2.21.2011

Home Movies

Home movies on the tv. Seems like such a fun experience, bringing back moments in time, remembering our kids as babies, special times shared with those we love. It's an experience to watch these videos, thinking how much has changed since that long past day.

For me, though, home movies are not a piece of magic. I watch those long ago moments and wonder where I went wrong, what more I could have done. When I see my husband and son walking together down a wooded path holding hands, my little boy lughing and smiling and playing and jumping as little boys are supposed to do, it tugs at my heart in a way that nothing else can. It becomes an ache that claws away until inevitably tears begin to fall and I feel failure with a capital F creeping into my every bone. What happened to make those magical moments disappear? How did we go from loving, easy-going family to the point we have now reached?

Yesterday, oma and opa came for a visit. It wasn't a visit that turned out the way we always hope they will. Kaeden ended up throwing a tantrum, to a degree they have yet not seen. The extent of damage one mound of anger and disharmony creates is something that can't be turned around. It stands the test of time, in a manner which we'd rather it didn't. Such behaviors, such words and complete uncontrol, are not soon to be forgotten. The tremebling fear holding their littlest grandson in his own fearful tremor takes a piece of your soul and rips it to shreds. Knowing what is happening, seeing it first hand rather than living it through stories, is not something I can take back, no matter how much I wish I could. Nobody should have to be victim to that feeling of helplessness and pain.

We watched home videos. Erwin asked Kaeden to clean up the tools he used to make a mess in the freshly cleaned porch outside. Kaeden didn't want to and left the room in anger...to his bedroom, where we left him to chill out. When he had enough time, I reminded him he wouldn't have dinner until he was done cleaning up. And then it all began. The disrespect, anger, spitting, threatening. And it wasn't quick to stop.

The home movies played on. Scenes of happiness from another time, another place threw laughter out of the speakers, as screams and crying and dirty words flew presently around our home. The laughter and smiles contined to play on. And on and on and on. Soon, nobody was watching. The air in our home was stripped of life-giving oxygen as we all held our breath. Only the happiness from the tv continued to breathe.

My scared little boy, my angry husband, my hopeless self and a non-existant Kaeden swallowed up in his own little world of pain..along with my in-laws, standing by horrified, wanting to intercede, but me stopping the further round of aggression.

Still the home movies played on. Later in the evening, after a sort of settling had taken place in our home, a calm after the storm, but still lingering, this tension, this secret of which nobody wanted to speak, I sat with Kaeden, the home movies still flashing across the screen. He laughed at the little boy he was, the little kid climbing rocks, his beautiful face covered by blonde hair with a plastered on smile, a smile and a sense of complete joy, which never left him. Kaeden laughed, as the boy on the screen before me and the young man next to me, and I cried. The pain of all that is lost, all that has been swallowed by the passing of time. And the home movies continued to play on.

2.18.2011

Vacation with Autism

We always go on vacation at Easter time. The boys have 2 weeks off from sachool, Erwin schedules his week off at the beginning of the year, and we steal away to one place or another hoping for some relaxation and distance from typical life. An escape from reality.

This year, it is no different than other years. We are still planning a week away, the four of us off on new adventures. But there was something that happened which made it a bit different. I found a vacation deal which was *almost* too good to pass up.

Typically, with just a week vacation, we stay close to home. Germany has been a regular stop, Luxembourg, and Holland. Belgium is also entirely possible, of course. We save the big places, the further distances, for summer when the weather is certain and the time longer. We have as yet never been to France on vacation, but it's also just a stone throw away. This year, however, I discovered a trip to Italy. A quick flight from the airport nearby our home. A rental car and little house on the Gardameer lake. All under 500 euro for all 4 of us. Which is considerably more than we usually spend for our week away, but considering it's Italy and flying, it was a totally doable vacation.

Erwin and I discussed it, and both of us were ready to book our vacation. Then, I got this niggling feeling in the back of my head which wouldn't go away, and I started looking for vacations closer to home. Last night, I spoke with Erwin about all the reasons I hadn't yet booked the Italy trip.

Kaeden. Kaeden, Kaeden, and more Kaeden. Our son is just too temperamental. From minute to minute we can never be sure how he reacts to a situation. Traveling he is almost always a star. He is helpful and organised and on his best behavior. He loves going on vacation and exploring and adventure. That may not sound very √°utistic', but for him, it is what it is. Our autistic son loves new experiences.

However, the house I found in Italy which we could afford to make the trip was a one bedroom place. We always book 3 bedroom homes to give us all space to escape, no matter that the cost is higher. Kaeden needs his own space to escape, and we need it as well. If something goes awry, we need a time-out place. One bedroom would not allow us this luxury, this absolute need. And, as I searched further for a larger home, I realized that in Italy, you get what you pay for, and something bigger was not within budget.

A rental car. Yes, we would need a rental car if we were planning to fly and still go off exploring. This is ssuch a simple thing for travellers, renting a vehicle and taking off. But when you have a person with you, for whom riding in a car is his most difficult exercise anywhere, anytime, and often has major bouts of tantrums in a vehicle, a rental car becomes expensive. What if he broke a window hitting it? What if he rippe doff a seat? What if he tore holes in the fabric? What if he caused an accident, god forbid, as he threw himself over the seats? These may all be what if's, and certainly not expected, but all experiences we have shared with him which make us worry when renting a vehicle. The costs we could endure in damages makes us think twice. Especially after our trip to America at Christmas still fresh on our minds when the ride in the rental car became a complete disaster, nearly causing an accident.

Flying. Kaeden loves to fly and is extremely well prepared to do so. He has done much more flying than the typical child his age, and knows all the ins and outs of airports, airplanes, and baggage. However, we don't 'normally' fly on our week long trips. This change in itself could cause him enough stress to throw him out of sync. It's these little things for which he is unprepared that cause him the most fear and impatience and moodiness. He is used to driving to a vacation house and searching out his bedroom and looking where all the dishes are and the pots and pans, and exploring the area around the house. But we don't fly to get there. Would that be enough to send him over the edge?

So, with a too small house, the possible extra costs involved in damages, and the unexpected transportation, I could see in my mind all the scenarios why this trip to Italy may not be a good decision. As much as *I* wanted to go, I also knew that I didn't want to deal with extra fights, extra stress, and extra worries in a time we are suppoosed to enjoy each other and our break from life. The trip to Italy was something I wasn't prepared to do.

This decision has left me feeling a bit sad. Not becuase i am missing out, but because life with autism is so difficult. Simple decisions become a process. Fun things create stress situations which in turn create major tantrums. We are limited in what we can do, yet we don't let the limitations get the best of us. We force Kaeden to deal with them. Are we fair to him in doing so? I think, yes, he must learn to deal with thse situations in order to be prepared for life. I, however, and unwilling to take a good vacation and ruin it in my selfish desire for just a little *more*. I'll be looking for a vacation closer to home, a little vacation house with 3 bedrooms and a quick trip there, and save my Italy dreams for the summer, when time is on our side. And the experiences can extend when Kaeden is visiting family or happy with his friends at school on camp, and we can make that rest and relaxation really meaningful without the stress it causes for our son and our family.

And we'll go away for our week at Easter, and we'll have fun and enjoy each other and explore new areas and have advetures together as a family...and it will be the perfect family vacation. The other perfect vacation can wait for the perfect time, without the undue stress, without it being our ~entire~ family.


2.08.2011

Speaking Of Jari




I'm going to give Jari a little attention here today...he's my kid and I can if I wanna. Plus, he amazes me. He really, truly does. I can't begin to describe this kid. He is like this part of me of which I am so filled with pride. If only he could be a little more outgoing with people. Because that aspect of him bothers me a little. He seems almost rude, when in reality it is shyness that overcomes him. In place of shyness, it seems like he is rude and just doesn't care. When in reality, what he desires is attention and play and fun...with and from those he acts so shy around. But that's another story. For now:

1) Last night Jari and I were snuggled in bed and I had promised him he could watch a movie if we could just do it in the warmth of my cosy bed. He chose Dances With Wolves. I pulled the covers around me and immediately felt his arm wrap around me. "Mama, does that feel good?" he asked. No words could describe just how good it felt, to have my son wrapping me in the comfort of his love. None.

2) So we're watching Dances With Wolves. And there are gunshots and someone dies. And Jari says "he just killed himself. That's called suicide." And I was in shock that my son knew what suicide is. I mean, I guess nothing shocks me, but it caught me by surprise. It is not somehting I have ever discusse with him. So I asked where he learned about it. And we started talking about suicide and how life affects people. And he told me that no matter what, even if his life was filled with bumps, he would never kill himself because life has too much good in it. And that when people commit suicide it makes their family sad. And "I would never want you to be sad, mama."

3) Jari brought home his report card, and asks me to sit with him and go through it. One for one, he reads the subject and his results. We get through math and langauge and spelling and geography. And we come to the page for physical ed. "Mama, this one, you can't wait to hear this! This is the important part!" says my little ahtletic son. ***When I told him I liked to see his phys ed results but cared more about his actual learning subjects, he couldn't believe it!***

4) Jari is an expert in countries. I mean, his interest in lands is unbelievable, and I can bet that of 100 random people, he could beat 98 of them in a geography test. I am not joking. He knows where countries are, what the capitols are, and what their flag is. He knows approximately how many people live in a country (not all, but surprisingly many) and where they fall size-wise in comparison to other countries. We received a world map shower curtain fro Christmas, so now he is also learning this information in English. His favorite game is the Flag game, and nobody can beat him...not his teacher, not his classmates, not his father (who is also very well-schooled in this area). I am blown away by his interest and knowledge in geography. When we play the game together, he is so proud of me when I learn something new. Yesterday at lunch we wer eplaying, and for the first time I recognized the flag El Salvador, and also got the capital, San Salvador. He grinned from ear to ear, saying "Mama, see how much you learn when you play with me!"

These are just a very few of the little things about my boy. He is beautiful, with big blue eyes and hair much too long. He is small for his age but proudly getting bigger all the time. He has a shoe fetish and loves new shoes. He eats tiny amounts 10 times a day, and without fail after dinner he is hungry again after 20 minutes. Warm chocolate milk is incomplete without melty marshmallows and lunchtime without Genie in the House is a disaster. He's my kid, and I just love him to pieces...all of him....except maybe the very big mouth that has been accompanying him everywhere we go lately :-)