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“You can’t be an idiot when you’re driving.”

“If that car turns, he will be an idiot.”

“You can’t smash cars.”

“Can I smash pedestrians?”
“No. We never, never smash pedestrians.”
“Because then they can’t get exercise.”
“Right. That’s exactly right.”

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“If they don’t know how to drive, you honk at them.”

“Why do we need pedestrians?”

“No turn on red, dude!”

So we went to The Dalles this week, just like I told you we would. Did I overpack? Just a little bit. But I also forgot to pack socks for Elvis, so it kind of evened out.

Speaking of Elvis, he was sick last week and over the weekend. When he woke up on Monday, he seemed fine. Back to his old self. Then we drove out to Multnomah Falls and hiked to the top of the waterfall. He didn’t seem very fine after that. More to the point, he didn’t seem very fine during that. He started coughing again and every few minutes he’d yell out, “I hate it! I hate this walk!” On the one hand, I appreciated his direct communication. I can’t recall him ever telling me he “hated” something before this. “I don’t like,” sure, but never “hate.” So that was like a milestone achieved, and that was cool. On the other hand, 1.2 miles and 11 switchbacks of “I hate it!” got a little annoying. The good news was that he felt a lot better about the experience coming downhill.

I wasn’t going to buy anything from the gift shop because I already have two Multnomah Falls magnets. But then I found one with Big Foot on it, and I just had to get it.

We had lunch at a place called Char Burger. Sugar Daddy described it as “charmingly low-rent.” I’d say that about covers it.

On our way out to The Dalles we stopped at Rowena Crest Viewpoint or Vista Point or whatever it is. We were just going to look around a little bit, but then we started following this path to see where it led, and it led, like, a couple miles away. Needless to say, Elvis “hated” that walk, too. I can’t say I blamed him.

When we finally got to the hotel, I lay down on the bed and fell asleep. SD gave me the best Spring Break present in the world: he didn’t wake me up to take the kids swimming in the hotel pool. I completely missed the hotel pool experience. I just slept until dinner. It was kind of awesome.

For dinner we ate at Spooky’s pizza parlor in The Dalles. Spooky’s is charmingly…something. We ate there the last time we went to The Dalles and were so charmed we just had to go back. I just have to ask you, how do you resist a restaurant with a mascot like this?

There is a knitted afghan of that logo hanging in the dining room. That’s what I mean by charming.

Also, the pizza is quite good.

The pizza might have been more enjoyable if Elvis hadn’t been coughing up a lung and yelling, “I’m sick!” every five minutes. Good thing Spooky’s was hopping that night, or our party might have drawn undue attention to itself. (Or maybe the attention would have been due. But it wouldn’t have been wanted. That’s for sure.)

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in the previous blog post, but we did take Grandma along for this trip. I only mention this now because Grandma, Princess Zurg and I were sharing a hotel room, and Grandma does snore. Which is fine, really, because I understand that sometimes I snore, too. I mean, people snore. My mother snored like a chainsaw. So does my mother-in-law. But this is not really what I meant to tell you. My MIL volunteered to sleep on the couch-that-folds-out-into-a-bed so that PZ and I could each sleep in our own bed. (I really wouldn’t have minded sharing a bed with my own daughter but she’s kind of particular, and anyway, Grandma volunteered so who am I to argue?) PZ and I fell asleep while my MIL stayed up watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. (I can’t watch that show ever since SD pointed out that it’s 20 minutes of two-second edits. Now the thought of it makes my brain hurt.) Anyway, I wake up in the middle of the night and my MIL is snoring. Okay. I get up to use the bathroom and I see that not only has my MIL not pulled out the couch-bed, but she is in fact sleeping on the coffee table. Okay. I mean, not okay. That’s really pretty odd, isn’t it? I mean, my MIL is used to sleeping in different places, I guess. She slept on her couch every night for 30 years until she moved up here and bought a bed. (It’s a long story.) And she’s not very tall, so if she’d decided to just fall asleep on the not-very-big couch in the hotel room, that would have been one thing, but the coffee table? That was unexpected.

But I digress.

The weather on Monday was sunny. On Tuesday it rained. So we went to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, which is always a pip. Then we went into Washington and visited the Maryhill Art Museum, which was interesting. It’s in the middle of freaking nowhere, and they have a large collection of artifacts from Queen Marie of Romania. Stuff like her crown and thrones and jewelry and stuff. Lots of furniture that did not look remotely comfortable. I can understand maybe a throne that isn’t comfortable. I mean, how much time does the queen really spend on her throne? Probably not that much. But sitting chairs and benches and stuff? It was all made of bronze or something. Absolutely no cushioning whatsoever. There were pictures of her and her children lounging on them. Really. I don’t know if they did that often. Maybe those Romanians are just made of sterner stuff than I. Probably so. I mean, most folks are, and heaven knows the Romanians have had a time of it. Uncomfortable furniture was probably the least of Queen Marie’s concerns.

The Maryhill Art Museum also hosts a large selection of Rodin sculptures as part of its permanent collection. I thought that was pretty interesting, being that it seriously is in the middle of nowhere.

As I recall, the museum is housed in philanthropist Sam Hill’s former mansion. (I made a lot of “where in Sam Hill” jokes that day which were underappreciated.) Sam Hill was also a Quaker pacifist and he had erected a World War I memorial fashioned after Stonehenge. It is not too far from the museum, so of course we had to visit that too. Actually, it was the whole reason we went in the first place. If there had been no Stonehenge, what would have been the allure? Romanian royalty and Rodin? I’m still a little unclear on how all that Rodin ended up in the middle of eastern Washington. But life is a mystery.

Now that I have this new laptop I have the new version of Microsoft Word, whatever that is called. Word 7? Word 24? I have no idea. Anyway, it’s taking a lot of getting used to. I finally figured out how to make the spacing the way I like it, which is the way it used to just automatically be in whatever ancient version of Word I was using for the last five years. I want to tell you kids that I am not enjoying getting old and crotchety nearly as much as I expected to. It doesn’t help that I am aware of the fact that I’m old and crotchety. In fact that may be the entire problem. Old and crotchety people aren’t supposed to know that they’re old and crotchety. They’re supposed to just think that the world is getting worse and stuff just isn’t as good as it used to be. The key to happiness may lie in a lack of self-awareness—in which case I am in a lot of trouble, as I’ve always been very self-aware. Sometimes it’s a blessing, but other times a curse. What can I do?

I spent most of today helping a friend with the last dreadful tasks of moving out of her house. I feel terrible because her husband started a new job on the other side of the country a couple months ago and she’s been here all alone with her four kids taking care of all the house and moving crap, and I have been so absorbed in my own stupid crap that I haven’t been any help to her whatsoever. Until today, of course. Better late than never, I guess, but still, I expected better of myself. I told SD that if he ever decides to take a job on the other side of the country and leave me to pack up and move the house by myself with all four kids, he can expect to hear, “I’ll miss you, honey! Don’t forget to write!”

Seriously, between dealing with my own crap over the last two weeks and watching my friend trying to disposition the last of her crap (really the absolute worst part of moving, in my opinion—all the leftover bits of crap that didn’t fit neatly into boxes but can’t just be thrown out), I am more determined than ever to stay right here until I die. UNTIL I DIE.

I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to see if I’m still alive.  I’d almost forgotten that I intimated that I might be dead by this time.  Well, I’m not.  I’m alive.  I successfully arranged a play date for my son and also for my daughter.  So I have two kids-unrelated-to-me over here.  I did it so my son wouldn’t bother his sister and her friend, so hopefully it works.

As it turns out, laser tag does lend itself rather well to peripheral engagement.  I found a place to hide and waited for people to show themselves and shot them when I could.  In the end I ranked 38 out of 40 players, but my firing accuracy was 21%, which was better than I suspected.  I got shot much less when hiding than when not hiding.  So it really was like gym class.  My husband had a great time, and that’s what matters.  Still not my cuppa, but as my husband pointed out, we so rarely get invited to things, we really ought to take advantage of what few social opportunities come our way.

“You know why that is?” I said.  “Because people don’t like me.”

“Actually,” he said, “I think it’s because they don’t know what to do with our children.”

I think he’s right about that.  I think the fact that two of our children have disabilities and don’t socialize well with other children has put a distance between us and others in our demographic.  Of course, we’re not the only people in our age range/stage of life who have children with autism.  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody’s kid who has autism, but oddly enough, having this thing in common is not enough to base a friendship on.  At one point I was seeking out support groups for parents of Aspies (before I knew that Elvis was also autistic, when Princess Zurg was my main worry), and I found that they just weren’t my scene.  All the conversations revolved around how much trouble our kids were giving us, or what kind of trouble the schools were giving us, and frankly, it was all pretty depressing.

Now, you know me.  You know I like to complain about stuff as much as the next person, maybe more.  But I’ve come to the sad conclusion that my misery doesn’t like that much company.  I don’t really want to relate to people primarily in terms of how much trouble I’m having with my kid.  We can all commiserate about that to some extent, but I don’t define myself primarily as a parent of someone with autism, and being in those support-group situations makes me feel sort of, I dunno, boxed in.  Like I don’t really belong.  I don’t imagine that other parents of autistic people define themselves primarily in that way and that I’m some special snowflake, but maybe I, more than these other people, have some personal problems that prevent me from feeling like one of the group.  Maybe I’m in denial.  Probably there’s no maybe about it.  I’m sure I’m in denial.  I know that my children have autism and that sometimes it sucks, but I don’t like to be confronted with it.  I don’t like to face the fact head on.  I prefer to think of it as an interesting facet of my life, rather than the mostly-consuming thing that it really is.

A couple months ago a friend from church was over and asked Elvis how old he was.  I thought, “He’s not going to answer that question,” because I’d never heard him answer it.  I knew that he knew how old he was–at least I was pretty sure he did–but that didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to process this person’s question and come up with the right response, or, for that matter, be interested enough in the person’s question to bother trying to come up with a response.  So when he said, “Seven,” I was pleasantly surprised, and simultaneously started crying.  Possibly because I realized he’d hit a milestone, but also because I was confronted, unexpectedly, with how low I’ve set the bar for pleasant surprises.  That unexpected confrontation is not a pleasant surprise.

So, yes, I’m in denial.  I’m in denial about a lot of things.  Maybe that’s my defining trait.  I’ve spent the last little bit of my life coming to terms with the fact that I really am an upper-middle class person, heavy on the upper.   I’m not rich, at least as the government defines it.  Our household doesn’t make more than $250,000.  (It doesn’t even make $250,000.)  But I have housekeepers and a part-time nanny, and my husband and I go out to eat at expensive restaurants.  When I was 24, I went to New York City with a friend, who was there on business.  My friend’s boss told her to go out for a nice dinner with her friends (me and another gal, who we were staying with) and expense it.  So we went to the Rainbow Room, which was the swankiest place I had ever been in my life and probably remains so.  (Fancy restaurants and operas and crap on the West Coast are just not the same as fancy places on the East Coast.  West Coast is much less formal.)  It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience for me.  I didn’t care for the food, but more than that, I felt ill-dressed and magnificently out of place.  I felt like the wait staff was looking down on me.  You might be able to convince me intellectually that it was my imagination, but emotionally, forget it.  I knew I was not good enough to be there.

I still don’t feel good enough for places like that.  I don’t feel good enough to have housekeepers, either.  I’ve had housekeepers for three years, and I still feel like it’s beneath them to clean my house.  I’m embarrassed to have them over, and I’m embarrassed to tell people that I have housekeepers because the response is always, “Wow.  Must be nice.”  Well, yeah, it is.  I hate mopping my own floor.  But it’s also weird, being this person who has other people mop her floors for her.  It’s weird to have angst over whether or not or how much to tip the help.  Ha ha, “the help.”  It’s weird to think, “They didn’t do a very good job vacuuming this time,” because then I think, That is not who I am, the lady who complains about The Help.  The Help is probably complaining about me.  (“Her floors are sure filthy.”)  I’m not fit to complain about The Help.  I’m just a simple girl trying to get by.  Or am I?

That last part was rhetorical flourish.  I didn’t really mean it.

When my husband was still in grad school and we had run out of money (again), we housesat/dogsat for these people who way out-classed us.  (We weren’t doing the housesitting/dogsitting for money.  We were doing it for cheap rent while my husband was interning at the Big Satan for money.)  I felt weird and unworthy living in their house and using their towels.  It was a nice house; they had nice stuff.  They used to get these catalogs in the mail for home and garden accessories, and this one catalog sold fancy mailboxes.  The ad copy said, “Have a mailbox that matches the caliber of your home.”  And we just thought that was the height of pretentiousness.  It’s been a joke ever since.  Every time we buy something, one of us turns to the other and says, “But does it match the caliber of our home?”  We are overfed white people who mock overfed white people.  We know we’re them, but we also think we’re really not.

These things are related, but I don’t get paid enough to write something coherent about the relationship.  I’m just a housewife with a free blog.  Or am I?

(No.  I really am.)

I seem to have an extremely low tolerance for irritation today.  Every little thing is annoying the crap out of me to the point of completely losing my #$*#.  I don’t like being screamed at on a good day, but today is not a good day; therefore, I am really, really, really not liking the parts where I get screamed at.  So far it’s only Elvis doing the screaming, but since he screams enough for four children, it is like everyone is screaming at me, even though they’re not.  I feel sorry for the children who are not purposely irritating me because I am acting as if they all are.

I’m not sure why this should be because as I was saying yesterday, I finished all my Christmas shopping.  The Christmas cards are out.  The house is a freaking disaster, sure, and the kids are all home instead of at school, but there’s really no good reason for me to feel this stabby.  I seem to have all this nervous energy that I don’t know what to do with.  Every time I think, “Hey, I know–clean the house!” I turn around and immediately think, “No, no–lock yourself in the bedroom and cry!”  I’ve skipped the stage of depression where I just want to sleep and gone straight to the part where I just want to cry.  Why do I want to cry?  I don’t actually have a reason.  It’s very frustrating.

I might not have slept very well last night.  I seem to recall something along those lines, even though I also recall being very tired when I went to bed.  So tired that I wanted to cry, in fact.  Hm.  I did watch a very depressing episode of Angel last night.  Two depressing episodes, actually.  Maybe I’m hurting from the lack of closure on that front.  It’s hard to say.

Yesterday I sent Mister Bubby over to a friend’s house, where he ended up spending the night.  He came home around noon and has been whining that he has nothing to do.  He wants me to give him ideas.  I suggested that he clean the family room, and that has shut him up for the time being.

Also yesterday, whilst MB was over at said friend’s house, Princess Zurg’s friend was at our house.  This is one of her (many) friends with the ADHD.  She is a sweet, sweet girl, but when she asked if she could stay for dinner, I just…couldn’t…say yes.  My strategy for having my daughter’s friends over ever again as long as they live is for them to stay for relatively-short periods of time when they do come.  Five or six hours, tops.  She called this morning and asked if she could come over again.  I said yes because PZ so rarely has her friends over, and actually this particular friend-with-the-ADHD is great because she likes to play with Girlfriend, too (something that her older siblings do not do of their own accord very often).  So it’s like two play dates for the price of one.  Unfortunately, that is also one of the reasons the house is a disaster.  Not that we couldn’t have done it without her.  Oh, no.  But she helps speed the process along.

If only there were someone for Elvis to play with.  I sometimes wonder if there is more I could be doing on the Elvis-socialization front.  Well, of course there is.  That’s not what I meant.  What I meant is that I sometimes wonder if I should feel guiltier, or feel guilty more often, about not doing more on the Elvis-socialization front.  It’s just so much work, amigos.  I can’t just invite a kid over and say, “Okay, Elvis and Random Kid–have at it!”  There needs to be more adult direction than that, especially if the Random Kid also has social/cognitive issues.  I have a hard enough time socializing for myself.  I really shouldn’t be the go-to person for fixing other people’s social lives.  And yet, here I am, the proud parent of two children who need a lot of help on the socialization front.  That’s like karma or something.  Or irony.  Ironic karma, perhaps.  I don’t know.

It’s really my husband, the people-person, who should be the at-home parent, micro-managing everyone’s social lives.  Unfortunately, he already has a job.  We could switch places, but with the disparity in our employable skill sets, the pay cut would be too drastic, i.e. we would have to live on the streets and eat ketchup packets (which would make it difficult to host play dates, as well).

Anyway.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, the wanting-to-cry part.  I think I’ve worked through that.  Now I just want to eat some stuff.  But I will probably do the dishes instead.  Maybe clean the family room, since no one else is going to.

This morning I woke up with a strong sense of foreboding. I thought it might just be because Princess Zurg’s BFF was coming over to play for six ADHD-filled hours. I kept telling myself, “It’s only six hours. Only six hours [unlike their usual playdates, which last 8-10 hours]. Why should you be freaking out over six hours?” But no amount of positive self-talk would allay my vaguely defined fear.

Then I had to take Mister Bubby to basketball camp. After dropping him off at basketball camp, I was to pick up PZ’s BFF and bring her back to the house. Today was garbage day, which meant that Elvis would be wanting to watch the garbage trucks pick up the garbage cans on our street. I told Elvis I was taking MB to camp, and he should stay at home with PZ to wait for the garbage trucks. But Elvis didn’t want to stay at home with PZ. He wanted to go in the car to take MB to camp. It is difficult for me to know what to do in these situations. On the one hand, I am only comfortable leaving Elvis in PZ’s care if he is willingly staying home. Because if he isn’t willingly staying home, who knows what he’ll do? Who knows that the authorities won’t end up getting involved? I can’t afford that. On the other hand, if he misses the garbage truck, there will be hell to pay, and I can’t afford that, either.

So. I thought to myself, “The garbage truck doesn’t usually come until about 10 o’clock. It’s a little before 9:00 now. If we hurry, we can be back by 9:30. The garbage truck probably won’t come while we’re gone.” So I decided to take the path of least resistance and we all got in the car and set about our business.

You know what happened, don’t you? How long have you been reading my blog? Not as long as I’ve been living my life, and yet you know already what I am about to tell you, which is that we dropped MB off at camp, made the round trip to and from BFF’s house in record time and arrived home at 9:28 a.m., pulling onto our street JUST AS THE GARBAGE TRUCK WAS LEAVING. It was so predictable, it was pathetic, wasn’t it? Weren’t you just screaming at me as I left the house with those children? “Don’t do it! What are you, an idiot?!” Like the slutty girl in the slasher movies, I JUST WON’T STAY AWAY FROM THE BOAT HOUSE!

Elvis got out of the car, walked over to the trash can, opened the lid and peered inside for what seemed like an eternity. Then he looked up. “It came,” he said.

“It came?” I said.

“I missed it.”

“You missed it?”

“I MISSED IT!!!!!!”

I spent the next half-hour or so trying to comfort him. There was much hugging and wiping of tears and screening of old video footage of garbage trucks past, amid all the “I MISSED THE GARBAGE TRUCK!!! IT’S SAD!!! I WANNA CRY!!!” And I went back and forth between Sympathetic Mother validating the sadness and Han Solo saying, “It’s not my fault!” But eventually…he decided some bagels would help. Then he decided he’d draw on his white board. Then he decided that what was really upsetting was that he had run out of dry-erase board wipes, and I had a whole other thing to feel guilty about that was even less my fault, and everything was more or less back to normal.

Now he is drawing trash cans on paper and cutting them out and laying them on our living room floor in an exact replica of our neighborhood’s trash-collection model. And there are only four and a half hours until PZ’s BFF goes home. The day may be salvageable after all. Or is it?

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Mister Bubby:  If you take steroids, you can develop breasts.

Madhousewife:  Maybe I should take steroids.

MB:  But, Mom, if you take them, you’ll develop really big ones.  And we don’t want our mom to be Barbie.

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Here’s a thing I don’t like:  swimming.  I am hard-pressed to come up with a single thing that I like about this popular summertime activity.  In case you were wondering, I am about to explain, yet again, why I am no fun whatsoever and it’s a miracle that anyone can stand to be around me.  (You’re welcome, honey.  That was for you.  P.S.  Thanks for not divorcing me ages ago just because of my dour and depressing personality.)  Here is a list of things I don’t like about swimming:

1.  Getting in and out of my bathing suit.  I don’t dislike wearing a bathing suit.  In fact, when it’s really hot, I love wearing a bathing suit.  I don’t care how I look in it.  I care that it is socially acceptable in certain weather to wear this amount of clothing, no matter how it might make others feel.  I don’t like the bother of having to change my clothes, or more specifically, to change back into my clothes, particularly at a public pool, which brings me to the next point.

2.  Public pool dressing rooms are gross.  Not because there’s a bunch of naked strangers in them–though, now that I mention it, that is kind of creepy.  But that’s not what I mean.  They’re all wet and humid and oozing with the residue of human experience.  I hate touching my bare feet to the inevitably-slimy floor, but there’s not much way to get around that if you’re going to get out of a wet bathing suit (or a dry bathing suit, but a wet bathing suit is worse because it’s harder to deal with and prolongs the activity and therefore the potential amount of time your bare feet might have to be in contact with the slimy floor).  And yes, I realize it’s kind of my imagination that the floor is “slimy.”  Really, it’s probably just merely “wet,” but…no, it’s not working to tell myself that.  It is slimy.  It is.  And my feet are touching the slime.  Ew.  I hate it.

3.  It was really super-effing hot before I took a cleansing shower, but now that I’m actually all wet, the temperature has suddenly dipped about 20 degrees.  How is that accomplished?  Now I have to get into the pool, where it is at least theoretically warmer–except isn’t it supposed to be cooler than the air?  Isn’t the hotness of the air the reason I was roped into going swimming in the first place?  To get into the nice cool water?  And yet the world is all backwards and upside down now.  I’m wet and freezing cold and the only way to get warm is to get into the water, but the only way to stay warm is to be all the way under the water, except maybe for my head, which is okay to be a little bit cold if it means I can still breathe, but since I am here at the pool with my kids and have to stay in the shallow end, the only way to be mostly-underwater is to maintain this really uncomfortable position that invites leg cramps and the occasional charlie horse.

4.  I don’t mind being wet, but I don’t like to be splashed.  I don’t like having water in my eyes or in my nose.  I’m a sissy.  Sue me.

5.  Chlorinated water hurts my eyes and also nauseates me.

I guess that’s about it.  Fortunately, I don’t think I will have to go swimming again until vacation, when we go to a water park, which is technically different from swimming, but still boasts all the above unpleasantness, plus:

6.  There are long lines.

7.  There are scary rides that plunge you into chlorinated water, which you may try to drown in even though it’s only 4 feet deep.

Fortunately, that is only one day of the fun.

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Elvis went to day camp for a total of four weeks this summer.  That was awesome.  Now he is home for the duration of the summer, which is less awesome, no offense to him.  We are still doing Math Minutes.  We are just about to finish the second go-round of the 100 minutes and may be able to complete a third before school begins.  Lucky us.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned Elvis’s traffic light obsession.  It’s been going on for several months, so it seems incredible that I haven’t, and yet just thinking about Elvis’s traffic light obsession makes me tired, so maybe it’s not so incredible that I’ve never bothered explaining it.  Anyway, he is obsessed with the traffic lights.  Last night at the public swimming pool, which is outdoors, he spent a good portion of the time hanging out at the edge of the pool and watching the corner traffic lights change.  He can do this INDEFINITELY.  Every time we’re out walking in public, we run the risk of being stuck at an intersection for great gobs of time because Elvis cannot pull himself away from the fascinating change from red to green to yellow to red to green to yellow to red to green to yellow to red…if you catch my drift–not to mention the added complexity when you put protected-left-turn arrows in the mix.  Oh.  My.  It is a beautiful thing, if you are autistic and not in any particular rush to get anywhere, ever.

Elvis learned to ride a bike back in May, and the first solo trip he took was down to the nearest major intersection so he could watch the traffic lights.  We noticed at one point that he was gone, and just then we got a phone call from a neighbor who happened to be driving down one of the streets at that intersection (well, technically, her husband was driving, she was riding–it’s against the law to drive and talk on your cell phone at the same time, and I want you to understand that our neighbors are on the up and up), telling us that he was there.  I can’t say I was all that worried about his safety because Elvis, for all his cognitive deficits, may be the most competent and self-sufficient child I have.  Nevertheless, for propriety’s sake, if nothing else, we had to set some limits on where he could ride his bike (down to the nearest major intersection being out of bounds).

So on Memorial Day, we were just  hanging out at home and Elvis said he wanted to go on a walk to see the traffic light.  Since I wasn’t busy, I said, sure, we’ll go for a walk to the traffic light.  So we went to the nearest major intersection and watched the traffic lights.  And watched.  And watched.  Eventually I started counting the changes.  When I got to twenty, I called it quits, and we came home.  Since then, I’ve instituted this routine where we go to the traffic light and practice crossing the intersection safely (in the crosswalk).  We make 3-4 round trips and then go home.  It’s fun because it has a discrete beginning and ending.  I like that.

What I don’t like is driving in the car and being subject to all of Elvis’s emotions about the changing of the traffic lights, or the failure of the traffic lights to change in what he deems a reasonable manner.  Elvis does NOT like it when you make a right turn on red, even though we’ve explained a thousand times (literally, which is why I said “a thousand” and not “a million”) that it’s perfectly legal and even expected (much like wearing a bathing suit in August).  Indeed, it is almost impossible to avoid making a right turn on red at some point in our driving excursion, unless I really want to incur the wrath of all those cars lined up behind me.  It’s hard, though, because Elvis still doesn’t accept that this is okay, and he will start screaming and will probably hit the driver or kick the seat or whatever.  Even though these temper tantrums have become significantly truncated over time, I still find myself getting really tense when I have to make one of these right turns.

Here’s something else, though, that Elvis likes EVEN LESS than the right-turn-on-red.  Our city has just installed all these flashing-yellow-arrow-left-turn lights, which has made life significantly awesomer for anyone who cares about traffic control, but significantly LESS awesome for anyone who has to ride in a car with Elvis, who does not approve of these strange new lights, for reasons you can probably intuit.  I don’t know how long it will be before I can see one without experiencing some kind of stress disorder.

And now His Neuro-atypical Majesty would like a sandwich, so this has to be all for now, folks.  Gentle readers, adieu.

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I have never liked the term “special needs” as referring to disabilities. I dislike it most as an adjective, e.g. “a special-needs child,” because it is inelegant (one of the same reasons I hate “stay-at-home mom”), but the main reason for disliking it is more substantive. Every child has special needs. In our home there are two children with autism and two children who are “typically developing,” but each has needs particular to him or her and one is not more “special” than another.

I don’t like the term “special needs,” but I find myself using it anyway because it is the popular term these days and a convenient shorthand when you’re trying to be inclusive of various kinds of disabilities. But you know what? I don’t like the word “disabled” or “disability” any better.

Last week I posted something about Rahm Emanuel getting raked over the coals for using “retarded” as an insult. I understand how “retarded” has come to be a pejorative and therefore it has to be shuttled by polite society. Apparently they are in the process of replacing all instances of the words “retarded” and “retardation” in government documents with “disabled” or “intellectual disability” or something along those lines. I understand why they’re doing it, and yet I also think it’s too bad that a word that started out as a euphemism for a particular kind of handicap–a nice word, meaning “slow”–is now considered no better than a racial slur, just because some mean people misused it (a lot). That’s what mean people do, you know. They see people’s weaknesses and they mock them. They can turn any word into an insult, and eventually we have no choice but to capitulate to their meanness and designate the word unacceptable. And eventually the word is used exclusively as an insult, with no consideration given to its earlier, benign meaning. (See “dumb” and “idiot.”)

The trick is to find a new term that is cumbersome enough that schoolyard bullies aren’t tempted to co-opt it for their nefarious purposes. Mean people are already using “special needs” the same way they use “retarded,” but “developmentally disabled” hasn’t quite caught on as an insult–probably because it is more tongue-twisty than “special needs.” So maybe it will have staying power as a “nice” term for folks who were once called “retarded” (in a nice way), but I still don’t like it.

“Dis-abled” means “not abled,” so it’s no wonder that the especially PC among us prefer the term “differently abled.” I personally think “differently abled” is ridiculous, but “disabled” has a more negative connotation in my mind than, say, “handicapped.” I mean, golfers have handicaps. I don’t see anything wrong with saying my child has a handicap. My child does have a handicap. It doesn’t make him less valuable as a human being, and I’m not sure how the word “handicap” implies such a thing, but at some point somebody decided that “handicapped” was pejorative. (Remember when they used to say “handicapable”? Thus proving that there is a more ridiculous term than “differently abled.”) Alas, I was not the parent of a handicapped child back when they were deciding to jettison “handicapped.” I would certainly have spoken up for it. But it’s too late for that.

It’s not too late, though, for me to chime in on the word “autistic.” I was surprised and dismayed to learn that people actually object to using this word as a descriptor and insist that instead of referring to people as “autistic,” we should refer to them as “people with autism.” Okay, whatever. Is that not what “autistic” means? Of or relating to autism? My understanding is that they want to emphasize the personhood rather than the disability, but…again, whatever. Of course my children are people with autism. They are autistic people. Are you a white person, or are you a “person with whiteness”? Are you a tall person, or are you a “person with tallness”? Are you a mean person, or are you a “person with meanness”? I can’t get behind this new trend. It’s too dumb, if you’ll pardon the expression. (Rahm Emanuel might use more colorful terminology, but I sure won’t.)

Anyway, what are your thoughts, gentle readers? How do you feel about “disabled” and “special needs” rather than “handicapped,” or for that matter, “retarded”? And what about “autistic”? What the bleep is wrong with “autistic”?

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…the tastiest thing you have eaten all day is your fish-oil supplement.

…you consider clicking on the “Support” tab in the upper right corner of your blog dashboard before you realize that it means technical support.

…you hear a bus and you think, “OMG, is that my daughter’s bus?  Is it time to pick up my son already?” and then you panic as you realize that it is after 4:00, and you don’t remember receiving your daughter’s bus or going to pick up your son, but then you realize that your daughter is watching TV in the other room and your son is playing on the computer not six feet away from you, so you must have picked them up and are just losing your freaking mind.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I had thought I was going to have a breakthrough a week and a half ago.  I was having the most awful week.  I went to Elvis’s Back-to-School night, and I was overcome with sadness because as far as my son has come in a relatively short time, I can’t get past the fact that the bar is set lower because of his disability.  I love Elvis and part of me wishes he’d never change–just as part of me would like to hold all my kids in their innocent stages forever–but every so often it really hits me hard that this is the proverbial Trip to Holland, and it isn’t mourning that I don’t get to go to Italy, but mourning that Elvis himself will never go to Italy.

I tried to erase that and say “may never,” but I couldn’t type that without thinking, “Right.  [In unison now]  Denial.”  At the same time, it feels like a crime not to have higher hopes.  I like to think I do have higher hopes, but in reality I just don’t deal with the future tense.  I deal with stuff as it happens, and I don’t have an end goal; it’s just an endless process of trying not to screw up too much.

I find myself getting irritated when someone asks if or when Elvis will be mainstreamed.  I say, “We’ll see how this year goes,” and the person says something like, “Well, he could be mainstreamed by second grade, maybe even first grade, you never know, if he has the right supports, etc.”–and I just want to say, “Shut up, I’m not dealing with it yet, just slow down!”  I don’t want to speculate about the future because I don’t want to be wrong and I don’t want to be right.  I don’t want the responsibility.

So I thought I was going to cry, sitting there in one of the little chairs in Elvis’s kindergarten classroom, with the teacher explaining about circle time and turn-taking and the blue table vs. the yellow table and snack time as a language-building activity–because I am so proud of Elvis and how much he’s learning and so delighted that he loves school, but this is still the land of windmills, and the temptation to tilt at one is just too strong.  It hurts me.

Also, I had PMS.

Another realization I had was that I put off seeing my psychiatrist because I don’t like returning untriumphant.  If I go back yet again with “Yeah, that medication isn’t doing it for me,” I feel like it isn’t the medication’s failure, but my own.  You know that line in The Importance of Being Earnest–“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”?  That’s how my pharmaceutical therapy is looking to me these days.  Surely this many drugs can’t be wrong.  I must be the one who’s wrong.

And yet I cannot right myself.  It is a most frustrating dilemma.

It’s become clear to me, however, that I must schedule more regular and frequent visits to the psychiatrist because I am completely incapable of managing my own mental health.  I need structure.  I need a framework.  I need to blather narcissistically in front of a trained professional who is paid to put up with my crap.  Because I am not just a normal housewife with a lot on her plate.  I seem to have dispensed with the plate and the stuff that should be on the plate is slipping through my fingers, and let me tell you, there is a lot of gravy there.  It’s a mess.

Plus, my metaphor machine is broken.  Gentle readers, adieu.

For the last several weeks I’ve been trying to make this social story for Elvis about using the potty.  Part of the trouble has been images.  Photographs are more concrete than drawings, but there are some things that just shouldn’t be photographed.  So when it came time to do the pages about sitting down on the toilet vs. standing up, I thought I would have to settle for drawings.

My own artistic skills are somewhat limited, though I’m not too proud to put my lack of talent on display for the sake of my children’s education.  However, the best–or least offensive–drawings I could make of sitting on a toilet involved rudimentary stick figures, and I wasn’t sure if Elvis would “get” them or not.  I preferred to have a better drawing.  So I did something that I knew I should not do.  You know where this is going, don’t you? 

Right now you’re thinking, “No, girl, you did not–you did NOT look for toilet pictures on Google Images!”  Look, I said I wasn’t proud.  I knew it wouldn’t be pretty, but I was desperate.  I tried to play it safe.  I tried to find links via autism sites; they were all broken.  I used my inferior Googling skills to try to find the sites the original links were supposed to be linking to.  I Googled “toilet training” instead of just “toilet.”  I did not Google “sitting on the toilet.”  Okay?  I’m not that stupid.  I am only a little bit stupid.  Well, even under “toilet training” there were images I did not care to see.  Gentle reader, you would not believe what pictures people will post of their own kids online.  No, not those kinds of pictures.  But still–nothing you want on your Facebook page when you’re trying to get a job, you know what I’m saying?.  ::shudder::  Learn from my mistakes.  Do not go there.

So after all this suffering, did I even get what I had come for?  No.  So I thought, very well, I will use my rudimentary stick figures.  At least they aren’t DISGUSTING.  Well, to me they’re not.  I couldn’t really say what Elvis would think.  And that’s when I remembered (later than I would have liked, but fortunately not too late) that I own a digital camera and the Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse–fully furnished!

Here is where you’ll probably want to stop reading.  Heck, you probably should have never come here in the first place.  If you’re still here, maybe you get what you deserve.  But I feel obligated to post the following photographs as a service to any other desperate parents out there who might be Googling “non-disgusting toilet training pictures that won’t get me arrested if the cops ever search my computer.”

I had a little trouble at first with my model.  He’s not the easiest to work with.

dollpotty 002

See, that just doesn’t look comfortable, does it?

Fortunately, his knees bend.

dollpotty 003

See, that’s more genteel, isn’t it?  And an equally discreet image of the Greatest Joy of Manhood (according to my husband):

dollpotty 004

And because my children have a particular problem with pooping while standing:

dollpottynostand

Yes, I realize that the doll’s pants are still on in all these pictures.  I’M NOT A SICKO, OKAY?  That’s the whole rationale behind this exercise.

Anyway, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stop giggling this afternoon.  Because I’ve lost my mind, Gentle Reader.  I have lost my freaking mind.

I was just looking for visual supports for Elvis on the internet, and I came across a site that sells autism awareness merchandise–which is all well and good, I’m hip to awareness, I’m hip to merchandise–but some of the items were a little odd.  I mean, bumper stickers and keychains are one thing–well, actually, they’re two things, but you know what I mean.  On the one hand you have your bumper stickers and keychains and license plate holders, and on the other hand you have your totes and coffee mugs and your sterling silver and Swarovski crystal bracelets.  That’s all fine.  But then it starts to get a little weird. 


You’ve got your Autism “No-Sew” Fleece Scarf.  Your Autism Classic Blanket.  Your Autism Fanny Pack.  This is all just amusing to me.  Then there’s the Autism Photo Frame Magnet.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with the basic concept here.  A photo frame using the autism-puzzle motif is no tackier than a tie tack with the same pattern.  One might argue that it’s less tacky.  What I find just remotely disconcerting is that you have this autism-puzzle pattern with the word AUTISM emblazoned over it.  So you have a picture of your loved one and there’s this handy label hanging over their head.  I’m sorry there isn’t a better picture of it.  Maybe up close and personal it looks less bizarre, but I don’t know.  Now, obviously, you don’t have to use this frame for a photo of a loved one with autism.  You could put a photo of your St. Bernard in there.  That would actually be kind of funny, now that I think on it.  But isn’t it still kind of weird? 


I shouldn’t pick on this poor puzzle frame when there are so many more offensive autism-related products out there. I’ve seen autism-awareness t-shirts that made me want to punch someone.  Fortunately, I’ve never seen them on an actual child.  Child-punching is against my principles.






My awesome sister sent me a six-pack of Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love the crass commercialization of the holiest day in all Christendom?  What makes Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs better than regular Reeses Peanut Butter Cups is that they’re twice as thick and therefore twice as therapeutic.  Which is good because I have some serious self-medicating to do these days.






I got an e-mail from the district special education facilitator, who says she’s turned in Princess Zurg’s application to the School for Incorrigible Girls, and if she is accepted (and we choose to select this placement), she will probably start March 31.  Her bus transportation wouldn’t start until a week later, so in the interim we have two options:  1) drive her ourselves and get reimbursed for mileage, or 2) send her in a cab at the district’s expense.  What’s funny about this is that when we visited SIG last month, we saw a cab pulling out of the parking lot, and I just said off-handedly, “What if we just had PZ take a cab to school?”  Too bad they won’t pay for a limo.  That’d be sweet. 






If your child is a Thomas the Tank Engine fan, you should watch this video.  Note that I didn’t say your child should necessarily watch this video.  I’m not sure my two-year-old appreciated the satire, but at least it had a happy ending, so she wasn’t too traumatized.


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