Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Cup Runneth Over

Fate is a prankster when it comes to scheduling. It must be. When one major thing happens to me, at least three other things decide they have to pile on too. I’m left looking like an apocalyptic survivor, my eyes wide and staring, my hair standing on end, my face lined with stress. 

It is always this way. 

The latest occurrence centered around my sleep. Now I don’t sleep well as a general rule. Insomniac is me. Nights where I drift off within an hour of hitting the sheets and don’t wake up until the morning are reasons to believe in miracles. But I usually do manage at least 6 hours of belated, oft-interrupted slumber each night. 

I knew the nights surrounding March 8 would not herald decent rest. March 8 was the Daylight Savings Time switch. You know, spring forward and lose a precious hour? That stupid thing wrought somewhere in the bowels of Hell? Who came up with this nightmare, anyway? Take that person out and shoot them, please. 

March 8 is also Kiddo’s birthday. We had a weekend of joy planned for him: pizza party on the 7th and train museum excursion on the 8th. I knew things were going to be hectic. I was readying for a new book release at the end of the month (Alt-Tam’s work), and it was formatting hell right then. My house needed to be cleaned before friends and family showed up, which meant the usual squalor had to be eliminated. That was a two-day project at the least. Scrambling to decorate, wrapping presents, ordering food and cake ... yes, crazed time was swiftly upon me. Stress climbed to incredible altitudes. 

And then the unplanned thing guaranteed to destroy any hope of rest swooped in on me. Something that any other time would have felt like a miraculous godsend. A producer contacted me about potentially making a script I had written into a TV series. 

All circuits were immediately blown. My brain went into overload, guaranteeing no sleep for the known future. Excitement, hope, and not a little terror conspired to amp me up into the stratosphere. There was no coming down from the adrenaline hit now. I was flying high. 

Saturday, the day of the party, my head felt like it weighed a ton from the fitful dozing I’d barely managed the night before. Somehow the celebration went off without a hitch. Yet a new stressor was introduced, one I hadn’t thought too much about until it was too late. With all the sugar and salt in my system, my menopausal body went into overload. Despite the night’s exhaustion, continued excitement and monstrous non-stop hot flashes conspired to keep me awake most of the night. I was a barely functioning troll on Sunday. I dragged around the train museum after my delighted son, looking like an extra from The Walking Dead. Afterwards, we let him choose where he would have dinner. Of course it was the home of salt: McDonald’s.  

With my diet already trampled, I came home to party leftovers. I ate the party leftovers. Another night of sweating and no sleep ensued as my mind went over every little nuance of the pilot script I’d written and wondering where the hell I was going to find a decent entertainment lawyer in Buttscratch, Georgia, should the miracle of a contract come about. 

This is the way things go in my life. One little thing is planned. Then a bunch of other things happen, zeroing in on that date of the calendar. You’d think I’d expect it by now. But no, I’m always surprised by the coincidental events that barrel at me like a runaway train. 

This is my world. This is why I look the way I do. Have pity when you come across this poor, shambling wreck. Don’t be surprised if I collapse in a snoring heap in the middle of a conversation. And if anything comes up that I need to deal with, please just shoot me. It's the only way I'll ever get any rest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Taking the Good with the Bad

This morning the school bus didn’t show up. Well, it did show up, but an hour and a half late. By then, I’d already packed up Kiddo and driven him to school. During the ride he was crying. He said he was sad. He told me he was having a bad day. 

Something as insignificant as a late (or no-show) bus has a huge impact on my son. An abrupt change in routine is akin to an earthquake in his carefully ordered world. Things are thrown off-kilter, and it is hard for him to recover from that. 

It took some effort for your not-so-friendly neighborhood Momzilla to offer condolences and gentle words to her confused child. Not because I didn’t feel and sympathize with his pain, but because I felt more inclined to make phone calls and pour some abusive epithets into the guilty party’s ear. I’m ugly like that when someone makes my kid cry. 

Kiddo had calmed down by the time we got to school, thank heavens. At least the tears were done. I walked him down the hall swarming with kids and other parents to his classroom.  

That’s where the blessing in disguise revealed itself. 

The class was just getting started. As my son entered the room, twenty-some heads turned to look at him. Suddenly, the air rang with glad welcomes. Faces broke out in smiles to see Kiddo was with them. Hands rose like a forest to offer high-fives. The cute little redhaired girl I’ve picked as my future daughter-in-law jumped up to give Jacob a hug. He was greeted like a long-lost friend even though they’d seen him just yesterday. 

I thought my heart might explode. My child, who had started the day in tears, grinned from ear-to-ear to see his classmates. He walked a gauntlet of kids who were happy to have him among them.  

News and social media are full of reports of special needs kids being bullied and victimized. I’ve almost accepted it as a given that this is the world Kiddo faces. I’m waiting for the day when something goes horribly wrong because someone feels they can hurt a child who is different. I’m expecting the worst long before hoping for the best. 

Today, I got a dose of hope. Thanks to irresponsible adults who didn’t have a backup for a sick bus driver who couldn’t make it to work, I got to see a miracle. I saw some terrific kids who not only accept my son, but delight in him though he thinks and acts differently from them. I got to see that at this time, my child does have a safe place where he is literally welcomed with open arms. Was it worth a few tears? That remains debatable. For now however, I’m smiling as big as my son did when he walked into that classroom filled with friends.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ladies Man

It’s far too often that I read of kids with autism being bullied by others. It makes everything inside me clench to know the victims of such unwarranted attacks could easily be my son and my friends’ children who are not neuro-typical.

Yet Kiddo thus far has led a charmed life. Sometimes I’ve noted children on the playground who don’t quite understand his behaviors. For the most part they’ll give him an odd look and leave him alone. However, there are a few occasions when a child is more fascinated than put off. They’ll go to lengths to break through and get J-man to play with them in some way. It’s nice to see kids that age can let their hearts lead.

It helps that Kiddo has his moments when he wants to reach out to people. He has a particular affinity for girls and women. Boy, does he have an affinity.

I think he was three years old that one day we went to the beach to soak in the warm March sun. Kiddo loves the ocean, jumping and splashing his heart out in the waves. This day was no different. With Hubs and I nearby in case our fearless adventurer decided to strike out for open water ... which is a big temptation for him ... he was soon soggy and sandy.

Spring break was in full swing. The Golden Isles of Georgia are certainly not ground zero for wild frat boys and drunken coeds. We’ll never be Ft. Lauderdale, thank the merciful heavens. But we do get a few Breakers in our area, looking for a place to quietly soak in sand and surf.

It was no surprise to see a line of about half a dozen bikini-clad coeds sauntering down the beach. Lovely young sun-bronzed goddesses, they chattered and laughed about whatever it is young people laugh about. (I’m too old to remember. Did we laugh in my day? Had laughter been invented yet?)

Kiddo spotted them as he wallowed in the water. His eyes lit up. I suppose he felt rather debonair in his Go Diego trunks, because he immediately jumped to his feet and took off running to greet the goddesses.

Zeroing in on the middle of the line, he held his arms up to be picked up by the startled lovely. She didn’t pick up his soaked, gritty little body, but she and her friends did cluster around him, oohing and aahing over the cute little tike. He won hearts that day.

He’s still winning hearts, but now it’s those of a more age-appropriate level. He’s less into snaring barely clad cougars now that he’s in the company of girls around his general height. At our last conference, his teacher chuckled over how Kiddo is always surrounded by the cream of the 2nd grade crop on the playground. “The girls love him,” she said.

I used to swear up and down no woman would be good enough for her precious son. Oh yes, I fully planned to be 'that mom', judging my adored progeny’s potential mates. I knew I would find them all wanting.


...and this.

It turns out I was wrong. When we joined Kiddo for his school’s Thanksgiving lunch, I met the daughter-in-law of my dreams. So what if she’s still only eight? Arranged marriages are still legal, right? 

Ah, there she sat with her slab of turkey-ish meat drowning in the second or third-finest gravy from a jar, a carton of white milk at hand. The little adorable redhead at my son’s side watched him carefully as he pushed aside the fluorescent orange round of yam in favor of the dinner roll. I learned Red always stuck with Kiddo for lunch and playground. She dotes on my boy. She cares for him. She looks out for him. She is perfect for him. 

But what is this? The teacher tells me that lately there is another little lady love giving Red some hefty competition for my son’s affections. Now he has two of them vying to be his grade school sweetheart. Romper Room Romeo is reeling them in, apparently. Hubby’s chest puffs out as he grins. “That’s my boy.” When I mention the girls’ names, Kiddo just smiles and ducks his head. He’s not talking about his conquests. “Stop it, Mommy,” I am warned. 

Far from being picked on for his differences, Kiddo is somehow charming himself a harem. It gives me real hope for his future ... no, not that he'll convert to some polygamous cult. I have hope that others will accept him for who he is. That they’ll even like him for who he is, rather than just tolerate him in spite of his challenges. He has a real chance for friends, allies, and defenders. 

Meanwhile, I need to discuss wedding plans with frontrunner Red’s mom. No sense in waiting until the last moment when you have a sure thing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What Ya Got Cookin’?

Let’s face it. I’m not going to live forever. The world can barely handle a mere lifetime’s worth of me as it is, so that’s a good thing overall.  

However, it worries me as the parent of a special needs child. At some point Kiddo will have to brave this world on his own. That’s why I’m such a crazed fiend when it comes to teaching him basic life skills. Choosing clothes to wear, putting laundry away, clearing his place at the table ... stuff parents of neuro-typical (NT) children take for granted ... well it takes some doing in the Jock household. Every chance I get, I’m shoving some learning-based project down the poor boy’s throat. 

And speaking of shoving stuff down his throat... 

Cooking his own lunch has become Kiddo’s Saturday project for the last few weeks. He’s pretty good at pouring his own juice now, and he’s been popping waffles in the toaster for breakfast for months. Because my life isn’t complicated enough (ha!) I thought we might be ready to step it up a notch. 

Two reasons for getting my son into the kitchen to cook. First, the aforementioned life skill thing. Child cannot live by waffle alone. Second, like many kids with autism, Jacob is limited in what he will eat. Textures, the look, and the taste all come into play when it comes to what he will and will not shove into his mouth. Apparently the television remote is delicious, because he is always chewing on that. If plastic was a food group, we’d be in good shape. 

Alas, it is not. So in my attempt to get Kiddo to eat more of what Mommy and Daddy like to eat (that would be everything for us hogs), I thought cooking his own food would encourage the boy to expand his taste buds. 

I found an amazing weapon to wield in this new battlefront. Special Day Cooking: A Life Skills Cookbook was written specifically for kids with developmental challenges. It offers safe to prepare, quick, and easy to follow recipes. I nearly did a back flip when I found this treasure, available from http://specialdaycooking.com/. 

I can’t say enough about this book. Implementing just the toaster and microwave for cooking, kids can prepare all sorts of yummy meals and snacks for themselves. Kiddo started off with English muffin pizzas. He’s also made scrambled cheesy eggs and bacon, among other things. He’s so proud of himself as he takes his plate to the table and eats food he made. He’s even building on the recipes, adding ingredients he likes. I admit to bursts of unadulterated glee as I watch him create and enjoy the end result of his efforts. I can tell he gets a thrill out of it himself. 

It’s not gourmet food by any means. It’s something much better. It’s one less reason for me to worry when the time comes for me to exit the mortal coil. Kiddo may not have figured out the bathing thing quite yet, but at least he’ll have a full stomach while wallowing in his own stench.