Status quo

This is a strange time of year for me.  I usually get tired of summer way before it’s over because hot is not my favorite weather.  I hate sweating, sweltering, being thirsty.  I despise being outside if the temperature is over 80 degrees.  And I also love fall (yes, I know, how basic can I be, right? I, however, love fall because of the cooler weather and my cute clothes and not because of anything pumpkin spice related).  But it’s also the time of year where I am more prone to melancholy.  It’s a scientific phenomenon (right?) so it’s not really my fault – something about the light starting to become more scarce as winter looms ahead makes it hard to maintain my delicate mental health equilibrium (okay it’s not really that bad but you get the point).

This year it’s worse.  Is it because of my age? I just turned 40, you guys.  I have been alive for FORTY YEARS.  I’m not even sure how that’s possible but there it is.  Is it hormonal? (which, AGAIN, would make it because I’m 40, for the love of Pete).  Or is it because the world actually seems like a crazy place to me all of a sudden?  I mean, people have been telling me that for years.  Especially my parents – they worry about the world their grandkids will grow up in etc, etc and I’ve always been like “yeah, okay *copious eye roll* but now?  I think they might actually be right.  Which, again, is that because I’m 40?  Is that the age where you suddenly stop being a young person entirely?  Do I need to start sitting on the porch yelling at people to get off my lawn?

The most likely explanation is that this past Monday I dropped both of my babies off at school.  Full-time school.  All-day school. And now I’m having an identity crisis (#firstworldproblems).  I didn’t get married until I was 33 years old.  I had my first kid at 35.  Prior to that I was in charge of… just me. I lived alone (gloriously GLORIOUSLY ALONE) for a long time (I had cats but is there any creature on the planet that is less maintenance than a cat?  Here’s a box for you to poop in,  I’ll see you when you want your five minutes of affection today).  I had a real job – a career, even – and I got paid pretty well.  And then in the span of five years I got married, moved to a different state, quit that career path and switched to a completely different one, had two babies (with all of the various complications that all involved – please see for example all of my blog posts about such), moved to yet another state, etc, etc.  I can’t even remember all of the other things that happened.  The point is that, like a lot of women, my identity for the past five years has been Mom and, to a lesser extent, Wife.  Before becoming those things I didn’t really understand what it meant.  I remember my mom telling me once that there was a period of her life where she hadn’t really felt like herself.  She wasn’t Denise anymore she was so-and-so’s wife, so-and-so’s mom, Sister so-and-so (we were Mormons so if you don’t know what that means, sorry about it.  And hey, Google is your friend) but never just Denise.  And now I know exactly how she feels.  I mean, I at least have a job where I can have conversations (albeit on Skype – hi, working from home, you are weird) but for the most part I’ve just been Mom for five years.  And I was cool with it, for the most part.  Looking back on the first year of Louisa’s life I recognize that I had PPD that manifested as crippling anxiety (which I wish now I would have realized earlier and like, gotten some therapy or something but that’s neither here nor there).  It was hard for me to be responsible for someone else’s life and not in an I-don’t-want-to-grow-up kind of way but in an OMG-what-if-something-terrible-happens-to-her kind of way.  Like, I was literally keeping her alive.  And I couldn’t even leave my apartment during the day without having some sort of breakdown because she would cry or scream or freak out.  Yes, I know that all babies do that and it’s normal but it was very stressful for me because of the crippling anxiety.  Also, in my defense, if you’ve been here since way back then, you’ll remember that the first year of her life was filled with medical scare after medical scare – missing hand, hole in her heart, torticollis/plagiocephaly, strange bump above her eye – so many doctor visits!  I was really a mess y’all.  It hurts my heart to look back on it.

Anyway (wow, sorry about the stream of consciousness blathering – it’s particularly bad today – I’m off my meds, in case you were wondering – weeee!), the point, this time, is that when Louisa started full-time school two years ago, I had this same thing.  Most people don’t have to send their kids away for this much school until first grade (unless you live somewhere with full-time kindergarten but I think the normal is half-day).  Because my kiddos have The Autism, we made the decision to send them to full-time preschool that really isn’t preschool so much as therapy.  Therapy that a lot of people have to scramble to find and/or pay for when they find out their kids need it.  This school is a haven, you guys, and it is staffed by angels so I know it’s the right thing to do and it’s the right place for them to be but did you have to put your 3-year-old on a gigantic school bus and send them off for seven hours a day?  It’s H-A-R-D.  But at least when Louisa went off, Simon was still little and home with me.  I kept myself busy hanging out with him all day long and consoled myself thusly.  But this year. THIS YEAR.  OMG, you guys.  Simon is so so tiny.  He really is.  He is tracking pretty consistently on the 40-somethingth percentile for height but only 5th for weight so he’s this wee little boy. And so on Monday when Jason and I dropped both kids off at school I just… yipe. Sunk into a pit of melancholy.  And anxiety.  Holy crap the anxiety.  I’m a Christian so technically I’m not supposed to have anxiety but MY APOLOGIES, Jesus, because I am having a rough time.

All summer long all I have wanted is five minutes to myself.  We decided this year (for various reasons, mostly financial) that Jason wouldn’t work like he did last summer but just take care of the kids while I worked so we were basically ALL here ALL summer.  And it was hard.  Hard to get any work done, hard to pee in private, hard to carve out any time for myself.  So you would think that I would be skipping around in ecstasy, inhaling deep gulps of precious silence and taking long, leisurely showers but instead I’m working extra hours, filling up the thundering silence with the bad accents of ESL dictators talking about heart palpitations and diarrhea (such a glamorous life, Anjeanette).

I assume that eventually I’ll get used to it and figure out how to be the mom of school kids instead of the mom of babies.  And really, school has started – somebody is bound to get pink eye/strep throat/stomach flu soon to remind me just exactly what it is I do around here. And until then, I could probably catch up on Days of Our Lives or something, right?

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The Triumphant Return of… well, not much I guess

Wouldn’t it be funny if I just showed up, two years (give or take) after my last post and just posted, with no explanation of my absence, no preamble at all…

I was looking for something on my Facebook page the other day (probably how to block someone for their incessant political rants) and saw that I actually had a link to my blog on it.  I have no recollection of doing that.  But then, I have two children under the age of 6 so I don’t remember much of anything.  So I clicked on it.  And read my last few posts.  And remembered the crushing weight of life that I was carrying around.  I remember there being days where all I could do was breathe, take care of my kids, and work.  The months following Louisa’s diagnosis were unbearably painful in a way I can’t describe.  If you have special needs kids you probably know what I mean.  Everything changes so irreparably so very quickly.  Have you ever opened your oven when it’s set at a really hot temperature and it almost scorches your face off and takes your breath away?  It’s sort of like that. Only it keeps happening.  Things feel fine for a while and then… SCORCH. Again.

A lot has happened since then, in such a relatively short (yet seemingly eternal) time.  Simon was diagnosed with autism too.  My husband went back to college.  I cut all my hair off and grew it out again.  My grandma died.  Donald Trump was elected President.  Two new Star Wars movies came out (!!!!!!!).  I became a Christian (I know, what the hell, right?  It happened.  Maybe I’ll tell that story someday).  The point is, that’s a whole lot of stuff crammed into such a short period.  And it’s okay.  Finally.  Right now.  Today.  It’s okay.  Mostly.  Simon just turned 3 so he’s a giant asshole most of the time but he is talking (which, in case you don’t realize, is a huge deal).  There is the possibility (and lots of hope) that with therapy he will get so much better that by the time he starts kindergarten he might be “normal” (neurotypical is the more PC term) enough to lose his diagnosis.  Louisa is better.  She isn’t talking much but her school and two years’ time have turned her into a different kid.  We’re broke (ish) but coping (ish).

I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  And I’m almost positive (fingers (and toes) crossed) it isn’t a train this time!  For so long (SO SO SO LONG) every day was almost terrifying.  Like, what will happen today?  Anything bad?  Probably not anything good!  I was always cringing, waiting for a bomb to go off, expecting a shitty phone call or a terrifying bill to show up or just… anything terrible to happen.  Kind of like a stupid jack-in-the-box – you keep cranking… cranking… slower….. slower because I hate those and if I go slowly maybe it won’t scare the OH @#$% IT WENT OFF IN MY FACE AGAIN.  Every time I felt like things were settling down something else would happen. My husband wrecked our little car.  Then we were all in the big car and got smashed into.  Both cars totalled in less than a year. Then we found out the big car never actually technically belonged to us because the shady people we purchased it from never sent the paperwork to the DMV so we never had a title but we didn’t notice because they registered it to us just fine (as did the DMV in Utah when we moved here, by the way) (also, in case you were wondering why we never noticed that, did I ever tell you about the time we were buying a car while I was in labor? It was a crazy time, get off my back). Did I mention I hate Las Vegas?  That eventually all got sorted but then one day we got a mysterious parking ticket in the mail from California for a car we didn’t own that just happened to have the Nevada plates that were once ours when we lived there and apparently still showed up as ours in their system (have I mentioned I despise Las Vegas?) so because we couldn’t prove that we didn’t own that car and park it somewhere in California illegally, I had to pay the damn fine.  I was sick for two months last winter and finally went to the doctor – had pneumonia, got drugs and inhalers and etc etc and then a ridiculous bill in the mail with a note saying “hey, your insurance plan (THANKS OBAMA) is so crappy it doesn’t pay for anything!!” or something similar.

So, yeah. Sorry this turned into a giant whine fest.  That wasn’t the point.  It’s just that once I started typing I started remember all of the things that have happened in the last… well, since Jason and I got married actually.  Honestly, it has been almost seven years of one thing after another!  But (and I type this cautiously so as not to tempt fate) things seem to finally be settling.  Our normal is definitely not the same as other people’s normal but at least things are normal now.

I’ve run out of clever titles. So consider this untitled.

Oh hello, blog. You’re still here? I don’t know why I stopped writing. Maybe because blogs are so blasé these days? I mean, who the hell blogs anymore, like, forrealz. Or maybe because I got a little shy about sharing personal things? I mean, my family reads this blog (well, some of them anyway) and do I really want them to know all of these things? I’m not much of a  talker. I don’t know why. I guess I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to cry. I don’t know how to ask for help. I don’t know how to explain why telling people things is too hard for me, it just is. I don’t even talk to my husband, poor dude. I probably need therapy but who can afford that and who has the time? But anyway. I stopped writing. Today I felt like it, for the first time in ages.

Life is really hard right now. Like, really hard. I know, whose life isn’t hard, like always, right? But really. It has almost been a year since we moved to Utah which is hard to believe. Sometimes it seems like we have been here forever and that Vegas is just a bad memory and sometimes I can’t even remember where the time went or what I did with it. But when anniversaries of things come up I often reflect about what has been happening during that time. So obviously there’s autism. That has basically become the theme of my (our) life (lives) around here. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to parent a child with autism. Some days I am so hopeful and positive about things but most days… I’m not. My daughter is three years old; she doesn’t talk, she has never called me Mama/Mommy/anything at all, she is not even remotely on her way to being potty trained, she doesn’t deal well with transitions (meaning that if we move from one activity to another too quickly she has a meltdown), she doesn’t sleep well (that is as mildly as I can put it, y’all – last night she woke up at 2 in the morning and was up until almost 5), she would rather spin around in circles than play with toys… and it makes me sad. The 24th of July is a holiday in Utah (Pioneer Day – it’s a Mormon thing). We decided to take the kids to a small celebration in our local suburb/community thing. There was a parade, lots of food trucks, bouncy houses, etc, etc, et al. And Louisa hated it. Every minute of it. She screamed. She cried. She threw fits. So finally we gave up and left, obviously. Which, whatever, fine – I’m no expert on “regular” kids but I would venture a guess that most three-year-olds have rotten days, even without the added benefit of autism. But still. It was hard. And then as we were walking down the street back to our car I witnessed a conversation between a mom and her daughter who was probably close to the same as mine. The little girl was saying “I don’t like you right now!!” in an angry voice with a cute little scowl on her face and the mom, trying to be calm and use it as a teaching moment, responded “You aren’t being very nice right now”. That’s about all I heard but I thought to myself that I would pay money to be having that conversation with Louisa. If she turned to me and said “FUCK OFF, MAMA” I would probably throw a party. And I’m not joking, not one little bit. I hear people complaining about how their kids never stop talking, never stop asking WHY WHY WHY, never stop never stop and I die a little on the inside. If and when that day ever comes, I will listen to my baby talk for hours on end. Then there are those moments when she is such a sweetheart. She will randomly decide she wants a hug and just walk up to get one. Her laugh is the best thing I have ever heard. She loves to be tickled. She loves to read books. I love her more than I can put into words.

And then there’s Simon. He will be 16 months old in a couple of days and the only word he says is ball. And so of course, what goes on in my head is panic panic panic, omg, is this really happening again? this is really happening again, holy crap I have two kids with autism. And it might be happening again. I might have two kids with autism. And there’s nothing I can do about it. I can call Early Intervention (I will), I can get him tested (I will), blah blah. At least I’ll know sooner this time. But other than that all I can do is love them both. Hug them both. Try to understand that they both love me even though they’re not very good at showing it. Try to learn how to help them. Cry a lot. Which I do, at least once a day.

Which brings me to my next point. Depression. That bitch. I’ve been wrestling with it hard since Christmas time. I hate mental illness. I hate having it. I hate talking about it. I hate being defined by it but there you go. I can’t control it. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m fine, that I’ll be fine, that I can handle everything, that depression is a cop-out, but guess what. I can’t. It isn’t. It’s real and it sucks. Without my medication I am a miserable ball of anxiety and anger and I’m no good to anyone. So fuck wrestling. Fuck fighting. I give. Better living through chemistry, right?

Louisa starts full-time preschool at a special school for autistic kids in four weeks. I am so nervous I could throw up. We are so fortunate to be here instead of Las Vegas and for her to have gotten into the school so quickly and I have heard wonderful things about the place. So of course I’m excited for her to go. And I would be lieing if I said I wasn’t looking forward to her being out of the house for a while. Taking care of two kids is hard. They FIGHT with each other. They SCREAM and RUN and make messes and then they FIGHT with each other some more because… they have nothing else to do? It’s a sibling code and right of passage? I don’t bloody know. They’re 3 and 1, I thought I had a little more time before it started but nope. And she needs this. She needs to be in preschool. She is ready to be in preschool. Especially this one. I knew it the minute I walked in the door but you guys. She’s my baby. And I have to send her out into the world. How in the hell am I supposed to do that?

Mom Guilt

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If you are a mother then you know about the guilt. The guilt that accompanies every decision you make, every action you take (every cake you bake), every time you lose your patience, every time your child cries – you know what I mean. If you’re a dad? You don’t feel the guilt. You assume you’re doing an okay job, which is probably true, and you see no reason to feel bad about shit.  And you probably don’t understand it either. My husband has no idea WHY I feel guilty and keeps trying to convince me not to. If only moms could be LOGICAL, Spock Jason.

So yeah. Guilt. GUILT GUILT GUILT. That’s what I’m feeling this week. This day. This hour. I am simultaneously sleep training and weaning Simon. Could I be a bigger asshole? I know. Really I do. But it’s time. For both. I am weaning slowly, in case you were wondering, but still. Man. The little tyke. He is so mad about it. He has become so clingy that if I put him down for one second he flips out. If I finally convince him to sit on the floor next to me and play but then I walk away (like to PEE because EVEN MOMS HAVE TO DO THAT) he screams and follows me. But… I need to be back on my medication. The time has come. I (and my husband) have put up with my depression for three and a half years now because that is how long I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding. OMG you guys. That’s a long time to be breasting or nesting! At one point I was doing both at the same time! Lordy. So yeah. I want my body to be mine again. I want to chew on Wellbutrin like candy until I feel like my old self again.

With Louisa the weaning wasn’t so difficult.  First of all, she has never been clingy (probably because of the ASD) and second, we just weaned her to a bottle and voila. Simon WILL NOT take a bottle. At all. Oh he’ll hold it. And play with it. And bite on the nipple. But he won’t drink from it. So that’s out. Plan B is to just slowly get rid of a feeding here and there until they dwindle down to nothing. After two and a half weeks he is only getting one before sleep at night and one in the middle of the night. Nothing during the day. And yeah. He is not happy. Periodically when sitting on my lap he will just dive-bomb/motorboat me. It’s fantastic. But it is slowly happening. I figure by the end of the weekend he’ll be completely off. And I will dance a jig. And then cry. Because whilst I am really looking forward to this whole no-baby thing, I am also very sad about it. No more babies. Ever.

The sleep training… has not been so gradual. But can it ever be? I know I’m a crazy person who sleeps with my babies (I’m not the only one, but still, we’re crazy people) but it makes the nighttime breastfeeding so much easier. About a month ago, though, it got to the point where he was waking more than sleeping and I sort of figured that it was because I was waking him up. Turns out I was right. I was dreaaaading doing this because with Louisa it was torrrrrture but it was seriously nothing. I shouldn’t be writing this on the internet because he is going to know that I told people and immediately start staying up all night but guys. The first night he fell asleep in 20 minutes, woke up once at like 1:30 for a feeding and then slept until 7 am. Two nights later he slept from 8:30 until 4:30, then went back down until about 5:45 and that’s been his MO ever since. Minimal screaming. Minimal drama. At night, that is. He is now refusing to nap because it takes him away from me and he can’t be away from me (see above re: super clingy baby). Basically I have to bounce/pat/cajole him to sleep on my shoulder and then wait until he’s way out to put him down. And still he’ll only stay out for 30 minutes. He used to be a solid napper. Two a day, at least 90 minutes a piece. I will trade the nighttime sleep for the naps, however. Because I get to sleep now! I mostly don’t though because I’m a dipwad who stays up way too late watching House of Cards with my husband and/or reading books and/or blogging but I could sleep if I wanted to (and probably should if the gigantic bags under my eyes are any indication) and that’s all that matters, right?

Just to followup on my whining…

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I finally sacked up and called. The lady was just about to call me (oops) and was super nice. Anyway – she’s in! I’m so relieved. And once again struck by how lucky we are to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes these folks have a year or longer waiting list but because we called right now when they are just starting to fill up next year’s preschool class, Louisa gets to start this coming school year – at the end of August. So we only have to fill the gap for about six more months. Phew.

A lesson in patience by someone who isn’t.

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When I was in high school I had this boyfriend. He would call me every day at roughly the same time. It’s hard for me to remember, because that was 20 years ago (HOLY SHIT) but I think he had a job and would call me when he got home. Again, because it was 20 years ago, those were pre-cellphone days. Meaning I couldn’t just take my phone with me everywhere and wait for his call, I had to sit at home right next to the phone and waaaaaait for him to caaaaaaall. Yes. I was that girl. The slightly chubby one with self-esteem issues whose entire day, nay, life depended on whether or not he called. How I would like to go back in time and slap that girl but anyway, one day he didn’t call. I waited and waited and waaaaaited and WAITED and he didn’t call.  I tortured myself with thoughts of why. Sat by the phone until 10 o’clock at night. My dad assured me that something had happened and that he would eventually call. Or that DUH when I saw him at school the next day he could explain himself. But I knew the truth. And sure enough, that weekend he broke up with me, thus busting my heart into one million teeny, tiny pieces.

But that is not the point of my tale of woe. Let’s focus on the waiting by the phone. And how much it sucks. Especially when you are The World’s Most Impatient Person. Yes. I am. I’ve checked. I hate waiting. So very much. It drives me insane. Especially now that we DO have cellphones and thus I can carry it around wherever I go. Bathroom. Laundry room. Back pocket whilst bouncing/patting my kid to sleep. Back to the bathroom with it at top volume so I can hurry and take a shower.

We still haven’t heard back from the school about Louisa. Is she in or do we make other plans? I have no idea. The folks told me I would hear back Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. At the latest. It’s now Monday. Do I… callll? Give ’em a few more days (by which I mean waaaaaait by the phone some more…)? The preschool director has thus far not been the most organized person in the universe. I had to leave two messages before she called me back to schedule the evaluation. Then she forgot to send the mountain of paperwork that I was supposed to have completed and sent back before the evaluation so I had to call about that. And then she wasn’t even there for the evaluation because her kid was sick and she had to go home early. So logically I can assume that maybe she also missed Thursday and/or Friday and they have yet to have their little meeting and decide my daughter’s fate let alone call me back about it.  But logic doesn’t soothe The World’s Most Impatient Person.

I hate waiting.

Hope

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Yesterday I took Louisa to be evaluated at a special preschool for spectrum kids. I meant to write about it beforehand but have been living in a crazy house for a few days because of a sick Simon (I am only able to write this now by typing as q u i e t l y as possible because the planets have somehow aligned and both of my children are sleeping at the same time. Shhhh…). I have no idea where he caught this mysterious cold because we don’t really take the kids many places because it’s winter and nobody else in the house is sick. Yes, I know, knock wood because as soon as I say that the rest of us will be feverish and coughing. He either picked it up from the grocery store or from the early intervention lady. But she wasn’t sick when she was here and she didn’t sound sick when I canceled our Monday appointment because I had to take sick Simon to the doctor so that she could tell me it is just a cold (I figured as much but what if I was the mom who didn’t take her kid in only to find out that it was whooping cough or croup?). Just a cold. No big. Except that for sick babies you can’t really do much. By which I mean you can’t dose them with NyQuil and let them sleep for three days. Which is a pity, really, because SICK BABIES DO NOT SLEEP. And thus, neither do their mothers. He finally seems to be on the mend (aside from a horrible lingering cough, poor little dude) and actually slept last night which is good because I think one more sleepless night may have brought on some sort of psychosis on my part.

But anyway. The evaluation. The school. Such a wonderful place. We were there for about two and a half hours, most of which Louisa was in a classroom. Without me. I had thought that I would be scared shitless by that prospect but oddly I wasn’t. And neither was she. No stranger danger from that one. After I talked to the social worker for an hour I got to sit behind a two-way mirror and observe the classroom. Louisa fit right in. I think it was good for me to see other spectrum kids, because I haven’t seen many, and realize that she is not alone. We are not alone. And if anybody can help her, these people can. The teacher to kid ratio is 1:2 in every classroom. Everybody is trained in ABA therapy which is the gold standard for autism therapy. They work with the kids on speech therapy, sensory issues, developing social awareness, food/feeding problems (which Louisa doesn’t have), motor skills (again, not one of her problems), safety awareness (glory hallelujah! Louisa has absolutely NO safety awareness. So glad this issue will be addressed), toileting (meaning helping us parents out with potty training because spectrum kids are notoriously difficult to train), behavioral problems (i.e. the epic effing tantrums) and probably other things that I am forgetting. In other words, rather than us piecemealing a plan together by finding an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, somehow figuring out how to get her potty trained, hoping that we can figure how to teach her that running from us in a crowd or a parking lot is dangerous, and sending her to the Early Intervention preschool for 4 hours per week, hoping that any of it will make a difference, we send her to this place where she will get ALL OF THOSE THINGS, for 27 hours a week.  Needless to say i am on pins and needles waiting to hear back from them in the next couple of days.

I am very hopeful that they will decide she is a good fit. She meets all 12 of the DSM diagnostic criteria for autism (not a surprise to me). She fit in well in the classroom and seemed to respond to the staff and their teaching efforts. Plus, they were all in love with her.  Every single person we came in contact with gushed about how cute she is, how pretty her eyes are, how magical her golden ringlets are. I know looks aren’t everything, but they can’t hurt, right?

ASD

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Yesterday a new Trader Joe’s opened just down the street from me (walking distance, people, walking distance). So of course I had to stop by. As I was wandering up the aisles I was suddenly transported back to Portland. The good part of Portland. The part I loved. And it struck me, once again, as it has so frequently in the last six months, that this is the place (cough, sorry, couldn’t resist) where we are supposed to be. We meaning me and my family. And this place being Utah, not Trader Joe’s. If any of anything that is happening right now were to be happening in Las Vegas… I would be lost.

Last Thursday was The Appointment. The one with the psychologist. The one where we’d get a diagnosis. If you’re a regular reader you’ll remember that I was slightly uncomfortable with that whole concept but as with most things in life it turns out that I shouldn’t have been. He was wonderful. He has been working with spectrum kids, as he referred to them (which actually I quite like and may adopt for my own personal use), for 20 years. It’s all he does. It took him all of about 15 minutes of listening to my concerns and asking me questions, all the while observing Louisa, to indeed confirm our suspicions. She’s definitely on the spectrum. Watching him watching her I had noted an odd questioning look on his face and was thinking to myself “seriously dude? you’re not 100% sure?” but he was. He was merely trying to figure out exactly where she belongs. If you’re at all familiar with ASD you’ll know that in 2013 the DSM-V came out and changed the landscape of autism entirely. What used to be four separate developmental disorders are now lumped under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder. As with lots of things in this world there are both pros and cons to that. I’m not here to debate them because personally I don’t care. For diagnosing purposes it makes things a little bit easier, according to the psychologist. It used to be that you would have to figure out which diagnosis to give; now if someone meets the criteria for ASD, they meet the criteria and thus, are diagnosed. It is, however, helpful for parents (and healthcare professionals) to know where someone fits because then you know better what to expect.

In Louisa’s case he could figure out two things: 1 – she’s mild (huzzah!) and 2 – she doesn’t have classic autism, a.k.a autistic disorder (which is a good thing). What he couldn’t figure out was whether she is high-functioning autism, Asperger’s or PDD-NOS. I had thought that she was out of the running for Asperger’s because they typically don’t have a speech delay but he said that’s not actually the case and that high-functioning autism and Asperger’s have so much overlap that some people have just started considering them the same thing. He wants to see her again in a year because at 3&1/2 it is often easier to tell where exactly someone fits, but the takeaway point is that she is mild. With lots of various therapies she has a pretty good prognosis.

And just like that most of my anxiety (read as: freaking the fuck out) ceased. Obviously we still have a long and probably rough road ahead of us, and the future is still anybody’s guess, but he seemed so optimistic that I guess it rubbed off on me. Or maybe just finally having an answer after six weeks of wondering, worrying, sleeplessness and heartache took me out of holy-shit mode and put me into WE-CAN-TOTALLY-DO-THIS-GUYS mode.

We are so lucky. I know. My daughter was just diagnosed with autism and I’m saying we’re lucky. But if I’m looking on the sunny side of things which, as you know, I am so good at (PAH HA HA), things could be so much worse. We could still be in Nevada (no offense, Nevada, you just didn’t do it for me). This could have happened while I was in the hospital already worrying myself sick about Simon. She could be so much more severe. Plus, we caught it fairly early. We have so much time to do so many things.

As it stands, there is a wonderful school here for spectrum kids. It has a waiting list but she’s only 2&1/2 – we’ll probably eventually get her in. And if not there are many other available resources. For us and for her. There will obviously still be bad days and he told me lots of things that both scared and saddened me but he also told me things that made me feel very optimistic about our hazy future.

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I think it’s called depression.

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“How are you?”, people keep asking (and by ‘people’ I mean ‘my family’ because I don’t really talk to anyone else).  “Uh… fine”, I answer them.  Because what else can I say? Let’s see… I’m sad, angry, confused and scared. Not to mention I’m feeling more than a little bit… I don’t know what the word for it is. What’s the word for feeling like everything that is happening to you is total bullshit? That none of it is fair and why is it happening to you and your family instead of somebody else? Whatever that word is, I’m feeling it. Also completely and utterly exhausted because of all of the things. The autism, the 10-month-old kid, the part-time evening job, the lack of sleep, the back pain, being fat, etc.

Monday was yet another appointment for yet another speech evaluation for Louisa. Her speech was already evaluated by Early Intervention. But half of the evaluation for autism by the people who are evaluating her for that (honestly you guys, I have looked it up at least 30 times and for some reason I just. cannot. remember. it.) was another speech evaluation.  And… her speech is… none…basically. I don’t mean she doesn’t have words because she still has a few and sometimes she will still use them but the words she does have are essentially useless because she doesn’t have any functional language. Like, she doesn’t know any verbs – especially any helpful ones like eat or drink or NO I DO NOT WANT THAT, I WANT THIS, WHICH IS WHY I AM THROWING THE WORST TANTRUM IN THE HISTORY OF TANTRUMS. According to the evaluator her expressive and receptive language, her communication/interactive skills and her social skills are severely deficient. Which, in case you didn’t know, are all of the things that one would expect to be nonexistent in an autistic person. But she can’t diagnose! She’s just evaluating her speech! We’ll have to wait until Thursday to see the psychologist for a diagnosis! She handed me about 20 different packets about autism and/or how to help kids learn to talk and sent me on my way. And PS: Can I just say… taking my 2&1/2-year-old child to a psychologist…I don’t even know. I’m apprehensive about it? I guess?

Let’s just move on. Apparently that’s one of the things I can’t even deal with right now. There are a lot of them. I’m not sleeping. Mostly because of Simon but also because of not being able to. So I’m completely exhausted. And keep forgetting things. And dropping things. And bumping into things. Also I have a permanent eye twitch. And when Louisa has one of those gigantic endless tantrums (which in the autism world are known as meltdowns) I basically have to take deep cleansing breaths and not freak the fuck out because I so want to freak the fuck out. I’m not kidding about how bad they are. It’s almost comforting to know that there is a reason other than she’s just a jerk, you know? Like, my kid isn’t just a gigantic asshole, she’s either A – experiencing some sort of sensory something or other (I don’t even know any of this stuff yet – more reasons to panic) or B – so frustrated by her lack of communication skills that the only thing she can think of to do is shriek/cry/kick/punch/throw herself on the goddamn floor and writhe like she’s possessed. That was how I spent my Saturday. Her throwing basically an hour-long fit, on and off. Part of it was in the parking lot at Target (because brilliantly we thought that maybe getting her out of the house and walking to Target (it’s literally a two-minute walk through the back fence of our parking lot) would help.  We were so very wrong, obviously). In the midst of all of it my husband was getting a cart out of the corral and somehow managed to tear his calf muscle. I don’t know how he did it, he doesn’t know how he did it, but he did. And suddenly he can’t walk at all, I’m trying to simultaneously push Simon in his stroller and hold/comfort a SCREAMING-SO-EMBARRASSINGLY-LOUD Louisa and… it pushed me over the edge. I was that lady hissing things at her screaming child. Things like ‘stop it right now! I am so sick of this bullshit!’.  It wasn’t good. None of it is good. Have you ever read/heard/seen that quote about how God/The Universe doesn’t give you more than you can handle? Or that this is the life you were meant to have because you totes got this, dawg? Or some variation on that theme? I saw that somewhere the other day and wanted to punch someone in the throat. You guys. I can’t even handle this. The only reason people can handle things that they have to handle is BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. Like, I don’t really have a choice. I can’t just trade in my life for a different one that’s easier. So yeah. Just so you know – don’t say that to me right now. Or probably anyone else who is having some sort of difficulties.

So. How am I? Um, not good? Terrible? Hovering right on the edge of totally losing my shit?

I need to somehow find the time/gumption to move Simon into his crib and also convince him to start taking bottles. I only have two more months of nursing, thank God. I am so sick of it I could scream. I love the kid. OH SO MUCH. He is so smiley and cute and wonderful. But I would like my body and my bed back. It’s my fault for co-sleeping and for being a rabid breastfeeder, and I’m still glad I made those decisions, but I’m done now.  Also, I maybe need some drugs. All I have to do is find a doctor, make an appointment at some convenient time (read as: never because what do I do, take my screaming toddler and highly mobile soon-to-be toddler with me?), go to that appointment, get a prescription, fill the prescription… you get the point. I sat down to call my insurance company for help finding a doctor today and Louisa started screaming and I couldn’t even deal with it. I hung up. Why does everything have to be overwhelming? This is America, can’t we just get antidepressants in a vending machine or something?

Appointmentpalooza, a listicle of sorts

Tomorrow is the first in a whirlwind of appointments (four in the next twelve days) for Louisa which will hopefully result in A- an explanation as to what exactly is going on with her, i.e., a diagnosis and B – a plan as to what exactly we are going to do about it.  I am so nervous that I am currently stress-eating sleeves of Ritz crackers because A- I don’t drink (stupid breastfeeding) B – I don’t smoke anymore either, damn it, C – food is my drug of choice when confronted with feelings that I don’t want to feel and D- we don’t have anything else in the house, i.e., pizza and/or brownies and/or something delicious and fattening that is probably going to kill me.

Not much else to say except… A- please say a little prayer for her/me/us?, B – I would totally kill for a cigarette right now (for really realz I am not even kidding) and/or a box of wine (stupid breastfeeding) and C- please send pizza and/or fattening deliciousness asap.