Sunday, July 22, 2012


Conor's recently rediscovered the black box activity "Let's Cook Something Fun!" and, man, he is on a tear.  Yesterday, he and Paisely (his respite care aid) made a yellow cake for my husband, since his birthday is coming up.

Conor's actually quite a good chef, so don't blame him for the state of the cake.  And though poor Paisley can't cook a lick, it's really not her fault either. My oven is on the fritz and I'm refusing to get it fixed because it's only 3 years old.  It's the principle of the thing, you know?

Three year-old ovens are NOT supposed to break, especially after the two year-old microwave was just replaced.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, appliances should never break, no one should ever get sick, school should be in session every day, the car will always, always start, and the power should never EVER go out.

Besides, we have another oven.  Of course, Conor won't use the other oven.  I tell you, these chefs are so particular.

I can not use that other silly oven.
I must use the oven I want to use; vous ĂȘtes un idiot!

On the positive side, when Conor saw his cake in tatters, he did not have a tantrum.  He agreed, we all agreed really, that Betty Crocker buttercream frosting could be the glue that would hold all the pieces together. (It certainly binds him up enough.)

All those holes in the cake meant more room for more frosting!  Whoopee!

Honestly, I can't believe Conor bought it.  This is true progress, people!  A year ago, this would have resulted in a grand mal tantrum of epic proportions.  At the minimum, he would have insisted that we make another cake.

Today, he said "meh".  Well, technically he didn't say "meh", but he had a "meh" attitude.  Which I think is sort of like zen, but Yiddish.

No matter.  I give myself a lot of credit for Conor's love of the culinary arts.  After all, we used to watch Emeril every night before he went to bed.  Ok, fine, I let him watch Emeril until he fell asleep, at which point I transferred him to his bed.  Whatever, it was easier.  Easier than sitting in the hall for two hours while he jumped in and out of bed like some cockamamie jack-in-the-box.

At one point, we watched so much Emeril that when we made homemade spaghetti sauce together, Conor would throw in the basil and yell loudly--"kick it up a notch!"

No. Lie.  Hilarious.

Then, when he threw in the salt?  "BAM!"

I totally should have had the Emeril show come to our house and tape Conor making his sauce.  A star would have been born.

Aw, shoulda coulda woulda.  Anyway, Conor does cook but he does NOT clean.  And all this cleaning up after my little Top Chef has my hands as chapped as a scullery maid's.  That stepchild Cinderella ain't got nuthin' on me 'cause I'm doing dishes all. day. long.

I know, I know, I should teach him to do the cleaning up as well.  And one day I'll get there. One day, Conor will cook me fennel-crusted pork loin with fingerling potatoes and roasted pears, and once he finishes serving it? Well, since he won't dare eat such drivel, he can make himself useful cleaning while he waits for the espresso machine to heat up adequately.

Oh, did I mention that he makes a mean espresso?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Do I Look?

Yesterday I drove 30 miles to visit an old friend from high school so she could help me pick out make-up and some new skincare products. (She has her own clinical skincare and cosmetics business now--

Wendy was always one of the beautiful girls in class, impeccably dressed and with a hair rarely out of place. To top it off, she’s incredibly nice. (She sent me a huge package of samples when Conor was on the NBU. So thoughtful.)

Me, I was this freckled-faced, brace faced, four eyes, book-loving nerdlette who went through a very bad phase of wearing long johns as leggings under my mini-skirts. (I know, really, what was I thinking?  I’ll tell you what I was thinking.  "I look just like Madonna," that’s what I was thinking.)

Yeah, like that. 
Make-up shopping was a good excuse to get some respite time from Conor. Summer’s always a crush of stress and activities and “vacation” and heat and meltdowns and ice cream dripping all over the place. I needed a break from all the autism and the craziness.

Aw hell, I just wanted to buy some make-up and look pretty for a couple hours.  Whatever. I’m a girl, sue me.

Sometimes I think that if I wear the right clothes, and I have the right face on, and there’s nothing stuck in my teeth, people won’t know the chaos of my family’s life. They won’t see the stress, the worry, Conor’s screaming, and the obsessive birdhouse-painting.

They’ll see a woman who has got it all under control.

Hey look at me! I can do this autism parenting thing! I actually got a shower today and I did my hair. (Forget the fact that I forgot to brush my teeth because Conor got up at four a.m., no matter. That’s what Trident gum is for! )

Deodorant? What’s that you say? I obviously forgot to put deodorant on? No, no, I’m using natural deodorant, to give my body a break from all the carcinogens in antiperspirant and to let those toxins sweat out of my body.

Who cares that I smell like a Texas A&M linebacker that just finished a 3 hour workout in 100 degree heat? It’s natural, baby. Natural. Like Woodstock and Birkenstocks.

Yeah.  Like that.

Based on my brief research, being a hippie, particularly at Woodstock,
 meant you didn't have to wear very many clothes.

Ok, I forgot to put deodorant on. I apologize for not hugging you, but it's for your own safety. It's 103 degrees in the shade here.

Listen, some days? It’s all I can do to get to the finish line.  Get the kids in bed and then collapse.  If you can’t make it, then just fake it, right?


So I spent some time catching up with a friend, she made me pretty, and I made my husband a slightly poorer man.  I think it was well worth it.

So, how do I look?

Yeah.  Like that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Did Van Gogh's Mother Have To Put Up With This?

"Mom, can I update the calendar rules book now?" Conor calls out in his sing-song while he bounces the big purple ball behind the pet gate set up to keep the dog contained in the kitchen. Slam, slam, slam, slam. The ball slams against the wooden floor. Against the wall. Against the pictures hanging there.

"Sure, Conor, go get it out of your backpack and bring it here." I start shoveling the remainder of sausage and peppers into my mouth as quickly as possible. (Thank God my husband made dinner.)

He sits at the kitchen table next to me, the purple bouncy-ball bought at Target in a moment of weakness resting quietly (at last) in the hall.

"Here is the calendar rule book, Mom! I want to update Friday, July 20th to Clayworks instead of Michaels!" He says emphatically, and points to July 20th on the calendar.

Me: Sigh. "Conor, it's not that simple. I can't just schedule in some random time to go make your own pottery, honey. I have to figure it out first. I've emailed the lady. She hasn't gotten back to me."

Sure, they have an 8 week class--Basic Wheel: The Learning Curve!--but that's not really going to work for us. We need 1:1 instruction, small classes, no little kids running around, staff that knows what to expect (although I will certainly take a therapist with us).

Conor: "You can't go on Friday, July 20th." His face falls.

Dad (scrubbing pots and pans at the sink. He cooks AND cleans.): "No, Conor, it's more difficult than paint-your-own-pottery. To make the pottery, you have to schedule time to work with the clay, then the pottery wheel, then the kiln. It's complicated."

Conor turns the page in the calendar rule book. "Here! You can go make pottery at Clayworks on August 24th!" He points and looks up expectantly.

Me, exasperated. (He's been asking for weeks): "Conor, I can't tell you what day it's going to happen right now. I left a message for the lady. We can talk to Mrs. Howcher about it tomorrow during art therapy. Ok?"

Conor: "When can Conor go to Clayworks and make pottery? What day?"

Me, deep breath, trying to keep my cool: "I don't know, honey. The lady has to get back to me."

Conor: "When will the lady get back to me?" (He means "get back to you".)

Me, resigned: "I don't know, sweetie. Maybe tomorrow." I give up. It's such a simple but, at the same time, deceptively complicated concept. Yes, you can do this but no, we can't tell you when. At least, not just yet. Stupid communication disorder.

Conor: "Tomorrow, we'll schedule a day on July 20th to go make pottery! I'll high-five that!" He raises his hand. Looks expectantly.

Me, sighing again: "No, honey, we won't go make pottery on Friday. We'll have to figure it out."

I swear, Van Gogh probably cut off his ear because his mom wouldn't schedule time at the local art studio.

Artists. What're you gonna do? Schedule the damn thing, already, I suppose.

Monday, July 09, 2012

I Had A Dream

Last night, I dreamed of Conor as a toddler. In it, he was a typical, strawberry-blonde little boy with a mass of curls rioting on his head and cute little white sneakers--the kind with the velcro closure. (Of course, in my dream, I looked like Sarah Jessica Parker and I had on a very fabulous Prada dress. How very unlike me.)

He was about three years old, in this early morning dream, weeping on my shoulder about some slight. Crying into my neck and talking to me in a baby voice about what had upset him. It felt so real, as if I truly cradled him in my arm and stroked his hair. I could feel his warmth, the sticky sweat on the back of his neck.

I made myself wake up very quickly.

I have these dreams once in awhile. Not often. Dreams where Conor is a typical kid, talking, learning, smiling, interacting like any other typical boy. I loathe these dreams, to be truthful. They bring back the wanting, the desire, the little tug in my heart for my son to be different than he is. It makes me feel weak and insecure, small and meek, this desire.

It's been 11 years since his regression. And yet, I still have these dreams.

I usually spend the day after in a melancholy funk. I struggle to push the wistful, wanting feelings away, but they swirl around me and in me like an etherial cloud. It's impossible to outrun a fog, I suppose. I just sit and wait for a wind to blow them away, hoping the breeze brings relief and not another storm.

Friday, July 06, 2012

What's In That Brain Of Yours?

Sometimes I wonder what's going on in Conor's head.  Well, more than just sometimes, I suppose. Most of the time.

We all come at life's experiences from our own perspective, so I thought I would sit down with Conor and see if I could figure out what his perspective might be on The Big Power Outage.

Would he talk about his angst?  He certainly expressed it at every opportunity during the experience. Would I have a glimmer of how he remembered it? How he processed it?

I wasn't too successful.  His answers are short. Brief without being concise. Not truly illuminating, sad to say.  (Sad for me, I mean.)

He answered my questions, factually anyway.  Nothing more. Just the facts, ma'am.

A storm. The lights out. A visit to my parents.  A motorcycle ride or two. (My dad has a Harley.) His cousin makes a brief mention.

I would have made it longer, but he insisted on 2 minutes, 45 seconds.  Hey, the Director can't argue with the talent. We survived the severe storm (technically called a derecho), but we still are coping with the after-effects.

Technically, I think it's pronounced da-RAY-cho.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Out Of Sorts, Of Sorts

Shhh, listen, I really don't have much time to post right now.  It's Day 5 of the Big Power Outage and I'm sneaking time on a computer at my parents' place.  I have to fight my dad for the computer time, and he's a slippery bastard. I got him in a headlock yesterday, but he wiggled out and beat me to the computer.

Plus, if I'm not watching the kids, Jim is watching the kids.  Since he's the only one of us that can control Conor if he decides to explode, they've been spending a lot of time together.

It's getting ugly.
We're all having a lot of quality time; the Supermoms would revel in it.  Me?  Well, I now have an intimate understanding of the phrase "my nerves are frayed" because I can feel myself slowly unravelling. Split at the ends and slowly peeling back. Everything is jangling and crashing together, a cacophony of six people unexpectedly living in a 2 bedroom house.  One of us is extremely perseverative and likes to hear the sound of their own rather high-pitched, agitated voice, but I'm not saying who.

Ok, it's Conor. Without the structure of school, camp, respite care providers, therapists and planned activities, he's, shall we say, a little out of sorts.  Ok, a lot out of sorts

What little sorts he musters on a good day have gone and left the building.

"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"

Yes, Conor we all want that.

"Want a dog named Dusty!"

Yeah, I have no idea what that means, except that it means that he's pissed off.  Or frustrated.  Or disappointed.

"Want Linus to die!"

Ok, now you're talkin' crazy talk, Conor.

I broke down on Day 4, by the way, and put our standard poodle in the kennel. (He had stopped vomiting.  Then again, he stopped eating too.) He was so stressed out, the poor guy.  I listened to him chew on his ear all night long on Monday night.  He just couldn't take the homeless situation.

I asked if they had room for me at the kennel, but for some reason the little girl checking us in just laughed. I'm sorry, did someone make a joke?

School is back in session tomorrow.  The power is back on at our house. We're spending one last night at my mom's for our annual 4th of July celebration. Conor loves the fireworks; we can walk to the grassy hill to watch. He was bummed he missed them last year.  So we stayed just one more night at my parents' house.

I'll be happy to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night.  We all will be. I'll miss my mom's home-cooked meals and seeing my dad chase my 10 year-old around the house in a game of "Tag, You're It". 

But you know what I won't miss?  Twelve hours a day of an upset Conor, with desperate crying jags and near-constant perseverations.

"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"
"Want the electrician to fix the power lines!"

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lights Out

Late Friday night, our power went out after a shitstorm of a maelstrom of a thunderstorm. It is now Sunday, and our power is still out. (Estimates have the power back on next Friday.  Or the following week.  Maybe next month?  Who knows.)

So, let's get a good picture of how Conor reacts when the power goes out in our house, shall we?

Plus, no lie, it is a bjillion degrees this weekend.  And this barely-Southern gal ain't hanging around with a wackadoodle kid in nature's version of an Easy-Bake oven, get what I'm sayin?

So my husband, our two sons, and our amped-up, vomiting standard poodle did what children all over the world do when the going gets tough.

We fled to my mommy's house, 40 miles west of the city.  The first morning, we had a 5am wake up call from Conor. My back hurt from sleeping on the couch. My eyes burned since I'm allergic to Mom's dog (a golden retriever/lab mix that sheds like she's got stock in fur balls) and the dust mites from said couch. I'm not even going to tell you about what my nose has got going on.

But, it was nice and cool in the basement!

My neighbor called me today and swore up and down that our power would be restored. She spent 20 minutes on the phone with the utility company. We're on the same line as a fire station, she said; they HAVE to get the fire station restored quickly, right?

We hightail it back to the home front.  Bad move.

Apparently, the fire station did not have the pull my neighbor thought it had. A few hours of trying to manage Conor's behavior, and we headed back to my parents' place.  Where we promptly had to reel Conor back in from the ledge yet again.

Oh, and he's supposed to go to school tomorrow.  Except he's not.  Because the school's out of power.

So let's see.  To recap.  Our house has no power.  All the food in the house has spoiled.  My dog is throwing up.  We're living in my parents basement. Conor has no school.  We have no respite care here in the 'burbs. My typical kid tells me he's bored every other second. It's a 102 degrees in the shade. We have a tsunami of trees and tree branches in our front and back yards. And my kid has autism.

Oh, and did I mention that I expect five of my in-laws to come visit us 10 days from today?

I'm going to curl up in a fetal position in the corner of the basement under a blanket (it's really cool down there) and don't disturb me when I start making the mewling sounds.