Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The competition heats up

As I expected, the April optimists never had a fighting chance in Ice Out 2008.

The odds are looking much better for May place-holders, however. After a stretch of warm weather and a couple of rainy days, the front yard looks like this:



I have a feeling that the competition is about to get interesting...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Split ends

Good news: Meg and I are back together.

My search was surprisingly easy. Last night, I contacted a former colleague through Facebook because I knew she was a long-time customer of Meg's, though I knew she'd been living in another part of the state for the past several months and had probably been getting her hair done elsewhere. My friend was shocked to hear from me, because - get this - she had run into Meg at a department store the previous day.

Meg's departure was sudden, and she did not have access to her customer contact information. She asked my friend to spread the word that she was starting this week at another local salon. My friend gave me all the info I needed and must have passed my info on to Meg as well, because when I got home tonight there was a message from Meg waiting for me.

It's like the stars are aligning: all of the fabulous haircutting with none of the awkward interactions with my former stylist.

Don't you just love a happy ending?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hot off the press

Two fellow autism bloggers have ventured off the screen and onto paper this week.

Kristina Chew of Autism Vox is featured in an article about special needs mothers in the May issue of Working Mothers magazine, and

Today's Concord Monitor includes a front page story that details the research, advocacy work, and writing that Kathleen Seidel has been doing at neurodiversity.com.

It's hard to imagine where the autism blogging community would be without the work of these two extraordinary women, and it's exciting to know that their voices are reaching a broader audience.

Happy reading!

My achy breaky hair

You're not going to believe this, but I swear I'm not making it up. Remember Meg, my new dream-come-true hair stylist?

She dumped me.

It gets worse. She didn't just dump me; she dumped me by form letter. And it wasn't even a letter from her. It was from the owner of The Salon - "I am writing to inform you that Meg is no longer employed at The Salon. We will miss Meg and wish her the best in all her endeavors. Meg is a very talented hair stylist, however we value your business and hope you feel comfortable continuing to choose The Salon for your beauty needs."

Like I'm just supposed to pick up and move on or something. Honestly, the letter arrived yesterday and I've barely scratched the surface of the first stage of grief. I'm wallowing in my denial, certain that any minute the phone will ring and it will be Meg, letting me know she's set up a cozy little place where we continue on together as though nothing had happened. I keep waiting for the text message: "meet me 2moro." But it doesn't come.

So now, of course, I'm in a worse quandary than ever. I can't get back together with my ex-stylist, Rachel. That bridge has burned; that ship has sailed. Even if I showed up with candy and flowers at this point, it would be obvious to everyone that Rachel was just sloppy seconds. But if I start seeing yet ANOTHER stylist at The Salon? That says to Rachel "I'd take ANYONE over you." I just can't do that to her.

As I see it, I have two options: I can do my best investigative work and try to find Meg - she's out there somewhere; maybe she doesn't know how to contact me - and risk having her bring me up on stalking charges, or I can stake out on my own and start all over again in a new town with a new stylist at a new salon. Neither prospect is particularly inviting. But, really - I'd just started getting comfortable with my hair again. It's too hard to think about starting over, risking disappointment, suffering a set-back.

So I'm setting out to find Meg. I've got three weeks until my next scheduled appointment. By then, my hair and I will need her desperately.

Anyone know a good private detective?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Turn, turn, turn

In a recent post, I said that I thought the seasons were changing. I said I thought we were turning a corner.

Now I'll say this: it's lovely around this bend.

The sun is out, literally and figuratively. It has been warm and mostly sunny for more than a week. Spirits across campus have lifted immeasurably as students have ended the hunkering down of the snowiest winter since 1874, swarming the quad in shorts and halter tops and flip flops, playing wiffle ball and studying in the sun on patches of greening grass twenty feet away from still-melting snowbanks.

Which reminds me - VTBudFan asked for an update and wondered how her April 18 guess had fared in Ice Out 2008. Had we been focusing on the backyard only, she would probably not have been that far off, as this is what it looked like at the start of this week:



The front yard, however, still looks like this:



Honestly, though, I can hardly even see the snow in my yard with all the sun in my eyes. But it's not just the blue skies, warm weather, and campus festivities that have me celebrating this seasonal shift. It is the change in my son that has accompanied the change in the weather. Is there a direct causal relationship between the weather and the behavior? I don't know. It might be that we have finally found the right balance in medication. It might be that the strategies and routine we've implemented in school are finally paying off. It might be that the upheaval we experienced in our family is now a full year old and Bud has been able to readjust and settle in.

I don't know what has caused it; I only know that it's glorious.

Bud and I spent last weekend hanging out together. We ran errands, we raked leaves, we had a pizza picnic, we went to the playground, we visited the library, we took a walk, we worked at my office, and we ate brunch in the college's dining room. We had fun together. All weekend.

There were moments of disagreement and flashes of tension, but that's all they were: moments and flashes. The weekend was even, and happy, and stress-free. Bud sang a lot. We laughed together. We hugged and high-fived and held hands. Saturday and Sunday were like the Mom and Bud Days of old. I spent all weekend smiling and thinking "he's back!," wondering if behind his own smile, Bud was thinking "she's back!"

And the mood has continued this week, even though our schedule has been disrupted because I had to work two consecutive late nights. Bud was home with his grandparents, happy, cheerful, and charming, and he called me at work each evening to sing me a song and say goodnight. Tonight, I was home again and we slid back into our regular routine seamlessly - no bargaining, no retribution, no payback. Just an enthusiastic welcome with wide-open arms and a big toothy eight-year-old grin.

It's the start of a new season. We're back. And we're better than ever.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One down...

If you are a contestant in Ice Out 2008, you may be happy to know that your competition has been reduced by one. While Mike does win the award for Most Optimistic Player, his prediction of a total thaw by April 10, sadly, did not come to pass.

The good news is that it has been warmish here, and I believe we even hit sixty degrees today. A patch of earth has emerged in the backyard:


But the front yard... well, you can see for yourself (and do note the pavement in full bloom in the foreground):

This, of course, does not bode well for FXSMom, Daisy, or any of our other April optimists. It could happen, I suppose, but really, I don't think they have a snowball's chance in - well, you know.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sounds fishy to me

I think Bud just swore at me.

We were getting ready for bed, and Bud insisted that he wanted a bedtime snack. Spying telltale crumbs of American cheese stuck to his cheek, I pointed out that he'd already helped himself to a bedtime snack and I told him that he'd had enough for the night.

"But I'm hungry, Mama," he said.

"Sorry, Bud," I said.

"I want a SNACK," he implored.

"You're all done for today," I answered.

"PLEASE, Mama!" he pleaded.

"NO, Bud," I insisted.

Frustrated, he let out a low growl, pushed past me, stomped into the next room, and grumbled with exasperation, "Jesus Mackerel, you make me crazy!"

Jesus Mackerel?

Do you suppose that he meant to say -

Ah, never mind. I don't think I want to know.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

First sign of spring?

The weather is slowly changing around here. The yard is still buried under several feet of snow (sorry, all you April Ice Out optimists), but the one-ton ice dams are crashing down from the roof and we hear a constant drip, drip, drip as the melting continues.

Yesterday, Bud and I were venturing out and I raised the garage door to find that the ice had finally melted outside it, revealing the driveway we haven't seen since 2007. From behind me, I heard Bud gasp the sort of gasp he usually reserves for Christmas morning.

"Mama," he marvelled, "The pavement came out!"

It is indeed a sure sign of spring. Once the pavement starts blooming, can the crocuses really be that far behind?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

On becoming aware

I've been reading on the blogs that it's Autism Awareness Month.

Actually, that's a lie. I haven't done much "reading" at all. I've learned that it's Autism Awareness Month by reading blog titles and scanning blog copy, because honestly, I haven't felt like I could handle any more autism awareness lately. Around here, it's felt like autism awareness year. And the truth is that this year, for the first time, I have often felt painfully aware of autism. It's been a year of struggle, of challenge, of two steps forward/one step back, of one step forward/two steps back. A year of stumbles, of trials, of risks, of unknowing. So, in the same way that last summer felt like the right time for inactivism, this month has felt like the right time for unawareness. And so, no, I haven't watched Autism: The Musical. I didn't see any of what was on CNN. I haven't taped, I haven't read, I haven't looked, I haven't heard.

Despite that, though, I accepted an invitation to be a guest speaker in a Child Psychology class at the college this week. The professor asked me to speak a little about parenting a child with special needs, and then to take questions from the class. I decided not to do much preparation. I am, at my core, an educator, and I decided that if these students were really going to learn about my parenting experience, then they needed to have the unedited story - not pre-packaged, not beautifully wrapped, just open, honest Q & A. I had a few notes with me, but mostly, I just brought along my courage.

I arrived at the classroom after most of the students were there, and as they settled in I looked around for familiar faces. There were a few students I've taught before, a few I knew from other arenas of my work at the college, and a lot whose faces looked familiar, but whose names I didn't know. There wasn't anyone with whom I'd ever had a conversation about Bud.

I started the presentation with an invitation: "I want this to be helpful to you," I said. "I want to answer the questions you have, whatever they are. So, I want you to know this: I am not easily offended. I understand that some of your questions might touch on sensitive areas and you might be worried about phrasing them the wrong way. Please, ask the questions you have with the words you can think of, and trust me that it will be okay."

And they did.

I gave a fairly brief introduction, walked them through Bud's early development and diagnosis, his education and intervention, and the current state of the state. Then I opened the floor to questions, and hands flew up all around the room: What were my thoughts about inclusion? Had I ever looked into the gluten-free diet? Could I tell them more about Bud's anxiety related to thunderstorms and what those episodes were like? Did his anxiety spill over into any other areas? What were my hopes and fears for Bud's future? Had I planned on having other children, was Bud's autism a deciding factor in not having them, and did I have any sadness or regret related to that? What has been the most difficult part of Bud's school experience? Did Bud's use of echolalia make me nervous about exposing him to age-appropriate media? What did I do to try to get Bud engaged with peers? How did I make decisions about medication? How did I deal with Bud's acute sleeplessness? How did I maintain my sanity? And more, more, more.

I gave it to them straight and unedited, completely unsure about how they'd react. As I talked, I watched their faces - interested, engaged, encouraging me to give them more, to expand, to dig deeper. I watched for looks of horror when I described the hard times, but I saw none. I saw some flashes of sympathy. I saw some looks of recognition. And mostly, I saw the expressions on their faces soften and change, as one by one, person by person, they listened to my stories and fell in love with my son. None of it was white-washed; they got the unadulterated truth. But they were able to hear it all and zero in on the part that mattered: the part that told them that in parenting Bud, I get more than I give; the part that told them how lucky I am to be this child's mom.

When I left the classroom, I was positively buoyant. When I'm slogging through the day-to-day, especially when I'm slogging through the hard day-to-day, it can be easy to lose perspective. I am always aware of the good that's there, of course, but I start to lose sight of the ratio - I can't quite tell if in the bigger picture, the bad has somehow started outweighing the good. I start losing track of which things are universal and which are situational, which are the norm and which the exception, which the foundation and which the one-off. But somehow, through 75 minutes with a room full of eighteen to twenty-two-year-olds, the clarity was restored and I exited the classroom with something I didn't have when I entered: awareness.

Autism awareness? Maybe. Self awareness, for sure. Life awareness, I think. Whatever it is, it's good. It's making me take deeper breaths. It's making me believe that spring is actually coming - metaphorically and literally. I'm still not ready to break out the next round of autism memoirs or check to see if TiVo has been taping any good documentaries. I'll still be skimming the "Autism Awareness Month" posts for a while. But I've rounded a corner. I've turned a page. And I think good things are coming.

Stay tuned.