"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Friday, November 30, 2012

Children Grow Like Weeds.

When friends or relatives haven't seen me in a while, they always say, "Oh, your children have grown so much!" They also tell me how much Derek is improving, and like to point out that I probably don't notice it, since I'm around him all the time. 

Guess what, folks?  I notice.  I consider it one of the grand privileges of being a stay-at-home mom.  I get to witness EVERYTHING.  I notice when one of my kids outgrows a shirt or can no longer button a pair of pants.  I notice when they can no longer squeeze into a pair of shoes.  I can physically SEE my children growing--right before my very eyes.  Much as I wish they'd slow down, they grow like dandelions in the summer. 

It's not just physically that they are growing, either.  They are growing as PEOPLE, too.  In the past year Derek has learned to talk. He answers simple questions, sings, and even says 3-5 word sentences.  And Tyler?  Tyler has learned to read, add and subtract.  Both of their brains are developing magnificently. 

They are both developing emotionally as well.  Derek is learning compassion, which is supposedly difficult for autistic individuals.  For example, I hit my head the other day.  He asked, "Are you ok?"  Then he hugged me.  When did he learn to do that?  He also thinks things are funny and laughs at appropriate times.  INCREDIBLE. 

Tyler is so complex it is mind-boggling.  He asks questions I can't even answer.  He wants to know EVERYTHING.  He asks about dinosaurs and how the earth was created and why Jesus wears a bathrobe and why angels are sometimes pictured naked...he asks about autism and why Derek has it and why he does NOT and if Derek will always be autistic...he asks how babies are created and why he and Derek were born into THIS PARTICULAR FAMILY...he asks why some kids have cancer and why some kids die...

Sometimes, "I don't know" is the only answer I can give. 

I think about my own life--I have changed a LOT in the past 5 years, that is for sure.  But compared to how much my children have changed in just 365 days?  It doesn't even compare.  I wonder sometimes if other parents are as awestruck by their children as I am.  I'm trying to cherish the moments.  I'm trying make everything count.   

Someday I will look back at these years and wonder where they went.  I will long for the cereal on the floor, the noise, and the dirty hands hugging my neck.  I'll long for the bouquets of dandelions they once picked for me.  But time refuses to stop.  My children might be growing like weeds, but really, they are turning into beautiful flowers. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Daily Battles and Random Thoughts

I had a dream last night that I was drowning.  Some invisible force was pushing me down and I couldn't find my way to the surface of the water.  I struggled to wake up, only to find that Derek's arm was around my neck.  Well, that explains the dream--sort of. 

Derek has been sleeping in my bed for a while now.  Since he has CVS (Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome), it is easier.  A) I don't have to worry about him asphyxiating (did I spell that right???) on his own vomit.  B) I can race him to the toilet and minimize the mess.  C) I can comfort him. 

The downside, of course, is that I haven't been sleeping as well.  I often wake up with feet in my face, my blankets get stolen, and I get kicked.  Alot.

I also get to wake up to hugs and giggles--and sometimes it's the best part of my entire day. 

Friday was an OFF day for Derek.  You know the kind, right? 

Derek saw his pediatrician in Omaha on Friday.  This doctor is a developmental behavioral pediatrician who is known for being great with autistic kids.  80% of his client base has autism. 

Derek had been extra stimmy that morning.  He had no interest in the toys in the waiting room.  Instead, he chose to run back and forth, laughing loudly and hysterically for no particular reason.  I couldn't help but think, "This could be interesting." 

The nurse called us back and we waited in the room.  Derek played with some dinosaur toys they had in there, but I could tell he was nervous.  He's seen a lot of doctors lately, and his eyes kept darting around, like he was looking for an escape route. 

The doctor knocked on the door and came in.  He said, "Hi Derek.  How are you?"  Derek responded by repeatedly grunting (he sounded like Forrest Gump).  Then he threw himself on the ground and spun in circles.  (Not exactly sanitary...)

For just a split second, I felt a flash of embarrassment.  But I quickly checked myself.  Why was I embarrassed?  This doctor has surely seen it all.  True, I wished Derek was having a better day.  I wanted the doctor to hear Derek talk and witness all the progress he's made.  But with autism, you can't always get what you want.  The important thing was that the doctor heard our concerns and helped us.  He didn't judge.  He also cares about Derek and wants to help him feel better. 

I had a three hour car ride home.  I'd like to tell you that Derek fell asleep immediately and I had a chance to relax.  Instead, I had to pull over 4 separate times because Derek dropped a toy and started screaming at the top of his lungs, had to potty, and spilled juice on his shirt and needed a new one...

Yes, it was definitely one of those days. 

But those days inevitably remind me something--that autism will not defeat my son.  Derek can't help it if a wet shirt makes his skin crawl.  Exhausted and frustrated as I get, my little boy is still there, behind all the behaviors, just trying to make sense of it all.  Derek is fighting a war.  I'm just here to help him get through the daily battles. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Autistic Son

I haven't blogged lately.  I haven't made any art either.  Life has gotten in the way.  People keep telling me that if I want something badly enough, I have to MAKE time.  Ok, I agree.  And I'm not one to make excuses.  So I'll just say that right now, my priority is sleeping.  Derek is still having vomiting spells at least one night a week.  That means that one night a week, I get about 3 hours of sleep.  The next day, I'm a zombie.  Even if I get 8 hours of sleep the following night, it doesn't make up for the lack of sleep the night before.  I am perpetually running on fumes, and guzzling caffeine like my life depends on it.  Art is going to have to wait.

Anyway, I decided that today I needed to refocus my energy and remind myself of all the reasons WHY I love my son.  It's not Derek's fault he is sick.  I would rather spend a sleepless night holding him over a toilet ANY TIME than not have him in my life. 

So here it is.  The list.  The Top 10 Reasons I Love My Autistic Son (in no particular order).

1.  He gives me unexpected hugs and kisses.  Most people have to ask Derek for a hug.  He gives them to me "just because."  And they aren't little sideways hugs.  They are bear hugs.  For these I am eternally grateful, since so many autistic kids don't like to be touched. 

2.  His laughter is infectious.  Especially his belly laugh.

3.  The kid has a sense of humor, which I never expected.

4.  The way Derek says "Mommy!" when he hasn't seen me in a little while.  It's my favorite word.  I waited YEARS for Derek to say it and I still think it's priceless.

5.  Derek finds joy in simple things.  He likes pouring water from cup to cup, letting sand trickle through his fingers, watching the wind blow leaves on a tree, or letting a ladybug crawl on his hand.  Because of my son, I stop and take notice of little things going on in the world around me.  I was too busy before. 

6.  He loves music and can pick up a tune faster than anyone I know.  In fact, we've used music to help Derek learn words.

7.  Derek loves to match things.  He has since he was a baby.  For example, yesterday he discovered we had two Star Wars figures with lightsabers.  He was so excited to find TWO figures that he was jumping up and down and flapping his hands. 

8.  Derek tries exponentially harder than anyone I know--at EVERYTHING.  He struggles to get words out of his mouth.  He has to work to grip a pencil and write his letters.  He has to fight revulsions to certain textures just to EAT.  His ability to smile, despite his daily battles, is inspiring.

9.  Derek thinks the world of his older brother.  They are best friends.  They fight all the time; yet Derek watches everything Tyler does and tries so hard to keep up with him.  He even looks around for Tyler when he's not home.

10.  When Derek makes eye contact with me, I swear he speaks to me with his eyes.  We don't need words.  The connection between the two of us is the most powerful thing I have ever felt.  There are no words in the dictionary to describe what passes between us--it's MORE than love...