Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our New Normal

'New Normal' seems to be a phrase that has popped up a lot during this past recession. Our 'New Normal' is more about how life has changed for us since I started working. I'm only working about 25 hours a week, but apparently those are 25 hours I really did need, because life suddenly got very busy for us! It's strange because it seems even busier than the summertime, when I work full time. Maybe because the boys are in school right now and busy with activities?

Anyways, here is a glimpse of our New Normal:

1. The preschool moms know Ed better than me. He's the one with the preschool gossip and the paint on his hands from going into the classroom to help out. He's even a regular at their monthly class coffees.

2. Every time I enter my house nowdays, I mutter under my breath about needing a house cleaning service.

3. The boys and I have learned to keep an extra stash of underwear and socks because Ed is in charge of the laundry now.

4. Store-bought bread and Trader Joe's frozen meals. Wait a second....that's not New, just Normal around these parts.

5. Running around the house with my cell phone, trying desperately to find a quiet room in order to take a work call.

6. Putting together work outfits before bed. That is so much fun after years of wearing mostly mom clothes. Ironically, the office I work from is pretty casual and mostly male and I really doubt they care what I am wearing.

Despite the added stress of another job in the house, overall it's been a great work experience so far. I am doing marketing and other projects for a small company (the same company I work for during the summer). I love the intimacy and work environment of start-up businesses. One minute I am answering phones, the next I am putting together a marketing strategy. It is some seriously great experience that my resume desperately needed. Plus I enjoy the people and believe in the mission of the company. And it is a 10 minute commute, one I will do by bike once Fairfax County finally gets around to shoveling the snow off the bike trails. I am enjoying the work-life balance right now, even though I expect to drop a few balls before the juggling act is over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

autism days

The amount of time I live autism is not very well reflected in my blog postings. Probably because when I sit down to write, I want to not think about autism.

But if my thoughts were recorded on a pie chart, Noe's autism would make up the largest portion of the circle, and everything else would be small slivers. Let's just say you would be a very obese person if you ate my piece of autism pie every day.

And I tend to have one of three days related to Noe's autism.

angry autism day. This is usually triggered by an especially difficult day with Noe or some other factor related to his autism that goes wrong. For example, last month his lead ABA-VB therapist called to tell me that she may have to leave his program for personal reasons. It would have essentially ended his therapy program and I would have been left to start from scratch or wait until next fall to continue with another doctorate student. Luckily, this had a good ending and she is still with us, but not before I had a full-on panic attack that ended with the worst migraine of my entire life. These days are infrequent (and becoming more rare), yet very intense. I curse autism and often cry and stomp around my bedroom unless I am able to escape the house for a run or bike ride. I often feel a lot of self-loathing....Why did this happen to us? What did Noe do to deserve this? On these days, autism feels like the worst possible life sentence.

average autism day. This is most days. My life feels normal, blessed in fact. Noe is Noe. He has his struggles and issues, but so does every other kid. While some kids take tennis lessons and go to chess club, Noe has speech therapy and ABA-VB. It is not torture for him. In fact, he looks forward to seeing his therapists and working on the activities and lessons they have prepared. He makes progress, but it is often hard to see day to day.

It is always interesting to run into a parent at Noe's school that I know from somewhere else, such as from Asher's preschool, or my job, where I tend to meet lots of hyper-academic parents. They are excited to find out I have a child at the highly-regarded school. Immediately, they want to know his teacher, whether or not he is in the GT (Gifted & Talented) program, etc. I tell them, without any self-consciousness (I am SO over that) that Noe is in the autism program. And then I get the look. Often enough, I have to remind myself with a bit of amusement that the look I am seeing is.... PITY. Why do you pity me? I want to say. I have the best kid ever. Not that he doesn't cause me a lot of worries, but he really is great.

super autism day. These are also pretty rare, but special. These are days, actually moments, when I get a glimpse into Noe's soul and see unlimited potential and his true autism-free self. Sometimes it is a knowing smile he gives me. Often, he is riding his bike and his autism just slips away completely for a few precious moments. These are also the days when I can step outside of my every-day life for a moment and see the ways I have experienced true personal growth as a result of dealing with Noe's autism over the past five years.

Would I trade the past few years of "personal growth" for a more average parenthood experience? In half a New York minute. For my sanity as well as Noe's well being. Accompanying my exponential personal growth curve, I've also experienced some nasty side effects, namely a rather jarring crisis of faith and enough anxiety to keep an entire Paxil factory running overtime through the recession (full disclosure: I am actually not on any anti-anxiety medication but probably should have been at various points over the past five years).

Once in awhile, I will be in the bathroom and suddenly I will pull my hair back tight and examine my face in the mirror. The permanent dark circles under my eyes. The strands of gray hair making an early appearance. The worry lines. I swear I can almost make out the word autism written on my worry lines.

These are my days, a new path, our new journey. And I have to say, the view along the way is pretty damn amazing.