Thursday, April 29, 2010

The wrong verdict

My hearts aches tonight. There was a murder at an affluent local high school in 2007. You might be surprised to know that not only do I feel sad for the victim's family, but my deepest thoughts and prayers also go to the parents of the murderer, a teenage boy named John Odgren. John has Asperger's Syndrome.  From what little has been written, he is a child with autism who had been innappropriately placed and serviced by his school system, a district which pushed a lot of John's needs under the rug to save itself some money.

I don't think autism made John Odgren do this. Autism, if anything, can make kids so dispassionate about others.  However, the thought processes can be both rigid and easily influenced. Kids gets made fun of, and, the older they get, the wider the chasm becomes between them and typically developing peers.

To put John Odgren into a jail, and not into a hospital, just compounds this tragedy. I fear one day in the not too near future we will be reading about him ending his life. Jail is no place for people with autism spectrum disorders. He needs treatment and help from people who understand autism.

Sadly, the verdict was announced on the day many in a neighboring school community learned a young man had killed himself. He is the third student to have committed suicide from this one school this year. 

Prayers and thoughts of healing are needed in droves tonight, for 3 young men who are all gone too soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Facebook & other social media sites

It has become shockingly clear that, no matter what you set your privacy settings to,  information written about you, and even some erroneous information not written about you by others, shows up in any manner of web searches. For instance, my unlisted phone number and address, which I pay $4.95/month to keep that way, shows up in a search. It's very creepy. If you have enough money, I suspect that you can find out just about anything about anyone. Long lost friends, birth parents, ex's.... anyone.

However, I'd prefer to make this a post 'lite'. On Facebook, you get many invitations each hour day to join many of the millions of Facebook groups. Some are normal, some are offensive, and some are funny. 99% of them are meaningless.

Here are the groups I have recently joined:

Laurel joined the group Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. ·
Laurel likes Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Laurel likes if God brought you to it, he will bring you through it♥.
Laurel likes It's better to have loved and lost.......than to have stayed with an idiot.
Laurel likes Parenthood.
Laurel joined the group Petition to remove facebook group praying for President Obama's death
Laurel likes How about we stop blaming Barack Obama for everything George Bush did.

The political groups where you'll easily notice a left-ward slant, the silly cartoon character groups which include "Where the Hell are Max and Ruby's Parents?", the random thoughts groups... , the TV show groups and fan pages. And on, and on, and on...

***I will take this opportunity to defend my work Facebook page.  It IS important and not vapid. So important and so not vapid, you should join: @

Conclusion: Facebook is perhaps the biggest drain on people's time and brain activity since the invention of Blackberries and HD TV sport presentations.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Imaginary friends, silly songs, & random Saturday thoughts

The kids and I have been having very interesting on-going discussions about their imaginary friends through the years. (It's been a welcome diversion from the stress that life has brought as of late!).

Julia had Sally Squeak. (Strangely enough, her preschool friend Jaye also had a pretend friend with the same name.) Sally was a long-term IF who lasted all 3 years of preschool and went to Mrs. Kelly's kindergarten class with her. Sally had 100 brothers and sisters and a pet mouse. I distinctly remember that Sally wore a matching Gymboree outfit on Julia's "first day of school" and rode Ruthie's big yellow bus with her.  As an infant, Julia was, by her dad's description, an enchilada, taco, burrito, and perhaps some other types of Mexican cuisine.

Andrew had Spandrew.  I don't know quite how to describe the IF of my autistic child, except that, when drawn, he bears a canny resemblance to Andrew and at one point existed in the form of a beanbag doll.  Just like Andrew's "blue blanket", Bear Collins, and Chip, Spandrew has been an integral part of Andrew's decade-long life. My ex's biggest comment about Andrew is that he "will someday rule a vast empire and millions will tremble at his name. Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!". Don't know if Andrew realizes the bar has been set so high. Amusing ancedotes of the day regarding my little guy... He calls me a "super-hero", a "baseball player", and "Boops Mommy". When asked why, he points to a picture of he and I and his orange bear Chloe. I don't get it.

Emily had Jacob. Jacob was always with her in preschool and disappeared around the time she started kindergarten with Mrs. Kelloway at the Reeves.  It was always amusing to me that Em's IF was a boy.  Em used to have a meaningful friendship (read: she was the role model) with a little boy with autism named Harry, and she has always been her brother's special friend. She still is always asked to go along on day trips and vacations with her buddies.  She doesn't always understand why Andrew now has a love-hate relationship with her (heck, it's a love-hate relationship with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING). . I keep reminding her that at least he's nicer to her than he is to Sarah. Emily was the lucky beneficiary of not one, not two, but three silly songs made up for her by her dad: "Schpembelina, Schembelina"," Schpetmtissima", and "Schpem-Bot". You'll have to ask Will about those. I distinctly remember holding her with one hand- easy to do when a kiddo weighs 4 pounds at birth and shows up 2 months early.

Sarah has the most creatively named imaginary friend: Hannukah. (Nope, we're not Jewish.) No matter how many times we said, "Hanukkah is a holiday, not a person", she told colorfuk story after story about her friend. From her days in Claire's preschool class to her year in  with Miss Debbie, Hannukah followed Sarah around. Everywhere. Hannukah is apparently eating chicken nuggets and fruit for dinner with her as I type this.  I made up a silly "Good morning to you" song for Sarah when she was a baby.  I'd sing it every morning when I came in to take her out of her prison, I mean crib.  I have nowhere near the silly creativity of her dad, however, so my song is lame in relative comparison.

Dammit, I am in my thirties and I have missed out on all this Imaginary Friend stuff.  So, I have now decided to invent an imaginary friend. I'll call her Grace. She's there to remind me of all the good things in my life and how much love has been and IS in my family.  She is always there to give me a boost when I need some encouragement.  I certainly hope Grace will always find a way to be with me.  Without silliness and singing, sometimes very loudly when I am driving, I probably would be mush by now. I, too, am capable of being silly and finding humor in funny places.  I wonder if Grace will help me with the dishes and laundry...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What is a "snazz"?

Andrew is a quirky kid. After he attempted to pat our one remaining cat, Maddie, he declared to me, "Maddie snazzed at me."  "What on earth is a snazz?", I wondered. I asked Andrew to demonstrate, and he makes a hissing sound and face.  Apparently, Maddie asserts herself when Andrew gets too close or too rough. I think the term "snazz" is hilarious- I love these "Andrew-isms".

The progress he has made is wonderful to see, but the increases in behaviors and anxiety, both of which seem to have peaked in the past few months, are painful to witness.  From the ear-piercing screams, to the anxiety-ridden few hours before a transition, to the complete disgust he has for his sister which manifests anytime he is alone with her (and an adult) in the house ("it's Andrew and Sarah time"- yelled frantically followed by stimming) it sometimes looks like he is crawling out of his own skin.  He doesn't have any friends either.  The lack of social reciprocity is much starker now that he is a 4th grader.

In some ways, maybe the autism has been a blessing. He has been unaware of a lot of challenges and stressors, in stark contrast to his sisters.  His future is something I have been doing a lot of thinking about recently. Will he be able to take care of himself independently? Will he go to college? What kind of job will he have?  Gone are the hopes he would "lose the diagnosis", as I was told he might many times when he was younger. 

I'll hold onto the moments Andrew wants to talk and engages in wonderful conversations, the times he crawls into bed next to me for a snuggle, or when he spouts off his "Andrew-isms".  There is an amazing little boy inside whose autism sometimes holds him hostage.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The haircut: Before and After

As any parent of a child with autism can attest to, haircuts are not usually pleasant experiences. Andrew had long (3 years)  grown accustomed to having his preferred long hair. Today, he chose to get it all cut off. He did awesome- impressing Anita and the staff at Headz-Up in Burlington.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Out with the old

The coming of spring is a good reminder in my house that it's time to de-clutter! Moving 3 times in two years has done wonders for the amount of *stuff* (ie: junk) that I own, however there are some things that never seem to get thrown out that should be:

1) Shoes-  How do you know when they have accounted for every cent of what you bought them for? Seriously, the kids' shoes from Stride Rite cost a fortune and mine are not far behind.  Today, 5 pairs of kids shoes and 3 pairs of mine (all about 5-10 years old) made it to the trash can.

2) Pots and Pans and other kitchen utensils- I have had most of these items since I got married 11+ years ago.  I'm not even much of a cook, but one frying pan had been cooked in and washed enough it made it into the garbage. One of the knife blocks and accompanying knives also joined it.  Thank God for Corelle dishes- they never seem to get old.

3) Jackets- If a winter jacket hasn't been worn all winter long, it's time to donate it to someone who actually might wear it.

4) Outgrown kids' clothes- Given that my son is the pickiest dresser on planet Earth, I have more boys size 8 clothes than he will ever wear and I have space to store.  The girls also have a healthy assortment of size 10 and smaller clothes. Wish I owned my own consignment shop.

5) Kids schoolwork- There are literally boxes of this in my house. However, I can't bear to throw any of it away. Ditto for IEP's, progress reports, and even Early Intervention reports.  There are at least 3 boxes for Andrew alone.

6) Exercise clothes-  There is nothing as unforgiving as bike tops and bottoms. Every ounce can be seen when you wear these spandex-y items. I went down a size from last summer/fall- so I desperately want to get rid of anything in an XL.  Need to keep one item and pitch the rest of 'em. (And remember the yo-yo weight gain and loss needs to stop. In three years, I lost and gained the same 25 pounds like 5 times. Now that I am 25 pounds lighter than that- it would be oh-so-nice to maintain this or lose more!)

7) Stuffed animals- Anyone of you who have kids know what I mean and require no further explanation.  The creatures seem to multiply :-)

8) Food in the fridge and pantry- As I might have mentioned before, I am not much of a cook.  I am also a really bad grocery shopper. A full quarter of what I buy that is perishable goes bad before we eat it. There are items in my pantry which have gone through my previously mentioned 3 residences. Ok, I think I just answered my own question of how to determine what of that I need to pitch.

Happy spring cleaning and de-cluttering! Warm wishes for Happy Easters and Passovers, too. (Went to my first Seder this week!).