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Archive for November, 2011

Last month, I began guest blogging about life as a special-needs parent for Momnificent!, an outstanding site and business run by Family Success Specialist and Life Coach, Lori Radun.

Here’s an excerpt of this week’s post. Follow the link at the end to read the rest at Momnificent.com!

It Takes A Village

People say it takes a village to raise a child. But what if that child has special needs? What then? That is: What happens when the village doesn’t know how to raise the child? As a mother of a typical child and a child with autism, I see every day the vast difference between the skills necessary to parent my four-year-old chatterbox of a daughter, who is a typical child, and those needed to raise my six-year-old, non-verbal, energy bundle of a son, who has severe autism. With both kids, as is the case for nearly all parents, learning how to guide them through the world has been an exercise in on-the-job training. However, with my daughter, I have plenty of resources at my disposal when I need advice. I can call other moms or research online for good tactics and strategies. But with my son, I find that, quite often, I’m going it alone. And, some days, I wonder: Where is our village?

For parents of typical children, the village seems to form all by itself. Mommy playgroups and baby gymnastics, daycares and neighborhoods – the village is there for the joining. We moms (and sometimes dads!) form intimate bonds based on our shared experiences in child rearing, become close friends, and care for one another and each other’s children as we would our own families. When we’re sick and our spouses or partners are out of town on business, the village pitches in to care for our kids. When a new baby arrives, that mommy network shifts into high gear with dinners and help around the house. But when a child is diagnosed with autism, the village is at a loss. Those who don’t live in the autism community simply (and understandably) don’t feel prepared to babysit a toddler with autism, as much as they’d like to help by giving that child’s parents a much-needed break. They don’t know how to help or what the family needs, and that means, ultimately, special-needs parents are pretty much on their own.

READ THE REST AT MOMNIFICENT.COM!

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So, this summer, Marty and I got brave. Or stupid. Or maybe a little of both. Anyway, we decided to take the kids to Disney World, which is, after all, only two hours away in Orlando. Now, I grew up in southern California in what used to be a little town but is now a miniature Beverly Hills (but with actual hills with real trees and a decent number of women without fake boobs) called Agoura Hills. It’s not far from Malibu but far enough from Santa Barbara that I could go to UCSB without my parents insisting I live at home and commute. So, I’m a southern California girl, and no amount of living in Florida is going to change that. And that means, to me, it’s Disneyland, not Disney World. I mean, come on. It’s not a whole WORLD. It’s a place. A LAND. It’s Disneyland. Calling half of Orlando a “world,” is a gross overstatement, and I know I’m going to screw up in this post and call that money trap Disneyland, so fair warning: If you don’t like it, stop reading here.

I stole this pic of Agoura from Wikipedia. Don't tell.

Ok, thanks. So we decided to go to that famous mousehouse, and that in and of itself was quite a big deal. Traveling with a hyper four-year-old and a six-year-old with autism is not for the weak. Or, at least, it’s not for the weak who don’t have Xanax, but Disneyla—Disney World doesn’t provide free packets of Xanax with their three-day passes, which, if you ask me, is a huge oversight, but maybe there’s some kind of HIPAA law I don’t know about here. (more…)

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My recent post about lying via omission to maintain the social contract and my sanity has me thinking about all the ways I have to be less honest than I’d like, specifically when it’s for the benefit of my children, who, ironically, I do want to raise to be honest people. This week, it took the form of spending two hours at the local county health department claiming a religious exemption for their vaccinations, despite being an atheist.

Of course, being an atheist (while still being Jew-“ish”) is a form of religious belief. After all, freedom of religion includes freedom from religion, and religion is really a form of organized philosophy. And philosophically, I completely and fundamentally disagree with the government telling me what to do with my body, and, as an extension, my children’s bodies. So, I suppose, an atheist claiming a religious objection to (or exemption from) something isn’t quite as ironic as it sounds at first, but then again I may simply be justifying my actions, something I often fight the impulse to do despite how much I tell myself I really don’t care what other people think.

So last Thursday, I got “the call” from our elementary school: your kids aren’t up to date on their vaccines, and we need a county religious exemption form for them to stay in school. Ok. So, off to the county health department I went. This building, well-maintained and clean as it may be, makes my skin crawl because it’s full of sick people, and I feel like I’m going to catch dysentery in the parking lot and Ebola in the waiting room. Don’t get me wrong. I’m really, really glad the building is there and that its offices are able to provide all sorts of social and medical services to our community. The Department of Health fills a very important role in our society, and I’m grateful they’re around. It’s just that, if most people’s immune systems are Honda CR-Vs, mine’s a wheelbarrow. So, walking into a building where there are definitely a lot of germy people is not my idea of a fun or intelligent way to spend my afternoon. (more…)

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The first time I intentionally told a complete and total lie, I was four. My sister and I were playing in our brown-shag-carpeted family room in upstate New York, and we decided it would be a really, really good idea to play with the broom, which probably wasn’t the worst idea except that we were playing right near our mom’s Tiffany-style glass lampshade. Long story short, the incident ended with my mom running into the room and scanning the scene: broken lamp, shattered glass in the shag, a clammed up six-year-old, and one petrified four-year-old holding a broom twice her height behind her back. No blood at least, but still, not exactly what a mom wants to see.

To my mom’s credit, when we pointed our fingers at one another, claimed complete innocence, and disavowed any knowledge of either the lamp (which we’d just blamed one another for breaking) or the broom (which I was still holding), she didn’t laugh or scream, both of which would have been appropriate, even simultaneously. No, my mom was quiet at that moment, and that scared the daylights out of me. We knew that she knew. And she knew that we knew. And that guilt was enough to keep me from lying again for a long, long time.

These days, though, I seem to lie a lot, mostly by omission, and primarily because most people don’t really want to hear the honest answers to their daily questions. Autism doesn’t make for polite conversation. Plus, some days I’m so seriously jealous of these women and their normal lives and typical kids that I kind of hate them a little for complaining about the things I would give my left arm for.

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Several years ago, I was rather appalled to learn that my girlfriend, Nicole, hated to read. Granted, she’s a civil engineer by trade. A linear thinker. A planner. A fact-loving, solution-needing, draw-a-rectangle-around-the-answer, math-excelling kind of woman. She’s the girl who hated me in high school for interrupting Advanced Algebra class to ask, “When will we use this in real life?” I need to analyze. She needs to know.

So while she was nursing her second baby and spending those self-imposed long pauses in her day with nothing to occupy her mind (daytime tv does NOT count as mind-occupying), I handed her the Harry Potter series. After Harry Potter, she asked for more, so I sent her off to meet Mr. DaVinci and his special code. After that, it was the Twilight books, which she proudly admitted to being so enthralled with that she read paragraphs at stop lights on the way to her kids’ soccer practice, just waiting, waiting, waiting for those two fictional lovebirds to finally just do it already.

This year, it was the Hunger Games series, and most recently, I introduced her to my pal, Miss Sookie Stackhouse. Until we meet her in the first book of her as-yet-unfinished series (which HBO has turned into the equally delicious “True Blood” series), Sookie has lived a rather sheltered life. She lives, as Nicole often says of herself, “in the box.” She’s naïve and unworldly. But we like her, because unlike Bella Swan, the heroine of the Twilight novels, Sookie not only has a sex life but, if you ask me, she’s actually a bit of a slut. Which, come on, makes for better reading, let’s just say it. Sookie lives in the box, true, but she’s also kind of a badass. I like her. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up how I feel about Nicole. Yeah, she likes living in the box, but she’s one ass-kicking chick when push comes to shove, and I dig that about her.

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