Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Traditions

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I'm going to stick to my Danish roots here and say that today is Christmas enough to say "Merry Christmas". Growing up, we celebrated both days of the holiday. You had dinner and exchanged gifts on December 24th. The following morning you opened what Santa put in your stocking or under the tree or both and just had a leisurely, simple breakfast (normally some kind of pastry), at lebkucken (not me cause I don't like it), and basked in the delight of the holiday. One formal celebration, on informal. I kinda miss the tradition and feel a little lost on Christmas Eve without it.

My husband's family does not celebrate this way, but there are times when we've had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. That really all depends on the rest of the family's schedule. The fist Christmas we spend with the my husband's family, the boy was only four, so I doubt he remembers his first three holidays. This is pretty much the only sort of celebration he knows. Sometimes it makes me sad because, as a parent, you want to share these things with your kid. You want to recreate the joy you had as kid with your kid.

The one thing I do love about my in-laws traditions? No stress. My family cannot seem to function with any measure of peace. Over the years, I came to dread certain parts of the festivities. The fights. The two days of cooking. The lack of sleep. The chaos. The who-is-not-coming-cause-they-are-mad-at-so-and-so. The you-can't-make-that-dish-that-way-so-its-easier. I can't imagine subjecting my boy to the stress that used to abound. While I miss my childhood holidays, I do not miss the beast those holidays turned into.

We do hang stockings at the grandparents house Christmas Eve... and when I say stockings, I mean the real deal. Legg's are hung on the chimney with care. It's actually a really neat and old fashioned tradition. To belay anticipation anxiety, we do let him open one gift Christmas Eve. Otherwise, he may literally explode from excitement. And I call today Christmas. 

(At this very second, the whining about opening a gift has started. Apparently, we let him open a gift at 10 am last year, so we are two hours late this year. I have no recollection of when we did last year, but an aspie never forgets. Still, I'm making him clean up his various messes before unwrapping.)

Scrap Credits

Garland Tree
Betsy Tuma Snow kissed Christmas @ two peas in a bucket
Brandy Buffington Holiday Party @ two peas in a bucket
Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab

Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab
Natlie Designs Merry Christmas

Betsy Tuma Snow kissed Christmas @ two peas in a bucket
Shabby Princess Holiday Sampler
Deliscious Scraps Articliscious

Kelly Jo Scraps Jingle Bell Rock Collab
Shabby Princess Holiday Magic
Natlie Designs Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

No witty title for this one

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I am a mess. I'm not that happy Christmas kinda mess I normally am this time of year, but the  oh, crap, I forgot to buy presents, bake cookies and mail cards kinda mess. My intestines, I am told, are fabulous. That's what happens when you have surgery in the middle of December.

I've been scrapping to get into the holiday spirit. (It would really help if it wasn't 60 plus degrees outside. I feel like I need to turn on the air conditioning!) Here's a little card for everyone:

Those are my two special guys in front of the tree. The picture was taken pre-invasive-hernia-surgery. I'm glad we decorated the house before I had the procedure because it wouldn't have happened otherwise. Aren't they handsome?

Every year I take pictures of the kid in front of the tree once we are done decorating. I have nine years of a boy in his underpants, so this year was incredibly special. See that? He's wearing clothes! The best part? I didn't have to ask him, beg him, fuss with him or even prompt him. The idea of taking a picture not half naked was his very own idea!! Progress. The autsim gods are smiling upon us at the moment.

The kit I used to make this festive piece is very special. Actually, it's a kit that made me misty-eyed to be candid. There is a Danish scrap designer whose blog I frequent. Being that my mom is directly from Denmark, I'm always thrilled to run into a Dane. Designers come in all flavors from Brazilian to French, but this is the first Dane designer I've ever seen. Naturally when I think of Denmark, I feel all nostalgic, warm and fuzzy inside that makes me feel almost home-sick for some reason. Maybe because I've always enjoyed my time there and want so badly to go back. (I also get hungry-- Danish food is soooo yummy. And no, they don't eat danishes, but there hot dogs rock.)

I posted on her blog-- Nothing But Freebies -- a couple of weeks ago. The other day, I had a comment in my inbox (on another blog). She made me a Danish Christmas themed kit!! It was just about the nicest thing a stranger has done for me in as long as I can remember. Here's what she posted:

The freebie I offer today is a special freebie. It is of course for all of you but it was inspired by a comment I got the other day from Carrie from Delaware and is therefore made especially for and dedicated to her and her mother from Aalborg in northern Jutland, Denmark. The freebie contains a lot of stuff associated with a good, old fashioned, Danish Christmas. I have also included a text that means a lot to all Danes around Christmas. It is an extraction from the Book "Peter's Christmas" written in 1870 and still known to all children in Denmark. I have used the fantastic illustration from the book to make a few elements for the kit. Finally, I have helped all you non-Danish speaking friends around the world by including a small word list giving you a few of the Danish Christmas words in English.

Isn't that so sweet!! Here's the kit:

Check out the whole post and grab the kit while you can!
Isn't it lovely? All the items are familiar to me... and make me wish my mom wasn't a thousand miles a way...

I will be attempting the woven hearts tomorrow, which are ornaments made from construction paper or card stock that form little heart shaped baskets. You fill the baskets with goodies and hang them from the tree. I've  never been good at making these, but I'd love to master it enough to help the kid make some so he can learn to do something Danes do.

I am just so touched! What a nice reminder of the holiday spirit. Thank you, Trinne!!

Even if this holiday has been side track by my ovaries and small intestines and even though I'm mess... and even though my house looks like a tornado hit it, I think its going to be a very memorable Christmas! 

Now I'm gonna wipe the sweat off myself, open a window and try to get some sleep...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something Larger than Yourself

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My kiddo, Matty, and his best friend, Sammy have been nerding out together for over a year now. I'm really quite impressed they have navigated the complicated social situations and hierarchies of neighborhood kids. I am tickled to see the two get into age appropriate trouble together, take up for each other and basically see their bond on display on a regular basis.

Sammy is a great ally for Matt, helping him work through the more aspie moments and understanding when Matty needs space. He's been the autism ambassador for Matty when other kids have asked Matty "why are you so weird?" (true story. And it's autism kids that are supposed to have no filter?).  As a mom, I can't imagine a better friend for my kid.

Remember those days of childhood? One day so and so is friend and the next you have no clue what happened but you're treated like you have the plague. Or maybe it's your aren't cool enough. Or maybe you are different. Maybe you said no to peer pressure. Maybe you saw someone doing something dangerous or wrong and spoke up. Maybe so and so's friend is jealous and starts a rumor about you. We've all been there at some point in our lives. People are mean. Social situations can feel like a battlefield when you are the enemy. Unfortunately kids that are different are often the enemy.

Navigating relationships and social situations as a NT person is not easy. If it were, shows like Jerry Springer would have never existed and Dr. Phil would be out of business. No one would get divorced and Congress would probably be an efficient governing body. No one would commit crimes because people would actually think their actions through. All the world's past and present ills would be erased. Let's face it: NT don't have the social aspect of humanity anywhere close to correct. If we did have it right, we'd be living in Utopia. Being different would be okay.

I'm always a little amazed at the social judgement by NT people. I remember once my husband came home from a kid's birthday party with the kid. Hubby was utterly devastated because other parents made fun of him for not letting our chug can after can soda at five years old. I was shocked. I couldn't believe the judgement passed by other adults just because we helped our kid moderate his behavior, which saves our whole family from sugar-caffiene-crash hell. That judgement came from our choice being different from theirs. I see nothing wrong with teaching our kid how to make healthy choices in a social situation. Cause you know, binge drinking isn't cool at parties. At the same rate, I'm not gonna judge you for letting your child consume their body weight in soda on their birthday or at a party. 

People seem to forget the old saying when you live in a glass houses shouldn't throw stones? I have met a lot of people who could really benefit from social skills training that are well outside the autism community. During a political campaign season, all you have to do is read the news or turn on the television to remind you that humans suck at social skills in general.

This subject, that people are mean to others who are different, ended up playing out in my house the other day. You see, Matty and Sammy have always been open to including new kids in their exploits, but no one has really fit. By fit, I mean no kid has ever been able to hang with the differences of Matty and Sammy in a larger group of kids. Those two always end up being social pariahs (and mostly Sammy by the default of liking and sticking up for my son). There was no third kid with (early) Musketeer ethics (cause don't the Musketeers have a falling out later in life?).

That changed a couple of weeks ago. Enter Teddy. Teddy was a quiet kid, I thought. Matty and Sammy were practically ga-ga over his skateboarding skills. There was no posturing or pretense. He is just a down to earth kid. Teddy is helping the other boys with their skateboard tricks. He just... fits. The two boys made Teddy's visits seem like Tony Hawk himself was showing up at my door.

The other day, Matty told my hubby that Teddy didn't like to speak to people. The kid explained that it wasn't because Teddy was shy or dumb, but because he has a speech impediment. I think it bothered Matty that this really cool, new friend of his didn't think of himself this way. The hubby suggested Matty share his own diagnosis because he can relate to being different.

My kid did just that. He shared with Teddy, he also encouraged Teddy. Different does equal shameful. A speech impediment doesn't mean you have less to say; It just means you have work a bit harder to say it. My kid can certainly relate to communication issues. No one had to say that Teddy has probably faced relentless ridicule by his peers and stigma by adults because of a speech impediment. We know what's its like in this house to be different.

My kid told his friend that there was no shame in being different. Matty related to his new friend in a way that not many others could. Sammy lent support. In the words of Temple Grandin's mother (which I often use myself) different is not less. Different, not less. 

Turns out Teddy has a lot to say. The shy, quiet kid blossomed in my living room. And yes, he does have a speech impediment, but that day it didn't stop him from opening up, chatting away with the boys in front of us parents. He stopped giving me one word answers and there was no silent shaking 'yes' or 'no' of the head. Teddy's whole demeanor changed as his words danced around the room.

Later, when they went outside to skate, you could hear Teddy for the first time hooting and hollering like a boy should. I didn't mind the loudness this time. That noise was a result of my boy who related to and encourage a friend, not by spotlighting sameness, but by relating and embracing differences.  My son took on the challenge of expressing his feelings and thoughts in a way that his friend completely understood. I still feel misty eyed thinking about the positive impact my kid had on his friend's life at that moment, helped a friend remember the power of his voice.

While discussing the boys love for Teddy, my hubby questioned what made Teddy so special to them. I told my husband that the logic to it is simple. Here are two boys who aren't like the other kids around them. They know it. They've been excluded. Teddy adds a piece to that-- he can relate to them. There is strength in numbers. As people, we all want to part of something larger than ourselves-- even if you have an impairment.

Yep, I'm one proud mom.

P.S. I'm sorry if I'm all over the place. For one, I'm outta practice writing. For two, I had surgery yesterday and am loving my pain meds at the moment. 

P.P.S. Later this week, I will be making a really, super exciting announcement!! So stay tuned!! I've been working hard (with the help of some friends) to bring our autism community something really special.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Children of Autism in the Military: An American Fail

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That's right. I said FAIL. 

One would think that the military in this country would be leading the charge to serve children with autism because their parents do so much for our country. Like sacrificing lives and such? Their families move around all the time without complaint, they lose a parent to deployment over and over again, and are giving of themselves in countless ways us civilian people would say 'oh hell no' to.

I have a girlfriend who spent her summer so excited about her husband being stationed state-side, only for the fall surprise that the military changed their minds. Not only did the family have move to another country, they lost all her furniture, too. She spent months living out of a suitcase, pregnant, alone with two small kids. I think she's one of the bravest, most adventurous women I know.

Could you imagine doing that with a child on the spectrum? One word: Hell.

This morning, Diary of a Mom's blog made a heart felt plea. Contrary to what we civies think, the military is redefining the word 'under-served' for the autism community. It's inspired me to post this, before I've had even one cup of coffee this morning (so if it seems like there are more typos and word omissions than usual, you know why) and meant putting aside the other brilliant post I was working on for you. I am utterly outraged at this under-service.

Did you know only one in eighty-eight children  receive valuable interventions for autism if their parents are in the military? Again, that's 1 child and 1 family getting the needed help, support and therapies out of 88. It's... it's... UNACCEPTABLE. These children didn't sign up for substandard care and they didn't sign up for the Armed Services. The fact they are in military families without choice comes with a certain expectation: That our government will support them because their parents are supporting us.

We have all failed. It isn't just the military, it's us. We've allowed this to happen by not speaking up. The good news is that it's not to late to fix it. With ONE CLICK, you can make a difference by asking our leaders to support the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act- H.R. 2288. You can let your congress-person know you want this travesty corrected.

This click is brought to you by the tireless work of a mom and Army wife: Rachel Kenyon. Her dedication brings us the ability to speak out, speak up and help our fellow autism parents who also happen to be actively serving our country. It takes no time at all. I did it in between sips of coffee. Rachel doesn't believe the cavalry is coming for her cause, but I say it is now on it's way. Get on your horses, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents and all! Let's be known as a formidable force in Washington, D.C. (I know my congressman must see my emails and think 'it's this chick again... just give her what she wants')

When you are done emailing your congress people, consider another holiday gift for our brave military families by donating time or money HERE. Your gift will keep military parents from drowning in therapy bills and provide for their immediate needs. Let's face it, bills are slow to pass and our politicians are confused at the moment. Our personal donations make a difference here and now while we wait for the rest to follow. 

One more thing: When you are done all that good stuff. Share those links on your favorite social media sites. Spread the word, change a life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Scrap

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I have spent a relaxing evening scrapping while the hubby took care of dinner. I used a photo my sis in law took of my inlaws on Thanksgiving. I used Shabby Princess's Harvest. Plentiful and Dinner Party kids (all are free to download).

I also made a Christmas background for my computer using a kit I fell in love with from Natlai Design:

Happy Scrapping, everyone!

Friday, December 2, 2011

No matter how it's packaged, hate is still hate

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I've been called a lot of things by a lot of people in my lifetime, but this past week marks the first time I've ever been called 'racist'. I've had a particular fellow call me racist over a hundred times, actually. Sure, I've had some not so nice words hurled at me in passing, but being called racist for agreeing with someone on the issues that many black people have to still deal with in this day and age? Well, it was mind blowing.

I'm not even sure how I got sucked into the conversation. The only thing that I can think is the particular person who spent more than his allotted 140 characters on Twitter doing so engages in this behavior for the sake of publicity. I would imagine he mines Twitter for hashtages, like #tcot (a conservative tag) for people to debate. I use the term loosely because a debate implies reciprocity and arguing facts, neither is something this tweeter believes in. For the sake of simplicity and as not to satisfy his craving for attention, I will refer to him as Mr. C.  

I've always been of the mindset that unless you talk about these icky, tough subjects, people will continue to face discrimination. The Tea Party has made speaking negatively about race in code socially acceptable. We've gone from an open dialogue to no dialogue at all simply because we have a black president. The key to undermining non-whites it to not talk about the problems and injustices they face. Therefore, I'm always willing to discuss the topic.

Truth be told, I was very happy to join in what I thought would be stimulating conversation. I was looking forward to learning new points of view, mental enrichment and the chance to talk about something that matters (besides my kid and husband). Others in the conversation seemed to be really ganging up on Mr. C, which I felt bad for. I did not let them influence my opinion of him.

Mr. C happens to have a blog and a Ustream broadcast, which I happily perused. I found him an articulate, compelling writer. He makes a lot of very valid and important points about racism. His appeared to have good insight into the problems his culture is facing internally and externally. I was jazzed to get to pick his brain, listen to his thoughts and share mine with him.

I was warned by one in the conversation, a conservative, that Mr. C would do nothing but attack me. I laughed that off. Surely a man like Mr. C is compelled to have intelligent conversations. Surely his arguments and points stood on their own merits. A person like him doesn't need to stoop to insults in order to prove his point.

The others in the conversation that agreed with the conservative of the group, I thought, may be ultra conservatives as well. I think I stated something along the lines that I was a big girl and would form my own opinions; I don't feel I need to be liked by someone to agree with them.

Now, I'm not sure whether to show you how the conversation transpired or describe the craziness to you. All I know is that I have never in all my years encountered anything like it and I spent years being the only white person in the room.

Maybe I'll do both. I'm renaming the those in the conversation and putting my thoughts in italics. Here goes:

Mr. B: just wait until Mr. C goes off on him then redguy may change his tune!

Me: BTW, I'm a girl (cause we all know Pooping Red Guy is my blog and also an action figure).

Mr. C: Pooping Red "GUY" is a girl? How damn DUMB is that? (not a very grown up way to start a conversation with someone you've talked to, but I let it ride. I thought perhaps it was humor at my absurd screen name.)

(Now I'm not really good at looking back at old tweets, so I can't pull up the entire conversation. Somehow we stumbled onto racial division. I'm all for maintaining cultural identity, but I also am for diversity. I know the two can be achieved simultaneously. That's a good thing, too, because we can share our cultures with others so that we learn from one another. Also, we can enjoy what those cultures have to offer. It's a win-win.)

One thing that irritates me to no end (and I've heard over and over again from many black people) is when a white person says "I'm not a racists because I have some black friends". It's not a statement that screams "not racist". You are immediately identifying your black friends as black, and not just as your friends. I don't say "I'm not a homopbobe because I have some gay friends" and a man can't say "I'm not a misogynist because I have some women friends". By making those sort of statements you pigeon holing your friends by race, gender and sexual preference with is very much the founding idea in any sort of bigotry. I really wish white people would stop saying they can't be racists because they have black friends. I have actually known racist people who have black friends... the argument holds no water.

Me:  By saying "my kid has a black friend" you are immediately dividing people by race.

Mr. B:  race was divided in the country when the white man stole country from the native Americans! (this is a good point, but just because something was or is doesn't mean it should be or is okay)

Me: it's fine to keep it divided?

Mr. C: And yes Racists should be "divided" from the Blacks that they seek to destroy. (taking this at face value, it seems like a reasonable, understandable sentiment. personally, I'd be happy if we could take racists out of the equation because they are so hateful and hurtful. I'm not sure it's the answer to ending racism, though, nor is it logistically possible.)

Now the conversation goes on in a dizzying kind pace and since Mr. C goes over his 140 character allotment, there's a lot of new windows opening up. In any care, Mr. R (another participant), asks me an interesting question. 

Mr. R: You eat yet? You seem dumber today. Is poop a racist?

I can't find my response, but I said something to effect that I can't judge that since racism is more about the perception of the person's ideas and actions. I've never been called racist, but that if I was than it could be the case. If so, I'd have to re-evaluate my actions. The point was missed as Mr. C interpreted this differently than it was meant.

Mr C: Come on Racist NUT Mr. R. Did you really think this Racist Poop was sincere about not being a Racist and not realizing you were? "My[Racist] kid has a Black friend..." do you know how fucking DUMB that is?

The funny part part is that a) I never said I was racists and b) I hadn't heard enough from any of these folks to determine any overt racism. It should be noted that I really don't understand what Mr. C is trying to convey here. I also find it sad that he's now implied a small child is racist. The kid can't be more than 4 or 5 years old...

I ignored the comment. I became quite clear that my hopes of intelligent, thought provoking, enriching conversation with Mr. C were woefully dashed. I found the others were much better conversationalists and my only chance for any meaningful banter on the topic. There are two people I haven't mentioned yet, but were also late comers in thread: Mr. A, a college student, and Mr. G, an artist, father, philosopher. Some others were in and out of the thread, but not nearly as memorable as Mr. B, Mr. R, Mr. A, and Mr. G (in order of appearance).

Unfortunately, Mr. C spent the remainder of the conversation calling the white speakers racist and the black speakers sell outs. Mind you, this conversation started November 27th and is still going on (it's December 2nd). The real substance of the discussion has come from unexpected sources, for which I am grateful to have made new friends that I can disagree with and then joke around with, while also learning something.

I admit to teasing and egging Mr. C on. It's frankly an exercise in human behavior to see how he reacts to a variety of statements. I imagine that's what the others do, too. It's like watching a train crash over and over again. I do find it sad that this poor man has so much hatred spewing out of him. No one should have to carry that burden. I imagine he's had some pretty whacked up experiences  to have become the man he is today.

I also suspect he has some sort of personality disorder. When I unfollowed him because I was tired of hate speech flooding my Twitter time line, he initiated conversation with me (saying he won an argument we weren't having) and then followed me. That typically doesn't happen when someone doesn't like you and thinks you are racist. It's simply not normal behavior.

For instance, take this tweet I made this morning:

Anger is painful and shortens your life. No one deserves to live with such a rage inside of them &limits them from connecting w/ fellow man

Then he replies to it to say:

Racist insults about Black "anger" make you feel better but it doesn't make an argument. Suggesting that I'm "angry" that you're a Racist won't help you win the argument. Remember your happiness is based on your "winning" so why not get on the right side of the issue and STOP BEING RACIST so you can win? I'm not "angry" because your DUMB White Racist ass can't argue your way out of a paper bag, I'm disappointed that you aren't more of a foe.

Words can't express how sad his response is... for one, he apparently never read anything I've written in the days long conversation (I said I'd rather be happy than win), secondly, when I've agreed with him, he argued with me and called me names and thirdly if I'm such an evil racist and his foe, why on earth is bothering with me? I could say the sky is blue and that would make me racist for not seeing a green sky that is blue. It's just silly.

I made this for Mr. C & sent it to him. Maybe he can sleep better now?

I'm adding the sidebar that I won't be surprised if Mr. C goes ballistic because I didn't use his name in this post. I also predict he'll read it and call bring out the racist nut bit, perhaps even using retaliatory measures. If any of this comes to fruition, I will add it here. I've got my popcorn...   do you?