Memo Box

In the dark ages of communication devices, before everyone and their monkey had a cell phone that can julienne potatoes for fries, existed a little fob aptly named “Personal Recorder”.

The portable design attached to any lanyard or key ring. It was small, simple and perfect for facilitating early communication with my autistic son.

How clever we were! Record three or so phrases that could be accessed by our son on his personal recording device, he could then play the recording of his choosing, we would now understand what he wanted with WORDS (albeit recorded, but they were words) and in turn, we would immediately execute his request.

Day 1 starting with these phrases:

Can I have a drink of water?
I love you.
Take me to McDonalds.

Results:

Can I have a drink of water? ​2 requests
I love you. 1 request (thumb on the wrong button trying to find the McDonalds)
Take me to McDonalds. – 13 trips to the drive thru over the course of 5 hours

Day 1 ending with these phrases:

I prefer juice
I love you Mom & Dad
I hate McDonalds.

No words, but yet, our son proved beyond any shadow of doubt, he possessed the holy grail of all skills – the ability to manipulate his parents. After his afternoon nap, he was ready to get back to the van to go to the mighty, mighty McDonalds. So, when he looked us in the eyes, getting the recorder ready and pointed to shoot.

Imagine how utterly thrilling it was to watch our boys face break from a little confused, to full understanding concluding with an eruption of joyful laughter! He absolutely understood why we changed the messages, understood the humor and just glowed with delight.

That was one of the first days that started the string of better days to come….. ~ Wendy Frye

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Bananas

There are three well known methods to choose from to clean your home’s carpets. I will list them here in no particular order of effectiveness or affordability:

• Carpet Cleaner, applied and removed by a big vacuum cleaner type device
• Dry powder sprinkled, maybe rubbed in and again, vacuumed
• Or, the use of an external steamer to soften debris with warm or hot water plus extraction

I’m sure there are more methods that require complicated machines coupled with even more uber expensive products. But wait! Let me share with you a big inside secret about how fabulously clean your carpets can be after a double application administered over a couple of hours with THE BODY SHOP’S BANANA SHAMPOO!

Long ago, in a shopping mall downtown, I had the good fortune to step into one of my favorite stores, The Body Shop. I was uninterrupted and unaccompanied for 5 soulful minutes. Even BETTER, I was able to locate a gentle, wonderful smelling natural shampoo that was potentially enticing enough to keep my son with sensory issues in the tub for more than 3 fleeting seconds. “Yes!” And for all that is good and holy that child was going to get a thorough cleaning or we were all going to drown trying.

OMG! Imagine the smell of sweet, ripe bananas – the kind of banana that makes the best of all sweet breads that even cleans your hair! You got it, The Body Shop’s Banana Shampoo.

What a wonderful bath-time! My husband jumped in the shower with both boys and they got cleaned up and smelled wonderful. It was absolutely heartwarming – and one of the more idyllic (typical) family times we’d had in a while.

A short time later… boys in their jammies, tucked in, protected by stuffed animals all around, the happy couple go back downstairs to enjoy a TV show, maybe even a cup of tea before turning in for the night. It was absolute Heaven at the end of another long, crazy day.

Kerthunk! Perfect. One or both of the kids are up running around upstairs now. “Wow, I can still smell that shampoo.” My husband says. “Okay, let’s go – double team, double time and haul them back to bed.”

Creeping up to first floor landing, we could tell something was up as the sweet ‘nana smell intensified in perfect tandem with the (deviant) giggles coming from behind the master bedroom door.

(Sucking in breath) “Oh, CRAP!” “BOYS!!, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!” (Laughter ensued – full on, side-ripping, pajama peeing laughter)

There, all over my bedroom carpet, was The Body Shop’s Banana Shampoo. Spread with the precision of a cement mason, whipped up like egg white meringue laid at least one half bottle of the shampoo that changed the boy’s bath time forever. WHAT BIG FUN! …if you are less than 3 feet tall, naked and taking running leaps, belly down, skidding across the room.

Team Father: Arrrgh! Rinse the kids, new pajamas, no story-time, stuffed animals kicked under the bed, “gotobed, gotobed, gotobed!”.

Team Mother: Rinse the carpet as best as possible, throw open the windows and air out the banana smell, sling the extractor, work like the devil to keep from overfilling the cleaner, return with bubbles, slip on the bathroom floor, yell at the kids “GOTOBED, GOTOBED, GOTOBED!”, throw all wet clothes in the washer, mop the laundry room floor after the washer explods in bubbles……whew!

Kerthunk!

The instructions on the shampoo bottle were pretty clear. Lather, rinse, repeat. My children read that and took it literally. Brilliant little darlings.

“GOTOBED!” ~ Wendy Frye

Sunday Shimmy

Sunday mornings are the best. Waking slowly, cuddling up with the puppies, drinking a strong cup of freshly brewed coffee (the first sips are always the best!) and taking time to talk to each other.

Our youngest son is, inquisitive, sharp, funny and sturdy souled. The Sunday Morning Takeover starts the precise moment he enters the den to dominate the paper. He then carrys on to narrate the morning conversation topics. He is the self appointed, epic champion of all knowledge in our family. Usually, my husband and I have to defend our opinion (on everything!) and answer to “Why?” about 8 billion times before satisfying his deep curiosity.

Our oldest son cares only to look at the Best Buy and Hastings ads, check out up his favorite comics, and then move downstairs to play music. This manuver is expertly orchastrated and happens very rapidly.

This Sunday It was just me and the husband on deck. We were chatting away when I found a page advertising a screaming deal for a outdoor greenhouse. It would be perfect in the garden. You see, I was one woman who desperately needed a hobby. D.E.S.P.E.R.A.T.E.L.Y! Anything to deviate from the routine of working, cleaning, laundry, working, cleaning, laundry, working, cleaning, and laundry and drinking a little wine.

A garden. A simple raised bed garden. Awesome!

Two years ago we started with a couple of raised beds. It was a nightmare trying to keep our beloved Bichon Frise from taking every opportunity to jump in and dig like she was possessed with the devil himself. The look of sheer satisfaction for poor behavior shining on her dirty face was the motivation to build the fence.

Our simple garden has grown exponentially. 8 beds in all, oh ya – it’s now colossal in size and productivity (never go halfway) as well as a hobby for us all. Spying the ad, I thought I’d share my thoughts with the husband. Yes, a greenhouse would be an excellent addition to the garden this year!

In reply, my husband gets up for a kleenex, turns around to walk back and says to me, “Why don’t you shimmy on down to the store during your lunch hour next week and cram it in your Prius”. He then proceeds to dance the dance of the ground-hog from that golfing movie. A little hip gyrations and giggle to boot.

I reply. Number one. Shimmy belongs on the dance floor. We (as a couple) have not treaded a dance floor since before we had the children. Our couple dance is a lot like a lumberjack jumping after dropping the butt of an axe on his boot. It’s not pretty and certainly something that does not need to be described with any additional details. Number 2. Where did that smart ass remark come from? Number 3. I can tell you where, from the warped brain of a man who has used humor to dispel the sheer terror of losing control of his life.

Humor is great medicine. So is talking like pirates. Sometimes my husband does both with the boys. Gotta love it.

Well, by the end of the morning The Lumberjack landed a date with destiny to shimmy himself down to the store over the weekend, pick up the greenhouse and assemble it. Maybe he will let the dog in the garden area to attempt a frantic dig in the frozen dirt….

~ Wendy Frye

The Turning Point….

To remember the actual calendar date, you know, the chronological order of things printed out on pretty paper that records the events of our lives? Couldn’t and wouldn’t happen during what we call “The Lost Decade”.

So busy, so intense, (on any given day) that if my husband or I was hungry, we’d maybe pour a bowl of cereal. Typical enough, right? Well, how it worked in our house was that perhaps three days later we would again notice the bowl of cereal on the counter, exactly where we placed it, still full and uneaten. “Hey, I was hungry!” String a few of these days together, you create weeks, weeks create months and the months form years. Crazy. Hectic. Stressful. Ours.

I awoke, one exceptionally beautiful, bright morning, at 7:00 a.m. It was right after hearing the local steel plant whistle signaling the beginning of another workday. I drew in a sharp, deep breath and cried. I finally cried. I cried with the deepest sense of relief a soul can draw from. I took this breath straight from the bottom of the well of feelings we humans been given – straight from the maker of us all. I wept from the joyous realization that we, and by “we” I mean my family of four, turned the corner.

This day was one singular day when a sense of dire panic wasn’t buried in a headache behind the eyes. Tension you say? Like no other on earth. When the muscles between your shoulder blades fuse into one mass, so much tension your neck doesn’t exactly swivel like the young guys on the beach when a beautiful girl walks past. Nope, it’s past useless to pray for a good nights sleep and I stopped praying long before the night that led to this wonderful morning.

The blessed night before this wonderful morning when bittersweet Morpheus drew me down, down, and further down to the core of the place where a new beginning dwelt. A vivid dream starting from the bottom of the earth, under miles of dirt and debris, black with the void.

Early on in this dream, I was moving up, slowly. So very slowly, I was allowed to observe each earthen layer. It was as if I was being projected from the very middle of our earth all mortals call home – but it was different, personal, and not collective recollection.

Each layer represented every insult, expensive procedure, “fantasy of recovery”, damage and destruction inflicted, pain, and perjury that was dealt to our oldest son, we took it on as a family. It was the very essence of these “things” I was being projected through.

With understanding came increased speed – and seemingly in seconds – impossible speed – to suddenly break through the crust and land on the soiled surface we walk upon each and every day. I had arrived at this sight in my minds eye, this glorious sight, the very vision that instantly filled my lungs with the breath to cry in deep and utter relief.

On the surface, what did I see? Indescribable turquoise skies sitting on top of white washed, clay houses. I knew there had been a war in this village. A long battle involving egos, apathy and confusion. Foundations were cracked, walls had holes, rubble filled the streets. There was to be a rebuilding process. I was filled with HOPE – enough hope to begin forming a launchpad for the astronaut we’ve managed to juggle all the years during “The Lost Decade.”

“Within the neuronal valley of our souls dwells hope. Believing in hope is the catalyst for change. And it is true, just like the Beatles song, All You Need is Love.” ~Wendy Frye