These Tees are Hand-Flappin’ Awesome

tee22I found this website yesterday:  www.oyster4autism.com – great site and it has a great blog, so check it out.
They market the greatest Autism t-shirts – I literally spit my coffee out reading them, plus I LOVE the oyster logo.  I think it would be great if it replaced the puzzle piece, but that’s just me!
Some of my favorite t-shirts: “Warning: Inappropriate Noises,” “Hand-flappin’ Happy,” “I Chase Birds,” “Spirit Disguised,” and “Happily Waterlogged,” but the one that made me spit my coffee was: Do It Again. . .and again and again and again . . .” BRILLIANT!

Cafe Press makes the shirts for this group, but they had a few items as well that made me chuckle. One was a coffee mug with a stick figure rifling through papers that said, “Hang on, I know I have a social story for this.”

Spoiler Alert for Zach’s teachers: I know what you’re getting for Christmas this year!

And I also found some more while surfing some other autism blogs,   http://www.autismbites.com/ .  This site is really interesting – a family blog written by the Kirton family – this couple has six kids on the spectrum. They have been featured on Oprah and in People magazine.  The one I liked best from that site – “Eye contact is overrated.”

social

Moles Unite – Get Back Out Into The Big, Bad World

Safely celebrating a birthday in our burrow

Safely celebrating a birthday in our burrow

 There is a trend among the parents of young autistic children I like to call the  “mole syndrome” – where you and your untypical family go underground.

 There are many reasons for the mole syndrome, but the initial one is safety. Many of our kids on the spectrum just don’t behave safely when outside of the confines of the burrow. They are impulsive to the nth degree, many like to run (mostly away), most like to climb (the higher the better) and I haven’t met one yet that isn’t attracted to water- they will head straight for it like a bloodhound to a scent.  And, when it comes to water, they are not particular about the source, be it a puddle, fountain, river, ocean or toilet. When Zach was 4 he had a penchant for climbing in any toilet he encountered every chance he got.   (Incidentally, while at an autism conference a few years back I recall a slide show on just this nuance – a shot of a young lad soaking up to his chin in the can – it got the biggest laugh I’ve ever heard at one of those gigs.)

So, we parents learn to hollow out a little safety far away from prying eyes. We take turns “making appearances” (those are important!) we don’t eat out, visit friends, go to movies, malls, or markets together because the pandemonium factor is so daunting. 

Back at the burrow, we parents can let our hair down. We don’t have to take turns watching the doors (even the ones to the bathrooms) because they’re deadbolted and wired with alarms and potty locks. Who wants to visit the neighbors whose appliances aren’t bolted to the walls? Why eat out at a restaurant when your darling child can snarf food in a Tijuana minute and no amount of crayons is going to keep him or her from climbing under the table to look at the pattern on the rug, or better yet climb over the booth to taste the man’s french fries behind you.

I remember the last family outing we had right before we dug into our burrow.  Zach was 4, Patrick was 6, and Tyler was 8. It was Tyler’s birthday and we had arranged for a bowling party for a half dozen of his little friends.  Everything was going great – we got through pizza and cake without *cough* much incident. Then the kids started to bowl. In our infinite wisdom we rented two lanes, one for the birthday party crowd and one for the “Z ” man. While my husband was gently showing Zach how to roll the ball between his legs, Zach had a better idea. He took a running start and slid headfirst all the way down the finely polished lane. He was just getting ready to climb through the pins to check out the mechanics of the ball-return when the manager of the place was at our side shouting. We went home and didn’t emerge for a year and a half.

The other reason for the mole syndrome is one we parents don’t like to admit, embarrassment. It gets better over time, in fact the longer you live with an autistic person the less likely you are to become embarrassed about anything – and I mean anything, nudity, loud comments on balding doctors,  your son ogling (and sometimes hugging too vigorously) large-breasted strangers. Once this hurdle is made, along comes another -tedium – we tire of explaining our children to ignorant strangers whose senses are more impaired than our kids’.

Here’s a snapshot:  My three boys and I are taking a  five-hour flight from Los Angeles toVirginia Beach after spending Christmas with my brother’s family. Two hours into the flight Zach is calling me a “dumbass” over and over and over again. (Sidenote: I boarded this flight with Zach in a kid harness and his name, flight # and my cell # taped to the sweatshirt on his back.) I am done being embarrassed and am fairly numb if not catatonic after an hour of this.  Passenger X, to my left, who boarded the plane right behind me when Zach was trying to touch each and every person on the way to our seats, says: “What’s wrong with your kid?”

I would like to rewrite this whole episode with a pithy reply that makes Passenger X feel like shit, but what I really did was ignore Passenger X and his asshole comment. 

I think that may have been the beginning of our emergence back into the world and now we fly our freak flag with the regularity that Zach deserves.

We are still cautious though, movies over two hours are a no-no, a buddy system for public bathrooms (even if Zach, who is now as tall as me has to use the Ladies room), no going where we’re not welcome (a post for another time) and no apologizing or explaining Zach to anyone.  

This works well for us most of the time and each new outing gives us the courage to try new things or adapt how we operate. Sometimes all it takes to get back out in the big, bad world is a little bravado and a dash of creativity.

One thing we discovered was the joy of Hibachi bars.  If someone is playing with fire, juggling knives and making volcanoes out of onions, Zach is less likely to wander around the restaurant checking out the customers and looking for french fries.  He will announce loudly to the chef that he thinks shrimp is “disgusting”. And we have found it best not to let him participate in the “catch-a-piece-of-chicken-in-your-mouth” game. Zach was indignant for a week after one of our outings, telling anyone who would listen about the man who hit him with hot chicken!

Another trick we have learned is to bring along some of his favorite Star Wars Action figures in case we have to “wait” for any reason (the DMV, lines at Disneyland) – these keep Zach happy and since he makes the most authentic light saber sound effects you’ve ever heard there is an added bonus – free entertainment for strangers!

His Star Wars guys helped us get through another long flight to Los Angeles just last Spring – with his tray down,  Zach happily recounted  entire scenes of dialogue to the delight of the woman we were sharing a row with.  It was a little touch and go when he dropped Obi Wan into her lap, but she kindly handed it back to him and he kindly thanked her by saying “May the force be with you.”  An absolutely priceless moment for his proud parents!

Things that make you go “Huh?”

Thirsty anyone?

Thirsty anyone?

My sister and I once joked about writing a book titled, “Thing that make you go “Huh?”

The book would contain lots of strange happenings from real life that stump, stupify and render one speechless – well, except for the “Huh”?

I came upon a prime candidate today while web surfing. Recently, I bought a soda-pop making machine that makes healthier versions of  commercial soft drinks. Since I have a new found fascination with all things Indian I did a search for ayurvedic soft drinks and what popped up was “cow urine.”

Apparently, in an effort to shun all things Western, including our colas, some Hindu extremists at the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had a solution that was just staring them if the face. Talk about reduce, reuse and recycle, this takes the cake! The product, dubbed  “gau jal”, or “cow water” – in Sanskrit, could be on shelves by the end of the year.

Om Prakash, the brain trust of this golden idea was quoted in all of the articles I found as saying, “”Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too.” I’m sure that’s a relief to many who would refuse to drink it because of the odor – why the flavorful experience they’re promising is just a bonus!

 Prakash went on to say that the “cow water” is  going to be very healthy. ” It won’t be like carbonated drinks and would be devoid of any toxins.”  

I can just hear the commercials now: “Do the pew!!! Maybe they could show lots of  happy Indian teens jovially throwing buckets of cow urine on each other and laughing as one of them fills a tall glass straight from the tap – “Bessie the Bovine” could be pictured on every bottle wearing nothing but shades and a smile.

Perhaps Bessie could go on to do a series of commercials, ala Wilford Brimley, telling potential customers that “it’s the right thing to do, so “Do the Pew!”

And the masses will say “huh?”

Tenderfoot Yogi Chronicles – It Ain’t Easy Being Mindful

prayerI’ve been practicing yoga for the last six months and while I would like to say I’ve gotten better at it I really can’t. What I can say is that I am finally getting “it.” That is to say, that there is no room for struggling, competing, hurrying, or worrying in yoga.

The goal, the prize is serenity – to unify your body, mind and spirit – to transform.  It makes me think of the chubby caterpillar, Heinrich,  in the children’s movie “Bugs Life” who knows that someday he will be a “beautiful butterfly.” But, like Heinrich, there are layers of conditioned thought I must shed if I am to experience a new dimension of self.  In a nutshell, it’s all about letting go.

Applying that while on the mat is where the “practicing” comes in.  I am able to let go for a few moments here and there, concentrate on my breath, be in the moment.  But, I still catch my mind wandering off to grocery lists during “downward facing dog”, or wondering if my “camel” looks as graceful as the woman’s on my left. I have wished for a fresh pedicure more than once while gandering at my hooves during “dolphin” pose, but I am finding that letting go of the image I have of my feet and my body is a challenge that gets easier the longer I practice.  Who cares what my butt looks like in forward fold? Everyone is facing their own knees anyhow! And when I fall out of a pose, which happens nearly every class, it is not as defeating as it used to be – I just try, try again.

As a tenderfoot entering into some of the more complex movements yoga has to offer I often think of my 3-year-old son, Colin, when he was learning to walk. He was quite determined, no matter how many times he landed on his bum, and every fall elicited a gleeful giggle. He approached walking with good humor and curiousity and was always forgiving of his own mistakes. So, I too am trying to approach yoga with the fresh eyes and passion of a child. I am letting my yoga experience free me, from, well, me.  And I am finding many of life’s stale platitudes echoing anew in my ears, like: “Attitude is everything,” “pride goeth before a fall,” “practice makes perfect,” “wherever you go there you are.” And strangely, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

I say echo, because the lessons are learned over and over and over. Yoga for a novice can turn on a dime, from deep understanding to self-congratulation and right back to frustration. But, with gentle compassion, I nudge my little engine back on the track and think “I can.”

Why, just yesterday I managed to relax into a twist.  Accomplishing such contradictory movements is par for the mat – for instance,  staying grounded in your sitting bones  while lifting up toward the ceiling from the base of your skull actually is possible. Yoga is full of such opposing actions and when achieved – even for an “aha” moment it is a taste of bliss. So I press forward, while being patient – another contradiction conquered!

The awakening is slow, but it keeps me coming back to my mat.  I love the joy that comes after such demanding concentration, the layers of understanding that peel away with every session. I love the deep enigmatic metaphor that is yoga. I have come along enough with my practice to uncover the best kept secret of  yoga – that life is best lived slowly, mindfully, focused in the moment and unencumbered by the small stuff.  It will take many backbends, inversions and sun salutations for me to keep this lesson fresh in my mind, but a moment of unshakeable peace is worth the many moments of practice to get there.