Twenty Minutes

It takes me twenty minutes to get ready in the morning.  I really, really, really need those twenty minutes of uninterrupted time to be pleasant.  Also, to function and to feel good about myself and my life.  Hubby and I share a bathroom and if there is the occasional overlap of his getting ready in the morning and mine, he knows enough to STAY OUTTA MY WAY.

Now, those twenty minutes are just the basics of shower–shampoo and conditioner, washing my ol’ bod–then deodorant, lotions and potions guaranteed to make my skin look younger and unwrinkled (I buy that bill of goods….I’m a face cream whore) , combing my hair (which is colored and cut once a month so I don’t HAVE to dry it), and putting on my clothes.  If I clip my toenails or shave my legs, add a couple of minutes.  If I need to put on make-up or dry my hair, add a couple more.  And if I need to be the Knock-Out-Good-Lookin’-Babe I am in my heart, it’s about 30 minutes. Tops.  Before I ever start the shower, I queue everything up, like a surgeon with his/her instruments, so I can “get ‘er done.”   I timed all this years ago….and the story of WHY I did is pretty funny.

My Kiddo had just started his high school program.  It was an excellent program, in fact we moved to this community for the strength of the high school special ed program and the gifted programs for the younger two Kiddos. His inclusion facilitator was a wonderful man. Through his high school program, he had a series of (mostly)wonderful one-on-one aids, para-professionals whom I always liked.  Except for one, the first one he had in his high school program; I couldn’t stand her because she treated me as if I had done something wrong or wasn’t paying enough attention to My Kiddo and His Needs.

Often, I had to prove myself to the para-professionals working with My Kiddo….I wasn’t a horrible, selfish or stupid woman, and even if I have a son who has autism, I wasn’t, umm, *intellectually challenged* like my son. Hubby has a doctorate and I have a graduate degree in Arts EDUCATION and I even worked for a time for the feeder elementary school district but since I have a son who has autism, my intelligence and our family is suspect until proven otherwise. Once they realized I was *good people* we got along and all was well.

It was a lovely October morning, Kiddo was in high school, the younger two were in junior high and I was working three days a week for the elementary school district. The days I was not working, I spent doing housework, perhaps taking a powerwalk around the subdivision or catching up on school related paperwork.  This particular morning, I was home.  I decided to wash the kitchen floor and clean the boys’ bathroom–yuck! Then I took a shower, later than I expected to, right after lunch.

When I got out of the shower, the phone was ringing madly and the answering machine was blinking like crazy.  I answered the phone and it was The Kiddo’s new aide and she was LIVID.  She yelled at me for not answering the phone the first time she called and DEMANDED to know where I had been.  I calmly told her I was in the shower. And then she shouted  at me, “HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TAKE A SHOWER?” I told her I didn’t know how long I had been in the shower (that’s what spurred me to time myself so I could honestly say how long 🙂 )

But the reason for her call was so, SO SILLY I have to repeat it here so you can have a laugh too.  And it certainly was no reason to get all hot and bothered for me not jumping when she called:

The Aide: Why did you send Kiddo to school when he is obviously ill?

Me: He’s ill? What’s wrong?

The Aide: He seems to be in some GI distress, why did you send him to school when he was sick?

Me: He wasn’t in any kind of distress this morning. In fact, he was cheerful and giggling while we waited for the bus. Is he vomiting? Does he have diarrhea?

The Aide: No, he is not vomiting and does not have diarrhea.

Me: Then I don’t understand…….

The Aide: He is gassy.

Me: Gassy?

The Aide: He is flatulent. He is loudly flatulent and it has an odor.

Me: What did he have for lunch?

The Aide: As you know, it states in his IEP he is to order his own lunch in the cafeteria and today he chose Cabbage Soup.

Me: What did he have yesterday?

The Aide: Tacos with Rice and Re-fried Beans.

Me: Well, he had Enchiladas with Rice and Beans for dinner last night.

By this time I was trying not to laugh because it was Surreal.

The Aide: Oh.  Well, then I guess that explains it.  Do you want to pick him up?

Me: No, why would I pick him up?

The Aide: Because he is flatulent.

Me: He isn’t ill, so there is no reason for me to have to pick him up.  Guess y’all will have to live with the repercussions of the Cabbage Soup, won’t you?

After I got off the phone, I called Hubby and replayed the whole conversation….we couldn’t stop laughing! Our Kiddo was farting–loudly and it was smelly–and they wanted me to pick him up.  You could say they contributed to the problem by encouraging him to chose what he wanted for lunch.  And of course, I made Enchiladas for dinner the night before.

I got to thinking about this whole weird situation with that aide’s phone call.  My Mom (the mother of six) always told me we mothers need to take care of ourselves so we are able to take care of our children. Why should I be made to feel guilty for taking a shower?  Why should anyone infer I wasn’t responsive to their phone call because I don’t care about my son? I am on call 24/7 so if, for 20 minutes a day, I am incommunicado, why should it matter to anyone? That’s when I began my shower timing and got into a rhythm so I can cram in lots in those 20 minutes. And it still works.

Since that time, I am clear about my needs for privacy and the ability to take care of myself for twenty minutes a day.  I have tried less and it doesn’t work, not only for my own hygiene, but for my mental health.  And if I am not comfortable, or mentally healthy, it is not good for My Kiddo. And it’s important enough for me to take time so I CAN be there for him!

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened with that aide; she didn’t last the semester and not just because of my Kiddo. She *rubbed* her supervisor the wrong way and was late once a week, every week she worked. Her replacement was one of my favorite’s of Kiddos para-professionals, and was with him for three years.  When her husband was transferred, she cried when she left and so did we!

So don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself and don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself.  You need to be strong for your own kiddos and you can’t be if you haven’t addressed your own needs…at least, occasionally.







Trying to Keep Up

Since I decided to begin this Blog, I have made five Blog entries (including this one) in the last fives days.  I won’t be able to keep this rate up……sorry……..because………drum roll please…………I have a life!

What am I talking about? Am I being snarky? Back in the day, during those first Dark Days of Autism and  my perception of what it would mean to me, Hubby and the Three Kiddos, I never imagined being able to do anything but be an Autism Mom.  I didn’t imagine I’d be able to return to my profession, have a regular trip to the hair salon, have lunch with the girls, go out to dinner with the whole family (much less on a vacation) or feel like an intelligent human being who could speak of  things other than autism treatments and why I liked them, or don’t like them.

I learned early on to pace myself, autism-wise, or I would fall part.  That’s part of the trick of autism parenting, no matter what you believe right now or what anyone else tells you; parenting a child with autism is like running a marathon and NOT like running a sprint. You can’t do everything you think might help; just do the things that make sense to you, you are able to do and you can afford.  There’s a sense of urgency we are all made to feel by relatives and school personnel and, if we’re to be honest, by other autism parents. We have to do what’s right for us, for our child and family and not what others tell us is right. When we begin to *grow-up* as an Autism Mom or Dad and not listen to peer pressure, that’s when things get easier and we no longer feels as panicky.

In order to be a good Mom to Sonnyboy # One (and #Two and #Three), I had to get away from autism and from all of them. I started out by asking my Hubby to watch the kids once a week so I could go to the grocery store by myself.  It was usually a Wednesday or Thursday evening after dinner.  For sixty to ninety minutes, once a week, I could gather my thoughts in quiet and think without interruption…bliss!  That helped my mental health and it got easier for me to do what I needed to do….therapy-wise and advocating for Sonnyboy #1  with the school district, dealing with #2 and #3 and their giftedness (whole ‘nother set of problems and not as fun as you would think), and just plan ol’ autism work!

As Sonnyboy #1 grew and got easier to work with (and live with) and his school district and I came to (finally!) a meeting of the minds, that meant I could go back to school.  And I did.

Next week, I’ll go back to my teaching and consulting.  I also work for my professional society’s website and write a weekly article for their HomePage and that begins next week too.  I had lunch with friends a few weeks ago. We just came back from a lovely vacation in the Northwoods at our usual cabin and had dinner out more times than I remember. My haircut and roots touch up is scheduled for Friday. All those things I thought I’d never be able to do, I am doing, and maybe taking a little for granted. This *normal-ish life* took years to achieve and we are grateful for it.

I hope to post here about one a week, or once every other week when things get hectic and will be thinking of you when I am not around. In the meantime; just keep doing what you’re doing, do what’s right for your kids and love them as much as you are able, even when they are not so lovable. You’ll be able to have a *normal-ish life* too, sooner than you may think!



Ummmm, YUCK!

Those of you with a squeamish stomach should probably move on.  This will not be for the sensitive!

I have been pregnant fours times, carrying three pregnancies to term. Each time, I knew I was pregnant within days of conception for a very simple reason…I started to vomit!  Each morning, I lost my cookies but was fine come 11 am. Odors set me off or looking at pictures of something.  It could be food, it could be laundry detergent, or it could be a hot day with mowed grass especially fragrant.  I kept a plate of saltines and a bottle of ginger ale at my bedside and would nibble a cracker or take a sip before I got out of bed and that seemed to help.  But by 11 am, I was back to normal and could go about my business. Tough to do when you have toddlers and a teaching schedule!

When expecting Son #2, Son #1 was about two and we were beginning rounds of testing  to get a diagnosis.  But a funny thing happened around that time, something so odd and so shameful, I told no one about it;  Son One began to smear feces.

I woke up one morning and  couldn’t get out of bed before I started to heave from a horrid smell.  I ran to the bathroom, went about my business and then peeked in to Baby One’s room.  I started to gag….my Lord!  Baby One was covered in poop and so was his crib and the wall next to the crib.  I went into my room, found a red bandanna, tied it around my face and then started the clean up process.  I ran a bathtub of bubbles before I got the Baby, grabbed him, stuck him in the tub, scrubbed him from head-to-toe—did I mention he was frightened by my Old-West- Train-Robber look?–so he was screaming.  I dressed him, and brought him into the TV room, turned on Sesame Street and got the cleaning supplies.  By now, I was dry heaving under the bandanna.  I stripped his bed and threw the soiled linens in the bathtub while I cleaned the crib and wall.  I took the bed linens to the washer and started a load and then began to sob.  I made him breakfast and got him from the TV room. I thought this was just a one-fer, I didn’t know this behavior would continue.

A few weeks later,  I put Baby One down for an afternoon nap and, since it was after 11 am, was able to do some housework with cleaning supplies that would make me nauseated in the mornings .  I began dinner and then washed the kitchen floor.  I wanted to finish the floor before I got him up, so eventho I could hear him rustling around, I finished. Big mistake.  He was sitting in the middle of his crib, happy as a pig in…..well, you know! My husband didn’t quite believe me at first, because it seemed so bizarre.  One night, we heard Baby One giggling (yes, you read right, GIGGLING) and when we went in to check, guess what we found him doing?

It was right around this time I stopped calling family regularly.  I was so ashamed and really, whom could I talk to about this?  Would my Great-Aunt Pat  or Cousin Charlotte or my Mom or Mother-in-law know why and what to do? They already questioned me as a mother and this would cause them to think less of me.  I told no one and my husband and I did everything we could think of to stop it.

Now the feces smearing didn’t happen all the time, so we never quite knew what would trigger his desire to do it.  I checked on him often when he was napping.  We tried to get him on a BM schedule, something we were trying to do anyway to have him toilet trained (hahaha, the was a joke on us….he wasn’t completely toilet trained until he was six) before the new baby arrived.

Throughout his childhood, he had bouts of smearing, most intense right about the time he was finally toilet trained.  After that, it was occasionally, usually if he was too lazy to get up to go to the bathroom.  We used a behavior technique called *over-correction*, which meant in this instance we made HIM strip his bed and put his linens in the washer, after we gave him a COLD (he loves hot/warm showers so a cold one would get the crap off but not give him pleasure) shower. He was about 12 when we resorted to that and I am happy to say, that really put an end to this behavior.

Knowing what I know now, it is common for many, many children on the Spectrum to be feces smear-ers.  Doesn’t even matter their functioning level, they just smear.  The whys don’t even matter…for every Kid, there is probably is a different reason. It’s not unusual AT ALL and in later Blog posts, I’ll discuss some ways of handling it so it GOES AWAY!