Eve

Oh ya, my youngest son, he thinks he’s so clever. Every year on Christmas Eve we open a present together in the morning to get the holidays rolling. Even as a teenager, my youngest son shakes, stalks, snoops and generally regresses into that gorgeous little pain in the ass toddler he once was.

While wrapping presents in my room, he makes 27 “necessary” trips through to the bathroom, in just as many minutes…hoping to get a glimpse of any gift left out. Over the last two weeks he’s been considering just what gift he would open. Upon disclosing his choice, I snickered. He was certain it was a vinyl album. I asked him why he thought that. Well, the dimensions, lack of bounce upon the shake, and the general size of the box certainly gave it away.

This morning, the youngest rolled us all out early to get the preliminary-holiday-one-gift-unwrapping STARTED! We waited for the eldest sons response to his choice ….it was a hit! The Men Without Hats Silver Collection – we’ve all been singing along to the “Safety Dance” – oh come on, you remember their 5 minutes of fame back in the ’80’s don’t you? I don’t know where he gets this stuff.

Now. Comes. The. Moment. He. Has. Prepared. For. All. Month. In one fail swoop the wrap, bows and sides of that box threw up its contents. Wait for it……wait……WOW~! It was a sweater. A nice, sensible sweater in black. Son deflates in northeast corner of home. Parents roar, brother laughs and heads down to serenade us with techno-pop hits no one remembers. Younger son is granted a do-over. Life is good.

Happy Holidays! ~ Wendy Frye

“I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.” ~ Fred Rogers

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Emergence

It was a serendipitous occasion, our son’s graduation day. Unlikely as it was early on in his student career, he qualified to graduate with his intended class of 2012. We had been hoping since pre-school that this day would come. Our oldest son, a bona-fide adult of 18 years of age, graduating and walking with his class – who 14 years prior was given the bleak diagnosis of Autism that dimmed his future to practically black.

The weather was atrocious – heavy black clouds and rain was forecast and being delivered. It was POURING outside. Donning his umbrella, the cap, gown and ceremonial medal – he and the rest of our family piled in the car to drive downtown to the arena. Anyone would be nervous, our son deserved to be too. Every peep, comment, music selection and conversation was monitored. We were to sit down, stay seated, be quiet, turn off the music and basically hold our breath all the way into town.

Today, we complied – it was a big day for the big guy. “We are late!”, “My gown will get wet!”, “What a shitty day!”, “The traffic is jammed!”, “We are still late!”, “Turn off that music!”, “Oh, it’s still raining, what a super SHITTY day!”, “There is no place to park!” And on and on and on it went……………….

Already, by 10:00 a.m., we were exhausted. Silently worrying that he would not be able to cope with the 7,000 people in the audience watching him and his class of 460+ graduates proceed during the ceremony that day. It could take only one air-horn blast and we were certain he would bolt – and so far that morning he couldn’t even cope with his family riding together in the car.

We found birds eye seats looking down on the procession of classmates entering the stage area to shake, pose and accept their diploma covers from the school district administration. “How did he do backstage?” I ask my husband. “Great! He’s nervous, but was following directions.” (Breathe in, breathe out, face forward, it will be fine…).

The day before, the Superintendent’s assistant phoned and asked if there was anything they could do to assist him in the processional. “Just don’t offer a hand to shake; it should save everyone an awkward moment.” Much appreciated advice. And that was all we could offer….no guarantees, just simple advice on how to handle this young man. Advice about how to handle the young man on the Autism Spectrum, who was graduating with the honor of his family and the others who know and love him the most in this world.

We saw our first born turn the curve and enter the staging area. With precision timing, the neighboring family in the stands applauded their son with a lone air horn. “Oh, beautiful, just bloody BEAUTIFUL!” My son turned to look up and locate the origin of the sound, saw us, smiled and moved his next notch forward. Well, okay. That was close. We are still in the game here. “James Frye” the orator announced. Go time! No worries, he simply walked over, took hold of his diploma, offered his hand back to the administrator and accepted his due. Walking down the stairway to his chair, he turned to us in the crowd and gave us a peace sign. While waiting, when he noticed us looking over to him in the chairs, we were awarded more peace signs and air jabs.

We sat through the procession, breathing a little easier, knowing what was coming – we had been warned. The Superintendent announced our son’s name again. This time he was called before the audience to have bestowed upon him the Superintendent’s Award of Achievement for overcoming obstacles and challenges during his school career. The crowd erupted in wild applause complete with foot stomping – what a moment! Making his way back to the stage, removing his cap, he welcomed his gold medal of achievement. No hand shake this time, but turning back to the crowd, victory arms in the air – WOW! What a moment in our life we lived that day. One wholly MAGICAL moment that will carry us into the future – a future anticipating more of the same victories along the way.

The day ended unlike any other we’ve had either….it just got better and better. The rain cleared. Our car wasn’t missing from the tow away zone I parked in. We were welcomed by our favorite table at the family’s favorite pizza joint across from the campus where graduation was held. Grandma and Grandpa found us and were able to join and all together we raised a glass to toast the day. After, we went to the local music store to pick up our graduates gift – a Moog type analog synthesizer. It was in stock – and the store assistant was able to sweeten the deal with extra plug-ins. Lastly, we dropped over to a used record venue, hoping to find some Moog music – and there was an album, sitting on the front rack. “Hello Serendipity, welcome to our life, we’ve been waiting for you!”

~ Wendy Frye

“In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.” Peter McWilliams

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Pokey

Flexibility in any family is critical to the cohesiveness of everyday life. Beyond the usual daily routine such as meals, chores and activities, families will carve out time for special events – and thus begins their own brand of special traditions. Traditions are made and continued by the very rituals and rites orchestrated by the family leaders. Participation is sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not, depending on the family, the depth of passion and the heart of the group.

We didn’t exactly loose our momentum in regards to family traditions. However, after our son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum – we just instinctively developed our own unique group of “rules”, “regulations” and “procedures”. The “rules” form the foundation of structure that defines how our life as a family of 4 plays this game of life.

Take Santa Claus for instance. He’s pretty much innocent of any wrong-doing with most of the “believers” who visit him annually for a picture. You know them, the mass of humanity who descends upon local mall, to pose for one ridiculously expensive Polaroid shot with the big guy in the red suit. But when we attempted a visit and picture for ourselves – modestly taking our son to the local shopping center in the ruthless pursuit of a tradition? Absolute chaos….our first son’s pictures depict one little boy, terrified witless, and one VERY sorry SOB who had the bad fortune of showing up for work that day.

So it begins, the rule making – the official family charter for survival:

Holiday Rule #1:

THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER INTERACTION WITH THE MAN AT THE MALL PRETENDING TO BE SANTA. (EVER!)

Well, what about Halloween you ask? Oh goodness, those first costumes were soooooo cute! Lovingly sewn by hand, Grandma made them with all the love she could pour into the project. She included all the details; logos, fringes and patterns and whipped up the most darling pig and cow outfits for the boys. Harmless little farm critters they were – complete with tails, horns and enamel buttons. What fun it will be to take them “trick or treating”! The reality – those cute little get ups didn’t make it past the front door.

Holiday Rule #2:

DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR ON HALLOWEEN WITHIN THE VISUAL PATHWAY OF THE OLDEST SON TO ANYONE WEARING A MASK, BLACK OR A COMBINATION OF BOTH. (Someone will go down.)

Besides Holiday rules, there are the everyday parameters we must abide by, for our autistic son to be part of the crowd and allows us to move as a group:

• IT CAN TAKE ONLY 10 MINUTES OF BEING OUTSIDE FOR A SWARM OF KILLER BEES TO ATTACK ANYONE, ANYWHERE. (Don’t dally getting out of the car and into the store.)

• IF YOU STORE VODKA IN THE FREEZER YOU ARE AN ACHOLOIC. (Wine and beer are cool, but hard liquor crosses that imaginary line.)

• LILLY WILL POOP. (Don’t feed the dog any snacks after 8:00 am or the little white dog will have an accident and that is unacceptable.)

• HE WILL MISS THE BUS. (The universal pardon for the eldest that accommodates his desire not to lift it off his chair in the morning for any other reason besides leaving the house.)

• CONSERVE THE ICE. (While it is okay for our oldest to enjoy new ice with every drink over the weekend, we are limited to one or two cubes at a time, until they melt. We must be courteous and not exhaust the ice supply on high demand days.)

• NEVER WALK NEXT TO THE RAILING ON THE SECOND FLOOR OR TAKE THE UP ESCALATOR AT THE MALL. (This one is mine, high anxiety set in when the boys were little, and I’m STILL sure someone will take a dive from that un-survivable height.)

• SESAME SEEDS ARE THE DEVIL. (Supposedly an allergy, but actually a sensory issue of our autistic sons – when translated bans all hamburger buns, and the restaurants that serve them, straight to hell.)

Sometimes, looking back, I realize JUST how out of balance my personal flexibility meter truly runs. Take these family rules and regulations, they save our sanity on a daily basis. Seriously, if you just KNEW that breaking one of these little gems would result in a subsequent “incidence” of biblical proportions – would YOU piss around, unnecessarily, instead of just getting out of the car and getting into the store? Really, there is the absolute threat of a killer bee flyby, it is June you know! So you just do it. You get out of the vehicle and walk with purpose to the door. You open the door; step inside the building and sigh with abject relief you survived the journey.

These rules ensure our families survival, out there, in the jungle of life. And with Autism involved, it’s the survival of the fittest. So be like Gumby; flex, stretch, leverage the help of good friends, use your words and most importantly, watch out for the Blockheads……they too are the devil. ~ Wendy Frye

“A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.” ~ Charles Schultz

Lilly

After a year of only one dog, Annie, Daddy’s dog and beautiful girl, we began to wonder if one dog could be so much fun, why not get another? It was only in consideration of Annie and the long, lonely days she spent waiting for us to get home, of course.

The boys were trying to sell me that the anxiety ridden, people pleasing little white dog needed a “buddy”. I resisted, you see, it was just giving my husband a license to pick himself up another personal pet. Annie ADORED Daddy. It was obnoxious being the other woman in the house. Annie would personally herd me to wherever Daddy was. The boys thought it was sweet. I, however, saw through her little game. I have survived, but really, another one?

So, the morning of Father’s Day, just in time my husband and kids Summer Break, there appeared in the local paper THE advertisement. The advertisement featured that same little white, fuzzy face dotted with coal black eyes. “Mom!” Let’s get Dad another dog for Father’s Day! You know Annie would love it! My husbands head swung around, locking his hazel greens on my steely blues and I knew it was just not a suggestion anymore.

The boys and my husband piled in the Prius and drove the 100 or so miles to pick up the newest drama queen of the house. I stayed home with “The Annie”. It was awesome, Me, Annie and her last day of being the star of the household. “Let me know how it feels big girl. Let me know how you feel when you too are usurped by an outrageously expensive little ball of fur.”

From what I heard there were at least 7 litter mates up for selection. My oldest stayed in the car and my youngest eagerly (ADHDish) checked out the puppies. They called and let Annie and I know they found another beautiful girl puppy! Awesome! I’ll bake the cake – not.

A couple of hours later the boys pulled up in the drive. Ever so stressed out, excited, and obviously overwhelmed they entered the front doorway and called out the warning that the new puppy was home.

Annie, missing her boys, was thrilled! She stood up, twirled in circles, and then froze. She smelled the trouble. I looked over, and noticed one thing. Her tail was wagging. It was wagging the wag of the Alpha female. She had to have known!

Poor little Lilly, Lou Lou. To be so cute and have “The Annie” breathing fire upon your very presence. We sat down in the living room, circled up, and took the baby out of her travel box. Oh, and she was a little baby. Younger than Annie when we first picked her up – and what did that baby do? She looked us all in the eye, whined a pathetic little whine, and immediately walked up to the kibble bowl and dug out a morsel. She dropped in down in front of “The Annie” and proceeded to eat. A little mind of her own!

What? Oh, ya, she was fully trained on being a certified pig dog. Annie came from a puppy-millish place. Lilly, raised in the kitchen of a grandmotherly woman who poached a few puppies for a friend….but I digress.

Little Lilly Lou Lou. What a sweet, little baby doll. She ended up being the best friend to Annie. So cute, and so little. She is a runt. True confessions a year later? Our son had dropped her on her head and felt so horrible that he felt he needed to be her indentured servant the rest of her days. (He dropped her 4 inches from the floor, but what is a bleeding heart to do?)

Lilly and Annie eagerly await the opportunity to co-chase evil joggers and walker -by’s from the settee in the front room. Yes, they have their own little couch, with blankets and pillows from which to spend the day observing life go by. Lilly personally has chased the mail-man from the front window so many numerous times – dutifully protecting her family from USPS evilness.

They are a pair, Annie and Lilly. And yes, they are now both Daddy’s Girls. I am mincemeat – only good at giving treats in the morning before dashing off to work. But then, every once in awhile….Annie will come and rest her head on my lap asking for belly pets. That little poser, she really does love me too.

~ Wendy Frye

Antionette

The allergist warned us every year, for 10 years, not to bring an animal into our home due to the medical history of our children.

The summer of our 11th year with that allergist, we rebelled. It was the 4th of July. I had just mentioned to my husband that I met a gal at work who had these super cute, friendly, forgiving, fuzzy, happy little white dogs, the Bichon Frise, and they are reportedly hypo-allergenic.

What heresy against our allergist this was to even discuss the possibility of a family dog! How delicious it was to be so rebellious! Phoned the gal, found a dog, jumped in our truck, went to the local pet store, bought everything imaginable for a new puppy, went to McDonalds, got hopped up on MSG, drove the 1 1/2 hours arriving at the other side of the County, and met our fate.

She was our girl. Oh, what a little looker! Big, round black eyes surrounded by fluffy white fur. She saw our kids and walked right up to them. It was a match! Even if we had to break out the epi-pen everyday, we were hooked!

We paid the strange lady, loaded our precious cargo back in the truck, and nervously drove home. SHHHHHH! She’s sleeping! “No music, no talking, stop singing, can’t you be quiet?” This was our oldest son, the one on the Spectrum, dictating our behavior. Precious 🙂

Arriving home, our eldest, carefully picked up the dog carrier with its furry cargo, and christened the door with her arrival to our home. It was one moment we will all cherish forever. Annie, as we call her, was acclimated to living in our home over a long, wonderful summer. My husband was off work and was able to do all the potty training, over-sight and behavior intervention with the kids. And boy, is she ever Daddy’s Girl.

Being absent during her early months heralded me the Omega to her Alpha in the home. Daddy gets sweet licks, I get the dark looks. She herds the family, pounces on me in my sleep, mimics me with her hussy walk, and from time to time even attempts to hump my leg (if she thinks I’m not paying her attention).

But really, how wonderful is it to come home, see where my oldest has dropped his backpack, skid over to the puppy pen, and in my mind, only imagine the loving reunion taking place every day. Awesome!

She is a monster. She thinks she runs our home. She loves my kids. She is Annie, Annie-Bannanie, and she completes us.

~ Wendy Frye