Monday, May 31, 2010


Toady I made a visit to the bank in an attempt to tame our runaway finances  ( it's been a lesson to me to face up to my problems instead of making like an ostrich in the Gobi), and I experienced the very rare feeling of being Grown Up...
....which is a handy thing to feel when you're 39, with  kids who have bigger feet than you have.
After many months of fretting over my husband's shrinking salary being unable to stretch across the expanding waistline of our  debts, we cast a cold objective eye over our finances and concluded that we need help.

It's wonderfully liberating to express this, without any shadow of shame or blame.

When you can look someone in the eye (be it a bank manager or a child psychologist) and confidently say that despite your best efforts  you just can't manage anymore, it shows an ability to trust in other people.
It's not the same thing as abdicating responsibility.  We still have to fix it, but now we have been given the tools (and the expert advice) we need to deal with this problem.
Because we asked.

The last time I felt like this was when I took my son to my Public Health Nurse at the age of 20 months, and said I need help.  He's not talking, he won't look at me and even though everybody tells me I'm over-reacting, I know I'm out of my depth here.

I used to think maturity was something peculiar to cheese and fine wine, and was  occasionally cited as a consolation prize for wrinkles and grey hair.

But learning that we don't have control over everything (and, crucially, not having a acute onset of the screaming heebeejeebies over the fact) is a skill that, in my case, has come with age.

I have a half-baked theory that OCD stems from a desire to impose control on a life we realistically have no hope of ever doing....we can alphabetise our CD collections and wash our hands until they're raw, but this won't prevent a lightening strike or a recession...or even a diagnosis of autism for our kids.

Sometimes no matter how hard you work, how diligently you monitor your purse-strings, or how fiercely you love your children, life can still throw you a curve ball.

The real skill is knowing that asking for help is not a sign of failure, but of finally becoming a Grown Up.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Super-Model vs Super-Tanker? No...Just Super

Oh dear.

This last year I've been feeling not so much super-model as super-tanker.
I'm not overweight, but the waistband of my jeans is complaining, and there are interesting ripples and creases (oh, OK's cellulite) where once all was smoothness and light.
It would be easy to ignore my own well-being and remain immersed in a world defined by autism.

This is a subject I return to every so often.

I fear losing my integral Jean-ness (this is a scientific quantity, measured in cups of tea in the morning, and units of Shiraz in the evening) beneath weighty layers of autism.

Even though we need to dive headlong into the Autism Ocean (which is east of the Sea of Bad Metaphors) and swim with the fishes, that we don't (and probably shouldn't) stay there forever.

There are two very real dangers.

One is that we will drown, forget who we are and become part of the ocean.

The second is that the Bad Metaphor Gestapo will come for me in the middle of the night and make me read poetry until I cry.

But I won't wait up for them...
...I'm not trying to win the Pulitzer prize for literature, I'm just trying to get a point across.

For me, it's taken almost three years to be OK with autism.
Now it's just there, in the same way that my oldest son hates French, and in the same way that my daughter wears pretty funky glasses.

I have great kids, a gorgeous husband and a roof over our heads.

Now that I've had my teeth fixed and my hair professionally coloured, it's time to get out of the sea,  hit the gym and wiggle my wobbly butt into submission.

This October I will be a fit, fab and forty-year-old wife and mother, who just happens to have a cool kid with autism.  As well as two other pretty cool kids, who don't have autism.

Autism rocks, but so does it's funky momma.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Seven Signs of Grumpiness

I was shocked and appalled to be tagged by the impudent Jen to list seven things that make me grumpy.
From a veritable little ray of sunshine like me???
Wait a minute...
...maybe being made grumpy by being asked to explain my grumpiness has just become No.1 on my list.
Suddenly I'm in a better mood.


Absolutely loving physics but not being able to get my mashed potato brain around it.
I had a great physics teacher when I was at school, who managed, incredibly,  to make it an exciting subject.
No food-stained cardigans and nasal hair for her...she was sassy, brainy and sexy,  like the honey you add to porridge to jazz it up a bit.
I wanted to be her when I grew up.
Sadly, my enthusiasm for quantum theories was hampered by an inability to add 2 + 2.
Hate that.

Very Clever Arty People who think you're a worm on the sole of their shoe unless you are in a perpetual state of suicidal misery about the wretched nature of humanity.
They equate humour with shallowness, and regard happy people as deluded fools.
I love to read, and over the years have waded my way through sullen tomes just because I was told (by the Arty Clever People) that I "ought to".
But not anymore!
I have embraced my inner silliness and use it fiercely to whack about the head of Moroseness.
We all know life is tough, so laughter is a very serious business, not a light-headed whimsy.

Still not being able to succinctly explain autism to non-autie civilians.
I  came to the conclusion many moons ago  that the Triad of Impairments is a big pile of poo, and all it does is describe some of the characteristics of autism without delving into it's nature.
These days I describe autism as a sensory processing disorder, but I would love to be able to explain it in one sentence instead of making the person sorry they ever asked.

They're just stupid.

My love-hate relationship with fashion magazines.
I love fashion but hate that I am sucked into longing to be a clear-skinned, 6ft, size 8 super-model who falls out of bed in full make-up with artfully tousled hair.
My head (mashed potatoes, remember?) knows that it's false and impossible...especially for a fun-sized Irish gal whose skin varies in shade from anaemic to deathly blue, and who's rump would rouse any Mullingar heifer to insane jealousy.
Heifers are just so damn lucky they don't have to worry about shopping for jeans.
So, I love the clothes, but hate the falseness...and at the age of 39 I am sorry to admit that I'm still waiting to grow six inches.

It could happen.

Thinking of a Great Riposte about three weeks too late.
When somebody says something cutting/angry/nasty my brain hits the  disengage button, and I have a spinal reflex which persistently returns to my default position of Human Goldfish.
As in, my mouth opens and closes, but no words come out.
In equal measure, grumpiness is elicited by people who respond with "Well, I would have said a,b or c..." when I tell them my tale of woe.

I quite enjoy being grumpy.
There's nothing quite as satisfying as a good old grumble about the weather, what's on TV or the price of eggs.
Basically things we can't change so are in no immediate danger of having to actually do anything about them.

It's a bit like armchair politics.

Right....grumpy interlude over...where's Little Miss Sunshine at??

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Can We Do It? Yes We Can!"

I just posted a rather exuberant statement over on my Bear In The Woods page.
Bob's Dad and I are more than a little excited about the fact that for the past three nights, Bob has been refusing to wear his nappy...and has remained as dry as pepper.

What is both thrilling and perplexing is that we have been focusing on day-time toilet training for the last year and a bit, and we are about 70% of the way there.  But night-time training had been relegated to such a distant back seat that a map, a compass and military binoculars would be required to catch a glimpse of it.  Night-time continence has assumed the mystique of the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster.
Even though we had heard the occasional urban legend that it had been achieved, we remained sceptical, needing more evidence than footprints in the snow and grainy photographs to prove it's existence.
We were non-believers.

So, like learning his alphabet, he did it entirely on his own...

...which, true to my nature, begged a question (or two).

Will our kids eventually achieve milestones on their own, at their own comfortable pace, without us hectoring them with charts, rewards and reinforcements?
Are we just creating pointless anxiety by forcing our kids to strive for achievements that they just aren't ready for?

My gut says an annoying "yes" and "no".

It seems to me that some of the time, some of our kids will Just Do It and cock a two-fingered salute at all our efforts to impose education.  See alphabet and night-dryness above.

But it also seems to me that other skills (like independent dressing and feeding) would never be realised for Bob without the input of occupational therapy and shed-loads of patience...and I don't want to be spoon-feeding a 25 year old sporter of shell-suits (as I won't have the strength to hoick anything else onto him in 20 years time).
Sole responsibility for the prevention of future fashion atrocities lies with dogged education.

This is making my head hurt, and it's too early in the morning.
I'm off for a giant mug of tea and a little lie-down.
But I would love your opinion on it to help me untangle this particular knot.

Bob will never cease to surprise us, and we fully (and shamefully) expected the need for canoes and life-jackets when nappies were finally disposed of.
What a fool I am for under-estimating him.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Smelling The Roses

I was feeling a little hard-done by earlier in the week, as the laundry and the dishes  were in danger of becoming a geographical feature in Co Monaghan.
I hauled the same squelchy clothes out of the washing machine, packed the same greasy plates (plus a few thousand tea mugs, god bless 'em) into the dishwasher and hoovered the same manic debris from the same sticky floors.
My feet felt like lead and I felt I was going  insane with the incessant sameness of it all.

But I had a little flash of insight that helped me see the woods and the trees.

I spend a lot of time teaching my kids the difference between want and need.
And I thought that maybe I should start to live by my own lectures.

I was brought up in poverty...and before you worry that this is going to become a hand-wringing boo-hoo fest, you can put away your hankies because I don't do self pity.
We were never hungry, but we lived in a rodent-infested, damp three-roomed house (a kitchen and two bedrooms), with a single cold tap, no central heating and no bathroom or toilet.
That was home to my two parents, six kids and a sick grand-uncle.
Our clothes were hand-me-downs, and holidays were something other people did.
It wasn't quite Angela's Ashes, but it was an uncomfortably close first cousin.
As a child I didn't think anything about it all, but now I am filled with relief that I don't have to raise my kids in the same conditions.

Without being sanctimonious, I feel tremendous gratitude for the kitchen appliances that I am graceless enough to moan about, for the heat I can comfort my family with at the flick of a switch, and for the warm, dry beds I settle my children into at night.
I'm also a little ashamed of myself for complaining about the cost of fuel (for our TWO cars), the price of insurance (for our FOUR bedroomed house) and the unending amount of laundering of our  (FOUR wardrobes full of) clothes.

By extension, I am also almost giddy with relief that Bob has access to an excellent Outreach Unit, is transported there and back by a taxi I don't have to pay for, and that he has some semblance of services for his autism.

His services could (and should) be better, but if Bob was born in 1970 instead of me, he would have been institutionalised in a hospital for the then-called "mentally handicapped".
Goodbye Bob, hello medicated, incontinent, spoon-fed, speechless cast-off.

This is not to say that that just because things are good, that they shouldn't be would be wrong to stop fighting for improved services for our special needs kids just because our current society is good enough not to lock them up and throw away the key (season with sarcasm to taste).
Whoopee for current society.
But sometimes I want so much more for him than he actually needs.
We are lucky enough to live on this small, imperfect rock clinging to the west of Europe, where food, heat, shelter, education, healthcare and justice are expected (if not always delivered) and where we at least have the foundations of improvement dug.

What I want for him is to be normal (may I be burned at the stake for heresy) ...but I suspect that in the wee, small hours of the night that this is what most autie parents wish for. 

But what I need for him is really not much more than he already has.
He has a family who love him, a school who are ambitious for him and he is as healthy as a wild duck.
He has services that are not frequent enough, but that give me the tools I need to educate myself and become his 24/7 therapist (as well as his Doting Mammy, of course).
He has his angel Lorraine for 3 hours a week for home support, to allow me time to search among the drumlins of Monaghan for my mental health (I know it's there somewhere).

If I was in the God Squad, I'd say a prayer of thanks to the patron saint of Tumble Driers, Speech Therapists and Ford Mondeos.
But as I'm likely to spend eternity being gently sautéed in the pits of hell (where they have better parties anyway) I'll just thank my lucky stars that Bob was born where he was, when he was.
And to continue fighting to Good Fight, while smelling the roses in the garden.