Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Not Tonight, Honey.

Conor's already on to Easter.
This kit he chose had sequins in them.
So very razzle dazzle.
I think they look like colorful little nips.
Last Saturday night, my husband and I lay spooning after a night of long, slow, passionate lovemaking.

"I'm glad we're finished with the long holiday season," he whispered sweetly to me in my ear. "I feel like we can finally take a breath from Conor's holiday madness."

I kid you, I'm kidding, that's totally not true.

Well, my husband DID say that, but he was practically passed out on the other side of our king-size bed. I was barely awake myself, having collapsed on my own pillow 20 seconds before.

"Mmmmhmmmuhhuhpffftmumble," I think I said in reply. We had just capped the long holiday season with Conor's 14th birthday party that day and we were toast. Done. Finished. Exhausted. So exhausted. No, really, not-tonight-honey-don't-you-dare-touch-me exhausted.

It's true, though, what my husband said. Every year, on September 1st, it's as if a starter pistol goes off in my little guy's brain, and he begins to obsess about the upcoming holiday schedule.

And... we're off!


Mommy's Birthday!
(Hey, it's a holiday, at least in Conor's mind. I'm certainly not arguing.)

New Year's Eve!

Valentine's Day!

Conor's Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

(Conor's birthday is February 14th. I never have to buy my husband a Valentine's present again, baby. Twelve hours of labor and three hours of pushing his ginormous spawn out of my hoo-ha is enough of a present for one Hallmark holiday IMHO. I figure I'm good until at least 2021.)

Wait, what was I talking about again? So distracted... oh, right.

On September 1st, that imaginary starter pistol goes off, and Conor becomes frenzied, obsessed, demanding, persistently so.  He practically races from holiday to holiday, breathless with anticipation and anxiety. One holiday isn't over before he's asking about the next one.

"You want to be a doctor, when's Conor going to dress up for Halloween?  
When's Conor going trick-or-treating?  
Want Conor to go to the Gerkin's house for Halloween? 
When will we celebrate Mommy's birthday? 
What time will we go to Nanny's house for Thanksgiving?
When will we go to Grandma's house at Christmastime? Can Conor
choose his outings for December 28th today?
It's Conor's birthday coming up, can Conor go to Amazing Glaze for his birthday party, with six friends and Aidan and paint pottery for your birthday?"

These aren't unreasonable questions, really, it's not that. It's just hard to answer them all in five minutes at 6:30am on September 1st. I haven't even figured out what I'm cooking for dinner that night! 

And he interrogates you like an FBI agent until you give him an answer.  It's torture. He'll ratchet up the intensity of his questioning and his perserveration until you're ready to say anything.

Ok, ok, I'll admit it!  I was on the grassy knoll 
with Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963! 
I wasn't born yet, but I was there! Just stop asking me!

And the constant wanting, it just never stops. Wanting to buy and aquire, his rampant attempts at accumulating things and maybe giving them away.  It's like he's a Kardashian or something. (Except for the giving away part.)

What do you mean you're not going to
buy Conor anything he wants?
Don't you know it's the holiday season?
Buy, buy, buy...I want, I want, I want!

Conor wants to do this Conor wants to do that when is Conor going here when is Conor going there when can Conor see this when can Conor see that Conor wants to buy Mommy a present Conor wants to buy Nanny a present Conor wants to buy everyone on the planet a present when when when when when?!!

UGH! It's enough to drive a woman to drink.

We do our best to manage his behavior.  Otherwise, he'd devolve into a whirling dervish of anxiety. (Sometimes still does, despite our efforts.)

He has a budget and a budget rules book to live by.

He has a calendar of when activities will happen and where, when school is in and when school is out.

He has social stories out the whazoo about this event and that event. And, this year, a special budget just to buy Christmas gifts for his immediate family only.  (And Linus the dog, we buy the dog Christmas gifts.  Don't judge, he's family.)

Sorry, cousins. He's got, like, a bjillion of
those so they didn't make the "approved" list.
I plan everything well in advance (as much as I possibly can, anyway). And, of course, there's his Levels protocol.

It's not that so much of this is inappropriate, these questions and the desire to purchase items and to travel and see our family and do fun things. I want to do all those things, too. Who doesn't?

It's the near-constant bubbling of the wanting, the questioning, the desiring, the anxiety, the constant perseverations, and the need for control. It's the frantic race from holiday to holiday, from activity to activity without a breath that is so wearing.  Each and every activity, holiday, vacation, and community outing takes so much work and effort on everyone to make it successful.

It's almost as if Conor's a bottle of soda.  Shake it up a little, and it'll fizz. Shake it up a lot, and it'll pour over.  Add a Mentos candy and watch him explode!

So, yeah, it's exhausting. It takes an incredible amount of work to keep Conor on the nice and even, and sometimes even that's not enough to keep him from exploding. And cleaning up that mess?  Not fun.  Not fun at all.

All I can tell ya is that we have six weeks until the Easter holiday. My poor husband may not get laid until April. Good thing Easter's early this year.

    Check out this very cool video. I can't wait to show it to my kids. Fun summer project?

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Stick A Needle In Me

    I haven't felt much like writing these days. A sort of general malaise has me by the throat. I just can't seem to shake it off.

    A few years back, when I was very sick, I did a series of acupuncture treatments.

    So relaxing.  No, really.
    During our discussions (you know, before she stuck needles all over my body), my acupuncturist/therapist/platonic girl crush determined that my least favorite time of year was actually NOT what she called "true winter". (Usually late November, December, January in Maryland.)

    Rather, it was what she called the rising spring--February, March, into April--that really bothered me.  As I thought about it, it makes sense.

    True spring brings flowers, longer days, and a little warmth here and there.  We don't have to crank up the space heaters or the fireplace as high as before, and Paisley (Conor's in-home aid) and I can take him hiking or for a long walk.

    The summer, hard as it is with a less concrete schedule for Conor, at least brings with it sunshine, margaritas, boat rides, and flip flops. (Did I mention margaritas?)

    Crisp autumn nights bring beer, slow-cooker meals, football games, and school.


    Google "male cheerleader" and this is what comes up.
    Um, yay school?

    Google just "cheerleader" and this is what you get. Men suck.
    FYI, this is what my acupuncturist looked like,
    but she wore regular clothes.

    And true winter?  Well, at least we have school (see above) if it doesn't snow, Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas, so I'm usually awash in guilt-free shopping and presents.  So I've got that going for me.

    Knowing this is a tough time of year helps minimize my freak-outs. I can increase my intake of red wine, ramp up the amount of retail therapy at Target, and begin to obsess over our summer "vacation" plans. You know, self-care.

    Hey, if it's good enough for Britney Spears, it's good enough for me.

    It's quite simple, really. Rising spring is the perfect storm of exhaustion from the Christmas holidays and travel with autism, being cooped up in the house too long with autism, traveling with autism for spring break, and preparing for the upcoming summer with autism.

    And summer's coming. School will be ending. People will be online posting about how happy they are school has ended, they'll upload pictures of their beach houses and how they slept until 10am everyday, picnics, sunbathing at the pool, a sort of endless nights bonanza. (No more homework! No more lunches to pack!)

    Oh, we try to do those things, too. Boat rides with my dad, a trip to the beach to see my in-laws, summer day camp.  (Forget sleeping in. That'll never happen.)

    But what people don't see is what's behind our pictures.  How hard it is to make each outing successful. What the toll of a topsy-turvy schedule takes on Conor and my family. Everyone tells us that kids with autism need routine to succeed, and then for months every year, we're left to fend for ourselves.

    Last summer, we tried to take a "vacation" twice.  Both times, we cut the visit short due to severe tantrums and fled with our tails between our legs. Quite literally into the night. I didn't write about it because, honestly, I didn't know how.

    "Conor ruins another vacation," Aidan cried in the backseat of the car.

    Well, can't argue about that.

    See?  See?  I'm already getting all worked up about it.  Just the memory.


    I have to say, sometimes anticipating the events is more nerve-wracking than actually doing them.  At least then I can put my head down and push through it. Like a linebacker.

    Bring it on, baby.  BRING IT! I've spent all rising spring getting ready.

    So, each rising spring, I busy myself trying to prepare, mentally, emotionally, financially, logistically.

    My husband might describe my behavior as "obsessing" rather than "preparing".  Well, pffffttt, I say to that.

    What will we do differently this summer?  The same? How can I help my family have a less stressful summer? I'll write more social stories, better social stories. More medication, different medication, less medication.  More behaviorist support, less behaviorist support.  Less vacation, shorter vacation, different vacation. More red wine, better red wine. Chocolate!  I'll eat more chocolate!

    Trying to put the pieces into place for my son's summer, it can be stressful.  Not to mention painful, what with all the bikini waxing and whatnot summer brings with it. (For me, not Conor.  He doesn't wax.)

    I think it's time to go back to the acupuncturist.  Maybe a more intensive treatment this time of year, though.

    Yeah, that should do it.

    Thursday, February 07, 2013

    Problem, First World It Is

    Over the past few months, Conor has developed an obsession with the navigation system on our cars.  I have no clue how this particular obsession started. I really don't. But when we purchased a new SUV last March, Conor decided that he absolutely had to map every destination to which he journeyed. (We had a nav system in our last car, but he didn't really care about it. Then, bam! New car=new obsession. Go figure.)

    It doesn't matter whether it's down the street or to his grandparent's house, to the library or to the beach, it is absolutely required to first look up the address on a smart phone and then input it into the GPS. Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, the bowling alley, his aunt's house or the mall...no matter that he's been there a bjillion times and can give you the directions himself, ve must put ze address in ze system or else!
    Put it in ze GPS system, Fraulein. Schnell.
    I'm not kidding, the library is a 15 minute walk from our house, and he still insists on putting the address in the system. (Hey, of course I drive, it's wicked cold out there. I'm a delicate flower, you know.)

    School.  He routes the drive to school. 3 miles from our house. He still routes it. It's maddening.

    (And yes, he sits in the front seat of the car. Hell, he's bigger than I am and I sit in the front seat. Seriously, though, I don't always like him sitting in the back seat with his younger--physically much smaller--brother.

    And, of course, he knows how to program the thing. He's better at it than we are.)

    Now, I don't know what it's like where you live, but I live in Baltimore.

    Yes, Baltimore. And I don't mean the suburbs of Baltimore.  I pay city taxes, hon. I reside (gasp) within the city limits.

    Baltimore--home of The Wire, Homicide: Life On The Streets, and Hard Times At Douglass High.  You can argue about the accuracy of the portrayal of my beloved city, but its reputation is such that The Onion recently satirized Charm City's parade for our Super Bowl XVLII Champion Ravens.

    [Yeah, baby, Super Bowl CHAMPS! Boo-yah! We're wacko for Flacco, baby!]

    (See The Onion's Baltimore Looking For Safer City To Host Super Bowl Parade. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.)

    I don't care what you say.  I love this city somethin' awful.  I'm not really sure what it is, exactly, that captivates me. Amazing restaurants? National Aquarium? Revered colleges and universities? Award-winning hospital?

    Maybe it's because I spy John Waters at the grocery store now and again... and the cashier has no idea who he is!

    Yes, that's him. How do you not know who John Waters is?
    Um, hello, Hairspray?!

    Maybe it's because you can buy crab cakes and a microbrew at the baseball stadium or the pockets of beautifully renovated row houses throughout the city. Perhaps it's because I can walk to the grocery store, the library, a Starbucks, the chinese carryout and still only be five miles from downtown.

    Maybe it's because there are people here a whole helluva lot weirder than my kid with autism. (Like John Waters, for example.)

    Yeah, hon.
    My lust for Monument City aside, in truth we have a serious crime problem and some significant urban decay. As a resident, I've gotten good at avoiding dodgy neighborhoods and crime-infested areas when I'm not scoring some smack. (I kid, I kid you. It's a big problem. The city's, not mine.)

    Anyhoo, my GPS?  Not so much with the dodging.  My kid?  Not so much either.

    See, the thing is, Conor takes the GPS route as gospel.  If the thick blue line points one way to the bowling alley, then by God you are to follow that route like a Catholic pilgrim to Medugorje. One does not deviate from the path set by the almighty car navigation system.

    Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are. The GPS you must follow.

    Taking a turn not sanctioned by the GPS system? Have you gone to the dark side? (You can almost see the fireworks going off in Conor's brain. It blows. his. mind.)

    So last night, as we were heading to our local Red Robin restaurant for dinner, I lost my bearings because I was in the back seat, engrossed in figuring out how to get Face Time to work on my typical son's iPhone. (Hint: don't let the little whippersnappers change the date and time on their phone. It mucks everything up.  Who knew?)

    I look up at the buildings flashing by in the dark, and ask my husband, "Where ARE we?"

    "Following the GPS, hon," he replied in his best fake-Baltimore accent.  (He's a carpetbagger from Connecticut. I know, right? He's cute though.)

    Oh, for the love of Pete. "Which would you rather do," I asked my husband. "Drive through the ghetto following the GPS or tell Conor we have to go a different way than the route on the screen because it's safer?"

    "Drive through the ghetto," he promptly answered.

    "Ah," I declared. "Remember, Jim. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice."

    Be careful, my love.