About Me

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A slightly insane mother to three girls ages 11,11, and 5. I live/love to find the humor in being a parent.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Asperger's is Just Plain Awesome

My daughter has Asperger's Syndrome. She makes me smile, she makes me laugh. I cannot imagine her any other way. She is not "special", she makes me feel special to be around her.

Here are my top ten reasons why Asperger's Syndrome is just plain awesome.

1.  Other people's opinions are not important. Rachel not only has her own drum beat, she has an entire orchestra playing her songs. She is happy just being her and doing the things she enjoys.

2.  Information is food.  She cannot get enough. Fact books, wiki, and almanacs are devoured like candy and instantly remembered!

3.  A great sense of humor. I once was told that people who have Asperger's may not "get" jokes. Not only is this not true, but I find that Rachel has an incredible perspective on things and is able to find humor in many situations that my neuotypical self cannot.

4. Incredible creativity. When she puts information together I am awed and amazed at how her mind works. This is the kind of creativity that moves the world.  I can't wait to see what she accomplishes!

5. Acceptance of others.  Rachel knows she is a little bit different and that it is okay. This is not just a rule in her world, it is a fact.  Sometimes I think the world would be better if we all had Asperger's!

6.  Never being a follower. There is no pressure to be like the others, Rachel does not care what is popular. As I said before, she has an entire orchestra behind her, why should she be in anyone else's band?

7. Life is never boring.  There are just too much to learn to ever get bored. Rachel can sit and read for hours and still not find enough information to satisfy her brain.

8.  Music and movement are a part of life. Rachel is always singing, dancing, and moving to her beat. She hears songs and remembers the melody. She was singing before she could talk. I love to listen to her sing and watch her movements. She can soothe her self with movement.

9.  Order in the unseen. Rachel has an order to the world that we cannot see, this is why she can make connections that most people cannot. Sometime it takes a while for my brain to catch up to hers, she teaches me so much.

And lastly...

10. Asperger's Syndrome adds color to a blank canvas. My world would not be as rich and complete without Rachel being Rachel. She is bright, funny, and adds so much color to my life!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reality Mom

"Mom, you look skinny from far away!" said my daughter as she ran to greet me upon picking her up from aftercare.  Children have a habit of speaking the truth.  My girls remind me when I look bad, when I need to color my hair, and when I need to shave my legs.  I no longer need People magazine to feel unglamorous, just a snuggle with one of my daughters to highlight my imperfections. 

I am not one of those moms who dress in designer clothing and have their nails done every other week. Even for work I dress in jeans and sneakers. I am a teacher for children with special needs. I need to be able to be quick at work and not afraid to get dirty.  I am practical.

I like to feel pretty but between being teacher, mom, and housekeeper; there is really not much time.  My grandmother once told me when I was first married that I should put on a little bit of lipstick for my husband when he comes home from work (she left out the part where I wait for him at the door with a martini, but I got the message).  I am not sure I ever took her advice before children, but after children, the only thing I might have handed him at the door was a baby in need of a change! 

I know they don't read People, but they do watch the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon where the moms always look perfect while doing all the typical "mom stuff".  Yes, the June Cleavers of yesteryear are gone, but they have been replaced by supermoms who have careers and STILL do all of that June Cleaver stuff.  This is much worse! I am expected to work all day and still be awesome. This is not new; I used to watch the Cosby show. Looking back at Claire Huxtible's character I laugh at how they had her cast as a mom who could handle anything.

There are positives to not being perfectly put together. My daughters know that I am not afraid to get dirty, dinner is usually something basic, and I am always available to answer their questions.  They know that it is rare that I am running off to a salon or to a party and I am happy to spend Saturday morning in PJ's with them watching TV and cuddling in my bed. I make no excuses for being unglamorous.  I am comfortable in my "mom jeans".

So if you are one of those mom's who often makes scrabbled eggs for dinner, forgets to color her grays, and sometimes spends the whole weekend in sweats catching up on laundry because her kids said they do not have clean underwear; do not feel bad. You are real.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Young Jedi

I am Yoda. My job in life is to teach my children to channel their powers for good and not evil, to resist the dark side.  Lacking of course, from my persona, is the endless patience Yoda gives Skywalker throughout their training. I often think Yoda had it easy with his charge! There were signs from the beginning that this would not be an easy job. Hannah has been fighting the force since birth.  When she was less than two months old she held her eyelids open with her little fingers as she started to fall asleep. A fighter she is.

At the age of three we had what I would call our first memorable disagreement. I don't even remember what I told her she could not do, but she promptly stomped upstairs and returned with her little disney suitcase on wheels.

"I'm going to grandma's!"  She anounced.

I asked her what she packed.

"Pinky." (her beloved blankie)

She stormed towards the front door, I followed. I watched her unsuccessfully try to unlock the front door.  After struggling a bit I figured she would give up and go sulk somewhere. I was feeling triumphant when she turned to me with determination all over her face.

"You have to drive me, cause I'm too little!"

At ten years old, she has not changed one bit, in fact the determination she showed me that day has only grown. The force is strong with this one. Her "midi-chorian" counts must be off the charts.  The positive uses for her powers are endless. She stands up for her sister at school when they tease her, and has strong opinions about how others should be treated.  She has the potential to be a champion.

But, my job is far from over,  I must teach her to fight the dark side.  By this I mean she must learn to control her temper.  Yesterday was the sushi meltdown. I apparently made a mistake by giving her little sister two pieces of her California roll from dinner the night before. I could have sworn I had asked her if it was okay, but could have been mistaken (this Yoda might have a few more flaws than the little green one).  The sith hit that fan around lunch time when my little Jedi discovered she only had two pieces left of her sushi. 

Her temper flared to the point I thought objects were going to start flying around me. She demanded I get her more sushi ( not about to happen).  She was so angry that she was breathing a bit heavy, and my mind flashed to her wearing black armor with her red curls stick out of a black helmet, I glimpsed at her dark side and it was not pretty. I offered her other dishes we had left over or that I could make her something else, she finally settled on her two pieces with a side of fried rice.  I heated up the rice in the microwave thinking that she could have probably just used the heat radiating out of her eyes!

Someday her strength and determination will serve her well in life. I can only hope and guide her in this endeavor. If I am unable to succeed, be on the watch for Darth Hannah.

May the Force be with you!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sisterly Love

This image says it all, doesn't it?

My daughter has a temper. "Fiery red head" is an apt description for my middle child ( technically only by two minutes).  She was aggravated by her four year old little sister when she stomped outside and scrawled this on the chalk board. It really didn't help when the aforementioned sister followed her outside to ask her what the words said. Me? I was just glad that she was angry with someone else for once! She apparently found a form of expression that worked for her, she even read the note to her little sister and told her why she was mad. Of course this opened up a whole other problem with the little one in tears thinking her idol does not love her.

Right now, this moment, they are playing nicely. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for "the scream" followed by the usual "MOMMMMYYYYY!" There really is no....wait....there it is!


No one was hurt, although, if you happened to be walking by my house you might have been inclined to call 911. Please don't.  All you would have found was a 10 year old and a four year old screaming because they both wanted to sit in the same chair. 

It is at these moments I morph into my mother. All those cliches that were said to me by my own mother come flying out of my mouth. "Stop instigating your sister!" "Your crusin' for a brusin'!" (one of my favorites) "Some day you'll only have each other!" And the classic, "Because I SAID SO!"  Often I don't even realize what I said until it bursts forth from my mouth. My inner voice is asking me with surprise if I actually uttered those same words.

So now I am wondering if all moms out there are just repeating the same thing generation after generation. How far do these cliches go back? Are we actually speaking the same words our great great great grandmothers spoke to our great great grandmothers? If so, we need some new material!

I love watching them when they play together nicely, I get all warm and fuzzy inside.  It is the fighting that almost drives me crazy! But, as my father used to say, "Almost doesn't count!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Like vs. Love

Hannah has tutoring every Thursday evening in math.  For the first time she is struggling and her grade in math for the first quarter was a "D". Though I am a teacher, me tutoring her was not an option. Not many people realize that it is very difficult for a teacher to teach their own children,  Homework is a battle unto itself. I was not going to attempt tutoring, so we have one of the other fifth grade teachers at her school working with her once a week in the evening. It is working, she has since brought her grade up to a "B" and her confidence is swelling.

Last week I was on the phone with a friend explaining to her that we were about to leave for Hannah's tutoring. Hannah was in the room when I told her  ( a close friend and a fellow teacher) about Hannah's recent problems in math. Hannah immediately turned to me with actual daggers flying out of her eyes. "MOM!", she growled/yelled, "HOW COULD YOU? YOU TOLD!"

I apparently embarrassed her with sharing this information with a close friend. Part of me was actually happy that she could get embarrassed over a bad grade ( this means she cares,  and will hopefully continue to care about her work). The other part of me was slightly amused at her reaction which is as follows...

"It's my life, my privacy...how could you? You have no right to tell!"

I did apologize for embarrassing her (something tells me this is going to be happening more and more...) and explained that my friend is a teacher who's own child has had similar issues and it is no big deal. I also pointed out how I also said to this friend how proud I am of her improvement and hard work. ( BTW, I am still on the phone with friend at this point).

STOMP! STOMP! SLAM!  ( do I have to explain what these sounds were?)

The subsequent car ride to the bookstore was quiet.  Upon arrival, I was opening the side door of the van for her when it suddenly flew back and slammed into my side.

"MOM! Are you okay?" ( she likes me, she really likes me)
"Yes, sweetie, thank you for asking. I thought you were not talking to me?"

"Mom. Just because I am disliking you right now, does not me I don't love you."

Ahhh, the sweet things our children say.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On The Road ( Again!)

I am really beginning to think that someone should look into a possible link to car accidents and the questions children decide to ask their parent while they are driving. Once again I found myself in the minivan trying to answer my children's very serious questions. It started innocently enough ( it always does!) with our conversation about twins.  We have quite a bit of twins in our family. My oldest daughters are twins, my father and uncle are twins, and my niece and nephew are twins.

Shayna, my four year old wanted to know how people get to be twins so I explained that they share their mommy's tummy at the same time and are born at the same time just like her sisters, her grandfather and great uncle, and of course her beloved cousins who are only nine months younger than her.

"No, Mommy." Shayna explains to me.  Adrianna and Andrew are not twins." At this point I think I knew where she was going and was getting a bit nervous. "um, yes Shayna, they are twins."
"No, Mommy, Adrianna was in Aunt Stephie's tummy and Andrew was in Aunt Mindy's tummy." She told me so matter of factly.

My niece and nephew have two mommies. My children have always accepted this fact and I have never really had to explain much to them. When Hannah was three she announced to me ( in the car of course) that Aunt Stephie and Aunt Mindy are married and that it was okay. She got no argument from me, I was proud of her that she understood something that most adults cannot wrap their head around! But now we were getting into waters that I was not sure how to navigate. I quickly explained to Shayna that no, Aunt Stephie had both of her cousins in her belly and that they were in fact twins, just like her sister.

But the conversation did not end with this explanation (of course not!), because I also had my two ten year old daughters in the car who got just a bit more curious. "Mom?" asks Rachel, "How do two girls have a baby?"


"Well....They had a donor..um..I mean a man that helped...I mean there is a website that they went to-"
"WEBSITE!" exclaimed my daughter who only days ago wanted to go to ask.com to research human reproduction.
"No, wait,  Rachel, what I mean is there is a company that helps people who need help having a baby. Your Aunts just contacted them and they gave them what they needed." At this point I am also talking in code because my four year old was in the car and I was not ready to talk to her about that yet.
"Oooh", pipes up Hannah, "I get it. But how does it go in?" She apparently picked up my code but wasn't going to let the subject drop. ugh.

"well, just like when mommy had you and your sister, the doctor helped things along by using a tube ( I had told them previously that I had trouble having a baby and had gone to a special doctor to get pregnant).
"WHAT?!!?" I hear from the peanut gallery,  "YOU WENT TO A WEBSITE, WHAT ABOUT OUR DADDY?"
"No,no,no!" I said. "Your daddy is your daddy!"  The doctor just took stuff ( code word again) from him and put it in me."
At this point I am speeding to get home but Rachel manages to ask , "So daddy had an operation to get it out?"
double crap.
"No Rachel, there are ways, I'll tell you later ( the hell I will!)."

Hannah pipes in after this, "I don't want to know."  (Thank God.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shooting The Moon

One of my daughters happens to have Asperger's  Syndrome. This is a form of Autism. It is a little different than what people think of when they hear about Autism, Rachel is verbal and extremely bright. Her disability comes into play mostly when she is faced with social issues, unexpected changes, and sensory conflicts.  As a parent, there is nothing that I would change about my daughter. She is funny, sweet, and shares a perspective of the world I never would have experienced were she not an "Aspie".

School has been both a breeze and a challenge all at the same time for her. If she could go to school and only have to deal with the pure academics of things, she would be a star student. However, as we all know, there  are "hidden rules" in school. In school kids are supposed to just "get it" when it comes to how to react and behave to all sorts of situations.  The funny thing is, when you look at things from her perspective nine out of ten times she is right.  As a child I hated having to to do what I considered busy work, repeating something I have already learned over and over again, but I understood that it is something that we were expected to do. Rachel's view is that she learned it so let's move on ( she is logical, but getting her to see the overall picture is very hard).

Being Rachel's mom can be stressful at times, but mostly it is fun! Sometimes it is both. I feel the stress "in the moment" but can't help but look back and laugh. One of these such moments occurred in first grade.  There was a substitute for the day and that had wrecked havoc with her routine.   As all teachers do when there is a sub ( I know I am one such teacher) lots of review ( busy work) is assigned. Rachel was having none of this and pretty much had a full on tantrum.  Her aide took her out into the hallway to calm down and the ESE specialist came by to talk to Rachel.   Rachel's tantrum can also be quite loud. To this day her speaking voice is very high and quiet in a sing-song manner.  However, when she screams, walls come tumbling down.  So joining the group was the assistant principal.

I got the phone call at home, as I was still on maternity leave, and really was speechless when I was told what she did.  More than speechless, I was mortified. I, a teacher in the same school system was being told that my daughter, my sweet little girl....MOONED THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL, HER AIDE, THE ESE SPECIALIST, AND ANYONE ELSE WHO HAPPENED TO WALK BY AT THAT MOMENT!

Apparently, while they were trying to "talk it out" with Rachel she turned around and pulled down her uniform bottoms. When asked "What are you doing?!" by the ESE Specialist. Rachel innocently replied, "I'm shooting the moon."

"umm....I don't know what to say...." was my brilliant response to the ESE Specialist when she called me on the phone. I did hear muffled laughter in the background and could tell she was having a hard time speaking to me with a straight face.  What did they think she was seeing at home? was my first thought. As a teacher it is easy to make the connection to children's behaviors at school as something they picked up at home.  Did they think I actually taught this to my six year old?

After this disturbing phone call I immediately did what any parent would do, I called my spouse. He was at work at the time and when I told him what happened I expected him to be as furious and mortified as I was. But what did I hear when I finished the story? Laughter. Great big belly rolling, knee slapping, tear forming laughter.  How were we going to discipline our child if her father couldn't stop laughing? I told him between breaks of guffaws that he better be straight faced when he got home.  I wasn't sure if he even heard me as he was already busy trying to tell his coworkers (between breaths of course) what his daughter did at school ( a proud moment, I'm sure).

So, of course I was the one faced with dealing with our little hooligan when school let out that day. Upon quizzing  Rachel about the incident, she really did not understand what she did was wrong.  Rachel had apparently found the e-greeting cards section on AOL ( we have since filtered, BTW) and was perusing the humor section. Rachel likes jokes, she collects joke books and memorizes jokes. Her sweet little mind saw a funny e-card in which a cartoon  character was "shooting the moon". Since it was in the humor section, it was to her an acceptable joke to share with others. She did not get that it was "not appropriate".  So, with a straight face ( at this point it was also hard for me) I had to explain about appropriate humor and inappropriate humor. She looked at me, said "okay" and bounced off innocently to play in her room.

Nowadays we deal with lots of questions about social appropriateness, but I will never forget the lesson that I learned about no matter how much you think your child understands, there is always a surprise that will smack you right upside the head waiting for you around the corner.

 ©2012 Amy E. Silverstein. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tween Kryptonite

I will admit it here publicly for all. I like the Disney channel. There, I said it. Last night was the finale for Wizards of Waverly Place. I could hear the screams of excitement in the other room as the big premiere of who gets to be the family wizard was aired. The Disney channel has been counting down the days and my daughters have been waiting with anticipation. I acted all cool, like I didn't care, but guess where I was when the show aired? Yup, sitting right in front of the TV with my girls. When Hannah Montana had it's finale, I was in the same place.  I am 36 years old and was as riveted to the TV as my tweens!

One of the cool things about having children is that you DO get to be a kid again. I play with Barbies and was probably more excited than my four year old when she opened her dollhouse for her birthday. We just put a swing set up in the backyard, it is the kind that hold a lot of weight, now I can swing with the girls! There is something so free about hanging with your kids.  I am able to loose all inhibitions, much like my carefree college days! Lately I think I have been enjoying it more because they are starting to realize how embarrassing and dorky I really am.

Sometimes I will break into song and dance when their "tween" music videos pop up on Disney or Nickelodeon. I suddenly hear "MOM!!" or "STOP!!" or just watch them squirm with embarrassment (and it's just us!).  I have discovered their kryptonite!  Gone are the days when my little ones used to ask for me to sing with them,  the twins actually did not realize how embarrassing I was to them until a few years ago. Unfortunately my four year old has picked up on it rather quickly and constantly joins in the chorus of groans and screams when I sing and or dance.

So now I just have to use my weapon wisely. Maybe when they refuse to do homework? When they talk back? I am not beyond blackmail either. In this digital age, all I have to do make a video and threaten to upload it to youtube or send it off to all of their friends.  Hannah, who already has a "date" for the fifth grade dance, would be mortified if I showed up as a chaperone and proceeded to "do my thang" in front of all her "tweenrager" friends.  The possibilities are endless.

I have no desire to be a "cool" mom, or my daughters "best friend". I just want to make sure they stay in line and make the right choices in life. If I have to use blatant mortification to to get the job , than so be it.  I have an edge on all the hip size zero mom's. When my daughter tries to wear those cut off with the belly showing, so shall I; muffin top, stretch marks, and all. I will threaten to prance in front of her friends until she changes her clothes. Angelina Jolie has nothing on me, she's just way too cool to be an effective parent and I have no shame when it comes to my kids. 

So I say to all the tween moms out there, embrace the  tween kryptonite!

 ©2012 Amy E. Silverstein. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Birds and The Bees, Alcohol, and Radio Disney( aka Sex, Drugs, and Rock n' Roll)

My children love to bring up the major issues when we are in the car and I am trying to drive. .  Forget texting, there should be a law against kids asking about sex while parents are driving.   A valid campaign, but will not save me from my own prying children. Actually it was probably my fault since I started the topic with asking the girls about how they were enjoying their books.

Hannah is currently reading "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?" by Judy Blume.  A book I highly recommended to her and had told her to ask me if she had any questions. So, in the car while driving she asked an easy question about getting periods. No problem, I became the expert and answered her questions with ease about how nature is preparing their body so one day if they choose they can have a baby ( I did add when they are married and grown up of course). Until her twin sister piped in with her own questions....

Now Rachel is much more naive than Hannah when it comes to sex. Hannah has always been persistent about these things until I sat her down and explained the real facts about a year ago. I do remember explaining them to Rachel as well, but I do not think it stuck.  So here we are driving to pick up their little sister and Rachel asks  in rapid fire, "If I stand to close to a boy can I get a baby in my belly?" "If I am hanging out with boys can I get a baby?" "How do you get a Baby?'

At this point I was really shocked. I thought she had understood the first time I explained it, but maybe she just wasn't ready yet. So as I prepared to explain it again Hannah shouted "NO MOM! TELL HER IN PRIVATE WHEN YOU GET HOME!  IT'S TOO WEIRD FOR ME TO HEAR AGAIN" (I was actually quite relieved because we were getting closer to Shayna's school and no matter how much like her big sisters she wants to be, she was so not ready for this discussion.)

"Rachel, sweetie? Hannah has a point, I will answer all your questions in private when we get home. But, you have to promise not to talk about this with your little sister or any one at school. This is a topic only for mom's and dad's and their own children. Just know you can always ask me or your father if you have any questions about this topic."

Of course Hannah has to pipe in, "NOT DAD! He hates talking about s-e-x with us."
"well, if I am not around, you can go to him, he will help you."
Now Rachel, my "Wiki-girl" pipes in, "or I could just go on Ask.com."

"Noo,noo, noo, Rachel.  Do. not. under. any. circumstance. use. the.internet. to. ask. these. questions." (because anyone who has ever seen Avenue Q knows what the internet is for...) At this point before I hit a curb I had her swearing she would not research this particular topic online.

So NOW we pick up the little one and are heading home. I am thinking I must be out of the woods, but nope.
"Mommy when your eighteen is that when you get to do whatever you want?"
"Well, you are considered an adult, but to drink alcohol you have to be 21." ( not a bad answer, huh?)
"Why do people drink alcohol, isn't it bad? Where does it come from?"

Crap. I just can't win today.

I explain that in moderation, it is okay for adults to drink. I them explained how alcohol comes from a fermentation process and grape juice can actually become wine.  We then talked about Potatoes, wheat, and sugar, becoming alcohol.  The kids were really getting into this as I explained there is a chemical process.  It occurred to me that I actually turned this conversation into a science lesson!

Somewhere in this conversation I convinced myself what a cool thing it would be to actually show them the process, heck, the science fair was in a few months. Then as quickly as the idea struck me, the image of the Department and Family Services showing up at the school to see the "moonshine mommy taught us how to make" knocked me back to reality.

Also, the kids had moved on and were fighting over the radio and who got to pick the station.

Now I need to go have a talk with Rachel, and have a glass of fermented grape juice!

 ©2012 Amy E. Silverstein. All rights reserved.