How to be Overwhelmed.

I haven’t been on here in a while because I’m the victim of an overwhelming life.

I’ve gone back to school to get my Bachelor’s of English. It’s online school and it’s consuming all my time, that is all my time that isn’t taken up with two part-time jobs, the usual housework, and then there’s autism….

My son is 13 now. He’s been getting steadily more aggressive the older he gets, not out of malice, but because of the normal teenager stuff. Mood swings, rages, defiance, it’s all there. Unfortunately it gets dangerous. I am at my wits end trying to figure out what to do. My husband is home now, but he’s only here when he’s off work. Lately the situation with our son has started interfering with his job and mine.

So until life is somehow brought under control….I don’t know when I’ll be able to post.

Keep praying..hoping…anything… We need all the help we can get.

Going Old School

I don’t mean doing it the old way. I mean I’m old and going to school.

I took a break from college a million years ago, and by that I mean 23 years ago. I could tell you a lot of excuses about why I didn’t go on to get my Bachelor’s degree, but the honest truth was that I was scared. I have never been good at moving and grooving in crowds of people far from home. At the time I was barely at the point where I could find my way through a party that involved people I knew much less strangers. I lived at home during my college years because of cost. I only lived 30 miles from the college and it made more financial sense to just commute.  At the time I thought it was the perfect answer, but now that I’m older I think I made a mistake.

Most kids leave home and live in the dorm. It’s sink or swim. Learn to adapt or learn to adapt. I had the luxury of  playing it safe and staying home. It allowed me to stay comfortable while navigating the gateway that college represents to the scary adult world. When it came time to move on to a larger college for my Bachelor’s, I panicked. I thought about living with all those strangers and trying to handle living in a huge city after growing up in a small town and I couldn’t face it. So I made excuses…

Too expensive, tired of school, needed a break, wasn’t sure about my choices blah blah blah.

For years I have paid for my fear and never admitted it. Well, here I am admitting it. I have had nothing but ground pounder kind of jobs. Motels, restaurants, retail, phone work- I’ve done it all, but where did I get to?

No where.

So here I am, 42 years old. Lots of bills and no retirement. Nothing but fear ahead of me and the consequences of fear behind me. The only thing to do is change it. The only way I can see to change it is to go back to school. I’m going to get my Bachelor’s degree. Maybe it’ll help me as a writer, maybe I’ll go into teaching. Hard to say exactly. The world is a funny place. Whatever it is, step one is going back to school.  Online school.

I have no idea what I’m doing with online schooling. I’m not the best when it comes to computers. I love pencils and paper and classrooms, but I live in the middle of rural Montana. It’s a little hard to get to school with travel time and still needed to pick up my kiddo from school, so online is my best option. I guess I’ll be leaning more than just the subject matter.

My family is supporting my crazy idea. My daughter told me she is proud of me for actually doing it. She says I’ve been talking about it for as long as she can remember.

I’m just scared.

Again.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to concentrate on the classes during the summer when my son is home all day. I’ll probably have to do some pretty late nights. Later than usually, so that means maybe until 3 am sometimes. I’m scared that I won’t be able to pay for it after I actually have my degree. Student loan debt is no joke. We are already drowning in it from my husband going to school. What if I can’t work because of my son? Autism waits for no one. What if I’ve gotten dumb over the years and can’t pass the classes? What if I’m wasting my time and money because my life is half over and there isn’t time to accomplish anything?

I know some of these are ridiculous fears, but they are in my head. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am right back where I was when I stopped school all those years ago. I just hope that life experience will give me the courage this time to move forward in spite of the fears.

Wish me luck!

Scare Tactics

For thousands of years parents and teachers have been trying to get kids to learn, behave, and understand. There have been many schools of thought on the “correct” method of accomplishing that. They have ranged from using logical explanations to beatings and threats to using drugs and counselling. However one of the longest enduring methods is scare tactics.

I’m not just talking about saying, “If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” I’m talking about horror stories. I’m talking about traumatizing our children to keep them safe. I’m not saying that this is the best way to accomplish the goal, but it is effective.

Every country in the world has cautionary tales. Some are folk tales. Some are fairy tales. They used stories to #1 get their kids’ attention and #2 get their point across in a way that stuck in their heads.

Not long ago our High School here in Conrad MT staged one such event. It was called the Ghost Out. Click here for the blog and pictures.  This event showed the results up close and personal results of drunk driving. Telling them not to drink and drive did nothing, but seeing their friends lying dead in pools of blood made an impression. There hasn’t been a decrease in the partying, but there has been an increase in calls for rides and checking in to let their friends know they are okay and have made it home. I know that some of the kids wanted nothing to do with anything involving blood, no movies no video games, for quite some time after the Ghost Out.

So now I find myself thinking perhaps it’s time to scare some more kids to save some lives.

I know that most of you will gasp and rant at what I’m about to suggest, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe it is time to scare kids about guns, about school shootings.

Desensitization to violence in all forms has made it hard for kids to understand the results of a moment of action. Whether it be horror movies, video games, social media, or even the news, kids in this day and ages have seen it all before. But until they have lived it, violence doesn’t make an impression.  How many kids who were running for cover and trying to survive a school shooting have a new perspective on how precious life is? How many are rethinking how they treat their fellow students? How many are asking if they could have changed things just by acting a little different?

This idea came about after I saw a news clip about the emergency teams that were going through training on how to use battlefield medicine in case of a school shooting. The EMTs were talking about how much this training was driving home the reality of how devastating a school shooting is.  So this got me thinking, maybe it would have the same effect on students. Maybe students wouldn’t be so keen to bring a gun in and shoot their fellow students if they had some up close experience with seeing their friends bleeding on the gym floor.

I know that this idea seems severe and maybe a little over-reactive, but so far what else had worked? People preach and rant about gun control. People blame the government. People blame the police, the administration, the parents, social media, video games, medications… There is no end to the “blame game” of reasons this type or tragedy should never happen. Unfortunately that hasn’t been working. It is time for scare tactics.

How much would it change a kid’s perspective of school shootings if they got to experience it without the actual tragedy? What if they were in class and heard the gun shots? What if they were to go through the drills for a school shooting? What if they were then taken to the gym or the cafeteria to see a scene of massacre where some of their friends were lying dead or dying? What if they saw how hard the EMTs were working to save those injured? What if they then had the opportunity to talk about it and share their fears? What if they were given a crash course in how to save a life?

How many of those kids would go home and rethink their perceptions of the world? How many would reach out to others who they knew were hurting? How many would reconnect with what’s important and do their best to keep each other safe?

I know that this idea is not a perfect solution. I know that in some kid’s cases it might make things worse and give them ideas. There is always a danger of things like that. I know that a lot of parents wouldn’t want their children to go through something like that even if it is fake. However, I keep thinking how effective the Ghost Out was and I just think that maybe scare tactics might just save their lives.

What do you think? Scare them to save them?

Sorry I’ve been MIA

I apologize that I have not been posting much. Life has gotten completely away from me. Normally I look forward to school starting and life getting back to normal, but this year it hasn’t yet.

The school here has gone to personalized learning and they were not properly prepared so all is in chaos. Children, parents, teachers and staff are all stressed and unhappy. Crisis after crisis seems to be the day to day norm now.

Also they have not yet been able to find a permanent aide for my son. It’s in his IEP that he needs an aide. Constant changes of substitutes will only last so long until there is a blow up. He has never responded well to change or transitions so this is very stressful. I wait each day for a call that something has gone wrong.  I’m terrified of possible violent outbursts.

Depression and anxiety is getting to the dangerous point for me. I’ve started going to a counselor, but there isn’t much that can be done to change a lot of my situations so I’m just spinning my wheels in the sand trap of false hope.  Slowly, very slowly I’m trying to claw my way to the surface where I hope to get a breath so I can continue on.

I hope you will all be patient with me in getting back on track.

Thanks for still being around.

Happy Birthday to my Son!

He’s 12 years old now. It seems hard to believe. 12 years of struggling and fighting to get to this point. It seems longer and yet it doesn’t seem that long at all.  I guess that’s normal. Most parents feel that way. I guess it’s different because it’s been 12 years of Autism.

Life is not easy when you have Autism in your life. Whether you are a parent of or are the autistic person, challenges abound. Let me give you an idea.

It’s been 12 years of communication issues. Sometimes he’s been unable to communicate at all, sometimes he can get across what he wants after a lot of effort. Sometimes it causes so much frustration that he becomes violent.  Sometime we have the same conversation hundreds of times a day.

It’s been 12 years of health issues.  RSV virus, Jaundice, ear infections every few months, dental problems, bruises and bite marks, behavioral issues, attention problems, sleep disturbances and allergies.

It’s been 12 years of sleeping issues. The first six years of sleeping in our bed because of night terrors, then the next six years of sleeping in his own bed but getting up multiple times every night, which means that I’ve slept on his floor more hours than I can count.

It’s been years of violent outburst and broken things. We’ve had to replace a TV, several chairs, and now a window. There are holes in the walls, a lot of broken toys, and quite a few rips in our clothes.

And yet through all this, he has grown and started to thrive. He has friends who adore him. Everyone in town seems to know his name and they always say hi to him. He reads, he writes albeit both really slowly and with difficulty. He loves to tell jokes. He laughs and plays. He knows what he likes and isn’t afraid to tell you. He loves to help around the house and help in the yard.  Although he is usually terrified of new things, he loves an adventure. He’s terrified of storms but can’t wait for them either. He loves amusement park rides even though the surroundings overwhelm him. Animals love him although he is usually scared of them. He’s growing into a relatively well rounded young man.

I know that we have a really long way to go and not all of it is going to be positive. Sometimes every day is a struggle, but I look at how far we’ve come and I couldn’t be more proud of my son. He’s overcome so much to be the wonderful 12 year old that he is today.

Happy Birthday, Bubba!

Autism and Wandering

One of the things about having a child with Autism is that they have a tendency to wander. It may be because they don’t realized they shouldn’t and they are in their own little world or it may be that they run from something they are scared of. What ever the reason, it scares the crap out of us parents.

My son has disappeared a couple of times on us while out in public and he has wandered off from grandma’s house and home. I can’t tell you how terrified we were. I live in constant fear that one day he will slip out and we won’t find him. Luckily we live in a town where almost everyone knows my son, but what if….

The lovely people from Quality Life Concepts, our family support, turned me onto the BIG RED SAFETY BOX.

It is put out by the National Autism Association. Which is great resource by the way.

I signed up and donated $10 and they sent me the Big Red Safety Box. In it there was  lots of handy stuff.

NAA’s Big Red Safety Box includes the following resources:
1) Our Be REDy Booklet containing the following educational materials and tools:
A caregiver checklist
A Family Wandering Emergency Plan
A first-responder profile form
A wandering-prevention brochure
A sample IEP Letter
A Student Profile Form
Emotion Identification Cards
Wandering Quick Tips
2) Two (2) GE Wireless Door/Window Alarms with batteries
3) One (1) MedicAlert Bracelet or Pendant, and One (1) Shoe ID tag*
4) Five (5) Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows
5) Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows
6) One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband
7) One (1) Child ID Kit from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Sometimes help is actually available. You just need to know where to look.

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.