Craig’s List Santa

My offspring are still believers. Yes, at 11, 9 & 5, they have not even broached the subject once. For them, the “S” man is still as real as he has ever been, and is watching them like a hawk (Tom & I feel strongly that we must use this as long as we possibly can – after all, we are clearly outnumbered). A few years ago, Tom suggested to our trio that bad behavior causes reindeer to poop in their stockings, while positive behavior (including random acts of kindness towards others) erases the excrement and brings about general good will. This is all well and good until Elliott wants to hold a door for someone, and when they thank him, he promptly asks “did I erase any poop”? Oh the joy of the holidays.

Yes, I’ve taken some heat from my Dad, who has suggested that especially the boys are getting a little old for the Santa gig. While he may be on to something, as I’ve shared with him, I don’t feel like it should be someone’s Mom who tells them the truth – that just seems unnatural to me. While I will be their soft place to land when the truth comes out, I don’t want to be the dream crasher. Besides, I suspect that Henry is on to something, but realizes the truth is not worth exploring because the idea of Santa is way cooler than verifying the truth. He is, in many ways, a wise old soul that way.
Because autism has a way of creating – at least for Elliott – very black & white thinking, we know he is still a believer. Rest assured, when he figures this out, he will not be shy about telling the world what’s up. That said, I’m ok with that. There are so many aspects of a typical childhood that we missed out on with Elliott because of the myriad of challenges he faced – even now, many of those years seem like a fog to me. I can look back at pictures, which are mostly charming and smiley, but our world was anything but charming and smiley. I barely remember anything about Henry’s first year of life, except that our life was a living hell. Even his first Christmas Eve, at 3 months old, was spent in the E.R. because of a nail trimming gone wrong (at least he had a little Santa hat!).

All that said, even though some of this Christmas magic is happening for us a little late, it’s worth it! Everything from decorating the tree to baking to driving around the neighborhood drinking hot cocoa and admiring holiday light displays is so much fun for our offspring, it kind of makes my heart warm & tingly and I remember my own magical Christmas childhood moments. It feels so natural and so normal – and for us, average is pretty awesome, even if for a fleeting moment.
Today I walked to the mailbox to add some mail, and when I opened it, right on top, was a letter addressed to Santa, North Pole, from Elliott Kramer. He used his nicest penmanship, and shared the following “wish list” with Santa:
1. An apple laptop computer
2. A touch screen code door with a lock on it
3. A Dyson vacuum
4. Costco membership card
5. 3 sheets of holiday baubles stamps from the post office
6. Lego white dial chronograph watch
7. 3D movie tickets for the movie “New Year’s Eve” (I’ve never even heard of this movie, is it an “R”?)

I don’t know why, but it just made me tear up, and smile at the same time. His innocence is genuine, and his list is so him. I can’t tell you how many years he’s asked for a security door (the kind with the keypad used for security purposes in office buildings), and while I can still find a hint of humor in many of his choices, you need to understand that he’s come light years. 2 years ago, he asked for $1 million dollars cash and a $748.00 gift card from Oriental Trading Company. We’re moving in the right direction, and for whatever reason, there is a spark of Christmas magic in all of that. It just makes me smile.

Perhaps all this Santa business is on the minds of our crew because Ada had an early visit from the “S” man yesterday. For the past several months, she’s been telling everyone she knows that she is getting a bunk bed, and that it should be delivered in 10 weeks. Everyone but Tom & I knew about her bunk bed – it was apparently being delivered from Apple Valley – and she had big plans for a slumber party once it arrived. Considering her limited conversation skills, this was kind of an awesome topic that brought about a lot of chat, and thus, it’s come up a great deal over the past several weeks.

I’ve been scouring Craig’s List to find something simple for her, and alas, I scored. It’s a family that is moving, and needed to unload it quickly. It’s got some fabric that allows for the top part of the bunk to serve as a fort, and a fun little slide you can take to get from the top to the bottom. While we had grandiose plans of finding a bunk bed, and assembling it Christmas Eve night in her room, that fell apart when Tom went to pick it up yesterday and realized he needed to reassemble it ASAP in order to remember how to rebuild it. We scrambled to make a new plan.

We gathered at the red couch, and shared with the small folk that Daddy had taken a call from Santa, and he had an item that was just too large to fit in his sleigh, and he needed help getting it to Ada a little early. When she saw her new bunk bed hanging out the back of the van, well her expression would have melted even the Grinch’s’ heart! Both boys helped Ada & Dad get it set up, and everyone worked together as best they could. It was awesome in every way, and I can’t help but smile when I look at our newly conversational little girl hanging out in her fort with her brothers and enjoying sibling time together.

Makes me a believer in Santa and the magic of Christmas all over again . . .

The Preschool Pick-up Line

Some days, Prozac is just not enough. Today is one of those days. What I’m going to share with you does not make me proud – as it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time to lots of Moms (especially those of us with kids who have special needs) and 99% of the time I can blow it off like no one’s business. Today is not one of those days.

This “encounter” happened this morning in the preschool pick-up line, and for whatever reason, I can’t shake the ugly feelings no matter how hard I’ve tried. So, I sent my trio off to the Science Museum with Dad, poured myself a margarita from a bottle that was originally opened sometime this summer and is not as fresh as I’d like, spent a few minutes on my red couch deciding whether or not I really wanted to put this down on paper, and now here I am.

Here’s my deal – some Moms are just jerks. Maybe you can envision who I’m talking about – the Moms who are way too concerned with how perfect their kid is, who need to talk about how amazingly bright or advanced he/she may be, what wait-lists the poor kid is on for schools, the crazy amount of classes/lessons/hobbies their poor kid is over-scheduled for, etc. They are in the know about every kid in school, and pump their kids for information that even 8th graders should not care about anymore. Generally, much to my despair, these Moms are way too cute, snappy dressers, and weigh exactly what they should without exercise or effort of any kind. Damn I dislike them – even before ugly things happen.

Full disclosure – I don’t share with everyone that Ada is on the autism spectrum – especially at her preschool. While I have no shame sharing it, it just has not come up naturally in conversation, nor has there been any reason to throw it out there in everyday chat in the kid pick-up line. Frankly, unless there is some reason or need, why? Strangely enough, Ada has a therapist who accompanies her at preschool every day. Ada does not even know that this person is a therapist, as this person has never been to our home, etc. This is something in the therapy world known as a “blind therapist”, because neither Ada nor her classmates know that the person is there for her. I’m fairly certain most of the kids and parents just think it is another teacher in the classroom, and unless Ada needs help with something (which happens less and less) that is how she spends her time. Frankly, it is amazing and wonderful that Ada is in a place where this is as much help as she needs at this point. We’re working hard so that in Kindergarten, it is hopeful she can begin school needing little if any help at all. This is a tremendously different situation than we faced and continue to face with Elliott. But Ada’s a girl, and that’s a whole different animal when it comes to the social scene in school.

I’ve shared this before, but another reason I don’t feel as comfortable chatting about Ada is that I don’t always want to be perceived as the Mom who can only talk about autism. I own that I have a lot of anxiety about that – because even though autism is a big part of my life, it’s not all that I am, and I dislike that at times, I know that’s what I’ve projected to others. I’m self-conscious about that, and often find myself weighing what I should or shouldn’t say – especially since I’m all about spreading awareness, but need to balance that with my own sense of appropriateness. With Elliott, I had fewer options. Wherever we go, people can sense within about a half-second that something is not as it should be. I guess that does not sound very nice, but I don’t mean it in a negative way. In spite of his differences, he is an incredibly confident and outgoing young man. He makes his way in the world because of his differences, and not in spite of them. He’s far from shy, got a killer smile, and likes to hug total strangers. To be frank, he has many fans out there, and even when his attempts make me sweat with discomfort as I struggle with my own social boundaries, I force myself to allow him to make his own way in the world (within reason of course). What he lacks in the area of social filter, he makes up for in tenacity. I’m very proud, and even a tinge envious of this.

(Starting margarita #2 – this may be trouble). Ok, so here I am in the preschool pick-up line this morning about 3 or 4 people behind this parent that I’m less than fond of who happens to be outspoken about just about everything. Keep in mind that because our school district did not have school today, I had both Elliott & Henry along with me. Considering that both boys attended preschool there, and Elliott did Kindergarten there (twice, but who’s counting), they were kind of jazzed about being in the building again. Elliott immediately approached 2 or 3 Moms to tell them that when he grows up, he’s going to become a civil engineer so that he can deal with the irritating traffic light situation in front of the preschool. He also explained to them, in vivid detail, the route that we chose to drive to the preschool from our home, including street names and approximate wait times.

Out of the blue, said Mom starts asking almost every parent in line whether or not their child had fun at her kid’s birthday party, which had apparently happened very recently. It became clear to me very quickly that Ada was likely one of the only (if not the only) kid from class not included, and that icky feeling down deep in my gut began to ache. Believe me; I need to own my insecurities here. I get that you can’t include everyone at every party – though in preschool, we always have. I get that maybe it was random, and had nothing to do with autism – maybe they are just jerks in general. I also get that Ada knows nothing about this, and it will never have to hurt her the way it hurt me in that line this morning. But I can’t help feeling ugliness about it. Not only was it completely inappropriate for her to be talking in front of me to every parent who was invited (she needs to revisit her social filter), but I need to get over my negativity about her for Ada’s sake.
It didn’t help that Elliott was spouting off about a myriad of random discussion topics in his way too loud voice while this was all going on. Because even though 99% of the time, I can roll with the punches, at that moment I just felt sad for how different our family is, and that our differences are going to cause some additional social heart-break for our kids and in turn for me. All day, I’ve just not been able to shake these ugly feelings, and I’m ticked about that too. Lord knows we’ve been through worse – like when Elliott at age 2 barreled into a 90-year-old woman at Lake Harriet, and she nearly ended up in the hospital. Heck, we have a million fun little memories like that one to share. This in the big scheme of things is nothing, but for some reason, I’m just ticked at his creepy Mom.

Why does she get to worry about what schools offer the best gifted and talented programs and I need to be content to cry for joy when we don’t ask someone at Target how old they are? I know – that was completely jerky, and I have no idea how awful or potentially complicated her life is. Everyone has their issues – while autism is what our family struggles with, everyone faces challenges. I swear I have compassion for the struggles we all face. It’s just that today, I need to dislike the way she excluded my baby – whether it was about autism or not.

I never like to stray too far away from realizing that if things had turned out differently, I could easily be like her (true – I’d be tons funnier than her and hopefully not quite as snarky) but I could have been a Mom worried about the things she is worried about instead of appropriate social interactions, eye contact, or special ed. test scores. But I’m not, and some days, that just sucks  Today is one of those days.