Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Having Had a Craptastic Day

I am trying hard to not have this post turn into a long, humorless, whiny rant. But it’s not easy.  I think I may have failed in that. Forgive me.

I had another post scheduled for today, called “Just Say Yes” full of light and fluff and about the lovely serendipity you welcome into your life when you say “yes” to things. But today is not the day for that post. I’m sure it will surface soon.  But not today, no.  Today is all about the “no.”

I was in a bad, bad mood this morning, in a growly, snarly bear of a funk.  And for no single specific or discernible reason.  It was just the grains of sand filling up my jar; itchy, irritating, miserable, motherloving sand.

I know I wrote recently about the little things that lift me up.  But today?  This morning?  The little things were squashing me down, dragging me under.  I was in quicksand.  Jacob waking up early in spite of it being a weekend; Ethan's homemade Halloween costume still only half made; a vital supplement of Jacob's delayed in delivery, the boys endless squabble over computer time... little, stupid, things; minor annoyances. But this morning? I was hell on wheels, sporting my own personal gloom and doom, like a cartoon character with a traveling rain-cloud overhead.

The biggest problem with me having a crabby, cranky, craptastic day is that my kids pay the price, and I hate that. I am not my kindest, gentlest mommy self. I’m her evil twin.  Even when they're the ones torturing me, I still feel bad for not seeking the higher ground, putting on my happy face and acting “as if.” As if I were not bone weary and at my last nerve ending.

And we all know the real stressor was not all those little things, it is the way Autism clouds everything in life, and brings on the dread. My dreading that even still, after eight long years, everything with the kids, all day long, has to be planned, structured, negotiated, managed.

Today I dreaded having to figure out how to manage Jacob at the birthday party we were headed to this morning, how to manage leaving Jake home with his Daddy when I took Ethan out to his school's Halloween "Harvest Festival" this afternoon.  I am dreading the thought of managing Jake while we are out trick-or-treating on Broadway tomorrow, worried about how to manage Jake at our building’s wonderful Halloween party tomorrow night. (And, for an autistic kid, Jake is not even that hard to manage.)

I just didn't want the job anymore, today; the mom job in general and the autism-mom-warrior job in particular. I wanted to go on strike.  But the problem, the irony, the joke on me is: I am not just the worker bee, I am also... the management. And therefore I would be on strike against myself, never a good thing.  I would be having to step over myself on the picket line, and go in to do the job anyway, so why bother with the fuss in the first place.

Yesterday I had finally input Jacobs schedule into my calendar for the whole year and that's when my heart jumped. Holy hell in a hand basket -- Jake has a two week spring vacation. Two (2!) whole motherloving weeks in April.  When I will slowly be losing my mind.  This is on top of both  week-long winter AND mid-winter vacations.

I was hyperventilating as I input half-day after half-day, no-school-Friday after no-school-Friday. The month of June? Noooooooo!  Jake's school ends a whole week earlier than Ethan's. And?  That last week?  Motherloving half-days. All. Of. Them.

And the hardest part? It was heartbreaking that I was dreading spending time with my son.  I could feel bits of my heart splinter off and shatter because I wasn’t feeling: “Wow, how exciting, family time, look at all the wonderful things we can do that we never have time for during the busy school weeks.”

Instead I’m thinking: Holy fuckballs, how am I going to get Jacob through two unstructured weeks?  How am I going to keep my kids happy and occupied when they can’t be in the same room with each other without war breaking out and threats of annihilation flying? Where are we going to go every day? What are we going to do when I can't take them out ANYWHERE together without the yelling? Ethan at Jake, me at Ethan, Jake just in general, getting louder and louder and more and more annoying as he doesn’t get what he wants from Ethan. Me wanting to just melt through the floor as I see myself becoming THAT mom.

You know THAT mom: the one with the out of control kids, yelling at them and looking to be at the end of her rope. The one the other moms swallow their lips and shake their heads over.  I am tired of being the mom on the bus the old ladies give the evil eye to, while they loudly remark about my children’s loudness.

And none of this what I imagined when I told my husband on our first date, those many years ago: “I really want to have kids, and soon.”  (And he didn't run screaming from the restaurant. Which is, I suppose, why we find ourselves here, today.)

Big sigh.

OK, the ranty rant rant is done now.  Temper tantrum over.

Time to finish up sewing Ethan’s Electabuzz costume -- an obscure Pokemon, don't ask! (And did I mention that Jacob ATE a piece of it while Ethan and I were out at the Harvest Festival and there were tears and high drama when we got back?  And yet another trip out to Broadway for a replacement part purchase.)

Time to pour out Jacob’s vitamins supplements & medicines for the next three days: Pre-breakfast, Breakfast, Lunch, Mid-afternoon, and Dinnertime packets to be made.

Time to fire up the scanner; to look for old photos of Halloweens past for tomorrow’s post, marveling again at the incredible cuteness of my boys, remembering the fun we had, remembering why it’s all worth it, why I’ll wake up tomorrow with hugs and cuddles and smiles, and start it all again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday means... Special Needs Blog Hopping

OK, It's Thursday again and I'm doing this again. Community, connection, support... these are good things!

There is a question I'm supposed to answer: "How Do You Handle Stress?"

Really? You really think I've got an answer for that? 

Because those of us with special needs kids, especially if we have more than one, especially if we've realized we have some special needs ourselves? We are under way too much stress, all the time. Bucketloads of stress. Boatloads of stress. Shit-balls of stress raining down upon us. All. The. Time. 

Why not just ask "How do you handle life?" 

Because for us?  Life = Stress.

I'll say it again:


And I guess my answer is another repeat of what I stated at the top of this post:

Community, connection, support... these are good things!

That, and a little venting, and a lot of caffeine, and chocolate, and an occasional glass of very good red wine, and lots of hugs from my children, and chocolate, and remembering what it's all about... the big things, not the little ones...




And lots of laughter.  Because there is always something to laugh about, even if it's just ourselves.  Because if you look for the joy, you will find it, even in the midst of sorrow.  

So I keep on looking, and laughing.  Sure beats crying all the time.  Although I do my share of that, too. 

So hop on aboard, link yourself up.  Because?  Community, connection, support... these are good things!   

And did I mention chocolate?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Nostalgia Edition

My Mother as a flower girl in her Aunt Rose's wedding, c. 1929
We finally unpacked and hooked up the scanner, and I have gone scan-mad.  My father's recent passing has unleashed a floodgate of photos passing through my hands, and I could spend hours, days, years, just visiting with them. My friend Adrienne is doing the same thing right now, pouring through a treasure trove of memorabilia from her Grandmother (who placed her precious collection in her granddaughter's hands upon moving to an assisted living facility).

So I thought I'd share some of my favorites from the sands of time:

1917 My father as a baby
Yes, all of us grown ups were once babies, much to my kids' confusion and delight.

Mom and Me, 11 days old
You may have seen my young father in my sidebar, remember this guy?
Dad in his early 20's
And now here's young Mom:
Mom in her 20's
Wasn't she a knock out? Since my parents didn't meet until they were much older (Mom in her 30's, Dad in his 40's) they never knew each other like this. I certainly did not know these young people, but it's fun to peek into their pasts.  The mother I knew never wore heels!

Going even further back, my Mother's relatives just off the boat. Literally, that's the boat behind them:
Mom's Aunts, Uncle and Zayde (Grandfather) at Ellis Island
I love the wicker suitcases. Welcome to America, oh Ancestors!

I don't normally like to scare people, but since Halloween is almost upon us... Me very, very pregnant with full term, full size twins:
The night before my kids came out to meet me
Yes, that was as uncomfortable as it looks.  My cousin Jessie called me "The happiest miserable person I know." during my pregnancy, because it was very physically challenging and I WAS just miserable (20 weeks of all-day-sickness, then unbelievable heartburn, for starters).  But simultaneously?  Deliriously, over-the-moon, goofy happy the whole time.  And totally worth it, since it lead to this...

I have always loved this photo:
Ethan, five minutes old (and already dramatic)
Jacob's happy personality really shines through in this one:
Jake at 4 months: "Duuude, let's grab a brewsky"
Our first Family Snow Day:
January 2003
When they were 8 months old, we took the boys to visit Grandma & Grandpa in Florida :
Mom & boys at 8 months
OK, enough with the cute babies.

Finally, I leave you with this one -- Me at 20, about to go out to Studio 54 or Danceteria with my wild friend Lisa, who loaned me her ha-cha-cha red dress and did me up (because really, at that time in my life? make-up not my thing):
Stop laughing, it was the style in 1980. Really. Stop it.

Since I am thoroughly in the thrall of my scanner, and even hijacked Sunday's and Monday's posts to throw some old pictures in, I'm sure I will be dragging you on more walks through time, but for now, have a nice Wednesday.

I’m linking up to Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday.
I'm also linked to Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Double Blessing

After a fairly uniformly crap year, it is so nice to have a reason for our family to celebrate: On Monday, October 18th, exactly two weeks after my Mother-in-Law passed on, her great grandsons, my twin great-nephews came into the world.
Welcome, Nachshon Eitan & Betzalel Zamir
The boys arrived in the morning, nice hefty bruisers at around seven pounds each.  A delicious, delightful pair of full term, full size fraternal twin boys, much like my two, some eight years prior.

We visited them in the hospital, held them, and were overcome anew at the miracle that is a baby.  Times two.  Watching our niece and her husband being transformed into parents; watching these beautiful boys breathe and yawn and pucker their tiny rosebud mouths, still veiled in the cocoons of their newbornness; I filled up with love.

Later I reflected on how far our journey has taken us in these eight years since we were the new parents.  It is cliche but true: it simultaneously seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago.

Today we gathered together to welcome the boys into our family, our community and the covenant of our religion, Judaism. 

I cried much more than I thought I would.  There was so much meaning there, so much joy that needed to be released.
Three generations: my husband, niece, grand-nephew

They reminded me so much of Ethan and Jacob as newborns, I was flooded with feelings and memories. I just had to dig up some photos of them, too:

Newborn Ethan (one week old)
Newborn Ethan with my Mom
Newborn Jacob with my Dad
OK, he's not a newborn here, more like two months old, but I've always loved this photo of Jake:
Baby Power!
These early photos have such power over me, fill me with bittersweetness. They are of a time of innocence, when I was just a mom, just a twin mom. From the time before autism blew into our lives, before I became an Autism Mom.

And have I mentioned I'm having a love affair with the scanner right now?  Expect more photo madness soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sometimes it's the little things

There are days when the little things either lift me up or drag me under.

There are days when the few, small, good moments keep me afloat.

These are those days.

Life right now is big in the overwhelming department.  The decline and death of Danny's mother following so close on the heels of my father's passing has bogged down our family in the mourning department.  It has been a year since my father began his big slide.  A year we have been dealing with the deterioration and dying of the old people we love.

Hopefully, this ends here.  Hopefully my mother is in the relative good health she appears to be and will grace us with her presence for at least a few more years.  At 88 she is going strong.  But she is so sad and lonely still.  I want to do more for her, but there are not enough hours in the day.  She needs a companion, and I cannot be that.  I have young children that need me more.  But I am tugged.  And whatever I do, there is guilt over what I am not doing.

Our family is intact, we have taken the hits and absorbed the pain, but we're not sparkly this year. We just don't have much energy for the usual fall razzmatazz.  We haven't been apple picking, haven't taken a hike in the woods, not a leaf has been peeped.  It's a small miracle I got the boys to our upstate friends annual Halloween Party, although we arrived late and Jake's pumpkin never got carved.

Seems I am half-assed right now about... just about everything. Except of course, my actual ass. I've been stress eating, so that's now an ass and a half.

Today I was just bone weary, and did NOT want to get out of bed.  But with kids there's no choice, they need a mom.  I have to get up, shower, make food, make plans, get us out the door to do... something.  Even if that something is just going up the street to someone else's apartment to play with someone else's toys and watch someone else's TV.

It's "out".

It's doing "something".

And most importantly, it's connecting with other people.

I need to keep reminding myself of all the recent small good moments.  String them together like little gems to glisten amid the dung balls that seem to rain down so often in our lives right now.

The other day Jacob had a dentist appointment, and it went wonderfully.  Jacob was able to follow my instructions even though I was behind the protective wall, and we got bite wing x-rays from him for the first time.

The hygienist had asked me "Do you brush his teeth for him?" and I thought she was going to criticize me for them not being clean enough, but instead she praised what a good job we've been doing.

I have had mixed feelings about doing most of his brushing - typically I "start" (do the job) and he "finishes up" (usually a few big swipes and then off to rinse) - because we are really trying to foster more independence in our 8 year old boy.   But dental hygiene is too important to sacrifice to his huge learning curve.  He just likes the feeling of biting on the brush too much to do a good job himself right now, no matter how much we coach him.  And when we tried an electric?  Bite-o-rama. 

But the up side: good dental visits.  And for a kid on the autism spectrum?  That is a godsend.  We have a great pediatric dental practice that knows how to be patient with special needs kids.  But this visit?  He was so close to "typical," really no harder to manage than Ethan, who - no surprise - tends to talk too much, even while they are trying to clean his teeth.

It was extraordinary.  It was a big shiny pearl of a moment. 
Jim Steinhardt - The Pearl Seller, NYC, 1947

Finally, I am brought much joy by my new toy: the scanner.  Coupled with the copious old photos that have recently resurfaced while moving my mother to her smaller apartment, I am in nostalgia heaven.
Cousins, February 1973
That's me at not quite 13, in the middle of my beloved cousins, attempting glamor.  If I recall correctly we were putting on a vampy show for our parents, dancing awkwardly and singing "We are Juvenile Delinquents"* rather off key.

So the garland wrapped around my life currently looks like this: turd, pearl, turd, pearl, turd, turd, turd, ruby, turd, pearl... hoping tomorrow is more pearls than turds (but keeping the rubber gloves on, just in case).

*We called the song "We are Juvenile Delinquents," but you might know it as "Swinging on the Outhouse Door."  It's an old semi-naughty camp song of unknown provenance and variable lyrics.  This is one version of it (ours was quite different, but I haven't found it on the web yet).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hopping on the Special Needs Blog Hop

I don't normally participate in bloggy bloggy things like memes and hops, just not in my nature. But obviously this one is different, these are my people (or at least one set of them.)

For the second Thursday in a row, a lot of us special needs parenting bloggers are linking up and saying "Hello" to each other, and helping to make it easier for people to find a big community fast. 

Support and community, while important to everyone, is doubly, triply, a thousand times more so for parents of kids with special needs.  The experience of having a child who is not just trundling along the usual development path can be terrible isolating. There you are at the moms-of-twins group you've been attending since the babies were born and everyone is talking about how great it is that their 18 month-old twins are playing together and they will never be lonely, and you have to go off to the bathroom for a good cry because one of your twins has absolutely no interest in his brother and would much rather stare at the ceiling fan. 

Also there is so much information a parent of a child with special needs must have.  Getting the right evaluations and services for your child can be literally a matter of life and death.  Or at least the difference between hamstringing a child vs. giving that child the opportunity to rise to their highest possible level of functioning, a chance for a life fully lived.

So here I am joining in.

I hope you hop around and visit all these wonderful folks.

If you are a special needs parent (grandparent/loving supporter) please add your blog, too. And don't worry, your blog doesn't have to be all about special needs (mine certainly isn't) but if that's a part of who you are, then these are your people, too, so on hop in!

Monday, October 18, 2010

It may not be beautiful, but it’s mine, all mine!

Hey, look up at the URL (for those of you who are techno-weenies like me: yes, that's the little thing in the window at the top of the web page that starts with "http:")

Notice anything different?
Yeah, I got my own domain now, baby.

No more for me!

I'm a grown up now.

OK, maybe that's pushing it.  So let's just say my blog is growing up.  And right now it's still going through a few growing pains.

I know, the name of my blog and the name of my domain are now NOT the same.

Because "The Squashed Bologna"?  Is a mouthful.  And everyone spells "bologna" differently.

Personally I just don't get it, because "baloney" is just wrong. Oscar Mayer hammered that into me at a young age.  For all you young things reading this who were not kids in the '60s & early '70s, and are head scratching at that reference, watch THIS. Now imagine seeing THAT nearly every day for years. You'll never spell it wrong again.

And while "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation" is going to remain the name of my blog -- since I so clearly AM still quite stuck smack dab in the middle of the sandwich, and since "squashed" doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling most days, what with my Mother-in-Law's passing, and Jake's new school, and all my Mother's neediness -- I wanted something... catchier for my domain name.

And since I'm squashedmom on Twitter, I figured why not go for it.  So I'm rocking the rhyme thing, now.

And it may help make clear that I'm a MOM blog, not a food blog (or an Italian travel blog, if you try to pronounce "Bologna" that way.)

But now that other part: My blog is fugly, I know that.
Here is what my blog looked like as I was writing this post.  Hopefully soon you will be viewing this post in the archives on my lovely, newly designed blog and need this visual reference for the fugly.
I need to get a real design, not just me noodling around the Blogger design system in an momsomniac haze at 3 AM.

I need a banner and a logo and a cute little button.  And a kick ass background. You know: a DESIGN.

Problem is I have no idea what I want to do with it.

Or rather I have too many ideas, and none of them quite right.  I'm not cutesy and girly, but I do love flowers.  I'm not the stark and modern minimalist type either, although I love abstract imagery and design elements.  I admire the simplicity of black words on white and bold black & white graphics but I am a lover of color, and generally, the more saturated the better (or hadn't you noticed the lurid purple of my current "design"?)

And then I need to somehow have the design match up at least somewhat with the content and/or tone of my blog. But not at all literally.  Because visuals for squashed?  Bologna?  The whole sandwich thing, as a metaphoric image?  Yuk.  Not a food blogger, remember?

So I'm a bit stumped.

And I know I need to get a designer to do everything right, as I'm not really a techie (though I love to dabble in a little HTML tampering occasionally.)  And once again, the problem here is that I don't have the $$$ to lay out for what is currently a hobby (although of course I have dreams of "the more".)  Also I am finding I have a fierce and stubborn DIY streak emerging around this, have caught myself nursing delusions of teaching myself HTML in order to do it all on my own. Overnight. Not. bloody. likely.

So bear with me for now, while I work this all out; visit a thousand blog designers' sites; ponder why I love the designs I love and brood over if they would work for me.  There may even be an intermediate step on the way to fabulous.  Because the more I have been looking at other blogs to get a feel for what I do and don't want on mine?  The more dissatisfied I am every time I go back to look at mine own.  In fact, it's driving me a bit crazy.

My only excuse for the current look? My favorite color is purple. Has been since I was six.  And not wanting a literal image, I went for an abstract purpley light burst.  It could be worse.  I think.

So, let me leave you with the family story I borrowed this blog post title from:

newborn me
When I was born I was tiny.  My mother had been eating and gaining weight like a normal pregnant woman, but in "know-nothing" 1960 they wanted women to stay svelte, you know, for their husbands?  So Mom was told she was much too fat and the doctor advised her to SMOKE MORE to help suppress her appetite.  I kid you not.  Doctor's orders.  The result was me weighing in at 5 lbs. 3 oz. and looking like a plucked chicken.  A scrawny, wrinkly, underweight baby.  That they had to plop in a warmer. Idiots.

It is one of the mythic stories of my childhood, that when they finally brought me to my mother, (after she hollered and yelled and refused to do anything unless they. brought. me. to. her. NOW!) my mom scooped me up and cooed at me: "You may not be the most beautiful baby in the world, but you're mine, all mine!"

And, yes, I fattened up and a few weeks later was supposedly a knock-out (and Dad even used me as a model for his advertising photography portfolio.)
Mother and child, 1960  by Jim Steinhardt
So just bear with me while I get through this awkward phase.  The ugly duckling will turn swan.  Eventually.  Give me just a little more time.  Thanks!

P.S. If anyone out there is or has a great and reasonably affordable blog designer, please let me know!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Breaking my Heart

I was at Jacob's school yesterday, picking him up.  His class was a bit late getting back, having taken advantage of the glorious October weather to sneak out for an end of the day visit to the park. That's one of the many things I love about his new school, how they get the kids out and about as much as possible; fresh air and sunshine, folks! So, I had some time to kill in the school's lobby.

Have I mentioned before that Jacob's school is a small, private, Special Ed one that is co-located in, and practices active inclusion with a "regular" school?  In fact, it's in a Catholic School, so yes, my little Jewish boy is going to school in a big old church.

I was hanging out, casually observing the comings and goings, noting one lovely boy who seemed to have a lot of energy; bounding up the stairs, he had tripped and fallen quite hard, but seemed unscathed.  He looked so adorable in full "miniature man" uniform with neatly pressed oxford shirt and tie slightly askew.

I then got to witness a scene which is now seared into my memory and haunting me, that I need to share here and use it to stand on my soapbox for a moment:  I watched a mother eviscerate her son; just scald him with scorn, in an attempt to get him to measure up.

The boy looked to be about Jake's age, maybe 8 or 9, and was, in fact that same boy I had seen going up the stairs.  The mother was yelling at her son because he had failed to write down the homework assignment. Again. She accused him of being lazy, of not caring, this sweet boy with such an earnest and eager face.  She told him that there would be no snacks until "things improved."

This was very clearly a repetitive pattern, that this boy always fails to write down the homework assignment, and his mother was exacerbated.  She saw a willfully disobedient child, a bad boy; she saw a failure. He clearly felt himself to be a failure, too; tears sprung up as he repeated his excuses as to why this time he had once again not gotten the job done. 

You could see in his eyes the pain, the panic, that he just didn't know why he kept failing.  I wanted to go hug him, but couldn't, I'm a stranger. 

His mother saw laziness, badness.  What I saw was this: a boy who had ADD and/or executive functioning disorder written all over him.  I realized I had felt a spark of recognition earlier, watching him stumble up the stairs, that radar we have to detect our own kind.

And it broke my heart to see him so broken and his mother's heart so hardened against her disappointing son, who had no idea why what was so easy for others was so hard for him.

"Did the other kids get the assignment written down?" she asked accusingly, making it clear that if they did & he didn't the failing was his.

And I couldn't say anything, not a peep, this woman was a stranger, a parent at the school in whose good graces we need to remain. And I?  I was one of the moms of the "weird kids" and she certainly would never want to think her son was like one of those.  So I kept my mouth shut, and wept inside my head, and felt my heart crackle.

I couldn't say it to her, but I'm saying it here to all of you, my readers. Many of you have children with special needs yourselves, so you know this shit already, but for those who don't, I say this:

If your child repeatedly fails at something, especially if it is something that their peers seem to find easy, do not immediately go to finding fault with and blaming your child, thinking they are lazy and stupid, bad and wrong.

Your child is clearly STRUGGLING, your child needs HELP, not a kick in the teeth.

We are not all the same.  We have different brains.  Just because something is easy for YOU or for your other three kids, doesn't mean it will be for them all. 

If your child were blind would you yell at him for not being able to see the blackboard? No? Well, what if your child has a brain that CAN NOT organize itself?  Trying harder is not going to cut it,  and his feelings of failure will just make his gears spin faster, in place.

He needs understanding, and actual help.  Executive function tutors, specific accommodations, maybe even thoughtful medication.

"We can not keep doing your work for you. It is your job to write down and understand the homework assignment." She said, the anger and disgust palpable in her voice.  "You're on your own here, you're on your own."  Wow.

Those words just felt so chilling, and I could only imagine how abandoned that boy must have felt in that moment.   And I'm sure she thought she was being a good parent, helping her son to shape up.  She is involved, she cares that he succeeds in school, she wants him to "do it right", to be a success.  And she has no idea that she is undermining him completely, eroding his sense of self worth and setting him down a path for repleted failure and pain.

I think: If her son was drowning, flailing about in a pool, would she stand there and yell at him that he was "on his own" there?  Assume that it was his fault he hadn't learned to swim better, that the coordination of remaining afloat was just beyond his grasp?  Would she call him stupid and lazy and tell him to just swim harder, look at all the other kids not drowning?

Or would she toss him a life preserver, or maybe even jump in herself and try to save him?  And then help him figure out why swimming is so specifically hard for him, get him the special instruction he needs to be a more functional swimmer.  Or, if that's impossible, the equipment he needs to not drown.

So I ask again: Why are we parents so quick to find fault with our children; to see willful disobedience, laziness, moral deficit, when a child is struggling and clueless? Why punish when a child needs help?

School is a big, scary pool.  Don't let your kids drown.

OK, off my soapbox now.

I hugged Jacob extra tight when he finally came out, told him how proud I was of him, how hard he works every day to wrestle with what comes so easily for many others.

And I vowed to catch myself when I, too, start to blame his brother, my ADD kid, for what he can't help: his race-car brain trying to navigate these pedestrian streets.

Photo credit: Jim Steinhardt "Boy looking out window" 1948
Vintage Print available for sale at Gendell Gallery

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Crispy around the edges

Thank goodness for Wordless Wednesdays, because frankly I am deep fried right now.

Losing Blanche; funeral; sitting shivah; the wonderful but exhausting annual Halloween Party at our friend's Kingston house, driving the 4 hour round trip to the Halloween Party; Jacob's continuing ridiculous bussing saga; New York Comic Con WITHOUT Daddy this year; sleepless night to finish my Hopeful Parents post; ANOTHER 3-day weekend full of sibling animosity... I am just scooped out again, like I was this past spring when my father passed away.

So instead of my usual, labored-over writing, I offer up here a few illustrative pictures from the past two weeks:

From the awesomest Halloween Party (a thousand "thank yous" Meilan & Billy):
 Um, let's be clear on this: Ethan DREW the design in black marker. Mom (that would be me) was the one with the pumpkin gut hands.
I think my favorite part of this day was deep into the evening, when it had gotten dark and the kids were running around outside, barely supervised. They had been together all afternoon and had formed a cohesive kid gang; were playing games whose rules they could not explain to us even if they tried. This is a freedom that city kids don't ever get: to be outside at night in the true dark without a bossy parent standing right over you. I love being able to give my kids the magic of the inky night, even if just a few times a year.

From NYC Comic Con:
Beyblade forever!
Happily obsessed
Ethan found this booth with the soon to be released Beyblade Metal Fusion video game for both Wii and DS. Lucky for us, we own both platforms (Oy!)  He LOVED playing the game, had to be torn away from the booth kicking & screaming. Can you say "top of the Hannukah list"?

It was so sad to be there without my husband who is a comics professional and was actually a consultant for the Con. He had put together many of the wonderful panels, was supposed to be on or moderating many of them. A highlight of going to the Con has always been visiting Dad at his booth, walking around with him and being the proud son of. We felt his absence keenly this year.  I wanted to bring the boys anyway, was glad I did, but wow, was it crowded.

Finally, this is why I love coming to pick Jacob up from his new school a few days a week (the bus ride home is ridiculously long.)  How much I will love doing it in freezing snowy January is questionable. But for now:

I wish you all a happier Wednesday than I'm having. I have a stupid cold and am going to crawl back into bed now & pull the covers up over my head. Until I have to leave to go pick up Jacob.

I’m linking up to Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Looking back, looking forward, being Hopeful

Well, it's the 10th of the month, so once again you can find me here:

My post for Hopeful Parents today is: Six years and counting

I reflect on it having been six years since the October when Jacob received his first diagnosis on the Autism spectrum. 

I was devastated. 

And mightily pissed off at the people who could have told me sooner but didn't, and thus wasted his time for six important early months. 

So go, read!

See you back here tomorrow.

(Also, maybe, if you feel like it, you might want to vote for me by clicking on that annoyingly flashing "Top Mommy Blogs" button on my right hand sidebar.  Truly silly stuff, but if I make it into the top 25 it will bring me more readers.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blanche, Age 93

On Monday, with her sons at her side, though by now far from knowing this, my mother-in-law, Blanche, slowed her breathing down, slowed it again, and then, she finished. Her chest stilled, no longer struggling to catch just one more breath. She slipped away gently, connected to people she loved, much the way she had lived her life.

I was not at her side, having left the hospital an hour earlier to take my own elderly mother to a doctor’s appointment. Before I left, I said my goodbyes, gingerly stroked my mother-in-law’s soft hair, because I knew it was going to happen in the hour I would be gone.

And sure enough, as I was helping my mother on with her coat at the conclusion of her quick, uneventful check-up (“you’re great for 88, Mrs. Steinhardt”) my cell phone rang.

“This is it,” I told my mother, as there was not one shred of doubt what would be said when I answered.

“She’s gone” my husband choked out the words. “It was peaceful, she just… stopped.”

We knew this was coming, her body clearly worn out after a long, full, fulfilling lifetime, but still, it’s never easy. My husband loved her very much, will miss her greatly.

She had rallied last week for a few final conversations: a meaningful one with my husband that he will always cherish; an evening with grandchildren, marveling at a belly full of her twin great-grandsons-to-be.

We are saddened maybe most that she will never get to meet them out in the world. But it is also good that this circle of life will tumble on. She will so clearly live on in the memories of those whose lives she blessed with her presence, and through her genes, now dispersing themselves on though yet a next generation.

My husband’s family is large, and Blanche much beloved within it. There will be tears and hugs aplenty in the next few days.

Tomorrow, a funeral, and then within a few weeks: a birth, a double bris, a continuation of family, which meant the world to Blanche, my mother-in-law.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Funeral in Our Future

I let Ethan stay up very late tonight.  He was anxious and keyed up (we all are) and putting him to bed when he's in that kind of wound-up state is always quite the challenge.  This is an understatement on the order of calling the Atlantic Ocean a rather large pond.  Yet another gift of ADD.

I just wasn’t up for the fight of it.  So I let him play and read and watch TV until his eyelids got droopy and his body got floppy and I carried him to bed and let him skip brushing his teeth “just this once.”  And still, he needed to talk once he’d settled into his nest of blankets.

“I don’t like funerals” he said “why does there have to be a funeral?” 

“Nobody likes funerals, honey, but it’s what we do, it’s part of saying goodbye to the people we loved.”

Just then his father came home from the hospital, poked his head into the boys’ room to gaze at the sons he has barely seen these past weeks of caring for his ailing, failing mother.  Hearing Ethan still awake, he leaned in for a goodnight kiss. “Family hug!” Ethan requested and we squeezed ourselves together around him. 

“I miss you”

“I miss you, too, Daddy”

“We’ll spend some time together soon, I promise. After…”

And his sentence trails off.  We know what the after is, no need to say it yet again. 

“I am very sad” Ethan tells me in between yawns. “Tears jumped out of my eyes when Daddy hugged me.”  Unbidden, cartoon images of little teardrops with black spindly legs jumping around Ethan’s head made me smile.

“We’re all sad right now, honey, this is a sad time. But we'll be sad together, help each other through this.” were the last words he heard tonight as his breathing grew simultaneously soft and louder, his hand holding mine slowly released its grip towards slumber.

I tiptoed out of the room as the dancing teardrops on Ethan’s pillow waved their cartoony arms goodbye, promising to keep watch over my sleeping son.