Tag Archives: Autismland

Earning the Cupcake

Dear Diary:

“It’s day five; I don’t know if I’m going to make it out alive. If you are reading this, save yourselves…and send chocolate.”

Death By Cupcake

Much like the Montagues and Capulets, there is a plague upon this house. It started on Sunday.

Day 1—Sunday – Signs of Plague Appear

Drag child to public events, watch in horror his inevitable descent into phlegmy madness. I race through the stages of grief like its an Olympic event and I’m going for the gold.


Child: “Sniffle. Cough.”

Me: “No! You are not making that sound!”


Child: “Hack, snort, cough, cough, (insert revolting phlegmy sound here.)”

Me: “No no no no no. You can’t be sick! We just got here–trampoline adventure awaits and hockey practice starts at 3:00!”


Me: “Maybe it’s allergies. Or dust. Or you are just leaking. If you just go in and have fun, I’m sure you’ll feel better.”

Child: (Sucking inhalation of gargling nose noise.)


Me: “Well I guess you aren’t going to school tomorrow.”

Child: “Achkrkskhclag!” (Makes noise like a fork going through the food disposal.)


Day 2Monday – Home From School

Child is not the least bit tired. He races from room to room, stopping periodically to cough directly into my face or into the nearest plate of food.*

Speaking of food, have I mentioned that the microwave has been broken for days now? I eat cold left-over stuffed peppers rather than try to reheat them, because battling to get the microwave to function sends child into a fit of hysteria. I am near tears myself.

In an effort to reign him in, force child to clean room. Discover bed frame has actually warped into a vague ‘U’ shape. Child manages to keep room clean for about a minute.

bed frame
Purchased this year at Kidz Bedz–really, what they should be called is Cheap-Azz-Bedz.

While I am cleaning bathroom, child turns stove on, past the ignition point, filling house with gas. Discover window I had ‘fixed’ is actually still broken as now it won’t stay open.

Survive day despite child’s efforts. Find bottle of wine saved in basement for a ‘special occasion’. This day has been extra fucking special.

Day 3—War on the Home Front

I have battened the hatches and am maintaining a hostile truce with the enemy. My child is trying to drive me mad…or kill me. He keeps spreading mucous on everything he touches. Every surface is a burgeoning petri dish of bacterial possibilities.

He spends fifteen to twenty minutes running up and down the stairs like a maniac, giggling and shrieking for all he is worth. I am afraid to go downstairs to find out why he is so happy.

I suspect he is just thrilled to be out of school. His new phrase is ‘stay home’. Any communication is pretty big for a non-verbal child. So, I’m ecstatic to hear him talking, even if he sounds like a congested, thirty-year smoker.

Any time I leave him on his own, trouble ensues. At some point, he eats the small, rubber toggle mouse that came with my laptop computer and the grandfather clock is now missing its pendulum. He is like one of the scary, Weeping Angels from Dr. Who—I don’t dare take my eyes off him.

I certainly feel like weeping...
I certainly feel like weeping…

After he floods the bathroom and then sends water pouring down the stairs by overflowing the kitchen sink, I may have threatened to lock him in his room for the rest of his life.

I call for reinforcements.  Cousins come—bearing Lysol disinfectant and hand sanitizer, they’re not stupid—to help me eat pizza and drown my sorrows in a game of Settlers of Cataan. I feel human for a very short while. But then, they are gone and I am alone with him once more.

Day—Infinity?—Who the F*ck knows?

It feels like eternity since I have had a break. Now the only break I can envision is a total nervous breakdown. I am randomly shrieking at child and alternately trying to make amends for my horrible behavior. He is fairly oblivious to both my good and my not-so-good efforts.**

Despite being sick, he isn’t sleeping much, as a result, I’m exhausted. Everything is getting on my very last, razor-wire thin nerve. Every time he does something—turn off the fridge, steal my keys, pour the bottle of green dish soap into a garbage can in his bedroom for the second time—my patience is becoming dangerously frayed. Even my son starts to pick up on it because when I shove him in his room with a strangled threat to hang him by his toes and beat him like a pinata, he recognizes that maybe, just maybe, mommy isn’t kidding.

That night, I drive us to the nearby store and pick up some well-earned desserts.*** My son picks out the biggest, sprinkle emblazoned cookie and coughs hard enough to etch the glass with his breath. The clerk doesn’t say a word about the diet coke I buy along with my sugary confections—I suspect the desperation in my eyes is beginning to show—either that, or she wants my child out of her space as quickly as possible.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake--Savor the Sanity.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake–Savor the Sanity.


Friday dawns beautiful—regardless of weather predictions—because I can finally send him to school. He is still coughing, but no longer shooting phlegm so I am calling it ‘good enough’ and shoving him on the bus. I ignore his requests to “Stay home Friday” and walk back to eat my well-deserved cupcake.

As I go to sink my teeth into its sinful, rich, cake-y goodness…I feel a tickling at the back of my throat…like I might have to cough. I suppress the urge and gobble up my treat.

Denial tastes delicious.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

* T-minus three days from transmission and counting.

**Putting him in his room repeatedly was for his own safety, I promise you, not just for my sanity.

***Ignore the fact that half the Halloween candy is already gone; I do.

Being Really

Only Count the Wins!
Google Parenting Fails - You'll find a world of images to made you feel better about your choices.
Google Parenting Fails – You’ll find a world of images to made you feel better about your choices.

I try to see the humor in existence—even when sometimes it is hard to find and masquerades as a horrible life experience. (Anybody else have a car muffler that sounds like a congested, forty-year smoker? That will teach me for running over that deer.) Sometimes that humor cuts sharper than a scalpel and hurts as much as it heals. And sometimes, what looks like failure, is actually a win.

This past weekend I had a moment where I tried to figure out what kind of parent I am. (I’ve been meaning to get around to it; it’s been eleventy years now and it seemed about time.) We all think we know what kind of parent we are going to be before we ever set a foot in the baby aisle or pee on a stick.* We know we are going to be kind, patient, and fun, in other words, nothing like our own parents. Then reality hits.

Strangely, I haven't photographed my disastrous parenting moments. Instead, I rely on others to provide appropriate images. Thank you daily-fun-pics.blogspot.com-500
Strangely, I haven’t photographed my disastrous parenting moments. Instead, I rely on others to provide appropriate images. Thank you daily-fun-pics.blogspot.com-500

Forty-thousand diapers later and about two-thirds of me going grey, I now approach parenting as a mostly hands-off, break-glass-in-case-of-emergencies involvement. Hear a crash upstairs followed by a total absence of any sound? Immediately investigate! Discover grandfather clock which has mysteriously moved from wall to couch on its own. Child plays nearby, innocent of any involvement. As no one is concussed and the clock still works, avoid pointless lecture and hope he’s learned some sort of lesson about gravity.**

It's sad when your gratification in a job well done is earned based on realizing how much worse you could be doing. Thanks to daily-fun-pics.blogspot.com-500  for this life lesson.
It’s sad when your gratification in a job well done is based entirely on realizing how much worse you could be doing. Thanks to daily-fun-pics.blogspot.com-500 for this life lesson.

This pretty much sums up my parenting skills—except for in those extraordinarily rare moments when I pull my head out of my…places unmentionable…and actually pay attention.***

So Sunday, when my son is losing his ever-loving mind for the thousandth time about who-knows-what and was beating himself and the area furniture in frustration, I try to be the lonesome voice of reason amidst the chaos: “What’s wrong, sweetie? How can Mommy help?” (Subtext: I will give you anything—you name it, A mountain of bacon? A vat of ice cream?—if only you’ll shut up!) But, my non-verbal son can only cry incoherently and continue his self-destructive rampage. I cannot fix what I cannot understand. I try to leave him to ‘calm down’ only to be drawn repeatedly back by his anger and tears. I am the tide to his disconsolate moon. I finally force him to try and explain what is wrong using his iPad. (A communication of last resort—he hates typing and is just as likely to hit me as to tell me anything when we use it.)

iPad Communication  = love/hate relationship with your child.
iPad Communication = now your child can tell you he hates you with pictures!

I type as I talk:

Me: “What’s wrong? Why are you so mad? What do you want?”

(A tumbleweed rolls past and somewhere a coyote howls.)

I repeat this message despite his attempts to shut down the device and snatch it away. I persist. He finally gives up fighting my efforts and writes:

Son: “I want you to be really…”

Me: “Really what?” I say and type. “I don’t understand. You can’t be ‘really’ without a verb. Really happy? Really sad?”

I am often stymied by his word choices and I think, he is equally confounded with expressing any feeling beyond pain or hunger; but after a moment, he answers.

Son: “Really sad.”

Me: “What are you sad about?”

Son: (No answer.)

Me: “What can mommy do?”

Son: “I want you to be really.”

It feels like a communication failure and then, I realize, he wants me to be really. Whatever really refers to…he wants me to be it with him…fully focused and engaged. He can’t really explain how he feels and I can’t entirely understand. But I can ‘be really’ for him.

And really, that’s all he’s asking me to be.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or hand, in my case.

**You can spin most accidents into a real-time study of scientific principles—not the least of which is how to tie a tourniquet in an emergency.

***Moments when I am a clued-in parent are as rare as Haley’s comet, but not nearly as predictable.


[Remember: Parenting is like gambling, if you want to feel good about it, only count the wins!]

Celebrating the Red, White…and Black and Blue

iPhone--so you can capture all of those precious, heart-stopping memories.
iPhone–so you can capture all of those precious, heart-stopping memories.

For those of you who enjoyed the past holiday weekend…bite me. For anyone else who spent the day at an emergency med center making sure your child hadn’t broken or permanently damaged any part of his body, join me in a moment of reflection.

Can you remember before you had the awesome responsibility of parenting? Can you think back that far? (You could be a parent for all of thirty seconds, and still the crushing realization that you are now responsible for a life beyond your own will be smacking you in the face…hard…like Mike Tyson in the final round, testosterone-flared-nostrils-in-your-face hard.) Do you remember what that life before was like? Seriously, what was it like? Oh, wait, now I remember. It was freedom. That’s what it was. Glorious freedom. Those days are gone.

I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I can tell you, after this past Fourth of July, I’d really like to go back and celebrate what freedom used to mean. B.C.—Before Children—life was a dream. I didn’t know it, of course; I thought I was living a life of drudgery and low-paying jobs. I had no idea I was reveling in the greatest wealth the world can offer: freedom. I was reminded of that this weekend when I decided to take my son to a local parade in our new home town. And what better way to get there than riding our bikes?!

I had purchased a bike this past winter and stared at the blizzards fantasizing about biking around in the summer with my son. It was going to be a glorious, technicolor dream. There would be butterflies and rainbows. Even with my bionic enhancements, my physical limitations make it hard to keep up with him on foot, so I thought, “Hey, if we are both on bikes, then I can enjoy the experience and not worry about him getting away. After all, he’s strapped into it and it weighs about ninety pounds. What could happen?” Saturday, we get on our bikes and head toward the city park where we can watch the parade. Cautiously, we cross the scary, busy road near our house to cut cross the cemetery to hit the bike trail along the river.* It all sounds bucolic and delightful doesn’t it? Wait for it…

We’re tooling along, practicing passing people on the left and not mowing down little kids or elderly people who think I’m kidding when I yell: “Watch out. He can’t brake yet.”** Then we get to the section of the path that is becoming our bone of contention—the fork in the road that is the pain in my… ANYWAY, the kid is behind me and has stopped at the fork. A woman with a stroller is passing him and I call back, “No, Booger…we aren’t taking that route today. We can take it on the way ba…” I can’t even get to the end of the sentence before the berserker rage strikes. My son is peddling for all he’s worth–near missing the baby in the stroller–zipping in a mad dash past me and heading towards trouble. All I can do is watch; it isn’t pretty.

My son rides a very sturdy Ambucs Trike.*** This was a wonderful gift from an organization that helps families to buy special trikes for special tikes. (Sounds sickeningly cute, doesn’t it?) What’s more sickening is the experience of watching your agitated child pell-mell his way into an emergency med center visit. As expected, the “Hulk Smash” rage ended in disaster. Helpless, I watched as my son exceeded safety limits, causing the trike to wobble, and then come crashing down on top of him—face first into the asphalt. The good news is, road rash on all bendy parts, a smashed nose and lacerated lip (inside and out—made me want to puke when I saw it) aside, he is going to be fine. The not-so-good news is we spent the entire holiday sitting in waiting rooms just to determine that he hadn’t broken anything. By the end, all we wanted to do was crawl home and collapse. We didn’t bother with going to any Fourth of July celebrations that evening. As my mother-in-law said after we survived the harrowing experience, “We’ve had enough fireworks for one day.” It was unanimous; we spent the holiday huddling in our house avoiding any further excitement.

So, how do I celebrate freedom now? I cherish the moments that work and recover as quickly as possible from the ones that don’t. I will count surviving the day as a win. I will try very hard not to mourn a time when freedom was as easy as leaving my house and getting to my destination unscathed. And I will be buying knee and elbow pads for any future ventures that might lead us astray along our rocky path to freedom.


[Of note, the Bandaids should be coming off just in time for our camping trip to the U.P. later this week. I’m not worried,  inclement weather notwithstanding, what could possibly go wrong?]

He's smarter than your average human.  Courtesy of www.pacsafe.com
He’s smarter than your average human.( And yes, I realize this is a brown bear and that Michigan has black bears–deal with it.)
Courtesy of http://www.pacsafe.com

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*No, this is not foreshadowing. Foreshadowing would have involved an anger management seminar.

**Subtext: you are worth 50 points you old codger, so you’d better get out of the way.

***Sturdy and a bit clunky, these are the Cadillac of kids’ bikes. Solid steel construction—built to inflict the most damage in whatever they hit.


P.S. It wasn’t until after I  wrote this that I learned of the terrible bike accident at the Tour de France. I have the sincerest sympathies for the mothers of each and every one of those riders. I am very happy everyone walked away from that one.


I have a new standard for literary excellence (as well as a new low point in parenting). I cannot take credit for this discovery. It is due entirely to my son’s innovation that I can honestly say I have read a book worth dying for.

The book in question is the third in a trilogy.* The work I am raving about is a series by Rachel Bach – the first book of which is called Fortune’s Pawn. That novel had me up until 2:00 a.m.–it was too good to put down. (Sadly, I cannot say that was the first time I ever pulled an all-nighter reading. Fortunately, the Harry Potter series came out before I had a child—well books one through five anyway. Books six and seven meant that I was up to the butt crack of dawn for reasons besides feeding a hungry baby.) Bach’s series has set the standard for all works of its kind to come…though I sincerely hope I’ve learned this particular lesson well enough not to repeat it.

After reading Fortune’s Pawn, I salivated waiting for the next two books to arrive. When I picked them up from the library, it took all my willpower not to open the books that night because I was afraid (rightly so) that I would ignore my responsibilities in order to worship at the altar of science fiction. So, I waited until I wasn’t going to be working the next day—or looking for a house or any of a myriad other pesky distractions—before settling down to read. Like a responsible adult, I decide to pace myself to a book a day. Well done me!

I zip through Book Two—Honor’s Knight—like I’m speed skating for the gold. (If reading were an Olympic event, I think I would at least place in the top ten.) I manage to finish Honor’s Knight a little after midnight—so not a bad run. I manage by sheer strength of will (and exhaustion of eyeballs) to not pick up Book Three—Heaven’s Queen. Her royal majesty will have to wait for another day. You’d think the universe would reward such forethought, wouldn’t you?

Some books are just too hot to handle.

It’s Saturday, I’ve managed to drag my unwilling son to attend the Darwin Day expo at the Calkin Science Center, where butterflies pinned to boards and a table full of skulls garner nary a flicker of interest from the boy. The only interaction I can coax from my child is a grudging willingness to mash a strawberry in a bath of salt and soapy water to extract DNA. Touching the fruit is the closest he has come to actually eating one, so I count it as a win. Fast forward to the afternoon, son is happily lost in iPad land and mommy can finally pick up the sacred object her brain has been hankering for all day—Book Three. Once in hand, I never set it back down. I think I read for three or four or maybe seven hours straight. I lose all track of time while reading. I vaguely remember putting the child to bed…or sending him there…or him making up his mind to go there on his own. The details don’t matter! All that matters is the book and finding what happens next. So, what does happen next? I’ll tell you.

I am nearing the end, my brain is happily tromping through the universe, battling aliens alongside the intrepid, kick-ass heroine when I notice an odd smell. It’s faint, but grows as I pell-mell my way to the end of the book. On some subconscious level my brain starts to notice something besides the author’s efforts to wrap everything up in a shiny, star-spangled conclusion. What is that? I think. Metallic, but also kind of plastic-y. I twitch the thought aside and continue reading. Do I get up to check anything? No. Do I even pay more than a nanosecond attention to the fact that I’ve registered some kind of disturbance in the force? No, I’m getting to the good part. I keep going to the bitter-sweet end of the book. The heroine saves the universe and I reread a few of my favorite pages for dessert before putting the book down. And now, my brain does a double check. Hey…is that…is there some kind of toxic fume floating through the house?

Now I’m a bloodhound, sniffing my way from room to room, heading downstairs until a horrible thought smacks me upside my head. “The kid!”** I yank open his bedroom door. (Without checking to put a hand on it first…no, you aren’t going to remember to do that in an emergency.) There, on the floor, right next to my sleeping child, is the tent he’d constructed by laying a thick, green blanket over the bare-naked bulb of his table lamp. I’m hit in the face with not only the smell of melted, man-made fibers but also the realization that, if this had been any other material, my son might have been burned, or worse, due to my inattention. There is no greater conflicting emotion than the misery of what might have been fused next to the gratitude that it didn’t happen…except perhaps the fact that it would have been entirely my fault.

Burnt Blanket
                                                ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT BEDROOM FIRES!

You might argue,‘You couldn’t have known.’ You’d be wrong. When you have a ‘special guy’ like my guy, you learn to expect the unexpected. You also put down the book and check on your kid when there is a chance he might be trying to burn the house down. At least, in the real world that’s what should happen. Let’s hope that the next time the foreshadowing comes knocking on my frontal lobe, somebody upstairs is paying attention. I really don’t want to write this story again. The sequel might not end so happily next time.

Smokey - thanks-for-listening

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Man, I really hope there is a follow-up book. Can I petition the author do you suppose?

**I’m making a valiant effort to preserve my son’s anonymity—apparently putting the safety of his secret identify above his physical well-being.