Wendy

Twinkle While You Shake It

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 | 1 comment

Twinkle While You Shake It

“Twinkle while you shake it.” 
“Ya Gotta Have A Gimmick,” from the musical Gypsy, engraved on my mother’s tombstone

“One never knows, does one?”
Fats Waller, one of my mother’s favourite quotes

 

A few days before my mother died, we went to the grocery store. The Giant Eagle, to be exact. My mother did not have the strength to walk, so we rented a wheelchair. The company providing the chair took their sweet time delivering, and my mother sat in the living room, on the couch, waiting.

She waited while I went to the gym to lift weights. To build my strength, mostly in spirit. My body was already strong from weeks of daily workouts, lifting and pushing and running away from the thing I couldn’t elude. I needed to be strong. I didn’t think I’d ever be strong enough.

She waited, and thought I’d forgotten.

She waited for the wheelchair, and thought they’d forgotten.

She thought we’d all forgotten.

We didn’t, we couldn’t.

Our adventure began at Skyline Chili, an Ohio institution. The food was terrible. She didn’t care. She didn’t even really eat anything, but eating wasn’t the reason she was there.

Then to the Giant Eagle. Like she and I did with her grandmother before, I pushed her up and down every single aisle. But my great-grandmother walked – tiny, frail, and stooped in her old age – and pushed her own cart.

My great-grandmother also lived past 100 years old. “All of the women in our family live really long lives,” we always said. Everyone always said. It was understood. A given.

My mother was 57 years old when I pushed her wheelchair through the Giant Eagle, touching things on shelves, discussing produce. We bought acorn squash.

No one really talked about the fact that 57 is not 100. No one talked about the fact that her parents were still alive. Her father’s brain had begun to succumb to Alzheimer’s, but still, he knew. “You were always the best shopper,” my grandmother said to my mother, on their last visit. Their last time together on Earth.

I watched my grandmother try and reconcile the situation before her. She wrung her hands as she sat next to my mother’s hospital bed, set up in the den. Her daughter’s deathbed. “You were always the best shopper.”

There is no higher praise in my family. My clan of women who take bargain shopping as seriously as some take final exams. My mother was the oldest of four daughters, who mostly had daughters. Except my mother. She had but one daughter, and two sons. The oldest son married his high school sweetheart, so she quickly became indoctrinated into the family obsession. Shopping is serious business. The biggest bargain is worn like a crown, wielded as a trophy.

My mother once bought me an Armani dress for 99% off. $5. We joked about framing the tag and receipt. I wish we had.

My grandmother didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t know what else to say.

My aunts, my mother’s three sisters, came with their parents on that visit. To say goodbye. I have no idea how they got there, or how they got home. They drove almost four hours, from Indianapolis to Columbus, and I still don’t know how they did it. They came in a vehicle that my mother’s cousin (essentially a fifth sister) drove. But when I think of being inside that van on the trip to and the trip from visiting my mother, their big sister, their firstborn… my mind breaks.

That was the worst day of my life. Not the day my mother passed; that day ranks second. I am empathic.  The sorrow was too much to process.

My mother somehow rallied, and lived for two more weeks. I’m looking at the calendar now, not believing what it’s telling me. I thought it was three weeks. It felt like three weeks. It was two. Eleven days.

Eleven of the longest days of my life. Eleven of the shortest.

Eleven days spent with my brothers. With my mother’s partner, David. Her love. With my mother and David’s dog. With my mother.

We watched movies. We watched family slideshows. We ate a lot of bagels, drank a lot of beer and gin & tonics. We celebrated life and dreaded death. We slipped into a temporary normal. I tried not to cry too much; I didn’t want to upset my mother. I screamed into a washcloth in the shower.

She knew she was dying. She talked to us about dying things: her will, her belongings, her wishes. Her fears. She decided she wasn’t going to die until my younger brother turned 30. In two more years. She eventually accepted that it wasn’t going to happen. She rejected any moves to make her a victim, a patient. She remained my mother, our mother, until the end. That was important, that was her job. Our mother.

The night before my mother died, we knew it was coming. I don’t know how we slept. I don’t know how I slept. The sound of her body dying filled the house, filled my brain. I took xanax. I read Harry Potter. I waited.

The morning my mother died, we took turns sitting with her, having our last moments, not leaving her alone. We didn’t want her to be alone. Eventually, we all ended up at the kitchen table, talking about breakfast. Death stops for nothing as mundane as hunger. We joked about how we had nothing to eat, how when someone is dying, people are supposed to bring food. We had overflowing amounts of food for the previous few weeks, but on this day, this most important of days, we had none.

It was 9am.

We were all at the table, out of her room, for about five minutes. Five minutes.

In that five minutes, my mother died.

She did not want us there as she left. She wanted to remain my mother, our mother. She took the last bit of control she had, and exercised it.

She left on her own terms.

In the silence that followed, I looked around.

On the kitchen counter sat three acorn squash.

 

my mama as Roxy in the musical Chicago

my mama as Roxy in the musical Chicago

Judith “Judi” Lyons Kremer, 5 August 1943 ~ 6 December 2000

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Turning Over A New Leaf

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 | 0 comments

How is it that fall just suddenly appears? Spring comes gradually, slowly revealed as winter loosens her grip on the earth. Summer takes over little by little, until our days are mostly warm and beachy. Even winter creeps in, as the winds get colder and the days get darker.

But not fall. Something happens right around Labour Day, and even when I’m looking for it, I miss it. One day we’re at the lake, cooling off in the water and trying to eat our sandwiches around the inevitable sand, and the next, it’s cooler. The shadows are longer in the afternoon. Cravings turn to baked goods, apple cider, and, yes, pumpkin spice (which, let it be known, I only appreciate in pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread).

Fall just… falls on us.

Which is kind of how time has happened for me. I got my autism/Asperger’s diagnosis just over two years ago, and I took a bit of a break from here to regroup. And now it’s fall, in 2016, and it’s been two years.

Fall is my most favourite season, so it seems fitting that it serves as the backdrop to my return.

I started this blog/website in March of 2010 as a way to share stories about my hilarious, autistic, then-four-year-old son. I wanted to show the world a face of autism they may not have been familiar with, and a family that functions on a different wavelength.

I think I’ve more than accomplished that, and today this blog is six and a half, and my son is just about eleven. He’s still quite hilarious, and now very much a tween. I still have stories to tell and experiences to share, but now they include myself as well as Jack.

As the fates would have it, Jack is homeschooling this year (a story I’ll share in a separate post), so there will be a lot to tell. There is also a lot to share about myself, my journey to a diagnosis, and how I came to finally know myself completely.

I hope this post finds you well, and I look forward to a long future together.

Namaste

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Days Gone By

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 | 0 comments

It’s been a year since I’ve posted here.

A year.

A year to process my new reality and think about what that means.

For me, for Jack, for my site.

I think it means a lot.

So change is coming.

I am coming back.

Soon.

<3

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Facing Our Fears

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 | 2 comments

Facing Our Fears

I’ve been away for a bit. I’ve been in a self-made cocoon of sorts, waiting for the right time to reveal my “new” self.

Or the self I’ve always been, but didn’t really know it.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on the best way to start the conversation here. This place that I’ve built to laugh and cry, and bemoan, and celebrate autism in our family. This place that has become a safe haven for me and others, a place where it’s OK to be our true selves, autism, warts, and all.

I thought for a while that I needed to bring platitudes and great revelations. That I needed to be profound.

And as I sat, cozy and safe in my self-imposed little box, it came to me.

Rather, Jack came to me.

Jack has been my teacher on so many levels, and I should have known this would be no different.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a small amusement park and a big water slide park on the same day. We don’t do amusement parks, as a rule, for a few different reasons: Money, crowds, autism, crowds, crazy children, lines, money, and, of course, crowds. The kids have been on a few rides here and there (most recently the Great Wheel in Seattle), but we haven’t done a full-fledged amusement park since Disneyland years ago when the kids were small.

The only water slides my kids have encountered have been the small ones at a downtown spray park, and the slide at our local pool (not small by any means, but not theme-park-sized).

I was worried how Jack would do on the rides, since he really seemed to hate them when he was younger. I also didn’t know how he would react to the water-slides, as you can’t exactly avoid being splashed in the face or dunked underwater.

To our relief, the amusement park was both quite small and fairly empty. The kids didn’t have to wait in line for anything. It was like an Autism Miracle.

He handled it all. Really well. By himself.

For instance, he did this:

boats

He both shot his brother in the face, and took many hits in return. All with a big grin.

He did this:
swings

 

This one amazed me. Jack HATED swings as a baby and small child. It took about two full years of occupational therapy to get him to not only ride a swing, but enjoy it. Now he’s a swinging fool.

He did this:

 

balloons

This ride made my husband ill just looking at it. They’re up there spinning around, while spinning around. Like teacups up in the air.

 

And then he did this:

bucking bronco

If you can’t tell from the photos, this little ride here is like a carousel on acid. You sit on a horse, and the platform starts to rotate. Then, the whole thing rises up one side of an arc, then down and up the other side. All while the platform is still rotating. Like someone thought the pirate ship that goes back and forth is a little too tame, and the carousel is just not dangerous enough.

So yeah, he rode that thing. Smiling.

We headed to the water slides, and Jack took off alone. I was worried about him, but figured he’d end up entertaining himself in the splash areas or pools.

Toward the end of our visit, my child ran up to me, dripping wet.

He had done this:

waterslide

 

 

FIVE TIMES.

He was so excited to tell me. “Mom! I really conquered my fears today!”

And then he ran off to do it again.

I realize now that I haven’t been hiding in contemplation so much as in fear. I’ve been afraid. This post changes everything for me, but it’s time. If my child, who has come so very far in his almost-nine years of life, can stand up to his own fears and break through to the brighter side, so can I. And I will, for him.

This is my vertical drop.

So, here goes.

My name is Wendy, and I have Asperger’s.

I am autistic.

And I am happy.

 

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Canucks Autism Network Sports Day Adventure!

Posted by on May 26, 2014 | 1 comment

Canucks Autism Network Sports Day Adventure!

As much as I complain about the state of autism support here in the Lower Mainland, we also have some pretty cool things going on. There are several societies that provide access to camps, supports, and many other activities for autistic individuals.

One group here doing it really right is the Canucks Autism Network (CAN). They help keep autistic kids involved in sports and a lot of other social events. CAN usually tries to involve siblings as well, to help foster a whole family experience. We absolutely love them.

Jack and I were very excited to attend the CAN 2nd Annual Sports Day on May 18th at BC Place. It was a day of serious fun with representatives from the Vancouver Canucks, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the BC Lions, and the Vancouver Canadians. I could tell you all about it, but I’d rather show you. Enjoy!

We arrived a bit early, so it was a good hour before the event started. CAN had set up face painting and colouring, but the waiting still got old after a bit. Anticipation and autism don’t mix well. The CAN volunteers are seasoned, though, and did their very best to keep everyone intact.

Face painting is an essential part of every adventure.

Face painting is an essential part of every adventure.

 

waiting is hard

Waiting, and peeking to see what’s happening in the stadium.

 

Here we go!

Here we go!

 

More waiting. Jack says all of the downtime was "abominable."

More waiting. Jack says all of the downtime was “abominable.”

 

As everyone was introduced, we got a cool view of everything from above.

 

A birds-eye view of the event.

A birds-eye view of the event.

 

Waiting is tough, but astroturf is an awesome sensory experience.

Waiting is tough, but astroturf is an awesome sensory experience.

 

Finally ready to go!

Finally ready to go!

 

The kids were divided into four groups, and each group spent twenty-five minutes with an activity, then rotated to the next one. Jack’s group had hockey first!

 

Getting tips from Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin.

Getting tips from Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin.

 

There were photographers and cameras capturing it all, and showing everyone on the jumbotron. Jack noticed it quickly, and played right to the camera. That’s my boy.

 

Jack saw himself on the Jumbotron. So did Fin.

Jack saw himself on the Jumbotron. So did Fin.

Fin, the Canucks mascot, had a great time with the kids. He has a thing about chewing on their heads, though. They should keep an eye on that.

Jack and Fin.

Jack and Fin.

 

Next up was football, and Jack learned how to run the ball, throw the ball, and do a wicked touchdown dance.

 

Running the ball with BC Lions defensive back Matt McGarva.

Running the ball with BC Lions defensive back Matt McGarva.

 

Going for a super-high 5 with BC Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala.

Going for a super-high 5 with BC Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala.

 

We moved on to soccer, and Jack put the Whitecaps guys through their paces. A lot of the other kids were ready for a break, but Jack kept on going. And going. And going.

 

Going one-on-one with Whitecaps FC assistant coach Martyn Pert.

Going one-on-one with Whitecaps FC assistant coach Martyn Pert.

 

Trying to get past Whitecaps goalie David Ousted.

Trying to get past Whitecaps goalie David Ousted.

 

Finally, we moved over to baseball. After some pointers from Mama, Jack smacked a few line drives.

 

Definitely an American boy - he had the best form there!

Definitely an American boy – he had the best form there!

 

Canucks announcer Ed Murdoch closed out the event.

 

The voice of the Canucks, announcer Al Murdoch.

The voice of the Canucks, announcer Al Murdoch.

 

We had a lot of fun. Thank you CAN, for everything you do!

 

We had an amazing day - thank you, CAN!!

We had an amazing day – thank you, CAN!!

 

*************************************************************************8

Click HERE if you’re interested in joining CAN.

Click HERE if you’d like to be a CAN volunteer.

Click HERE for information on how to donate to and fundraise for CAN.

 

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Mothering Autism

Posted by on May 11, 2014 | 0 comments

I don’t want a lot on Mother’s Day. I really don’t. I worked in restaurants for years (and my husband still does), so the last thing I’m interested in is taking all of my children out with the rest of humanity to battle for overpriced prime rib. We can do that anytime.

I also don’t feel the need to do anything “special,” since we do special things a lot. We have “Family Adventure Days” frequently, where we go adventuring. We explore the natural world around us, visit new museums, and just play as a family. So, Mother’s Day doesn’t require adventure.

What I want most on Mother’s Day is serenity.

At least, as much as I’m able, since my husband usually has to go to work. He’s a restaurant manager, and the rest of humanity still wants that prime rib.

This year, I requested that for the morning and early afternoon (before he leaves), to be left to my garden. I am still trying to finish my beds, and would like some uninterrupted time alone with the backyard.

I also asked for my children to help clean up the living room and kitchen. You know, where all of their toys are strewn.

That particular request was met with an uproar heard across the land. Two of my children decided they would rather not observe Mother’s Day at all, if it meant they actually had to pick up after themselves.

Jack took issue as well, in typical Jack fashion. He made the case as to why I was completely out of line by merely suggesting I make him do anything. On a weekend.

“I like to live my (weekend) days naturally, you can’t make me do a lot of action.”

OK. Apparently, any structured activity that’s not his idea is totally out of the question. He also insinuated that I’m trying to affect his brain.

By asking him to clean.

“You can’t keep this thing (his brain) up forever, that’s bad parenting, Mama.”

It took everything I had to keep a straight face.

I don’t want to be accused of being a bad parent, on Mother’s Day of all days. I’m making my husband do it. Father’s Day isn’t for another month, he’ll be fine.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Team Baskin 2014

Team Baskin 2014

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