Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mea Culpa

Last week I was in traffic court for the first time in my life due to a late-night violation. It was thrilling. Right. I learned why Law & Order is not based on traffic court cases.

An officer stopped me at the metal detectors because of the forgotten knife on my keychain. Once I had taken care of that and my cell phone, I waited outside the courtroom for my Day of Judgement. Some of the guilty ones wore sloppy sweats; some wore suits. My choice of outfit was a gamble on the idea that the judge wouldn't mind a lady in heels and a slim skirt.

Inside the courtroom, the bailiff looked like Edward James Olmos after the Jenny Craig diet. He crabbed at everyone to spit out their gum and take their sunglasses off their heads. Enter the judge in a neighborly cardigan under his robes. He nodded to the accusing officers and scanned his docket.

I happened to have seated myself as close to the officers as possible. They seemed official and respectable enough with their stacks of traffic citations in hand. The judge addressed us all and proceeded to call us up one by one. Some had DUI problems but most were like me.

I take that back. I was completely out of place. These people had multiple violations and were really pushing the envelope. When the judge gave them a chance to make a statement, most would lamely try to justify their mistake. To his credit, he would listen until they were done. Then he would hand down his judgement, without any changes. I wondered why none of them invoked their driving record. Then I realized-- it was because it would only make things worse.

What would I say? That I was tired? That would go over really well. Who doesn't drive when they are tired? Should I read my blog post to him? Or should I tell him that frankly, I didn't know the law? Sure. I could probably recite with him that, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse..." Didn't I have an ace up my sleeve?

I observed the body language and terminology that everyone in the courtroom used, filing it all away for my turn. At one point an offender was cited for illegally tinted windows along with his DUI. An officer nearby leaned close to another and I could hear him whisper about what he would do to a girl in a car with tinted windows...

AAHHHH!!!! I tried not to react but I must have twitched or something, because he suddenly clammed up, glanced at me, and looked away. Phew. Finally I heard the judge call my name. I stood up and said, "No contest, your Honor." Immediately my accusing officer called out,

"I would like to amend the charge, your Honor."

I froze. There was no way on God's green earth that I was going to plead no contest to an unknown charge. I looked back and forth between the judge and the officer, waiting for an explanation. The two tossed complicated decimal-pointed codes around while I stood there, clueless.

When the judge invited me to stand before him, I suddenly realized my mistake. My three inch heels made me 6'5". The entire motley courtroom gawked at me as my heels clicked on the way to the podium. So much for the strategic wardrobe.

The judge cited the new charge. I leaned WAAAY down to the microphone and asked how it differed from the previous charge. The judge actually had to dig out his code book. Turns out the officer just got his codes wrong, and he was correcting his mistake. I agreed with the new charge.

"Is there anything you want to say?" the judge asked.

"No your honor, except that I ask the court to take my driving record into account." Here was my hidden ace.

Eddie Olmos, the bailiff, handed him a sheet of paper. The judge looked it over.

"You have a perfect driving record." He sounded surprised.

Exactly!!! Can't you see that I don't belong here? That I made a stupid tired mistake??? That I wasn't trying to endanger law enforcement officers? Drinking while driving is a no-brainer. But how many people in this courtroom would be able to recite the law that I had broken?

He decided that I was not a threat to society and lessened the charge to a more general traffic violation. I thanked him lamely and made my Amazonian way out of the courtroom as quickly as I could.

While I was at the window to pay my fine, I could hear the officers who manned the metal detector. Their conversations were pitiful at best. One of them discussed how he likes to use a falsetto voice while inviting courthouse visitors to step through the detector. I rolled my eyes. No wonder these guys had been positioned here. I couldn't get away fast enough.

On my way out, I turned around and click-clicked my way back to the officers at the metal detector. I had their full attention as they straightened up. I smiled my best charming smile and said, "Gentlemen! I've been listening to your conversations and truly, they have been enlightening."

One of them grimaced. "Which one?"

"ALL of them." I whirled and flounced my way out the door, glad to be done.

Monday, January 26, 2009

For my fan

Dear grandma,

I write this post to you knowing full well that it will arrive in your mailbox a few weeks from now. Your daughter, a.k.a. my mom, will have literally cut and pasted it onto sheets of paper and sent it via snail mail (that's the kind with a stamp on it) across state lines. Why? In order to appease my fan.

Yes, grandma, this is a great big thank-you for your encouragement. You sent me a handwritten note recently. May I quote it for all to see? I thought so.

"I wish my mother could read your writings. She would be even more thrilled than I, or (your mother) or (your father.)"

Here's my favorite:

"The little incidents are better than those I read in the Reno paper!!" (original emphasis.)

I'm glad to know that there are people out there ::sniff:: whose days are brightened by what I have to say.

But here's a little secret for you, grandma. You, who supported your pilot husband during World War II, and afterward, through polio and 43 years of teaching. You, who raised two children. You, who celebrated so many of my birthdays and Christmases with me that I cannot count. You, who attended my high school basketball games and my wedding. You're still alive and kicking and still use my favorite adjective: peachy.

You may be my fan, but I am most definitely yours.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Perry the Platypus

When my now-eight-year-old decided (on short notice) that he wanted to be a certain Disney character for Hallowe'en, I discovered that the show was too new and I would have to make the costume.

I am finally getting around to posting pictures. He paid me the ultimate compliment by asking if he can wear the costume next year, too. I did not bring up the fact that his parents are giants and the likelihood of it fitting a year from now is slim.

So here is "T" as Perry the Platypus. As you can see, all those years of Method acting classes have really paid off.

The duckbill was the hardest. It took a lot of engineering and I tried to use the lightest materials possible. My downfall, however, was being short on time. I used a glue gun to stick the felt to the cardboard. I used a LOT of glue. And that stuff is heavy. Loyal to then end, my little guy insisted on wearing the bill despite its ungainly nature.

To a certain reader named "Swampy": will you contact me? I have more pictures for you and some compliments to drop in your pocket.

Here's my info: queenofthefive (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kiss the chicken

My three boys have a condition called sensory defensiveness. It's the body's way of misinterpreting sensory input. It shows up in various ways. You may be familiar with milder forms of it-- if your socks don't feel right in your shoes, you don't like people to hug you, or certain food textures just feel weird. We have the food thing. On steroids.

Meal time is very interesting in our house, to say the least. I don't like having guests during meals. I consider it tantamount to torture. We try to balance our meals between food that the boys will eat and food that they should get used to. But when we introduce something new, the shrieking begins.

Chicken, of all the bland, kid-friendly meats, has been the bane of our existence. Our younger two have refused it repeatedly for the last year or so. Mashed potatoes are deadly, and pasta may as well be the Axis of Evil. Kim Jong-Il is the father of spaghetti in our house.

One of the techniques that we have learned from the many therapists is the kissing technique. You work the undesired food into mealtime by having it on the table. Then you move it to the plate. Then, if the plate doesn't go flying, the food goes on the fork. This is the sticky part. Getting your child to let that food go ANYWHERE within the vicinity of his mouth is sweaty work. Hence, the kissing technique. All you need to require of them is that they kiss the food. Nothing more.

"Here comes the chicken. Mmmm. Sure looks tasty. All you need to do is kiss it."

::headshake, tuck head under table:: "Uh, uh."

"Come on, you can do it. Wow! Looks delicious!"

"No. NO!" Slaps it away.


It goes on and on. No progress, just frustration. Our youngest will go dinner after dinner without eating ANYTHING. It doesn't matter what type of desirable food you offer if he just tries it. Nothing works. You feel like the winner of the Worst Parent Ever award when you can't get your kid to eat. I refuse to make alternate meals, so he goes to bed with an empty stomach.

Our kids enjoy a show called Pucca. It's about child ninjas and it's made in Korea, I believe. It's also made of pure speed, right off the streets. Seriously. I go into convulsions from the first few notes of the intro song. It's catchy but oh so dangerous. And I owe it a lot. Because pasta is now our friend.

Our middle child, "S", decided that he wanted to help me cook spaghetti noodles because Chef on Pucca does the same thing. And after you cook noodles, what do you do? Eat them, of course! Which is exactly what he did. It doesn't matter that I've tried to get him involved in cooking meals before. Pucca is the Korean dictator in our household now.

"S" found two plastic sticks that were about two feet long and declared them chopsticks. He sucked down noodle after noodle. He even took the bowl of noodles to bed with him. I couldn't say no! This was the ultimate payoff.

Tonight we had plain spaghetti noodles around during dinner as well. And you know what we saw? Our youngest, handling noodles. A first. He ::ahem:: was decorating a toy bus with the spaghetti. But for us, this was huge. He looked up with a big smile and a wrinkled nose and declared, "Sticky!" And then he went right back to the noodles.

Thank you, Korea.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Truer love never spoken

"Mom, did you know that boys rule and girls drool? Except one girl of course, and that's you."

I'm feelin' the love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hold on tight

It sounds just like a bad Hallmark channel movie when you compare parenting an autistic child to a rollercoaster ride. But it certainly rings true. Today I hit the part of the ride where the train brakes suddenly and one is thrust forward against the harness.

My son, in a fit of post-school exhaustion, threw his backpack onto the sidewalk in front of our house. I refused to pick it up for him and left it in the rain. Back inside, I reminded him regularly that his backpack would continue to get wet if he did not retrieve it. He refused to retrieve it. We went back and forth.

Finally I got him to go outside with me but when he realized that I still expected him to pick up his own backpack, he tried to go back inside. I closed the door and told him that he would not be able to come in until he had picked it up himself. Then the fit began. He screamed, tore at his pants, punched the glass storm door, jumped up and down, and nearly burst a blood vessel in his forehead. Each time he paused to catch his breath, I quietly reminded him to get his backpack.

It's a testament to the understanding neighborhood friends of mine that the Department of Children and Family Services was not called. His was a cacophony of sound. I wouldn't budge from my requirement that he pick up his own mess. He was beside himself. He was also getting damp from the rain and claimed that a spider was going to crawl out of the nearby plant to get him. I could barely keep a straight face.

He finally grabbed the backpack (after tossing it around the front yard a few times,) chucked it through the open front door, and rocketed himself into the house. I have learned to read the pitch of his voice. The danger note in it and his flailing showed me that physical harm was imminent. He tried to take out his little brother with his feet so I put him in a headlock. We curled up at the base of the stairs, him in my lap. I repeatedly dodged his flailing head, certain that if he made contact he would break my nose.

This was my bad movie moment-- the one where the viewer is supposed to feel sorry for me and go home depressed, or feel grateful that he is not in my shoes. I just held on (a running theme for parents of autistic children) and waited. He was screaming, "Let go of me, mom! AAAHHHHH!!! LET GO OF ME!" Then, suddenly, he went limp in my arms. He laid his head against my neck and pleaded,

"Don't let go of me, mom!"

Hot tears spilled down my face as I knew that we had made it through another loop in the rollercoaster.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

To brighten your day

Just a quote from my oldest. I suppose there are some who would beg to differ with his declaration:

"Mom, did you know that they actually speak English in Texas, too?!!"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Party like it's 1989

I am such a party animal. And while I discussed my lack of New Years' Eve plans with fellow blogger and neighbor Akaemi, we came to the conclusion that we are both party animals. So naturally, we decided to paint a bedroom in my itty bitty townhome.

This project has been in the works for months. My oldest child is an avid builder, especially of Legos. He will spend hours making fantastical creations. Then along comes my youngest, who can destroy things faster than a nuclear bomb. There is no malice involved, just a pressing need to handle something so amazing. Crunch.

So I'm going to bunk all three boys in aforementioned room and turn the other bedroom into a dressers/books/shoes and Lego building table room. I bought the curtain and rod, picked out the paint chips, took a bunk bed off a friend's hands... and then nothing. I'm sure a shrink could pick apart my inability to finish projects. I'm also sure that mine is a common ailment.

Thanks to Akaemi's encouragement we celebrated New Year's Eve in high style. A lovely coat of sky blue for the ceiling and we called it a night! The next morning we chased away our paint-huffing hangover with a dose of tan paint for the walls. Blue and tan is a color combination that is so in vogue. After the first coat we stepped back to admire our peachy handiwork.

Four peach-colored walls stared back at us. PEACH!!? I chose tan!!! Why are my walls screaming PEACH??? The paint that is dried on the bottom of my socks, clinging to the bathroom sink, plastered across my old college shirt is TAN!!! I'm gonna climb across the paint counter at Home Depot and throttle that salesman.

The combination of light blue ceiling and peach walls brought back crushing memories of 1980's color schemes. Why, why, after this herculean effort did I have to end up peaching the walls of my THREE SONS' bedroom? The room that is the repository of many things masculine in this house? Akaemi was politely neutral (actually, she didn't say much about my color choice. Bad sign.) I crossed my fingers that it was all in my head.

My husband opened the bedroom door and said it all in one recoil: