Feeling blue on the red couch

I’m feeling a little sad these days.  I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what’s making me blue, but most likely it’s a bit of this and a bit of that.

Wow, things have been busy this summer.  In many ways, so much of it has been good, if not great, that I feel guilty about sharing my down attitude, but it is what it is, and I just share the good, the bad and the ugly because, well, that’s just what I do.

We started June with Elliott finishing up his therapy program completely.  Wow, was I freaked out about that.  Even now, just thinking about it makes me cry.  Having traveled the road we have traveled left me more than a little bit nervous about striking out on our own this summer.  Sure, I tried to plan as much “activity” into our days as possible, and Lord knows I’ve had countless hours of help in learning how to be a proactive rather than a reactive parent – how to plan ahead, how to foresee challenges and cut them off at the pass, strategies for melt-downs or inappropriate questions, reinforcement for moments of greatness, etc.  It’s just that having been through what we have been through was at times excruciatingly painful, and the thought of losing our support system was scary to the point of mild panic attacks for me.  (No, there was no ambulance this time, but it was ugly just the same).

Let’s get real – apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – change is damn hard for me.  While Elliott was thrilled beyond measure, I was scared that our world might collapse like an undercooked pronto pup on a stick from the fair.

But, it didn’t.  Actually, things went surprisingly well – even frighteningly well.  Because Ada had some extra openings in her schedule in the beginning of summer, I had lots of 3-on-1 time with our offspring, and we had some serious fun.  It was kind of awesome.

Sure, each of the kids has had struggles throughout the summer – Elliott has been off his ADHD medication this summer in order to help him grow, and while he’s eating enough to feed the state of New Jersey, his activity level is elevated, especially early in the morning before I have sufficient coffee to deal with him.  Henry has been a bit of a loner this summer, and although when he is with his buddies, he has an awesome time, he is perfectly content to have a lot of alone time this summer.  Likely, this is only troubling to me because both his siblings are on the autism spectrum, and I am hyper-vigilant about social interactions with all the children.  Henry’s just a quiet, low-key kind of guy, but a moments, I can’t help but feel nervous  – I own that this is more my problem than his.  Ada has occasional struggles with what we call “drama days”.  While most days are very good – she’s more social than ever, and is picking skills up faster and faster, her occasional snarkiness puts us all on edge.  While she is the smallest among us, she makes up for it in spirit.  She’s a spitfire to the tenth.

Lately, since we’ve been spending enormous amounts of time with one another (family vacation), the siblings have been fighting like crazy.  They are all bugging each other, making Ada scream, and causing general mischief.  While earlier in the summer, this kind of behavior made me smile because in order to bug each other, it means they know one another well enough to push each other’s buttons.  Their bond as siblings has grown remarkably this summer, and it’s been amazing and at moments fun.  But now, in late August, my patience is slipping quickly away, and I’m thinking evil thoughts, and dreaming of the school bus.

Here’s what it is – even though Elliott has made remarkable gains, he is many days a very difficult person to hang out with.  I hate even saying that out loud, because I love him endlessly, and would go to the ends of the earth for him, but often I feel like he sucks every ounce of energy from the room, and I am tired.  I hate that I feel that way, and I hate admitting it, but Elliott can be simply exhausting to be with.

He’s had a challenging week this week, as we just returned from a wonderful weeklong vacation with extended family in the WI Dells.  We have all had an adjustment back to reality – and coming back from vacation is not easy for anyone.  He’s a bit out of sorts, and just edgy and fidgety, and I’m feeling the same way, which is probably not helping matters.  My temper is short with him, so even though he’s not doing anythin behaviorally significant or awful (charging thousands on our credit card, etc.), he is nickel and diming me all day long with little things, and I’m losing my patience and not being the kind of parent he needs, nor that I want to be.

Maybe you can relate – like when you plan tons of activities to keep kids busy, and then you get home at 4 and just want an hour to sit on the couch watching a movie (or in my case “Rocco’s Dinner Party”), but it is at that moment that Elliott needs me the most because idle time is not his friend.  He is not now, and maybe never will be able to attend to movies, TV shows, etc. and that can be very difficult.  When I am the most tired and feeling the most impatient is when he needs me to be serene and his soft place to fall, and this week, that has not happened, and I feel guilty.

I’m sad because he’s come so far, but we still have days that push each of us to the edge, and I hate that I sometimes focus on the challenges rather than his many accomplishments.  I feel guilty, impatient, and overwhelmed today, and I am sad.

I have many faults, and impatience is one of my worst qualities.  Thankfully, Elliott is likely the most awesome teacher I will ever have in that department.  Tomorrow, after I have coffee, we will have a red couch chat about what each of us can work on throughout our day.  My guess is he will have several suggestions for me – and I might share a few with him as well . . .


Babble.com is trying to find the 25 best autism blogs.  Visit http://www.babble.com/Baby/baby-development/top-25-autism-blog-favorite-nominate/, and vote for your favorite!  The Red Couch is currently at #9!


Song & Dance

I’m not a big fan of kid music – sure, I can hum along to the “Sesame Street” theme and I know all the words to “Wheels on the Bus”, but to be fair, it’s not my deal.  I remember more than once, going through an assessment of one kind or another (we’ve done so many the paperwork takes up literally half our basement) and having the kids lose points for not being familiar with some song that kids are supposed to know.  Sure, I felt a sense of guilt – just as I did about a million other things (it’s the nature of parenting, isn’t it?), but to be fair, my kids didn’t know a majority of these songs because I didn’t play them.  Now, it isn’t that they didn’t have any exposure – we took our fair share of ECFE classes and cranked out the bus song, along with Mary and her crazy lamb, & even the days of the week number from the preschool they’ve all attended.  But, on the way home from said class, we were more likely listening to the Indigo Girls than we were to Big Bird.

Here’s what I love – music has a way of reaching through the generations and connecting us all to memories and moments, no matter what your
age.  I remember so vividly going to the movie “Grease” with a whole bunch of extended family, and then immediately heading to “Musicland” to buy the album.  It’s something I’ll never forget – not that it was life changing or anything, but it was a terrific memory of singing the songs together and eating ice cream at Grandpa  & Grandma’s farm, and just having a fun summer day. (Likely, that was also the day I convinced my cousin, Davey, to jump out of the Chicken Coop window where he promptly broke his arm.  But I digress).

When Elliott was just a tiny baby, my friend Christine had just given me a “John Denver’s greatest hits” DVD.  It wasn’t long before I realized that when Baby E’s tummy hurt, and he would cry and cry, nothing calmed him faster than some gentle swaying and a little “Rocky Mountain High”.

Through the years, all the kids have developed their own sense of music tastes.  I’m not proud of the fact that I love Barry Manilow as much as the Beatles, but it is what it is.  Let’s just say that they’ve had exposure to just about every bad 80’s song imaginable, with a healthy dose of 70’s thrown in as well.  But they have heard it all, and now have their own preferences and sense of style.  It morphs and changes – sometimes by the day, but I love that they all enjoy listening to music, and that it is a way for us to “connect” and make our own memories.

Elliott is for some reason madly in love with “All I Want” from our friends Toad the Wet Sprocket at the moment.  Kind of getting tired of it, but it just makes him smile.  I should also add that he has very creative names – never the actual name – for all the songs he loves.  His other current fav is Sarah Barielles “King of Anything” which he and Henry refer to as the coffee song – I think just because the word coffee is mentioned in the first line.  What I love most is that E is passionate about a song that talks about a person with control issues.  Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

I should have known that Henry would be our future trouble maker when he turned 5, and announced that his favorite song was Joan Jett’s “Bad
Reputation”.  Sure, he’s an easy going, mellow dude, but once Taio Cruz or Katy Perry appear on one of his 3 “Henry’s Dance Mix” compilations, he’s a crazy man!

Ada likes any kind of make-out music – Ambrosia, the Baby’s, etc.  Yep, she’s 5.  If I didn’t like the songs so much myself, I’d be more worried, but hey, might as well enjoy the moment, right?

The trio and I have had a lot of time together this summer.  It’s been fun to be out and about and enjoying the summer in ways we’ve never been able to before.  This is all new for us – this “togetherness” thing, and I have to say, that while I’m often exhausted and some days are more interesting than others, for the most part, we’re all enjoying our summer.  Sometimes we head to the library, and belt out Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” (can you guess Henry’s favorite lyrics?  If it has something to do with being a drag, you are correct).  Other days, Elliott might persuade us to sing along to “Wide Open Spaces” as he is a particularly big fan of girl power songs.  But no matter what musical mood we’re in, we’re all taking turns sharing some of our favorites with each other and enjoying the moment.

Last weekend, we bought the movie “Grease” and played it for our Family Movie Night.  Amidst the popcorn and root beer,  3 new fans were born.  It wasn’t an amazingly good time – but it’s something I’ll always remember sharing with my kids.  We learned some new songs, did a little dancing in our jams (ok, Henry did), and then had some ice cream on the deck before bedtime.   I can’t say for sure that they will remember it when they are adults, but let’s just say I found an amazing drawing of what looked a lot like Greased Lightning with the initials HK on it the very next day.  The more things change, the more they stay the same . . .

Babble.com is trying to find the 25 best autism blogs.  Visit http://www.babble.com/Baby/baby-development/top-25-autism-blog-favorite-nominate/, and vote for your favorite!  The Red Couch is currently at #8!