The Pictures You Don’t See

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I make a concerted effort to plan fun family “adventures” on our days off when my husband is home and the kids are free from the scheduled weekdays of my preschooler’s many therapies and school. It feels like I could waste so much time day to day and week to week, getting lost in tasks that barely make a dent in the housework and ever growing to-do list and letting the kids lose themselves in tablets and Netflix and never get out there and make our coveted memories. The ones that are all bright and shiny and post-worthy on social media.

We had been planning to take the kids to the local pumpkin patch the last couple weeks but plans had been derailed due to one illness and then another. We’d finally settled on Sunday to make the drive to Bates Nut Farm and planned to get there shortly after the place opened and hopefully leave around Willow’s nap time. I wasn’t naive enough to think we would have the time or the attention span to do all the attractions but surely we could get through the hay ride, face painting, and maybe the corn maze or pony rides while the kids were happy and cooperative enough to go along with a schedule. I expected once we got through three or four of the proffered family friendly activities we would need to pump the brakes, get the kids some food, make a mad dash through the patch to grab some pumpkins and then high tail it the hour car ride home. If I was lucky, we could spend the rest of the day posting cute pumpkin patch pictures on my Facebook page and recovering from our efforts.

At least that was the plan I had concocted in my head. In the attraction of making golden family memories, I sometimes forget that these outings are very often more work on my part as a parent than the amount of fun had by the entire family put together at the event itself. But that never stops me from planning them because I just can’t help myself.

The effort alone in getting a two-year-old and a four-year-old ready for the car can be daunting. Both kids need to be changed and dressed, about forty reminders to eat their breakfast (we call them “bite breaks”) while they are playing and watching their morning cartoons, teeth need to be brushed (and since they seem to like to take turns running from their toothbrush every day this is how I get all my steps in), and hair needs to be de-matted and brushed through all while our small children are screaming (Nooo! My hair! Don’t touch me! I don’t like water on me!). After about an hour of this nonsense, during which I’m filling a Costco cooler with enough snacks, diapers, and wipes to get through two hours of family fun it’s finally time to leave. Then Matt and I realize that neither of us has actually eaten anything or finished coffee. That means an extra ten minutes of throwing drinkable yogurt and granola bars in our bag and finding travel mugs to bring what’s left in the coffee pot for the car ride.

So finally after an hour and a half of this nonsense we’re on the road and I realize we haven’t packed juice boxes or blankets for the ride home making the eventual needed bribery options limited but we will have to make do with the bare minimum I suppose: Lunchables and Skittles (which are actually my bribery for adulting but I make sacrifices in the name of weekend outings). Once we arrive at the actual farm, I realize I’ve made another error in judgement. Assuming the dust and hay against bare skin would send Olive into a sensory turmoil (although she doesn’t have a lot of sensory issues, I always seem to misjudge what environmental triggers will or won’t be an issue), I dressed both girls in stretch pants and a halloween t-shirt. Unfortunately, although it was 75 degrees when we left, it was 90 degrees on the farm and we were all hot within ten minutes of getting there. Add this to the fact that the parking lot was already half full when we arrived (meaning lines would be longer and the kids would get overwhelmed more quickly from the crowds alone) and I knew we would have to readjust our expectations in terms of what we were going to be able to do at the farm.

The first family fun activity we had to check off our list was a pit stop at the porta potties. The bathroom was both badly needed and would be super frustrating but I found out after taking Olive inside the box of ill repute that she was terrified of portable toilets. She took one look down the portal of poop and started screaming as if her life depended on it, bashing into the plastic walls, and eventually managed to claw the door open (thank goodness we were both fully clothed at this point) and made a mad dash out of there with me chasing after her (and I really needed the damn bathroom at that point if I’m going to be honest). I can only imagine what my fellow pumpkin patch goers thought of this spectacle as I was in hot pursuit of a screaming toddler making a mad dash out of a literal hot box.

Thank goodness we had remembered the training potty in the car and we eventually were able to check off this first family fun activity (the only one that was free of charge by the way). Next we found the line for the ticket booth (which was a requirement for all activities, including purchasing pumpkins) and waited in an exorbitantly long line so we could buy enough tickets for the privilege to wait in all the other long lines to actually participate in any of the available activities (pony rides, hay ride, horse drawn carriage, corn maze, henna tattoos, face painting, balloons, bounce house, bounce slide). This was also the only line that both of my children were able to wait patiently for.

We decided that the best plan of attack was to start with the hay ride while the kids’ patience was most likely to hold out since it had the longest line. Unfortunately, Willow had used all of hers up in the wait to get the tickets and decided that she was done waiting for the day. My best efforts to get her to stop screaming and crying (snacks, water bottle, walking around the farm while daddy and Olive stayed in line) only seemed to silence her frustration momentarily and by the time we were headed to the front of the loading bay area I knew the likelihood of her not ruining the entire wagon’s experience with her banshee shrieking and violent flailing was at about zero percent so I abandoned the hope of actually experiencing a hay ride with my two smiling happy children (I still haven’t been on a hayride since college when there were actually zero children and copious amounts of rum).

I carried Willow kicking and screaming at extremely loud decibels to the shade of a nearby tree and waited out the tantrum, until she was tired of screaming and we were both covered in dirt and essentially looked like we belonged there. This seems like as good of a time as any to impart this kernel of wisdom: if you see a mother struggling with a screaming toddler trying to high tail it out of the immediate vicinity, don’t take this opportunity to stare, gawk, make snarky comments and asides to your friend, or otherwise pass judgement or humor on their predicament. Because I SEE you and just because my hands are full does not mean I’m not silently cussing you out, laying a curse on your next of kin, and judging you harshly and silently for being a monumental douche canoe.

Once Willow had cooled her jets and was at the level of “sniffling and sad,” I pointed out to her that there was a lemonade vendor and if she could wait patiently and quietly in line with me (that was only two people deep), I would buy her a lemonade while we waited for daddy and Olive to finish their ride. Although it took two attempts to get in line, because Willow decided yet again that lines weren’t worth her precious time (at which point the line was five people deep). I did eventually get her a lemonade which she held onto for dear life for the remainder of the visit and refused to share with any one.

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Once Matt and Olive met up with us Olive decided she was ready to have her face painted. We braved the line for about twenty minutes before Olive announced she absolutely did not want her face painted. She wanted to go on the pony rides, except the line for the pony rides was a good fifteen people deep and we knew the likelihood of Willow making it through both a line and sitting still long enough to enjoy a pony ride was minuscule so I kindly suggested to Olive that we go through the corn maze and then come back for the ponies. Luckily, she was at least minimally flexible to the idea and we headed for corn hell.

We weren’t in the maze for more than five minutes before the actual meltdown started. I don’t know if it was because she was entirely closed off by bales of hay in 95 degree weather (OK – I admit, not the most sensory friendly environment) or because she was still bent out of shape over having to forgo ponies, but Olive started getting pouty and closed off, stopped following us or responding to prompts, and then basically picked one corner of the maze to shut down. I tried to wait it out for a few minutes and I employed all the tactics we’ve learned from ABA (deep breaths, counting to ten, offering alternatives, setting a timer for a break, etc.) but nothing was making her budge and it eventually evolved into a crying hysterics that there would be no coming back from (At one point I began to wonder if she was turning into one of the actual towheaded children from Children of the Corn). At that point, it was time to throw in the towel and call in an end to our fun family outing. We made a mad dash through the pumpkin field and let each kid pick out a pumpkin (which almost became a second toddler crisis when Willow discovered much to her dismay that she couldn’t physically carry her pumpkin).

And then we all shuffled back to the car and headed back home to lick our proverbial wounds. In that moment, I broke down myself for a few minutes and cried (quietly too myself). We had driven over an hour to get there and stayed for an hour and fifteen minutes and had another hour drive home. The amount of planning and effort that goes into an outing like this between getting the kids ready and the car packed and making sure the kids behave and are safe and then getting them back home is exhausting, even when the day goes well. I’m not saying it didn’t go well but for the amount of moments we had that looked like this:

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There were five times as many moments that went like this:

 

Once I was done throwing myself a pity party, I gently reminded myself that I knew what my kids’ limitations were when it comes to lines, crowds, outings, sensory stimulation, and attention span and I decided to make this outing worth pushing their limits in 95 degree weather, no less. One day they may be able to come to the pumpkin patch and stay for three or four hours, enjoy every single activity and gorge themselves on fair food, but this was not that day. If I was going to take them places outside their comfort zone then I was also going to need to embrace the chaos that comes along with it. And even though the memories that are seared into my brain from this day will probably be unbearable heat, screaming, crying, and porta potties, I’m hoping what my kids will remember will be pumpkins, hayrides, and lemonade.

Pumpkin Spice Your Life, B*tches

Pumpkin spice is officially here. I guess it has been for some time. It was 107 degrees on August 31st here in San Diego when I was waiting impatiently for my iced latte and noticed this lovely board mocking me.

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Is this real life? Just to reiterate. It was 107 degrees outside and about 95 degrees in my car. I was half tempted to steal the sign, because not today coffee mermaid Nazis. Not today.

But now of course I’ve had about eight of them since they’ve made their grand reappearance because I’m pretty sure it isn’t really fall until you’ve pumpkin spiced everything in your life from your coffee to your antibacterial hand soap (who knew Hep A hates pumpkin spice almost as much as I do?!).

I was also up at 5:00 am yesterday making these lovely chocolate chip cream cheese pumpkin muffins because I figured they’d go with the vat of coffee I had planned for that morning. I’m probably over compensating for being a shitty parent and housewife in other aspects of my life but that’s really a conversation for my therapist. I highly recommend them, they were so unhealthy and delicious that even my two-year old who absolutely refuses to eat vegetables ate half a muffin with zero prompting. The other half she smashed into the carpeting of my car but that whole day my Ford Flex smelled amazing so I wasn’t as mad as I probably should have been.

This is the first year that I’ve really embraced the pumpkin flavored nonsense as part of my fall repertoire. I’ve always secretly hated pumpkin pie as a child and really used it primarily as a delivery method for whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. I’m the first one rocking a scarf and boots at play dates as soon as the air starts to crisp. We are usually that house on the street who couldn’t wait to put out carved pumpkins and so by the time trick-or-treaters make their appearance on October 31st, the smiling carved faces on our pumpkins are also rotting and covered in fruit flies (I maintain it adds to the spooky effect). While I’ve always enjoyed fall scented candles, I usually went for something in the apple and cinnamon family. But this year is different. I guess I’m finally saying yes to the pumpkin spice band wagon and it’s both freeing and utterly obnoxious. Because instead of just getting on the wagon, I have to also light it on fire and run it off a cliff Thelma-and-Louise style. That’s just how I like to ring in a new season.

So that started me thinking, why pumpkin flavored/scented everything? Why is that our symbolic way to ring in the fall season? Why not butternut squash? It’s not as if pumpkin on its own smells that particularly wonderful. It smells sort of like a hearty mud and if you’ve ever seen it come out of a can, it looks a little like something you might find in a diaper. In case you were wondering, pumpkin pie spice (eventually shortened to “pumpkin spice”) was originally a blend of spices concocted by McCormick and some of the other spicy big wigs in the 1960s to make it easier for homemakers to add spice to their fall life by blending the common ingredient for pumpkin pie (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice etc.) but of course did not actually include pumpkin because pumpkin is a vegetable. This would have been really nice to have when I was rummaging through the chaos that is our spice drawer, trying to find all of these exact spices for those damn muffins. Anyways, the spice blend eventually gave way to pumpkin spice candles, which eventually gave way to the masses just handing their wallets to Starbucks for making it rain PSL’s.

So now you know why we pumpkin spice everything, but why do we carve pumpkins? Well, if you thought it was an American tradition, you’re wrong. The symbol of the carved pumpkin or “Jack O Lantern” dates back to an Irish and Scottish tradition in which scary faces were carved into potatoes and turnips and lit up with lumps of coal to ward off the legendary “Jack of the Lantern.” Once these people immigrated to America and discovered the pumpkin a new tradition was born! And thank goodness, because if my pumpkin carving skills are any indication there is no way I should be carving fucking potatoes.

Now excuse me, I’m going to light a bunch of pumpkin candles,  lather myself in pumpkin spice lotion, double fist these fresh baked pumpkin cream cheese chocolate chip muffins, and make a Starbucks run.

A Lesson in Physics

Hooke’s law of elasticity is an approximation that states that the Force (load) is in direct proportion with the extension of a material as long as this load does not exceed the proportional limit.

Yield Stress: on a stress strain graph beyond the yield point (or elastic limit) the material will no longer return to its original length. This means it has become permanently deformed. Therefore the yield stress is the level of stress at which a material will deform permanently.

I’m beginning to understand why television moms with children on the spectrum are always portrayed as Type A, overstressed, controlling, and always at their breaking point. I used to think it was an unfair stereotype, but I’m beginning to see this may be an inevitable state of being.

I usually pride myself in being a fairly laid back person for the most part. The last few weeks have been trying to say the least between prepping for two back to school weeks for Olive as she’s enrolled in both a general education and special education preschool program with two different (both new) teachers with two different start weeks, we have a new ABA supervisor who started recently, and both of Olive’s occupational and speech therapy services needed to be renewed this month as well.

In theory these should all be fairly simple tasks and changes as my daughter is in preschool, not college and renewal requests should only involve her speech/OT office faxing paperwork to her doctor’s office. But when you combine the military healthcare system with the amount of paperwork involved with a child with special needs, problems and balls dropping seem to grow exponentially.

The first trigger of stressful eye twitching began when I went to pick Olive up from her first day in her general education classroom and I discovered that Olive’s case manager for her IEP never transferred her IEP to her GE preschool teacher. Not only had that not happened, but no one from the special education department or administration told the teacher that Olive was coming from the special education program or that Olive had ASD. Luckily, when Olive did have an incident that day in which she became upset, the teacher was able to talk it out with her, but it could have easily escalated and gone into the direction of a meltdown. Which is why when I realized that Olive had walked into her first day of preschool without a safety net, the part of me that constantly worries that  one of the balls I juggle for her will drop was crushed. Even though I knew I did everything I could have done to make sure that she was prepared for her first day of school, things still could have gone wrong. As a special needs parent, one of my coping mechanisms is to be as prepared as I can and to make her routines well managed and run smoothly. I contacted the program manager the day of the preschool orientation to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I hand delivered her IEP and authorization requests to the doctor’s office so her speech and occupational therapy wouldn’t be disrupted, I went back to school shopping and hand picked super soft t-shirts, socks, and stretch pants that I knew she could dress herself  before school and that I knew she wouldn’t refuse to wear (no dresses, no skirts, all cotton). I spent hours searching Pinterest for tree-nut free protein options and fun lunch ideas that I could pack for school because Olive refuses to eat any cheese, sandwiches, and most bread. Most of the time, she will only eat hot mac and cheese, nuggets, peanut butter on crackers, spaghetti, and Lunchables (which I know most schools prefer parents not pack).

There’s a reason when you see parents with kids on the spectrum they often have oversized calendars, schedulers filled with appointments, reminders, information, meetings, etc. They are always at therapies, meetings with schools, or doctor’s offices trying to advocate for something, push paperwork, or even just to get all of her services on the same page. I have a binder that (when I’m organized) has all of her paperwork for all of her therapies, referrals, respite logs, IEPs, etc.

Parents with kids on the spectrum may have refrigerators stockpiled for the five meals their kids will actually eat and  travel with a Costco sized cooler with preferred snacks, a favorite blanket, and a tablet because they know that the likelihood of the BBQ serving anything their child will actually eat is minuscule, but chances are their child will need to escape their surroundings at some point during the outing.

I spend most of my time trying to control what I can to make sure Olive has access to all the resources she will need in order to be successful, but no matter what I do there will always be elements that are out of my control. I’m writing this today because even though I delivered paperwork three weeks ago, one of my referrals was denied because the IEP wasn’t received and the authorization which I resubmitted later was not the right one (partially one of my balls dropping and partially speech and medical offices messing up on their end). I had to make three phone calls (the last one I was on the phone for an hour) to sort out the snafu so that her speech services aren’t disrupted and we don’t lose our slot on the schedule (it is next to impossible to get two back to back occupational and speech appointments and I cannot lose my spot). It ended in the doctor’s office promising to call me back (and if I miss their call I have no way to call them back because it’s a general appointment line). I spent an hour after the phone call with my phone attached to me while I tried to find the rest of the missing pieces for “Don’t Wake Hank” so Olive could use it during ABA. Somewhere between finding tentacle number 5 and 6 I misplaced my phone. It won’t ring for me when I call it from my computer and I can’t find it after looking for over an hour. I want to break down and cry and throw something and yell and scream but we are in the middle of an ABA session at my house and I cannot of course break down right now. Which is why I’m writing this.

Because I can’t magically make my phone appear. I know I will find it and I will sort out the mounting pile of paperwork that has become our day to day life and we will fix this problem eventually. Because some days I don’t have it all together and that’s OK. I’m also reminding myself that of all the bad days, I’ve survived 100% of them so far and that’s a pretty good record.

 

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The Tell-Tale Diaper

This gruesome tale is in honor of Blue on National Dog Day…

The last two weeks have been a slew of rushing from activities, meet ups,  and appointments and trying to beat the ABA therapist back to the house so I have at least ten minutes to shove clutter in less conspicuous places all while procrastinating our back to school to-do’s which starts on Monday.

Last Friday, I was frantically trying to finish getting the kids ready to go to a much needed play date. The tricky thing about morning play dates is unless we get somewhere before 10 AM we have an hour to be there before we have to turn around and head back for lunch and ABA. That means most mornings, I have a solid ninety minutes to feed both children, get every one dressed, caffeinated myself, eat breakfast, pack a diaper bag, make sure everyone’s teeth are brushed, redress Olive because she’s taken off her clothes, feed the dog, brush Olive’s hair again because she’s been rolling around the ground wrapped in a blanket, take away the permanent marker from Willow, unsuccessfully scrub off the permanent marker from Willow’s legs, warn the kids that we’re leaving in five minutes three times in twenty minutes, spill coffee on my clean shirt, rummage through the three loads of clean laundry still sitting unfolded in baskets because I have no other clean shirts (you get the idea of how my mornings tend to go around here).

Of course, right as I was in that golden moment of thinking we were actually headed out the door and I’m grabbing my purse and corralling the kids towards the mom-mobile, my nose picked up that Willow had pooped the diaper I had changed for her not more than five minutes ago. Not willing to break my forward momentum, I changed her quickly and efficiently on the couch (or just quickly if I’m being honest), put her back up right, and threw out the shit filled diaper without a second thought inside the kitchen garbage and headed out the door (where I most likely had to chase the kids in aimless circles around the SUV until I could actually physically get them strapped into the vehicle).

Now generally as most seasoned diaper disposal professionals (or DDP for short) will know, it’s always best to throw out a #2 diaper in the outdoor receptacles because gross I’ve long since given up on diaper genies with baby #1 because while a good idea in theory it involves emptying a canister that is basically the equivalent of plastic sausage links filled with excrement and regardless of how efficiently it seems to store dirty diapers, at the end of the day it’s still a ticking time bomb of fecal matter that is sitting inside your house. Its canister is even shaped like it might be a missle. Back to the matter at hand, the garbage was going to need to be taken out once I got back from the play date and not wanting to disrupt my forward momentum and needing both hands for the herding of small children I was about to undertake, it was just more convenient to throw it out in the kitchen garbage.

It turned out to be a big mistake which would haunt me for the rest of the weekend. When it comes to getting into the garbage, Blue is good at what he does. Since he is taller than the top of the garbage lid and being a bit of a cocky bastard, he does not wait for me to leave most of the time when he gets into the garbage; he will do the deed right in front of me because he has long ago shed the facade that I have any real authority over him or the house in general. He does as he pleases because he outweighs me by 75 lbs. He also doesn’t really need to knock over the can to get into the garbage, he just lifts the lid or removes it altogether and drops his head in like its some kind of trough. For a very long time, the garbage and recycling cans were moved on the other side of the baby gate if he was in the house with us which means they’re next to the restroom in the hallway leading into the bedrooms which is an awkward place for garbage. Luckily though he’d seemed to recently have matured and I’d become lazy in my habit of moving said cans.

Fast forward to two hours later when we got back from the play date at 11:45 am, which left me exactly fifteen minutes to clean up from this morning, feed the kids, and pick up the playroom before the therapist arrived. I walked into the living room to see Olive’s favorite twin sized fleece blanket spread on the hardwoods, covered in something brown and what looked like a quarter of the bottom of what once might have been a diaper.

Olive ran forward past me and stopped within inches of her blanket and before I could stop her, reached to grab it. Luckily she caught sight of Blue’s finger painting before I did and paused to assess the situation.

“Is that poop?”

“DON’T TOUCH IT!”

This time I scooped up the entire lot: shit covered blanket and half masticated diaper and threw it all outside. But that meant I had ten minutes to sweep up all the gel pieces that were littered like confetti in our living room, (and if you’ve ever swept up diaper gel you know those little guys are both feisty and defiant) disinfect the area and hope my Scentsy room spray would mask any of lingering smell. I also smirked at the irony that this happened to be the same blanket that  just two days prior her therapist deemed it necessary to tell me that she thought the blanket needed to be washed and inferred that it smelled. A sniff check later told me that while Blue may have napped with it recently, she just didn’t have kids or pets and perhaps didn’t know that smelling a four year old’s blanket is generally ill advised. I wondered what her opinion of the blanket in its current state would render this time around.

I had more or less forgotten about the incident until the next day when we came back from yet another morning play date and my favorite throw blanket was yet again on the ground. I didn’t realize anything was amiss until Olive grabbed the far ends of it and started dragging it to the couch to roll herself into one of her cocoons and saw a half digested Pampers fall onto the hardwoods. I quickly took the blanket back and waved Willow away from the puddle of vomit on the ground (because any puddle is a muddy puddle if you’re two years old and watch Peppa Pig) until I could locate Clorox wipes and paper towel. It was the longest thirty seconds of my life. So far.

I finally cleaned up the diaper, disinfected the area and threw my blanket in the washing machine and realized that this was the THIRD time I had picked up after the same shitty diaper in TWO DAYS. First, when Willow pooped in it, then when Blue ate it and again when he threw it up. It felt like no matter what I did, I was never going to be rid of that diaper. And then I looked outside through my sliding glass door at the litter of man-sized dog droppings waiting for me and realized that perhaps I never would.

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I’m Baaaaaack

You know when you have a friend you haven’t talked to in ages and the longer you go without picking up the phone and calling them the more awkward it becomes until you just can’t stomach texting them because you’ve been a bad friend and haven’t kept in touch?

That’s what this blog had become to me over the last year. I really wanted to write, but I’d been gone so long I didn’t know how to start. And the longer I went without writing, the harder the concept of actually posting something became. I had some really good reasons for not writing and some not great ones which I will get into shortly. I kept having these great ideas for blog posts that ultimately became hilarious Facebook posts because I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and give them the time and energy a quality blog post required. But I really want writing to be a part of my life and that won’t happen without this blog. So for anyone who was kind enough to read my writing last year, whether it was on Scary Mommy, The Mighty, or Hahas for HooHas or right here where it all started, I just want to say a big THANK YOU! I hope to have much more to share soon and will keep you updated if it appears anywhere but here.

Also, for my silence for the last year I’m so sorry! All I can say in my defense is I had a really difficult year between parenting through a military deployment, trying to navigate parenting with two small children, Olive’s pre-K and numerous therapies, and juggling too many balls in the air I went into deep survival mode and ended each day just too bone tired to write. Tired to the point of falling asleep in puddles of my own drool and waking up with my make up still on tired.

And I’ve got plenty to say so here goes……

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I just want to eat my F-ing burrito

I believe it is Murphy’s Law that says when your husband is out-to-sea you will encounter toddler poop, a dog’s enema and a dead rat all in the same day.

No? That’s not how it goes?

Olive was on day two of attempt 6000 of potty training. With the promise of a trip to Target to pick out any toy she wanted if she peed or pooped in the potty, she was taking this very seriously. She tried for four and a half hours yesterday, refusing to put a diaper on after many failed attempts and luckily only one accident, she almost fell asleep before I could get a diaper back on. She woke up ready to take her diaper off and seize the day.

I have been showering with hand towels because there are never clean towels and one of the cats chewed off the button to my last pair of semi-clean shorts, so the only thing I wanted to seize was coffee and a breakfast burrito.

After going through the regular morning routine of coffee pot, breakfast for the kids, and figuring out what to eat myself, I sat down to my first bite of breakfast burrito when I realized that Olive wasn’t eating breakfast. I went back to check on her and realized that she had stopped playing long enough to pop a squat and poop on the floor and just kept playing.

Awesome. I wasn’t game to go back to the burrito at that point so I decided to drink more coffee. Because coffee fixes everything. Or maybe its wine. That was when I remembered, I was supposed to check the rat trap. When you have a large dog that spends a lot of time eating and pooping and being a dog, it inevitably invites other critters and one of our newest play date pals was pooping in his food dish. Matt decided that the best thing to do was to leave a rat trap behind Blue’s arm chair outside (yes, he has his own armchair). And of course, lo and behold, Ratatouille was dead. Disposing and resetting said trap had thoroughly made my stomach churn, so now there was no way I was touching either the breakfast burrito or the coffee.

I went back inside to find that the Olive had procured her Doc McStuffins play set and had the stethoscope around her neck and was chasing Blue with the fake syringe and alternating between giving me a shot, and then Blue, and then Willow, and then Blue again (apparently she likes to throw basic medical safety practices to the wind by sharing needles). I decided to capture the moment and took a few cute pictures of Blue’s first in home physical. I was reviewing the pictures on my phone and looked up in time to see Olive putting the same syringe up the dog’s rear end.

Luckily, I stopped her in plenty of time before the syringe went very far and although disgruntled about the process, Blue remained unscathed. At that point, I had given up. I fed my burrito to the dog and put him outside to recover and dumped my coffee in the sink.

Some days you feel like you could fart rainbows  and glitter while you’re riding Lisa Frank’s unicorn, charging into parenthood and toddlerhood head on with a  wreath of daisies in your hair. Other days, you pick up toddler poop, extricate a dead rat from behind an arm chair and almost have to remove a Doc McStuffins toy from your dog’s rear end.

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Looking for the Helpers

We’re now through our first six weeks of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and Olive seems to really be enjoying having the therapists stop by the house every day to play with her. The door bell rings at noon and she comes running for the door squealing, “It’s Ms. Gabby” or “Ms. Denyse! Ms. Denyse is here!”

I am so thankful to have such wonderful therapists working one-on-one with her and I am so happy that we had an early diagnosis so she is receiving this help before she begins a K-12 program.

However, it does present an interesting dynamic and has required an adjustment on my part. Having someone in your home every day that isn’t family and not quite a friend (in the sense that they’re there to provide a service) is a little awkward. Imagine if your child’s teacher came to your house every day to work with your kids. While it would be wonderful to have such attention showered on your child, it would feel strange to have what you would consider an outside entity in your home on a daily basis. It’s not a bad thing, but requires getting used to. The first week I kept the house immaculate. The kitchen was clean and the sink was empty, floors were washed, the couch cushions were laundered, the table was empty, and wiped down and all dog poop was picked up.

By week three, I was constantly apologizing for the state of my home. “Oh, sorry, we went to the park this morning so there wasn’t any time to clean!” (Also, I decided drinking a second cup of coffee and talking to friends on Facebook was really more important this morning.) There’s a sheen of dog drool on most of the couch, the only dishes that are clean are the ones that were dishwasher safe, you can’t see the kitchen counter, the floors were mopped three days ago, there are veritable land mines littering our back yard, and it looks like Toys R Us projectile vomited in my living room. I understand that these are people who I’m sure are just as imperfect as I am and see loads of houses that are *hopefully* in worse shape than mine, but from what I can tell the therapists I have worked with so far, either in ABA or in speech or occupational therapy tend to be on the younger side and don’t have children of their own. Its one thing to work with children every day and realize that their parents have a lot on their plate, but to come into someone’s home and see the chaos first hand is another. I know I’m a hot mess, but I hide it fairly well in public. My home is supposed to be my private space to let my freak flag fly. Walk around in no pants, take off my bra, binge watch Shameless on Netflix (when the kids are sleeping of course), and eat crap straight out of the bag/carton/box. Basically, when I’m home, I need to not have to pretend like I have my shit together. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that anymore. I still constantly feel like I’m readying for company (or failing to do so). Plus, the contract didn’t explicitly say this, but I think its implied I’m supposed to wear pants during sessions.

Blue presents an interesting element to this new schedule as well. For logistical and liability reasons, I can’t have him in the house with us during sessions so he stays outside. He’s not aggressive normally and I’m not concerned about him biting them, but he becomes very excited when we have guests in the home and tends to jump and mouth (a habit we’ve tried and failed to break, even with training). I can’t run the risk that when my 160 pound dog jumps on my 125 pound speech therapist she will fall and hurt her back or twist her knee. Also, no one wants to constantly wipe the drool from their crotchal region every ten minutes while they’re at work. I could crate him, but if he’s crated while company is over he barks like Kujo non-stop until he’s let out. I can’t stand it for more than five minutes, let alone three hours. My solution has been to keep him in the house with us right up until session and then putting him in the back yard just until it ends. With temperatures being 90 degrees + the last couple weeks, we’ve had to be creative. We’ve planned some outings when possible and the therapist has conducted parts of the session in Olive’s bedroom so Blue and I can hang out inside the living room and he can get a break from the heat. This backfired, when one of the therapists forgot that he was in the living room and she came back to get her water and clipboard. Blue charged her and thoroughly slimed her yoga pants trying to sniff her and then upon deciding that she was friendly, tucked his head between her legs and tried to carry her back into the living room with him. She finally understands why I keep Blue outside during our sessions.

The other aspect that makes life more challenging given that my three year old has a busier schedule than I do these days is that now when something comes up that makes it necessary for us to cancel or reschedule something, I feel like Olive’s personal assistant. For example, last week our air conditioner broke (of course while Matt is gone). So in between passing out snacks and putting Twice Upon a Christmas on for the third time (in July no mind you), I was both yelping AC repair places and leaving messages with them and then texting her ABA therapists to let them know of our predicament and would they be able to meet us at Play Town for session instead of our house? And then the kids and I were taking turns passing colds around this last week and I had decided the night before that we were all just a little too sick for therapy. So I had to call or text five different therapists the next morning to make sure to let them know in enough notice to make sure we wouldn’t be charged for our sessions. I never had to jump through this many hoops when I had to call into work sick when I was actually employed.

This is our life now and although I grumble, its just because I’m a crotchety old woman at heart. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Olive is getting the care she needs; care I couldn’t provide without much needed help. And the silver lining is that I have actual adult company during the day (although I try to stay out of their way) and someone to keep Olive busy so I can focus more on other things if only for a couple hours during the day. Whenever I feel myself resisting this new normal, I try to remind myself what Mr. Rogers would say:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” — Fred Rogers