Our Daughter’s Diagnosis

Our Little Girl

I’ve had that burning need-to-cry feeling in the tip of my nose for 3 days now and it won’t go away. There just isn’t a time or place that I can have a good cry and so I’m struggling emotionally to spite that fact that I really have no cause. There’s been no tragedy and our daughter’s diagnosis was expected, long awaited even. It’s a relief to have the label of Autism so that I can get her school to offer appropriate services and start therapy. Yet… I’m feeling bummed out and hermit-y. I don’t really want to talk to anybody for fear of a crying jag and also because it hurts to talk about my baby girl and be forced to really think about what Autism means for her. I can’t be bothered to get dressed. Jeans and a bra, how dare you? I just need sweatpants, to snuggle with my dogs and avoid the outside world for a while. It would be so nice to stop being a grownup for a few days.

We’ve been on this road since Stella was a toddler who seemed a bit more temperamental than one would expect. Over the past 4 years we’ve become more and more certain that there was something going on with our little one and have visited the Family Doctor or Pediatrician periodically to ask for help. Real progress came about a year ago when Stella was 5 and I told the Pediatrician point blank: “There has to be something diagnosable going on here. We need to start the process of evaluation whatever that is.” I got a referral to the Seattle Children’s Autism Center but no help immediately because they had a 9 month waiting list. I was already at the end of my rope and now they wanted me to hold? I had no choice so that’s what we did.

7 months later, 2 months before the start of Kindergarten, I was still waiting and becoming more and more nervous about how she would fair when I’d have to send her out into the fray without me, her advocate and the only person who knew how to handle her. So I visited the Pediatrician again, expressing my concern. She referred us to Occupational Therapy while we waited for the evaluation. Even without a diagnosis we could go to therapy and work on her sensory and social issues. I was amazed at how well she responded. They knew how to reach Stella in ways that made sense to her. It was an emotional experience to watch her understand concepts we had struggled with and to see immediate results. This helped my nerves immensely.

I also met with the counselor at her elementary school prior to the first day to let her know that I had a special kid who was, as yet, undiagnosed but who may have trouble in school. I tried to prepare our girl and to smooth the way as much as possible. By the start of school, she was super psyched and I felt as ready as I’d ever be. We’d already waited a year until she was 6 to start school which allowed her more time to mature and was hugely beneficial. What a difference a year makes!

Now, 3 weeks after the start of Kindergarten, we finally have our Autism Evaluation and have been given a provisional diagnosis in just one visit: Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say she has what was previously been referred to as Asperger Syndrome. The diagnosis is provisional because we still have to follow up with a Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician to do further physical tests. So far I’m told that she’s high functioning and that her physical symptoms seem mild.

Diagnosis is a relief in some ways because my husband & I now have credentials to hold up for the people who shake their heads at our concerns. Many believe that the “antics” of difficult or troubled children to be natural childhood behavior and that fussy parents like us just aren’t handling them correctly. This opinion has mostly come from our elders who perhaps take the differences in recent generations’ child-rearing methods as a personal affront. We have the benefit of science and research that simply wasn’t available to them 30, 40 and 50 years ago. So naturally there’s been a little fine-tuning to the task of raising young’ns.

It must seem smug and condescending when today’s new parents hold up our newfangled rules and standards in contrast to the way we were raised. I can only imagine how annoying that must be.  Some naysayers try to tell us that many of these mental disorders didn’t exist 50 years ago (or today for that matter) and that somehow we’ve caused Autism or are just making it up. It’s nice to be able to say, “See? We weren’t kidding and we’re not the lazy, over-indulgent parents you thought.” My Mom calls it vindication, and I’m trying not to see it that way. Diagnosis really isn’t about (well for the most part anyway) saying told ya so and I don’t want to be that person. Advocating for our daughter isn’t about me but today I’m feeling a little self pity. I really need some time to shake off the sudden depression so that I can move ahead with all the energy and enthusiasm needed to keep fighting for her future.

6 Reasons Moms Dread the First Day of School Too

I love when our kids are on summer break. We can play and explore while not having to watch the clock or stick to a rigid schedule. Another perk: casual dress and messy hair are totally fine. For them I mean. I’m a mess on the daily so more of the same here. Also I don’t have to be strict on bedtime which is nice because… laziness. Yep, summer is legit. Let’s itemize the reasons back to school sucks shall we?

IMG_2388

 

1. No more sleeping in I like the quiet summer mornings when my kids are sleeping in an hour later. I watch tv or do dishes, while slupring my mocha in peace. Me time, ya dig? And then when they do wake up all they want is to watch a show and stay in their pajamas for a while. This is the polar opposite of mornings during the school year.

2. Handing Them Off to Total Strangers We’re asked to blindly trust the public servants who will have our children at their mercy. Trust that they are competent in their job as educator and not at all abusive or creepy in any way. That’s a tough one to swallow.

3. Breaking the Bank Our school has a uniform policy which will be sorely missed when our daughters start middle school. It’s affordable and it’s an equalizer. But for two years we were in a different district that did not have uniforms and so I can speak from experience here: Having to keep our daughters stylish in order to give the mean kids less fodder isn’t cheap. However we still buy nice new backpacks, shiny light-up shoes, hair accessories that they’re sure to lose… It all adds up so bend over and kiss your cash goodbye.

4. From Playing to Sitting Still All summer long I push the kids outside to run and play and be fit. To get their wiggles out and to breathe fresh air. Recesses today are much shorter than they were when I was in elementary school in the ’80s and, in some places, have been cut out altogether. Educational demands are higher and so things like recess and music are being squeezed out to meet those standards which means our kids are asked to sit still for far longer than is natural and healthy. And with the amount of classwork they bring home there isn’t time to play after school either.

5. Sickness My kids get sick more during the school year than any other time. There are two things which parents who defend sending their sick kids to school like to say that really makes my ass hurt:

“Don’t be a germaphobe! You can’t keep kids from getting sick, they’re all going to get it no matter what you do so why try?” and “If I kept my kids home every time they were sick they’d miss the whole year which is just unrealistic.” 

If this is you, rethink your stance on hand washing and contagion and stuff because you’re doing it wrong. How about I wipe a booger on every one of you awesome people for making my kids miss weeks of school and costing us hundreds in Doctor’s visits & prescriptions each year? Huh? And (And!) for compromising the child that has a suppressed immune system or weak heart who has to swim in that petry dish alongside your snotting, coughing, non-handwashing kid? I would gladly be the finger of justice if it weren’t completely gross to do so. Okay, stepping down off the soap box and moving on…

6. Fundraisers I’m a boxtop clipping FIEND and am more than happy to support the PTA but loathe having to hit up friends & family to shell out money for some cheap (expensive! $12 for wrapping paper? You must be trippin’) stuff that nobody needs just to raise money for I-don’t-know-what. Run-on sentences are my thing, okay? Also, I resent the school using my kids as little salespeople blatantly exploiting their cuteness to make a buck. Sure, for a good cause but still…

My list of complaints is multi-tiered and ultra whiny so I’ve summed it up for you.  No doubt you, The Reader, could add a few to this list or give me a good upbraiding for my crappy attitude. To each his own and all that. Yesterday I saw our girls off on their first day and it went well. They were both so excited to get to school- especially the Kindergartner. I took about 30 or 40 pictures to remember the day by and then followed the bus to school to get more pictures. I keep scrap books as momentos to remember their school years and therefore have to acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be the Mom who celebrates at the bus stop and chugs mimosas with the neighbor ladies out of sheer relief that the kids are finally back to school. Not quite there yet but I’m sure I will be. Someday?

IMG_2391

Getting it Done

babywear mow lawn

Multitasking, Mom-style. Yes we can! I love baby & toddler-wearing because it allows me to do chores while caring for a kid too. No crying toddler begging for Mommy to pick him up and no feeling sorry for myself because I can’t find time to take care of the chores. This is my way of getting it done and all our bairn have been huge fans of being Mommy’s little Koala. Also, by the time I was done mowing, he was asleep. Put baby down for a nap, check.

The Dumptruck

IMG_1507When I found out we’d have a son my heart soared. I would have had the same reaction if it was a girl, but we’d already been blessed with two wonderful, sweet, exceptional little girls so a son would be completely new to us. I was so excited to start having boy stuff in our lives. Being the utterly practical person I am, I’d already been collecting the usual baby stuff we’d need from the day I found out we were expecting. We would be sure to have all the bases covered when the new one arrived. (We were starting all over after handing down our baby stuff a few years prior)

However, both my husband & I were dreaming of toy tool sets and dinosaurs scattered all over the house. We were so giddy! So the first thing I shopped for when I found out there was a little guy on the way was a Tonka dump truck. To me, this was the quintessential boy toy and our little guy had to have one. I was discouraged to find that Tonkas cost about $30-40. I was still saving up for a stroller and a crib. This wasn’t on the list of necessities so it had to wait.

About 8 months later, our little guy wasn’t yet old enough to play with a dump truck so it was still on my wish list. We got lucky one day when my Auntie gave us a dump truck that her son had outgrown. She had no idea how amazingly awesome this random hand-me-down was to me. I nearly cried (dang hormones) and Little Mr. was very happy with his new toy. IMG_7077

As he grew, this was far and away his favorite toy. He’s the kind of kid who sees a truck when we’re out driving and exclaims “A truck! Vrrrmmmmm vrrm!”. When his Daddy is working on cars in the garage, Little Dude is right beside him trying to copy his every move. He is a mini car-guy.

On our son’s second birthday, Toys ‘R Us had a BOGO sale on Little Tykes toys so we went to pick out a gift for him. I love Toys ‘R Us’ selection but not their prices. Whenever we go, I have to walk the whole store and drool over all the wonderful things we’d love to spoil our kids with. I could spend a fortune in there! On this particular day, while browsing & wishing, I came to the truck section and found the mother of all dump trucks. It was a huge, metal, construction yellow Tonka. Light began to shine from this awesome toy and a choir of angels sang- it was a religious experience. Then I saw the price tag… $55.

IMG_0159I knew I couldn’t buy it but I lusted. I stood there running my hand over the smooth, shiny yellow paint wanting so badly to get this for my little guy but, sense kept me in check. He would never miss not having it and it would cost an eighth of my grocery budget for the month. After a minute or so, I slowly moved away from the truck… but I didn’t forget. I told my husband about it and, his reaction was the same as mine. He would have loved to buy it for Mr. Man but couldn’t justify spending the money on something that wasn’t needed. We accept that we want all kinds of things but, unless it sustains us in some way that thing goes on the maybe someday section of the shopping list. Perhaps we would have bought it as his one Christmas gift.

Two months later, my husband was driving home from work, when he spotted this huge yellow toy dump truck in a vacant gravel lot near the roadside.  He had to get a closer look. It turned out to be a faded, weathered, rust spotted Tonka truck. They very one I had told him about!

When he walked into the kitchen that night I turned to greet him and he had this huge grin on his face as he hefted the toy for me to see. I squealed in delight and astonishment. You’d think the man had brought me diamonds (actually I probably wouldn’t have been this exited about diamonds). You’d think the man had brought me Taco Time Take-out. I couldn’t help it, nothing gets me more excited than getting to give our kids a little something extra. Providing for them feels so good and spoiling them feels even better.

So I immediately grabbed a dish brush and some soap and dragged it out to the hose to wash it. Dinner was bubbling away, the troops were waiting to be fed and my husband was like, “Do you have to do that right now?” “Of course I do! He’s going to want to play with it the second he sees it! I need to get the scum off!” A couple days later, Daddy is sanding and repainting the rust spots and giving the hinges & axles a little grease.  Little Dude doesn’t give a rip that his awesome new toy is used and faded. He’s just utterly in love with his dump truck. And me? I’m counting our blessings. IMG_1449 IMG_1451

My Kitchen’s Makeup-Free Selfie

I had to cut back on Facebook. The constant whiny updates, bragging and drama were kinda bringing me down. I don’t need to be that involved in every random thought that comes into a person’s head… times 180 persons. First I went down my friends list and unfollowed everyone except family and close friends. I only want to be involved with people I actually see in real life. That helped. It was like unplugging a bit. And the nice thing about unfollowing is you don’t have to unfriend the annoying people in your life. Offended annoying people can be awful. Awfully annoying. This way, they’ll be none the wiser.

It was time for a reality check. I had to stop comparing  myself to the constant boast-posts. I had to back off and get perspective. Get real. Us Mommas shouldn’t be ashamed of the natural state of our homes. Unless you’re a Hindu Goddess with 8 arms I don’t see how a person could keep all those balls in the air without a break. This morning, I walked into my kitchen and looked at my mountain of dishes and all the things stashed behind the sink, out of the precocious toddler’s reach, and thought This is how my house always looks. I should share this. So these pictures are like my makeup-free selfie to the world. Not a quick spruce up followed by Instagram editing to make things look magazine ready.

So look everybody! Here’s my messy kitchen. It’s clean, yet messy. I won’t be ashamed as long as we can eat out of it- and eat we do. Lots of good homecookin’ takes place here and if you stop by to find the dishes piled high that means I haven’t done them yet. I cook & bake a lot. We go through a buttload of dishes.

IMG_1467

IMG_1469

This doesn’t make me a slob and if your kitchen looks like this I hope you don’t feel like one either. I didn’t put that coat on the floor or that one on the counter, or those toys.  But I’ll pick them up, at some point. Probably after I step on one and hurt myself. Maybe one day I’ll even show you my bathrooms in which the surfaces are covered in toothpaste, dirt smears and toys.

Another thing that makes a girl feel inadequate is watching Giada de Laurentiis on TV. I don’t cook like her. I just don’t have the time. Or the budget. For lunch today, I didn’t feed my kids any whole grains, or perfectly measured out portions according to MyPlate.Gov’s guidelines. They got a heated up can of generic Spaghetti Os, a can of green beans and some toasted cheese sandwiches. Nothing trendy, no bento boxes or dates stuffed with goat cheese. Just plain old kid food, and I served it up hot.  ‘Aint no shame in my game!

IMG_1482

If Better Homes & Gardens ever stops by I’ll probably get out the pledge and start polishing… but not today. Today we’re doing schoolwork. I hope this inspires some of you to feel proud of the job you’re doing too. A good woman doesn’t need to be weighted-down by doubt and needless guilt. Your doing a great job and your family is very blessed to have a Momma like you!

IMG_1483