Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

...for peaceful holidays and new traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving from Bud and me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Breaking with tradition

I'm hoping to start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year.

Here's why: our current tradition, as it has played out in recent years, typically involves Bud dissolving in a muddle of tears and dysregulation by bedtime. I understand it. I really do. Thanksgiving is a high-build-up, low-pay-off holiday for Bud. It gets bundled as part of "The Holidays" in our national culture, aligning it closely with Christmas, as though it's the first installment of a spectacular series of events, and not just a precursor of spectacular things to come. There's build-up in school, with the promise a long stretch of time off. But, then, when the "big day" comes - well, for Bud, it's usually a whole lot of nothing. No egg hunt and basket. No trick-or-treating. No pile of presents in front of a sparkling tree. Just adults who are distracted making foods he doesn't want to eat, a TV showing parades and sporting events he doesn't want to watch, and, ultimately, a heaping helping of disappointment and let-down.

And, then: Cue the tears.

With memories of Thanksgivings past weighing heavily on my mind, I've spent the past couple of weeks trying to come up with a new Plan A - something to build Bud's day around. There were some built-in challenges to my brainstorming. First, I am still forced to hyper-vigilant about Bud's food intake, which meant that the new "extra special something" could not involve the preparation and consumption of high-calorie treats. Second (and not surprising for anyone familiar with autism), the introduction of new people - either by visiting them or by inviting them to our house - would probably not help, since it might add to the dysregulation instead of diminish it. Third, Bud is not a crafty kid - so the whole "make a Thanksgiving centerpiece out of macaroni, tissue paper and yarn" thing was out. Fourth, I am battling daily to keep the Christmas-frenzy from overtaking him full-tilt (a battle I am not sure I'm winning, incidentally), so I wanted to avoid anything that might even HINT at Christmas-preparation. And fifth, I really wanted to avoid turning Thanksgiving into yet another present-getting occasion, as our festivals of consumption are plentiful enough.

So, working around all of those potential landmines, here's we're we've landed: Bud and I will be having an indoor camp-out. On Thursday, in between the potato mashing and the table-clearing, we'll be turning the playroom into the great outdoors: setting up the tent, rolling out the sleeping bags, and firing up the battery-powered lanterns. We'll have stacks of books, lots of pillows, and, I imagine, a gathering of stuffed friends around us. We'll pop some popcorn and eat marshmallows that we've pretended to roast on an open fire that I imagine we'll make out of paper.

The plan is still forming, of course, so I'm open to suggestions of additional ways to make the day special - camping-related or not. So, please - send your ideas this way. They may become part of our Thanksgiving tradition for many years to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elevenses

This post originally appeared at Hopeful Parents on November 11, 2010.

It occurred to me a few days ago that the eleventh was rapidly approaching and with it, my posting date for Hopeful Parents. Could it really be the eleventh again?, I thought. So soon?

But, of course, it was. Is. The 11th. 11-11, actually. Elevenses.

I Googled "elevenses," because I knew I'd heard the word somewhere before, and I landed on this Wikipedia entry (and for any of my writing students who happen to be reading: No, Wikipedia is STILL not a credible source), which informs me that in the UK and Ireland, "elevenses" is a light snack - a warm beverage and a tasty cake - eaten in late morning. It's a little treat - something you do for yourself, just to get yourself through the day.

I imagine that if you're the parent of a child with special needs, you get the same question I get from well-meaning doctors and therapists: "What are you doing for yourself?" It's an important question, but by the tone and frequency with which it's asked, I get the sense that when these doctors and therapists ask it of most special needs parents, they are met with blank stares and lengthy silences.

Not so with me, though. I merely thank them for their concern and assure them that I am, indeed, taking time for myself. I am enjoying my elevenses.

And I am. Sometimes they take the form of things that I do - enjoying a night out with friends, reading a novel that's just for fun, shopping for a new pair of chunky-heeled boots. And other times, they take the form of things that I don't do, because I just cant manage one more thing, even if, under different circumstances, that thing is something I might like to do - seeing my students perform in the college play, volunteering for the school Book Fair, responding promptly to an e-mail from an old friend.

Or writing a blog post simply because it's time.

The key here - the elevenses part - is not simply in the not doing. It's in not feeling bad about not doing. That part is more difficult, but it's critical. In order to make it happen, I have to assume that everyone else will be willing to cut me a break - and, as it turns out, when I test my assumptions, I find out that in most cases, the break has been cut. That knowledge - or, perhaps, that ongoing assumption - makes it easier for me to cut myself a break as well.

They are not huge, my elevenses. Taken alone, they will not shake the ground enough to register on even the most sensitive seismograph. They are not cruises to the Caribbean. They're not even days spent at the spa. They are little moments of doing and little moments of not doing. But taken together, they get me through.

Guilt-free elevenses.

And, of course, all this is my explanation for why I am not writing a Hopeful Parents blog post today, 11-11, the high holy day of elevenses.

And yet, it seems that in my explaining, I have written a blog post.

But I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'm just going to look at this as one of those "do" elevenses, and not one of the "don't do" ones.

Whatever the case, I'm going to go celebrate with a warm beverage and a tasty cake.

Perhaps you'd like to do the same.

Or not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/11: Wishing and hop(eful)ing

Are you the type to make a wish when the clock reads 11:11? If you are, I'm guessing that your wish will have double the come-true power today, November 11: 11/11. (And just WAIT until next year!)

For me, all the elevens are a reminder that it's time for my monthly post at Hopeful Parents. You can click here to read it or check back in a week or two, when I'll post it here - whichever you wish.