Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Round-up: What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs


Well, it's been some ride on the rollercoaster this year, folks, hasn't it? And today, on the final day of the old year, I'm going to do something new and different here on the old blog:

Besides my Squashed Mom year in review post, "The Squashed Best of 2011" (which went up Thursday) all about where my blog has gone in 2011 (and, no, "to Hell in a handbasket" is NOT the right answer, here, folks) I also want to share some of the awesomeness I have found in OTHER people's blogs, on the interwebs, among my blogging friends and brethren.

So I have compiled for you a short, very unscientific, VERY incomplete list of a few of my faves and raves of 2011. 

And if you know I love you and you don't have a post on this list? Please know it's just an artifact of my tired, ADD-rific mommy brain. I'm probably slapping myself on the forehead right this instant, going: "Doh! How could I have forgotten THAT amazing post by wonderful HER!" - so please add a link to your one of your favorite 2011 posts in the comments section!

Here goes...

In no particular order, I have been moved to laughter. tears, astonishment, or action by these wonderful posts (among many more) this past year:

Mothering, Disability and Race from the lovely Elizabeth of a moon, worn as if it had been a shell

In the Beginning from my blog-heart-friend Adrienne of No Points for Style

the ghost of john wayne and the perils of eleven from the adventurous Deborah of MaNNaHaTTaMaMMa

Invisible from the delightful Momo of Momo Fali.

Adventures in Depression from the wonderful and very brave Allie of Hyperbole and a Half

Who Are You? from the wise and deep Alysia of Try Defying Gravity

I Dreamed You from the amazing Amanda of Last Mom on Earth

The Only Way To Make It Through This from our dear Empress (Alexandra) of Good Day Regular People

Whispered fingertips from Kris of Pretty All True who needs no qualifier, because she just IS all that.

The Obsessive Joy of Autism from Julia Bascom of Just Stimming and also Quiet Hands because her words are THAT important.

This Is Not Really About Cake from the "badass" Kelly of Mocha Momma

Of Spiderman, a bully, and lessons learned from the great-assed Cheryl of Mommypants

I keep thinking about the nurse. from the kick-ass Eden of Edenland

Top Ten Things You Should (and Shouldn't) Say to The Parent of an Autistic Child from the highly opinionated (and often hysterically funny) Stark Raving Mad Mommy.

On growing up with strange sensory reactions, and the difference between passing and being passed off. from outspoken Amanda of Ballastexistenz

I want my son back from the inspiring Blue Sky of Looking for Blue Sky

worst case scenario from the incomparable Maggie of Flux Capacitor

what i would tell you from the beloved Jess of a diary of a mom

Sunshine on the water is so lovely from eloquent Emily of Emily Rosenbaum

in the midst of this from the, well, extraordinary Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary

The Bridge: One Terrible Night from Anna See of An Inch of Gray who has gone where none of us wish to go, with more grace and fortitude than I can possibly imagine.

I could go on and on and on, but 21 feels like a nice number, so I'll stop here. In hindsight, looking over it, I find this list was probably a bit heavy on the autism and special needs stuff. But then again, so is my life. So. is. my. life.

Wishing all of you a wonderful New Year, a terrific 2012, wherever the next turn of the great wheel takes you!



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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Squashed Best of 2011

It's the end of the year, and, as I said in last year's "Squashed Best" post "a traditional time to both reflect back and look forward." I stand by that.

Although I will say that looking backward is so much easier than looking forward. Especially when you're old, like me. (Now is when you're supposed to protest that I'm not that old, or at least that I don't LOOK it.)

As I'm now approaching my 2nd blogaversary, it is fun to be revisiting things I've done from last year, creating bloggy "traditions," as it were. So obviously I had to do this, the SECOND annual Year in Blog wrap-up for The Squashed Bologna, 2011 edition.

This year there seem to be a gazillion people doing wrap-up linkys on their blogs, and I'm probably going to link this up with about half of them. So if you've come over from one and you're new here: Hello, nice to meet you! Pull up a chair and stay a while, have a nice meander through my blog. I'd love to offer you a cup of tea, but that would fry your motherboard.

And if you're an old blog-friend (I mean long-time, I'm not calling you old, really) maybe you missed one of these. If not, go visit an old favorite, or just say "Hi and Happy New Year." Whatever!

So, without further ado, some posts I'm fond of from 2011:

January: O is for Oxygen {All about my sons' early language development, or lack thereof.}

February: In my Grandmother's House  {My first memoir post - and it's a doozy - about some strange goings-on at Grandma Dunia's.}

March: The Last Room {Standing in the room my father spent the very end of his life in, remembering.}

April: B is for Best Friend {About Jacob's lack of, and desire for a real friend, and one day in the playground when a kind boy played with him.}

May:  Thoughts on my son's getting older and getting stranger  {What it is: Jacob is still autistic.}

June: H is for Holding Hands {A small, quiet, tender moment with my elderly, widowed mother.}

July: Breakers {At the beach with my sons, remembering summers past, reveling in the ocean.}

August: Missing my Father {His absence as a presence in my life that comes and goes, sometimes more acutely than others.}

September: Choosing kindness {Choosing kindness when it would be so easy to be harsh; both with my children and with myself.}

October: Blink {Watching a baby while sitting with my sons, remembering, and observing how quickly the time goes, trying to be mindful and appreciative.}

November: What remains possible {Another dispatch from the trenches of a hard day of special needs parenting.}

December: Skipping Maybe not my objective "best" but a fun and funny little post, because I am getting tired of the heavy, and I reveal my sci-fi geek self therein. Enjoy!}

and on to 2012 we go....

So, as to the "looking forward" part? I really have no idea what 2012 will bring. More challenges, for sure. But also, hopefully, opportunities. Growth and bounding forward for my sons. Maybe even a bit of maturity (for me, I mean; my sons will certainly be doing some maturing).

I know one thing I am certain of in 2012 is that it will bring new connections and strengthen old. What I never imagined when I began this little blog nearly two years ago was how it would expand my life. I never foresaw the amazing community of (mostly women, mostly mom) bloggers that I would become a part of, and who would become such a vital part of my life in such a short expanse of time.

If 2011 has taught me anything it's how vital community is, both local IRL, and virtual on the interwebs. And I am grateful, grateful, grateful for the overflowing support and friendship therein.

And so I wish you all the happiest of New Years, and a 2012 that is wonderful and bountiful, exceeding your wildest dreams.

Linking this post up at:
Mama's Losin' It


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: 2011 in Pictures

Today I'm linking up with my friend Jessica of Four Plus an Angel who is hosting a year-end wrap-up linky thing:



This is what she says about it: Just create a post with 12 words or 12 pictures… a little year in review. Pick a word for each month of 2011 or a picture for each, or a 12 word sentence that sums up the year or a 12 picture collage, as long as it’s easy for you to put together and easy for others to read.

And me, because I can not QUITE follow any rules exactly as written (rebel, rebel...) and because I never met a simple easy task I couldn't find SOME way to over-think and over complicate... I am doing a picture AND a word for each month (and in two cases 3 words were necessary). You're welcome.

So, without further ado, my year in review:

Surgery!
Snow
One Year Gone
Awareness
May:
Mom
Goodbye
 July:
Birthday
BlogHer11
September:
Tragedy
October:
ComiCon
Thanksgiving
December:
Struggling (but Hopeful)

Aaaaaaaand, that's a wrap! Here's to a great 2012 for us all!


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Listicles: 2011 Firsts


Well, it's time for the last of Stasha’s Monday Listicles for the year, so fittingly it's a year's end theme. Today's topic came from Bridget at Twinisms: 

Top Ten things we've done for the FIRST time in 2011.

Hmmm I'm pretty old so there's not a lot of "firsts" left for me, but I'm sure I can come up with something... or rather, 10 things, right?

1. Well I started out the year with a first. In December 2010 my gall bladder went rogue, so on January 5th, 2011 I had it removed. And that was the first non-pregnancy related surgery of my life; the first time I have been separated from any of the original parts my body came with.

2. I had my first triple-month-skip: getting only one period from August through the year's end so I am clearly moving into the endgame of my shift from peri- into full blown menopause.

3. I began better living through chemistry and went on anti-depressant medication for the first time in my life to deal with the on and off depression brought about by wonky biochemistry from the above 2 items.

4. OK, I'm hating to sound like too much of a downer here, wracking brain to come up with a cheerful & happy first... how's this: Jake & Ethan both went to sleep-away camps (for the first time!) for about a week this summer, at partially overlapping times, so Dan & I had the apartment to ourselves for 4 whole nights for the first time since the boys were born. We're talking 9 years here people! We were spontaneously going out at night without the babysitter tax, we were sleeping naked, we were sleeping in, we were... well I'm not telling you about THAT.

5. Related to #4 above: I drove through a hurricane for the first time in my life. Well it wasn't quite a hurricane yet, but rather the leading edge of one, and believe me that was enough. What happened was that Jake's camp in Massachusetts was directly in the projected path of Hurricane Irene. I had just picked up Ethan at his Pennsylvania camp & spent the night with friends there. So instead of bringing him home and having a night's rest before heading up to pick up Jake, Ethan & I drove through the outer bands of the storm to get him and then the 3 of us high-tailed it home like bats out of hell, racing the full-on storm, trying to make it into Manhattan before the bridges & tunnels got closed down (which never actually happened but there were rumors of its certainty). And that kind of excitement? Happy to have my first also be my last.

6. I finally started to write from memes and prompts and ended up going to surprising and wonderful places in my writing and blog.

7. As related to #6 above, I wrote FICTION for the first time in... oh, about 25 years. It came out of the blue as I was mulling over a prompt. And I really enjoyed having strange people talking away inside my head, even when they were yelling at me.

8. When I went out to San Diego for BlogHer11, I spent 4 nights away from my husband and kids for the first time since the twins were born. It was glorious. And may I confess? Until the last day... I barely missed them at all. Having 4 days in a row in which my time was all about ME was simply amazing after 9 years of full time, day-in & day-out care taking of young and old people.

9. Due to the lovely synergy between menopausal metabolism changes and stress eating (have I mentioned it's been a fairly shit year overall?) I topped 180 for the first time in my life, non-pregnant. Oops. Really need to do something about THAT in 2012.

10. I wrote my first "Top Ten" list post. Something I swore I'd never do. And I liked it, I really liked it. Stasha, you've created a monster... I can't stop. Lists, lists, lists, I love lists now!!!



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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

From my family to yours:
Coffee Shop Santa, by Jim Steinhardt, New York City, 1949
Whatever you celebrate (we're having a typical '"Jewish Christmas" - Chinese food & a movie - then lighting the menorah because it's the 6th night of Hanukkah), we're wishing you and yours:

The Happiest of Holidays and a kick-ass New Year!


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

5th Night of Hanukkah

Hi there, friends. It's December 24th, and while some of you will be thinking "Christmas, Eve, yo!" over here it's the 5th night of Hanukkah, which I am sucking at this year.

We are not having a small group of friends over for latkes and menorah lighting tonight; not hosting the sweet little mostly-kids Hanukkah party as we have done for a number of years running.

Ethan is disappointed, and so am I. But I just... don't have it in me this year. I don't have the energy for the hustle and bustle it takes to pull that together, not even a haimish little party, like ours are.

If our apartment were bigger... if our apartment were tidier on a regular basis... if I had a sitter and more help... if Danny weren't so busy and otherwise occupied... if Jake didn't have autism... then, maybe.

I guess though, this is one of those times I'm actually grateful for Jake's autism because he doesn't care, doesn't really have any expectations of a party.  He's just glad he doesn't have to go to school today and can spend the day with his beloved cat and his video games.

So in order to do something holiday-ish at least here on my blog, I give you the following awesomely kick-ass Hanukkah song. M'kay?


My little Happy Hanukkah to y'all.

And just to prove you don't have to be Jewish to be rocking the Hanukkah thing? I stole borrowed it from Stark.Raving.Mad.Mommy who isn't Jewish at all!  (Well, she was born in Brooklyn which pretty much makes her an honorary Jew.)


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Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Saying Things Over There

Today? I'm not here. This is an illusion of a post, a mere wisp, designed to send you elsewhere...

Things I Can't Say

Today I'm guesting over at Shell's place, Things I Can’t Say, with a post about bloggy friendship and how important the blogging community is to me.

Which is so fitting as Shell is a wonderful community-building sort of blogger.

So come read me over there, with my post:  Dear Friends I've Never Met


And if you're here for the first time, coming to visit from over there...

Welcome! Nice to meet you. Please make yourself at home, poke around, stay awhile.

Don't know where to start? Want a little Squashed Mom road map? Click the links below for a nice assortment of my posts; a Bologna smorgasbord, if you will...

I'm an older mom, with nine year-old twin boys and an 89-year old mother in my care. I recently lost my 92 year old father and 93 year-old mother-in-law. I'm the squashed meat in the middle of the sandwich.

I write about birth and death, about being a mom and being a daughter.

I write about Autism in general, and my autistic son Jacob in particular.

I write about how adding in my and Ethan's ADD makes us a very neurodiverse family.

Sometimes I try to make you laugh.

And sometimes I try to make you cry

Sometimes I tell stories from my childhood, and my family history.

And I once let Ethan take over my blog and tell his own story.

I also write every month for Hopeful Parents.

And sometimes I link up on Mondays with Be. Enough. Me.

Also? Ethan and Jacob do not get along well, so I started a guest post series to talk about sibling relationships in families with special needs kids, called Special Needs Sibling Saturdays.

I hope you like what you've seen, and that you'll come back to visit soon.

Finally, thanks so much to Shell for inviting me to her place today. It's an honor.

And for those of you celebrating Hanukkah, like we are: Happy Fourth Night (we're halfway there)!



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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leaps and Bounds

Wide-eyed Jake at our building's Holiday party, 2011
I am happy to report some good news, for a change: Jake's original language has been making some marvelous jumps lately. The things he says out of the blue being startlingly observant and detailed, or his conversation loops are going deeper and deeper, continuing to make sense in wonderful and wondrous ways.

Jake to our neighbor sitting in the lobby with her leashed dog the other day as I brought him inside from his school bus:

Jake: You have a dog!

Neighbor: Yes I do!

Jake: Hi, doggie! What's your name?... (then, looking up at neighbor) What's his name?

Neighbor: His name is Jack.

Jake: Hi, Jack, I'm Jake!

Neighbor: He really likes kids.

Jake: (waving) Nice to meet you Jack! (then, to me, done here) Mommy can we go in and pet Cocoa?

A very nice, little social exchange!

Also, yesterday morning, my husband stumbled into the kitchen bleary-eyed as Jake was getting ready for school.

Jake: Daddy what's wrong with your eyes?

Dan: Nothing Jake, I just woke up, I'm still sleepy.

Jake: Dad, open up your sleepy eyes! Bigger, like this! (gives demo of his ridiculously wide-eyed stare)

And? Driving home from the big family Hanukkah party this past Sunday, we took a different route than usual into the city, as we were going to the East Side first, to drop off my mother.

As we pulled off the FDR into the city streets, Jake looked around and asked: "Are we home?"

I explained we WERE in the city but a different neighborhood, on the Upper East Side dropping off Grandma and would then be driving crosstown to the Upper West Side (where we live) through Central Park.

We were moments out of the park when Jake spotted a familiar building, and complained "That's not home, that's (name of our synagogue)!"

Boy does this all make me happy! Combined with his insights the other day (born, unfortunately, out of pain), combined with his amazing artistic spirit erupting, my son is really blossoming forth.

So as we head into this longest night tonight, having passed through the shortest day of the year today, I tell myself:

Have patience, have faith, it will be getting brighter; brighter and brighter, soon. Know it will happen, incrementally, day by day.

Believe; feel the coming sunshine, even whilst standing in the dark.


Just Write

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday Listicles: Inside my Brain

 
Yes, I know today is Tuesday. But since I fell asleep on the sofa (upright and lightly drooling, yes) before I could finish my Sunday evening post and had to put it up on Monday, this one has had to move on down the line. Welcome to my life.

I guess that could be another YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf tweet: "#YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you put up all your blog posts a day late so it's SOC Sundays on Monday and Monday Listicles on Tuesday" (And Wordless Wednesdays on Thursday and Alphabe-Thursdays on Friday and Special Needs Sibling Saturdays on Sunday... and yes I've been guilty of ALL of these late postings!)

Anyway, I'm posting this just after midnight, on American East Coast time, which means it's certainly still Monday somewhere... California, for example. So, on a technicality, I'm not REALLY late.

OK, enough meta-jabber. I rest my case. On to the actual post...

This week’s Listicle assignment (from Bridget of Twinisms via Stasha at The Good Life) is based on the show "Inside The Actor’s Studio With James Lipton."

You’ve seen this program, yes? Every celebrity interview ends with the same 10 questions, which I will attempt to answer, now:

1. What is your favorite word?
You're kidding right? ONE favorite word? Ain't gonna happen from wordy, word-loving me. Like I tell my kids: I don't have just one favorite. (And yeah, I'm gonna start this list being all contrary, oppositional and rule-bashing again. Wanna make something of it?) But on my short list, you'd find: smorgasbord, chartreuse, ungepatchket, and fractious.

2. What is your least favorite word?
Retard or Retarded. And if you don't know why I hate this, the "R-word," you're probably at the wrong blog, here by accident. If you want a refresher, read my friend Ellen's posts all about it. Start with this one: If you ask people not to use the word "retard" then plug in the R-word into her search box and read everything that comes up.  

3. What turns you on?
Intelligence, humor, kindness.

4. What turns you off? 
Willful ignorance and cold-heartedness. Also black socks and white sneakers with Bermuda shorts.

5. What sound do you love?
An ocean beach. Also? Truthfully? My own voice. (Hangs head.)

6. What sound do you hate?
Metal scraping on metal. If you use a metal fork to eat out of a metal bowl I will be forced to make you stop by any and all means necessary. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me. Also, not coincidentally, nails on a chalkboard.

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Really, it's a toss up between motherfucker and bullshit. I guess I like compound words. Ethan is studying them in school right now. But never fear, I'm not going to suggest THESE for his "Write 10 juicy sentences using compound words" assignment.

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? 
Brain surgeon. *Kidding!* But seriously, neuroscience interests me greatly, the biology of how we think and feel. I could have gone into medicine, have a great affinity for it. In other words, my mother was right - I shoulda been a doctor!

9. What profession would you not like to do?
The thought of accountancy fills me with dread. And I like numbers. I just hate paperwork.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
A variation of what my husband quipped when first we met: "Oh, sorry, I got you confused with (renowned French filmmaker) Agn├Ęs Varda... Your number's not up yet, back you go!"


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Monday, December 19, 2011

Early Hanukkah


Yesterday my husband's family gathered for their annual giant Hanukkah party extravaganza. On the car ride back from the latke and present fest, Ethan asked his Dad when it started and he calculated that it had been going on since about 1943 or so. Coming from a tiny family like I do, it's nice to be a part of a giant, sprawling, warm, inclusive clan.

Leaving my first ever of these, when Dan and I had been dating for about six months and I was still his "new girlfriend," I told him, "I've never been hugged and kissed by so many people I just met in my life."

In my husband's family, if you love one of them, they love you. It's nice. Exhausting, but nice. (Not a year passes without at least one - and often more - Bar Mitzvah, wedding, landmark birthday or anniversary, and, unfortunately funeral or unveiling. Lots of opportunity for togetherness.)

This year the Sunday that is also Hanukkah just happens to fall on Christmas, and the one after that on New Year's Day, so the party was held a week early.

We brought my mother, of course, who, because of her poor short term memory recognizes nearly no one, but is happy to be out in the swirl of family, with her own grandsons and lots of random (to her) toddlers and babies to boot.

Jacob actually yelled "Happy Hanukkah!" to everyone this year instead of "Merry Christmas!" which he used to be wont to do, as there is so much more of that in the world around him to catch his echolalic attention.

Ethan again asked to be the one to light our family menorah, and this year I finally said yes.

Saying prayers
Jake and my Mom watching
Ethan, lighting the candles
"Real" Hanukkah begins this Tuesday at sundown. But Sunday we got a little sneak preview; an all too rare family outing; a lot of hugs and kisses. A happy togetherness.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and good times with your families (or without them if they're on the torturesome side)!


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Morning Rites

The boys are sleepy this morning, waving me off like an annoying gnat when I come to rouse them, Jacob quietly at six and Ethan more noisily at seven. In this, too, they are separate and unequal, and it saddens me, one more drop in the bucket of disconnection that sits on my chest, heavy.

Jacob is still growling at everything that displeases him and there is much that displeases him about mornings. I want him to get undressed and he wants to pet the cat. I want him to get dressed and he wants to pet the cat. I want him to eat breakfast and he wants to pet the cat.

Jake is mad about his underwear again, having outgrown the brand he has worn since he was four and toilet trained. "I want puppies, I want basketballs, I want orange!" he yells, hitting his body in protest as I pull the boring solid grey underpants up over his sizable hips. And so I make a mental note of something to add to today's already overflowing "to do" list: find boys size XXL or mens size small briefs in bright colors with fun pictures on them.

I wish we had the luxury of time in the mornings, to take a long snuggle on the sofa and pet the cat to Jake's hearts content. But he is up too early already. I can't set the clock back any further and his bus is now coming ten minutes sooner for no reason other than DOE regulations suddenly being enforced.

So the mornings are a non-stop nudge fest from me, nearly every interaction an iteration of "Hurry, Jake" or "NOW, Jake!" All the fun and sweetness poured out of it.

I resist the urge to growl at the bus myself, as I see it pulling round the corner, lights already flashing. A quick kiss on his cheek, with the matron impatiently waiting to whisk him away, must sustain me for the rest of the day.

Entering the apartment again, divesting myself of the down coat thrown on over pajamas, I survey the kitchen carnage, prepare for round two. Another breakfast, another lunch, another tired boy to shake loose from his dreams.

"Hug me, Mama!" Ethan demands as I lean over him pulling the warm blanket away, hoping the shock of cold will do what my hand lightly tousling his hair and my voice sing songing "Wakey, wakey, school time, babe..." could not.

He's in a good mood, dancing around the apartment peeling off his PJs, putting on his clothes. Which means, of course, that they are strewn throughout.

Checking his homework once more as I place it in the folder, put together his backpack (intone for the thousandth time that this really is HIS job) I notice a question skipped, so a pencil is hastily procured, math dipped into briefly and then his nose is back in his book.

Ethan is at the very, very, very end of the last book of the Harry Potter series and he just can't get done soon enough. Mysteries are being revealed; all those secrets he'd attempted to wheedle out of me for the past two months, and I'd blithely answered "Read the books you'll find out at the end" are finally within his grasp.

Watching him read and eat, curled up in the armchair as I bustle about packing up his lunch, picking up Jake's pajamas, I am struck again by how much he looks like me at that same age.

I take a mind's snapshot of him ("Zen photos" we used to call those in my family) knowing that soon he will lengthen, the angles of his face sharpen and a man will emerge from this boy-child.

But not quite yet.

He dons sneakers and jacket right on time, with nary a nag. Book stowed in backpack for reading at school, basketball retrieved and tucked under his arm, we set off.

Walking together down our quiet morning street, he gleefully dribbles the ball a bit, showing off his latest moves; then stops, slips his hand into mine.

"You're the best mother, ever." I try not to beam too much. "Well, for me that is. You wouldn't be a good mother for him." he adds, pointing to a dog being walked in our direction.

"And you're the son for me" I tell him, "You're the son for me."


Just Write


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Step by Step

Saturdays, these days, my husband and I divide and conquer to bring the boys to their simultaneous basketball practices, and it was my turn for Jake.

Jacob truly loves basketball and the "Challenger" Special Needs division we finally found for him to play in last year, but was having a hard time sharing the ball after all those months of getting his own when we went to shoot baskets in the schoolyards.

Jake shoots wonderfully well, but the rules of the game, remembering to dribble, the need to pass, to pay attention to what other people on the court are doing... all these things continue to elude him. Autism, you know.

Jake kept chasing after the kids with the balls and yelling "STOP! That's mine!" Cringe.

I try not to interfere, to intervene too much when we're at basketball, try to give him his independence, to not be "that mom" kid-coaching from the sidelines. Yet the actual coaches seemed too busy to deal with this really-not-OK behavior and I couldn't let him terrorize the other kids, who were mostly younger and / or smaller than my giant son.

I kept popping out of my seat, running up to Jake to remind him that game is played with ONE ball and everybody shares it. Or yelling something to that effect when he was within earshot of my seat on the parent bench.

A couple of times he came over to me looking sad, and I kept sending him back into the game after a quick hug or a deep drink of water, reminding him to stay with the other kids wearing red vests and to keep his eyes on the ball.

Jake held it together during practice, drifting in and out of connection with the drills and game. But afterward as we were getting our coats on I saw the eyes blinking, the lip trembling, the sadness welling up; and on it came.

So I sat with my son, sobbing and wailing. I held my son, lost and losing it, his words coming out in a jumbled salad I could not make sense of.

And then in the middle of it all, he looked me in the eyes and asked the most amazing thing:

"What's happening to my brain, Mom?"

WHAT?

This level of self-awareness, recognizing that something in his brain is going haywire?

Monumental.

Unprecedented.

An incredible thing that I feared I would never see.

And then Jake was telling me that he was going to go home and cry at Cocoa the cat, and that then she would be mad at him, and he started to caterwaul anew.

I was trying to piece it together, realizing he might be thinking I was mad at him for having had a hard time in the game, and maybe even mad at him for crying, now.

I kept telling him to look in my eyes and see that I wasn't mad, that no one was mad at him, that I was proud of him for how hard he had tried playing basketball today, that it's fine to cry if he's sad, but that maybe his brain was stuck, and if he wanted to stop crying I would help him.

"Remember to breathe Jacob; slow breaths; in, out; one, two."

He gained his composure, only to lose it again. Again and again. We were going to be late for the movies.

And then one of the coaches came over and praised his shooting abilities, promised he would get more ball time next week.

And maybe my murmured words of love, of soothing, had washed over him enough that they were sinking in.

Or maybe his brain finally stopped misbehaving, let him move on

But suddenly it was OK again.

My boy smiled. Said: "I want to eat popcorn at the movies, Mom."

And so off we went.

And loved the movie as Jake loves all movies, although this movie, Hugo, was particularly lovable. (Paris in the 30's, a history of cinema, what's not to love?)

And when we stopped for a quick grocery shopping before coming home, Jake was remarkably present, helpful. He reminded me that we needed bananas, picked out a nice ripe-but-not-over-ripe bunch himself without any prompting at all.

Hungry for dinner, we hopped a cab home, and as we pulled up in front of our building he said: "Thank you driver, for taking us home!" to the cabbie, more polite by far than his twin ever is.

And so deep into the evening I pondered my son and his question.

A sign that more self-awareness will one day come.

That one day I may actually know my son Jacob's innermost thoughts, a cypher no longer.

Patience is now needed. For this can not be pulled from him, but rather, I must wait for it to blossom.

Wait for his next step, in this dance that he alone knows.

Let him be.

Enough as he is, and embracing what he will become.

Embracing what will come.


I am linking this post up to Be Enough Me Mondays at Just. Be. Enough.


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, December 10, 2011

SNSS takes a Holiday (meanwhile, I'm over at Hopeful Parents)

If you came here for a new Special Needs Sibling Saturdays guest post, I'm sorry to disappoint you.


First off, today is the 10th of the month, so I'm over at HP as usual with my post: Building Community One Tweet at a Time

Over there, I'm talking about...  you guessed it, the wonderful #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf Twitter conversation that's been going on.

But also?

I am here to announce that the Special Needs Sibling Saturdays series is going to be on hiatus for just a little while, as the holiday season ramps up into gear.

It's going to be getting very busy and I want to spend time with my family. Plus people are going to get swamped and miss their deadlines to get posts to me. I know that - can see it coming - and want to avoid all the stress that entails. So I'm giving it a break for a bit.

Special Needs Sibling Saturdays will be back in early January (probably about the second week) and continue as a weekly series until I make a full year of it - through the month of March, that is. After that I'll re-evaluate to see if there's enough steam left to continue as is.

The series will never go away completely, this is too important a topic to me for that. Also there is much to the hosting that I enjoy, but it is also an (unpaid) weekly obligation that sometimes gets to me, so I'm not going to continue it indefinitely.  At some point it will likely become a biweekly (fortnightly to my Anglo friends) or monthly feature, as seems fitting.

So while it's on break I will be contacting potential and confirmed guests and scheduling out the SNSS posts for the new year. If you think you've got one in you, and I haven't contacted you yet - or if I have made initial contact but haven't followed up (ADD brain strikes again, many apologies) - please let me know! You can leave a comment here, send me a tweet or an email.

Just don't send your note by carrier pigeon or owl (yes, that's a geeky Harry Potter reference), as Cocoa the cat thinks they're delicious.

Also, if you have previously committed to write a SNSS post but have somehow not been able to come through yet (no name calling or finger pointing here, you folks KNOW who you are) this is the perfect time to cough one up and send it to me! All will be forgiven. The hounds will be called off.

(Actually you are already forgiven, because you are a SN parent and how could I *not* understand how life gets, and bloggy obligations are just NOT at the top of the priority list. Believe me, I understand all too well. It's just that this was too good an opportunity to mess with y'all to pass up.)

So, all that said, please go visit me over at Hopeful Parents, today. And if think you might not have seen all of the many wonderful SNSS guest posts that have appeared here for the past 9 months?

Go to the SNSS page now, see what you missed, and catch up on your reading:

Click me to see all the SNSS posts


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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Because


Because he would rather skip than walk down the street... and he's so fast that I have to run to catch up...

Because he gives the best hugs, pulls my cheek down to his lips telling me "Big kiss, big kiss for Mommy" and then plants one on me with a loud smacking sound...

Because every day when I meet his bus, he turns around once we're on the sidewalk to wave and yell "Goodbye, Deba, see you tomorrow!" and his stone-faced bus driver flashes him the brightest smile you've ever seen...

Because he draws people with "all the parts" and his drawings breathe with life:

It took Jake 3 minutes to do this sketch of "Mommy" as he was in a hurry to play
Yes, that's Timmy & his fairies from TV's "Fairly Odd Parents"
This IS our cat's expression when Jake's around: anxious
Jake didn't get to finish the body, but I love Bruce Wayne's face here

I tell you: "If you've seen one kid with autism... you've seen ONE kid with autism."

Look at my Jacob with fresh eyes, anew every day, and every day he will astound you.

As he does me,

as

he

does

me.


I'm linking up to Shell's Pour Your Heart Out & Maxabella's I'm grateful for... because I am so grateful for my wonderful autistic son Jacob.


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crash

Driving in Italy, July 2000
It was our honeymoon. In Italy. (The last time I used my passport, a long time ago.) My husband is a native of New York City, not naturally at home in cars, so I had been doing the driving around Northern Italy: to Lake Como, through Bassano del Grappa and the Valdobbiadene wine region, up to and back from Cortina d’Ampezzo at the edge of the alps.

We were on the last, short leg of the driving part of our trip, about to surrender our rental car to spend our final honeymoon days walking and being ferried about Venice in the vaporetto waterbuses.

My husband had witnessed my driving for a week and declared himself ready to take the wheel, now that we were on the flat lands and relatively wide roads of the southern Veneto.

We were entering a traffic circle, or so my husband thought, and, as we had been specifically admonished at the car rental counter that in Italy traffic in a circle ALWAYS has the right of way over traffic entering, my husband was looking exclusively to the left, at the other traffic in the circle, and ahead to where we would be exiting.

He did not look to the right, no need in a traffic circle. But, ah, we were not in a simple traffic circle, but rather a traffic circle BISECTED by a highway, which, naturally, had the right of way.

So my husband was not looking to the right, did not see the tiny “yield” sign, nor the semi bearing down upon us at full speed from that direction. It missed us. But the small car behind it did not.

It happened just like in the movies, the slowing down of time and our reflexes; the ear-shattering crunch, the bone rattling grind, the grand clashing and crashing of it all. Fortunately for us, the impact point was well behind the front seats we were sitting in, the empty rear of our car sustaining all the damage.

We pulled over, shaken but unharmed. There is a long story here of all that happened next, too long to tell in this flash moment, but I will say this:

Everyone was uniformly kind to us, from the young woman driving the (totaled) car that hit us, to the car’s owner, her boyfriend’s father who stayed with us to help translate to the Carabinieri. Well, It didn’t hurt that I would waggle my finger back and forth between my husband and I and intone the one phrase I knew well in Italian “Luna di Miele”(honeymoon) as the Italians are quite a romantic people.

And also? In Italian, the term for car accident is “incidente d’auto” – “incident” in English, versus our “accident” conveying a vast difference in attitude. Accidents require responsible parties to be determined, blame to be laid, while incidents… just… happen.

In due course, the Carabinieri and tow truck from the rental company arrived. There was much standing around, and then retelling of the “incidente.” By the time we arrived at our hotel in Venice we were bone weary and famished, but happy to be alive.

In a vaporetto in Venice on the last day of our honeymoon, July 2000
Maybe the saddest part for me is that we lost a roll of pictures (yes, children, this was back in the old days of cameras running on film) as I had stashed our most recent shot roll in the glove compartment and forgotten to retrieve it in the aftermath, so a few days of our honeymoon disappeared from the photographic record forever.

A small price to pay for escaping from the crash with life and limb intact, nothing lost but a few hours of our time, our insurance deductible, our dignity, and... the notion of my husband ever driving in Europe again.


This post was inspired by a prompt at Write on Edge. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a post inspired by the word "Crash." It was supposed to be a 10 minute flash writing exercise, but I must confess I bent the rules a bit. I have never written any of this story down, and I just really needed to tell more than 10 minutes worth. Sorry.

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

Also linking this up to Love Links #34


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Memories Captured and Captioned

Galit, over at These Little Waves is running a linkup in conjunction with Alison at Mama Wants This, called “Memories Captured” and I found out about it when I went to visit my friend Deborah over at MaNNaHaTTaMaMMa. Ain't the internet grand?

So I thought I'd participate with this gem, a blast from the boys' past:

Photo: April 2004, Jacob & Ethan at 20 months. Not talking yet, so below is my interpretation of their expressions in this photo that PERFECTLY captures their personalities for the first two years or so of their lives.

Jacob: "Hey buddy, how-ah-ya? Nice ta meetcha!"
Ethan: "Who, may I ask, are YOU? Why have you presented yourself? And what can you do for me?"

Also? The hand in the photo, holding Jacob's hand at the far left is my mother's. She was very much in their lives when they were little, the kind of Grandma who, in spite of being in her 80s with creaky arthritic knees never hesitated for a moment before getting down on the floor to play with them or going for a walk to the playground, like this day.

I love looking at this photo as a reminder of that more innocent time before we knew about Jacob's autism, when we just thought the boys had speech delays.

In those early years, Jacob actually had the more outgoing personality. He was a giant flirt. Back in the day, we thought his lack of "stranger fear" - which Ethan had in spades - just meant Jake was uber-friendly. Little did we know it meant he wasn't processing that there might be anything to be afraid of, part of his autism constellation.

A short time after this photo, when Ethan had a language explosion and Jake didn't, their personalities switched and Ethan began to reach out much farther into the world than Jacob, who was getting more spacey and "dreamy" (as his rather stupid first speech therapist called him).

Ethan went on to make friends, many friends, while Jacob has really yet to make a one. So it's nice to look back on this time when Jake seemed to be so socially connected. When "connected" meant smiling and laughing and batting his long eyelashes at pretty girls. Because THAT? He is still good at, my beautiful boy.


So, come join in and link up your own photo with Alison or Galit.
 


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Saturday, December 3, 2011

SNSS: Amazing Sister to Grace


My guest today, Frelle of the blog Made More Beautiful is a very, very special person. She has just come through a very hard time, including a separation from her husband and impending divorce.  

But in spite of the difficulties on this path through her life, Frelle is always reaching out to help others. She is a part of many online communities. 

I first "met" Frelle through some lovely supportive comments she left on my posts. I followed her home to her blog and discovered that not only was she a good online friend, she was also a wonderful writer, honest and deep.


Frelle is the mother of four children, the oldest of whom is a daughter with challenges that fall on the autism spectrum. Today she shares the story of the strong relationship between her eldest daughter and her just younger sister, who is like an older sister now.

Read her beautiful words, here:

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Amazing Sister to Grace - by Frelle

My oldest daughter, Grace, is almost 12.  She was diagnosed with Aspergers about 3 years ago. She has three younger, neurotypical siblings.  Two sisters, Lily (9) and Felicity (6), and one brother, Jackson (4). I keep them anonymous on my blog as Oldest Sister, Middle Sister, Smallish Girl, and Little Fella.

The journey toward diagnosing Grace didn't start until she was about 5. I had no idea that Grace wasn't developing typically until Lily came along three years later and had excellent hand eye coordination and motor planning skills that her older sister had a lot of trouble with.

Because of the 3 year age difference, I decided to have Grace evaluated, and she scored a 36 month delay in both gross and fine motor skills, and was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, Sensory Modulation Dysfunction, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Dyspraxia.

At age 6, she possessed the emotional maturity of a preschooler, and would often get overstimulated in public and have meltdowns.  The laying-in-the-aisle screaming and crying variety. Her siblings never made scenes like she did, and more than once I heard the words "brat" "can't control her child" and "isn't she a little old to be throwing a toddler fit?" By age 8 she had mostly grown out of public meltdowns, but Lily began to be embarrassed at the loud wailing and yelling her sister would do in the car or in front of Lily's friends.

I told Grace about her diagnosis at age 9. She had been having an incredibly rough day, and had been hitting the door in the van and crying and screaming all the way home.  She went to her room to calm down, and when we spoke later, she asked why she was so different from other people. So I told her I thought she inherited her blue eyes from her grandma, her freckles from me, and the way her brain works from her dad. A variation of normal.

Lily is the sibling closest to Grace in age in our family. I told Lily about her sister's diagnosis when she was in second grade.  Grace was still having meltdowns often, but I never sent her to her room to get control of herself.  I knew she needed to be talked through the panic attack/meltdown.  On the other hand, when Lily was being loud and obnoxious and having a tantrum, I would send her to her room and expect her to pull herself together and come out when she could be nice to people.

She thought this was really unfair, and confronted me about it one day after Grace had caused a particularly disastrous meltdown scene during her birthday party. I explained in very general terms that Grace can't talk herself down out of a fit very well, and that she could easily pull her own self together. I explained that Grace's food and clothing and loud noise sensitivities were all tied together, and that her brain thinks a different way than hers and mine do.

Lily passed her sister in emotional maturity last year. I wasn't sure how Grace and Lily's relationship would change when Lily did this. I'm not sure either of them realize it happened, and there's no resentment from either of them toward the other.

Lily continues to relate to the world in a much more mature way than Grace.  She has taken on the role of the oldest probably because she sees that it needs to happen, as well as it just being because of her particular personality.

Lily, at 9, is a very typical tween. She's very into popular music and tv shows, she loves to go shopping and is very into fashion, she enjoys going out for coffee with me, and helps her siblings with shoes, clothes, bathtime, getting snacks or sippy cups, and is attuned to needing to jump in and help when both of my hands are busy or I haven't noticed an issue in another room.

In contrast, Grace has few tween characteristics, preferring to draw, read, play webkinz online or Barbies with her youngest sister, Felicity. Outside the house, Grace behaves much like a typical tween, and does well at blending in with other students.

She is protective of her diagnosis, but when she makes a new friend and learns she can trust them, or that they have a sibling with special needs, especially autism, she confides what makes her unique. She's never had it used against her, and she has a circle of close knit, very protective and mothering friends that she counts on to help keep her centered throughout her day.

She has a difficult time not losing control at home these days, partially due to the necessity to act older than she feels and blend in and deal with sensory issues very quietly all day long, and partially because her father and I have separated and are divorcing.

Felicity and Jackson, Grace's youngest siblings, have never questioned why she acts differently. They have never spoken up accusing her of getting special treatment, or complained very much about how she throws fits more than all of the rest of them combined.

Recently, Grace was being cyberbullied by a girl at her middle school. This girl had started trouble between Grace and her friends in elementary school as well. I overheard Grace telling Lily what was going on and reading her the emails that the bully had sent.

Lily listened patiently, told her she was sorry that the girl had said mean things to her and about her to her friends, and that it wasn't right. She gave her advice on how she would handle the situation. Then she said something I think a lot of older siblings tell younger siblings: "I can pick on you, but NO ONE ELSE can!"

I appreciate that Lily doesn't make fun of Grace in a cruel way or use her diagnosis or hypersensitivity features to put her down. She seems attuned to that without ever having been told to avoid it. Lily also has a general appreciation for those with special needs and invisible disabilities because of the openness in conversation about them in my house.

Grace and Lily have recently started confiding in one another due to the separation and divorce their father and I are going through. I can't tell you how it warms my heart to see them develop a closer emotional bond.

A few years ago I never would have believed they would make good friends, let alone feel any loyalty to one another. Being a special needs sibling can be challenging, but Lily has naturally and without instruction, become a wonderful "big sister" and I'm proud of the young woman she is becoming.

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I love everything about this post. And the supportive relationship between the sisters truly moves me to tears. 

Now that you have read Frelle here, please do follow her home to her blog Made More Beautiful and read her beautiful heartfelt words there, too.

You may want to start here, with this post about a big step Grace took one day, or this one, about Rigid Thinking, Expectations, and Public Meltdowns, or another post about Grace's Meltdowns and Real Life Coping Skills.

Do read this important post, Happy Half Birthday, You Have Aspergers about what it was like to talk to Grace about her diagnosis. 

And if you want to know more about Frelle herself and her difficulties, read this post where she talks about striving to feel like she is enough

Finally, go follow her on Twitter where she tweets as @frelle.

Thank you so much Frelle for sharing your lovely family with us here today.  


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Today I am Just Being Enough

I'm not here, today.

Or rather, I'm here just for a moment, for long enough to tell you to go over there.

Where?

Here:


With a guest post: Letting Myself Think BIG over at the wonderful site Just. Be. Enough. whose tag line is:


And if you're here for the first time, coming to visit from over there...

Welcome! Nice to meet you. Please make yourself at home, poke around, stay awhile.

Don't know where to start? Want a little Squashed Mom road map? Click the links below for a nice assortment of my posts; a Bologna smorgasbord, if you will...

I'm an older mom, with nine year-old twin boys and an 89-year old mother in my care. I recently lost my 92 year old father and 93 year-old mother-in-law. I'm the squashed meat in the middle of the sandwich.

I write about birth and death, about being a mom and being a daughter.

I write about Autism in general, and my autistic son Jacob in particular.

I write about how adding in my and Ethan's ADD makes us a very neurodiverse family.

Sometimes I try to make you laugh.

And sometimes I try to make you cry

Sometimes I tell stories from my childhood, and my family history.

And I once let Ethan take over my blog and tell his own story.

I also write every month for Hopeful Parents.

And sometimes I link up on Mondays with Be. Enough. Me.

Also? Ethan and Jacob do not get along well, so I started a guest post series to talk about sibling relationships in families with special needs kids, called Special Needs Sibling Saturdays.

I hope you like what you've seen, and that you'll come back to visit soon.

Finally, thanks so much to Elena and the gang over at Just. Be. Enough. for inviting me to their place today. It's an honor.


Hope to see you back here tomorrow for Special Needs Sibling Saturdays.


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