Old Habits Die Hard…

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an avid reader.  I know, big shock, right? My husband refers to reading as my “habit” – saying it in a way that clearly implies he feels I could benefit from a 5-step program and a sponsor.  I found this amusing as hell, images of me locking myself in the bathroom so I could just get a quick fix… well, okay, he may have a small point.

Anyway, moving on.  I read a lot, and I’m not all that picky about what I will read.  I have my favorites, and I’ve got some preconceived notions about certain genres you’d be hard pressed to change my mind about.  But overall, I’m a pretty open-minded reader.

Usually, I’ll have four or five books going at a time so I can flip back and forth depending on my mood.  Take right now, for example. I’m in the middle of three different books on my Kindle, two hard copies from the library, one I bought from the used bookstore Tuesday, and two audiobooks.  And not one of them is the same genre.  For the sake of honesty, two of them are Stephen King books, but one is nonfiction, so they don’t count.  Which is irrelevant anyway. The pile of books I'm currently reading that dominates my nightstand.

The point of me telling you this is so you don’t roll your eyes when I tell you that I’ve become kind of a self-help book junkie.

Don’t get me wrong.  If the first chapter of a book tells me that my road to inner peace is paved with affirmations, I’m out.

I don’t need to waste my time reading books that are going to tell me all about the power of positive thinking.  We all know, on some basic level, that negative self-talk can be a buzzkill at best, and deadly at worst.  But we also know, or at least, I  know, that people who walk around all day shitting sunshine and happiness without fail are creepy and unsettling.  There has to be some bad in there to balance it all out.  Otherwise, how could you genuinely appreciate all of the good?

Over the last couple of years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of self-help books.  From the ones that don’t really seem to have any intention of actually helping the reader, to the ones that scream “You are amazing and your imperfections are amazing, and you eat that second brownie because all of that amazingness deserves to be rewarded!” at you.  Actually, I’m convinced some of these books are actually designed to give you new, different problems, so you have to go buy new, different books.

See, it goes something like this:

I am going to love myself for who I am, warts and all.  I do deserve that brownie because I am amazing.  I am my best friend, and I don’t judge myself!

Then, two months later, after your doctor has told you that you’ve gained 17lbs, and you are putting yourself at risk of diabetes if you don’t stop eating brownies every time you feel the need to remind yourself how much you love yourself, you re-evaluate, and pick a different book.

God, I need to stop eating my feelings!  I’m going to start confronting my problems, and being the stronger, more assertive me!  I will no longer suppress my feelings with food, I am going to say it like it is from this moment forward!

Then, two months later, you may have lost a few pounds because you are no longer eating your feelings, but you’ve probably also lost some relationships along the way too.  Because nobody likes it when they’re merrily going about their own lives, and you suddenly show up with the most dominating opinion in the room.  About them.   Without any acknowledgment of your own issues.  Because you are too busy telling them what their issues are.  So, another book gets picked up.

Why am I so determined to self-sabotage?  Why do I drive everyone away?  I need to look at what motivates me!  Forget feelings, I need to focus on my actions!  It’s time to start doing more things for me! 

So.  First, you filled yourself with love in the form of brownies. Then, you swallowed your feelings in order to tell everyone else what their feelings were. Then, you decided the best way to prevent yourself from sabotaging yourself was to only focus on yourself.  Annnd you’re likely back to square one.  It’s baffling!  The cycle just goes around and around. A million variations of the same damn dance.

It’s like one of those walking escalators they have at Disney World and overcrowded airports. You get on it, and you’re going and it’s all good, and then you step off and the whole world feels disorienting for a second because your brain forgot what it’s like to stand still and just be there.

That’s what depression feels like, to me, anyway.  Like I forgot to show up and exist.  I could see all of the people moving around, going about their lives, but they were all too separate from me for me to reach.  And once I finally caught up to them all, nothing would come into focus.  It’s a bizarre and unsettling feeling, especially in the context of my life.  Which brings me back to all the self-help books.

Sometimes, I’ll read one, and think to myself Holy shit!  That’s amazing!  It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?  And other times, I’ll read something and think to myself Do people really buy into this BS?  Because really, it’s all about what connects to your life, and your experiences.  The things that feel relevant to me could very well seem trite and ridiculous to you.  Which left me to wonder about a lot.  Is there a point to reading these books?  Yes, I think there definitely can be.

Honestly, sometimes it’s just to know that someone else’s head may be a bit more screwed up than my own.  But more than that, they serve as a reminder that there is no solution.  There’s no big answer.  No giant computer is going to tell me that 42 is what I’m looking for so I should just sit down, shut up, and be happy with it.

I want to explore the ideas more.  The main, consistent themes that pop up in these books.  I’d like to play a few games of comparison with them.  What is the difference between self-care and self-preservation, and at what point does it make you selfish?  When is it perfectly reasonable to be angry?  How angry is considered reasonable?  Where is the line between working on myself, and focusing on other people?  Does the hamster really need a second ball to run around in?  Oops.  Not that last one.  Bit of a slip up there.  We’ll talk about Jerry on another day.

The point is, there’s no universal system here.  No one-size-fits-all psychobabble found in a pretty package.  Hell, maybe you’re a perfectly adjusted person with no reason to feel anything but complete contentment and satisfaction with your life.  If that’s true, well… honestly, though, that’s just a bit weird.

For the most part, we all have our hang-ups.  We all have the things about ourselves that we’d like to fix, or change, or maybe just dust off and bring out to show around a bit.  And why isn’t that okay?

My husband and I got into an argument the other night about something inane, and in a moment of genuine frustration, he said “God!  You’re just so self-destructive!”  I sat there for a minute and just blinked at that.  Because, well, he’s not wrong.  I mean, he was wrong right then.  At that point, I was being self-righteous, which is totally a different thing.  But in my life, I have been known to be self-destructive.  And I sat there thinking, why?  I mean, what the hell is the point of it?

If you’re hanging on here for the answer, you’re going to be disappointed.  Because the truth is, I have no freaking idea why I do some of the stupid shit I do.  But I am becoming more aware of it as it’s happening.  And that counts for something in my book, because it’s a hell of a lot more than it used to be.

All these books have gotten my head circling around a lot lately, about the contradictory messages we are all fed by the world about ourselves.  Love yourself, but be skinny!  Don’t compare yourself, but be better than that kid!  Be frugal, but make sure you’ve got the latest phone with all the newest tricks!  It’s a joke.  Well, actually, it’s not.  It’s a terrifying reality.  We are living in a world full of push and pull, and there’s no resting time given.  There’s no time allotted to make up our own minds about our own feelings and that’s not okay.

Every day when I lay down for bed, I run through a list of all the things I didn’t do that day but wanted to, and I discard every excuse I gave myself for why I didn’t do those things.  Because in retrospect, in my mind, no excuse is good enough.   It doesn’t matter that I had severe cramps and wanted to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere dark and quiet with a bottle of wine and a bowl of chocolate.  I should have taken a few extra minutes to talk to Mason about the story I was 99% certain he had completely made up.  Or, who cares that I only got a solid three hours of sleep and felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head, I should have made a real meal for my family.  Not. Good. Enough.  That’s what it always boils down to.

When does this shit stop?

Probably never.  I don’t know that I’ll ever fully be rid of the running dialogue in my mind, the one that gets so much worse when the world is quiet.  But the only way to find out is to keep trying.  So, that’s what I’ll do.  And in the meantime, I’m going to start tearing these books apart so I can find the candy centers.

Or is that Tootsie Pops?  Damn, I could use a brownie.

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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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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!

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.

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Civil War…

Monster War 7,592,483 is under way.  Already.  Again.

What is this war about, you ask?  The same thing the last 2,000 battles were about.  Cleaning.

I’m not talking about being a slave driver here – we are NOT being unreasonable.  Expecting my five year old to clean up the disaster that three days ago resembled a bedroom is not only reasonable, but completely necessary.  For me anyway.  For him this appears to be the equivalent of a child form of the Inquisition.  And he’s certainly making enough noise to make that very clear.  I’m amazed, AMAZED the neighbors have not called the cops on us yet for all the noise he makes.

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Kaleb screaming is a whole new level of ear-splitting.  It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies.  It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on the enemies of every Marvel Comic superhero in history.  It’s just that loud.  You can feel your inner ear vibrating – to the point where you become worried about hearing loss.  I’ve been to hundreds of concerts in my life – right up next to those loud amps with no problem.  Daddy has spent most of his adult life around airplanes and engines with little problem.  Kaleb starts to scream and we both wish we had earplugs while simultaneously plotting our run for the hills.  

I mean, come on.  How can you possibly be an effective parental machine meant to teach your child responsibility, morality, work ethic, and the joys of a job well done when all you really want to do is cover your ears and hide?  Which is basically what Kaleb does when we talk to him anyway – except he doesn’t hide – he covers his ears and he screams like someone is ripping out his central nervous system one tiny nerve at a time.

Of course, this is made SO much better by Mason.  <~~Insert Sarcasm Here.

Who has learned to take exquisite pleasure in pushing Kaleb to the point of no return.  Kaleb starts yelling about how “Kids don’t clean only grown ups clean!” and what does Mason do?  He mimics.  He mimes Kaleb garbled, jumbled word for word.  And Kaleb flips.  Mason is copying him.  So, you shush Mason, and go back to informing Kaleb that kids do in fact clean, especially when they have made their bedroom look like something out of a Salvador Dali picture.

To which, Kaleb screams, whines, drops on the ground, and insists that cleaning makes kids tired.  Fine.  Then you can take a nap when you’re finished.  Only, kids don’t take naps.

This will go on and on and around and around.  Mason mimics Kaleb saying kids don’t take naps.  Kaleb screams at Mason with the kind of fury that would cause any other child on the planet (you know, the kind with self-preservation skills) to run in the opposite direction.  Not Mason.  Nope, he just mimics the scream.  If Kaleb had any form of super power I believe this is the part where he would obliterate Mason.  And, just to be a pest, Mason would rise from the ashes and mimic Kaleb.

Physically put Kaleb in his room.  Give him three simple tasks to start off with.  Pick up the 10 shredded pieces of paper and put them in your trash can.  Pick up the 12 books on the floor and put them back on the shelf.  Pick up the legos and put them back in the drawer.  Small, simple tasks that should only take a few minutes, but will in turn make the mess seem that much less formidable.

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Not.  Instead, another bout of screaming ensues.  Mason runs to the living room, parts the curtain for the french doors that lead to Kaleb’s room, and mimics Kaleb through the glass.  Kaleb now makes a bigger mess.  Emptying out his trash can, and throwing the legos across the room.  Well great.  Now you have just made more work for yourself.

Typically, I will help Kaleb clean his room.  I understand that even though he made the mess no problem, everything together seems overwhelming and he doesn’t generally deal well with picking it up unless I’m in there giving direction and a (slight) helping hand.  But now, now this is about the principal of the matter.  I helped you clean this mess three days ago.  I helped you pick up all of the Legos.  I helped you find a new home for your train tracks and accessories since you opted to destroy the train table.  But I am sure as heck not going to do it now.  You made this mess.  It’s not a disaster, but it certainly isn’t clean.  And I’m not going on vacation just to come home to your bedroom looking like it was ransacked by Max and The Wild Things.

Of course, when you add in Daddy’s reaction to the entire event, it just adds an extra layer of chaos.  It’s bad enough Kaleb won’t listen to me.  I’m used to it.  I’m frustrated by it, frustrated by my own frustration and by the fact that I tend to be so worn down by the end of the day Kaleb wins.  But Daddy is more frustrated.  Because he isn’t used to it.

Yesterday he got up with the boys and gave me a much needed chance to sleep in.  I stayed in bed until NOON.  For the first time (without being seriously ill) since Kaleb was born, I got to sleep until noon.  I probably would have stayed in bed all day if it weren’t for the periodic screaming coming from the children, and my guilt for making Daddy handle it all on his own.  I know he’s more than capable of managing, but I also know that every day it hits him a little harder – nobody listens.  The dog doesn’t listen, Mason doesn’t listen, Kaleb doesn’t listen – and if we’re being really honest here, there’s a good chunk of time when the only thing I’m listening to is my inner dialog of “You love your kids.  You love your kids.  You really, really, love your kids.”

Then the inner monologue gets replaced with “You do not need an exorcist.  They are not really possessed.  They’re just really… passionate.  About making you crazy.”  Of course, that change comes from Kaleb throwing a curtain rod down the hallway and Mason throwing trains in the toilet while the dog eats a Poptart that once belonged to one of the children.

So, here we are.  Another Monster War.  Probably a losing battle as Kaleb has locked himself in his room in an effort to make a bigger mess, and Mason proceeds to scream and rage at the dog for eating his Poptart.  Ah, well, at least I know whose breakfast the dog was eating.

Getting them haircuts and taking a trip to the flea market to buy them new suitcases should be a blast today.

I need more coffee.

 

Straight From The Jacket…

Suspension.

Do you know what I used to think of when I heard that word?

illusionists.

Suspend disbelief.  High wires and tight ropes.  Magic.

Harry Houdini suspended 45 feet off the ground as he escaped from a  straight Jacket in 1915.    David Blane being suspended 30 feet off the ground in a plexiglass box for 44 days in 2003.  Cyril Takayama suspended in midair over Mumbai for 45 hours in 2012.

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Magic.

Now I hear suspension and my jaw clenches shut.  My head starts to hurt.  And I think about the merits of homeschooling.

Kaleb was suspended again today.  And for the first time in a while, I can honestly say it was the right thing to do.

I was really hoping he wouldn’t have a bad day – after the chaos of last night and this morning, he was in a good mood when he got on the bus.  It was all I could do to hope he didn’t get himself into trouble.

That dream was effectively shattered.  And it wasn’t a dream dream of course, because I had just put Mason down for a nap and hopped in the shower, with the hope that when I was done Mason would be asleep and I could go to sleep.

Or not.  Stick my head under the water and the phone rings… Darth Vader.  Son of a…

I can hear Kaleb in the background.  This isn’t good.  This isn’t good at all.  Aside from him in the background, the only other thing I hear is another child got hurt.  Hop back in the shower and throw some shampoo in my hair as quickly as I can.  Jump out, throw on the first pair of jeans and a tee shirt I can find, run my fingers through my dripping hair and throw on a ball cap.  Mason had of course actually fallen asleep, so now I’ve got to wake him up.  C’mon kid we need to go bye bye in the car.

Hop in the car and we’re off.

Get to the school and we go to the office, where I can hear Kaleb clear as day from the back.  Oh man.  Mase and I get back there, and immediately I spot Kaleb on the floor slapping at the behaviorist.  Set Mason in a chair, give him Talking Tom to occupy him, and go to Kaleb, who has crawled under a piece of furniture.  Spitting, noises, spitting, noises – that’s all I’m going to get out of him.  They had to remove his shoes since he was kicking so hard.  Find his shoes, grab him, set him in a chair, he stands up on the chair.  Pick him up, sit in the chair with him in my lap.  Proceed to spend five minutes with him twisting and squirming and spitting in my lap while being told that for a reason nobody understands, Kaleb kicked another child in the back.

After getting worked up in music class he bolted for the door, and was blocked.  He then sat down and appeared to be calming himself down.  Until he jumped out of his chair and kicked another kid in the back.  No warning, no reason to suspect he would do it.  The other kid did nothing to instigate, and everyone was completely taken by surprise.  Of course now they have to fight to get him kicking and screaming to the office.  And here we are.  He hurt someone.  And I’m sick to my stomach.

I don’t even know how to process this.

And it hasn’t gotten better since arriving home.

I had to sit on him to get his shoes on him, I then had to carry him to the car (so the shoes were totally a pointless endeavor) while the behaviorist helped me with Mase.  The entire drive home he is spitting and making noises at Mason – which has Mason all worked up and upset.  We come home and Kaleb eats the lunch he wasn’t able to eat at school, then goes straight to his room.

In the last four hours he has had three major meltdowns.  Constant back talk, constant mouth and throat noise – and good grief with the spitting.

I put a call in to the neurologist, and left a message with a laundry list of requests. I don’t even know what to do.  There’s no way I can send him back to school – not after this.  So I’m taking the advice of someone I trust, and we’re looking into our options.

This is insane.  Instead of Houdini escaping from a straight jacket, I feel like I’m working my way toward being strapped into one.

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I just can’t reconcile this kid with the one who was sobbing in my arms at 6 o’clock this morning.

The Worst Day Since Yesterday…

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Yesterday was the kind of day that shatters me as a mom.

One of those days where you end up on the verge of tears for hours until the dam finally breaks and the flood comes rushing out at the slightest thing.

Calling my boys “The Monsters” has become a something so light and common place in our lives, I forget sometimes why the nickname started.  Yesterday reminded me of exactly why Kaleb is the Monster Man.  He was absolutely, unequivocally horrendous yesterday.  And while the past few months haven’t been a walk in the park – we haven’t had a day that bad in a long, long time.  

The biggest problem for me though?  Wasn’t that he was being a jerk (yes, I did just call my five year old a jerk.  If you were here yesterday you would understand).  It was that he was such a jerk, I couldn’t tell when the stubborn, back-talking, mouthy, bad attitude ended and where the meltdowns began.  I didn’t know what to do or how to react.  Nothing was working.  Nothing was working.

Talk, conjole, yell, discipline, ignore, hold on to – I did all of that and more.  But it just kept going.  On and on.  I’m bruised.  I’ve got scratches all over, and bite marks to match.

Who is this MONSTER  and where the hell did my kid go??

Everything was fine when he got off the bus – happy, excited, a little flighty, but overall, I’m like yay for good moods!  I had been cleaning (with very little help from the Mini-Monster) basically all day – Daddy’s parents get to town to visit today.  So, Daddy was painting and I was in a cleaning frenzy.  I was working on the office, and asked Kaleb to clean off his art desk.  It’s completely covered with paper, books, and miscellaneous nonsense that does not belong there.

Insert an hour and a half of complete chaotic nightmare.  At first all I can think is where the hell is this attitude coming from?  Seriously.  I didn’t dare speak to my mother that way until middle school.  He’s got the attitude of a thirteen year old girl.  And it absolutely stops us in our steps every single time it rears it’s angsty head.

So aside from the abject refusal to take a time out for chucking a Lego car across the living room at Mason, he flips their play table, upends a couple chairs (okay, they weigh all of two pounds, it’s not like the fact that he’s flipping them around is shocking, or even new – it’s the vigorous attitude he’s got while he does it), screams, kicks the sliding glass door a couple times, and then starts spitting.

SPITTING.  Since when does my kid spit?  All over the chair.  At me.  At Mason.  You’re joking right?  I inhaled too many fumes from my little canister of Clorox Wipes right?  I’m hallucinating?  Well, the kick to the shin just pulled me out of that little delusional wish.  He’s completely out of control.  And I can’t make heads or tails of it.  All this?  Over what?  Why?  I don’t understand.  I can see you.  You’re with me.  You know what is going on, what you are doing, and you are in control over yourself.  Why are you doing this?  Why??

That’s about as far as I got – because I had to sit on him to keep him from going after the dog.  Then Mase.  And he’s screaming, and spitting, and biting… it’s like he’s gone rabid.  I’m stunned.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m getting scratched and punched and slapped.  And I’m just sitting here, keeping him down with all I have – because if I let go, something really, really bad is going to happen.  And the way he’s raging – I’m just not sure I’d be able to stop him once he got some momentum back.

He starts screaming at me because he’s not a chair.  Well I’m not a punching bag!

Doesn’t matter.  All I need is for some of the rage lining his face to relax enough that I can trust him not to seriously injure someone.

In the meantime, my niece gets dropped off, takes one look at us, and runs for the hills.  I knew she was a smart one.

Then Kaleb threatens to cut me.  WHAT??  What did you just say??  What the hell just came out of your mouth?  Where did you hear that?  Do you even know what that means?  What is happening to my child???

I’m trying with all I have not to cry – because I just don’t know what else to do but sit here, wrapped around him like one of those velcro stuffed monkeys.  I’d already had a bad arthritis flare up in my hips, this – totally not helping.  Between the emotional pain, and the physical pain, it took every ounce of self control I had not to burst into tears.  Then Daddy came out to try and help, and a few tears slipped.  He tried his turn – conjoling, talking, reasoning, threatening to not finish his room – he got the same “Nah nah nah nah BUH” crap Kaleb had been spewing at me for the better part of an hour.

Finally, finally this nightmare comes to an end.  He calms down – we talk for about thirty seconds before I decide I really need some air and let him go play with the kids.  And all is fine.  For thirty minutes.  Until I discover all three kids in Mason’s closet making the mess of the century.  Considering the amount of time it took me to get that mess organized the first time around, I am not happy.  I’m not seething angry, but I’m definitely not pleased.  I want all three of them to clean the mess up.  Either you play with the toys or you find something else to do.  Dumping them out on the floor and laughing is not playing with the toys – it’s just mean at this point.

Mase and my niece both start picking up – and I’m helping – I don’t expect them to clean it all up without some encouragement.  Kaleb flat out refuses.  Sits there with his arms crossed glaring at me, “No.  I don’t clean.  You clean.”

You have got to be freaking kidding me.  After all we just went through?  You’re doing this again?  I can’t just let this go.  I can’t just sit here while you act like a hellcat because… well I don’t know why you’re acting like this.  But I can’t just let it slide.  Help us clean up, or take a five minute time out.  “NO.”

Enter meltdown number two.  It is now four thirty in the afternoon, he’s been home for just over two hours and yet again I’m sitting on him to keep him from harming something or someone.  This was basically a repeat of the last episode.  Conjole, reason, demand, yell, ask, plead – please.  Please stop this.

Another hour goes by before he’s finally calm enough to take his five minute time out while I wash dishes.  He sits in the chair and he spits.  He hits the sliding glass door.  He kicks the table and chairs.  But his bottom stays in the chair, so what-the-hell-ever.

I throw the meat in the sink to thaw for dinner and start to pull stuff out to prep.  He wants a snack.

No.  I’m making dinner.  If you eat dinner you can have a snack.

What’s for dinner?

Salmon and veggies.

Insert meltdown number three.  He wants chicken and veggies.  Suddenly he doesn’t like salmon (something he has consistently enjoyed forever).  Now I’m done.  No more.  You can sit your happy behind in bed, where it is quiet until it is time to eat.  The problem with this theory?  He doesn’t actually have a bed right now.  He’s sleeping in our bed while we re-do his room.  Fine.  Put him in our bed, tell him to take the time to calm down and stop misbehaving, and leave the room.  To hear something crash against the wall approximately 4 seconds after I pass the threshold.

Oh.  My.  Freaking.  God.  Now what??

March back there, put him back in bed, walk out again.

For him to pick up the same picture and throw it again.

March back there, put him back in bed, walk out and close the door.

For him to open the door, slam it, and open it again.

Just shoot me.  Please?

This of course escalates quickly into another thirty minute wrestling match.

More beating the crap out of mommy while mommy tries desperately to figure out just what is going on.  And fails to come up with a single reasonable explanation that doesn’t include possession and an exorcist.

Eventually he calms down, and I limp my way back to the kitchen to finish making dinner.

Put dinner on the table – insert meltdown number 4.

I.  Can.  Not.  Do.  This.  Again.

I just can’t.  I don’t have it in me today.  I do not have the emotional or physical wherewithal to take another bout in the ring with this kid.

Daddy recognizes this before I can even say anything, and he takes over.  Thirty minutes later, Kaleb is still raging, and Daddy is as frustrated as I am.

Kaleb’s Lego Police Station from the hospital has been sitting on top of the popcorn machine for a couple weeks now.  It’s safe up there, he can see it, but Mason can’t touch it.  Well – it was safe, anyway.  Until Kaleb takes the box it’s sitting on and chucks the entire thing across the kitchen.  Right then I felt like I was going to drown.  In Legos.  Confusion and anger.  More anger at myself for being so angry and not having more patience.  Sadness.  Frustration.  You name it – I was a rainbow of emotion, not a good, pretty rainbow either.  A rainbow that got swallowed by a storm cloud.  I just wanted to sit down on the floor, amid the hundreds of Legos and cry.

But, alas, there were two other little people to chase down.  Mase decided he was done and put himself in bed.  My niece started to pass out at the dinner table – so I put her to bed.  Then I sat down with Daddy and Miss Lisa and ate my dinner (which, at least, wasn’t half bad).  Got Kaleb up off the couch where he’d planted himself after the Lego showdown, and talked him into cleaning them up.  Talked to him for a few minutes about why he was in so much trouble – again.  Got his milk, took him to bed, had a good hug and “I love you” moment – because I needed that.  I needed to make sure before he went to sleep how very much I love him – even when he makes me want to hide in a closet with a box of tissues, a keg, and a straw.

Still, the tears didn’t come.  Until quite a few hours later when Daddy and I were talking about something completely unrelated – something that in no way should have been emotional.  And I just burst into tears.

Daddy gets kudos for not showing (much) how baffled he was – and for letting the flood gates open.  I woke up at 4:30 when Kaleb came out and crawled onto the couch.  He leaned over, gave me a kiss, rolled over and went back to sleep.  If I wasn’t so tired I probably would have cried all over again.  Because he’s so freaking sweet when he wants to be.  He’s so easy to love, and so hard to understand.

It makes me crazy (er).

This morning was typical, no sign that yesterday was a complete nightmare.  That is, until you look at the bruises all over my legs, and the fact that my arms are like jelly.

Now, Granny K & Grandpa Dave are here to visit.  And I’m having miniature panic attacks every twenty minutes or so.  I don’t know what to expect with him – I have no way to anticipate what’s going to happen.  Plus, it’s going to take significantly longer to finish his room than we originally thought – and we’re going to have to put him on an air mattress in our room.  Because Mommy’s hips and Daddy’s back cannot take much more of the couch.

I just hope today is a better day.  I still have a bit of clean-up to do.  I’d like a nap.  I’d like to know what to do with my child.

Oh, and btw, he was suspended again Tuesday.

That’s a story for tomorrow.  I’m going to go chew a couple packs of gum and clean up the Special K cereal that Mason dumped all over the power wheels jeep.

But just in case today is not a better day, a friend of mine (you know who you are) should not be surprised if I show up on her doorstep in a couple hours to steal their kegerator.

‘Till tomorrow, folks.

Oh, crap, one last thing –

There is officially 100+ people who follow this lunacy.  Thank you to all of you.  I was going to wait to say something until I wrote my 100th post (which will be in the next week or so I believe), however, that’s kinda rude of me.

So, thank you all very much, for continuing to fall down the rabbit hole with the Monsters.