Sunday, April 23, 2017

Grandma

My Grandpa Mattson passed away in February. He had a long and fulfilling life, punctuated by a beautiful memorial service. Because he served during World War II, he received military honors at his grave site service. I'll never forget watching the two military men ceremoniously wrapping up an American flag, handing it to my grandmother, and thanking her for his service.

I've been thinking about my Grandma Mattson a lot, so I sat down to write her a note today. I've had four wonderful grandparents, all active in my life, and I always had to address each grandparent by multiple names to distinguish each from the other. I remember writing my grandparents letters in college and always having to double check that the letters and addressed envelopes matched. I was teary-eyed today when I realized that I no longer needed to worry about mixing up letters. I just have one 'Grandma' to write now. I'm thankful for her and love her, but I sure miss the others.

In the Blink of an Eye: From Thomas the Train to Cell Phone Contracts

Asher's Phone Contract
Dated: April 3, 2017

Parents have purchased his first phone.  If anything happens to this phone (it is stolen, lost, broken), even if is not Asher's fault, he is still responsible for replacing the phone.

Parents must know Asher's phone password and have the right to access his phone at all times. Parents must also have "friends privileges" to all of Asher's social media accounts. There is no privacy when it comes to a cell phone. If you want privacy, write in a journal, and we will respect your privacy there.

Parents have the right to take away phone at any time for poor behavior or poor grades. If your grades go down, you will lose your phone. If you do not do your assigned chores, you will lose your phone. If you show poor attitude or misbehavior at home or school, you will lose your phone.

Asher must charge his phone at the family "charging station" each night and never take the phone to bed.

Asher must promise to keep all social media interactions appropriate and report any bullying.

Asher must compensate his parents for the additional cost of his phone through six hours of additional chores, big brother sitting, or helping mom with her LEGO business each month.

Asher is responsible for any additional charges associated with going over his allotted data plan.

Signed,


______________________   
Mom                                          

______________________
Dad

______________________
Asher


Monday, April 3, 2017

My Favorite Kid With Autism - April is Autism Awareness month



Witnessing Noé's journey has been rewarding and sometimes painful. It is always so interesting to see what catches his attention. The other day we were out for *yet another* rainy hike and when we took off our shoes to go back inside the house I told Noé, "I think there's moss growing between your toes!" For the rest of the day, I caught him staring down at his toes. 

I love him!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hero of the day

We're very proud of Asher.

But we also worry about him. A lot.

Oh, he's a great student. The math he does is far beyond anything I encountered in sixth grade... or seventh grade. And he's unbelievable on the piano.  Most importantly, he's kind and generous to everyone around him.

But he is also a bit of a dreamer. I've lost count of the number of times he's ran out the door for school without his backpack. If we don't remind him to shower or brush his teeth, it does not happen. We've started to leave him alone for short stints of time, but find ourselves constantly texting to save him from himself. While Noé (you know, our severely autistic son) is weaning off his visual schedules with success, I recently created Asher an after-school schedule on a sheet of blood orange printer paper and taped it to his bedroom door in utter frustration.

We've tried to institute appropriate consequences to make him a responsible 12 year old. If he misses the bus, he has to pay his "taxi" $5 to get him to school (and I have just about the same temperament as a NYC taxi driver those mornings). He loses screen time frequently for forgetting and losing important things. But progress has been slow, to say the least.

Last night, however, might have been a turning point in our tweenage despair.

It was 7:15PM and steadily raining. We had just returned from a piano lesson and I realized that I didn't have our garage door opener on me, so I had Asher run around to the front and unlock the door. He came back and reported that the top bolt was LOCKED!!!

I had feared this would happen at some point after installing that sliding top bolt. We installed it to help keep Noe inside our house (now he can reach the bolt, so it's pretty useless). We lock it at night for extra security (our neighborhood is very "active"). Sometimes Asher locks it when he comes home from school, as he had today. As we sprinted out of the house for piano, I failed to notice that it was bolted, and I also failed to grab the garage door opener.

So many times in my mind I had thought about how screwed we would be if this were to ever happen. We have no other available points of entry into our house. We couldn't even call a locksmith because there was no key or lock.

I really tried not to panic. I jimmied the bolt with my keys and anything else I could find. I mostly had stray LEGOs in my bag. Then I started trying to kick in the door (that was kind-of fun).  I plotted hoisting Asher up to our second-floor balcony. But we ran into the same problem, because that door was bolted as well. I considered calling the fire department. So tempting, but there wasn't anyone in immediate danger, my mental health notwithstanding. Maybe I could hide Noé and say my autistic son was locked inside? Oh, that sounded a little bit too Balloon Boy hoax-y.

Ed arrived home from work around 8PM. He tried the same things I had tried, with the same result. Meanwhile, Noé had to use the bathroom and was done standing out in the rain. I took Noé to a neighborhood restaurant to find a restroom. Ed started knocking on neighbors' doors looking for tools, any tools. Asher guarded our stuff.

Well past 8:30PM and we were still outside, and yes, it was still raining. I was on the verge of a breakdown and took Noé for a walk because I deal with stressful situations by escaping them. Ed was considering the merits of breaking a window to get us inside. And then Asher pulled up a YouTube video (I won't link to it, lest you break into our house). It involved sliding paper into the lock at just the right angle. It looked ridiculous. I'm pretty sure Ed thought it would never work. I was still wandering the streets of Seattle in a fog-like state with Noé, so I had no opinion. Ed gave the YouTube hack a couple of lame attempts. Asher thought hard. He searched our backpacks and the recycling bin for just the right paper for the job. On his very first try it worked.

We were saved from our own stupidity by our 12 year old dreamer.

Reflecting on the evening's events while getting ready for bed (and feeling extra grateful, btw, for that warm, dry bed), we both agreed that Asher was probably going to turn out just fine. We, however, should probably start seriously worrying about ourselves.





Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blown away...

Flashback to last December 28th. Noé is celebrating his 14th birthday around Grandma's table with cousins. Physically unable to bake a birthday cake three days post-Christmas, we serve up some of his other favorites: pizza and root beer floats. I stick a birthday candle in his slice of pizza and explain to his cousins that Noé's apraxia makes it impossible for him to blow out his candles. Singing is followed by my long-winded explanation...blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I look over and Noé is sniffing out his candle with his nose, and it totally works!  He can't blow but he can sniff!

Forward to this morning, sitting at my desk and reviewing the IEP Noé's teacher has created for this year. I am pleasantly surprised to see his progress in school and all of the things he is able to do. A year ago, I never would have dreamed he could answer reading comprehension questions (even the simplest ones) after listening to a story. But here we are.

Just like on his birthday, I am once again reminded not to limit him. Not to decide what he can and cannot accomplish.

He finds a way. In his own time, in his own way. He continues to blow us away......

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, from Grandpa's Kitchen




It's been over five years since my Grandpa Razz passed away, but I still miss him every day. And especially over the holidays. I keep thinking it will ease with time. I remind myself that he had an adventurous and full life. And both in life and death and through every season he is with me.

He is an endless Portland summer evening, and I'm relaxing out on the back patio. The smell of his rose garden, the taste of Alpenrose ice cream on my tongue, the sound of his laughter rising above his post-WWII neighborhood.

He is a rainy autumn Saturday in Portland, his hamburger soup served up with crusty bread and parmesan cheese on the stove of his tiny kitchen. The local news hums from the living room. We discuss the Blazer's playoff chances this year. Every Blazer season is Rip City for Grandpa.

He is Christmas. Dipping chocolates onto cold marble in his attic. Every nook and cranny of my grandparent's small home decorated in Holiday. Warmth and giving and friends and memories.

He is hard work and family and love and generosity.

I wouldn't consider myself a generous person by nature. I'm a true introvert. My safe place is within myself. I hold a strong desire to be generous, but too often over think things (Is my gift wanted? Is it the best way to help?) But my grandpa…he just gave. 

He never went anywhere empty-handed. Like Santa Claus, he always came bearing gifts. Always willing to lend a hand. Always wanting to make a new friend. He had beloved nicknames for his neighbors and friends that stuck over generations.

Grandpa helped me move into my graduate school apartment in Eugene after my dad died. He and my other favorite grandpa, both well into their seventies, hauling heavy furniture up my narrow, wooden staircase. My heart!

He was my first phone call after Ed asked me to marry him.

He was my favorite dance at my wedding.

When Ed and I decided to take a job in New York City six months after that wedding, I dreaded telling my grandpa. It took me multiple attempts to spill out the news. The only other time I have ever seen him cry was after my dad's accident, when it became apparent that he would not survive it.

My dad had passed away less than two years earlier. My grandma's dementia was worsening. His health wasn't great. His family was abandoning him (well, at least I was). 

I may have left him for the Big Apple, but he has never left my heart. When I miss my grandpa and want to feel close to him, I know exactly what to do. I find a way to love and be generous towards someone else so that I can feel him strongly inside of me. And I am instantly transported back to the smells and warmth of that tiny kitchen. The Blazer game buzzes in the background. Grandpa is answering his front door to guests. I hear his jingling laugh. Everyone is welcome here.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Noé's Starry Nights






I've been staring at this painting for days after rereading Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures.

In the book, Temple explains her theory that Van Gogh was an autistic and painted his world of perceptual distortions:

The swirls in the sky in his painting Starry Night are similar to the sensory distortions that some people with autism have. Autistics with severe sensory processing problems see the edges of objects vibrate and get jumbled sensory input. These are not hallucinations but perceptual distortions.

And now I'm dying to know.....

Is this how you see the world, Noé?

Do the edges of your bedroom, your neighborhood, your school, vibrate?

Is every day a starry night filled with blinding brightness and swirls and dark intrusive dreams?

Do you want to reach toward those bright stars or hide away from them?

Is your world marked by agitation or beauty? Or perhaps both?

One thing I am sure of, my Noécito. You don't see the world with ordinary eyes.