October 19, 2010

Growing Up Peabo

It's official. I am now mom to a 12-year-old. Which means my gamer, my Aspie, my first-born, is now an honest-to-goodness tween.

This is how I know.

He's dating. He met a girl and thought she was cute. He brought her a flower and told her he liked her. He asked me if he could ask her out, and when he did, this girl displayed remarkably good judgment and said yes. We all went on their date together (because that kid's not dating for real until he's at least 16). And, when we took her home, her mom invited us all on a second date.

I think that means I'm dating her mom now.

He doesn't cuss. Although he certainly knows how. He proved that to me by listing pretty much every cuss word ever invented, matter-of-factly, while we were wandering down the bread aisle in the grocery store. He surprised a whole lot of shoppers. But he's never once uttered a single bad word in front of his brother or sister. Which shows remarkable restraint and - dare I say it? - maturity.

He asked me how people have sex. How. That's a practical, logistical question, which is far scarier than the amorphous "where do babies come from" you prepare yourself for. He immediately distracted himself in the way that only kids with ADHD can ("I don't have ADH ... hey, is that a dust mote?"). But I need to answer. At least, I think I do.

He's warm-hearted and generous and responsible. He's the only one in the house who remembers what day the garbage truck comes. He can even change his own sheets, though he needs to be reminded to do it.

He helps me. He helps his siblings. He's brilliant with little kids. And, when he figures out someone is sad or hurting (which is often easier said than done), he's the king of empathy and kindness and hugs.

He's growing up.

Except that when I look at him, all I see is the squirmy, slimy bundle I gave birth to. The baby who laughed like an old man whenever I sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the dog. The little professor who would play hide-and-seek only if we skip-counted by 3s, who could read before he was three, and who, for a whole year, made everyone call him "Peabo."

At least Peabo is still shorter than I am. And he still believes in Santa Claus. At least, he pretends he does. And, since I'm busily pretending he's Peter Pan, that's good enough for me.

* I drafted this on October 19, so I'm publishing it effective that date ... even though it's not actually October 19 anymore. It's November.

Happy belated birthday, kiddo.

October 15, 2010

Oh, the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise!

I follow several blogs by moms who have kids who on the autism spectrum. It's a great community, a supportive one, and I learn a lot from these women. I'm glad they're out there.

Many kids on the spectrum also suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. One of the blogs I follow, Hartley's Life With 3 Boys, is raising awareness and funds for SPD by spotlighting 30 families in 30 days on her blog. Her efforts will benefit the SPD Foundation, a leader in SPD awareness, education and research. It's interesting reading, often deeply touching, and often hitting very close to home.

My Aspie - and this is probably where I should come up with names for my kids, because his label doesn't define him - well, he does have some sensory issues. Mostly, he is hyposensitive to touch. I remember once, when I was chaperoning a field trip, a rather aggressive kid got off on this hand-slapping game. The goal was to slap another kid's hand until he couldn't take it anymore and finally gave up. My kid? He never gave up. By the time I saw what was going on, my son's hand was screaming red. Anyone else would have been hurting.

Not him.

His need for stimulation affected him a lot when he was little. He chewed anything and everything. He ate his pencils down from the erasers to the nubs. I've been pulling out the clothes he wore at this age to hand down to his little brother - only I can't hand them down. The collars and sleeves are chewed to rags.

His first IEP included therapy for sensory issues. But because SPD wasn't among his official diagnoses when we moved to this state five years ago, that part of his IEP was tossed, and I was never able to get it reinstated.

I'm okay with that, though. He'd started refusing the therapies. The weighted vest embarrassed him, as did the chew tubes and the wiggle seat. And, over time, he's learned to manage many of his sensory issues.

Not so much his mother. Only, for me, it's noise.

Every. Little. Noise.

Big noises, they make me jump. But it's the little noises that truly make me insane. The clicking of a pen. The ticking of a clock. The keening of a fork scraping along a plate. I had to get rid of the TV in my bedroom because the constant hum of the DVR kept me up all night. And I buy popcorn at the movies - every single time - to drown out the inevitable sounds of snacking around me.

And those family dinners I love? Torturous. And that's with my own kids, who have spent the past year listening to me say, "Chew with your mouth closed," and "Don't bite your spoon," and "Stop slurping! That cup is empty, dammit!"

Only I don't actually say the "dammit."

Just imagine how bad it is when we've got other kids over, kids whose moms don't have weird noise issues. Because my kids' manners, after a year of hardcore family dinners? Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

And still not enough for me.

While my son is learning to manage his issues as he ages, I'm just getting worse. I don't know if it's the insomnia or if mid-life wrecks your ears as much as your eyesight. But by the end of the week, when I've got the heavy duty Friday tireds, my kids are lucky if I feed them at all. I just can't stomach all the chewing. (Stomach. Chewing. Get it? Ha ha.)

And that's the real origin of our Friday night movie nights. Friday nights, I lay a blanket on the floor, let the kids pick a movie, and set up a picnic in front of the TV. The background noise and the fact that I'm sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room make all that chewing manageable. And it's the one night each week that my kids don't have to listen to me complain.

I love Fridays.

October 10, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

As I've mentioned before - to the point where this is now tatooed on my forehead in bright red ink - I never leave my house. Single mom. Three kids. I live at home. I work at home.

I don't get out much.

All that time in my house has made me pasty white and about as fit as a marshmallow. So when my au pair was sick the other day and it was time to walk to school and pick up the two younger kids, I said a very sympathetic, "Oh, honey, you go rest. I'll get the kids." Then I grabbed the keys and dashed out the door before she could change her mind.

My kids were overjoyed. They ran out of school and threw their arms around me as if I'd just returned from Mars.

My redhead was particularly thrilled. Because he had news. He pulled my head down and pretended to whisper.

"Mom!" he said. "That's her! That's her!" Only he used her name, because he's smart like that.

It turns out that this little girl is in his class. And she has a pet crocodile. She brought it in to school and now my little guy has a HUGE crush on her, because what reasonable boy would not have a crush on a girl with a pet crocodile. Not to mention she's a cutie.

So he tried to follow her home after school. Sat down on the curb, refused to budge, and said, "Mom! Wait! I want to see where she lives."

Now her dad, who's my neighbor and seems a friendly enough fellow, thinks I'm raising a stalker. Which, very possibly, I am.

Wait till I tell him I'm letting my nearly-12-year-old date.

Probably I should leave my house more, if only so the neighbors don't fear me.

October 2, 2010


In the interest of openness and fair play, and for the new readers who aren't finding me through my Facebook page (which still surprises me, but thank you), I want to let all y'all know: My name's not Rosemary. My name is something totally different. And, apparently, it is totally distinctive in a beautifully ethnic kind of way, which I know because I Googled myself and there's only like two of me out there, and most of the me's out there really are me.

If you followed that.

Because I'm one of only two of me, I'm easy to find. I don't want to be easy to find. I've got three gorgeous and vulnerable kids who deserve their mom's best efforts to keep them safe and whole and see them through to adulthood.

So I use a pseudonym. I don't refer to my kids by name, not even by made-up name. And I don't (generally) talk about where we live.

The Rosemary bit came from my blog name. And that's a bit of a story. I meant to call my blog "Elbows Off the Table," and that is, in fact, the title. I chose it because that's the phrase I heard at the dinner table over and over and over again growing up. That, and "Put your napkin in your lapkin," which I thought would be a silly title for a blog. Either would have made sense, though, because the original idea of this blog was to write about family life through food. Kind of like M. F. K. Fisher for the blogger mom set. But "Elbows" was taken in the Bloggerverse, so I created a subtitle and used the end of it as my URL. Family life through rosemary-colored glasses. Rosemary. Herb. Food. Get it? Yes, folks, I am just that clever.

Except that this blog has become much more than life through food. It is about food, but only sometimes. Mostly it's about family. It's about my beautiful children. It's about Asperger's Syndrome and how we manage that particular difference together. It's about the challenges of being a single parent. It's about me and my friends, who make up a kind of family of our own. And it's about the stuff that ties my family together, across the generations: stuff like knitting, which I learned at my grandmother's knee, and my mother's lemon Jell-o cake, and the fact that I'm afraid to fly. Which is relevant because important parts of my family live very far away.

And, always, it's about finding the bright side. Those rosemary-colored glasses are my way of looking at the world.

So now I'm Rosemary. Because, as it happens, I'm a rose-colored girl.