone take the time to hold the door open for me can make my entire day.  When a friend calls me and puts their child on the phone, I don’t roll my eyes, silently frustrated because we were having a conversation.  Instead, I sit, and I listen, and I smile.  Because that kid is special to me, but that kid is the world to my friend, and I want to share in that joy.  I have learned to be patient – the conversation can wait, but the kid on the other end of this phone is going to grow up so very fast.

3.  The big moments in life are nothing compared to the small ones.

In this world – the world of autism – therapists, doctors, specialists, particular diets, particular fabric requirements and noise levels reign on high.  It’s a world where you find yourself with a contingency bag in the backseat of your car, and you panic if you don’t have it.  Where you only go to certain restaurants, certain grocery stores, certain parks, and you’re willing to pay out of pocket for a million different things a million other families will never need.  This world is full of battles.  Large scale battles with schools, doctors, insurance, therapists… they’re huge.  They happen every day, and they will drain you.  The stress of these battles will suck the life right out of you if you let them.  But we don’t – because we also have the little battles to wage day in and day out.  Brushing teeth, getting dressed, tying shoes, eating, drinking, sleeping – these are things no parent with a special needs child will ever take for granted.  They are just as important, and just as draining as the big ones – but the victories are oh so sweeter.  Kaleb actually brushed his teeth – with toothpaste – last week for the first time in history.  It took everything I had not to squeal out loud and jump up and down like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert.  But I was doing it inside – because we just had a major victory in our world.

This has translated into the rest of my life, this celebration of the small things.  Taking the time to appreciate at the end of the day all of the little things that are right in my world.  Sure, there are still big battles happening.  We still have to pay bills and be adults.  We still get stressed out, tired, overwhelmed and frustrated.  But we survived another day, and that is better than good.  That’s brilliant.  There is no instruction manual for life, or for parenting (though plenty of people try to write them), you do your best, and you celebrate the small stuff.  Because it’s the little things that are biggest.  Those are the memories your kids will carry with them as they grow into adults.  Those are the days they will look back upon, remembering how proud you were of something so small.  Those are the things that will reinforce your love when teen years and hormones hit.  They won’t remember you going to bat for them in elementary school – they won’t remember you parading to one IEP meeting, one doctor’s office, one therapy session after another.  They will remember you cheering like a fool when they finally learn how to tie a shoelace, or use a fork the right way.  So, I’ll say it once again for good measure:  It’s the little things that are biggest.

4. No matter how ugly the world can be, the future is still bright.

Sure, raising a kid in the 50’s sounds like a great idea.  You could let your kids out to play, and not worry about them until the sun went down.  You wouldn’t have to worry about things like STDs, pedophiles, cancer, preservatives and pesticides.  Kids weren’t attached to electronic devices, rude to their elders, oh, and gumdrops fell from the sky.  For some reason when something scary happens now, we romanticize the past – the 1950’s more than most.  But let’s be real for a minute – things were not any better back then than they are now, not really.  Polio ran rampant, racism was everywhere, there were no civil rights, and for crying out loud, there wasn’t even air conditioning!  You want to point out the violence in our society, or even point a finger at the war in Afghanistan – fine.  But here’s a fact people seem to forget often enough – 36,516 Americans were killed in the Korean War (1950-1953), while to date, 2,229 Americans have been killed in the war in Afghanistan (2001-present).  The grass isn’t always greener.  Yes, these are scary times – but could you imagine raising a special needs child back then?  When doctors were still doing adverts for cigarettes and there was no such thing as Behavioral Therapy?  How much better do you really think your child would be without the technology and science of today?  Without widespread social media allowing us to advocate for our children?

Our kids have real hope.  They’ve got all the potential in the world to become the most influential people of the next generation.  They have access to therapists and doctors who understand them – they aren’t being written off as a lost cause.  And if they are – you have the right to fight for them, and fight hard.  There’s a meme that’s been circulating for a while now in social media, showing quite a few influential people who were believed (or known) to have autism – and they struggled.  Not just a little bit, but a lot.  Nobody understood them, they were weird, outcasts who were just this side of being considered crazy.  Every time I see a news report a tragedy of some sort, after wanting to rail at the injustice of it all – I realize my kids are still better off.  As insane as the world has gotten, there are some really bright lights in the future, and I’m glad my kids will get to be a part of them.

5. Autism has shown me just how strong I really am.

When I was pregnant with Kaleb my biggest fear was that he was going to be a girl.  Don’t laugh, I’m serious!  I had nightmares about it for months.  I was a tomboy and a bookworm growing up, I didn’t know the first thing about hair or makeup – I’m almost 30 and I still can’t match my clothes.  I look back at it now and I can’t help but think how little faith I had in my own ability to adapt.  That’s certainly changed.  Look at yourself before your children were born.  Now look at what you’ve accomplished.  Look at all the battles you’ve fought, big and small alike.  Look at how hard you’ve persevered, how strong and tall you stand for your kid.  Look at the walls you’ve knocked down and look at the mountains you’ve climbed.  Look at how far you have come.  Take a second and think about every single change you’ve experienced, every challenge you’ve overcome.  What were your priorities before?  I’m willing to bet they’re a whole lot different now.

Every day you face life head on – there may be days you want to crawl under the covers and refuse – but you don’t.  You stand up, and you fight.  You fight doctors, teachers, school boards and other parents.  You fight coaches, hell, you fight your own kids.  But the one thing you should never have to do is fight yourself.  We aren’t perfect – we’re parents.  We screw up, we’re uncertain, we get just as lost and confused as the best of them.  Nobody is 100% certain 100% of the time.  And if there is such a person – He or She is a fool.  Life is about adapting.  Making small changes here and there to make things work for you.  Life with autism is constantly adapting.  It’s almost always moving, reforming, regrouping, and attacking.  And you are there – adapting right along with it, making room for the changes, fighting on the front lines with the rest of us.  Every single day we are a little bit stronger.  Every day we straighten our spine, square our shoulders, and say “bring it on, world.”

Your kids are better for it, but perhaps more importantly, you are better for it.  Look at you then, and look at you now.

Now try and tell me you aren’t strong.

Autism is a lot of things.  It’s a long, rough, sticky, and emotional road.

Nobody said it would be easy.

But it sure is worth it.

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The Assignment…

OH for the love of Pete (who the hell is Pete, anyway?  What’s so special about this guy that he pops up in all sorts of non-swearing swearing?).

If I have to hear one more second of this whining, screaming, slamming, smacking, shrieking, throwing, kicking meltdown extravaganza I may very well go lock myself in a closet with a stocked mini-fridge and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.  And by fully stocked I am not talking about Juicy Juice here.  Okay.  Deep breath.  I am not actually naive enough to believe that would do me any good.  For starters, my bedroom closet is the Party Express Catch All right now – all of my party supply crap bins are in overflow mode and I haven’t quite felt like dealing with the mess.  There’s barely room enough for me to grab clothes, let alone get comfortable with a mini-fridge.  Even if there were, I’m well aware that the drama would follow me.  That’s kinda how it works.  Mom has a headache?  Let’s see how loud we can be!  Oh well.  It’s a nice fantasy at least.

Apparently there’s just something in the air today.  Don’t ask me what, because if I knew that I’d have found a solution to this by now.  But both of the kids are completely on edge today.  I’m sure part of it has to do (at least on Kaleb’s part) with the fact that he was up at 4:30 this morning (again) and he still has a cold.  Mason… well, he’s just Captain OCD when it comes to those damn matchbox cars.  Heaven forbid they don’t line up just right  every single time.

So, here’s the deal.  Kaleb, as I said, was up well before the crack of dawn (for the third time this week).  First he was in our hallway, then behind the couch, then on the couch, then under the desk, then attempting to build a house with blocks – at five in the morning.  miraculously, at this point Mason was still asleep, and judging from the stuffy snores coming from his general direction, in need of more sleep.  And Kaleb was in no way helping to maintain his brother’s peaceful snores.  After hearing the blocks go crashing down, I jumped out of bed again and ran out to see what was going on.  Of course, Kaleb’s answer came at a decibel about 7 octaves too high for the current situation and I just about had a mini omg-he’s-going-to-wake-mason stroke.  I sent him back to his room, informing him for the third time so far that it was way too early to be running about the house like a giant sound wave.  I gave him a book, closed his door quietly, and went back to bed.  For all of ten minutes before he emerged again only to go rummaging through the pantry.

This went on until it was time for his alarm to go off.  After he informed me that he kept leaving his room to avoid the alarm I wanted to smack myself.  His alarm wasn’t even set!  I had purposefully left it off because he stayed home from school sick yesterday, and I didn’t know if he would be going in today until I was able to see how he was feeling.  Obviously, he was feeling well enough to get his hyper-active loud and proud tush on that bus.  After arguing over his clothes for ten minutes (I had given him a tee-shirt to wear under his long sleeve hooded shirt because it was supposed to warm up today, and he insisted on wearing the tee-shirt over the hoodie.  He looked absurd, but it so wasn’t worth the fight before I’d had any real caffeine, so I let it go), arguing over his applesauce (I want pudding! Than you shouldn’t have gone running around the house at the butt-crack of dawn), arguing over his blankie, and finally fighting over his refusal to untie his shoes… we finally got him on the bus.

Of course, Mason woke up 30 minutes later.

I had to go grocery shopping, and this morning was the only real chance I was going to have, so I packed up the kid and off we went to CrazyLand (AKA Walmart).  After discovering a couple quarters in my jacket pocket we checked out the gumball machines.  I then spent the next 78 minutes of my life listening to my three year old insistently asking for cupcakes (“We get cupcakes?  Cupcakes?  My cupcakes?  Cupcakes Mommy?  Pleaaaassssse?) which I did end up buying, and will end up eating all by myself because oh man were they good today!  We did our shopping, and got home with just enough time to put away the groceries and get the Mini-Monster on the bus.

Daddy and I had to leave immediately after to go sign a contract for the place we’re renting out for the wedding rehearsal party – or so we thought.  Twenty minutes in traffic and one closed bridge later, we found ourselves going over all the details I have literally gone over on the phone more than half a dozen times in the last 8 months.  So, instead of signing a contract, we ended up working it up, and were informed it would be emailed to us.  *sigh*  Who knew this wedding business was so complicated?  I have a whole new respect for those brave enough to make careers out of planning this nonsense!

Got home, did dishes, etc… all the other normal daily crap, and realized with a start that I had all of three minutes before I had to leave to get Mason off the bus.  Everything was hunky dory until we got home.  Milo, in his typical “OMG-you-were-gone-forever-now-I-need-to-be-loved-right-this-very-second-loveme-loveme-loveme fashion, came bolting through the living room at light speed.  In the process, he managed to run right through the cars in the middle of the living room floor.  The ones Mason had painstakingly lined up this morning.  The ones I went out of my way to avoid all day so as to prevent another matchbox car catastrophe (you should have seen the hallway last week.  There was a 75 car pileup in front of the bathroom door).  And just like that, everything spiraled out of control.

Mason lost it.  LOST.  IT.  Dropped down to the ground like he couldn’t stand the pull of gravity for one second longer.  Then the kid let out a scream worthy of a high soprano opera star.  After that the real fun began… again.  Throwing the cars all over the house with as much force as possible.  Screaming what sounded like jumbled obscenities at the dog.  Repeatedly hitting himself in the head as hard as he could.  Normally, I’ll let this go until he figures out how to calm himself down, despite my overwhelming desire to make the kid stop smacking himself.  Partly because he really needs to learn how to calm himself down.  But mostly because every time I try to intervene he ends up louder, more angry, and more violent.  Unlike Kaleb (who always aimed his physical anger at yours truly), Mason has a tendency to aim his anger at himself (which I’d honestly prefer, he’s really going to hurt himself one of these days).  So I usually sit close by, and monitor him until he seems more receptive to me involving myself.  But considering he was on the verge of slamming his face into the floor with some serious force, and I had to get Kaleb off the bus in under five minutes, it was time for Mommy to jump in.  This of course resulted in more screaming, more face slamming, and more frustration for both of us.  I set him down, grabbed up all the cars, lined them back up, and he stopped.  He looked at the cars, then looked at me, gave me a face, yelled at me not to touch his cars (“My cars!  Mason’s cars!  You understand?!”  At least, that’s what it sounded like), and went back to putting them in the proper order.

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Crisis averted.  Well, crisis stopped at least.  Until Kaleb got off the bus seven minutes later.

This time we didn’t even make it down the driveway before the meltdown started.

Every week Kaleb receives a homework assignment.  This might seem a little crazy for kindergarten, but considering he’s actually doing first and second grade work, it’s good for him.  Typically, he comes home with a packet on Monday, and it is to be turned in on Friday.  The packet usually consists of five pages.  The first page is vocab/sight words for the week (so far he’s known them all already), as well as a list for me to fill out of what he’s reading each day during his 20 minutes of required reading time.  The second page is typically some form of math assignment.  The third page usually asks him to write out sentences using each of the vocab words on the first page, the fourth page is a comprehension assignment – read the paragraph, answer two questions about the paragraphs.  The last page usually asks him something random (what did you do last weekend, what is your favorite food etc) along with a place for him to draw a picture of his answer.

This hasn’t been a problem for quite some time – he generally enjoys doing his homework.  However, last week she upped the ante a bit – I’m guessing because she picked up on what we were coming to realize – it was too easy.  So, she added two new pages.  Another math assignment (with the world’s most absurd word problem.  Why do people insist on coming up with the most obscure problems for kids to solve?), and another writing assignment.  This was more of a creative writing assignment, so I didn’t really think it’d be difficult – given Kaleb’s outrageous imagination.  Oh was I wrong.  Daddy and I have been fighting with Kaleb about this homework since Wednesday.  He did the normal four pages and then came completely unglued at the sight of the two new ones.  One meltdown after another, and the homework still wasn’t done as of this morning.

So, when he got off the bus today I asked if he had homework – since he missed school yesterday I assumed he did.  He immediately started to spaz out.  The whining, dropping to the ground, high pitched “I hate homework” shriek.  All the way back to the house, barely shuffling along (once he got off the ground) fighting and complaining about the prospect of homework.  When he was finally somewhat calm I sat him down and told him he needed to finish last week’s homework – today.  He didn’t have to worry about this week’s homework right now, but the work from last week needs to go to school tomorrow.  The last thing we need is for him to get into an early habit of turning in his work late.  When he started to whine again, I informed him that he had until the end of the day to get it done, or I was going to take the Lego Airplane out of his room until his homework got finished.

Needless to say at this point, as I am sure you’ve figured out where we’re going from here – a gigantic meltdown ensued.  Pencil thrown across the room, a six year old thrown onto the floor, brain rattling, glass shattering shrieks, punctuated with high-pitched whining shouts of “I don’t want to do my homework and you can never, never, ever make me do things I don’t like!  You need to be nice to me because you are a Mommy and you can’t be mean!”  This went on for a few minutes before I got down on the floor, and informed him that if he was going to continue carrying on he needed to take it to his room until he was calm enough to talk to me.  His response?

“I HATE YOU!”  

Now, I am well aware of how freely this phrase leaves the mouths of children.  I said it plenty as a kid myself.  But oh… I was so completely unprepared for it.  The kid completely rocked me right out of my shoes.  I told him as calmly as I could to go to his room, then immediately walked away.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.  The first time my child told me he hates me.  Five minutes later he came out of his room, and asked for milk.  I told him once more that I wasn’t going to give him a single thing until he first – apologised to me for the terrible thing he said, and second – did his homework.

He offered up the apology quickly enough, and I then spent a few minutes trying to make him understand just how terrible it is to say what he said.  I’m pretty sure it went in one ear and out the other.  I then told him to do his homework.  He asked for help with the word problem (yeah I don’t blame you kid – we’re going to be in deep crap when he hits middle school math), and I sat down to work it out with him.  As soon as he had an answer put together, I told him to write it down and finish his homework.  Enter Meltdown mode.  Again.  After another five minutes of screaming, back to his room he went.

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Now, an hour later, his homework is done, dinner is in the oven, and Mason is in his room screaming at his cars again (I swear on all that is holy I am going to melt those suckers down and throw them in the river one of these days).  It’s been one heck of a day, and I am very much looking forward to bed time.  I love my kids – more than anything – but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to start applying wrinkle cream at night (ha!  Like I’ll ever remember to do that!).

I hope you all had a better day than we did!  And I really hope tomorrow is better – though I’m not super optimistic, stupid early release days.