Monday, September 30, 2013

At A Loss--Or A Gain

You guys, I'm so TORN on this issue. Torn, I tell you.

I want to talk about it and get it out there, and anything I feel that strongly about, I usually blog about. But, I don't know if I want to bring attention to the issue, to give it attention because I'm not sure it NEEDS any more attention than it already gets. From the media, from society--everyone is talking about it in one way, shape or form. And the damage it is doing to our girls?  Hopefully not irreparable.  

It's body image. Specifically, MY body image.

I went to the doctor today, and the number on the scale was the highest it has been since I was pregnant.  The number itself was a bit of a surprise, but I know I've put on a little weight. In fact, I broke down and bought bigger pants this year--for the first time in a very long time, even pre-pregnancy. So it was no big shock that my weight was up.

Now, the reason for gaining weight is multi-faceted. I'm getting older, the metabolism is slowing down.  I'm not exercising nearly as much as I used to, pre-child.  But worse than that, my taste buds are changing.  I crave carbs, starches. I still like sweets, but bread and salt call my name.  My taste is changing and my will power is shrinking.  I used to be able to turn down junk like it was my job. Now, when something delicious is lurking in the staff lounge, I just cannot make myself pass it up (and let me tell you, teachers are the WORST for bringing in delicious treats!). Put all of those things together, and you ever-growing ass.

I feel like Jekyll and Hyde on this issue.  On one hand, I long for my old body. I miss putting on cute jeans and not worrying what I look like from behind. I miss being able to shop at just about any store. I miss feeling good about my appearance, and not feeling like I have something to cover up every time I get dressed. Hell, I miss not feeling a fat roll when I sit up normally at my desk.  But--on the OTHER hand--I don't pig out every single day. I'm not totally sedentary. Admittedly I worked out a ton more in the summer than I have since work started again, but it's not like I don't do anything. Long story short--maybe I should be accepting of this newer me. Maybe it should be okay to me that my body doesn't look like I'm in my 20s anymore. Maybe it should be okay to everyone  that an upper-30s woman has a little more meat on her bones than she did when she was younger. As long as I feel "fit" and healthy, should it matter what the scale says, what size my pants are?  These are the things I am thinking about.  Self-versus-society-versus-right-and-wrong-and body-image-and-raising-a-daughter-in-this-messed-up-world-of-unrealistic-expectations. 

Don't worry. I don't talk about my weight or body disappointment in front of Amelia. We talk in terms of what makes a body healthy and strong, not in terms of shape or size. Regardless of where I end up on the issue, I will never make my issues her issues by proxy.

So, I continue to ponder and think and decide where I truly am with this (and let's get real for a minute; we all know which would be politically correct and which we would like to say we agree with. However, we also hold ourselves to a different set of standards than what we deem as societally-acceptable. That's just life.). I'd love to hear from you--all of my readers. Where are you on this?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Smokin' Hot...

On the eve of my fun surgical procedure (click at your own risk), I'm feeling...well, I don't know what I'm feeling. Today was a day of awesome co-workers (and I really do love them...promise) provided an endless supply of burning-of-the-uterus jokes.  Smokin' hot, burn-out, en get it.  In fact, I joined in on the action. I absolutely face stress with humor. I figure you can either laugh, or you can cry. Given the choice, I will always choose laughter.

I'm a bit sentimental though. Yeah, I'm technically "Advanced Maternal Age", so having more kids isn't the best idea anyway, but man do I have some baby fever.  A co-worker and friend brought her baby to work this week, and I swear, he was like crack. He smelled good, he cooed, he did the whole lay-on-your-shoulder-like-a-sack-of-flour thing. He was precious. I want one. I want one bad. My kids are at the perfect age to have another. And body (not to mention Marty's) has other ideas. Infertility is a bitch...excuse my language, but there's no other way to put it. Anything less harsh doesn't do it justice.

On the flip side, I'm so happy with what I've got.  I would say "I'm blessed", but I kind of hate that phrase.  Sometimes people say it to you when you ask how they're doing and it comes across as almost haughty, like they have something you don't have. It gets to me--but that's a great way to put it. I'm lucky. I have two fantastic, entertaining, miraculous children. My heart is seriously full every time I'm around them. There's this scene in what is probably my absolute favorite movie of all time--Lost in Translation. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) and Bob (Bill Murray) are talking about marriage and having children. Here's their exchange:

Bob: It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.

Charlotte:  It’s scary.

Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.

Charlotte: Nobody ever tells you that.

Bob: Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.

Charlotte: That’s nice...

It's the most perfect quote to describe parenthood. My kids ARE delightful. I delight in them every single day--even when Anderson tries to delay the bed time routine about 10 times...even when Amelia is so engrossed in Mickey Mouse that I can't get her to answer a single question. Always. They're just awesome.

So...I say goodbye to fertility with mixed feelings. Sad that things weren't different. Happy for what I've got. Grateful. Wistful for what might've been. The procedure starts at 1:15--wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Making Contact

**Disclaimer: if there are any missing periods in this post, it's because the button on this laptop is sticking horribly. It is NOT bad writing.

I'm big on oral hygiene here in the Jones household. I have a condition which leaves the enamel on my own teeth very weak; combine that with "deep crevices", and you end up with a person who pretty much leaves every dentist appointment with a filling.  As I've shared with you before, we have a fun (read: painful after three months of doing it) bedtime teethbrushing routine, which helps me sleep at night because I know that the kids' teeth are taken care of appropriately, so that hopefully they won't have a life of miserable dentist appointments like me.

Part of getting them more into brushing has been electric toothbrushes.  With Anderson, I knew it could go either way--he'd either really LOVE it, or really HATE it.  Fortunately, he loved it. I love it, too--I feel like it buys me time in their mouths brushing because they tolerate it better, and it gets their teeth cleaner. Unfortunately, when the kids get sick, we like to replace their toothbrushes. Now, I'm not talking Sonicare for the kids; I just get the cheap-ish little battery-operated toothbrushes. Still, they cost more than plain brushes, and I hate wasting money on those kinds of things.

Recently, we went through a little round of stomach bugs at home, which of course prompted me to get new brushes for the kids. Quite frankly, I wasn't liking the thought of shelling out ten bucks for toothbrushes. Yeah, yeah...I know that's not a lot of money at all. It's just the principle of the matter. Then, the Target Gods shined their heavenly light down on me and there they were--CLEARANCE electric toothbrushes! With convenient two-minute blinking light timer to encourage proper brushing time! Barbie! And Spider Man! It couldn't have been more perfect. I snapped up the last two clearance brushes and excitedly took them home. Of course, the kids were thrilled with them. Lights and sounds and the Mommy Dentist--there was Great Excitement in our house at bed time.

For a few days, all things were normal.  Then, one night as we were collapsing in exhaustion onto our respective couches after our ever-growing bed time routine, I heard a very odd noise. My first thought was that one of the kids was up and playing with something in their room. I jumped up, prepared to do battle with a stubborn four year old. However, as I stood crouched between their doors, ready to throw open the door and catch the offender red-handed, I realized it was not in fact a misbehaving child, but rather a rogue toothbrush.  At first it sounded like this...

"bzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzzz."

Then, later, it was a full-on two minute buzzing and flashing. Hmm.

Every day since that time, the possessed toothbrush has randomly come on. Generally it starts at the most inopportune times--like when we are trying to get Anderson to focus on peeing before bed (he finds it HYSTERICAL...), or when I'm trying to sneak a nap on the couch for ten minutes while the kids play outside with Marty. I got all settled in and was just dozing off when I heard that stupid buzzing--it scared the crap out of me. The next night, as he laid on the couch with his eyes half-closed, I begged Marty to get one of his mini-screwdrivers and take the battery out.  His solution was just to close the bathroom door. This doesn't work for me because I have an aversion to repetitive noise. Thank God for my air purifier and its magical white noise.

 Sometimes, I can almost convince myself that it's Morse code, and that someone is contacting me.  Is it the St. Dentistine, the saint of good oral hygiene commending me for tricking my children into letting brush and floss their teeth? Or St. Motherwell, the patron saint of good parenting, trying to tell me that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse does not count as an educational experience? Regardless, the toothbrush is STILL. GOING.  As much as it has come on in the last week, you would think that the batteries would be dead.  Seriously.  When we finally take the battery out, Marty is sure that the Energizer Bunny himself is going to jump out. Regardless, I'm getting a little freaked out. Time for another Target trip.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Slowing Down

I don't know what it is lately, but I feel like my mind and my life are racing at warp speed. It's like my thoughts are running through my head at marathon pace, and I barely have time to breathe before another one rushes in.  For instance, when I woke up today, my mind was all like, "ohmygosh, it's5:45andyouaresupposedtobeupat5:30! Getupimmediately! DidIbeatthatlastboardonCandyCrush--noIdon'tthinkIdidheyIhopethecoffeepotgotsetlastnightIreallyneedcoffee." Deep breath...and, "IforgotwhatIwasgoingtowearIhopethelaundrygotdrydoIhaveanymeetingsthismorningohyeahIforgottoemailthisone
rightnow?" I swear, I can almost literally feel the thoughts pinging off of one another in my brain. Like the bad golf shot that Marty hit a few years ago, where he chipped it directly to the right and it smacked straight into a tree, then ricocheted back directly into his shin (and I immediately fell down on the ground laughing and tried not to pee my pants. As in I was laying on a golf course). True story, and even better, it proves my point. My brain is such a random mess and I feel like I've lost any focus I ever had.

It's easy to do, when you're thinking about work and home and kids and family and work and friends and work. It happens without you even noticing it, and then you realize you've been staring out your car window and you can't even remember what you were originally thinking about, and why am I at the store again? What did we need? Life is SO. FAST. PACED.  Time is a cruel mistress.  She slows for no one.  A blink of an eye, and my babies, my tiny preemies, are four. And a half.

This fast-paced whirlwind of life also makes it easy to overlook the simple moments. The ones that can easily get lost in the fray. The beautiful little pieces of sand in the hourglass of life (like that imagery?) that look like nothing at all unless the light hits them just the right way. It doesn't automatically happen, this noticing of the sand.  In this insane world, you have to MAKE your own light.

This weekend, I made my light. Instead of hurrying through all of our activities and trying to play as much Candy Crush as humanly possible (don't you dare judge me until you've tried it...), I made a conscious effort to notice what was perfect and wonderful in the moment. I went for a run Sunday morning, and noticed the gorgeous green, the crystal blue sky, and the amazing temperature that is fall in Kentucky.  I said a quick thank you for making such beautiful scenery.  When I got home, Anderson wanted to "snuggle" (meaning get in my bed with me and be totally crazy). He and Amelia both clambered into the bed and got as close to me as humanly possible. I felt their soft skin, listened to their breath. I made a mental note to always remember how Amelia feels in the crook of my arm, the way she sounds when she breathes, a bit faster than most kids because of her tiny lungs.  How Anderson says, "We're snuggling togeder" over and over, rubs his cold little feet on my legs. Instead of hopping up and rushing into cleaning, or thinking about what all needed to be done, I chose to be IN that moment, to place a bookmark right there in my memory, so that I can always recall that feeling. Because they're growing up.  They say and do such grown-up things every single day.

Maybe it's the change of seasons that's got me introspective, but without sounding too cliche or over-the-top mom-bloggish, I really encourage you--regardless of where you are in your life--to take time to slow down and just see things for what they are.  Appreciate the little things. Be grateful. And then of course, feel free to go back to Candy Crush. And be sure to send me a life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Are Family

Let me warn you...this might be a bit rambly, and I don't really even know where it's going or if I have a point. Just want to put some thoughts and feelings out in the universe.

I think it was about a week ago when I came across this story about a mother of an autistic teenager who tried to kill both herself and her child. It was heartbreaking...and I didn't understand it completely. Fast-forward to two days ago, when I came across this post on a blog that I regularly read.  When I read this one, I realized that I had read one of the original posts by the mom who took the drastic measure of trying to end both her life and that of her daughter. I was completely covered in goosebumps when  I realized that I'd read a piece written by her can find it here, and if you fall into the group of people who was totally appalled by the actions of this woman a week ago, this is worth a read.  This is a woman who was at the absolute end of her rope, who had begged for help from the internet world, from her community, her government---and everyone failed her. It is horrifying. Heartbreaking. And above all, completely terrifying.

 I'm not going to get into my beliefs on the case--I don't mind posting some controversial things, but this one is just too near to my heart to risk getting any kind of criticism. I have VERY thick skin, but when it comes to all things related to my children, all bets are off.  I share the story only as a lead in to my thoughts tonight. Tonight, I'm thinking about the autism community--or, honestly, the autism family.

I have exactly three "friends" (and they are truly friends, but I rarely see them in real life; they're internet/Facebook friends) who have children on the spectrum. Three. Now, if you're into numbers, that's about right. If 1:55 is on the spectrum, then about three of my friends SHOULD have children on the spectrum. Still...three is a pretty lonely number.  And yet...within those three people, I feel a sense of community and belonging that is so strong, and so comforting.  I know that if I need to vent something, I can send a quick message and get feedback from someone who knows what it's like. They, in turn, feel the same way (I like to think).  Because there is definitely safety and comfort in numbers, and we all want to connect with someone who "understands".  We are members of a tough, tough community--the people we love the most in the world have a condition that often causes mental and physical anguish. Mamas truly feel the actual pain of their children, and watching a child with ASD struggle--be it with sensory issues, obsessions/fixations, stims, irrational phobias, speech--has to be one of the most difficult things for a mama heart to handle. When you add into the equation physical aggression, like in the story above, get an indescribable situation.

Reading blogs helps me connect, helps me feel normal. I've never met, or even conversed with, the moms who write the blogs I read. And yet, I feel connected to them because I know about their everyday struggles with kids on the spectrum, with other special needs. Sadly, it's soothing to read about an ASD child who struggles with bedtime routine--because it makes my life a bit more normal.

One of my three friends had a difficult day today. When you add that to all of my recent thoughts on the subject, my ASD family is heavy on my heart today.  Anderson is in a relatively "good" period right now (he goes through spells, much like growth spurts or developmental spurts) where things are pretty good, but I know it won't last forever, and I feel the pain of all the other mamas out there just trying to figure it all out and keep it together.  I hurt for them, too--but I'm glad they're part of my family.

If you have any friends who have children on the spectrum, I would love to connect with them. Please feel free to share my blog on Facebook, via email, etc., ANYTIME. If my crazy stories can provide the kind of comfort that I get from other blogs myself, I will feel like I'm bringing some positive into a precarious situation that is life with a special needs kiddo.

So, tonight, I'm spreading light and love into the universe. Send some with me, friends.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Letter to my Daughter

Dear Amelia,

When you were an infant, you were so cuddly and sweet. You were always the tiniest thing, and you cooed and smiled and bubbled all the time. You rarely cried--only if your tummy hurt.  You tolerated your big brother's man-handling without so much as whimper.  You were angelic.

As a toddler, you were mischievous, but still...such a good girl. You developed empathy very early--you absolutely HATED it if Mommy was sad, and you didn't like it if anyone else was hurting.  I remember when you bumped your tiny forehead against mine, and my instant reaction was to flinch. You immediately put your cool, sweet hands on each side of my face and said, "You okay?"  My heart melted into a gigantic puddle of mush, my precocious, smart girl.

And're four.  You're stubborn. You're independent. And you are most definitely testing your limits.  You are asserting yourself by telling your Mommy and Daddy "no" too often. You are quick to pout, to cross your arms in anger, to flop down on the floor and refuse to do whatever we are asking of you.  I love your fiery spirit, but my heart aches for the sweet, compliant girl you used to be.  But I know it'll be okay...because...girl, you've met your match in your mama.  There's not a CHANCE that you're going to out-sass, out-last, out-tantrum me. I invented sass, little lady. And I certainly got into my share of trouble for it.

Tomorrow, we start a behavior chart for the mouth.  Each day, there are three squares. Each time you sass, you will get an "x" in a square. Three x's in a day, and you're done with screen privileges for the day.  Now I'm not unreasonable. If, by some chance, in six days, you've only acquired six "x's", then you'll get a reward. We will start slow and work up to better behavior.

So, darling daughter, I pass the torch of attitude on to you. I fought the battle many years ago, and I lost. Now, it's your turn. May the best woman win. Good luck.


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Downside of Words

This post has been swimming around in my brain for awhile, but other, more pressing posts have taken priority. It's been festering in there, though, and today is the perfect day to just go ahead and get it out there.

Anderson has autism.  Anderson has words.

If you're an autism parent and you're reading this, that means nothing to you. You probably know, and have read over and over and over, that no two children with autism are alike. You can never, ever compare kids on the spectrum because they're snowflakes--they're all totally different. Yes, there are common characteristics for sure--and those common characteristics are how children get their diagnoses--but which characteristics a child has, and how they physically manifest...there are countless, countless ways.

I think it's fair to say that the general public probably hasn't attained this level of knowledge, though.  There are some--teachers, special education especially, early childhood specialists, medical professionals, people in the psychology field, etc.--who are well-versed on autism. But the general public often doesn't know about the daily ins-and-outs of autism. Let me be clear--I am NOT saying that this is bad. It's not bad, and if you fall into this category, consider yourself blessed because you probably don't have a family member with this diagnosis and therefore haven't had a need to bury yourself in research. All it means is that some people know less about the topic than others--just like everything else in the world.

One of the characteristics of autism--one that is on the DSM-V--is a delay in language development.  That's a broad term because there are many, many types of language delays. There is the actual delay in developing the ability to communicate with words, and then there are delays with developing the ability to communicate in a more "typical" way--using correct syntax, understanding the back-and-forth nature of conversation, speaking for a purpose, etc.  The first is much more easy to recognize; it's noticeable when someone lacks the ability to speak. The second is a bit more complex.

The second is also where Anderson's language issues lie.

Anderson has words. Anderson has lots and lots and lots of words.  When, after months of DI and Speech Therapy, he finally started talking, I was overjoyed. In fact, I recall relief washing over me--if he's talking, surely he doesn't have autism!  That was my thought, if I'm being honest. The number of words he knew continued to expand exponentially, and yet there was something still nagging at me. There was something still..."off"...with his communication.  Of course, fast-forward about a year and a half and we are sitting with an ASD diagnosis, and Anderson still struggling with communication.

Please, don't misunderstand me. I am THRILLED that he has words. He can communicate his basic wants and needs to us, albeit in a different language than typical kids. I am happy, and thankful that the many, MANY months of therapy paid off and that he can use his voice to communicate with us. This is success for us, and we're grateful.

However, when it comes to others...I'm just going to be honest here. Because if you can't be honest on your blog, where CAN you be honest?  Often, when people hear him speak for the first time, they're shocked.  They expect something...different.  They look at me, with an expression of surprise in their eyes.  Sometimes, people might even comment and say something like, "Oh, he's 'high-functioning' then", because he can speak. Because he can answer simple questions. I'm fairly certain some people even question the diagnosis, when they hear him speak and see him follow some simple verbal directions.  Especially because he's technically advanced when it comes to articulation. He speaks very clearly and is easy to understand. To some people, he seems "typical".

He's not. He has words, and he uses his words to let us know of his struggles. Struggles with obsessing/fixating on things. Struggles with breaks in routine. Struggles with understanding social norms. He uses lots of echolalia to get his points across. He struggles with syntax, and pronouns, and understanding the reciprocal nature of talking to someone (and that's an understatement!!). And when he has a melt-down, he loses his words completely. And it becomes a guessing-game to try to figure out what the hell is wrong. Sometimes it's obvious, if you've been watching and have seen whatever triggered the episode. Other times, it's impossible to figure out, and we are just left to wait it out. To see if he was hurt somehow (bruises, scratches, etc.), or to see if he was just struggling with something else, some toy that doesn't behave how he wants it to behave, or if he's feeling sick, or something else. Those times, it's pretty obvious that he has autism.

So please...friends. People in the community. Don't doubt his diagnosis because you hear him talk. Because you see him follow directions. I assure you, he is on the ASD spectrum.  The psychologists who tested him extensively...the many observations of him in his classroom, the many parent-completed questionnaires, and teacher-completed questionnaires...they aren't wrong.  They don't dole out this diagnosis lightly. He has words. He has autism. The two can happen simultaneously. Trust me.

Leaving you with a video of a somewhat typical conversation with Anderson...some of it might make sense, some doesn't. That's most of our interactions with him.