11.30.2015

And Boy, Are Our Arms Tired

[Image: White teenage boy and mother, both wearing
bathing suits, with the ocean and rocks of
Cabo San Lucas in the background.]

We just got back from a week in Cabo San Lucas, a Thanksgiving week spent with most of both sides of our family, and one in which we successfully dodged all massive feast preparation responsibilities yet still managed to have our pants feel quite a bit tighter upon returning home. Success!

This was our family's second time in Cabo, and it was, for the most part, a happy repeat of our glorious first visit. Leo swam, and then swam some more. He and his sisters got to hang out with grandparents, uncles, and cousins. Mali even parasailed, and Iz, she of the newly minted driving license, went ATVing with her dad.

Mali also turned eleven on not-Thanksgiving day (as we were in Mexico), and got to celebrate with fourteen family members plus talented local musicians singing her Feliz CumpleaƱos. (She'll have a proper LARP birthday party in a couple of weeks.)

Even though we brought food with us and shopped for groceries, it wasn't always easy to manage Leo's doctor-prescribed low sugar/fat diet, or exercise as much as he should. He got a lot of pizza and fries. But, hey, vacation, and worth him being happy most of the time. We can help him  pick up slack now that we're back in drizzly cold reality.

The only part of our trip that really sucked for Leo was traveling back home. Tickets for Cabo during the high season might as well be studded with rubies, which means direct flights were unrealistic for us. And even if you buy your tickets six months ahead of time, which we did, there's no guarantee of being able to seat a party of five in the most Leo-friendly way. He was a good sport, though. Despite the baby with the constant, grinding-gears crying on the first flight. (Not the baby's fault, as I reminded Mali.)

By the time we were hustled off that plane and into crowded, noisy, standing-room-only buses to LAX Immigration and Customs Leo'd had all he could take. Iz took one look at the crowds and lines and asked if we could please please please get Leo accommodations, so ... I asked. And the Customs folks immediately (immediately!) assigned us personal escorts who walked us to the front of all three check points. I typically loathe everything about LAX, but their Customs folks? They are my new favorite people. Thank you, LAX customs people.

[image: selfie of a red-haired white woman
lying in bed with a black-and-white kitten
snuggled next to her head.]
And now we are home. With our new kitten Twist from Wonder Cat Rescue and KitTea Cafe who missed us SO MUCH. He was lovingly tended in our absence by our friend Ep who texted us videos of him purring in her lap and meowing plaintively. We were up for half of our first night home, being purringly smothered by kitten fur and flatulence.

Being home means being back to the usual. Which means confronting realities both big and small. Like the escalating 'tudes of these three tweens and teens who share (and methodically destroy) our home.

I am sad about not having little kids any more. Little kids are fun. Big kids are fun, too. Teenagers are more like cats, in their unpredictable willingness to be fun, or do as asked. If you ever have anyone tell you that autistic people don't learn from their environment, send them to me so they can explain why my younger teen, Leo, has taken to dodging any chore requests with "I need to use the bathroom!" followed by an extended disappearance -- exactly as his sisters do. I'll wait.

11.11.2015

Happy 15th to Our Resident Dude

Low fat low sugar cupcakes --
that Leo graciously ate anyhow
[image: yellow cupcakes with piped
chocolate frosting.]
Leo's 15th birthday was two days ago. There was much cupcaking, over three birthday events over two days -- which meant three iterations of being sung Happy Birthday, which Leo looooved.

He also enjoyed the cupcakes I made for him even though they were from a low sugar, low fat recipe. I ate one, and it wasn't ... awful. One of Leo's friends needed the "tangy" chocolate frosting scraped from his tongue, so intense was his NOOOO reaction. But Leo, selective though he is, tends to accommodate items in the 'sweets' category. Possibly because, as a friend of ours who is on a diet similar to Leo's said: after a few months of doing without, anything even remotely sweet and luscious tastes like fudge.

Here are the three birthday celebrations held in honor of our very loved and extremely pleased teen dude:


At the traditional local bouncy house party palace:
[image: white teen boy with curly
brown hair, sitting in a colorful
room and blowing out a candle
on a cupcake.]

In his classroom at school:
[image: white teen boy with curly brown hair, sitting at a table
and smiling a the camera, next to a be-candled cupcake.]

And at home with his loving family of smartasses:
[image: white teen boy with curly brown hair,
about to blow out a cupcake birthday candle,
while a white bespectacled tween girl
does "rabbit ears" fingers behind his head,
& a white teen girl hugs a black-and-white cat.]
----

Our family had so much fun celebrating Leo's birthday with him, his classmates, and his friends -- it's never a bad thing to be around contagious joy. But Leo's actual birthday also had bittersweet overtones for me, as I spent much of the day moderating TPGA FB comments about the murder of autistic teen Dustin Hicks, at the hands of his mother. And it looks as though, like my former self, his mother was a biomedical/pseudoscience cure-seeker, as Matt Carey writes at Left Brain/Right Brain.

Dustin and Leo are not that far apart in age. If I'd still been emotionally invested in the misinformation-based belief that autism is an injury and that Leo could be cured if only I found the right potion, how different would all our lives be right now? Would I feel like a failure as a parent? Would Leo's birthdays be thinly disguised pity parties? Would any parties actually be about and for him?

Or would I still be part of those toxic communities that consider publicly complaining about and degrading autistic children "honesty" instead of degradation? If I got openly and deeply depressed about Leo not being "cured," would those community members commiserate with me, or dismiss my depression signs as "what autism mamas are like," instead of helping me find real, and realistic, resources to help us both? Would I internalize stories of parents who considered murder their only option when they failed to "fix" their kids, watch the misguided and horrifying public outpourings of support for those parents' "burdens," and be influenced by them?

I hope not. I hope I'd be as disgusted by people who talk about what a "loving mom" Dustin's murderer was as I am today, and as upset when people insist that these crimes happen because of lack of services, rather than because our society devalues the lives of people like Leo.

---

But back to our dude. Yesterday I took him sock shopping, because we wanted to keep that party atmosphere going. He chose a ten pack of these Florida grandpa black ankle socks. I asked several times if that was really what he wanted, and he never wavered.

A male family friend who embodies hip young male coolness assured us that black socks really are where it's at these days, and that no one wears white socks. His sister Iz insists the problem is not the socks, it's the Crocs.

Whatever. Leo gets to wear what he wants. Though I might just walk a few paces behind him, in public.

[image: close up of the feet and ankles of a white dude
wearing black ankle socks with olive green Crocs.]

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