Saturday, October 30, 2010

I am the clown with the tear-away face

It's Halloweekend and I'm having trouble mustering much holiday spirit. Maybe I'm feeling guilty about letting my kids buy their costumes off the rack rather than making them myself (they're going as a vampire and a zombie, so it's not like they would have been super complicated costumes to make...then again, I don't sew, nor do I possess a single crafty gene). Or maybe I'm mentally exhausted from thinking about those Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins, which I cannot, under any circumstances, buy, for fear that I will consume the entire package on the way home. Or maybe I'm just not that into Halloween...

What I am into are the free things that having kids in costume will get you. So far our itinerary includes free lunch at the restaurant down the street, free slices of pie at Baker's Square, and possibly free hot chocolate at Caribou. The free dinner offers are kind of a trick because in order to get there and eat dinner at a child-friendly hour, you have to cut the trick-or-treating me, I know.

I'm also into seeing how excited my kids get when they put their costumes on. However, experience has taught me that the excitement dissolves rather quickly into discomfort of some variety (either costume- or weather-related, possibly both), which then makes them even more easily aggravated. This manifests itself in the form of dozens of mini-races between houses, with one screaming about being first and the other crying about not being first, with the 500% increase in sugar consumption only making the whole thing more fraught with irrationality. Good times.

I'm not actually as pessimistic about it as that all sounds. I mean, there's a decent chance that someone on our street is handing out peanut butter pumpkins, and we all know that candy you steal from your children contains zero calories. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Silver Lining

One of the blessings and curses of autism is that the kids who have it tend to be oblivious to what others think of them. I generally tell myself that this is a good thing for Owen, because really, how much of what people think of us actually matters anyway? Yes, of course there's something to be said for self-awareness, but I suppose it makes me feel better to imagine that one day he will emerge unscathed from adolescence, never once doubting who he was or whether he was good enough. As if he is insecurity-proof.

Yeah, well, that illusion was shaken yesterday when we hosted the boys' very first sleepover. A friend from school (Aidan's BFF since kindergarten) and her younger brother, to whom Owen seems to relate pretty well. (Is this common? Kids with high-functioning autism socializing better with younger kids? I don't know.) Both boys were soooooo excited.

But just before their friends arrived, Owen's anticipation proved overwhelming and resulted in a meltdown that found him screaming things along the lines of, "They are more interested in Aidan!" and "They're all going to play without me!" And it hit me that even though he seems pretty much oblivious to social dynamics, he's not. In fact, he's been thinking about being left out and about what people think of him. Thinking, but never expressing these things until now. (Neither of his above statements proved true, by the way - the sleepover was a smashing success.)

So as it turns out, he is not insecurity-proof. I mean, of course he's not...I guess I just wish he was. If he has to struggle with social interactions, it seems only fair that rejection shouldn't bother him.

But, as hard as it is to see him struggling with relationships (already, at age 7), I'd like to think that if he's picking up on the bad, he'll also be able to take in the good...that he will build deep connections in his life and get to enjoy all that comes from finding people who really understand him. I think he will.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hither and Thither

Despite this having been a lovely and leisurely weekend with my husband and kids, I'm feeling a bit whirlwindy and like I can't quite relax. I spent 3 days in Philly last week and am headed to Chicago for a truly whirlwindy 12-hour stint on Tuesday. It's all for good reason (work), but it's also a bit anxiety-producing for me.

I don't like to be away from my kids. I mean, I like to get babysitters for the night or whatever, but I don't like missing the everyday stuff - seeing their little faces first thing in the morning or kissing them goodnight, especially. Those moments are like my reference points for everything else.

At the same time, there's something sort of nice about traveling for work in that I'm able to focus only on that certain project for a certain period of time. It can be a relief not to feel pulled in quite so many directions for a day or two, even though it means having no one to kiss good morning or goodnight.

It's the going back and forth that I find discombobulating...that familiar feeling that I'm not really meeting expectations (mine, mostly) in work or family life really messes with my head. The anxious side of my brain loves it though, as it gives me plenty of opportunities to overthink and second-guess and imagine worst case scenarios. Sigh.

Sometimes I wish I'd been born an overachiever (with the metabolism of a hummingbird) rather than an overthinker. Someone whose determination to succeed overshadows her fear of failure. I'm working on striking some kind of balance, though, because as I get older, I'm realizing that setting goals and achieving them can be pretty fun...and also, failure isn't generally quite as dramatic as it sounds.

Which is to say that I'm also trying (trying!) to settle the fuck down about being good enough on a day-to-day basis and instead trust that when the imaginary scorecards are totaled, I'll come out okay...probably even more than okay. And that's pretty good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Morals of Despair

I’ve been driving around in the unseasonably warm fall weather we’re having here in Minneapolis, listening to “Every Grain of Sand” (well, listening to Dylan's “Biograph Disc 2”) and my thoughts are filled with some combination of longing and memories…sort of a nostalgic pondering.

There’s always been something about fall that makes me nostalgic. The yellows and oranges remind me of old photographs…as if the entire world actually appeared in muted, yellowish tones once. It’s not even all nostalgia for my own memories, I suppose, I’m more imagining the past in all of its convenient simplicity. What was the same, what was different?

But some of my own memories are in there; I have grainy images in my mind of a tractor that used to sit in our yard when I was young – it sat on what is now the boundary between my mom’s yard and ours. I don’t remember it ever running, so I suppose at some point someone hauled it away. I used to play on it when I was maybe 3 or 4. It shouldn’t mean anything to me, but I think that it represents a time when my dad was still here. Here, in this space, in our house. When he had actual belongings marking his territory.

But lately, I’ve been pondering my childhood more than usual I suppose thanks to reading Meredith Hall’s memoir “Without a Map”. I read it because it came recommended by one of my favorite mama-writers Catherine Newman, but I was startled at the parallels I felt between Hall's life and mine. Ok, not the actual events in her life: I didn’t grow up in the 60’s, get pregnant as a teenager, or give a baby up for adoption, but…

The emotions she experienced – the isolation, detachment, loneliness and confusion – were surprisingly familiar. I suppose it’s possible that no matter what form parental neglect or rejection or even just carelessness takes, it creates a kind of universal scar in children.

So yeah, if you think you might be recovering from abandonment issues or have a complex relationship with your parents, this might be the book for you. (I’m starting a side business writing quotes for book jackets.) Actually, I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates a well-written memoir. Along the lines of “Lit” or even “The Glass Castle,” only with less alcoholism and mental illness.

And now I realize that I sound like a member of a book club for traumatic childhood memoirs. Now there's a club I'd join...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Makeup and muscles

Can you guess which 40 by 40 item I completed last night?

Yep, I learned how to smoky my eyes.

My makeup enthusiast friend, Michele, and I took a trip to Sephora last night where Smoky Eye Expert A.J. (they should really give her a badge) helped me accomplish #28, which involved 4 colors of eye shadow, 2 kinds of eyeliner, some mascara, brow filler(?) and even some lipstick at the end. Phew.

It was all very glamorous, but it would be have been smarter for me to combine this item with #27 (wear a ball gown), as I felt a little funny walking around the Mall of America in jeans, wearing what felt like stage makeup...or chic zombie makeup. There was a whole lot of black circling my eyes.

Still, the whole process was very informative since I was raised by a makeup-less hippie and have thus far proven to be totally inept at the application of eyeliner. And let's face it, it's fun to be sparkly sometimes.

Plus, I had no idea smoky eyes could be done with any color you want - word on the street is that they can even made "day appropriate." We'll see if that's true...well, maybe...if I find myself feeling super ambitious some morning.

I will be attempting a variation of the eye you see above the next time I have occasion to get dressed up. I mean, I have to after spending a small fortune on pretty purple eye shadow and a puffy-yet-firm contour brush. Plus, I've got to put my new learnings into practice lest I forget the whole lesson.

In other 40 by 40 updates, I'm still going to Bars class. In fact, I've been going to Bars class for more than 3 months now! And I still like it, which sort of means I've completed #18...but I kind of think it's only fair to cross #18 and #19 off at the same time since I could tell you that I like learning the trapeze, but what does it matter if I'm not actually doing it? (I don't know if I like the trapeze, I haven't done it, but it seems like it would be a good form of exercise.)

I hadn't really considered at what point it would be okay to declare that exercise is actually "part of my life." Since I have quitter tendencies, it feels like I should give it at least 6 more on that to come. However, after recently being complimented on the definition of my arms (!), I can see why people get into this working out thing. Oh, and the whole being healthier part, that's good, too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Waiting for the Words

I've been wanting to write something about the recent teen suicides and the sudden call to action against bullying and the amazing surge of support for GLBT teenagers. It's been on my mind a lot, but I've been putting off posting anything about it because I generally like to be articulate when talking about such serious matters and I just haven't been able to figure out what to say...

I think the It Gets Better Project is brilliant and if it touches even one teenager who is contemplating suicide, then it will have been a success. (If you haven't yet read about/seen it, go now.)

But here's what I'm struggling with: I want to do more. I want more to be done. I want what gets done to be bigger.

Bullying isn't new. Teenage suicide isn't new. (We all loved "Heathers," right?) But did you know that 11 kids commit suicide every day?

I don't know how to reconcile the idea that today, 11 children will come to the conclusion that there is nothing left to live for. That it's not worth seeing tomorrow. Some of them might be gay. Many of them might be victims of bullying. All of them will die.

I am overwhelmed. Why does childhood have to be so traumatic? I joke about never wanting my kids to leave the house so that no one can ever hurt them, but sometimes I'm not really joking. I don't want anyone to hurt them. I don't want them to hurt anyone else.

Now if we could just get the rest of the world onboard with this plan, we'd be all set.

Yeah, so I'm still waiting for the words on this one. Luckily, Patti Digh (of 37 Days) has been much more articulate on the subject, so please allow me to quote her:

Perhaps I can't change the world. But I can damn sure raise two children who will know what it means to consider every person they meet to be as fully, beautifully human as they are.