Sunday, February 20, 2011

It’s a Jungle, Hear Me Roar!


This girl’s NEVER worn a short skirt.  Oh well, not my gift.  But I do have a mighty talent for:

“uses a machete to cut through red tape”

Just heard this funky Cake song and it sparked my day.  I’ve always loved that brilliant line.  Tell me, is this the definition of Mama Warrior?   Yeah, right? 

A day without fresh obstacles is like a day holed up in a cozy cave denying reality (a luxury not probable).  Luckily, most of us are working so many issues that we can always help make tracks with one if another should encounter a storm.  The great balance of life, survival of the fittest.  Great moments are out there; we must bravely gear up, map our way, seek a guide, cut through the jungle to take a peek, clear a path with our warrior machete, roar when needed and fight for the prize.  Speak firmly and carry a big machete - of knowledge - no violence please.  Surprised smile 

Over the next few months, I’ll be working my Mama Warrior moxie to slice through miles and miles of red tape.   IEP, testing, research, therapy, goals, funding plus countless daily adventures.  Sound familiar, Mamas?  



Jungle jam,

jungle jig

plod away

quicksand doubt

jungle terror

dance on out

sunshine beacon

precious nurture

spectrum sparkle

a child’s future.

PerkyQuirks 2011                                                I love the prism of sunlight I caught yesterday in this backyard photo of G.

You are Queen of the JungleRoar, Mama Warriors!



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are You Auware?

I’m not an avid tv watcher, I’ve never really been into daily/weekly programs.  A friend recommended the show “Parenthood”, saying it had an Asperger’s kid on it.  I started watching in the fall, and now I’m addicted.  The series does a pretty decent job of portraying some of the quirks, realities and needs of spectrum kids, and has done wonders for Autism Awareness.   Max’s character has Asperger’s, the mildest and highest functioning end of the autism spectrum.  The issues and scenes with Max are the brightest snapshot of life on the autism spectrum…the majority of autistic kids are not this verbal, physically capable, or socially interactive.  Of course “mild” makes sense for television, and nonetheless the autism community is grateful for this breakthrough in a mainstream venue to educate and raise public awareness and (hopefully) tolerance and understanding. 

This week’s show was a masterpiece though – totally nailed autism  on several levels.  If you missed it, here’s the episode, spoiler editorial comments after…

Spoiler alert!

Nailed it, right?  Aspie Max has a meltdown when his aide changes his routine.  He ramps up to his meltdown: as I watch, I feel the same knot in my stomach, feel my shoulders tense as if I’m watching the interaction with my G and someone in the family.  I want to say, “Hey, it’s not worth a meltdown!  Give him the silly stickers!”,  or rush in to try to diffuse the situation with Max while still keeping the rules in place. 

Autism parenting is a balancing act, minute-by-minute coping decisions: holding fast to a new lesson or breaking down to save the remainder of the day.  So many factors enter into each decision:  my brain processes with the super sonic speed of a trauma unit worker, assessing the plans for the day and how they may be affected by one simple, often mundane decision which could upset the house of cards…and house of cardseveryone’s whole day.  As a caretaker to 3 kids, a husband, home, work, homework, sports, laundry, learning, advocacy, etc., these choices – and how they’ll affect everyone’s needs, moods and schedules -are a daily dilemma.   There’s nothing worse than feeling everyone’s disappointment or displeasure because you HAD TO prove your point over a silly, seemingly inconsequential matter.  But, as our experience has shown us, those matters ARE the big things for our spectrum kiddos.  I compare it to parenting a 2 year old: sometimes it’s easier to roll with it than to cause a public scene, hold up the rest of the family, or deal with another drama.  Yet if I give in, will he expect me to cave next time?  Am I teaching him that if he protests too much he can get his way?  It’s hard to know with autistic kids.  How much is in their control vs. out of control.  I don’t think G “works me” like a typical child, or 2 year old.  When he has a meltdown, he legitimately can’t get past it if I don’t diffuse the situation in time.  He spirals out of control and it becomes fight-or-flight for him.

Some experts direct us to hold our spectrum kids to the same high standards as our typical kids. We try.  Still others believe that our kids don’t do these things on purpose, they have no control over their exploding reactions and  confusing emotions - it’s their sensory system working overtime.  The inward struggle goes like this: I can’t let him walk away without putting his game away.  I usually try my whole bag of tricks, rewards, bribery before it reaches meltdown stage.  But sometimes he flies into a full blown rage/tantrum right away for no reason.  Sometimes I’m tired or running late and though I know it won’t help long term, I simply have to let it go.  If I have willing family members, we tag team, and relieve each other when the other team member gets worn out.  I’ve learrelayned to push G to a certain point, take a break and revisit it when he’s chilled a bit.  If time permits, if the situation allows.  Obviously if there’s imminent danger or consequences, it has to happen whether he takes action or I have to.

In this episode, Max flies into a shouting, fight-or-flight rage, sweeping books, toys, and throwing items helter-skelter in his path.  His outburst takes his aide by complete surprise, his abrupt change of demeanor, and she cries in frustration and shock.  As a parent in this situation, you feel an even deeper sense of failure, worry, helplessness, anger, sadness.  We take their disruptive behaviors on as a reflection of ourselves and our parenting ability.  This is true particularly with high functioning kiddo, because they may appear typical in some areas, spoiled or naughty when they erupt.  We live with this child always; at times we feel we’re ultimately responsible for his every mood, every behavior, every impulse.  Whilst the aide closes the door on our child after 30 minutes, 50 minutes, 2 hours (if you’re lucky enough to have an aide or therapist, etc.); we’re left surveying the wreckage and trying to figure out how the rest of our day’s plans will proceed with a freaked out, angry, sour family.  Because also like a 2 year old, the harder we try not to let it bother us, ignore or move away from the situation - the harder G instinctively pushes to keep it in our face.  G increases his volume, pitch, throwing, hitting, screaming, planting himself in one spot and rubber-legging it or stiff bodied if we try to physically pick up/move him.  It takes a conscious, sometimes grueling effort to remember that this is not personal, this is the autism we’re battling with, not the child.  The team approach works best for us, relieving each other when one of us gets too frustrated.  And humor, lots and lots of humor + hugs. 

tantrum yoga


Also notable is the episode’s portrayal of an adult Asperger’s man…bravo for opening this can of worry that autism parents fret over!   I knew the man was on the spectrum right from the first moment (as I’m sure writers wanted us to), but Adam and Kristina took awhile to discover that the birthday party entertainer they interviewed was Aspie like Max, thinking the man simply moody or strange for his odd  behaviors (such as taking a shower when he went t use the restroom – love it!).  They struggle with the morality of hiring/not hiring the man who has a lengthy list of rigid rules and compliance issues for his bug performance.  They worry about their own son getting turned down for a job someday because of his Asperger’s – making the decision weighty and personal.  Ultimately Max decides for them, his love for bugs win out over doubt.


The best scene was when Adam gives the check to Amazing Andy the Bug Man after Max’s party (after last commercial break on video).  Adam looks around at the bugs, gear, studies the Aspie, then awkwardly asks, “Are you happy with your job, your life, what you do?”  After getting no response, continues, “Are you happy?”

“Yes, sometimes,” Amazing Andy shrugs, then turns it around on Adam, “Are you happy?”

Adam pauses, smirks as he realizes the irony of the question, the meaning, “Yes.  Sometimes.” 

That’s all we can hope for.  We strive to make our spectrum kids lives full and perfect; but as multi-faceted, stressed, beat down, worn out adults, we’re all happy (just) “sometimes”.  It’s universal.

Thank you “Parenthood” for raising Autism Awareness: for opening a window for others to view our reality, for shining a mirror to parents of kiddos on the spectrum, for showing us in our isolation that we are not alone, for helping us to come to grips with our challenges, for allowing us see humor, hope and enlightenment in our struggles.  “Parenthood” – the tv series and the privilege – is Ausome! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Directions


OCD.  UGH!  G was never too bad with the routine aspect of autism. He was always too busy to focus.  Recently I’ve taken control of his ADHD: diagnosis, research, doctors, advice, and finally experimenting with meds until we’re at a happy maintenance level.  Strangely, his autistic behaviors are even more pronounced now.  Maybe we’re just able to notice more easily because he isn’t running at 100 MPH all day.  Maybe he’s able to focus better and is stimming on different things like routine instead of motion.  As always, he keeps us guessing and keeps us on our toes.

School_Bus_Stop_AheadLast week we were late to catch the school bus one day.  The bus driver explained that someone had cancelled so she was early.  G was frantic and unfortunately, so was I.  I ran after him with his snack that I’d retrieved – always something getting lost in the out-the-door bustle.  The next day we had sub-zero wind chills, so I waited just a few minutes longer than I usually would to avoid freezing.  We’re always out early, and the bus is always late (according to the posted times).   Again, it was there 5 minutes early, so we had to run, over ice, jacket unzipped, me in  shirtsleeves carrying G’s backpack.  I got smart the next day and was there early – in the car - it was 10 minutes late.  Next day, 8 minutes early, we weren’t even watching for it yet.  Yikes!  This rollercoaster had me flummoxed, I can’t imagine how he got through his school days.

G looked out the window all weekend, watching for his big yellow bus.  I kept telling him it was the weekend, and not to worry.  He’d gather his backpack, put on his gear and cry if he couldn’t find gloves or boots, panicked.  I showed him the calendar.  Gave him lots of hugs.  My heart just broke. 

RoughRdThis morning he woke up and got dressed for school immediately, this boy of mine who loves to hang out in his jammies or shirtless all morning.  Every 15 minutes he announced, “I’m going to check for the bus.”  We had 4.5 hours to wait.  It was a reeeeaaaally long morning.  We played games and lots of distracting activities.   So finally we got ready very early and went outside to wait.  It was windy and not so comfortable to wait, but I dared not go in to get the car – we might miss the bus pulling up and send G into a panic state.  So, the bus showed up about 1 minute late…with a DIFFERENT DRIVER!  Eek - another change!  I suppose the only way to control these things is to drive him myself.  I think I’ll have him wear a watch, we’ll use his calendar.  I’ll give him the times on a card to look at showing a 15 minute range of when the bus might come.  Maybe I’ll find a timer app so that he can stim by checking it as often as he likes instead of running to the window and gathering his gear.  I’m thankful for the melting snow and promise of spring when we can play outside comfortably and distractingly until the bus arrives. 

And so we enter a new phase of this journey.  No roadmap, no GPS, no pre-plan.  We can do it, we must.  G’s attention and behavior is so markedly changed that he’s making huge strides in all areas.  Good thing, because he’s needed those huge strides to run to catch the bus lately…   Winking smile

Monday, February 7, 2011

Imported From Detroit

Yes.  Yes I am.   So is the best Super Bowl spot of the year.
Did you catch this Super Bowl 2011 commercial from Chrysler?

Loooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng 2-minute spot during Super Bowl: first ever.  I’d love to see the price tag on that.  I’m sure it’ll be in the ad rags soon enough. 
The question is: will it do the job? 
Do non-Detroiters like it?  Are viewers motivated to buy a car?  Viewers feel pride/status about Chrysler products?  Want to book a visit to Detroit?  To listen to Eminem?  Hopefully it did it all.  I know that my Facebook feed is lit up with fellow Detroiters and advertising professionals loving it up.   
Outstanding.  Thanks, Chrysler. Detroit is desperate for positive PR and a morale boost.  Bravo!  Sell cars.\ 
Now lose yourself in images from the D...

Feeling the love?  Go get ‘em Detroit!
And sure, I’m not as cool as Eminem, but I’m rocking my Chrysler mama-van something fierce.  Smile

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Our Greatest Gift Ever


As an adoptive parent, I spend a copious amouCutie kidsnt of time worrying and wondering about how to approach my children with the fragile subject of their adoptions.   Adoption’s not a topic that surfaces much, but I like to worry and prepare.  When they were tots, I researched and bought the best preschool books on the topic and began reading and talking to them, hoping that if the words were familiar, the emotional impact would be easier to bear.  Naturally kids reach a point in their lives where they’ll  feel confused, realize that they are not like other kids, and question why their birth parents “gave them away”.   Oh, how I hate that phrase that people like to use.

My children never asked much about the subject, even when I’d read or talk about it with them .  When they “got it” was a heartbreaking moment.  My husband and I tried many years of fertility therapies and methods to no avail, and finally I was told one too many times that I’d never have a baby.  We wanted children and the decision to adopt was easy to make.  So we went about the involved process.  Enadoption pricelesster adorable N…we were so happy with our first adoption experience that we drained the entire retirement fund for our daughter, sweet gorgeous M. 

As the saying goes,

“We’ll take 2, they’re small”.  Smile

Finally - we were a  complete package, 1 boy, 1 girl – a happy family.  5 years later, the impossible occurred: I became pregnant.  During my pregnancy, as all prospective moms do, I’d feel a little kick and tell about it.  One day this happened and N looked up at me and asked, “Wow Mom, did I do that when I was in your tummy?” 

Yikes.  My tummy came up to my throat as I fought back tears to explain that he was in another mom’s tummy, his Birth Mom.  I pulled M into the room and explained the adoption process, told them their birth stories, answered any questions and followed up for a couple of days.  Near the end of my pregnancy once again, N asked me if he kicked my ribs like the baby was doing.  I hesitated (quite possibly with a sharp intake of breath), and he corrected himself, “Oh that’s right, I was in another mom’s tummy, not yours, right?”  And once again we had “the adoption talk”.

adoption supportEvery so often over the years the subject comes up, and I respond with frank honest answers, trying to shield as much life reality as I can, and boost their confidence with the sentiment that we are so very lucky to have them in our family.  I stay with a consistent explanation, but I’ve always known that sooner or later it wouldn’t be enough, that I’d have to dig deeper, go into areas beyond my and their comfort zone.  Little did I know today was the day.

Photo Credit:,481332076

TGIF, such a crazy busy week that I stopped for McDonald’s for the kids after Tae Kwon Do.  My husband was picking up a nice spicy dinner that the kids wouldn’t like, so I waited for him and checked my Facebook while the kids ate their McHappy Meals.  I was in the midst of chatting simultaneously with a friend and my cousin when something perked up my ears and made me pause.  I quickly signed off.  G said to big brother N, “Did you like to eat cheeseburgers when you were in Mom’s tummy?”  I’m amazed that G remembered: a few days ago G randomly told me he liked fruit, so I told him that when he was in my tummy he made me want to eat lots of it too. 

farm negN replied, “No G, I wasn’t in Mom’s tummy.  I was in another mom’s tummy.  I’m from __ and I was adopted.”  This, their discussion over cheeseburgers and shakes, while I Fb-ed.  What?  I casually said, “What are you guys talking about?” closing my laptop. 

“Just that me and M are adopted, and didn’t grow inside your tummy like he did.  Do you know their names?”, N asked.  “Whose names?”  I asked, startled by this new in-depth curiosity.  “Our parents.”  Ouch.

M asked, “Do I have any stepbrothers?” 

Super yikes, the dreaded question.  I said, “Hold on, hold on, come and sit and let’s talk.”  I was never so grateful for a Happy Meal toy as I was for the next 10 minutes as G played while I struggled through this emotional discussion with my precious, vulnerable little souls.  I frankly told them that I didn’t know their birthparent’s names and that I didn’t have much information besides medical information about the birth parents and their births.  I explained that they could try to locate their biological parents when they turn 18, and I completely understand and support that curiosity. 

Next I asked M why she asked if she had stepbrothers.  She shrugged, “I don’t know, I just wondered.  But probably not, because if they got rid of me, they probably don’t want any other kids.”  She said it offhand, but I could see the emotion in her expression. 

These questions and their instantaneous popping up told me that N and M had been thinking about these things, possibly talking them over with each other - wondering, worrying, feeling pain.  My brain was swirling, this was a moment I’d feared.

Red Alert! 

Emergency Mom Power Skills needed!

Don’t fail me now!

I’ve tried to avoid exposing my kids to certain world/life realities.  But now I decided to share a very horrid practice/concept with them so that they could get the full impact of how wonderful Adoption is, how sacred life is.   

I explained Abortion.  In basic terms.   

I started with my standard talk about “the why” of adoption placement – the talk they’ve heard countless times).   I told them that sometimes girls/women get pregnant and can’t keep their babies because they’re poor, too young, or unable to take care of them for some reason, etc.

“But……..sometimes women pay to have their tiny babies killed inside them.”  Their eyes got wide with the horror.  Harsh. 

So I continued quickly,

“Your birth mothers were very strong.  They could have taken a different path and had an abortion and been finished with it.  But instead, they thought about what was best for you, their babies. 

Your birthmother(s):

didn’t ‘get rid of you’, she ‘gave you life’.

She gave you the greatest GIFT: of LIFE. 

She gave us the greatest GIFT: of YOU. 

Your birth mothers felt you inside of them, took care of their growing baby, worried and made the hard decision to give you a better life than they could give you.  They probably cried over the decision, and maybe they still do when they think about their child/you.  But, they wanted you to have a good, happy life.   Daddy and I hope that we’re giving you that happy life.  They gave us a special job of doing that for you, their birth babies.  But from the moment we met you, you were our babies.  We fell in love with you and we’ll love you forever.  We are so blessed to have you in our family.”   

Photo Credit:,46996763

adoption gift of lifeOMG.  I must say I felt pretty relieved and proud of the way I handled a spontaneous panic mama-on-the-spot situation.  I hope that I can continue to proactively meet their questions honestly; to offer enough comfort to meet their growing insecurities, curiosities and difficulties with this complex, emotional issue.  I hope that I’ll catch these little comments and stop their hurt from spinning out of control. I hope that I can continue to keep an objective eye, to understand the natural tendency to “want to know”.  Who wouldn’t?  I wish I knew their birth parent’s stories, for my own knowledge.   God has granted me love and the greatest gifts of these incredible children.  Thanks dear God for showing me the wisdom tonight to comfort my children.

Maybe it’s time to research more books on the subject so I can prepare for the next round.

Photo Credit:,43033066

adoption in my heart


Photo Credit:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Black and Red - and White Stripes - All Over


I was sad but not surprised to hear disappointing news from Detroit this week.  Our famed music city lost another band, the gritty-rocking-punk- bluesy White Stripes.  The band of 2 officially broke up with a sweet parting letter to their fans (see 1st freep link below).  I gave the band their due mourning: I enjoyed reading heartfelt articles, viewing stunning photos and watching loud and sharp-twang tunes.  This talented man has earned many kudos for bringing a new style to rock.  Armed with a meager budget plus youthful mettle and pluck, he made a name for himself – lauded as one of the top guitar players in the world.  Ever! 

In recent years, Jack White’s moved on to other projects, diverse bands, up-tempo locales.  He’s far from finished showing us his stripes.  Rock on, show us your spunk, Detroit Man.

Read this retrospective:

Live this author’s lively DIA concert experience:

If you haven’t watched the rock-u-mentary “This Might Get Loud”, do.  It’s a fascinating view into the influences of 3 legendary guitarists of our time: Jimmy Page from the 70’s, The Edge from the 80’s, Jack White from the 90’s.  They’re all still kicking it out, and teaching each other their styles. 

Even if you don’t like Jack White’s style, after watching “It Might Get Loud'” you’ll understand his fame and unique mark on rock/guitar culture.  My husband isn’t a punk-garage music fan and he “got it”.   He was most impressed by the fervor which Jack attacked his guitar during a concert - so hard his fingers bleed, and he kept jamming.  That my friends, is dedication to a craft. 

white stripes swankLoving the swanky look.    Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde

Photo features from Detroit:


Rolling Stone Photo photo-spective:

And another, highlighting his varied “guises”:

Good wiki-views of Jack’s colorful background, music and accolades: