Sunday, August 31, 2008


Somewhere, there is a mom who has a child with Autism.

This mom could be your cousin or niece, a neighbor, lady at church or in front of you at the grocery store. You might run in to her at a soccer game or at a new mom's play group in the neighborhood...

For full view, click here >>>

Friday, August 29, 2008

8 Things I have learned on Jon and Kate + 8

One of my favorite shows is Jon and Kate + 8. I enjoy the personalities of Jon and Kate and their little children. I cry and laugh, but most of all, I learn a lot from it. And, being a mom to two children on the autism spectrum, I need all the encouragement and parent tips I can get!

Here are the top eight things the Gosselins have taught me:

1. Free tummy tucks do come true.

2. If Kate can take 8 kids to a boutique to paint pottery, then maybe I can take my 2 kids too.

3. There is a family out there with more shoes that we have.

4. Monkey Bread is reserved for Christmas mornings only.

5. Each child needs his or her own special day alone with the parents every year.

6. Having the kids sweep after dinner "may only pick up a couple of crumbs, but that is still better than no crumbs."

7. No matter how much I want more kids, seeing the clip of Kate's pregnant stomach is the best type of birth control ever!

8. You can still be a cool mom like Kate and not feed your kids SunnyDelight and fruit snacks.

Confessions of a Second Grade Closet Eater

I used to be a closet eater. I would not eat lunch at school or during slumber parties. From age eight until age 32, I would only eat when no one was watching me. To this day, I worry about what I eat in public.

All through elementary school, I would rush home from school at 3:00 sharp and eat all the food I could. Only so much so that no one would notice my bingeing. My mom and step dad used to have a large glass milk jug that they would dump their spare change into daily. I would quietly pour out the change and get just enough money to take to the Village Pantry or 7-Eleven down the street. That is when candy bars only cost 30 cents. I started getting my candy bar fix with the stolen spare change. Then, I worked my way up to stealing enough change to purchase an entire box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme pies. I would be ever so cautious about this addiction by hiding my wrappers carefully in the garage. This was age nine.

It was at age nine when my mother married her second husband, Graham. He had several children by previous wives. He was domineering and dominated my mother's every moment. My mother and I were best friends up until Graham came along. After all, after my father divorced my mom when I was two years old, it was just my mom and me, living together like roomies in college. During her single years, she dated a lot. And, just like a college room mate would, she'd bring her dates home with her. I think during these years of my childhood, I have more memories being with baby sitters. My mom would travel a lot with her boyfriends. After she passed away, I recovered many photo albums of romantic getaways along with boxes of love letters from these men, some were even married and others were her boss! While she lived foot loose and fancy free, I spent a lot of childhood with babysitters, my drunk grandmother or being sent away to summer camps at the ripe age of seven!

Now my own daughter is six and a half, I couldn't imagine sending her away to a camp or to stay with her drunk grand parents. (Fortunately, my children do not have any alcoholic grandparents so I don't have that as an option!) Another memory I have as a seven year old is riding the Greyhound bus back and forth from my mom's to my dad's! This was a four hour drive with a 'layover' in Cincinnati! I can still recall the mixed smells of cigarette smoke, toilet cleanser and the bus fumes. When I was seven, I thought I was so cool. I was SO independent and since I hadn't eaten all day with either of my parents, I was SO hungry. At the layover, I would buy one of every candy bar and I would stash them in my suitcase for late night snacking as soon as I arrived for my visitation at my dad's.

One night, I got caught eating candy at my dad's. It was far past my bed time, when my step mom opened the bath room door and I quickly hid the candy in my cheeks. She noticed the wrapper behind the toilet and scolded me. I can recall begging her not to tell my dad but she did. It was one of the most shameful experiences of my life. I just wanted to be loved and accepted by my dad and mom. And, unfortunately, I feel like my father has measured out his love for me my entire life based on my weight. He is in a wheel chair now, he comments now on my daughters' weight and what they eat. It saddens me so much! My father and his parents were also plagued with eating disorders.

I was in second grade when my mom started back on Weight Watchers. And, since we were BFF (that is current text lingo for "best friends forever"), she put me on the diet too. I'd go to all the weigh ins with her. We would go to the MCL Cafeteria where we were allowed to eat fish and green beans for most of our meals. This is really what did me in for a life long struggle with an eating disorder. The diet and rejection, not necessarily MCL's fish!

More about my eating disorders in future posts...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Facelift and Poser Poster

So, I told you I would be provocative and honest in this blog. And, since, the true me is superficial in the flesh, I thought it was only a matter of time until the true superficial "me" would reflect itself onto my blog.

Although I write from the true pains and turmoil of my heart, I still on the outside appear to be smiling. I want so much for others to be attracted to me and want to like me. So, I say hello, I smile, I shower, of course. I just don't know where to draw the line from being myself to trying to be what others want me to be.

And, here I sit, a newbie in the blogosphere. Still wanting others to be attracted to my blog. I found myself even 'dropping' by to smile and say hello in hopes they might come over to my blog and like me too. I even spent a lot of time and energy redesigning my Entrecard and banner to my blog. And, just like me in the flesh, my body and my blog are a work in progress. Neither will ever look as perfect as I'd dream them to, no matter how much I work at them!

My therapist says that I need to work on not worrying what others think of me. He explains to me that there is a spectrum of people. There are those who on one side live and make every decision solely based on what others may think. He nods to me, "And that's you. You are on this side of the spectrum." Then, he continues, "There are others who don't care what people think. They are rude and insensitive. They even give up their rights as parents because they don't care about what anyone thinks."

Why do I care what others think of me so much?

I do know that all that caring and worrying is wasted energy. I come home tired after being around people. If our kids are loud in public, I feel badly for the parents who look stressed from the noises - even if it was during a birthday party and the hostess gave my kids noise-makers. Come on! If your kids can't make noises with noise makers at a birthday party, when can they? If there is a new person in town and I don't reach out the her and put on my friendly welcome mat-like smile, then I feel bad for them. I feel like I should bring them homemade cookies and ask them questions about themselves. I am so made to do that. How can I change that? Why can't I just not care? I need to be more towards the rude and insensitive side of the spectrum, I suppose.

God, please help me to not care! Huh?

As I sign off for now, I leave you with this quote from the famous Popeye:
I am who I yam and that's all I yam. I even eat spinach ONLY when people are watching me so I can 'look' like I am a healthy eater. I really don't even like spinach. I am such a poser!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Friend or Foe? Tit for Tat

I have always found myself to be so outgoing and friendly. Lately however, I am starting to be more guarded when meeting new people. I used to enjoy meeting new people and making them feel welcomed. Perhaps I would reach out in hopes that I could impress them with my friendliness and thus, they'd like me. And, after many years of reaching out, maybe I am just burnt out.

Or, maybe being a mom to two girls on the autism spectrum has just worn me out. All of my energy from my internal social chambers has burnt out and I have to reserve my words for my own family members.

Maybe I am depressed.

I recall a telephone conversation I had before I moved. This took place right after my mother was put on a ventilator, a few weeks before she passed away. I was running my own business, trying to return phone calls from clients and colleagues. I had been away from work for a few days visiting my mother in the hospital while trying to keep clients happy and 'business as usual by speedy messages sent by my Blackberry.

When I would return home from visiting my mother and step father at the hospital, I would try to force myself to normalcy. I struggled because it was like my mom wasn't dead, or was she? Would she live? Why does my step father keep signing for more artificial life saving mechanisms like a ventilator and a feeding tube? What is my role as an only daughter? These thoughts took the place of my typical tasks of eating or sleeping. And one day, I remember that I could not even open the door to my van and walk in to work. I spent the entire day playing Bejeweled on my Blackberry. It was the only thing I could manage. The next day however, I was able to open the door from my van and move one foot in front of the other. A block later, I was finally at my office. Breathe. Breathe, I kept telling myself.

It was time to return the multiple phone calls from my friend-slash-client's messages that had harassed me for the past four days. Her name was Molly. I had worked with her since she first entered corporate America and had always felt a kindred spirit to her. She was young and ambitious just as I was and I wanted to help her achieve success in the same way I had hoped someone could have or would have helped me. She wasn't aware of my secret mission, it was between God and me.

"Molly? Hello. Sorry it has been a while since I have returned your call. My mom has been in the hospital."

She replied, "Yeah, I got your message about that," Right about now is when I would hope we could have talked about what I had been going through. Here was my chance to talk about it, to process it all just a bit. She then said, curtly, "Now, do you want to talk about your mother or can I talk to you about this project?"

This caught me by such surprise! When I first met her, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer and I had been one of her biggest supporters through all of it. Here I sit, holding the phone realizing that Molly was really not a friend at all to me. She was merely a colleague. In fact, ever since I started getting serious about my career, I had lost all possible opportunities for true friendships. Everything had turned into a networking opportunity. Church activities and barbecues were attended based on what potential prospects or clients might also be there.

A few weeks passed and so did my mother. No one sent me a card or note of sympathy. That was when I realized that I had nothing left in the windy city. It was time to move in hopes to meet some true friends with real hearts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three Questions of the Day

I have been exploring the blogosphere in attempt to learn how to better impress my readers so that I can increase traffic and maintain a readership. Through my dabbling, I came across a brilliant post that I found profoundly close to my "concerns du jour!" Here is a link but in case it isn't working, I have pasted the post along with my reply below also.

Depression, Bipolar, ADHD, Autism...
Posted by Kate McLaughlin on June 20, 2008 at 12:05pm in Motherhood, Parenting & Family
I'm a writer, recently assigned 6 articles on mental health--very broad assignment!
I want to focus on helping families deal with mental health issues. Please share your thoughts...
On what mental health issues do need or want more information and resources?

Here is my reply, my burning questions:
WOW! Finally something on line that is resourceful to the specific needs of our family! My daughter has been diagnosed with Sensory Integration, ADHD, BiPolar/Mood Disorder, PDD-NOS/Probable Asperger's.

There are 3 items I am interested in:

1 - My mother has passed away but I also think she had very very similar deficits. As a woman who was not raised by a strong, healthy mother, how can I be a strong mother to my own child who struggles so much? How do I know that I myself am not challenged with these areas of concern both environmentally or genetically?

2 - How am I able to parent my child who has a diagnosis that is always changing? She is 6 and as her symptoms manifest themselves differently, her diagnoses have evolved too. I can't keep up with it all!

3 - Because she is so highly functioning and thrives in a structured environment like school, the school professionals do not validate or acknowledge our diagnoses. I feel like sometimes I have gone over the top in trying to 'prove something is wrong with my daughter' in order to maintain or attain services. For this, I feel guilty and sometimes wonder if I have read too much and met with too many doctors. Ignorance was bliss, I think...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good grief

You ever have an issue that keeps coming up over and over in your mind? It's like you can't have any peace or progress until you realize what it is that is at the heart of the problem, yet you aren't even sure what the problem is exactly.

Here is one of those nagging self talk scripts that I am trying to get my hands on... I think I have it figured out, but it is like that Sudoku puzzle that you know you could solve you just can't find the time, or the right pencil or even the Sudoku puzzle itself.

I've mentioned in previous posts perhaps that I have two daughters on the spectrum. My oldest, Sienna, first grader has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS with probable Asperger's. She also has mood disorder (bi-polar spectrum) and ADHD. I have been on a roller coaster with her since she was about 2 years old, feeling like a failure, like nothing I could do for her was working. She was so 'out-of-sync' and so when I found the book, "Out of Sync Child," by Carol Kranowitz a few years ago, something finally clicked with me. I started the long journey of trying to get services and diagnosis's, let alone just basic acceptance of my concerns from my own husband and family members. Finally, after three years I started getting more understanding from family members. It took a lot of tantrums at family events for people to realize that there was any merit in what I was saying about Sienna. No one wanted to believe that such a bright and blue-eyed blonde little girl had anything wrong with her. All along, my parenting skills and credibility as a mother were weakened through every step during this three year journey.

Then, after Sienna's daycare providers really encouraged me to take the matter more seriously, I finally went privately to get medical diagnoses. In the past 18 months, we have had five professional diagnoses all pretty consistent with one another: Sensory Integration, PDD-NOS, Probable Asperger's, Mood Disorders, Bi-Polar and ADHD. In addition, yet in opposition to these medical opinions, the school's psychologist has observed, assessing Sienna at the school and discovered that Sienna doesn't show any problems at all. In fact, the school professionals claim that she is a bright and cheerful girl that perhaps "her mother is in need of counseling and parenting classes."

And, here we are a year later, and I realize, I do need therapy and parenting classes, ever since the school's assessment in fact!

Every day, I fight with my thoughts and feeling about my daughter being on the spectrum. Is she? Most of the time she is fine. We've learned to adjust. We don't do any thing that will be unpredictable or pressure her socially. So, I can't tell. I am going nuts trying to figure out if something is wrong with my daughter. If so, what exactly. And, once it is determined what, then, how will I help her?

I realize that I am thick in denial. I am also so angry. I have become hardened.

And then, a light bulb went on! It was an ah-ha moment yesterday while we took a day trip by train to Chicago. Sienna was not in her normal element. And, when she isn't in her element, her quirks are more pronounced. She acts strange, says weird things, has odd gestures. She doesn't even walk normal. When she was younger, she would act like a dog as a coping mechanism. Now, she acts like a baby to cope in difficult situations for her. She talks like a baby, wants to ride in the stroller and cuddle, just like a baby. I even made a new age appropriate 'blankie' for her so she could have her blankie in times like these. Frankly, I allow it because when she was a baby, she didn't really sit still in a stroller and didn't cuddle or talk much.

I found myself growing so angry during the train ride. I was so irritable with her. I was so mad at her for acting like this. I was mad that we couldn't do any family fun activities any more. I feel so judged by strangers everywhere we go. Most of all, I was disgusted at myself.

Why do I have to be so superficial? I have been a born again Christian for about 13 years now. I was such a strong follower before having children. I was so close to God, my heart was tender for Him. Now, I am so hardened. I don't even feel comfortable going to church, partly because our children on the spectrum have so many challenges in a church setting, but also because of the condition of my heart. I am starting to cope in unhealthy ways myself. I am drawn to cocktails to relax me and other social subtleties that are not Christian-like.

And I really do want to be that caring, loving Christian woman that I once was. I don't want to be cursing at God for giving me children who are so difficult. Feeling so inadequate for this feat, I let out a yelp of a prayer and I heard God telling me that I was in His Hands. I was just going through the valley of grief. I still am in denial. I am still in the anger phases. It is difficult to have a clear journey of grief with raising children with special needs like what Sienna has because every day is different and I will not know what challenges we will face until we are face to face with each challenge.

I have to trust God even more in the daily crises of raising my kids. More than the typical family would. And, that is a blessing. At least that is how I am seeing it in this light bulb moment!

Life of a Closet Blogger

In my previous post, I mentioned I was living three lives. My life in the flesh is always wanting to be someone I am not. My life on Facebook is the superficial me where I only post the photos that make me look 20 lbs less that what I am and where my children always look happy. Facebook life is witty and superficial for me. And then, there is this life, my blogging life.

I am new to blogging and find it useful. I am able to be my true self, writing provocatively from the depths of my struggles and curiosity. However, I note that even on my own blog I don't let the boundaries rest too much. I don't use the actual names of people or places in a weak attempt to "protect the innocent." Also, I don't tell my friends and family about the blog. And, if I realize that a friend might be internet savvy and perhaps may have been able to find out about my blog, I become very red in the face.

Therefore, I am not really being true to myself. This is just the rambling of a closet blogger. And lately, I am not sure I even know who I am anymore. Here is a list of what I have discovered about myself when meeting a person for the first time... I am a blogger, mom, SAHM, retired business owner, on sabbatical from corporate burn out, designer, marketer, advertiser, writer, shopper, Christian, leader, reader, new tennis player, wife, sister, jogger, know-it-all, city girl, in mid-life, in my late 30s, artist, philanthropist, volunteer, party planner, virtual travel agent, entrepreneur, visionary, - or an All-American Wannabe? (not in order of accuracy!)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It Ain't Easy Being Me

Today, as I spring clean in the month of August, I realize that I am living a triple life. One in the flesh. One in Facebook. And, one here on my blog.

My life in the flesh is constantly trying to contain my true self. I try to not be too competitive. I try not be too loud or too fancy. I always feel fat and not sexy. I want my kids and I to match the pictures in the magazines. I make my decisions, life impacting decisions based on what others will think. I think that is the real reason I lived in Chicago in fact. I thought how cool it would be if I moved there. Then, once I was there, I picked a home based on what my address would look like on a Christmas card list. If I were to be completely honest with you, I even believe that integrity means looking nice. I had a personal coach last year and we were supposed to spend one week defining what integrity meant to me and a plan on how to get that. It took me six months because I would try to tell myself that integrity was about being virtuous, pure and honest. It was about being a good mom and wife. That is what I wanted it to be and how I thought it was supposed to be. But, when I dove deeper into my value system, I realized that integrity to me at the time meant what I looked like. Did I look poised, self controlled, wrinkle-free and together? I realize this is shallow. I am working on changing my value system, but for now, I have to make sure that I have a nice wardrobe or else I don't feel very good about myself.

Then, there is the life I lead on Facebook. In this life, I feel pretty good about myself because Facebook is a perfect spot to be witty and have fun. This fits me to a tee! But, I also have realized that making witty and friendly comments and status updates isn't the true me. And, the Facebook life doesn't satisfy me enough. It is just as shallow as some of the long lost friends I have found again through Facebook. I guess it is OK to have a light and lively outlet, but my Facebook life certainly represents the old me.

Then, there is my blogging life. This is where I let it all hang out. I tell it just as it is. No sugar coating. Sometimes I wonder if I am too dark and dismal, or too into myself here on Crazy Jugs. Then again, it is who I am. I wish it wasn't so Debby Downer-ish. I wish I were cooler. But maybe just being myself is good enough... My therapist would be proud.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Momma, did you know...?

As I read this morning's favorite blogs, my daughter Sienna stands beside me. Her blue eyes like saucers, inquisitive yet all-knowing. She asks, "Momma, did you know that the first African to walk on the moon was in 1998?"

I smile. Just last year, she wouldn't or couldn't tell me anything about what she was learning in Kindergarten. And, the year before that when I would inquire about her day, she would just throw a tantrum. There was so much disconnection between us in the last six years. But, today, the first week of first grade, she shares something that she is learning. I responded, "Really? Did you know that the first person to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong, in 1969 - I think that was the date...?"

She responded with a smile, "I am not sure I have the right date either mom."

I googled Neil Armstrong, and clicked on Wiki's page on him. She saw the screen of his portrait. I told her that was Neil. She said,"Wow, look, he is holding his helmet while he is on the moon!"

"Hon, that is just a backdrop for the photo." And I went on telling her a little more fun facts about Neil. She then noticed that I had the Crazy Jugs setting in the china cabinet. I took them out of storage yesterday so that I could take a photo of them for this blog, then placed them on a shelf and closed the glass doors. Since then, I started remembering little things that I am looking forward to write about in future posts. I had no idea anyone would notice them. But, that girl doesn't miss a beat. She notices anything and everything that has changed from the last time she walks into a room. It is like she has special powers. She even sees every bug on the sidewalk as she walks to school. That must be exhausting yet exhilarating at times for her.

She then gets so excited when she sees the button with Neil Armstrong on one of the Crazy Jugs. It was from a museum in Wapakoneta, OH. I remember going there when I was young and eating "freeze dried ice cream" they supposedly ate in space. I can still remember the taste on my tongue! "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," she reads as her eyes glow from across the room. I can't wait until she tries some freeze dried ice cream too someday!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Scheduling Life and Death

I remember thinking, "Last year at this time, I was 8 months pregnant. I couldn't control my schedule of when I would actually go into labor. I knew it would happen soon. But when? I had to trust God's timing. Now, with my mother on a ventilator, I have no way in knowing when she will pass away. Life and death is inevitable. And, it is on God's time table."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another personal value I need to give up...

OK. So, this has been a year of grieving. Grieving my mother was part of human nature. It was painful and dreadful. It was natural progression, a typical experience that although the details may differ from person to person, we all must endure the grieving of our parents and others we love at sometime or another in our lives.

But the grieving gear grinds onward. I continue to grieve my hopes and dreams.

I tell myself, "Due to a series of misfortunate events..." or "God's will for my life overpowered mine..." or "My girls and their special needs needed more from me than a career minded mother could give." Ain't that the truth.

And, as I learn more about my daughters' special needs, I realize that each day I am giving up more. I really didn't have a choice in the matter. I once was a career driven mother who strived for success so much that my goals surrounded themselves around my idea of the legacy I planned to pass down to my daughters and other women in corporate America. I prided myself as a woman who lived above the glass ceilings. The more the ceilings would surround me, the harder I would work. I was not going to give up on that, for the sake of my own daughters I would say to myself. But, I did give in. I caved. I gave up. I ran away from the prize.

Along with that, I had to give up the six-figure income that I alone provided to our family. I gave up my wardrobe and my designer purses. I gave up my Chicago office address. I still keep my business cards though. No one cares but me. I tried to drag along my professional network but realized soon enough that the professional circles I surrounded myself around didn't have the attention span to keep up with my juggling acts of dropped balls. I give up. Can't run with the wild. It was time to exchange the heels for crocs.

Now, a year later, I realize more and more that I need to give up. I learned at my last counseling session that I needed to "Stop caring what others think of me."

Well. How the hell do I do that? That shakes me at the very core of my existence. I admit, it would be a lot easier to not worry about other people's stares and judgement and opinions on how I parent my children and react during their public explosions. My therapist says that I spend way too much energy being embarrassed and trying to 'control' how other people think of me and my family.

It makes perfect sense. Don't worry about what others think of you. I just don't know how and I don't know where to draw the line. Help.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Plan VS. God's Plan

We had Sienna (now age 6.5), moved to far west side of the Chicago and bought our first house. Lived there for a couple of years. I started freelancing and that grew into a consultancy, which meant the same thing, I was just able to charge more and feel more important about myself. I had offices all over the place, from the 83rd floor in the Sears Tower to a cubicle in Oak Brook. I enjoyed traveling for business and went to DC, San Diego, Las Vegas, and New Jersey frequently. I was very ambitious and felt more in control of my career than in motherhood. Sienna was in day care and Fred started working at Elmhurst HS. We then moved to Oak Park and Sienna has having a lot of troubles in school(s). So, we had to have her assessed and she received special services to help her with her behavior and sensory issues.

While Fred and I celebrated our 5th anniversary in Aruba, we got pregnant with Sarah. I was scheduled to develop a large trade show exhibit during my pregnancy and when she was 6 weeks, I brought her along with me to Toronto. I was absorbed with being successful and thought that God had a plan for me to grow my business and help other women, especially my own daughters as they grew older, flourish in corporate America. I had a corporate board of directors and we met monthly to help meet my business objectives.

Little did I know that God had another plan for my life. Last January, my mother called me from ER AGAIN. You may remember that she had a lot of issues. One of the most annoying was that she was a hypochondriac. She had checked herself into ER on a monthly basis and this time seemed to me like just the same as the other times. However, an ER nurse called me one Sunday morning while we were at church. We started attending Willow Chicago, one of Willow Creek's satellite churches that met in the loop in an old theater. The nurse told me that due to my mom's diabetes and other ailments that she is having difficulty healing from a bad case of pneumonia and it is possible that they may have to put her on a ventilator. After talking with Fred, we decided that I would take a trip, once and for all, to see just how severe this particular drama trauma really was. Five hours later, while driving down to Cincinnati, she had been placed on a ventilator and was in an induced coma. She finally passed away about 6 weeks later after I convinced my stepdad that she wasn't going to get any better.

During these 6 weeks, I spent a lot of time in the hospital with them. I didn't realize it, but my value system was really being challenged and turned upside down. I reevaluated the quality of life, motherhood and self care. I no longer thought about the new patterns on this season's Coach bags. One evening, after we met in Cincinnati to turn off the ventilator, I had about 20 voice mail messages. Some of the messages were from clients who knew where I was and what I was doing on that day yet they still thought their needs somehow took priority over mine on this dark day. I told Fred that I needed a break and didn't want to return to work for a while. Being the boss of your own agency does not allow for any sick days and there are certainly no days available for bereavement.

There were also no days available for childcare issues. And it seemed that I got weekly phone calls from Savana's preschool about her behavior. As one discussion was said, "She is a danger to herself and other students around her. We need you to pick her up." Another presentation to a team of directors at a Fortune 500 that I had spent months pursuing - cancelled. Vaporized just like that! I just couldn't keep up with the pace of my career. I slowly watched it fade away in the distance behind me. As I pursued my exit strategy, Fred and I decided that I would stay at home with the girls. We were paying over $1000 a month in childcare and we would still need to downsize and move to be able to live on his teacher salary alone. So, we sold our gorgeous home in Oak Park and moved to rural Ohio into a house in Laketown.

During this transition, before we made the big move, I thought I would tap into the rich medical metropolitan resources to see why Sienna was having so much difficulty. Through this time, we received a diagnosis of ADHD and Sensory Integration. After we moved to Ohio, we then got a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum which is probable Asperger's. Our youngest daughter, Sarah is only two now and is also experiencing very similar sensory challenges.

Our lives have changed so much in the past year. One of the million things I have learned through this chapter of our lives is that you cannot predict or control your life, you can only manage how you respond to it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What are Crazy Jugs?

I was raised by a single mother. She was raised by an alcoholic mother. We moved around a lot throughout my childhood. When ever someone asks me, "Where you from?" I always stumble. I used to say, "I moved around a lot as a child."

To which people would then consistently respond, "Oh, was your father in the service?"

I would answer, "No, my mother married and divorced a lot."

As I matured, I realized this was not something to share. It was something to keep privately.

I did move around a lot. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, my parents then moved to Cincinnati when I was two years of age. This is when my father fell in love with a red head friend of his from med school and told my mother he wanted a divorce. My father then moved to live and plant roots with his new love in Saltville, a small town in central Ohio. I now tell people that I am from Saltville even though I only lived there from ages 14 to 17. From the day I was born, I didn't live in a town longer than two years.

Every time we would move, ever since I can remember, my mother has placed the crazy jugs prominently in our apartment. I can barely remember making my own crazy jug with my mom. I must have been about five years old. I do remember wanting to make another one and asking my mom over and over to make another crazy jug with me. To this day, I have a stash of small items that I collect hoping to make another crazy jug. Small mementos, like political campaign buttons, little favorite toys or anything that might resemble some sort of a pop icon or special memory. They are then stuck on a sort of caulking substance that is spread all over a wine bottle. To me, they mean a lot. I have examined them even meditating on them for decades.

To an innocent person, they may look like junk. Trash that was smeared on an empty wine bottle. As I continue to mature, I realize that these crazy jugs symbolize three generations of women struggling to find fulfillment and survival. Through the struggles of a variety of mental illnesses and both personal and interpersonal conflict, these crazy jugs prove to withstand time and change even though the actual bodies and minds of the women who created them do not.

Life's a Beach

At the beach on Thursday, Sienna was enraged because her toddler sister, Sarah was getting all the attention from the family and me. Sienna went to grab an adult sized raft that Sarah, looking as cute as a spring bunny, was relaxing on. I saw the vengeance in Sienna's eyes and before she grabbed the mattress out from under her little sister, I stopped her and quietly told her if she didn't get control of her anger, she would have to sit on the blanket in a time out. She screamed or groaned or did something inappropriate, I actually forget some of the details because my adrenaline kicked in.

After I ushered her over the our blanket, I told her to sit down until she could get control. Like a hurricane, she growled, kicking sand, fluffing our blanket while sand blazed everywhere. We had friends and family sitting around with babies who were getting sandblasted. I tried to ignore her until I realized this, I walked up to her and told her we would have to go to leave and sit in the van until she got a grip. I had to toss her long body, arms and legs flailing over my shoulder and carry her up the van. Subtlety was no longer an option.

Sienna kicked and screamed in the van. She put a whole new spin on 'if the van is a rockin', don't come knockin'!"

Five minutes passed, it seemed like five hours to me. She was animalistic. I had to spank her bottom, just to send a shock to her system and for her to get into reality mode. After that, she kept saying repeatedly, "I'm bad. I need to be in jail..." while slapping her face and punching her head. Something that my therapist told me was typical with spectrum disorders. (When he told me this at our recent appointment a couple of days ago, I got teary-eyed. I am still in denial over having girls on the spectrum - I can convince others that they have it but not myself- still!!! I guess I am still hopeful.)

We then walked back to the beach. Friends and family offered condolences as if they just witnessed tragedy. Every encounter was as awkward as hearing conversations in a funeral home. I was consumed with embarrassment. As if the energy burned on being a good mom dealing with a child's tantrum wasn't enough, I had to expend extra energy worrying what everyone thought of me, hoping they'd still be my friend. I stewed on people's "friendly" suggestions on how I might have handled it better.

I wish I could start charging admission for the public entertainment, or at least have someone produce our lives in a reality TV program. I could use the money to pay for my therapy! My current issue I am struggling with is that I am trying to not let other's opinion ruin my life. I try to hard to impress others and when I have two kids on the spectrum while being new in a small town, I have to just let that go. How? I still don't know. I am a work in progress. I am sad that I had to let my career and all of the dreams surrounding a successful career go along my life in Chicago and now, my reputation in a new small town. I focus on stress management and continue to grieve it all.

God continues to mold me. Ouch.