Entry for January 12, 2008
Charlie was full of jokes today. Now, for those of you that don't know this, all the textbooks will tell you that people with autism are completely incapable of joking around. It has to do with something called The Theory of Mind. Apparently neurotypicals (people like you and me...well...you) have it and people with autism, or auties, as adults with autism like to be called, do not. Except Charlie. He has a good sense of humor-- always has.
I remember when he was about 7, he was eating fresh strawberries. He put one on the end of each finger, held up his red-tipped fingers and yelled, "Owieeeee!"
Yesterday he came home from school and was giggling. I asked him what was so funny and he said, "Snowman, inside!" That's his kind of joke. His latest is to tell me the name of a movie with the wrong distribution company. He will say, "Tom & Jerry, Disney!" and I will answer, "No way! That's WB!" And he falls into a fit of giggles. So, "The Little Mermaid, WB" and "An American Tail, Disney" are hysterical jokes as well.
He is also on a hair-cutting kick. Around Christmas, he cut all the front off his hair. He looked like a geek extraordinaire. I tried to fix it, because the thought of him going in public like that made me cringe. He wouldn't sit still. It came out really bad and I had to cover it up by putting lots of hair putty in his hair and messing it up. It was a few days before we were able to get him to a barber. He looks much better now.
Last night, I was having a conversation with Noah and all of a sudden his eyes grew as wide as saucers. I was scared to look behind me and then I hear an odd sound near my ear. Noah yells, "Mom! Watch out! Charlie is trying to cut your hair!" He actually had a lock of my hair in his hand and was opening and closing the scissors near my ear. Payback, maybe? Or maybe he's trying to tell me I look horrible. I really do. I look like I have some Australian brush on top of my head. It has been way too long since I got my haircut. No time. I'll go next Saturday, hopefully. In the meantime, if you see a small shrub driving a minivan around St. Charles, it's me.
Entry for January 10, 2008
Charlie turned 17 on Sunday. I cannot believe he is 17. Gone is the smooth baby face, replaced by some zits and facial hair. ((sigh)) Time is so fleeting. He has come a long way in 17 years. There was a time that the possibility that he may never speak was very real. He is such a fighter and he has such a zest for life that he has overcome so very much. I am very proud of him and tell him that often.
Charlie has also been the source of many, many hilarious moments for our family. All the kids are, actually, but Charlie always seems to add a twist...
It was the first day that Noah was in Safety Town and parents had to stay. Isabella was 3 at the time and Angelina was still an infant. I had Isabella on my lap as the director was talking to the parents. Something is not right. I sniff. I wince. I sniff again. "Why does your hair smell like pee?" I whisper. I can see from the look on Bella's face that she is clueless.
As soon as we get home I wash her hair. Then I try to figure out what's going on. Did she wet the bed? I check the sheets. They are fine. Hmmm. Hair doesn't just smell like pee for no reason. I think and think and I still can't come up with a reason. Finally the light bulb goes off over my head. I run to the bathroom and check the spray bottle I use to spritz her hair. Bella's hair was curly back then, so in the morning I would spray it with water and scrunch it to get the curls all bouncy. However, this day there was no water in there. It was pee. I sprayed my three-year-old's head with urine. What kind of mother am I? Well, I am Charlie's mother, too, and at that time Charlie was peeing in bottles. Didn't think he'd expand to spray bottles...
Several weeks before, we went to Mass and then planned on going to pick up some cold cuts for lunch, eating at home, then going to the Geneva Swedish Days Parade. We drove into Geneva to the store and saw that people were already lining up to see the parade, so we decided on an impromtu picnic instead. We put Bella and Angelina in the stroller, got some picnic blankets out of the trunk, bought some food and drinks and camped out to watch the parade. It was a hot day and Charlie wound up drinking 2 bottles of Snapple Iced Tea. The parade was loooong and after awhile he told me he had to use the bathroom. So we started packing up, but I noticed that he was pretty uncomfortable, so I went ahead to the car with Charlie, while Joe finished up and took the other 3 to meet us there.
When we got to the van, Charlie was visibly struggling to hold it in. I had an empty Snapple bottle, and no one was around to see, so I had him get in the van and go in the bottle. This was during the period of time when Charlie had to completely pull down his pants in order to go, which was why I told him to get in the van. He was standing between the front and middle seats and I held the bottle. I was too busy to realize that his naked bum was visible through the front windshield. He started to go and the bottle got more and more and more full until I began to panic and had visions of pee going over the top, down onto my hands and onto the seat. Both my and his Guardian Angels were working overtime because it stopped just at the top. Whew! As I was carefully screwing on the cap I hear Joe yelling, "Charlie! Noooooooooo!" He had come down the street and the view he got was Charlie in the van with his pants down! I popped my head out of the van and saw him racing frantically down the street pushing the double stroller with one hand and dragging Noah along with the other. I tell Joe it's all under control. The poor guy!
When we got home I disposed of the bottle and called it a day. About a half hour later Joe said to me, "AnnMarie, that is gross. Why didn't you throw out that bottle?" Huh? I told him I did. Then he said, "Then what's with the Snapple bottle on the kitchen counter?" Oh no!
That's right, Charlie went into the recycling bin and had gotten out a bottle and went in the bottle. It took a quite a few weeks to help him unlearn the bottle thing. We'd find bottles of pee all over the place-- even in the refrigerator. Needless to say, I avoided buying apple juice for quite some time.
Months after he got over the compulsion to pee in bottles, we took Charlie to the doctor, the reason escapes me. But, you guessed it, the doc wanted a urine sample. When we were in the bathroom to collect the sample Charlie shot me a look that clearly said, "You ask me to pee in the bottle. When I do, you say not to and I get in trouble, now you want me to pee in a cup? I think you are completely and totally insane." However, I am sure he was also thinking: "But I love you anyway."
Entry for December 30, 2007
Before Christmas, we cut off 14 inches of Angelina's hair. She had been growing it for Locks of Love. I haven't mailed it yet, because I have this weird aversion to going to the post office to mail anything. I just never seem to get there and the thing I am supposed to mail winds up collecting dust and eventually being donated to St. Vincent dePaul. I don't even buy stamps-- I order them from the postman. He brings them to my house (yes, you can do this at no charge). All my bills are automatically deducted. See? I avoid the post office at all costs. Why? I don't know. Nothing traumatic ever happened to me at the post office. Maybe I'm just lazy.
Anyway, this time I am glad I didn't send the hair because I heard from my hair stylist, Erika, that Locks of Love doesn't necessarily use the hair you send them. They sell the hair at their discretion. They also do not necessarily provide the wigs for free; they charge according to a sliding scale. And, most of the recipients are not childhood cancer patients, but people of all ages suffering from alopecia. Which is OK, except, when I told Angelina about my cousin, Janine, who died of leukemia as a child, she made the decision to donate her hair to someone like Janine. Both Angelina and I would like her hair to actually make it into a wig for a child who needs it. SO, I found another charity, called Little Princesses, that was started by the parents of a child who died from cancer. Every ponytail they receive gets used and all the wigs they provide are completely at no charge to the child or their family. It just sits better with me. For those of you who are interested, here is the link: http://www.littleprincesses.org.uk/donate/hair.aspx
Now, if I could just get to the post office...
Entry for December 28, 2007
I told the kids a joke at dinner: "How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizza? Deep and crisp and even." They didn't think it was as funny as I did, but then we started singing:
Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen,When the snow lay round about,Deep and crisp and even;Brightly shone the moon that night,though the frost was cruelWhen a poor man came in sight,Gathering winter fuel.
and Angelina follows up with,
"Yankee Doodle keep it up!
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Mind the music and the steps
And with the girls be handy!"
HA! Try it! It absolutely fits!
Entry for December 26, 2007
As I write this, Fintan is at Children's Memorial receiving his new heart. Please say a prayer of thanksgiving for this Christmas miracle! And please pray for the family whose child died on Christmas Day and who, despite their grief, chose to gift Fintan with their child's heart.
Years ago, my childhood friend, Denise said to me, "AnnMarie, you can never just do something. With you, there's always a story attached to everything." Unfortunately, she was right.
Almost everything I ordered online this year got messed up. I ordered my in-laws a nice gift box of a variety of foods. It had about a dozen pears, some apples, candy, nuts and cookies. What they got was 3 dozen pears. I got my in-laws PEARS for Christmas. When I called the company to resolve the problem, I should have had them send a partridge.
Even stuff we received was messed up. About 2 weeks ago, Fr. Beekman, Angelina's Godfather, called to ask me her dress size. He always sends har a birthday gift, usually from Amazon.com, because he lives over an hour away and, being a priest, Christmas is his busy season, so we don't get to see him in person. Anyway, I am expecting a dress to arrive in the mail. Wednesday, I get a small package from Amazon. I thought that was odd, since he mentioned a dress and was about to toss it in a drawer to save it for her birthday (which is ON Christmas and that is a whole other story, which I will tell at another time), when common sense took over and I opened it. It was a Harry Potter DVD. Now, I know Fr. Beekman and I know he would never send a Harry Potter anything to anybody, so I am thinking maybe this was a mistake. I look at the return address. It is from Michael Pollack from Manhattan. Now, unless Angelina is getting on MySpace and chatting behind my back, I'm pretty sure we do not know this man. I plan to resolve the problem the next day, which is Thursday and we are getting carpeting installed in the LR and DR.
Thursday morning I get up early, finish getting ready for the installers, send the kids across the street to my parents' and exile myself to the kitchen. I can't get into any other part of the house except by going outside, around to the front door and back inside the house, so I make sure I have my jacket in the kitchen with me. I set out to straighten out the Harry problem. After 15 minutes searching on the website for a phone number, I find it and call Amazon. I explain that we received the DVD in error and ask if I can return it. The CSR is incredulous. Apparently this doesn't happen very often. He tells me he can't believe I didn't just keep it. Yeah, yeah, whatever. How can I get the dress? He can't help me. He needs an order number for the dress, which I don't have. I bet if he calls Michael Pollack of NY, NY, he would have the order number, probably the dress, too. So, ultimately, my honesty gets me nowhere.
I e-mail Fr. Beekman with the whole saga. He e-mails me right back. Here is what he wrote:
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I bought her a Christmas dress! This is the work of the devil!!"
I crack up! Then the phone rings. It's Fr. B. He is not happy. He promises to call Amazon and straighten it out and get something else in the mail. I explain to him that he doesn't need to take all the trouble to do that and I will just explain to Angelina that he wanted to send a dress, but Amazon messed up. She's reasonable, she'll understand. He's having none of it, so I wish him luck and sign off.
Now I am stuck in the kitchen, with about 10 dining room chairs and a big box of books. Since there is just a small, L-shaped area in which I can maneuver, there's not much I can do. I go downstairs and throw in some laundry. I wash all the dishes. I drink some coffee. I clean my stove top. I call my friend Kerry and we chat for awhile while I scrub.
The doorbell rings. I throw on my jacket and head out through the snow to the front porch (WHY did I wear my CLOGS today???). It is another homeschool mom. Huh? Then I remember, she was supposed to stop by today and pick up some clothes I am giving away. She sees me approaching from the back yard and I can see the puzzled look on her face. I run upstairs to get the bag of clothes and then I come down and give it to her. For some reason I feel compelled to tell her all about my vendor problems. The story spills out like vomit and she politely listens. This poor woman, whom I have never met face-to-face before has instantly and involuntarily become my therapist. I realize what I am doing to her and let her escape.
I notice that the mail has come and I bring it around to the back door and into the kitchen. There is a box addressed to me. I open it and realize it is a gift I ordered online and had sent to my cousin for her new baby, except now it has arrived at my house. An expletive escapes from my mouth (hey! my kids are across the street, remember??). I need to call her and explain. I check her number in my phone book and, as I am dialing, I remember that she moved and this number may not be current. I hear the familiar "dee-dee-DEE! The number you have reached, yada, yada, yada..." and realize I am right. Darn! I will call information to get it. I dial 911. 911!!! AAARRGH! I hang up the phone! Then I dial 411 and get the number. Then the reality that I dialed 911 by mistake hits and I dial it again.
"Hi. I just dialed 911 by accident and wanted to tell you that I don't need any assistance."
"You dialed 911 by accident?!"
"Yes, it was accidental. Please don't send anyone to my house. I don't need any help." (and as I am telling her this I am thinking, maybe I DO)
She sighs. "What's your address?"
I give it to her and hang up. Then I call my cousin and leave an apologetic message.
Then the phone rings. It is Fr. B. "I'm on Randall Rd. I'll be there in 15 minutes." Wow! He went and purchased a dress and drove out here from Amboy to give it to Angelina! I explain to him that we are getting carpet installed and I can't answer the front door from inside, so he should ring the bell and I will come out the back and get him, then we will go across the street to where my kids are. I can hear his eyes rolling. "With you, some things never change," he sighs. Has he spoken to Denise, I wonder?
I finish cleaning the stovetop. It is SO shiny! I go and switch the laundry. Then I hear the doorbell. I throw on the jacket and head to the front door. It was nice to see an old friend standing there! We say our hellos and cross the street to my parents' house. He gives Angelina the dress. It is beautiful; a black, velour top with a red taffetta skirt with a black velour design on it. She tries it on and looks just like an angel. He has to go. Before he leaves, Fr. Beekman gives us all his priestly blessing.
The carpet isn't quite done, so I leave the kids and go back across the street, to my small, L-shaped patch of kitchen. I make more coffee while I am on hold with the vendor that messed up my cousin's gift. After 20 minutes I just start pressing buttons. Hint: pressing "00" will get you a live person. That fiasco gets resolved. After I hang up, the carpet is done. It looks good. Hope the new owner appreciates this. The carpet people leave and the kids come home and then we all work to put things back on tables and shelves and in their rightful place. I make a quick dinner and then it was time for the Little Flower Buds meeting. It was our turn to host. The meeting was very nice. We put together a box of toiletries for a local homeless shelter and made cards to go with it. We ate cupcakes and talked about St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Then the girls played while the parents chatted a bit. It was a very pleasant evening.
That night, after the kids were in bed, I was the most tired I have ever been without having just given birth. As I lay in bed I thought that, although it was a crazy day; no policeman had come to the house, my stovetop was as shiny as ever, there was brand new carpeting in the LR and DR, I got to see an old friend and my family had received a priestly blessing. And then I chuckled. Denise is right; there is always a story, but it usually has a pretty good ending.