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          I’ve been a full blown “Autism Mom” now for almost a full 18 years.  My now adult son was diagnosed at the age of 3 1/2 years old.  Most days are okay and some pretty good.  Other days, after working at one of my three jobs, including managing his small business, I want to fall to the floor in a heap. But once in a blue moon, we have a really bad day where I just want to get in my car, wrapped up in a big blanket and simply cry it out.  

As a family, we keep it simple.  We keep a general routine that revolves around my eldest sons schedule.  He gets up at the same time every morning around 4:30 am. He has the same shower time each day, and does all the family laundry (except folding) every morning before we get out of bed.  Daily he monitors his stash of personal care products and pantry items – frequently bellowing out loud when hes low on something or needs more “backups”.  Me? I’m either off to the store to fetch toothpaste and ramen noodles, folding the laundry thats piled up on my bedroom floor or updating his website.  At the end of the day, like clockwork, he heads upstairs and goes to sleep. Sexy life, right?

One random afternoon a few months ago, with my son in the basement, and his pizza in the oven….the power went out for no particular reason.  “HEY!”  “WHAT THE (very bad word) IS HAPPENING!”  he roars from the basement.  “The electricity went out, maybe a car hit a pole somewhere nearby.” I replied. Well, that was logial enough…..or at least I thought so.  Barrelling like a rhino upstairs, tripping in the dark on the wooden stairs and stubbing his toes…he was going to lose it.  It was base – his panic.  Fight or flight instincts taking complete control of of our household INSTANTLY.

When a 6′ 5″ 280 pound man goes sideways into a full-on autism induced raging meltdown, it gets real, quick.  Unfortunately, he is food insecure and his unbaked pizza was just put in the oven.  His panic was overflowing demonstrated by swear words, throwing things, banning me from going out to pick him up hamburgers.  It was NUTS!  He was convinced that he was going to starve, it was the end of the world and all his art work files on his computer were GONE!  Thank all that is good and holy that the lights came back up 29 minutes 32 seconds later.  The shock waves began to ebb…..and our version of normalcy ultimately returned…I think.

A  letter came in the mail a few weeks later that was not welcomed news.  Our power company was planning to replace our meter.  It went onto explain that a crew will be by sometime within a 4 week time frame, shut off the power and they will be finished in about 10 minutes.  Oh. Hell. No. Not at our house, thank you very much! A quick phonecall, explained the situation, appointment set, calendared with enough time to prepare my son.  He took it in, and agreed we neded to leave for lunch that day.  Problem averted – dodged that bullet.

They say you manifest your own reality.  I don’t know who was thinking about the possibility of the power going out more, me, my son or our dogs.  “Someone has been over thinking the power going out!” I remarked out loud while watching the morning weather reort on the news a couple of weeks ago.  A storm was coming. A massive windstorm with sustained hurricaine force winds.  “WHAT. DID. HE. SAY?” My oldest cried out, from the basement (he has the hearing of a bat!).  This is not really happening.  We live in the Pacific Northwest and are typically not used to weather events like this.  It had to be the overzelousness of our local weather reporters….we are used to panic attack reporting.  You know, snow storm warnings that amount to a dusting.  Thunderstorms yielding a single strike – that kind of thing.

Preparing for the worst we bought a dozen flaslights, stocked up on shelf stable foods our sons will eat, gathered candles, explained the situation and possible ramifications then knocked our oldest out with Melatonin for the evening.  It worked and he seemed fine.  The winds came.  It was a doozy, the lights flickering hinted the stress on the system – the news was reporting the storm of the century.  Overnight over 800 trees snapped taking out the electricity to over 175,000 homes in our city.  We were lucky, we lost fencing and some of our roof.  But we never lost power.  Thank God above!

The insurance company sent me to the Crisis Center when I called in our claim.  Keeping in perspective that we needed to be patient – our adjuster came out today –  a full two weeks later. A model of efficiency he was.  Roofer in tow, my younger son and husband fetched out spare shingles from our storage area that had been waiting 20 years to see the light of day.  Received a healthy check on the spot for a new roof and fence, chatted about his travels and the damage he has assessed and counted ourselves doubly lucky.

Ironically, my younger son found something in storage deep beneth the  stairs.  A treasure!  My very favorite down coat.  Vintage now, a 30 year old Pacific Trail, baby blue and still beauriful.  I was estatic!  Washed up, fluffy and ready to go when I actually need to go get in my car and cry it out. As a veteran autism mom I AM ALL about being prepared.

~ Wendy Frye

“The greatest weapon against stress is having the ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James


  
    
  

 
  

Washed

It all started innocently enough. I found my adult son, who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum many years ago, in the laundry room. Not a typical destination for him, so I asked him what he was doing. “Laundry, what else!” he bellowed back. Well then, doing his laundry. Nice. What??????

Mystified, I phoned his father, my husband, and co-pilot in this life with autism. He too, mystified. Had to be just an isolated incident, we agreed. Random laundry washing, nothing to see here – moving along. Even though I wanted to make it a “teachable moment”, you know, give instructions on sorting, folding an putting away – decided not too. Didn’t want to scare him or give away ulterior motives. ‘Cause if he sensed I was giving him too many directives, I get the full “mule” effect.

A few days later, I realized that a pile of laundry to fold and put away was growing in my bedroom. Now, that’s not out of the ordinary. What was, however, my husband had not been responsible. Upon asking, he rolled his eyes and told me that the last time he was loading the washer our son thundered in and warned him “DO NOT WASTE ALL THE LAUNDRY SOAP!”

Big brother then stormed up to his younger brothers room and announced, loudly, very, very loudly, that his little brother ‘IS A COMPLETE SLOB!” adding “JUST LOOK AT ALL THIS LAUNDRY!”. Younger brother, stunned, had to beg big brother to leave it for him to do.

No such luck. Today I came home from work and every available piece of clothing, all the towels, bedding items and couch blankets are clean – and in a pile, on my bedroom floor. Thankfully I arrived home armed. I invested in the big bottle of laundry soap for the “Laundry Nazi”. He was so excited – cause it has the fabric softener included. Yes son, I suspected that would please you.

“Now, lets discuss folding tecniques….” ‘WHAT! WHY?!?!?!”

It’s gonna be a long lesson.

~Wendy Frye

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Redefined

In a home cloaked in Autism, many common words and their definition blur. When a simple noun, like iron, most likely a supplement to treat anemia, or the invention used to smooth wrinkles out of clothing at a certain temprature……transmutes into something far else. Say, the device that teeters precariously above the washing machine, next to the laundry soap…..that eventually will clonk onto an unsuspecting passer-by at any random moment.

Listed here, for your enjoyment, are some refined meanings of the words used in our humble, socially- awkward home:

Excessive: The need for our two Bichon Frise dogs to go in and out of the back door 12 times all while typing this short blog. And, might I mention, never in tandem.

Strange: The need for my now adult son on the Spectrum to play synthesized Christmas music (no words, only synthe) in March….at 9 in the morning.

Bizarre: Those families who make and eat one meal – without alterations – together.

Travel: All together as a family, never happening, who will take care of the dogs?

Camping: See Travel.

Simple: My husband who seems to over-enjoy poorly executed zombie movies…..all the time.

Medication: Supplements, and only supplements.

Painful: The moment you realize there are no clean towels in the house even though you have completed 10 loads of laundry.

Clean: My sons, considering the number of showers and baths they take daily.

Restaurant: That place just out of reach where each of our family members can order something they will actually put in their mouth and chew at the same time and at the same table.

Dinner: Sometimes, a glass of wine.

Dinner: Three separate meals, executed by the chef most competent to complete the task as designated by the crowd.

Dinner: Made by the person who only wants a glass of wine.

Dinner: Impossible.

(Excuse me, I have to let one of the dogs out.)

Mystery: Whenever the author of this blog needs to use one of the number of tech tools supposedly located in our home – it will invariably be out of ink, out of order or will have simply vanished.

McDonalds: Where the devil lives.

Port Wine Cheese Ball: A food group.

Hole: A design feature on all my socks.

Closet: Where all my cute clothes went to die.

Ear Buds: The ones to my iPod. Vanished.

Newspaper: Dirty paper left on the living room floor during the morning conquest for coffee, yogurt and a Cliff Bar.

iPad: Specifically my iPad. An amazing device that must be surrendered promptly when my youngest son comes home from high school.

Money: More dirty paper NOT found on the living room floor.

Girls: The dogs who now want back in the house.

Green Food: According to some around here to be considered poisonous.

Genetic: An inability to do the dishes, a paternal contribution to the puzzle.

Lightbulb: Stolen globe that emits light taken upstairs to light up the lamp in the youngest sons room, again. (Never mind the supply that is located in the laundry room, next to the iron.)

Prius: The silent stalker that, alternatitively, sounds like a sewing machine going uphill – that replaced my Jaguar.

Handsome: A manly look that is gauged by how much cologne is worn.

And lastly,

My Life: Worth it.

~ Wendy Frye

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” ~ Harvey Fierstein

Religiousless

My youngest son, a devout wise-ass, knows all and speaks detail brilliantly. No wonder his advanced placement history teacher asked him to participate in the high school “Knowledge Bowl”. He’s the history ringer.

He’s self motivated and has studied the minutiae of any and all subjects that strike his fancy. Never a conformist and always the quickest wit in the room. Just another mountain of understanding for his Autism Parents to climb. His older brother by two years diagnosed so many years ago…..

Must have been a whim, dressing up the morning of Halloween, quietly with only himself for company that morning. He gives himself about 20 minutes to prepare for the day: eating a bite of breakfast, cruising the paper for details, checking the weather report and grabbing his 200 pound backpack for the morning bike ride.

The morning text from my young genius son: Mom, need lunch money and can you bring my belt too? I dressed up as a Mormon Missionary and forgot it. My reply: What?!? No, really? You DID NOT!

At least 45% of his jumbo sized high school is LDS, aka Latter Day Saints, or Mormon if you like. So, his costume choice, a Missionary no less, could possibly render him expelled by the end of the day. But no, according the my son he was well received. Upon arriving to his zero hour class, overseen by the drama teacher, he was recognized. “You need a nametag.” spouted his observer – who himself was dressed as a Catholic Cardinal. Black duct tape on his left breast, Book of Mormon under his right arm , white shirt and black tie….only piece missing was the side part in his uncooperative hairline.

He struck many a pose for pictures that day, for Facebook no doubt. The LDS kids laughed with him, told him he looked great and asked him to join in Seminary sometime. He relayed a few family nuggets of Mormon lineage that “blew their minds”. After all they are his friends. By nature he is not judgmental, and with his unfeigned sincerity he trumped any possible insult to half the school populous.

I managed the lunch money and purposefully forgot the belt. Upon his arrival home, I just HAD to let him know, that even though his odds of being beat up were pretty slim, he now has 1200 classmates praying for his immortal soul. Him? Speechless.

God love you son. ~ Wendy

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Saint Augustine

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Turbo

Tonight, a “Super” Full Moon will be visible in the evening sky – its closest pass to earth this year.  With the illumination of the full moon follows pop legends, superstitions and lore.  Hospital Emergency Rooms fill with mothers about to deliver their babies. Tides grow high.  Humans (and non-humans) have long remarked of bizarre and mysterious behaviors during this time.  In fact, the term Lunacy is literally taken from ” Lunar “, meaning moon!  

With Autism in the home, the full moon effect goes on steroids. A fiery combination of the unpredictible nature of both the lunar pull and a linear thought process.  Urban legends are growing around this phenom.  Frantic to fantastic – suffice to say there is just something peculiar around this monthly event.

Ug.

As the very moon rose up this morning, the favorite PC terminal of our ASD son, has served up it’s last You-tube video.  While he won’t exactly tell us just WHAT he was looking up, it obviously was of questionable genre (and his refrain is a choice!).  “But yes, son.  That blue screen is not good.”

The outdated gaming tower was old and trusty for him.  Purchased so long ago – it really was a trainer computer.  Since about the age of 5 he’s nimbly surfed the web, adjusting the parental controls to his liking.  Today, on the eve of moon rise, he’s gone into complete mourning – wearing the black standard for a heightened effect.

So now its finally time.  In the office, where the PC lays in wake, sitting right behind is the real beauty in the room.  His very own Mac, you know, the big screened goddess of technological mayhem. A decadent but well deserved graduation gift to himself – a system he can use to create his own brand of digital art.  He’s only broken out the animation pad a heavy handful of times….continuing to maintain his long term relationship with the clunky PC. 

“I KILLED IT!”  he exclaimed.  “It had a soft landing, don’t get worked up.” his Dad replies.  “What do you mean “SOFT LANDING” DAD?, I didn’t THROW IT!!!” (Oh shit, this is going to get litteral now…..)

I called home from work and talked to him.  The sadness dripping from his voice.  “I killed it, Mom.”  “Don’t worry, you didn’t kill it.  It was old.  It was it’s time.”  “Besides, you can use your Mac now.”

“Mom?” – he asked. “Ya, I’m here.”  “Uh, the dog pooped in the house and the ice maker broke.  Jon broke the window with a GOLF ball and Dad got angry. When you coming home?”

(All this before 10:30 in the morning.)

“How about tomorrow?” I laughed.  “WHAT!!!” he screeched.

…..snicker….. ~ Wendy Frye

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”  ~ e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

Thrice

Why choose to go on and on and on when three little words will do?

Such as:

* I Thank You
* I Trust You
* I Believe You
* I Understand You
* I Forgive You
* Please Forgive Me
* I Am Sorry
* You Are Right
* I Am Wrong
* Let Me Help
* Count On Me
* Go For It
* Good For You
* You Did It
* Proud of You
* I Love You
* Pray For Me
* God Bless You

Consider the power in each statement, visualize the bridge that will be built, the rift repaired, or a sentimental moment that will be an all life memory in the making. All in just three little words. Come on, just give it a whirl!

“All My Best!” ~ Wendy Frye

Fertile

I conceptualize the new year cycle that starts today. Today, I condition the seeds for planting in my garden. The very miracle of life from the God given spark within the tiny, miraculous encapsulation that simply assures succession of its species. A preconceived cycle of life, nourishing my family, making my time spent a higher quality – as only hard work will do.

The calendar mocks January. Snow on the ground. Cold wind in the air. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States the seasons are as vibrant as any seasonal calendar picture for purchase in December. But oh man, my palms itch to move enriched soil around my garden patch, to smell the fragrance of spring, and anticipate the fruits from the earth.

My kitchen table is being taken over by little seed pots, secured with plastic covers. The smell of the outdoors is a lovely fragrance permeating our home. Each little sprout promises loving, complete nutrition spiced by sustainable hope that only the first season of the year can whisper.

Delicious anticipation strengthens the project. The time it takes from seed to plant to harvest to preservation extends the pleasure. The wonderment knowing the most high lends a hand to this miraculous process. Delightfully complete fulfillment – all in a garden.

“My garden is my church.” ~ Wendy Frye

“I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.” ~ Phyllis Theroux

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The Trip

My Aunt called me. It had been 20 years. She called me and we spoke for a couple of hours, plus. A beautiful conversation, the kind that defined family – A family in which I dream to know. Visiting them, one time, a long, long time ago….in wilds of Oregon where they owned property. I ate their apple pancakes and played in the treehouse amongst the frogs and toads…..

My dreams, the simple dreams of a new Mother, verified by our “life architect” for a Father. A Mother with two sons, one being healthy and viable to todays standards, another diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. Are these typical dreams? No such thing. So sorry, not today. Now, or well….ever. With only 50 percent of our children enjoying good health, please, don’t be surprised.

In the day when we received a diagnosis, the old studies on Autism correlated engineering genius with late talking children. My eldest dutifully verifies this “research”. His grandmother a scientist, grandfather previously an engineer with the Boeing Corporation, plus multiple bonus points for his great-uncle, the true born renown rocket-scientist who worked with, and for NASA.

After our eldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, moderately affected, normal “dreams” and “typical” rules were ditched. We were now carving out a NEW normal for our family and emerging adult son on the spectrum, that includes all other families in the same circumstances.

Henceforth “The Astronaut Analogy” aka my son, James Frye, diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum so many years ago.

Check out this video on YouTube:

~ Wendy Frye

“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…”
― David Bowie

Stan

For over 15 years we’ve lived in the same house we bought new while we were waiting to deliver our youngest son to this world and our family. A brand new house, with a new baby, and our then older son, just a toddler – who was sinking farther and farther into Autism as the days went by.

We’ve done a lot of living in this house, and it shows. The floors are worn, the tiles cracked, the carpet threadbare – every room needs a facelift or overhaul. Daily living is exhausting enough with a busy family of four. Add in Autism along with the special diets, therapies, processes and procedures thats not covered by insurance…….not a lot left over for interior design.

Our neighborhood is one of “those’ neighborhoods – and while I rebel a bit by planting enough poppies along our fence line to invoke a little Afghanistan along the street, we love it here.

Stan is the original real estate agent who listed the homes in our ‘hood from the very beginning. Being an astute professional, he keeps in contact by letter or postcard a few times a year. These tips and news are usually market driven – and a pleasant reminder that he’s still alive and so if you have real estate needs, give him a call.

The last letter from Stan is different.

Stan baldly discusses the poor economic news, flat market and the need to remember conventional wisdom of home values rising – may be a matter of the absence of falling prices. This is not the usual Stan letter, no….not at all – but I was at attention. He delivered a personal punch in the gut, if you will. Yes, your crappy house is falling prey to the economy, but guess what – you aren’t special. Everyone is in the pool. What can we do? Not a lot really but tread water, together.

This is not your typical salesmanship by any means.

So, here’s Stan’s advice – direct from his letter…..that has me thinking, what can I give up?

“Now let me change gears and list 15 things to give up this summer, if you and I want to be happier.

1. Give up on your need to always get the last word
2. Give up playing the blame game
3. Give up your need to be in control
4. Give up your need to always be right
5. Give up complaining
6. Give up criticism
7. Give up your need to impress others
8. Give up your resistance to change
9. Give up your labels
10. Give up your fears
11. Give up your excuses
12. Give up your past
13. Give up living YOUR life to OTHERS expectations
14. Give up self defeating self-talk
15. Give up your limiting beliefs

“Easier said than done, but with so much gloom and doom around us, will you join me in making decisions to give up some, if not all on this list, and be happy? Not only will you see a big difference, but the ripple effects will bless those close to you.”

“Good luck with this,
Signed ~ Stan”

Timely advice, provided by an unlikely source. Myself, I will give up criticism, and accept my house for what it is, our home. A home full of love, compassion and understanding. Our families home.

Thank you, Stan. ~ Wendy Frye

“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” ~ George Saville

One Percent

When two people meet, date, fall in love and decide to move forward and get married – the union automatically has a 50% chance of dissolving before the end of the first five years. When you have a child with a disability, especially one like Autism, the odds are a whopping 99% that the marriage is doomed to be an epic failure. I believe that the amount of time taken from the core relationship while caring for a sick child, that leaves one of the two without time or attention – ultimately the whole thing just sputters and spins down the loo.

Eighteen years ago, my husband and I were the newest of the newest parents on the block. Our baby boy was five years in the making – complete with surgery, fertility processes and procedures with only a sliver of time to conceive – WOW, we had won that lottery, didn’t we babe? Netting a ten pound, four ounce baby boy – and he was beautiful!

We lived in a tiny little house on a hill in our city – and it was the middle of January. The snow had abated, our little family needed to leave the cabin for a bit of time in the wilds or someone was going to be sacrificed. And it wasn’t going to be the baby or cats. So we concocted a plan. It was a good plan, and we weren’t ready for anything specifically, just everything that might happen “out there”.

Anyone with young babies or smallish children in their life can agree that the sheer amount of GEAR required for such a speck of a person is, well, honestly absurd. But we did what most new parents do – hauled every gift, item or article perceived to be necessary anticipating any circumstance we might encounter “out there”. This was our first outing as a new family and we were going to the “mall” like other families to use that pram and/or the kangaroo sack baby holder thingy, and it was going to be FUN dammit!

Tension notching a little higher after changing our boys diaper two more times before leaving. Not just a wet diaper but a blow out – a change complete with new clothes. Good thing we had enough newborn outfits for a third world country all washed and organized neatly in the dresser drawers ready to go.

Our two door 4 x 4 was loaded and I actually managed to crawl into the backseat to sit next to our new baby boy. We buckled him in, strapped his seat down, piled blankets on him and both secretly wished the other would call off the expedition. No such luck. It was my piece to watch out, bark driving instructions, all while belying my own anxiety making me the WORST backseat driver in the world. My husband, not too kindly, told me to RELAX or he was going to have a heart attack and careen off the road – OMG not what I wanted to hear! I was shutting up now – yep….shutting the hell up so my husband, the father of my son, could drive to the mall without incident. LLLLONNNNNGGGGEEEEESSSSSTTTT ride, ever.

I watched our boy next to him in the backseat, anticipating the reality of his first outing. Sporting a cute little bear outfit, camera in hand – we were almost there. Timing is everything with a newborn, breastfeeding done within the last half hour, diapers changed (repeatedly) – the sleepy little guy should last a couple of hours before he needed anything, right? A couple of hours out of the house, long enough to call it an official day out, right?

Wrong. Oh, so very VERY wrong.

We made it all the way to the parking lot of the mall, but needed to change diapers again. (Seriously?) Another blow out – complete with new clothes…the whole shebang. And me? It was time to calm down (it was cold out there changing diapers!) and exit the vehicle. My husband had the pram ready to go……

A nursing mother hydrates, a lot. A new nursing mother who gained more weight than her doctor felt was reasonable, is re-learning her own parameters. We had a two door 4 wheel drive vehicle – and I was in the back. Our son was already placed in the pram. I had that STUPID kangaroo sack thingy around my neck. It tangled on the seat base and I was dragged back into the vehicle without the thrust available to me to launch out of the car. Boy, I had hydrated admirably that morning, the morning we were going to have our first family outing. While my husband and I shared uncontrollable laughter together, in and about my condition while wedged in the back of the car, I ultimately managed to pee my pants…….

What a day, one day in the many that have come since, dealing with Autism, trying to keep our unconquerable souls well fed with laughter and humor that abounds from such bizarre and absurd circumstances.

Happy Anniversary to my Husband! We are the other 1%, aren’t we? The 1% that make it to another side while raising two beautiful children – one with his heroic traits and genius appetite for knowledge, and the other an astronaut we’ve managed to juggle all these years. Happy First Anniversary on the other side of Autism, my dearest husband.

~ Wendy Frye

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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