I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Part 2 - Top 10 Makes My Life Easier With Autism List, #'s 6-10



In re-reading numbers 1-5 in my Top 10 Ways that Modern Conveniences Have Made Life With Autism Easier, I realized that I probably come across a complete lazy cow.

A tad bit of that is true.

But, really, these conveniences – and a lot of them involve never having to leave my house or car – have made life easier. You see, when you have a child with autism, everything has to be planned out in advance. For example, it’s better to not buy a whole grocery cart full of stuff at Walmart because that way I can nip through the Express Lane… which is good for three reasons…

1. 1, I can normally check-out in under 10 minutes (depending on the queue)

2. 2, The Express Lane doesn’t have cold drinks stocked on their aisle, which means Noah’s not sitting in a basket waiting for me to check-out while grabbing for Dr. Peppers

3. 3. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to stuff all the grocery sacks around Noah while he sits in the back of the cart.

Speaking of which... another thing I have to plan ahead is grocery carts. Hobby Lobby and Sprouts have tiny carts. Noah can’t sit in them. And since Noah won’t walk in a store (except for Dollar Tree… long story), I have to make sure I don’t need a lot of items because I’ll have to push Noah in his stroller (a Maclaren Major). He will walk in Dollar Tree, but I have to make sure I’m not buying a lot (take the get in and get out approach) and we have to head straight to the toy aisle so he can buy a package of spinning tops and be out within 5 minutes.

So, you can see that everything has to be planned ahead. Which is why I’m all for these modern conveniences that take a tad of the pressure off. Let’s take a look at #’s 6-10…

6. DVD’s. Honestly, I used to be against modern technology. I mean, I still hold grudges. I don’t even know how to text. And there was a time when I refused to quit buying cassette tapes because I just knew that CD’s were a fad that would never catch on.

And now you can't even give boxes of tapes away at a garage sale. There's a whole generation of kids who will never know the greatness of a cheesy ballad mixed-tape.

Simeon, if you're reading this... Honey, You're the Inspiration. I get Lost in Your Eyes and I'm Crazy for You. I Can't Fight This Feeling. You're my Eternal Flame and I'll Never Say Goodbye because You Give Me Something to Believe In....

Anyway, we bought our first DVD player in 2001, but DVD’s were so expensive, so we just continued to buy VHS. Then, along came Noah. And his extreme fascination with all things Elmo and Baby Einstein. And then came the knowledge that Noah goes ballistic every time we have to rewind a video in order to play it again.

And, boy, did we have to play it again. And again. And again.

You would think, honestly, that after rewinding a tape for the 1,000th time that he would realize that we weren’t trying to torture him. That he would eventually get to watch his video, but that he’d just have to exercise a fraction of patience and wait a couple of minutes.

If you believe that’s possible, then you don’t have a child with autism. He still does that. My mom has an old video player and he still goes nuts when we have to rewind Baby Shakespeare. Still!

Which is why I count the invention of DVD’s as one of the Top !0 things that has made my life easier. You.just.push.play. Simple as that.

Meltdown avoided. Crisis delayed.

7. Pay-At-The-Pump Gas Stations - it would probably sound incredibly melodramatic if I told you how in love I am with pay-at-the-pump gas stations. I think they’re the best thing ever! I honestly cannot imagine having to drag all of your kids out of the car every time you had to fill up with gas. I know Noah and it would be a pain in my big fat rear end. Do you know how many soft drinks they have in those places? Enough for a child with autism to think he just walked straight into Heaven. It would be a nightmare. Plus, I can't resist the York Peppermint Patties that they usually have on the counter. Those and those red peanut pralines. And there's the hassle of having to get three kids in and out of their car seats… oh gosh, I feel for every mother who had to raise a child in the 80’s.

I salute you.

8. Online Card Catalogue for Our Local Library – our local library is small. They only just got their entire card catalogue online. But it is one of the best things to happen to our family.

We love the library. I wanted to be a librarian when I was kid. I used to play library and make all the neighborhood kids check out books from my “store”. I used to get in trouble for reading Judy Blume novels in class. I was the kid who always ordered the most books off the Scholastic Book forms. I majored in English Lit in college.

Reading is as essential to me as breathing.

Noah? He could give a flying fig. Taking Noah to the library is a total crapshoot. When he’s good, he’s good. When he’s bad… everyone in the whole place knows it.

Checking out a book from the library is the equivalent to going on a top-secret CIA mission. Everything has to be planned perfectly. Which is where the online catalogue comes in. Gone are the days when I would park Noah – in his stroller – next me while I searched the library computer to see what books might interest us. Now, I can check online from the comfort of my laptop and see if it’s available. I can jot down the reference number and even place a hold! Then I just run in with my list in hand and go straight to the books I want, grab them off the shelf, throw my card at the librarian and ask her to move like lightening. If we’re quick enough, we can make it out of there before Noah starts thrashing and flailing in his stroller, grabs my hand and clamps down.

Pitbulls have nothing on that boy.

So a big thank you to librarians everywhere who decided to make Dewey go digital. So worth it!

9. Family Bathrooms at SuperTarget - I’ve always thought Target was super even before they decided to put the word before their name. But once they become SuperTarget and introduced the Family Bathroom…well, I could’ve easily tattooed a bulls eye on my butt just to show my extreme love and affection for everything red and white.

The Family Bathroom is a must for an older child with autism. I mean, first of all, what is the age that it becomes unacceptable to take a male child into the women’s bathroom? Noah will never be able to go into the men’s room alone. I mean, he’s still in pull-ups for Pete’s sake. And do you know who hard it is to change a 9 year old in a cramped, stinky bathroom designed for one person?

But the Family Bathroom…. awww, my heart just swells thinking about it… solves all those problems. I can wheel the grocery cart in there, lock the door and it’s just me and the kids. No one has to know that I’m actually in there changing Noah. Noah doesn’t have to feel embarrassed about being changed in a public place. It’s big and clean and private. And I can honestly tell you where every SuperTarget is located within an 2 hour radius.

Anyplace that has a Family Bathroom is tops in my book. And that includes you, Cabela’s. Even though I hate your display of taxidermied exotic animals that should’ve never crossed the Atlantic, I do love your gorgeous and spacious family bathroom.

10. Online Shopping – you knew it, right? You knew #10 HAD to be online shopping, didn’t you?

It.Is.Wonderful!

I know online shopping helps a lot of people. Moms of kids with autism. People with agrophobia. Housewives who have crushes on the UPS man….

For me, it makes things so much easier because I can order things with just a click of the mouse and I never have to worry about taking Noah into a new place or an unfamiliar store where the fluorescent lights be too bright or they might actually be vacuuming (he’s terrified of vacuums) or where there’s the possibility that we might be subjected to a multi-stall bathroom.

I love Amazon.com. For the days or weeks or months when Noah’s behavior makes it impossible to go to the library, even for a quick dash in and out, I can order books online. Instead of taking the kids shopping for clothes, I can go to Gymboree or Old Navy or even Ebay and order online. When we’re out of Sambucus, Noah’s favorite brand of elderberry extract, I can order it online instead of having to drive an hour and a half to the nearest Whole Foods. I can get virtually anything I want or need online.

And it makes life soooo much easier.

Now, in closing, I want to make sure that ya’ll know that I don’t keep Noah locked up like some 16th century criminal. We do a lot of things and we go a lot of places. But because Noah’s mind works so differently from most kids, we have to be really prepared all the time. So, while we can drive through McDonalds, we can never eat inside. But we can eat inside Whataburger, but has to be in the back corner booth. And we can take the kids to CiCi’s, but only at 4 because that’s when the fresh pizzas come out but an hour before the supper crowd starts filtering in. We can also go to Sonic, but we can only go to the one that has the playground with the fence. And it has to be before or after lunch so that it won’t be crowded. And we can go to one park in town but we can’t go to the other because the swings are too far from the rest of the playground and Noah only wants to go on the swings. We can also go to someone’s house, but only if they don’t have a pool or if Noah doesn’t know they have a pool. Because once he knows, he’ll spend the entire time dragging everyone to the back door so he can get outside and swim. Even in the dead of winter. And I can never go anywhere without a backpack of two changes of clothes and a purse with at least three plastic spinning tops from Dollar Tree.

But I’m not complaining. Because I can’t complain. Because my life is so much easier than the lives of autism moms before me. And I think about my sisters in other countries who are living with autism everyday and have no help whatsoever.

So this list, that might sound… I don’t know… stupid, inane, greedy, lazy, or juvenile to some people, helps keep me in check. Because life with autism is hard… but we’re managing. And, honestly, we’re really, really blessed.

Now, if I could just get supper on the table and the dishes done with just a click of the button, then my life would be complete.

Oh, you lucky future moms of the 22nd century. You're gonna have it made!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Top 10 Modern Conveniences That Make Living with Autism Easier


I’m really not good at much of anything. If I were 18 and applying to colleges, my list of talents would have to read something like this… “I excel at watching reality television, looking up things on Amazon.com, and feeding my insane need for instant knowledge by being Wikipedia’s #1 looker-upper.”

That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? But my biggest talent is in the ability to throw myself one heck of a pity party. I mean, I really do need my own show on TLC to show you all how it’s done. It’s complete with sobbing and raccoon eyes and copious amounts of nasty snot and Kleenex with Slowdive on the stereo, and anything within my reach that even remotely looks like chocolate.

I once gnawed away at a bar of almond bark during a self-imposed pity party. And we know there’s not a lick of cocoa to be found in the cheap stuff. But if got me through.

But during one of my one or two or six pity parties that I’ve thrown in the last 4, 3, 2 weeks, I had an epiphany. It was like the voice of God… or maybe it was my mother…. slapped me up the back of my head and said…

Snap out of it! Be glad you’re not a mother of a child with autism back in the 70’s! You’ve got it made!”

And it was, like, I don’t know… a rare moment of clarity. I mean, I do think that moms of kids with autism have it hard. I do! We do! But I should be really grateful for all the modern technology and conveniences that have made it so much easier for me to be able to go about our day to day life. I mean, I can’t imagine what it would’ve have been like in the 70’s and 80’s when I was a kid. Or even today in a third world country.

So, I present to you the Top 10 list of modern day conveniences that have made my life easy. It’s not a funny list or anything….sorry Letterman… but something I can look at when I start to reach for the almond bark tomorrow… uh, I mean next month… And, honestly, I have the feeling that any mother, with or without a child with autism, would agree.

1. Grocery Carts in the Parking Lot - I distinctly remember a time when all grocery carts were inside the store and you had to actually load your groceries in the car and risk letting your popsicles melt in 130 degree Texas heat while leaving your children in the car to suffocate kill each other wait quietly so you could run back into the store to return the grocery cart. Or you could just be the jerk who left it in the parking lot and then have it roll into the car next to you. Whatever floats your boat.

But nowadays? Oh my gosh. I AM the women who will park all the way at the back of the parking lot in order to park directly next to a cart kiosk. Or whatever you call them. And I AM the women who will curse under her breath when the teenagers who pick up the carts actually do their job and there are no carts to be found anywhere. And I WILL drive around and around until I can find one that has a cart in it. Because being able to just pull the cart to the side of the minivan and pop Noah in the back of it has made my life so much easier. No more having Noah fall down in the parking lot like a ton of bricks because he doesn’t want to walk.

Am I lazy? You betcha.

2. The Drive-Thru at CVS - I remember when we first moved here and the CVS was in the next town over, so I had to go into Walmart to pick up our prescriptions. Have you ever had to wait in line at the pharmacy inside Walmart? I honestly think that they have a laminated sign behind the counter that only the pharmacists and their techs can see that says

“Screw customer service! Stall! Make customer wait a minimum of 45 minutes. Customer will be forced to browse through store and spend money on items they don’t need. And if the customer has a child with autism, make them wait 1 hour. She will be forced to buy potato chips, hot wheels, preschool toys, and questionable food from our deli in order to keep the child from having a monumental meltdown.”

It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya!

Anyway, eventually the Gates of Heaven opened and God said, “Let there be a CVS across the street!” And it was done. And my life went from 2 on the suck-o-meter to a 6 overnight. I just pull up to the window, give them my name, and they hand over the prescription and a couple of lollipops. Bliss.

3. Debit Cards at the Oil Changing Place - there are a myriad of reasons why I love debit cards. But the main reason is because the rough old man at the Oil Changing place takes them. I don’t even have to get out of my car. Back in the day, I remember my brother and I having to get out of the car and wait in a stinky, cramped waiting area that spelled of oil and sweat while waiting for the oil in my mom’s car to be changed. There was usually a rusty old water fountain and a gumball machine only filled with peanuts. Peanuts! Say what??

Anyway, I don’t know what’s happened in the field of car oil changing, but it used to take forever and now old Mr D and his crew can change it in 10 minutes flat. And then he takes my debit card, swipes it up front, brings it back to me along with a portable “enter your 4 digit code” thingy and we’re done. We never have to even get out of the car.

4. USPS.com – okay, there are a thousand ways that the internet has made life easier and this is one of them. Have you ever had to wait in line at the post office to send off a package? With a child? A child who detests the post office? A child who thinks that the post office is a place where it is acceptable to have meltdowns? A place that happens to have the longest lines in post office history and a lady who works there that is mean? MEAN!

I get panic attacks just thinking about having to go into the post office. It is always a major ordeal. And it’s especially hard if you try to sell stuff on Ebay to raise a little money and then have to wait in line for 30 minutes just to mail a small package to Poughkeepsie. But with USPS.com, I can print off and pay for a shipping label and schedule a package pickup all online. And Noah never has to encounter Mean Post Office Lady ever again.

It’s the best invention ever.

*I am not an affiliate of USPS.com. I have not been compensated in anyway. All opinions of USPS.com and the beyotch who works at our local post office are mine and mine alone.

5. Subscribe & Save and Amazon Mom on Amazon.com – if for some insane reason I’m ever given a Mom of the Year award, I am seriously going to thank Amazon.com in my acceptance speech. I’ll touch on the many ways "I heart me some Amazon" later on in this countdown, but for right now, Amazon Mom and the Subscribe & Save feature have saved us TONS of money... and sanity.

Noah wears Seventh Generation Pullups and they are expensive! If I were to buy them at Whole Foods, it’d not only cost me $25 in gas to get there, but it’d cost about $18.99 plus tax for a package. But on Amazon.com, we use the Subscribe and Save feature and they only cost $35.80 for a pack of four, as opposed to $42.12 if we just ordered them one-time. And because we buy pull-ups through Subscribe and Save, we’re eligible for another discount through Amazon Mom, which means we only pay $26.60 for a pack of four and it comes with Free Shipping! That’s only $6.65 for a pack of pull-ups. Take that Whole Paycheck Whole Foods!

The pull-ups are shipped to us every month and it means I don’t have to endure the sympathetic looks from cashiers when they spot Noah sucking on his fingers in the grocery cart and realize the pull-ups are for him.

Makes both of our lives a bit easier.

So. That’s my top 5 list. I’ll continue with the remaining 5 later this week. I’m the sure the recurring theme is “Wow, that Leslie is Lazy with a capital L!” But any mom of a child with autism – or even just young children - can probably relate. And the next time I decide to throw myself a pity party because I had to park at the back of the parking lot at the grocery store, I'll think of all the pioneer moms before me and all the women who continue to mother their children in third world countries who’d give anything to be blessed with the everyday conveniences that I’m blessed with….

P.S. Have you noticed that I've just discovered how to do the strikethrough feature on blogger. I've always wanted to learn how to do that!