Saturday, April 30, 2011

SNSS: Our Shopping Cart

Today I have something special for you here at Special Needs Sibling Saturdays, a post by the lovely Jessica who blogs at four plus an angel.  

Jessica has a full house: a teenage daughter who is on the autism spectrum, two surviving three year-olds that were born as premie triplets, and a baby boy, now nearly two.

Jessica writes about her daughter's Aspergers with much thoughtfulness and feeling. And, though the loss of her third triplet is never far from her mind, her posts are often full of light and laughter.

Jessica's writing is lyrical and poetic without ever being forced or precious. She writes from deep in her heart, as you will see...


Our Shopping Cart – by Jessica

Wheels spin across the floor.

Laughing with delight, my daughter catches her end. With a "wheeee" she turns the plastic shopping cart around, sending it gliding to her brother.

Giggling as he accepts the flying cart, my son's eyes glisten wide, he shouts his "wheeee" a bit louder and sends the cart back again.

They take turns again and again, trading "wheees" and laughter and a shopping cart.

Before long she comes in.

I light up because she is headed their way, the giggles enough to pull her in.

Will she join them? Will they look to her? I hold back my urge to arrange the scene.

Walking right through that sailing cart's path she stops the wheels. Unphased, the kids move a bit, trying to finish their game.

But their big sister does it again. Stops the next "wheee" before the basket can be caught.

The weight of autism hits me harder than that cart, had it been full of bricks.

She wanted to join in.

This was her way to try to play.

She was doing the best that she could.

My younger children were not yet three at the time.

My oldest, 14.

In their two and a half years of development, they had learned social skills and reciprocal play and a bit of intuition.

In her 14 years of therapy and social skills training and special education she had not. My heart broke as the ease of their play cast more light on the difficulty of hers.

Having spent so long raising one child, the shock of typical development in Ashlyn's siblings is something I had not prepared for when expanding our family.

I was nervous about autism, I knew how strong the genetic links were. But I had never once thought about the comparisons and how, in seeing the "normal" and the "easy" in my typically developing children, I may need some time to mourn the absence of this in my oldest.

I watch the relationships my younger children have, the effortless way they play, the carelessness they use in climbing on each other, imitating their favorite characters, playing in their basement band, and I can't help but feel the loss of it all for Ashlyn.

Playing does not come without practice and guidelines. She flinches from an unannounced touch, does not quite grasp make-believe and covers her ears the minute an instrument is held.

Autism has stolen her ease, the relaxation and contentment of childhood, and she is almost an adult. It is not coming back.

But for every difference adding these little beings to our family has magnified, there has been a blessing in return.

Her siblings have offered Ashlyn an unjudging audience; welcome little friends who don't care if she looks them in the eye or says hello before she begins to speak.

Unconditional love has been magnified for her and when she wants to play a game or watch a cartoon she has a three foot tall group to pick from, just in case she needs company (or someone to throw her game pieces all over the floor).

There are times I think that close family and friends are the only circle of acceptance our children can count on.

Autism can be such a hard disorder for unknowing eyes to understand.  I watch my children interact and see the love connecting them all.

Although she might not find the perfect words to say it, and her unfailing honesty may give you a long explanation for why being an only child is wonderful, Ashlyn loves her siblings in ways she can't truly express.

Her shopping cart is full and they won't ever mind pushing it for her.


I am especially touched by the way Jessica speaks of and shows us her younger children's unconditional love for their big sister. Thank you, Jessica for sharing your lovely family with us here.

So now that you have finished reading Jessica’s words here, you will want to go visit her at her four plus an angel. You are in for a treat. Be sure to read this post about sibling connections, this one about her teenage daughter's recent triumphs, and this lovely one about being a mom

Jessica is not only a lovely writer and an amazing mom, she is also an engaged and generous member of the blogging community.  As such, she has recently launched a fun and funny weekly series called "The Hot Seat" wherein a different blogger is put on the spot each Monday, and has to answer questions posed by her readers.

Finally, you should absolutely follow her on Twitter (where she gives good tweet) and "like" her on Facebook. Although if there was a "love" button? You'd want to click that, too. Because even though Jessica is younger and prettier than me? I love her, I do!

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fight Club

I hear the volume increasing, and my stomach tenses. Still, I ignore, stay turned to the task at hand, dinner in the making: skins thinly peeled from slices of ripe-bursting peach, rice steamed to softness.

And then the pitch rises again. And the thuds. And the keening. And the wail. The wail that cannot be ignored: Mooooooooooommmmaaay!

In their bedroom is a tangled mess of snot and confusion. Jacob with glasses awry. Ethan with hands on temples, shrieking “He head butted me, he head butted me!”

Jacob, alternately growling like a caged lion and laughing theatrically, a perfect rendition of a cartoon villain's world-destruction-anticipating cackle. Ethan now lurching at his brother with clenched fists and a growl of his own, “I’m going to kill him!”

And me? I’m in the middle again; sorting, soothing, trying to make sense of the senseless. I don’t even bother asking what or who started it, for these things just start.

Ethan is maddened by this idea, full of indignation and bluster, dead sure of his own absolute blamelessness in the matter. “He’s the worst, the meanest brother in the world! He took my Pikachu, he laughed at me when I tried to take him back!”

I could explain, for the hundred thousand and second time, that there is not the same purposefulness behind Jacob's actions as there would have been had Ethan been the perpetrator, that the motivator is not cruelty.

But why?

Ethan knows his brother has autism. He's never going to be happy about it.

Once again, the physical damage is minimal. The psychic, massive.

Ethan’s anger is a wildfire, burns blue-hot, consumes all in its path. He spits words at Jake through gritted teeth “Do. Not. Laugh. At. Me. Ever. Again!” Which Jacob, of course, cocooned in his autistic obliviousness to much that is normal human discourse, finds hysterical.

Jake love, love, loves his brother brimming full like this, is getting his lasered attention, for once. And just to ratchet up the annoyance factor? Begins to repeat his usual mispronunciation of his brother’s name in his most grating sing-song voice: “Oh, Eeee-fan” giggle “Eeeeee-fan” giggle.

If glares could kill, Ethan would be the only man standing.

Thoughts of dinner temporarily abandoned, separate them I must. Jake to remain in their room, Ethan to come with me into my bedroom; to float in the middle of my big bed, try to find his calm, regain his rudder.

Sponge Bob on the TV providing perfect distraction, I return to the scene of the crime, find Jacob rubbing the spot on his shin that will surely sprout a game-token sized plum splotch by bath time.

Mystery bruises his usual specialty, at least this time I know the culprit: bedframe.

"Are you Okay, Jake?" I ask.

"Efan was MAD!" he says with glee.

"Yes." I agree, breathe deep, dive into an explanation made as simple as can be, but still fitting the bill. "When you took his toy he got mad. And when you laughed about it he got madder. It's mean to laugh at people when they are mad or sad, Jake. Do you want to be mean?"

And then he's got his contrite face on. The one he pulls up when he knows he's done something wrong, but can't understand for beans precisely what. "No" he answers, fairly sure that this is the right answer, the one that will grant him hugs and cuddles, absolve him of all transgressions.

And it does.

"Come here, honey," I say as he climbs into my lap, my eight year-old, eighty pound toddler.  I put some music on the radio and we sway together for a minute, but stomachs are grumbling and dinner sits, bereft, barely halfway complete.

Ethan's laughter trickles through my bedroom doorway, mood lifted by the magic of television, as I make my way back to the kitchen, to settle once again into the rhythms of cooking.

Then, to pick up the scattered fragments, to shake the jangly shards of our family back into a familiar shape.


Let's eat.


This post was written for The Red Dress Club's Red Writing Hood prompt: "Write a piece about a fight. What happened? Why? Who 'won'? What were the repercussions?" Can be fiction or non-fiction. 

And this story? Unfortunately, FACT. My life most days. 

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

B is for Best Friend

B is for Best Friend

Jake doesn't have one.

Not a bestie, not a buddy, not even a one.

Not. one. friend.

Ethan? Has a flock of friends; plays elaborate imaginary games with them, involving 10,000 characters with names like "Flareon" or on screens in parallel universes vanquishing foes with, and acquiring goodies for, their associated avatars.

And Jake? Wants desperately to play, to interact with other kids; but has no one who will give him the time of day.

And this breaks my heart.

This is who Jake now talks to and plays with all day long:

Yes, it's George, Curious George. George is Jake's best and only friend. He's stuffed. Very accommodating. And completely non-judgmental.

In the playroom Jake sits him in the little red car (that he no longer fits in himself), and pushes him all around. George is who shoots baskets with Jake, and slides down the big slide with him.

Seated next to him at the table, George is who Jake's dinnertime conversation is mostly directed at. Better than nothing I suppose. But still, I can feel how he longs, how he yearns for a human kind of companionship.

The other day in the playground there was a child who kindly responded to Jacob's awkward overtures for a while, and it made his day.

It was the first glorious spring day, come late into our interminably long and grueling school "break."  I had hauled Jake and Ethan out of their electronic boy-cave, blinking into the sunlight, to meet up with a friend of Ethan's in the park.

We'd ended up in the Hippo Playground, where there are large fiberglass hippos that can be climbed upon and most importantly in, too.  Jake was inside of one, his head sticking out between the hippo's gaping jaws, roaring at all who passed by, and this one boy, about Jake's own age, thought that was funny, roared back at him.

Jake was thrilled to find someone willing to speak his language. And since these were, after all, sculptures of wild animals, this was not way too odd, too beyond the pale.

There was no screaming going on, so I parked myself on a bench, allowed myself a distracted moment of Twitter, looked up when Jacob appeared in front of me with a question: "Where's Daniel?"

I was confused "You mean Daddy?"  "No," Jacob answered "boy Daniel." And then I understood, Jacob had actually managed to extract a name, all on his own. "You mean the boy in the blue shirt that you were playing with?"

"Yes!" beamed Jacob. "Where's he at, boy Daniel?" and together we scanned the crowded playground for this now familiar person. Spotted on a jungle gym in the distance, Jacob bounded off as I waited on tenterhooks, cringing, hoping, prepared to spring into mother-bearly action should there be rejection, a need for intercession, explanations.

But the gods of autism were smiling upon Jake once again, and this boy surely had a kind and generous nature.  For he roared at and chased Jacob a few steps, laughing, happy to go along with the odd request.

And when Jacob roared at him he obligingly shrieked, aped mock fear, ran a few paces then spun back to smile at Jake, before returning to his other friends, playing other, bigger-boy games.

And, nearly unbelievably? Was willing to give it a go again, and again, and again as Jacob returned for round upon round of "growl and chase." This boy, Daniel, never turned mean, never turned on him, just cheerfully went along with the program.

And so, for one day, Jake was just another kid on the playground taking up with a found friend for a while, as kids, regular kids, are wont to do.

And my faith in the goodness of humanity, the kindness of strangers was restored.

It appears that B is also for Best. Day. Ever.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And aren't there so many nice words that begin with "B"? Like: Beauty and Butterfly. But were my kids to choose? Probably: Burp and Buttocks at the top of the list. I have mentioned they are eight year-old boys, yes?

I'm also linking this post up to Maxabella's I'm grateful for...  because I am truly, deeply grateful for kind children like boy Daniel.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A serving of shameless self-promotion with a little guilt on the side.

Hello there, friends.

I'm really not good at this.

The business side of bloggy things. The razzle and the dazzle. The self-promotion machine that I am supposed to be.

I'd really just rather be writing. Writing about autism, my mom, my kids, my dead father; pretty much anything else. But I've been told this needs to be done. I need to "promote" myself and my blog.

But you know? I'd really just rather be writing.

But also, the bald truth? I like readers.

I know I'm supposed to say I'm an artist, that I would write even if I had one reader, that I write for myself. And to some extent that's true.

But also? Pure balderdash.

This is a blog, not a journal. It's called "Social Media" after all. I want people to read me. For what is an over-sharer with no one to share with?

So, one cup of shameless self-promotion coming up......

OK, I'm Jewish, I'm a mom. Jewish moms are notoriously famous for successfully employing guilt as a motivating factor, so let me try that one out on you folks here:

Darlings, I don't ask for much do I? I don't. No, nothing at all, not ever.

And me? All I do is give to you. Give, give, give.

So, could you please, just this once, do a little favor for me? Just this one little, two little things?

After all, I carried you around inside my body for nine long months, fed you from my very own breasts... no wait, I think I'm getting confused here...

Let's try that again... attitude change...

Yo, peeps, let's DO this thing, OK?

Takes like about two seconds, maybe 10... OK, a minute, tops. EASY stuff: no signing up, no signing in, just clickety, click, click. Done!

FIRST, Facebook: Find my Box...

(Take your mind out of the gutter. Yes, YOU, I heard that thought.) 

Look over on the sidebar on the right (no, your other right) yes, THERE.  The box that says "Find us on Facebook" on the top. It looks like this:

Now, here comes the tricky part:  Click the "like" button.

(Unless you don't like my blog. And then, um, why are you here?) 

Yes, that's it! Done! Voila! Yay, you!



Babble, babble, babble. They seem not to know I exist. This irks me.

Recently, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, they came up with a list of "Top 25 Autism Spectrum Blogs."

I like this. I commend this. I would like it better if I were ON that list.

Now, don't get me wrong, 25 wonderful bloggers were on that list.  They are fabulous, many are my friends. I don't begrudge them their seat at the table, not for even one instant.

But the list needs to be longer. At least 26. (But probably more like 50, since off the top of my head I can easily name at least 20 others who are wonderful and should be noted, too.)

And here's where you come in... you can help correct this! Let Babble know I exist! Tell them I'm an autism blogger to be reckoned with!  (I know, I don't have autism in the title of my blog. Did I mention I'm really bad at marketing and self promotion?)

Here's how: Go HERE.  Find ME.

(I'm sorry I can't tell you exactly where I will be, am currently #13 on the nomination list, but you should be able to move me up. It shouldn't be hard to find me -- "The Squashed Bologna," remember?)

Next... wait for it...  Click the "I Like This" button (yes, the one with the thumbs-up icon below it).

Once again: Ta-da! You are done! Sheer simplicity!

That's all folks. About a minute of your time, and you have helped a blogger out. Feel good about yourself, you've been a good friend today.

And? A great big THANK YOU. From me to you. You rock! You're the best! (No, really, YOU are.)

(And Tomorrow? Back to our regularly scheduled program.) 

Finally... just an observation: I think I have used more parenthetic clauses in this post than any other yet.

Yay Me! Earning my title: "Queen of the Run-On Sentence (with parenthetic clauses)" honestly.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Monday, April 25, 2011

When Autism Sucks (and then doesn't)

Autism doesn't suck every day. Sometimes it lets me in to see the unique beauty and vision of my son. But then there are days when it causes him real pain. And then I want to kick autism's ass to the curb.

Like two Saturdays past. Yeah, it was one of those days.

It started out with such promise. I had actually gone out on a date Friday night with my husband. We saw a movie (Source Code) in a real movie theater and it didn't suck, and we'd had dinner in a restaurant that didn't serve burgers & fries (because that's what the kids eat in restaurants).

I'd gotten some sleep. Sure, Jake woke up at 6:05 (really? on a Saturday? really?) but he happily entertained himself on the computer until 7:30.

OK, he watched the Mad TV episode "The Fast and the Curious" for the ten thousandth time. (Yes, starring Vin Diesel and Curious George, and yes, this is what's fueling the current renaissance of his obsession with Curious George.)

But I got to sleep until 7:30. Win.

Totally worth hearing Jake repeat "The Fast and the Curious" like a TV spot announcer all day long. I think.

So, Saturday. The day we'd long been awaiting had at last arrived... "Rio" had finally opened in the theaters.  I've only been hearing about it for six months now, and Jake was near giddy with anticipation.

We headed out to the movies, just the boys & me, since 3-D gives my husband a big headache and he successfully begged off (lucky bastard).

It was all running so smoothly, a little too smoothly, and so the gods of autism had to reach down and screw it up for us again.

End of movie. Ethan starts bouncing up and down, tells me he drank his whole water (why did I bring water?) and really needed to pee. If it were just he and I - no problem, if he had a friend with him -  no problem, if all four of us had gone to the movies - no problem.

Just the three of us - BIG problem.

The bathroom in this theater is not just outside the door, but downstairs on a whole other floor. Ethan, understandably, didn't want to go alone. I couldn't leave Jacob alone in theater.

And Jacob? Loves the music at the end of movies, lives for movie credits - maybe his favorite part of a movie. I knew it was going to be trouble, BIG trouble, to extract him before the last note of the last song had faded and the lights went up.

So picture us: Ethan doing the pee-pee dance as if life depended on it, Jake jumping up and down, dancing to the credit music. It has to be getting near the end of credits, so I move us closer to the door.

They're playing a big loud song, they're deep into the list of background animators, this MUST be close to ending, I know the final song is coming up, so I tell him Jake that Ethan HAS to go pee, that we HAVE to go to bathroom and we're going to wait until the end of this THIS song and then go.

Now we're halfway out the door. In fact, we're in the middle of the open doorway, like a large river rock, making everyone flow around us, and I just don't fucking care. I'm trying to get away fast after the penultimate song, to be on the escalator before first notes of the next, last song start up.

I'm praying to the gods of autism that this will work, but know deep down how cruel they are, that I'm surely fooling myself big time if I think I'm going to get away with this.

And indeed, three steps from the theater doorway the waterworks start.  And then comes the keening, the great big hiccuping sobs, as if he'd just lost the love of his life. Jake is sodden and sobbing and repeating over and over: "Now we're NEVER gonna finish this thing!" which is a script from somewhere, I don't really care.

And so focused am I on comforting my boy, I don't see or notice the stares, although I know Ethan does, shrinking from all the eyes upon us, from his brother and the scene we're causing as we noisily race down the escalator to the floor below, the one with the bathrooms.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry" he apologizes profusely, and this, too, breaks my heart, that Ethan has to feel bad about needing to pee. I tell him it's not his fault, that he's done nothing wrong, but know that my words just float on the surface, won't sink below the sheen of his guilt.

I make sure that Ethan hears me as I tell Jacob: "I know you badly want to stay to hear the last song, see the end of the credits, but it is hurting Ethan's body to not pee right now, and his physical need to not be in pain has to come before your feelings and desires."

I know full well that to Jacob, even if he were not so gone into misery, this would not mean much: a jumble of words, abstract mumbo-jumbo. But Ethan needs to hear it, to know it is okay to come first, even if it makes his brother this sad.

We stay in the theater building a long time. And still Jacob, limp, spent, is crying as we walk out into the gray drizzle; crying as we get into the cab; crying as we walk into our building; crying as we settle back into our apartment; crying because, to him, he has not seen the movie because he has not seen every last little bit, until the last note of the last song has faded and the lights have gone up.

The gods of autism are assholes.

But then Sunday, the very next day, it's a whole different story.

Another day, another autism.

We're out on Long Island at my Aunt and Uncle's house at the end of a dead-end block with the fields out back. And my cousins are their with all their kids, too, so we are a wondrous gang of cousins.

Jake is in and out of connectedness, but with the space to do so, sliding the glass door open to run in and out of the yard at will. Delighted to go along with the gang on our shambling walk through the woods.

And then after the seder and the dinner, when guitars and ukuleles are brought out and folk songs are being sung, I pull a pair of pots out of the cupboard at Ethan's brilliant suggestion.

And suddenly Jacob is in the thick of things, drumming away, calling out to his cousins, gleefully a part of the music making, a member of the band.

(Sorry about the bad Droid shot, but my camera battery had died)
And so Sunday, autism doesn't suck, is just a part of who Jacob is, not getting in his way, may likely even be a part of his innate rhythmic abilities.

And I watch Jake, my awesome drummer boy, light up the room with his smile, light up my heart, always.

And the gods of autism are smiling, too, mercurial jerks though they may be; merciful, for one day.

I'm also linking this post up to Shell's Pour Your Heart Out linky at Things I Can't Say

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

SNSS: Brotherly Love with a Side of Autism

My guest this week, Jean Myles, blogs as Mommy to Two Boys, and she is another amazing Autism Mom. 

She writes about her family: her four year old son, Jaylen, who is on the autism spectrum, and his younger brother, Xavier, who is not.

Jean also takes beautiful pictures of her sons, and they are all over her blog, woven throughout her posts.

One of the things I admire most about Jean is how thoughtful she is about every aspect of her children's lives. Read her post now and you will see...


Brotherly Love with a Side of Autism – by Mommy To Two Boys

I rubbed my pregnant belly as I heard the words for the very first time, "Jaylen has Autism."

Would this baby have Autism?  How am I going to give Jaylen all the help he needs yet still take care of another child?  Should we have stopped at one child?  

Xavier was born four months later, and aside from some sensory issues and being a total brat, he has turned out to be exactly what our family needed. 

There have been some very rough times as their brotherly love matures, but there have been some amazing moments at well.  I know there will be hurdles to overcome in the future, but I feel strongly their bond will strengthen over time.

A solid connection is what surprises me most about how my boys interact.

Jaylen, my ASD 4 year old, is truly lacking in social skills, empathy, and play skills, so to see them communicate, play together and understand each other blows my mind. I always thought Jaylen would remain in a shell and Xavier would be left without a companion, but instead their worlds intersect a lot. 

As a baby, Jaylen's therapists were so concerned over how he could spend hours in his own little world, filling and dumping buckets of toys, watching water pour out of a hose, and spinning to Maroon 5 tunes. (I know, it was as unbearable as you'd think. The most sadistic torture has nothing on being forced to listen to that guy for hours everyday.)  

Jaylen never seemed to notice or care when I got upset, my husband and I fought, or if we were trying to include him in play.  Xavi is the complete opposite, a personable, always in your face 2 year old.

It breaks my heart when Jaylen gets home from school and Xavi cheerfully yells, "Hi Jaylen!" only to get no response most days.  However, I am slowly watching their relationship evolve. 

They communicate in their own way.  They order each other to do things, ask each other to play, and have started ganging up to defend each other. 

Recently they played together for 39 minutes without a problem.  I am not sure how much interacting really occurred, but I heard them laughing and talking.

It is still interaction, even though half the time they spend together they are fighting.  For never having seen a single WWE event, they sure know some serious moves and use them often. 

Blood has been drawn, bruises have been made, and many tears have fallen because of their extreme physical contact.  My husband swears this is normal boy behavior, which I know nothing about since I grew up in a house of three girls.

Jaylen and Xavier are on the same level when it comes to certain skills.  Pretend play is one area Jaylen still really struggles with so they are learning the skill together.   Even though all we have seen is play-kitchen cooking, car and train scenes, and hours of school buses picking up and dropping off kids, I can easily see it progressing.

We still have a long way to go. 

Xavi lost his lovey at Stop and Shop and Jaylen got upset, "Oh no, is he going to be sad?"  I looked at Xavi and replied, "No, he seems OK. He isn't crying, but will probably be sad at bedtime." 

I watched Jaylen stare blankly as he processed what I said, then explained, "No Mom, not Xavi. I was talking about Lovey. Will Lovey be sad and lonely here at Stop and Shop?" 

Oh well, so much for empathy for humans over inanimate objects, but we will get there.


Thank you, Jean, for sharing the lovely, complex, growing, sometimes difficult relationship that exists between your two boys. I am especially touched that they have "started ganging up to defend each other," think that bodes well for their future. 

Now that you have read this lovely post, you are going to want to follow Jean home to Mommy to Two Boys and read her there. 

May I recommend this post or this one about the surprises of parenting a typical toddler after an ASD first child. Or this lovely post about her son riding the "short bus."

Jean can also be found posting about her work-from-home business on her work blog.  Finally, you can and *should* follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.  Happy Reading!

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A is for Autism

A is for Autism.

For April is Autism Awareness Month.

A is also for awesome, like my son Jacob, a nearly nine year-old boy, with autism.

Jake is also astonishing, admirable and amazing. And that's just the "A"s.

He is, in fact, a whole alphabet soup of cool...

beautiful, charming, dynamic, engaging, fabulous, giggly, huggable, impressive, joyful, kissable, loving, marvelous, notable, outstanding, peachy, quick, remarkable, smart, terrific, unique, vivacious, wondrous, exuberant, yummy, and zestful.

And then he is also, at times...  

anxious, bouncy, confused, disconsolate, exhausting, fearful, growling, hellacious, impulsive, jarring, klutzy, loud, maniacal, nervous, overwhelming, puzzling, quixotic, relentless, self-directed, tangled, unhappy, vociferous, wretched, excessive, yawing, and zoned-out.

This is his autism. Our autism. Autism as we know it.

Different for everyone, this is Jacob's particular flavor.

Some days it's the sauce on the side and some days it's the whole meal.  Some days tangy, others bitter.

But it is always a part of who Jake is.

I always see the beauty and value of my son.

Some days I can see how his autism is a part of that beauty, giving him his unique vision; what some have called the gifts of autism.

Other days he is so unhappy, actively in distress, and all I can see is how it causes him pain, confusion, unwanted isolation.

And then I am mad at autism, which is fruitless, like being mad at the wind. But still, I am.

I am aware of autism every day.

It is our life.

And now, so are you, maybe, a little bit more.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And choosing an "A" word, for me? Now, THAT was a no-brainer if ever there was one.

I'm also linking this post up to Shell's Pour Your Heart Out linky at Things I Can't Say

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Family! Cousins! Passover!

On Sunday last, we gathered at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Port Washington: my two cousins' families and my own. The house is at the end of a dead end block, surrounded by the fields and playgrounds that we had roamed during our own childhoods.

Mom & her "little brother" Walter
After THREE nights of seders (don't ask, my family had to do theirs one night early due to scheduling issues and my husband's family does TWO) I am worn out, a limp noodle, and still with a week of spring "break" ahead of us.

All plans petered out, so we're making it up one day at a time as we go along. If I survive this week, it will be a miracle. (Have I mentioned that the combo of school breaks and autism sucks?) Wish me luck!

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

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SNSS: Our Social Skills Group is 24/7

Another Saturday, another Special Needs Sibling Saturdays post! 

One thing I need to mention before I introduce Stimey, this week's wonderful guest blogger... You may have noticed that the "special needs" of the children in all the families I have featured so far fall onto the autism spectrum, and this week continues the trend.

There are two reasons for this. First off, when I conjured up this series and sent out my initial query letters to see if anyone else thought it was a good idea, I naturally turned to the folks I felt most comfortable with, knew best. And those would be my fellow autism bloggers.

Then, it IS April, which, as I am sure YOU are aware, is Autism Awareness Month, so it is making sense to feature autism posts this month.

That said, this is soon to change. Starting in May and going forth, you will see stories from families whose kids have other Special Needs: from cerebral palsy to seizure disorders to pediatric mental illness to genetic disorders of many varieties. And combinations thereof.

There will also from time to time be stories written by adult siblings telling tales of their own childhoods in SN families, and families where all the kids have SN, but of differing degrees and diagnoses, which creates yet another challenging sea to navigate.   

With that out of the way, let me introduce you to this weeks amazing blogger, a woman who probably needs no introduction (but when has that ever stopped me before?)...  

Jean Winegardner who blogs as Stimey at Stimeyland was one of my very first autism mom blogger connections when I was still a newbie, wet behind her ears, beginning blogger (was it really only a year ago?) I had just joined the SVMG NYCMoms group blog, and she wrote for their sister DCMoms site. I noticed right away that she was smart and funny and an autism mom like me.

Then BlogHer10 began with Stimey's Blogging Autism Panel and so we got to meet. And meet. And meet. Because it seemed everywhere one of us went, we immediately bumped into the other. Kismet.  

Stimey is an amazing woman, a fabulous mom, and truly a talented writer.  She blogs about her three sons: her middle son, Jack (who is on the autism spectrum), her eldest son, Sam, and Quinn, the "baby."  She also writes a lot about the boys' relationship with each other.  

Then there is her writing about autism itself, about mice (yes, mice, don't ask), about running her kids summer fun & learning program called "Camp Stimey" and just in case you think she is Wonder Woman (as I sometimes do), she also writes brutally honestly about those dark days when she's having a really rough time.  

Jean can write beautifully and entertainingly about anything and everything; but don't take my word for it, read her post now and you will see....


Our Social Skills Group is 24/7 - by Jean Winegardner, a.k.a. Stimey

It's 8:45 p.m. and Jack and his little brother are supposed to be asleep in the bedroom they share, stacked in bunk beds one atop the other. They, however, are wide awake and chatting with each other.

The mom in me thinks I should march in there, separate them, and threaten them to within an inch of their lives if they don't fall asleep right this very minute!

The autism mom in me, however, is delighted. I can't tell what they're chatting about—if I had to guess, I would wager that it is a conversation about a complicated video game mission that the two of them are creating in their minds—but I don't really care.

They're talking. One speaks, then the other follows up with a related sentence, and it continues for as long as I listen. It's not really that big of a deal, unless learning how to hold a conversation is not something that comes naturally to your child.

This is the advantage I have in parenting a child with autism who has both an older and a younger brother. Social skills never stops at my house.

There have been many times when my family is out and about somewhere and my three kids are running around like the little chaos machines that they are, and I think, "Wow, this would be so much easier with fewer children."

But then I stop and think, "No, really having three kids makes life so much easier." And that's not just because they play with each other instead of hassling me to play Candy Land.

My parenting goal when it comes to my children is that I want to make them a unit. I want them to be able to count on each other and be each others' best friends. I want their brotherhood to be one of their strongest, life-long bonds. I have long accepted that eventually they will use that bond to become united against me. I am 100% okay with that.

This sibling bond became even more important to me once my middle son, Jack, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum a few years ago. Since then, having one brother ahead of him in school and one behind has been nothing short of a godsend. Being sandwiched between brothers has helped in so many other ways as well.

Jack has a fair amount of trouble relating to his peers. While his teachers are fantastic, they don't have time to try to get him to engage with the other kids as much as he needs.

Jack has a social skills group once a week, but an hour of group time cannot make up for the other 167 hours in the week. Adults will socialize with Jack, but that's not his main problem. He needs to learn to engage with other children.

What Jack does have are brothers. His brothers are constantly with him and pushing him to participate in appropriate social behavior. They ask him questions; they include him in games; they have hurt feelings and desires that require Jack to learn to navigate these kinds of interactions, but in a safe place.

I think that we are doubly fortunate in that Jack has an older brother who paves the way for him (and me!) both in school and coming-of-age experiences. Having an older brother helps Jack reach, stretch and grow.

Jack's younger brother is wonderful because he looks up to Jack so very much, and it is so valuable for Jack to get to be a role model. Not to mention that in certain things, Jack and his younger brother are very much on the same developmental level, so it is lovely that they can share their interests.

Learning how to interact with his brothers can't be the be-all, end-all however. They have learned his mannerisms and quirks so well that they will often compensate without even thinking about it, letting Jack slide by without utilizing the skills he is learning. It is so important that Jack have typical peers around who don't know what he's thinking.

Enter my other sons' buddies. Because my three kids are so close in age, they like to do many of the same things. When my oldest or youngest son has a friend over, Jack gets to practice his social abilities to figure out how he can get involved in what they are doing. Plus, his brothers act as a sort of buffer between Jack and other kids, who may not understand his peculiarities.

There are times when we have kids over to play with Jack as well. Those playdates can be hard. It can be exhausting to try to get Jack to engage with a peer for an hour or two. I imagine it's tough for Jack as well. When Jack (or I) needs a break, his brothers are there to step in and shoulder some of the pressure of playing.

Mundane things can teach social thinking skills when you do them all day, every day. Even something as simple as filing into the bathroom at night to brush teeth can be a lesson in patience and turn taking.

I believe that the more success and fun Jack has with his brothers, the more interested he gets in non-familial children. Having brothers around helps Jack see that there are benefits to interacting with other kids. Furthermore, my other children can be role models for typical behavior. (Although, frankly, they have their own quirks too.)

All this said, there are downsides too. Families with only children have so much more time and resources to spend with their autistic child. When you're focused on only one child, it is so much easier to target exactly what he or she needs; there is no other child with competing desires.

Every time I'm waiting for Jack in a speech or occupational therapist's waiting room with my other kids, I think about how much easier it would be with just the one.

Let me tell you also, that it's not all smiles and sunshine in my household. Yes, my kids all get along and play together beautifully — when they're not screaming at each other and trying to commit fratricide.

Still, for my family, the benefits outweigh the negatives. More than anything else, I am so grateful that Jack gets to experience the greatest social benefit of all: having two best friends who accept him as he is.

Yes, they get frustrated sometimes and, yes, sometimes Jack gets annoyed, but for a child who wants to socialize, as Jack does, having two willing bodies nearby is the best thing we could hope for.


One of the things I find so moving about this piece is how appreciative Stimey is of the gifts her children give and are to each other.

Also note that she points out how Jack's being in the middle feels a big part of the magic. I have to concur, as I have identified how some of the big trouble in my house comes from Jacob being Ethan's twin. There is such an expectation of sameness and equality there that autism's delays and immaturities just confound so deeply. Sigh.

I especially love how Stimey contrasts the reactions of "The mom in me" with that of "The autism mom in me" to a situation.  I have so been there, as I think all autism moms have been, too.

So now that you have read her post here, you'll surely want to go
read more at her own bloggy home, Stimeyland. Besides all the posts previously linked and mentioned above, you might want to try this one here, or this one, a funny favorite of mine.

Stimey is not only a prolific writer, but an active member of the Autism parenting community. She founded, runs and writes for AutMont, Montgomery County, Maryland's autism community website. Jean also write a regular column, Autism Unexpected, at The Washington Times Communities.

Stimey can also be found posting on the 15th of every month at Hopeful Parents. Finally? Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook

Stimey, thank you so much for bringing your awesomeness here, to share with me and my readers at The Squashed Bologna. You truly inspire.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jakey Vitamins

The thing is, if every life is full of ups and downs, life with special needs children is just... more so.

In every way.

There are so many aspects to it that drag me down, made me cry, bring me to my knees. So it's important to look for, focus on, and magnify the moments of light and buoyancy; the little things that lift me up, keep me afloat, allow me to just get on with it. Because I would rather laugh than cry, any day.

This morning I had one of those lightening moments. Not a big laugh-out-loud funny, more on the order of a tiny rise of the corners of my mouth and heart. But all those tiny bubbles? Aren't they what make champagne so delightful?

As I was rushing encouraging Jake through his usual get-ready-for-school routine this morning, I was reminded that my eight year-old son, my Jacob? He has a mob name.

He's Jakey Vitamins, and don't mess with him.

This came about because of the unique configuration of our small apartment: we don't have a dining room and we don't have an eat-in kitchen. The dining table is in a corner of our living room, the corner farthest away from the kitchen, which is typical NYC: a long, narrow galley.

Jacob is a "mid-high functioning" kid on the autism spectrum. What that translates into is that he is capable of being independent in his morning routine. Sort of.

Meaning: with LOTS of coaching and reminders he can do most things for himself. With LOTS of coaching, reminders and nudging to stay focused, that is. And a quick mom-check that his underwear is not on backwards. Again.

Also, in the mornings, time is of the essence. Jake gets up at 6:00, his bus comes at 6:45. No lollygagging allowed. With the kitchen and the dining table so distant, and with Jake & Ethan's lunches to be packed and Ethan's breakfast to be made while Jake is eating his breakfast, the coaching inevitably needs to happen somewhat long distance.

Translation: Me, yelling from the kitchen towards the living room: "Jakey, Pants!" "Jake - TWO shoes!" "Jacob! EAT!"  This short form is based on the theory that reminders should be kept simple: name plus one word - verb or noun - that best jogs the memory and focuses the brain.

One particular morning my husband was actually up early and at the computer in the alcove off the kitchen (aka his office) while this was going on. After about my third bellow of "Jakey! Vitamins!" he chimed in: "You know honey, I think that's his mob name."

Me (distracted by toaster oven and microwave timers going off simultaneously): "What?!?!?"

Husband: "When you said just now, I thought -- Hey that sounds like a typical mob nickname, like 'Tony Bagels' or 'Vinny Carwash.'  'Jakey Vitamins' -- it's got as nice ring to it, don't you think?"

And thus Jakey Vitamins, my son's mobbed-up alter ego was born. 

And so now when I call that out to him - "Jakey! Vitamins!" - (many, many, many times each morning) I play this back in my mind and makes me smile; helps me to not be so annoyed.

Jakey Vitamins. Don't mess with him. Or he and his gang -- Blue Bear, Curious George and SpongeBob SquarePants -- will have to come show you who's boss (of the big hugs).


Also, if you have another 3 minutes? (And even if you don't, you should *make* 3 minutes free for this.)  Click on over to Stark Raving, Mad, Mommy, and read today's post:  Top Ten Things You Should (and Shouldn't) Say to The Parent of an Autistic Child.

She hits the nail on the head in that perfect combination of laughter and "Ouch!"

Also? I'm now linking up this post to Maxabella's

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Spring, Finally, Spring

First apple blossoms, Riverside Park, NYC
No one has been more ready for spring this year than I, spending too many frigid days pent up inside our small New York City apartment with two balls of nearly nine-year old energy who do not really get along.

I can't wait to toss us all outside on a weekend's day to rove the city's parks and encounter spring, finally.

The other day a new-found friend reminded me of the beauty of the apple and cherry blossoms in Riverside Park (otherwise known as "our backyard"), and then Monday, walking home, there they were in all their glory.

Me and my Dad, Riverside Park, 1998
I have always loved to walk among the flowering trees.

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

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just a Mom

Yesterday at thelink-up Jen from The King and Eye hosts once a fortnight (that's every two weeks to folks on our side of the big pond), the directions were seemingly simple:

"Link up a post about parenting, being a mother or a father."

I am a mother and I blog, should be a piece of cake...  But as I started sifting through my past posts to come up with an appropriate one to link up, I kept coming upon every other thing. I write a lot AS a parent, but not so much about BEING a parent, in general.

I am all too often very specifically identified:

Autism Mom... Older Mom... Special Needs Mom... Sandwich Generation Mom... Twin Mom... Grieving Mom... but, seemingly, never just a Mom.

The post I finally dredged up? This one: Mom is not allowed to be sick -- a somewhat whiny post about trying to parent vaguely effectively while I was sick as a dog.  Not my most shining moment, but at least it fit the bill.

But thinking about all this? Made me a little sad.

Sometimes, I just want to simply be a mom, a plain old mom, a generic mom among other moms. Sometimes I just want to write about my kids as a mom, not wear my specificities on my sleeve all the time.

So, as plain old Mom, here are some small thoughts about my children...

We had our first truly warm spring day today, here in New York City. As the layers peel off and limbs are once again exposed, I observe my boys and marvel at how close to the cusp of big-boyness they have advanced over this long cruel winter.

Ethan is growing leaner, rangier; the shadows of what will one day be muscles starting to take shape across his body; the angles of his face fully emerged, not an ounce of baby-fat left.

Jacob is well on his way to becoming a (gentle) giant. Every time I hug him I marvel at the solidness of his eighty plus pounds.  He still asks me to pick him up, twirl him around; and for the life of me, I just can't.

Both boys have sprouted over an inch each in the last three months, as the penciled and dated lines in our doorway will testify.

Ethan, after a number of highly energetic kickball games and an unusually long spate without a bath (don't ask), developed a very grown up smell in his armpits, about which he was inordinately pleased.  He is in an awful hurry to grow up and become a teenager, and I am silently begging him to slow down.

But still, thankfully, the little boys remain.

Jacob holds my face in his two hands, locks my brown eyes with his gray-green and says "I love you." I just swoon; hope someday a girl will know this feeling, but for now he is still all mine.

Today, walking to school, Ethan slipped his hand into mine, as he does most days. Strolling down Broadway together, this effortless affectionate bond between us intact, I was keenly aware that it would all too soon be tossed by the wayside, a victim of "uncool."

But now, not yet. For, still, Ethan is happy to fold himself up, catlike, to lay claim to my lap; still content to kiss my cheek hello and be briskly kissed goodbye by me, his mom.

I am linking up this post to the lovely Shell's: 

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sibling Day for Me at Hopeful Parents


Yes, why it IS the 10th of the month, so that means I'm over at Hopeful Parents today.

And, as it is weighing so heavily on my mind, I'm talking about sibling relations again, in my post: Not His Brother's Keeper.

I talk about the usual dreadful state of things between Ethan and Jacob, and also talk up my new guest post series, Special Needs Sibling Saturdays.  Not surprisingly, quite a lot of my guest bloggers also post monthly at Hopeful Parents.

I know you're used to me blathering on and on even when I'm just here to throw to my post over there. But today I'm going to surprise you all and shut up.

So go read me at Hopeful Parents, then come back tomorrow (well, maybe the next day) for more of my "brilliance."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

SNSS: When It's More Than Sibling Rivalry

Today, I would like to welcome the lovely Jen Troester as my guest here at Special Needs Sibling Saturdays this week. Jen blogs over at Living Life, with a Side of Autism.  I'm sure you can guess by the title of her blog, she has a child who is on the autism spectrum, a daughter. She also has a younger son who is not.

I truly admire Jen and her desire to tell truths. Sugar-coating is never her style. This can be a big breath of fresh air for those of us trying so hard to spin the "oh, this isn't so bad" wheel a few times too often, while quietly crying in our private corners.

As you will see from her post below, besides being brave and honest, Jen a lovely writer.

Thank you, Jen, for courageously opening up your heart and sharing your story with all of us. I am deeply honored and grateful to have you here.


When It's More Than Sibling Rivalry - by Jen Troester

I always knew that I wanted at least two, if not three children. As much as I might have wished I was an only child when I was young, I cannot imagine not having siblings as an adult.

We started trying for a baby when Katie was 19 months old, one month after she started Early Intervention for an expressive/receptive speech delay. Autism wasn't even on our radar at the time, and we wanted so badly to give Katie a brother or sister.

I imagined them playing together, and growing up extremely close. I envisioned grand kids and growing old surrounded by a big family. Yes, I tend to look into the future. Way into the future. The one thing I didn't see was where Katie's delays would take us, only a few years down the road.

When Ben was born, Katie was a little over 2 and 1/2. She was still extremely delayed in speech, and pretty much cried inconsolably for two weeks. I think that is pretty common, though. No toddler can really understand a new person suddenly taking over.

But our child wasn't able to express any of her feelings, good or bad. Not even to say she wished we could give her little brother away, like I have heard from so many friends when they gave birth to number two.

The difference between Katie and other kids is that she never go over not wanting Ben around. They never became real playmates. She was angry about his presence from day one, and still is to this day.

There are the random times that she seems to enjoy his company, but 95% of the time she wants nothing to do with him. It's a tough thing to watch, especially when Ben so badly wants to be part of her life. How do you explain to a  2, 3, 4 year old that his sister might never want anything to do with him?

Unfortunately, the worst part is not that she doesn't want to play. The worst part is that she takes out all her frustrations and anger on him. He is a lot smaller and doesn't really fight back. She doesn't go after my husband or I. She goes after him. Physically. She hits him, kicks him, throws him down, sits on him.

It got so bad that last summer I seriously considered taking Katie and moving out. I needed to make our home safe for our son, and I didn't know how to control Katie's behavior, and no one could really offer us anything useful.

Our developmental pediatrician asked if Katie was leaving marks on Ben, as though that was the threshold for when things were really bad. I wasn't willing to wait for a broken bone or broken skin, a black eye or bruised face. It wasn't OK that she was hurting him, regardless of what marks were left, or not left.

At the beginning of this year we took the very hard step of putting Katie on psychiatric medication to control her tantrums and aggression. I agonized over the decision, not at all wanting to put my almost 7 year-old on anti-psychotic drugs.

But, we had no choice. It wasn't just about Katie. We had another child we had to take into consideration. The perfect playmate had turned into the perfect target.

The drugs did help. I couldn't deny how the aggression diminished, and, even though I still hate the fact my child is on a heavy-duty medication, it has kept Ben safe.

When you have a child with Autism there are a lot of dreams you have to leave behind. It's one thing to give up dance recitals and soccer games, but giving up the relationship you dreamed for your children? That is almost too hard to bear. I am not sure if Katie will ever want a close relationship with Ben, or any relationship at all.

It breaks my heart to watch my Ben follow her around, day after day, still trying to engage her. To play with her. To just talk with her. To watch him be rejected over and over again, but still try. To know Ben will never have a chance for a typical sibling relationship because that third child I always wanted will never be.

Now that we know the road we are on with Katie, we can't take that chance. I love my son, and I am grateful everyday that we decided to have a second child before receiving Katie's diagnosis. But now that we know, our choices are different.

I don't like playing referee. I don't like trying to explain to my 4 year-old why his sister won't play. I don't like listening to my daughter scream that she hates her brother. I don't like having to make sure no physical harm comes to Ben. The emotional harm... that I cannot yet gauge.

I've stopped looking years into the future. Right now, I am just trying to make it through today. Trying to keep my son safe.

Never did I think life with my children would be like this. Not in my wildest dreams. Although, Autism wasn't a part of those dreams. It just sneaked in and stole them.


Thank you, Jen, for your utter honesty; for baring your soul here for us, for bearing witness. This can not have been an easy post to write, to admit to yourself, let alone to all of us, how rough things are in your house, how far from the idealized dream the reality of your family life is.  

Reading this, I can only think there is a parent out there, right now, struggling with this same heavy load, worrying, wondering how to hold a family together when there is so much wildness and destruction in one child that harm is threatened to another.

And they need to know they are not alone. They need to know that it can change, that things can get better, and that if they could get over their fear of the potential harm or stigma of giving their child psychiatric medication, their child might be tremendously helped by it.  

No child wants to be out of control. When they are able to talk about it, most people who have been appropriately and properly medicated speak of the feeling of coming out of a black hole into the light. 

Jen, you are helping spread light with this post, even though you had to go into a dark place to write it. I thank you, for the gift that it is.

And now that you have spent some time reading Jen’s words here, please go visit her at Living Life, with a Side of Autism. Be sure to read this post and this one

Also know that while Jen often blogs about the dark side of autism, she also clearly appreciates and celebrates all that is lovely and wonderful in her children in posts like this lovely one.

Finally, you can find and follow her on Twitter and "like" her on Facebook. So, what are you waiting for? Go connect with Jen today!

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I slip into the bluemercury make-up store with my cousin Annette and her two daughters, one poised on the precipice of teenhood. We have been strolling languidly down Broadway popping into stores willy-nilly as the fancy takes us.

I have stolen an afternoon from my tightly pressed life to pretend for a moment that I am a lady who lunches; to bask in the girlyness of my cousin and her daughters, my dear nieces that I have spent precious little time with, absent the testosteroned clatter that is my twin eight year old sons.

We know we're not going to part with any money in this bastion of expensive make-up and skin care products, and the salesgirls know this too. But it's a way dead Thursday afternoon and the staff is bored to tears, so they happily indulge us and make-over the girls to their giggling delight.

I glide past the perfume cases, pick up a bottle that looks interesting, open it up and am transported... somewhere, way back in time.

Not a smell I associate with perfume, but rather hot sun, AM radio blaring Crocodile Rock, my scrawny bikini-ed body with sand stuck to it in all the uncomfortable ways and places sand sticks, especially since I'm slathered in... COPPERTONE!

That's the smell! I look up, questioningly, at the sales girl and she smiles. "Is this... ?"

"Yes" she says, "it's been created to smell like vintage Coppertone." Emphasis on the "vintage."  Like me. It's two days after my 50th birthday, she didn't need to rub that in.

She holds up the bottle. That's when I pay attention to the fact that I've just sprayed myself with something called "Beach."

I take the bottle from her, cradle it in my hand for a minute, knowing I'm never going to spend $45 to smell like my thirteen-year-old Jones-Beach-loving self.

But for just a moment I contemplate it, sniff my perfume sprayed arm; close my eyes, feel the sun-sweat start to pool between my just budding breasts, sway to the beat of Loggins & Messina telling me that my Mama don't dance and my Daddy don't rock & roll.

The seagulls keen and try to steal our gooey peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The waves crash in the background, drowned out by the cacophony of dueling radio stations around us.

My friends slather Coppertone on each others backs and keep one eye out for the boys, who will never speak to us, but we like to think know we're there for them.

We are a young thirteen, filled with longing for things we are nowhere near ready for, cannot even fully imagine, but know that it has something to do with the faintly tingling feeling between our legs whenever they come into our midst to retrieve a tossed football gone astray.

And then the tinkling laughter of my nine year old niece breaks through.

She and her twelve year old sister are cavorting through the store, showing off their glamour to my cousin, who smiles the indulgent smile of a mother of daughters, fondly remembering her own first forays into the world of make-up, and all things grown-up and semi-forbidden.

Cousins attempting glamor, 1973
And then we are back out in the street, onto our next girly mini-adventure.  Something involving chocolate.

All too soon it comes to an end as I drop them off at the subway station. I race back home to meet my autistic son's bus, hoping that someday, maybe someday, he will be able to find himself on a beach playing ball with his friends, buoyed up by the admiration of sweaty, giggling girls he is so carefully pretending to ignore.

This post was inspired by a prompt at The Red Dress Club. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a post about a sound or scent that brings you right back to your past.

Please click on the button above, go to the link-up and read the other wonderful posts you'll find there.

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