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.

aut strong

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8 Days a Week…

Okay, it’s been more than a week, so obviously I haven’t been that great at blocking my time to write lately.  Though, to be fair, I spent all day yesterday with the world’s worst headache and the perfect mold of my bottom on the couch to prove it.  I could barely look at written words, let alone be the one writing them!

Mason is sick – we kept him home last Friday because he had a slight fever and a leaky nose.  He was fine Saturday and Sunday, runny nose again Monday, fine Tuesday and Wednesday, and then there was this morning.  The kid’s nose looks like it’s trying to run the Boston Marathon and with all the coughing and sneezing going on he sounds like a bad Allegra commercial.  No fever (hopefully it stays that way), but he’s just about as miserable as he can get.  Currently he’s curled up in bed watching The Backyardigans between bouts of sneezing, coughing, whining, and attempting to fall asleep.  So, after a phone call to cancel an appointment to do dinner tasting for the wedding, a phone call to let his teacher know he was going to be absent from school, and another phone call to let the bus know they don’t have to drive all the way out here, he is officially taking the day off.

The book contest I entered last year starts back up again in less than a month, and I decided to take another go at it.  Probably futile, but what the hell, right?  Of course that means going through and doing a crap pile of editing, which I honestly don’t believe is anybody’s idea of fun (maybe I can blame yesterday’s headache on that).  I guess you never know though, maybe I’ll make it further this year than I did last year.  Truthfully I was shocked I made it past the first round last year, so I might as well throw it out there and see what happens.

Kaleb decided on a 5am treck to our bedroom this morning, which included singing to himself, and driving me, Daddy and Milo all a bit nuts.  Of course, making me crazy seems to be a special kind of talent for him lately.  He’s been super lovey lately – which I adore – except when it entails him gluing himself so tightly to my rear end I can no longer tell where he stops and I begin.  I was all about the snuggling yesterday afternoon, since we spent the majority of the time curled up on the couch watching a How It’s Made marathon.  Until you throw in the fact that my very cute 6 year old is physically incapable of sitting still or staying quiet for more than 30 seconds at a time.  Have I ever mentioned that my child doesn’t posses an inside voice?  As far as I’ve been able to tell, Kaleb has three noise settings – whisper, loud, and ear-shattering, migraine murdering, glass rattling LOUD.  Of course, this third level is the most frequently used, and quite often a source of trouble for the Monster Man.

He spent the weekend trying to scheme up ways to earn 124 points – and he was specific.  This was the number he NEEDED to have.  He needed 100 points for new Legos, 20 points for a new Build & Grow kit from Lowes, and 4 points so he could watch TV at bedtime.  Of course, every time he brought this up I had to remind him that he already had four new Lego sets in the cabinet that hadn’t been built yet (birthday and Christmas presents), and we weren’t buying new ones until the ones he already had were built.  So, of course he spent the rest of the weekend cashing in points to built the sets he already had so he could set about working toward his goal.

I’m still really pleased with the points system, not only is it helping keep him a bit more on the “more cooperation, less trouble making” side of the law in the house, it’s helping him understand the concept of money and spending (something his mother obviously never really learned well).  I’m waiting to hear from the school to schedule another IEP meeting, which, if all goes well, will require some reworking of the points system.  At the last meeting we had, it was decided that we would wait until January to see if he was ready to lose the harness on the bus.  His bus driver commented not that long ago that he felt Kaleb was ready to be done with it – which I’m taking as a very good sign.  Hopefully we can get rid of the thing and be done with it – which means we’ll have to edit the points board, since a good number of the points he earns every day are from wearing the harness to and from school without complaint, getting a 100% on his daily bus log, and actually riding the bus home in the afternoon (there was a good month there where he was refusing to get on and I had to go pick him up every afternoon).

So, I suppose in preparation for this I should start figuring out some replacements.  I’m not sure what though – what kind of chores can I give my stubborn six year old to do around the house?  He makes his bed almost every day (1 point), puts his laundry away when it’s folded (2 points) keeps his dirty clothes in the basket (1 point)… there’s also cleaning his room (1 point), cleaning the living room (2 points – since usually more than half of it is Mason’s mess), flushing the toilet (1 point – you wouldn’t believe how big an issue this has become), brushing his teeth (1 point) with toothpaste (2 points – though thanks to Dr. Barnes, it’s not nearly as much of a fight as it was a couple months ago)…

I mean, I can think up a hundred things to have him do, but rarely are they consistent, need-to-do on a daily basis type of stuff.  I don’t really want him unloading the dishwasher – for one thing, sharp knives, glass and ceramic dish and bakeware… those aren’t a good mix for my pay-no-attention-to-what-I’m-doing kid.  Plus, he can’t reach 90% of the cabinets that contain the items he actually could put away.  We’ve tried the laundry thing before, but aside from the fact that I hate doing laundry, and it’s torture to have to stand there for an additional 40 minutes while he has constant meltdowns because his shirt isn’t folding perfectly – that’s something I tend to do while they’re in school.  So, thoughts on that?  Helpful hints or ideas?  He’s not big enough to push the beast of a vacuum around the house (and come on, I’m not Martha freaking Stewart, my vacuum under almost no circumstances runs more than once a week, at best).  Dusting… see previous statement.  I’m not homemaker of the year.  I’m barely homemaker of the minute on a good day!

finally finished putting up the new decor in Mason’s room (and yes, we are talking almost a year of me trying to accomplish this, if you must know).  Got all the letters down, new posters, shadowboxes, and decals up.  Then came time to touch up the paint in the places it came off with the letters (note to self, maybe using hot glue to attach them to the walls wasn’t the best idea in the world).  Annnnnd I totally screwed the pooch.  Instead of using the light blue paint from Mason’s room, I somehow (I am entirely blaming this one on Daddy, cause he is the one who gave me the paint) managed to use the blue from Kaleb’s room – which is significantly darker.  Doesn’t look like it when it’s wet… sure as heck looked like it dried.  So, now I’m going to have to find the right paint, and paint over the patches of dark blue all over the kids room.  And yes, I painted them all with the wrong paint.  How was I supposed to know paint gets darker when it dries, not lighter?  Is that some sort of universal painter knowledge or something?  Honestly, the last time I painted a wall I came within seconds of trailing paint throughout the entire house in the shape of my footprints (I have pictures to prove it).

I set up Mason’s drum set this weekend too.  I’m already regretting it.  I had to confiscate the drumsticks two days ago because world war three broke out over who got to play the drums (ahem, they are Mason’s drums – Kaleb got a keyboard for Christmas).  Santa should have brought me a nice set of noise-cancelling headphones.  And a bigger bottle of aspirin.  It’s extremely entertaining to watch though, if your ears can handle the racket.  Kaleb knocking out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the keyboard, and Mason beating the hell out of the drums – they make quite the sight!  Until they decide to try and out-noise each other.  That’s my cue to go hide in a dark corner somewhere.

Oh, and Kaleb has become completely obsessed with time.  Everything from demanding an exact minute dinner will be ready (When it’s done!  That’s when!  Which will be next Thursday if you don’t stop getting under my feet!), to counting down minutes (Mom, it’s 4:58.  Only two more minutes until 5:00 and it will be evening.  Mom, it’s 4:59, only one more minute until it’s evening.  Mom, it’s 5:00, it’s evening now.  Does that mean dinner is ready?), to letting everyone know exactly how many minutes are in how many hours.  Of course, the last one has got me amazed at certain points.  We were sitting at the dinner table talking the other night about the time I took him to Tampa to go see Laurie Berkner (yes.  I drove all the way to Tampa to watch a 45 minute kid’s concert and it was entirely, 100% worth it).  I said something to the effect of spending 6 1/2 hours in the car to take him there and back.  He asked how many minutes are in 6 1/2 hours.  I told him to figure it out – I asked him how many minutes are in 6 hours (expecting this to take a minute, thinking I might be able to get a mouthful of food in), and he immediately says 360.  Ummmm okay… so add thirty minutes.  He immediately starts beaming and says “390!  There are three hundred and ninety minutes in six and a half hours!”  I looked over at Daddy and silently asked if that was right – he took a minute to do the math and agreed that it was.

My six year old is better at math than I am.

Middle school is going to suck.

math word problem

Schooldays…

Okay, we’re one week into the new year, and my personal resolution for this year (aside from not going insane or turning into Bridezilla – a frightening possibility) is to get at least one post out a week.

I haven’t really been on here in months – to be honest, I haven’t really been on the computer all that much in general.  There’s just been too much stuff happening in our real space for me to jump into cyberspace.  But I’m getting back into it – starting now!

Today is the kids’ first day back to school after a very long winter break.  Really, really long.  Seriously, I am not one of those parents who laments the kids going back to school.  No way.  Bring it on! 

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Give me a couple of hours in the day where I can actually have a phone call without sounding like a schizophrenic.  “I’d like to make an appointment for… No!  Get that out of your mouth now!”  And don’t get me started on food.  It’s a beautiful thing when I can make myself lunch, and actually get to eat it!

Did it suck standing outside for fifteen minutes in freezing cold waiting for Kaleb’s bus?  Um, yes.  Very much so.  But that’s why we wore layers.  Because for the first time in nearly 3 weeks, my house is still quiet at 7am.  There is no screaming, singing, dancing, jumping, pounding, drumming, laughing 6 year old standing at Mason’s gate doing everything in his power to wake up his baby brother.  Mason is actually sleeping in.  He might be a pleasant person today.  For the first time in almost 3 weeks he might actually go a morning without screaming like a banshee and throwing cars all over hell and creation.  I.  Love.  School.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children with all of my heart.  But boy is it nice to actually drink a cup of coffee in less than six hours.

On the flip side of that, I’ve started to hit the panic button with this wedding planning nonsense.  Who knew there was so much crap involved?!

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The look on poor Daddy’s face when I said “I’m probably about to make you completely insane for the next few months” – well, the look said it all.  At least he’ll be in good company, as I’ve already hopped onto the crazy train.  I’m honestly finding myself stunned at the amount of money people can get away with charging for certain things.  I should have gone to pastry school.  Or hell, I’ll just open up a business making bouquets with silk flowers.  We’ll be rich I tell you!

Okay, enough of that.

Originally, I was going to talk about this whole new bout of Jenny McCarthy madness that has swept up the cybersphere again, but I’m not going to.  The woman gets around enough without me adding to the chaos.  I will say this though – it saddens me to think of how many kids are catching so many easily preventable diseases based on the words of an ex-porn star and a disgraced ex-doctor.  It’s one thing when the beliefs are your own.  It’s another thing when they’re the beliefs of idiots and you’d just rather follow along than look for your own solutions.

Moooooving on…

Seriously, writer’s block.  I’ve got nothin’.

Oh, wait!  Yes I do!

Mason has a new favorite “thing”.  It isn’t a toy (we’re still obsessed with cars, people.  I have no hope of that changing).  We can’t figure out where it came from, but I have to admit, it’s ridiculously cute.  Ready for it?  It’s… “Dot Com!”  Now, just hold on a second and I’ll explain.  That actually is his new thing.  For some unknown reason, he’s following up names now with “Dot Com!”  It’s “Dusty Crophopper… Dot Com!”  and “Milo David… Dot Com!”  And yes, apparently now the dog shares Mason’s middle name since apparently Mason has decreed it so.  It started out with Daddy calling Mason a monkey.  Mason said he wasn’t a monkey.  Kaleb said he’s a person.  Mason said he wasn’t a person.  We asked Mason what he was if he wasn’t a monkey and he wasn’t a person.  He said “I’m a Mason David!”  True enough.  He then went through the house saying “Mommy —– Dot Com!  Kaleb —– Dot Com!  Daddy —– Dot Com!  Mason David Dot Com!  Milo…. David!  Dot Com!”

But it’s not just names.  It other things too.  The garbage truck (Dot Com!), lunch (Dot Com!), diaper (Dot Com!)… all this and more.  He’s definitely a goofy child.  If only we could figure out where on earth he picked this up!  Anyway, as far as updates go – not that much has changed in the world of Monsters.  Daddy has Mason watching Dukes of Hazard and Kaleb watching (more like obsessed with) Tree House Masters.  I got a Doctor Who tee-shirt for Christmas I want to live in.  Daddy got a new workstation.  And Milo is still going insane every single time the neighbor’s dog goes out to pee.

That’s it.  That’s pretty much all I have at the moment.  I probably only have about twenty minutes of quiet left before Mason gets up, so I’m going to go eat something, guzzle another gallon of coffee, and pretend like it’s not ridiculously cold outside (that’ll be the only time I bitch online about the weather today, as at least it’s not snowing, raining ice, or in the negatives).  Have a good week cyberfriends (how many times did I use the word cyber today?).  Till next time!

This Is Halloween…

This is my favorite time of the year.  That could have something to do with the fact that I get to wear my favorite clothes without being called crazy (hellloooo hoodies, super soft pajama pants and fuzzy socks!).  It could be the leaves changing and falling.  Or probably not that since I’m in the south.  It could have something to do with the fact that I get to eat all of my favorite foods (okay, really, it’s more like ‘I get to see how much crap I can make with pumpkins and apples, and how fast I can eat it’).  But the most likely reason of all only needs one word:

HALLOWEEN.

The-Nightmare-Before-Christmas

My favorite holiday – and I’m not just saying that until Christmas time comes around (for real – why has Target already restocked half of the Halloween shelves with Christmas wreaths???), with all the all sparkly “joy to the world” rears it’s head.  It’s my absolute, 100% favorite holiday, and it always has been.  Always.  At three years old, the only two things I wanted to be when I grew up were a lawyer (umm that should speak for itself) and Lydia from Beetlejuice.  I had a cat named Krueger before I was in kindergarten. When I was nine I read Cujo (and my first nightmare.  I also spent a week terrified of all three of my dogs.) and the Tommyknockers – which is still my favorite Steven King book to this day.  Subsequently, my kids love Halloween.  Kaleb sings “This is Halloween” and Mason sings “Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.” in the form of the Halloweentown song.  It never fails to make me laugh.

Every year it takes all of my self control not to start decorating for Halloween on the first day of September.  This year, I lost that battle – kinda.  I only decorated the inside of the house.  I didn’t put up the outside stuff until October 1st.  Usually, October is crammed for us.  I seriously start researching nearby events, pumpkin patches, festivals, carnivals, and anything that has the words “caramel apple” or “pumpkin” in August.  By the time October comes around I’ve generally got a calendar so full of Halloween events it’s enough to make you dizzy.

To some extent I did that this year – I wrote everything down, but it just didn’t actually happen.  Part of the reason is the kids themselves – we can’t very well take Kaleb to a pumpkin festival when he’s running a 102 degree fever.  Nor can we take Mason to an event out of town when he has literally done nothing but scream for the past 12 hours.  But mostly it’s my own fault.  I just can’t get into it this year – and that is killing me.  I’ve been playing Halloween music basically around the clock (trust me, Daddy is ready to throw out every device in this house that has the capability of playing music).  I’ve decorated the house – though I can’t keep it clean for even five bloody minutes, so I can’t really enjoy it.

For some reason this year just doesn’t feel like Halloween.  I bought a costume – but it was at Daddy’s insistence.  I’ve made pumpkin cupcakes – but I still haven’t made the frosting for them (actually, they taste like muffins anyway so I might not make any frosting and just eat them as they are).  The boys and I have watched what I deem “Halloween movies” constantly.  I do have to say though – the first time I put on The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I still know every single word to) Kaleb said “Mommy!  I know this movie!”  I’m pretty sure I responded just as enthusiastically.  Then he followed it up with “But, we watched this last year.”

Uh, yup.  We sure did.  And we’re going to watch it this year, and next year, and the year after that, and the year after that… you get the point.

It’s one of my favorite things in the world.  Give me a pumpkin spice latte, some apples and caramel dip, a soft fuzzy blanket, and I’m one happy cat.  Normally.  This year?  I haven’t sat through the whole movie one single time.  I haven’t restocked our candy corn supply.  I never put the tombstones back after our lawn was mowed.  I don’t get it.  Am I the only one feeling disconnected from the season this year?  I’m excited about little things as they happen (like the PSL I’m drinking right now!), but I can’t find any real enthusiasm for the bigger things.

We haven’t even gone to the pumpkin patch yet!  I know, Mom Fail, but we’re going after school today and we will carve tomorrow night.  At least our pumpkins won’t be rotting by Halloween night – for the first time ever.

It just hasn’t clicked.  The weather has FINALLY cooled off enough that I can open up the doors and windows (note:  I will be complaining about it being cold in the very near future), so it feels like fall.  The decorations are out in full force, so it looks like fall.  The pumpkin flavored everything has arrived, so it tastes like fall – so what the hell is wrong with me this year?  Everything is as it should be, except for me.  The only Halloween-ish event we’ve done was Kaleb’s school carnival Saturday (I won hottest chili in the cook-off btw!  Yay!).  That and Kaleb’s costume are the only two things I’ve really been pumped about this season (he’s FINALLY decided he likes a superhero and is going as Spiderman.).

This is honestly driving me kind of nuts.  I know there’s always next year, and bla bla bla.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never been “Halloween’d-out” before, and I don’t like it.  I feel like a total traitor for wanting to yank down all the halloween stuff and start working on the Christmas lights.

Ugh.

I’m just as bad as Target.

Overwhelmed…

So once more, we’ve had a really hectic couple of weeks.  Mason started school (yay!), but for the first week and a half I had to drive him to and fro.  Of course, this was insanely chaotic considering he’s in pre-school.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It was only kind of chaotic.  The problem is, the school pick up lines in this town are INSANE.  I mean seriously, where do all of these people come from??  There’s like five elementary schools in a 10 mile radius of us – and there are that many people picking up their kids in the afternoons at one school?

Yeesh!  I guess the town really is growing.

So, since Mason’s in preschool his day starts at 11:30 (unless it’s early release Wednesday, in which case it’s 11:00.  Speaking of, can someone PLEASE for the love of God tell me what the heck is the point of early release?  Other than to make my life complicated because I forget it every single week?  I legitimately don’t understand why my children get out of school an hour early every Wednesday.).  His day ends at 2:05.  Kaleb’s bus arrives at our house at 2:30.  Mason’s school is a 10 minute drive from here – under good, hit every green light conditions.  I don’t have that kind of luck.  I hit every red light from here to that school every single day.  Even when I take the back roads – which is way worse because those lights take forever to change.  So, call it an even 20 minutes.  Which gives me exactly five minutes to grab Mason, throw him in the car, and rush home to get Kaleb off the bus.

What this means is that I have to be in the front of the ridiculous parent pick up line.

Which means I have to arrive at his school no later than 1pm.

Yep.  I have to get there an hour early in order to pick my kid up from school and have a chance at getting home before Kaleb’s bus.  This is what I call INSANE.  So, for a week and a half I dropped him off and went to hang out with my mom (who legit only lives 10 minutes from the school) for an hour before turning around and going to get the Mini Monster.  Then we’d rush home and wait for Kaleb’s bus.  Finally, Mason got a bus schedule.  They pick him up here at 10:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 10:45) and drop him off at 2:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 2:38).  That’s four whole hours all to myself!  OMG I could do yoga!  I could ride my bike!

I could sit on my couch and watch grown up tv while the sun is still up!  I could eat ice cream in the middle of the day!  I can shower and pee all by myself!  Hell, I could dance around naked!  

Okay, I won’t dance around naked.  First, I don’t dance.  And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t do it naked.  I’d probably hurt myself – and how do you explain that to a paramedic?

But still.  Maybe it sounds horrible of me to be doing happy dances because my little dude is going to school – but if that’s what you’re thinking…. just wait.  Your day will come.  Your kid will get on that bus, and after the initial “I’m going to miss him so much, I hope he’s okay, what will he do without me, what will I do without him” moment, you will walk back into your house, and it’ll hit you.  That moment of I’m alone! I’m really truly alone!  will come.  And I’m willing to bet you consider dancing around naked too.

Anyway, Mason finally started school.  And considering I was able to do yoga in my living room uninterrupted for the first time EVER, I’m going to go ahead and say this is awesome!

Truthfully, over the last few months, life has felt completely non-stop. I haven’t been sleeping, the kids haven’t been sleeping.  Drama and meltdowns everywhere.  This responsibility and that obligation.  I can literally count on one hand how many times in the last three months I’ve even attempted to apply makeup.  Wedding plans (who knew there was SO much crap to think of?!), this kid to that doctor, that kid to that therapist.  IEP meeting for this one, evaluations for that one.  I’d already put my plans to start my own non profit on hold for lack of time.  What it all comes down to is that I was overwhelmed.

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For a while I muddled through – because I couldn’t find a reason to be overwhelmed.  This was my life.  These things have always been here, and odds are they’re going to get a lot worse before they get better.  The meltdowns will get bigger, the responsibilities will only get heavier… so why was I all of a sudden drowning in the things I’ve come to think of as life’s constants?  Then one day it hit me – like the proverbial ton of bricks.  Where the hell was I in all of this?  I was completely lost in the rush of everything and everyone else.  In doing so my family was suffering.  I was miserable.  My relationship was suffering because I wasn’t put the time toward it I needed to.  My kids suffered because mommy was tired and cranky.  Even the dog was suffering.

When was the last time I did something for me?  I couldn’t remember.  I was so busy running around like a lunatic with all the other crap I’d basically neglected all but my most basic needs.  Clearly, something had to give.  So, I swallowed my pride (which I was frankly surprised to find I had so much of) and, despite my extreme hesitancy to do so, I backed out of some pretty big obligations.  In truth, I was terrified to do that.  I put my name on this.  People are counting on me.  This is my reputation.

But what’s a reputation when the whole world is crumbling around your ears?

I’ll tell ya what it’s worth.  Absolutely jack s**t.

I knew there was probably going to be some fall out – I probably put a really good friendship in jeopardy, and I’m feeling the sting of it.  But it was time to do something for myself.  So what did I do?

I planted a freaking garden.

Yes.  You read right.  Me – Captain Black Thumb planted a garden.  I’d wanted to do it for years.  I’ve been muttering and complaining about having to buy fresh herbs at outrageous prices only to have them go to waste because I only needed one sprig for years.  So, I planted a garden.  And it’s doing AMAZING.  As I write this, there’s a chicken in the oven full of my very own thyme and parsley.  I put some more focus on my relationship and am glad every day I did.  I put some more focus on my kids – and I’m still glad every day when they get on the bus!  But more than that, I made myself a goal.  It’s an outrageous and probably impossible goal, but I’m cooking my way toward it one day at a time.  And no, I’m not saying what it is until it becomes a bit more attainable!

So, I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing all this now.  I guess a part of me is upset because I think I really did put a big kink in a friendship that meant a lot to me.  And I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to fix it one of these days.  Another part of me is proud (there it is again) – because I finally took the best piece of advice ever given to me when Kaleb was born:  take time for myself.

Instead of running around at night and trying to catch up on work I couldn’t do during the day, I’m doing the work during the day, instead of a million other things.  And at night?  I’m sitting on the porch, listening to Frank Sinatra and Etta James and reading any book I please for as long as I please.  I’m happier.  I’m happier at the butt-crack of dawn when I get up to get Kaleb on the bus.  I’m happier in the afternoon when I get both boys off their respective busses.  I’m happier after a failure of an IEP meeting.  I’m happier when I’m pulling the kids apart while they try to rip each other’s throats out.  I’m happier watching the same episodes of Little Einsteins over and over again.  I’m happier when my soon-to-be husband is home.  I’m happier.

So, sure I can’t be super mom.  I can’t chair walks and be on the PTA board, and start a non-profit, and run all over hades and back for everyone who asks anything of me.  But what I can do is raise two healthy, happy boys on the spectrum.  I can have a healthy(er) relationship with the love of my life while I plan our wedding.  I can do a better job of getting and staying in touch with the friends and family who have had my back since day one.  I can spend time in my garden and read books.  I can go to pumpkin festivals and blues festivals and enjoy my life.  Because as important as all the other stuff is – my family is the reason I was doing it in the first place.  So why would I do it if it was making my family suffer?

This actually wasn’t as difficult to write as I thought it would be – because I really mean it.  To all of you who told me it was important to take care of me – I digress.  You were right, I was wrong.  And I’ve never been happier to discover how wrong I was.

To all of you out there worn down, weary, and worried about the same crap – all I have to say is…

Stop.

Who is going to take care of everyone else if you’re locked in a padded cell after holding yourself to this ridiculous standard of parenting?  Being involved doesn’t mean doing everything that walks across your path.  It means being sane and stable and happy enough to do the fun stuff.

I’ve got to go pull my (hopefully) delish chicken out of the oven so I can feed my kids and get them off to bed.  Then I’m going to go watch something asinine on television with my love and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

I hope you have as good a night as I’m going to.

overwhelmed

Bug-A-Boo…

September 21, 2010….

I went into labor.  For approximately one hour and thirty minutes.  We barely made it to the hospital on time – and the poor kid who had the misfortune of working the ER door that night probably wet himself at some point shortly after our arrival.  Sho-Sho was intimidating…. but Mommy was a woman possessed… and you WERE COMING right that very minute, no matter what anyone said.  Of course, Mommy’s big, bad act was kinda stolen from her by your need to have immediate bathroom access.  Oh, well.  It won’t be long before Mommy gets years of practice at yelling at complete strangers – part of that yelling will be on your behalf, by the way.  

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Mason,

Happy Birthday Sweet Bug!

I’ve been trying to write this for a couple of days – but it’s just not easy to list all of the amazing things that make you, you!

I can’t believe you’re three.  I can’t believe you started preschool yesterday.  It seems like two days ago you were a little snug bug who was perfectly content as long as you were in Mommy’s arms.  I can still remember the way you looked at the world around you with such intensity and curiosity.  I just can’t believe you are three – I can’t even wrap my head around you some days.

You entered this world with some serious gusto, and you have taken life on in much the same manner.  Bull by the horns, so to speak.  You are one of a kind, my boy.  Every inch of you – from your head to your toes – from your unwavering love of cars to your hilarious dance routine every time you ask to hear “Radioactive” AKA “Mason’s Song!”.  You bring light, laughter, and joy to everyone who crosses your path.  All it takes is one smile, one giggle and you have the attention  of the whole room.

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You see the world in such a unique way, and it’s such a blessing to be able to look through your eyes.  You have always had this way of studying the things and people around you – I’ve honestly never seen a child so intently observe the world.  Daddy and I love to watch as the gears in your head turn as you observe and figure out the workings of everything you see.

You’re sweet, and smart, and funny, and oh so very entertaining.  I wouldn’t change a thing about you – and I hope you never want to.  You’re a beautiful, exciting, chaotic little boy, and every inch of that is what makes you so wonderful.  I have so many dreams for you, so many things I cannot wait to watch you achieve.  I hope you’ll always be true to who you are.  I hope you’ll always listen to that part of you that is so creative and curious.  I hope you never bring Poopcasso Jr back.  I hope you never flush another dinosaur down the toilet.  I hope you continue to love cooking with Mommy and watching Monster Trucks with Daddy.  I hope you always keep looking up at the world above you, as well as the world around you.  I hope you put that killer arm to use on a baseball or football field and stop pegging me in the head with cars.  I hope you always have a silly streak.  I hope you never let go of the joy you find in simple things.  I hope you stop eating markers, and your brother’s Legos.  I hope you never stop “collecting” memories.  I hope you never lose passion for the things you love.

In short – I hope you always remain exactly who you are – no matter who you grow up to be.

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I cannot wait to see what you do as you grow.  The things you will learn, from everyone and everything in your world, and the way you apply those lessons will surely make an incredible man one day.

For now though, I want to you to stay little.  I want you to remain a child for as long as you can, in a world that forces our children to grow up too quickly.  I want you to pull out your pretend binoculars and look for birds in the sky.  I want you to ride around on your “lawn mower” every Monday morning when the neighbors have their lawns cut.  I want to watch Cars with you over and over again.  I want to chase lizards in the front yard and butterflies in the back.  I want to see your excitement each time you spot the moon.  I want to see your face light up when someone gives you a “ring pop ring”, or when an emergency vehicle drives by.

Be good to your brother.  He’s the only one you have – and while you two have your ups and downs, you should always remember to be there for each other.  You will make each other crazy, but at the end of the day, you will always have one another.

And no matter what – always, always remember that Mommy and Daddy love you.  We want the best for you – we want the world for you.  And we will do whatever we can to make sure you have the best life we can provide.

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You are one incredible little boy.  I love you.  I’m so crazy proud of you.

Okay, I guess I’m done now – you can stop yelling at me, I’m coming to watch Cars right now.

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The Wheels on the Bus…

I’m baaaaaack!

Kinda.  There’s no guarantee on that until Mason starts school in a little less than two weeks.  But still.  I’m back for now.  I’ve been meaning to write about Kaleb’s new school for a while now (actually, I have written about Kaleb’s new school – and a million other things – you should see the list of drafts in my folder!).  Today though, I’m not writing about the school.  Well not much.  Just to say this:  I REALLY like his new school.  And I REALLY like his new teacher.  She’s tough, but she’s compassionate, and I think we made the right decision in pairing them together.  On an overall scale I am exceptionally pleased at how it’s turned out.

Transportation though?  That’s a whole different ball game.

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Allow me to give you a little bit of insight into our history with the Transportation department for our county’s public schools.

When Kaleb was three he started going to School A.  He went five days a week from 11-2.  That first year I drove him back and forth – which was a pain for many reasons.  First, our car does not get good city mileage, and his school was a good 7 miles from our house.  In this town, that’s a minimum 15 minute commute if you don’t hit any lights (and I’m cursed, so I always hit the lights).  Second, Mason was an infant – and it was always a nightmare to try and juggle Kaleb’s drop off and pick up times with Mason’s nap schedule (which was WAY important!).  Third, Kaleb really wanted to ride the bus for some reason – but this is one mommy who wasn’t immediately cool with the idea of my baby getting on a bus and being driven around this touristy town by a stranger.

His second year at School A I finally caved and allowed him to ride the bus – for everyone’s sake.  The bus would pick him up at the end of the street around 10:30 and drop him off at the end of the street at 2:30.  This was mostly fine and dandy, save for the whole “end of the street” part.  Kaleb isn’t the most observant child in the world when it comes to his surroundings.  Now, he’ll pick up on every tiny nuance that the grownups around him don’t want him to notice – but a car coming down the road at him?  Not so much.  Turns out, at that point, his running into traffic was the least of our worries.  One morning Kaleb was having a rough time pulling himself together, and it was one of those I really hope he calms down before school days.

Not that he actually made it to school.  The bus got two minutes down the road and I got a phone call informing me I had to come get him off the bus.  I’m still not 100% on what happened to set Kaleb off – but what was very obvious, was that Kaleb had a total meltdown.  In the process of this, he got out of his seat and kicked his bus aid in the back – sending her to the E.R. and placing her on medical leave for about a month with a spinal injury.  Kaleb was 3 years old.  We called an IEP meeting and began to implement a harness on the bus – for his safety and the safety of everyone else on the bus.

Of course, shortly after this, Kaleb was transferred to the full day program.  Because we did not want to transfer him from School A to School B in the middle of the year, we got a variance and kept him at School A until the end of the year.  Now the real fun begins.  Because we have a variance, the bus will no longer come to our street – let alone our neighborhood.  Nope.  For the following half of the year I had to pack up little Mason, hustle both boys in the car, and every morning drive Kaleb two miles away from our house to wait at a bus stop in another neighborhood.  At 6:30am.  Pain in the butt?  Absolutely.  Did I consider just driving him each day?  Absolutely.  But when it came right down to it – the total fifteen minutes in the morning it took for us to get to the stop, get Kaleb on the bus, and get home was still better than the cash we’d spend in gas driving back and forth to the school.  Even if it was at the crack of dawn.

So, enter year 3.  Now Kaleb is officially in the full-day Preschool program.  One more year until Kindergarten (his birthday is past the deadline to start kindergarten at 5).  So, on to School B.  You already know all about School B.  More than 17 suspensions in three months time.  Constant battles over IEPs, Testing, etc.  School B was a nightmare of epic proportions.  But it all started with Transportation.  We were back to Kaleb getting picked up at the end of the street.  Better than two miles away?  Duh.  But still highly dangerous.  Not to mention the added level of danger with having soon-to-be two year old Mason out on a main road when he’s OBSESSED with chasing cars.  Yes, you read that right.  My dog chases his shadow – my kid chases cars.  We’re definitely abnormal around here.

For the first few weeks the bus is stopping at the curb.  Once the bus driver realizes that there is heavy traffic on the road he started to turn down our road and stopped in front of a house at the end of the street.  Every day when he would pick up Kaleb and drop him off, he’d drive right past our house.  Aside from the fact that we were still way too close to the main road for my comfort, now they were driving right past the house!  I was getting more and more frustrated each day – as Kaleb got more daring each day and was darting further into the road.  And I’ll say it again for good measure – they were driving right past our house!

So, we call a meeting, where I request to have the transportation altered to pick him up at the house.  For his safety, Mason’s safety, and just plain common sense.  After a 45 minute meeting, I am informed that Kaleb does not have a “physical disability” so therefore they refuse to offer him curbside service.  Are you kidding me?  Being unable to control himself when he gets overwhelmed or overstimulated and running into traffic despite my best efforts to prevent him is not considered a physical disability to you people?  Oh no.  According to the Transportation department the safety of the child at the bus stop is not their concern – it is a concern for the parent, and is therefore the parent’s problem.

These are the people who my child depends on for safe transport to and from school?  Jeez, he’d find more compassion on a Brooklyn subway car.  I wanted to stand up and yell at the guy.  All I could think was “Have you ever had to chase down a 4 foot tall 50lb autistic child with Hulk-like strength tendencies while keeping a grip on a 2 year old who wanted to chase the same car that was in danger of running down the first child?  No?  You should try it sometime.  Take it from me – it’s no picnic.  Hell, it’s nearly impossible.”  I didn’t yell (I might have said some of the above though).  I kept my temper.  I didn’t even cry.

Instead, naturally, I did what any other parent in their right mind would do.  I left the school, came home, ranted, raved, yelled at the sky, and finally it hit me.  They said I need to have some form of doctor’s note that coincides with my belief that he has a physical disability.  Well, it just so happens we had an appointment with his neurologist due to long suspected seizures coming up pretty soon.  So for the next week I held my tongue and bid my time.  When we got to the neurologist’s office I explained the situation, and found that he was in complete agreement with me.  This arrangement was dangerous and it would not do.  So, he gave me the note I requested, and then did one better – he informed me that if anyone at the next meeting gave me so much as an ounce of trouble about it, to call him on the phone while in the meeting – inform his secretary who I was and why I was calling, and he would immediately answer and make sure they understood in no uncertain terms that things could not keep going the way they were going.

Two weeks and another (of course, this turned out to be just the first few of MANY) IEP meeting later, Kaleb had curbside pick up and drop off.  Now, I had mixed feelings about Kaleb’s bus driver.  I liked the aid plenty, but the driver himself I was on the fence about most of the year.  He was nice enough – but it didn’t take long for me to realize he was pretty short on patience.  But, by the end of the year, I had bigger things to worry about, so that got shoved to the bottom of my list of worries.

At the last meeting we held last school year, the one that decided what school Kaleb would be moving on to (School C), my first question was about his transportation.  I wanted to make sure he held on to his curbside service, as I didn’t want to be dealing with the mess again next year.  I was assured that his transportation wouldn’t change.  Wrong.  Sigh…

When I was given the information for Kaleb’s bus schedule at the beginning of the school year I was sincerely angry.  After everything we had gone through last year, couldn’t we just once catch a break?  Please??

I call Transportation, who calls the school.  Now, on this, I really have to give a hand to the Assistant Principal of School C.  He jumped right on it – calling to let me know that he had spoken to transportation and would do everything he could to fix the problem.  Ummm… what?  You’re going to help me??  Really?  Really really?  Am I being punked?  I mean seriously, I’ve become a bit jaded toward public school administration after the last year.  Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do.  Somehow somewhere some line got crossed and his curbside service was trumped by a special stop (meaning the house at the end of the street).  UGGGHHHHHH.  How did that even happen?  He explained to me (I kept my frustration in check seeing as how I actually liked the guy, and appreciated his willingness to help), and I requested another IEP with Transportation to get this straightened out.

That was about three weeks ago, and I still hadn’t heard from the facilitator.  However, I had actually decided to let it go – for two reasons.  The first, there are actually a group of kids at our bus stop now.  They’re all Kaleb’s age, and he really enjoys playing with them each morning.  They go to a different school (the one we’re actually zoned for, but doesn’t have any ESE or gifted classes), but their buses come around the same time, so it’s something Kaleb looks forward to.  Not to mention, we’ve been in this house for five years – and in all that time, I’ve only met one of my neighbors (and they do not like me at all).  I enjoyed having adult conversations for a few minutes each morning with people who actually live on our street.

Second, Mason starts school in 9 days.  He will be in the afternoon class at School A, just like his brother.  While I’d be willing to drive him, he’s in love with the idea of riding the bus.  So, his afternoon bus will drop him off at the same corner as Kaleb at the same time.  I certainly can’t have one child being dropped off in one spot, and another somewhere else.  So, it would just be easier to have them both dropped off at the corner.  Daddy and I were both pleased with this solution, and were willing to drop the whole issue.

Until Thursday.  I was informed Wednesday morning by Kaleb’s bus driver that there was going to be a new driver on the route, so that was her last day.  A part of me was sad about this – change is hard for Kaleb, and that didn’t give me a lot of prep time.  However, this particular bus duo had refused to put Kaleb in his harness during the first few weeks of school, and as a direct result he freaks out whenever they put him in it.  Is he getting too big for the harness?  Maybe.  But I don’t appreciate a bus driver who has only known my child a couple of weeks suggesting I call a meeting and remove the harness from his IEP because she doesn’t like having to put him in it.  That particular piece of equipment is there for the safety of EVERYONE – and above all else, the safety of my child.  He may not like it – but if my now 62lb five year old has a meltdown on that bus, there’s no way to know what kind of harm he can cause.

Anyway, we get up Thursday morning like usual.  We leave at 7am to walk to the bus – now, our normal stop time is supposed to be 7:15 but she was consistently late, so Kaleb usually got about 30 minutes to play with his new friends.  His bus ALWAYS came before the other kids’ bus.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday the other kids all get on the bus and we’re still waiting.  Mason is all over the place, Kaleb is getting really antsy, and I’m starting to get worried myself.  By 7:35 I’m calling the dispatcher at Transportation, asking if something is going on.  We’ve been out there since 7am – that bus should not be anywhere near our house before 7:10, but you never know.

After sitting on hold for 8 minutes I’m getting agitated (come on, really?  I gave you the route number, how does it take this long to radio the driver?).  Until she gets on the phone and tells me he’s not listed on that route.  Ummm come again?  He’s been picked up by this bus every day since school started – how could he NOT be on the list?  Two minutes later she’s found him – his bus route has been COMPLETELY changed.  His route number is now ###, the bus will be coming at 6:45 instead of 7:20.  What the hell?

So, let me get this straight.  Someone in Transportation deemed it not only acceptable, but wise to alter my 5 year old’s bus route so he has to wake up almost a full hour earlier, memorize a new route number, and nobody thought to tell me???? 

For the second time in a month I look around and wonder if I’m on Candid Camera right now… if so, there are going to be a lot of bleep! noises.  I grab the kids and we race back to the house, where I basically chuck Mason at Daddy, throw Kaleb in the car and race off to the school so Kaleb isn’t late.  Of course, it was only as I was en route that I realized not only did I forget his smoothie money, I’m in my freaking pajamas!  Ohhhhh man.  Pajamas are cool for a bus stop.  They are not acceptable attire for the PTA driven mom-tropolis of your child’s elementary school.  Crap.

I get Kaleb to school on time (barely).  I explain what happened to his teacher – who was just as confused as I was as she’d had two other children switched to Kaleb’s old bus route, but had gotten no notification of Kaleb’s route changing (I’m not the only one being kept in the dark here).  I then rush out of there with my baseball hat hiding my tomato colored face of shame as I’m openly gaped at by a bunch of super moms (I know I should not care – but really, of course I do.  Eventually I’m going to have to interact with these women, and I’d prefer not to be known as the one who shows up in jammies).

The rest of the day is normal – as normal as we get anyway.  Then I get a phone call about five after two.  Kaleb missed his bus – because he made a big mess and his teacher made him stay to clean it up (I don’t care that this slightly inconvenienced me – I love this lady!  Way to stick to your guns!) – so she’ll call me when he has cleaned his mess so I can come get him.  The whole drive home from the school I discuss with Kaleb what it’s going to mean to have a new bus.  It’ll be a different bus, a different number (he quickly memorizes it), a different driver, and a different time.  We’re going to have to get up super early so he doesn’t miss his bus.

In the end our conversation doesn’t really matter.  We get up Friday morning, both of us dragging (I know it’s ridiculous, but that 50 minute difference in wake up times is a bitch).  Kaleb is in a wretched mood.  Bad enough that I stick a note in his folder trying to give his teacher fair warning that he’s exhausted and crotchety.  We eventually get out of the house around 6:35 (the walk to the end of the street only takes two minutes).  We stand outside chit-chatting for about two minutes before the bus comes around the corner.  Already I’ve noticed a few things I don’t like about this new arrangement.  First, it’s crazy early for a five year old with sleep issues.  Second, it’s crazy early for a mommy with sleep issues.  Third, it’s DARK outside.  And if it’s THIS dark in September, just think about how dark it’s going to be in December.  But, I grin and bear it, because that’s what we do.

Then the real trouble arrives.  The bus gets to the stop, and instead of stopping about 30 yards from the corner where it has been stopping all year – it turns down our road and stops at the first driveway.  Already this has got Kaleb in a tizzy.  He’s tired, he’s miserable, and the bus is doing it wrong!  I remind him that it is Fun Friday at school, and if he misses the bus he’ll be missing that – and he’ll spend the day cleaning his pigsty of a room instead.  Well – that at least gets him to walk up to the bus.  The doors open, and for a split second we are both so stunned we freeze.  Then I glance at Kaleb and I see the change happen right before my eyes.  Oh no.  This is going to be big, and very, very BAD.  

Have you figured out who is driving Kaleb’s new bus yet?  That’s right.  The driver from last year.  From School B.  Where Kaleb had what I hope will forever remain as the absolute worst academic year in his history.  I see it on his face the minute the thought hits him.  He thinks we’re making him go back to School B.  At this point my heart is automatically broken for my kid.  But we can’t just up and walk away from this.  We have to push through it, no matter how miserable it is.  He immediately reacts.  He starts crying and screaming, so distraught I don’t know how I’m going to get through to him.  “This isn’t where I belong mommy!  This is wrong!  That’s not my bus!  I don’t belong on that bus!”

He’s so completely upset about this I want to take him back home and curl up on the couch with him until he’s better.  This just sucks.  But I can’t do that – I can’t set a precedent like that.  He has to get on the bus, he has to conquer this and get to school.  I pick him up off the ground and start to maneuver him onto the bus – no easy feat when there’s 60lbs of uncontrollable muscle fighting me with everything he’s got.  Twice I think I’m about to go flying backwards, I can just see my head smacking into the pavement when I land.  Luckily, I’ve got just enough strength on him and I manage to get him up on the bus.  From there, it takes fifteen minutes for myself, the bus driver, and the aid to get Kaleb into his harness and buckled in properly.  About halfway through the struggle to get him strapped in, I’m wrestling him like a pro and he’s screaming that he doesn’t belong on this bus – the bus driver pipes up.  Wanna know what he said?  To my autistic five year old who is currently under the misconception that he is going back to a place he deems very, very bad, and in complete meltdown mode?  “Well I didn’t want to be here either, but they made me.”

WHAAAAT??? Did you really just say that?  Really??

If I hadn’t had my hands full of Kaleb at that moment, I might have had my hands full of bus driver.

Instead, I tuck it away for later, and finish getting my kid safely buckled into his seat.  Eventually we manage to get him properly strapped – and I step off the bus.  I watch as they drive away and Kaleb is kicking his shoes off screaming like a lunatic.  My first course of action is to grab my coffee cup off the ground – which is when I realized how badly I was shaking due to the coffee I was spilling on my foot.  My second is to call a friend and vent all of the pent up aggression I’ve managed to accumulate in the last twenty minutes.  Then I call Kaleb’s teacher.  The odds of this day ending badly are high, and she needs to know that he’ll be running with a hair trigger today.  She also needs to understand just why this was such a traumatic event for my Monster.

I’m simply floored by this latest little incident.  Someone took Kaleb’s previous driver and swapped her route with this driver – and I want to know why.  I called the school and requested an IEP meeting to discuss this development.  If they’re going to be picking Kaleb up at the crack of dawn he is no longer going to be able to enjoy his new little friends in the morning – which means I want the curbside pickup reinstated.  I briefly toyed with the idea of driving him in the mornings, but immediately dismissed it.  First, he likes the bus, that would be unfair to him.  Second, Mason’s going to be in the afternoon class when he starts school.  Meaning, we have to start keeping him up later and having him sleep in longer in order to avoid him being a tired and miserable terror by the time he gets to school.  In order for me to drive Kaleb every day I’d have to have both kids up and awake by 7:20am – a full hour and forty minutes before I want Mason to be waking up.  That just won’t work.

So, I leave a message with transportation (I’m basically on a first name basis with this woman by now – she has to be getting tired of me), requesting a call back to discuss the latest development.  Hopefully I’ll hear back on Monday.  Now I have to go find some more caffeine and make some breakfast – which I’m sure Kaleb won’t be eating since he snuck into the fridge this morning while everyone was still asleep and stole my entire banana cream pie (along with two mini chocolate cream pies).  Apparently he figured out that Daddy put locks on all of the cabinets containing food yesterday.  I don’t suppose I’ll be making any more deserts that require refrigeration.  At least he didn’t find my ice cream cones.

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