Breaking Bad Ass

We like to have a beer or other adult beverage while watching the Seattle Seahawks play football. With our son on the autism spectrum since he was three, an adult now, there stands a hard line between beer and wine – and hard alcohol.

“Vodka!” He screams at the top of his lungs….”Yes, Vodka.” We, his dutiful but worn out parents confess. “It makes a delicious alternative when mixed with lemonade vs. a heavy beer.” We TRY to explain.

“It will lead to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!” He vehemently proclaims. Daring to hope he understands and will choose to be rational like he usually is……we headed down to watch the game. With the vodka drinks.

Ever the comedian, and dramatic as all get out, our “not so sold” adult son hears us from his room yelling at the television, cheering on Russell Wilson the the team after a very solid play. The stadium in Seattle is rocking and everyone is knocking. Except our son.

“Thats IT!” “You are fighting and it’s because of the VODKA!”

We yell upstairs to him that we really are not fighting….we are cheering on our team. No go. “I’M CALLING 911 NOW!” Oh shit. He does have his cell phone fully charged, in his room, on the night stand at all times.

We rush up the stairs. In full boxer short glory he’s taken the “God Forsaken Poison!” from the fridge (sitting next to the apple beer) and threw it out the back door almost to the neighbors yard.

“I’m DIALING!”

“NOW!”

Mind you, we suburban dwellers, affected by the virtual tragedy of autism, i.e. underemployed, lifetime caretakers, double duty chefs, and on and on. Deserve. A. Drink. Especially at this very moment. So, in his room, hand poised to press send on his cell he smirks…..

Yes, I called him a rat bastard. Yes, I meant it. No, I’m a horrible mother sometimes. Yes, he had us. Yes, he knew it.

Yes, we dumped the bottle.

Yes, we had an apple beer instead.

This morning I approached my adult son on the spectrum. “Wanna go to the casino?”

Oh boy…..the new frontier.

“WHERE’S MY CELL PHONE!!!!!!”

(snicker) ~ Wendy Frye

“Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family.” ~ Bo Bennett

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Decided

A decision made is only as good as the intention. Well, for this family, our priorities have shifted (again) to care and support our two children – one adult on the autism spectrum and his younger brother. Our younger son? Well, he’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Our intention, distilled and all whittled down to the nub, is to clinically de-stress. De-stress, with a capital “D”. Autism creates a level of unholy stress unlike many different disabilities. Seizures, tantrums, anger, anxiety, and all the suffering is just like an acute case of ‘roid-rage. Not fun, not pretty, and sadly not so uncommon anymore.

We’ve been asked too many times over long set of years if and when he will get a job, or if he will ever live on his own. Most well intentioned inquires, but some delivered via a nasty comments with a condescending voice. Again, all are good questions – for any parent with young teenagers. Our family, and parenting choices, seem to be running parallel with one major difference. The absolute minimum of stress. Our sons will chase their dreams, especially the eldest, without undue stress.

Since late last Fall, around the time of the full moon of September, major changes have happened in our home. We’ve pared down our lives to live more simply and with purpose. Retiring from a toxic and competitive work environment, weeding out relationships that just don’t work and simply living has made it clear, stress is unnecessary, and just plain stupid.

Our eldest son, he suffers with anxiety by just being in this world. What we do know? He doesn’t HAVE to get a college diploma to create his art. No. He. Doesn’t. He wants a part-time job now. We explained that it is a way to be more independent – and that appeals to him. Lesson here: no one wins if he has to be subjected to the battle for college entrance. We concur. The college can win, for now. Our courses have become direct, home-school college. It’s been awesome.

The youngest? He is concentrating on school. As a fourth year German student, we’ve made sure to budget for the class trip to Germany next year. The anticipation is killing him, and motivating him to further his educational goals. He’s the one to watch, Mr. Dark Horse is who he is.

My husband is measuring his career to retirement. While he wishes it was any day now, it’s not too far off. And now, we dare to dream. We dream of moving to a vibrant, culturally enriched metropolis to further feed our adult son with the things that motivate his creative desires. Even our youngest makes mention of being close by and growing our family with his relationships. Wow, that is one of the finest compliments of my life to date.

The bottom line? Well, as humans, were we really designed to handle so much unnatural stress on or bodies and brains? Did the maker see us in his minds eye toiling over numbers, sales and devices making ourselves sick? Was it decreed someplace, other than in our own minds, that we have to settle for “good enough” yet still be unfulfilled? Is it against the law to toss those things that stand in our way of happiness? Is it a flagrant foul to grow a pair and do what you like in this world? No. It is a matter of getting out of your own way.

In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, you can keep your things, your bigger home, your rut in the rat race – go ahead, knock yourselves out. Because I cannot recall ever seeing a U-Haul van behind a funeral Hearse.

Breathe deep, live well and remain intact.~ Wendy Frye

“Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.” ~ Elvis Presley

Slip

Having a young child with special needs tends to slow a family down. It takes time and bravery to pick and choose appropriate activities that can actually be accomplished, as well as enjoyable. Between therapies, school, doctor appointments, processes and procedures – there just comes a time when it is almost critical to recreate as a family.

Recreational activities, you know – the real ones most families enjoy at their leisure, usually after breakfast lasting ’til before dinner. Likely culprits include sledding, skiing, biking, or simply taking a walk. For families like mine, recreation used to fall under “Too Complicated To Conceive”, especially when our eldest, the one diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, was very young.

Our family sled has seen only 5 minutes of use. The Cross Country skis? Mothballed under the porch. Camping equipment, utilized for less than 24 hours. Multiple bikes have been sold at garage sales, never knowing the pavement after Christmas morning. The horse, tack and saddle were sold after an anaphylaxis reaction at the barn. Considering our track record, it is justifiably deflating.

Well, when our disability services caseworker suggested joining the local, new and nearby YMCA, let’s just say I tried not to laugh out loud for very long. It was a sincere appeal, passes provided with the hope of a little family fun. Okay, I surrendered, again.

For this, in the middle of winter, we tried to prepare. Anticipating every item necessary, for we were going to be swimming inside when it’s 20 below outside. Lugging in a preposterous amount of gear, we waddled ourselves to the pool area. THANKFULLY, a family dressing room provided an adequate battle ground to prepare for poolside war.

WOW! Not just one pool, but two, complete with a spiral SLIDE! Maybe this won’t be too bad. I thought about getting comfortable ( actually – as comfortable as possible in a bathing suit, out in public, wearing the palest version of pale!). Husband took one child, I took the other and we split up. We figured we needed even odds if we were going to kill, blind or maim one or both of the children. I know, I know ~ but you’d be pessimistic too!

Hauling my eldest son to the top of the ladder, the plan was to jump in and go big. To the top! The top of the spiral water slide! My son on the spectrum was, well, suffice to say he was a little bit apprehensive. Me, I have a “dare-the-devil” gene in me, somewhere. Taking him down, like a wrestler, to sit on my lap was my only choice. There was no turning back to try going back down the stairs like a wussy.

Masking his terrorized screams with my screaming laughter at the sheer delight of going SOOOOO fast – we made it to the bottom! Awesome, we did it! I pulled him out of the water and was greeted with a big, watery smile! My son, he too loved it! “Let’s do it again!” we would say in unison!

After two many more trips down, even taking my youngest with us once (Dad at the bottom of the slide for potential damage control) we seemingly (and suddenly) hit our limit. While having more fun than is legal, we may have pushed the eldest a little too long. Exiting the pool, turning to the left, he lost his dinner in the lap pool.

There was no disguising it, he had done the unthinkable. “Will everyone please exit the lap pool immediately for maintenance.” was heard THREE TIMES over the intercom. The signs were placed by the walkway stating the two hour closure to shock the pool. Sullenly, we made our way back to the dressing room and ultimately home.

Poor kid, he was young, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and unable to control his reaction. Worst parents in the world over here. Considering the trauma, we thought for sure it was going to be another wasted investment for an activity we couldn’t manage. But we were wrong. Excitedly, and not too late after, came the request to return to the pool. Well then, knowing our limits now, calculating the amount of time for proper digestion prior to arrival, we headed back to the scene of the crime. And executed several more trips down the slide, laughing like hyenas and cackling like fools. We, as a family of four, finally found recreation.

“Let’s GO!” ~ Wendy Frye

Wiz

One absolutely spectacular benefit working within the banking industry is a certain pretend holiday, Columbus Day. Oh yeah, falling on a Monday in October while the kids are back in school, husbands at work….Columbus Day HAS to be the best, employer paid holiday EVER known in the United Sates of America.

A couple of years ago, while employed with a local credit union, another Columbus Day came along. The time was ripe. My son on the Spectrum had shown me twice the venue he wanted to visit. His younger brother, an absolute super-hero, was good with the idea. So, we sprang it on him. Booked an overnight flight to Vegas (Baby!) to visit the unknown-to-most Pinball Hall of Fame!

You know the song, Pinball Wizard. Well, the guy with late onset autism, he relates. The self proclaimed “gamer” regressed, technologically speaking, into loving pinball. So hey, just try finding an operating machine thats not in a dive bar or other establishment that discourages a 16 year old young man from living his passion. Not easy, any day of the week. But try we did. So with his research and discovery of the “Hall” lie the path that will lead us to pinball Nirvana.

Om. (Clang Clang!)

Within fifteen minutes of our arrival to Vegas, we were surrounded by two hundred plus pinball machines. All workable and playable, spanning from the oldest to the latest, WOW! Can you say sensory overload? “MOM!” “I need a quarter!” was the last I heard from him for the eight hour shift.

It really was my idea of idyllic, a wonderful way to spend a weekend with my son. Besides the “Hall” we went to the art showing at the Bellagio, ate crappy pizza, had dinner for breakfast and pillaged the arcade at our hotel resort.

Returning home exhausted at 2:00 in the morning, I drug it to work the next day and managed to play off that I hadn’t slept in 24 hours. Arriving home, ready to collapse, my eldest son yells for my attention from the basement. He’d found it, a new Nirvana – the Coin Operated Museum in San Francisco!

“When can we go!” ~ James Frye

“If some people didn’t tell you, you’d never know they’d been away on a vacation.” ~ Kin Hubbard

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Stereotyped

Per Wikipedia: “Stimming” – A repetitive body movement, such as hand flapping. The term is shorthand for self-stimulation. Repetitive movement, or stereotypy, is often referred to as stimming under the hypothesis that it has a function related to sensory input.

Just simply try to imagine an even more uninformed and ignorant world. A world wherein society is made up of all walks of peoples who are even less accustomed to an ever-emerging population. The population of individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Our son was only one in ten thousand. In a city of only 200,000 it was a rare day to see another family out and about with their child on the Spectrum.

Our beautiful son, diagnosed so many years ago, yes, he too “stims’. When he was a toddler, he usually did visual stimulation. Looking at light/dark contrasts over and over to beef up his visual pathway. Later, he would hop, skip and yodel. And yes, it is very distracting for the unaccustomed.

Newer to Facebook, I can boost a new family who too are impacted by Autism. I have other moms, dads, groups, interested parties, and adult friends with Autism. These people are priceless when it comes to understanding this new world, populated by one in eighty eight persons on the Spectrum.

One particular friend rallied around a sincerely provocative idea. Parents and therapists utilizing ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapies and behavior interventions should conduct those sessions in public, say Target or Costco. Consider it an Autism field trip. Let societies ears ring with the deafening screaming and witness the erratic behaviors Autism Families share behind their front doors.

Personally speaking, we get out as often as possible. Quick trips here and there. Classes, adventures, and the like – usually its me and my son alone. He’s typically on point, not exactly engaging, but aware of his surroundings. Not exactly polite, but not as rude as he can be. It’s been very fulfilling for me to spend quality, caring time with him. The people we meet along the way, pretty understanding – maybe with more people affected the mainstream is getting it. Oops, I need to slow down here. There was one day not long ago…..a real game changer for our family.

I simply took my then 18 year old adult son on the Spectrum to Walmart (I know, never again) and left him to test video games while I picked up a few groceries. Massive visual stimulation! Sensing the expiration of time out he will tolerate, I backtracked to the video department. Oh, there he is, I thought – he’s walking my way. Good mom senses here! Wait a minute. Whoa. Why are there 6 employees, keeping their distance, following my son like the Presidents secret agents? I was instantly made aware why – he was stimmin while skipping/walking/yodeling over his path back to me. I had to laugh. No more are we embarrassed. Why? He’s doing what he naturally does – just being himself.

Just be you, James Frye, just be you…. ~ Mom

” You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

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Color

Today, nineteen years ago, our eldest son entered this world. Little did we realize how spectacularly unprepared we were for the task. But somehow along the way, we found our game and started to play.

He was a whopping 10 pounds 4 ounces, two weeks overdue and five years in the making. The greenest eyes to see the world on a spectrum where some colors are a little different shade, but just as beautiful. Even before his diagnosis of autism, we sensed he was going to be a huge change in our world, but really – we had no idea how much.

So James, Happy Birthday! Your family loves you soooooo much. May today bring you peace and continued hope for the brightest future imaginable.

Love,
Mom, Dad, Jon, Annie & Little Lilly Lou Lou too…….

“Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.” ~ Sammy Hagar

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Passed

To look forward to the opportunities to be chronicled starting with the initiation of a new year, it seems sensible to look back – first. I had forgotten and needed to re-learn how to measure success a long, long time ago. While recovering a child on the autism spectrum, the days, weeks, months, and years all fly by. Terrified we would miss the “finish date”, that notion where critical brain development is truncated by age – which signaled the end of the road. Even with a son who is now an adult on the spectrum, there is still that little “bit-o-panic” that nips at the heinie….a silent clock that ticks only in the back of the mind.

Tick.

Tock.

But wait!

Stop!

Stand still. Reminisce, go back through pictures (painful or not), now review/backtrack the calendar. Where were we then? Where were we while trying to figure it all out in the haze of life jacked up in physician appointments, therapies, special education, familial scorn, awkward glances, outright ridicule, asshole “friends”, working too much for shallow souled people and places, plus the other assorted diatribe that really didn’t matter. It sure piled up.

Now breathe.

Quantify the big and little changes from the last year (and prior years). Sweep off to uncover the foundation that has already been built to work from. Give credit, recognize true supports, cut superficiality and relationships that compete for any energy that’s less than positive. Stop trying to payoff neglect or abuse – their is no tender available. Quit competing, this is not a race. This is a life.

Now move!

Expand your sense of excitement. Consider the endless possibilities. Practice flexibility. Embrace a true career calling. Release your abilities. To relish the freedom…..

All in a New Year! ~ Wendy Frye

“To achieve, you need thought. You have to know what you are doing and that’s real power.” ~ Ayn Rand

Muster

The gate-keeper claimed 30 years of experience in disability services while he eyed our son. Our son, who just happens to be a very talented collage of a person on the autism spectrum and a recent high school graduate.

After we were asked 15 times over 5 minutes in 15 different ways imaginable IF we paid our application fee. Then we were told by the gate-keeper that this particular gentleman possessed two friends. These alleged friends just happen to be a father and son, of whom are both doctors no less. And that these two “highly pedigreed friends” (cough, cough out the side of his face) just happen to have young grandson/son in common, who happens to be Autistic.

And we are supposed to care? Well, yes in general, we care very, very much – but we did not care at all for the insertion of this particular fact while in a meeting regarding our sons secondary education needs. The 5 x 5 office space was already too cramped and eye contact was going to get pretty limited. Right. About. Now.

“Well, my friend and his son, both who are DOCTORS, do NOT believe that vaccines cause Autism.” The gate-keeper proclaims to his ever deflating potential student.

He draws a loud breath and continues….”We will require a 3 hour reading and writing assessment.” For art classes – even labs. Awesome. Didn’t we cover our Achilles heel well enough over the 15 years of education, therapies, assessments, awards, grades, passing standardized testing, web-site, art submissions earning honors, even the high school ceramics teacher staying on one more year before retiring all because of the massively unique talent this particular college applicant possesses?

“But, if you haven’t paid that application fee, I fail to understand how he is already in our system.” Gate-keeper stated. “Because he earned that 4.0 grade when he attended a running start college class while in high school in industrial arts (yes, while in special education). AND, I understand it was a fairly complicated class.” Came my snarky retort. None of us in our family circle were confused anymore – our son was being assessed, not admitted, by a person with so much experience, BUT without even a tiny clue regarding Autism. Oh right! His pals were doctors, right!?! And, discussing vaccines during this meeting was critical and germaine to our sons college success, but of course! W. T. F.

While leaving we deliberately and mis-leadingly scheduled “the assessment test” and flagrantly walked past admissions without paying our application fee. But we were not defeated. Oh no, not us, not now and possibly never again. Because, as his parents, we knew there was no conceivable way we were going to subject this fine young man, who possesses the heart of a lion, to a situation in which he was going to fail. This is a person who understands everything, yet his disability lies in communication. He has adapted admirably to his disability within the creation of his own art. This art supports his need to communicate with the world what it is like to be a person with Autism.

During the drive home we cooled him down, explained that he needs only a certain set of skills in which to create his graphic art, and he was going to learn and expand those skills. Ended up he was somewhat relieved, knowing that he would not have to endure any class in which he was not highly interested in, just to earn a diploma. He’s paid enough dues. So we’ve looked around and soon found a better and more meaningful path for him.

Incubating his new skills, refining old ideas and thoughts that he so desperately wants to communicate with us all, The Astronaut is learning his new language in graphic arts. Assisted by his family and a soon to be elevated non-profit, this trip continues…….

“Go James!” ~ Your Mother, Wendy Frye

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley

http://www.jamesfryeartist.com

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YOU ARE

My son, the one on the spectrum, isn’t feeling himself today. I’m home with him, sorting through old papers and such, and happened upon a couple of age worn poems written by my youngest. WOW, I honor my youngest. Please enjoy his works with me, all sloppy and teary as I am now….

YOU ARE

I think you are friendly.
I wonder if you are a super hero.
I hear you laugh.
I see you smile.
I want you to be happy.
You are great.

I pretend you fly.
I feel you give a mamas little baby.
You touch me.
I worry that you cry.
You cry water.
You are smart.

You understand James.
You say nice things (some times).
I dream that you play football.
You try to make us happy.
You hope we grow up.
You are wonders.

YOU ARE great, HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
love, Jon 🙂

by Jon ~ aged 8 years old

WENDY

Daughter of Kent and Sandra
Sister of Melissa and Paula
MOTHER of Jon and James
Lover of my family
Maker of crafts
Dreamer of James and Jon to gragat (graduate)
Fear of Heights
Player of big Kahuna Reef
Giver of kisses and smiles
Watcher of unwrapped and survivor
Listener of rock and roll

Love, Jon

by Jon ~ aged 9 years old

You are becoming a fine young man, Jon ~ Love Mom

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” ~ Charles Swindoll

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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