A little landscaping can go a long way

My front flower bed looks like this. Lots of weeds. Some wild daisies. A clematis with a fear of heights. And lost of cat poop.

Let’s face it, I suck at gardening. My attempt at landscaping was a little plastic fence, shoveling out the cat poop, and digging up the dandelions when they showed up. Not a pretty sight.

Enter my wonderful husband.

He came home for R&R from work and decided to sort it out. He worked all day in the sun, happily I might add. (I die in the sun, but he loves it. ) He dug up all the weeds. Removed all the cat poop. Found a trellis for my poor clematis and tamed the crazy daisies. We had a bunch of stepping stones buried all over the back yard from the previous owner’s garden design. He dug them up and hauled them to the front of the house. He arranged them and then went and got some of those lava rocks and the white sparkly rocks.  After some artful scattering and a bit of rearrangement of some driftwood that was laying around.

POOF!

 I have a very pretty front flower bed.

I don’t know what I’d do without my wonderful husband.

Donkey Basketball

Donkey Basketball. Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is a game involving players riding donkeys up and down a basketball court trying to get the ball in the hoop while staying on the donkey. There is no dribbling but there is passing to other teammates. If the ball goes awry then the player must get off their donkey and chase down the ball and throw it to another player then get back on their donkey.  The donkey’s wear little rubber shoes to protect them and the floor of the gym. It isn’t a fast paced game, but it is fun.The Shelby FFA kids were having a fundraiser by way of playing Donkey Basketball. They asked the Conrad FFA group to bring a team to help out. My daughter volunteered without a second thought. Her and a couple of other kids rounded up enough members for the team. They donned fake mustaches and little sombreros and called themselves the Caballos diablos. Incidentally the team was all girls with one guy. Most of them had never been on a donkey, but they had ridden horses. It was an eyeopening experience.

When they arrived they found out they would be playing against the three time running champions- the firefighters. They were very intimidated but unbelievably enough the kids won! The Shelby FFA kids were playing against the Shelby Faculty. That match was a comedy of errors because it seemed the kids weren’t quite ready for their teachers to be so game. The final match was the Shelby FFA against the Conrad FFA. Nothing like friendly competition! Was more like a free for all and the donkeys were winning.

 There have been a lot of articles about the cruelty of donkey basketball. They say it violates the donkey’s rights and subjects them to frightening circumstances. I can’t say if that is true in other places but here in Montana, it wasn’t true at all. As a matter of fact, we live with an abundance of animals here in Montana and everyone is brought up to treat them right. 

The donkeys were subjected to lots of petting during half-time, but beyond that they were treated great.

From the looks of the games, it was the donkeys that were in charge of things. Most of the time they were meandering where ever they felt like regardless of what the riders wanted and in wonderful Montana fashion, the riders just laughed and let them go where they would.  My poor daughter had picked a very sleepy donkey that spent most of its time visiting with the audience and getting its ears scratched. She even ended up in the corner at one point because the donkey decided that he was done. 

All in all it was a wonderful night and my daughter said that she was glad she did it and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The FFA raised a lot of money for the food drive and everyone went home smiling, even the donkeys.

Optimism and Autism

My son has Autism. He is eleven years old. I have learned that optimism is a trap.

Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. I think we were optimistic in the beginning. We thought that all we had to do was work hard and the world would be ours. The Universe apparently thought that was  a challenge. We’ve been through a lot of difficulties and trials. Life hasn’t always been easy, but sometimes we do alright and sometimes we don’t. Autism has taken us to a whole new level.

I was optimistic that we could handle this new complicated life together, but instead we’ve had to give a lot up including being in the same geographic location. He works away from home because that is the only way we can make enough money for me to be a stay at home mom and still afford all the bills, medical or otherwise. I tried working, but it wasn’t worth it. Child care for a special needs kiddo is hard to come by and I had to keep leaving work to take care of problems that arose with my son.

It hasn’t been easy for my daughter either. She’s had to give up a lot and she’s had to adjust to getting less attention because of her brother. Being optimistic that I could pay attention to both of my kiddos at the same time was unrealistic. I’ve learned that kind of optimism leaded to hurt feelings and overwhelming parental failure. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to find time to devote to my daughter completely even if it means that she  has to skip some school to get it.

Like Sisyphus and the boulder, we start every day at the bottom of the hill.

Day after day, we get up and try.  There are a lot of things to learn when you have a child with Autism; behavioral, medical, dietary, psychological, methods, routines, etc. They all play a crucial role in a stable life. The things that worked yesterday don’t necessarily work today. Sometimes they have the opposite effect. Teachers ask me how to handle my son and I have to say, “Well, that depends on the day.”

Friends don’t really understand why we don’t do things like they do. Most of them feel that I’m being too overprotective and honestly I’m too tired to try and explain it to them. They are always optimistic that my son will be fine. That there will be no problems. Birthday parties, concerts, fairs, we’ve been to them all. We’ve dealt with the migraines and the over stimulation meltdowns and the violence that comes from them.  I’ve pushed that boulder up that hill enough times that I know our limitations. If they want to think badly of me then so be it. 

The teachers at school ask me what my long term goals are for my son. I usually laugh and say, “To get through today.” You have to have optimism in order to have goals, and I don’t.

Optimism has never been one of my strong suits. I’m not one of those people born under a lucky star where everything went right and the world was a bright and sunny place. Things don’t just work out for me. I get by on my brains and my abundance of personality. Things happen. I  deal with them. I’m a realist.

Realist: a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.

Optimism can give you a false sense of reality and make you really unhappy because you are always struggling to meet unrealistic expectations.

I know that we are making progress, but to try and  reach a certain milestone in a certain amount of time is more stress than I can handle right now. Don’t get me wrong, I want my son to learn and blossom into a happy healthy adult, but it will have to happen in its own time. I’m just being realistic. I know that my son makes leaps forward only to backslide. That doesn’t make me try any less. I just takes away the expectations and that takes away the disappointments and the feelings of failure.  No one needs those kind of feelings in their life.

People laugh at me when they ask me, “How are you?” and I answer, “Still alive.” I see it as an affirmation that I’m still here. I’m still trying. I am living for the now taking each day as best as I can. I’ve lowered my expectations to the level of “Everyone is still breathing, so we’re doing great.”

So for those of you out there struggling to be optimistic about your children’s autism, it’s going to be all right. You don’t have to be sunny, or cheerful, or optimistic. You just have to accept your life has changed. It’s okay. All you have to do is love your kiddos. That’s the reality .Go with the Zen approach. All there is is the now. They are who they are and that’s okay. They don’t have to be anything else and neither do you.

Family Circus Outing

Took a trip to the circus with the family this past weekend. Yes, I know there is big stink going on about the treatment of animals at circuses etc, but this circus wasn’t like that. My son had been asking about going to the circus for a while now and I happened to hear on the radio that the Shriner’s were going to be bringing a circus to Great Falls. SO off we went. 

It was a wonderful circus. It was clean and all sparkly. Nothing was chipped and worn. All the workers wore matching uniforms and were all very friendly and nice. As for acts… they had it all. Dancing girls who went on to do a variety of acrobatics. Jugglers. Motorcycle riders zipping around inside of a big iron ball. Gravity defying acrobats that ran up and down poles like they were lying flat. They also had a group of acrobats that did all their amazing tricks balanced on the shoulders of one man, including riding a bicycle in a circle inside of a wheel. My hat’s off to that lady she made it look so easy!

They had six Bengal tigers, three white and three brown. They were rather playful tigers. One kept batting at the trainer’s stick like a kitten. And before you complain about abuse, let me say that these tigers were very healthy. Their coats were shiny and they were alert and active. The trainer was even giving one a hug and scratching its chest and the tiger was snuggling into him loving it. 

They had an archer that was quite amazing and left me rather unsettled as he shot arrows at his assistant’s head.  They also had kids rides on ponies, a camel, and an elephant. Once again the animals were happy. The elephant trainer never once touched his elephant with the stick and the elephant just wandered where it was supposed to. All he had to do was speak to them and they did what he asked. The camel was a bit cheeky. He was being rather stubborn and didn’t want to move without a treat first. His trainer called him a brat and  he just opened his mouth for his treat. Which he got lol.

Then of course the show ended with a bang, literally! A human cannon ball. My son was scared at first by the noise but now all he can talk about is how he wants to be shot out of a cannon.

All in all it was a great day. Whole family got to spend the day together and my son didn’t have a massive meltdown when it was done, but just a little one. I call that a win.

Prom 2017

Prom is upon us and once again the quest for a dress raises the stress levels of every girl around. Honestly I find the whole affair somewhat ridiculous. You have to find a dress, you can’t wear the one from last year, they are stupidly expensive and WTF guys get to rent theirs!

So we go shopping. My daughter is modest. She doesn’t like lots of skin showing so she wanted a long sleeved dress. HAHA! Everything we found was strapless or spaghetti strap. She tried some on then complained that she was naked! Then we found a two piece dress that had a long sleeved top but the skirt? It was poofy and barely came to mid-thigh! Who thought of that?

I told my daughter that if she loved the top then we could work around the skirt.

We went to JoAnn Fabrics and found a beautiful material that would match her top. We found a pattern and all the bits and bobs we needed to make it with.

Once home I sewed her the skirt that she wanted.

Long straight and with a split on the side.

She was very happy.

Not a traditional prom dress but she felt like a princess anyway.

Then came the hair problem. She went to the stylist to get it done up all pretty with a loose braid and all, but it didn’t last once she got home. It had to be redone. She she did it up the best she could and I fixed the rest. I’m no hairdresser but I think it turned out alright between the two of us.

Then the real fun began. She was going with group of friends and they all came to our house to take pictures together.

They have something here that is called the Grand March. I had never seen this until we moved here, but it’s kinda cool.  All the kids who are attending prom and their families, or really anyone who wants to, come to the high school auditorium. They announce each couple or group of friends and they parade across the stage showing off their dresses and tuxes. They often do some pretty goofy poses, like my daughter did. Then they crown the King and Queen and they have the royals’ dance. Then the kids go to prom and the parents go home. It’s kinda cool because everyone gets to see all the kids in their finery. 

So we got past another year. We spent less and laughed more. Prom was a success.

Have I Done This Before?

I was sitting in the line for the car wash the other day and I looked down to see my odometer and temperature looking like this….

Both were a repeating string of numbers. And at the same time I realized this explained my life pretty well. My car showed it all: repetition and zero miles an hour. Doing the same thing but not getting anywhere.

Life with an autistic child is often very repetitive and can often feel like you are spinning your wheels a lot and not getting anywhere.

Routines take over. Most days are exactly the same as the previous days and will be the same as the next one. We do the same things at the same time every day. Only the very small details change. Trying something new or going somewhere new can cause all sorts of issues. But at least we get through the day.

My kiddo is very stuck on the same clothes, so he wears the same four or five shirts and the same kind of jeans. Life gets complicated when he outgrows his clothes which is often these days. But at least he is wearing clothes.

My kiddo also has a very repetitive conversation track. We have the same conversation about eighty times a day, every day. Doesn’t mean he can’t talk about other things, he just doesn’t. I think it is easier for him to say the same thing rather than try to have a different conversation and have to struggle for the words. Kind of like reverting to default. So we talk about Moonlight’s (the cat) gray paws, over and over and over. But at least he is talking.

My daughter complains that we have the same meals all the time. It’s true. I’m not near as adventurous in the kitchen as I used to be. It’s too hard. I know you are laughing at me for that, but when every meal becomes a fight and disaster keeps striking while you are trying to cook, it gets old fast. I just want a quiet meal with no fighting. Pick your battles is my philosophy. So we eat a lot of the same things over and over. But at least we’re eating.

We have to go to the same car wash after every time we go shopping. We’ve tried to go without but it always caused a serious meltdown and we have an hour drive to get home. That’s a long drive when you have a Tasmanian Devil trying to destroy the back seat lol. Sometimes we’ve sat in line for half an hour to get through that particular car wash.  But it avoids a meltdown.

So, yeah my car says it all: repetition and zero miles an hour. But it also says that I come more than 83,000 miles and I’m headed west. I may not be moving at the moment, but my engine is running and I’m pointed in a direction. Just because I’m not getting anywhere now doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished a lot and I still have the power to keep going.

All in all it seems pretty optimistic to me.

 

Bathrooms and Autism

The bathroom is such a controversial thing these days. 

So many people are worried about who gets to go where. Honestly, I don’t care. This isn’t about that issue. Well, not directly. This is about fear. A mother’s fear. Or could be a father’s fear.

There are so many challenges that come with having an autistic child. Meltdowns, communication, potty training, the list goes on forever.  Working through them is just part of normal life when you have a special needs child. I’ve learned to take most of them in stride, but there is one that still terrifies me.

Public bathrooms.

My son is 11 now. If he was a normal kid he would be going to the bathroom by himself in the men’s room. However, he is not normal. I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s just a fact. He still has communication problems and often motor skill difficulties. He gets distracted easily and forgets what he is doing. I often have to remind him that he is in the bathroom to go pee not to play.

When we are out an about we have to use public toilets. If we are in a really busy place with lots of people, I often don’t feel safe letting him go into the men’s room alone. I will often take him into the ladies room because I can keep an eye on him and know he is safe. Believe me, I get lots of dirty looks from the women in the bathroom. I really don’t care. Safety first. My child is billions of times more important than your opinion of me.  There is no telling who is in the bathroom or what they would do to him and it’s not like he could tell me if something does happen. And I know it isn’t just me. I know that dad’s with their daughters who have special needs suffer the same anxieties about the women’s room.

Another reason I keep him with me is the fact that he wanders. If it is just him and me and we both have to go, I can’t be sure he won’t be out before me and just wander off. Who knows what would happen to him?

Now comes the real problem. He is getting more independent. He knows he is a boy and he wants to go to the men’s bathroom. We stopped at a truck stop the other day because we really needed the bathroom. He wanted to go into the men’s room. My heart was racing and I ran into the women’s and peed as fast as I could so I would be done before him and be waiting for him when he was through. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be fast enough or that there would be someone in the bathroom that could hurt him.

It’s terrifying! Like we, as parents, need more to be afraid of or worried about. Going out an about in public is hard enough with meltdowns and over-stimulation issues. Now this. How old can he be before it gets too controversial and we end up in some kind of confrontation with an offended self-righteous bathroom guardian?

This is another one of those moment when life just seems too complicated and unfair. I guess the best I can do is try to pick and choose where we go because some bathrooms are better situated  for things like this. It’s just a single bathroom or it’s a family bathroom, but it’s not always that easy. One more struggle that must be dealt with and overcome, somehow.

Pull Apart Bread Baking Fail

Pull Apart Bread or as some call it Monkey Bread or as we call it in my family Coffee Cake.

It is basically flavored bread that comes apart in chunks. There are a million versions of pull apart bread. Some are savory and some are sweet. In my family it is always sweet. As a child I never understood why we called it Coffee Cake because there was no coffee in it, but now I understand that it is because you have it with your coffee.

The recipe is simple.

Frozen bread dough, thawed.

Melted butter

Cinnamon and Sugar

Cut dough into small pieces. Dip in melted butter. Roll in cinnamon and sugar. Layer pieces in pan, let rise. Cook at 325 degrees.

Seems like an easy thing to make, and it is. Unless you’re me.

I thought it would be nice to make it and have it ready for breakfast in the morning, but I didn’t take into account that I was tired and my day had gone badly already. (By the way this combination always curses any attempt at baking.) I had already thawed out the bread dough and was committed to making it regardless of the imminent doom I knew was coming.

I started it after dinner. I cut the dough into chunks and melted the butter. Normally we use a fluted pan but I have had success with just using small 8 x 8 pans. So I used the small pans. I was zipping through the pile of dough filling the pans easily. No problems so far. I had divided the dough between two pans. Once they were full, I set them aside and covered them so they could rise.

In the meantime, I started my son on his nighttime routine. While he was in the bath I checked the pans and they looked ready for baking. I slid them in the oven and went back to check on my son. I had it all timed so that the bread would be done before he was ready for bed. Or so I thought.

For some reason the bread dough went through a growth spurt while in the oven, but only the outside edges. The middle stayed where it was but the outside overflowed and started dropping like doughy rain onto the bottom of the oven. Smoke started to fill the house as the sugar coating caught fire.

I turned on the extractor fan above the stove and opened the oven. Using a silicon ended tongs I removed the charred chunks of bread. They were like black rocks. I could have used them as sling shot ammo. I checked the bread and the outside was done. Nice hollow sound when I tapped on it. I thought they were done. Hahahaha, no.

The inside was completely doughy. This had never happened before. I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t very well tear it apart and cook the inside as the outside. I took a cookie sheet and flipped the pans upside down on the trays. I figured it they were going to cook weird then I might as well go all out. Another 20 minutes and another round of smoke from the bits of butter and sugar that had already fallen filled the house. I opened the window too this time although that is not the greatest idea during winter in Montana. However, the bread was finally not raw on the inside.

It wasn’t pretty but it was edible. It actually tasted amazing. So even though I totally failed, I succeeded because it’s not the looks its the taste that’s important.

You unfriended me because of one meme?

Normally I don’t like to air grievances on my blog but I feel that I need to address this issue. Facebook once was a way to connect with family and friends, to keep up with those you couldn’t see everyday. I thought this was pretty cool considering I live hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles away from my friends and family. I’ve been on it for ages.

I share a lot of stupid stuff like cat videos and jokes. I also share a lot of  environmental pic and videos. I don’t post a lot of status updates on my actual life unless its something important that I’m proud of my kids for or something of that kind. I share things that make me laugh and rarely things that make me cry. When I share things that make me laugh they are usually sarcastic or ironic. I can’t help that I have a weird sense of humor.

Before I share, I always think about the repercussions of the more controversial  posts and many of them I choose not to share.  Also I also see a lot of horrendous posts that I don’t even want to look at, but I don’t attack the people posting them. There is no way to win a trolling fight on the internet. I don’t engage, I just move on.

Recently I  lost a couple of friends. People that I have known all my life suddenly weren’t my friends on Facebook anymore. I tried to re-friend they but they haven’t responded.  That’s when it occurred to me that it might have been because of one stupid meme that I posted.

You unfriended me because of one meme?

Yes, I actually thought that. I was completely shocked. I had grown up with these people in a tiny little town. They know that I’m weird. I’ve always been a bit off kilter compared to everyone else. I’ve always had a sick sense of humor. So why now? What changed that made me so terrible in their eyes that our friendship is suddenly broken?

I posted a meme on Facebook. I didn’t write it, but I thought it was funny in a very satirical way. What can I say? I have a very twisted sense of humor. It was a picture of the Women’s March the words said something to the effect of Trump got more women walking in one day than Michelle Obama did in eight years.  I found this funny in a horrible way. It had nothing to do with Trump or Obama. It had nothing to do with my opinion on the Women’s March.  I posted it because of the sarcasm and the satirical commentary on our society as a whole. Eight years of positive campaigning for women achieved lack luster results, but hatred of a single man brought marchers out en masse.  I shared it to make a point. Our society is based on hatred now not tolerance or positive motivations.

I received mixed reactions about the post. Some people found it as funny as I did. Others told me it was a distasteful post. And suddenly I was unfriended. I was really hurt. I am not normally a person that seeks out confrontation. I don’t like it. I thought about taking the post down. I stewed for days about it. I thought I was a terrible person. I went back and looked at the rest of my post trying to understand if I was going off the deep end of Facebook with tasteless nasty posts. I searched and I searched my timeline and really surprised myself about how positive my shares really were.  I never thought of myself as a positive person but I guess I am on Facebook.

So where does that put me? Am I tasteless and horrible just for one post or was it a quark compared to all my other positive posts?

Seems like a case of my life mimicking the meme I posted. Got more people hating me in one post that I have in nine years! Is this the way we want to live our lives? Where only hatred and effrontery can motivate people to action? I hope not. The very thought makes me ill.

This brings me to the friends that cut ties. If they are so easily offended do I need to keep them in my life or move on the people who are more tolerant and understanding?

Some will say that I need to work at them and wear them down. Teach them that tolerance and understanding comes from communication not from severing ties. Show them that there are many ways of dealing with situations and many ways of changing the world. Satire is one of them by very definition:

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/
noun
 the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Others will say that I should shed the negative influences in my life and only focus on the positive. There were a lot of others that didn’t unfriend me and actually approved of my post. I guess they understood it.
Well, I feel like moving on. Cowering before disapproval won’t change anything. Especially after it was only one single post. I am more evolved than that. I see the world in all its vagaries. Some are good some are bad, but to submit to control of my life based on what others think is the first step in destroying all that freedom and diversity should be. So think what you like. We don’t have the Thought Police yet.