Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Playing tourist for the day

Today, I took the T into the city and explored.  Not very exciting, right,  since I have lived here for three decades and been into Boston hundreds of times. However, I discovered new things that I hadn't seen before (there is no longer a highway running through the city, imagine that),was reminded of the things I really don't care for (the T not running on time), as well as many of the gems the city holds.  For years, the city has been a place I went to for appointments, the occasional North End dinner out with friends, or the even more occasional show at the Wang Center.

Finding clothes that fit is challenging nowadays, but I donned a comfy skirt and tank top for my tourist adventure.  There is an MBTA express bus which departs at the top of my street and delivers one directly to the Old State House/Fanueil Hall area.  For years, this area was a place to explore when I was a teenager, getting on the T for adventures into the "big city".  I bought my dress for our 8th grade "Final Fling" at a boutique in Quincy Market and took many trips with friends to the very long Food Court there. It is a tourist trap, however, and I steered clear of it.

What I did spend some time doing was walking around the area between Quincy Market and the Aquarium. What used to be ugly (the Central Artery) is now a place for families to walk. It took a few moments to even place in my mind this general location I had been in many times previously.  It is amazing how relatively quiet it is.  The waterfront is a quick walk and it was indeed bustling on this hot, humid summer day.

Walking towards Downtown Crossing, past "the Lollipop building", where I worked while at Fidelity, I felt markedly out of place with the dozens of business people in suits.  Downtown Crossing is allegedly much safer now (the so-called Combat Zone is gone), but gone as well is Filenes and other former mainstays.  The Corner Mall still looked, and smelled, suspiciously the same when I went in for a quick iced coffee from DD's.

My adventure continued on Newbury Street after an Orange Line ride to Back Bay station. The apartments there were the scene of many nights after working on one campaign or another, crashing at my friend Megan's place (gorgeous and financed by her Wellesley parents). It was so funny to walk through Copley Place, location of many drinks and meals at Chili's where my friend Regan waitressed. After walking through Copley, I eagerly explored the Farmers Market in Copley Square. So many yummy treats!

On Newbury Street, where the only thing I ever purchased was music and food, it was fun to "people-watch".  Women in 4 inch heels and designer clothes, attractive teenagers with cash to spend... A trip to the used bookstore proved a nice, air-conditioned break, as well as a place to play.  After getting my hair done at a fancy salon, I walked towards the Public Gardens.

Seeing the small figure-8 shaped pond brought back so many memories, of my own childhood and of taking my own kids for rides on the swan boats and seeing the "Make Way for Ducklings" bronzed statues. What wonderful symbols of Boston, and the innocence of childhood, these figures are. I treasure the copy of the Robert McCloskey book my kids' uncle gave my oldest when she was born.

Boston looks different through the eyes of a wandering native, than it does of a seasoned city dweller or of a tourist.  What a nice, if sticky, day was had. I would be lying, however, if I didn't admit it is might nice to be sitting on my back porch with ice water and a breeze as I type this.  I intend to make a point of going back to the city, 10 miles from home, more often and getting to know it better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some normalcy in the autism world

What is it parents of children with autism most crave? What do siblings of children with autism want more than anything? Normalcy.  When a child with autism is having a "bad week" (or month, year, or even few hours), you can be all-consumed and at the same time just want to and try to fix whatever is vexing their little souls. You can also get pretty angry that this awful disorder showed up in everyone's lives to begin to begin with.  It's been that kind of month for my guy. Lots of manic and behavioral episodes soothed only by sleep, the sleep many times induced by physician prescribed medication.  I would love it if someone could accurately tell me how Andrew's brain works- and how to fix the connections which seem mixed-up.

However, moments of joy and normalcy do happen. Today, the girls went off to see the Muppets and play with friends. Andrew and I played, walked, and we had fun.  We acted out silly scenarios with his Build-a-Bears. We went out to lunch and he giggled when I made a smiley face with ketchup for his fries.  We walked a favorite hill.  We capped off the day by going to Schoolhouse Ice Cream in Burlington for dripping, yummy cones of cookie dough and soft serve chocolate ice cream.

He looked me in the eye when he spoke, made some great comments ("Mom and Andrew dates are very fun and should happen every week") , asked some good questions ("why are dads always older than moms?"), and was a JOY. He tolerated the numerous places we went, appropriately seeking out hugs and other sensory input when he needed it.

But, who cares about all the terms?  Andrew and his mom had a normal day, doing normal things a kid and their mom do, and we had fun. He had fun and smiled and laughed and giggled. I had fun and smiled and laughed and giggled. We had a fabulous, normal day. Autism didn't ruin it.  This morning, I still have a smile on my face.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Happiness Project" Update

Not blogging about the ex. I am among the large group of "moms who blog" about the minutae of their mommy-lives, but autism does add a whole other perspective. Not saying my tiny piece of the blogosphere is changing anyone's life, but maybe it might make someone smile or laugh.

Lots of shifts in attitude around these parts. It has been one hell of a past 4 years. No one I know is happier than they were 4 years ago. Not me. Not my kids. Not others.  Yet, the time machine is out of order and no one can go back. If there was a mechanism to pay penance and be sorry, I would be a world-record holder. 

You might end up whatever happened to that "Happiness Project" I blogged about months ago. I made a lot of decisions to do nice things for myself. I got lots of facials and manicures, I re-joined a gym and lost weight, I got my hair both colored and straightened. I embraced our pets (both currently missing sadly). I just focused on being happy with my kids when I am with them and tried to let all the other crap go. I made decisions about having children that are positive for me. I ran in the rain with my daughter, laughing and giggling the whole time. I tried (and failed) to embrace autism, but I love my son ferociously.  I let go of someone I love in my heart as only a mother can, knowing life (as in cruel people) won't let her come back to me. I fully embraced the "you can't change what course you have traveled, but can change your future" route.  Life has continuously handed me some *interesting* challenges since March 2006 (bad car karma, anyone?).

Proof that progress has been made. The weekly junk mail (this time from the Museum of Science) I get with me as one of the addressees, no longer makes me dissolve into tears.  When the kids and I are talking and laughing about something silly, I can see them happy and nothing else matters. I blew a whole bunch of $$$ I didn't have to bring them to a special concert (their first!) and then proceeded to blow a whole bunch more $$$ I don't have to go on a "girls" weekend to NYC. 

I am a mini-van driving, boring mom whose social life is existent only when my (married!) friends have nights off from their kids, too.  I guess, given my personality (which craves human contact), this must make me a tiny bit lonely. I'm used to it. The few nights I am alone have given the local DVD place good business and, truth be told, some nights I go to bed at 8 just because I can.

This may not qualify me for teaching "Happiness 101", but my life is relatively peaceful as far as other adults go (autism is sometimes cute and quirky, but never peaceful).  I still can't cook very well, but I am trying. I have a nice patio set to lounge on and read, or bring the laptop on onto. I learned how to use my DVR and enjoy "The Little Couple", "Grey's and Private Practice", "Drop Dead Diva", and other random, mindless TV.  My iPod is well loved and goes to the gym and on long walks around Horn Pond and the Fells. The walks have branched out to Lynn Woods, Plum Island, Great Brook, and Blue Hills- which has been FUN!  I miss my old friends like crazy, I miss my old, predictable life (ie: my church, my house).

Yet, I am trying to embrace my new one. A friend suggested writing a "Life List" list a la "100 things I want to do before I die", and to help each other accomplish the tasks. That sounds fun. Right now, the changes I have made are bringing me a lot of joy. Having shed the excess crap and drama (ie: my sister and family) has been interesting, but hey, I adore my extended family to pieces.  The whole PTO mom vibe is coming back and I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone anymore. If people didn't care then, they don't care now.

In with a new way of thinking and living, healthy with no excess baggage, and out with stress and drama. Now if we could only guarantee my (new-to-me) minivan will not either a) blow up , b) blow down (private joke with Andrew... what he called the accident when the Lexus driving jerk drove into our mini-van), or c) get stolen and end up in Lynn ("Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin"- how the hell did it end up there back in 2005?), life would be really good.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I don't love autism, but I do love my son

From the files of "you must be sociopathic and heartless"... take a look at this.  A mom suffocated her baby because she thought he might be autistic. She thought that cross was far too much to bear.

Autism is no picnic.  A used to be little and cute.  His tantrums and fixations weren't pretty, but they were manageable. Now, not so much. He is an angry kid on top of the autism. Yesterday, he was so out-of-control at his dad's that he destroyed his sisters' room, ripping apart their bunk beds, bunkie boards and all.  My ex called a crisis team, and someone came to talk to him and Andrew. Clearly, talking to A is going to elicit lots of information- not.

A was fine when she was there, and turned back into a mini-monster after she left.  e.  Since he has such anxiety and dislike towards his little sister, he constantly is mean to her.  What scares the bejesus out of this mom is that he may will seriously hurt his sister sometime soon.

I get it. Autism sucks.  It sucks in my home, too. The difference is that there are clear behavior plans in my home, as I have lived this since the diagnosis. I knew when to ask for help. Thus, I learned so much from the many talented service providers who worked with our family. It is a gift that many friends work in the field and provide me and the girls with lots of support and love.  Autism is not fun. The splinter skills (ie: knowing what day of the week anyone is born on when given the date and year) are less impressive.  The fact A has no friends, and no desire to have friends, makes me sad. His best friend ever was Chip, his "big" friend who went to college and who he doesn't see anymore.  That is the closest I have ever seen Andrew get to anyone other than me or his sister E, or his dad.

Would I love there to be a cure for autism? Of course. Would I do a lot of things regarding therapies and intervention perhaps differently? Maybe.  What I do know is kids respond to their environments and A is happy with his mom (it doesn't hurt that his bears live here, too).  I pray every day that autism will loosen its grip on my son, yet I know many children who are far more afflicted with autism than he is.

Back to the Colorado mother...  I can not imagine hurting him in any way, because of his disabilities or not.  Mothers don't harm their children, we accept them and love them, no matter if we meet them in Holland or not.  I don't want A to hurt, and sometimes it looks like he wants to crawl out of his own skin.  I want my other children to be safe.  May they all know how much they are loved.