Author Archives: christieacker1

About christieacker1

I am a domestic goddess, and most importantly, a mom. When I'm not worried about the happiness of my children, I enjoy golfing, cooking (and eating), painting, needlework, and trying to get into a Zen state of mind through Ashtanga (still trying....)

Letting Go – Part 1 – The Kids

If you're wondering...  that is NOT me....

If you’re wondering… that is NOT me….

As part of the I’m Worth It Project (see https://mypuzzledlife.com/2014/11/25/im-worth-it/), I assembled a team. Recently, I was in to see my hypnotist, who is also a life coach. (Check her out at http://www.georginacannon.com) As I was speaking about various issues that are troubling me at the moment, she very quietly handed me this poem…

Letting Go

Letting go does not mean to stop caring
it means
I can’t do it for someone else
It is not to cut myself off
it means realizing I can’t control another
it means to admit I am powerless
so the outcome is in God’s hands – not mine.

To let go is not to enable
but to allow the other to learn from natural consequences
To let go is not to blame or change another,
it is to make the most of myself

To let go is not to care for, but care about
It is not to ‘fix’, but be supportive
It’s not to judge to ‘allow’ another human being
It’s not to be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destiny

To let go is not to be protective but to let another face reality
It is not to deny, but to accept
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue
but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them
And it is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes
and to cherish myself in it.

Author Unknown (with grateful thanks)

The last paragraph of the above is a killer – for any parent. Having children changes your life forever…There’s a great line from the movie, Carnage, uttered by the character played by John C. Reilly (and forgive me if I don’t get this absolutely perfect); “Kids suck the life out of you and leave you with nothing.” Now I don’t share his sense of doom when it comes to having children. I can’t imagine my life without them – they have brought me so much joy. But let’s face it – we’ve parented our children quite differently than our parents did. I don’t think my mother had much trouble Letting Go when it came to me and my siblings. But there’s definitely got to be a middle ground.

Even when your kids are out of the house, you still worry. But you have to let them live their own lives and make their own decisions – good or bad. That’s the only way they’re going to learn. But upon reading this poem for the first time, I thought to myself – how does a parent of a special needs child let go? I don’t think we can ever truly let go – especially when there’s been so much work and advocacy from Day One – that just doesn’t end. But there are degrees to which we can let go. Saying goodbye on the first day of school, walking behind him the first time he walked to school on his own and darting behind street signs (as if those poles hid me!) so he would think that he was, indeed, walking to school “by my own”; letting them go on a sleepover (where you keep your phone handy and don’t go out or drink anything because you might have to pick them up at a moment’s notice); waving to them as the bus for sleep-away camp pulls away (and then sobbing pitiably for 2 hours after – and of course, pre-posting cards and care packages so they’ll be there when they get to camp…); and the big and most recent Letting Go – moving him into residence at college.

And of course, there’s a trust issue when you’re Letting Go. You have to trust that you have laid a foundation that will enable your kids to find the correct, and more importantly, the right path, for them. Who knows how it will turn out? There will be more instances of me having to Let Go – but I will always, always be there in the background for both of them. And hopefully, they will not ask for my help.

The. Best. Kitchen. Gadget. EVER!!!!

Big talk you say… What could this gadget possibly be? Would it be the super awesome Nespresso machine, which makes creamy cappuccinos on demand? Could it be the Bullet, which smooshes and squishes a bunch of stuff into a superfood smoothie? Or perhaps a really good knife (which is indispensable – I have my favourite and routinely pass over it’s inferior cousins to the left and right in my knife drawer…) Well – without further ado – and before I lose your attention, it’s this….

It's super cool!!

It’s super cool!!

It’s called a Spiralizer!!! Just to remind everyone of what I’ve been doing lately – no wheat, sugar or dairy. Most people recoil in horror when I share this – but trust me – once you’ve started, it’s really not that hard to do. So – how do I live without pasta? I don’t – well kind of – but not really. Let me explain.

If I’m really craving something, we go to our favourite Italian restaurant at midday, and I order the Linguine Milano. I ALWAYS order the Linguine Milano. It has linguine (duh), chicken, snow peas in a cream sauce and I dump tons of fresh grated parmesan over it – and of course, they now have corn pasta, which at least, is gluten free. But for the day to day, and to continue my weight loss wellness journey, it’s verboten to have any grains at night. So what to do when you’re making something with a sauce that begs to be soaked up by rice, pasta or couscous?

Enter The Spiralizer!!! I’ve used it so far to make endless zucchini noodles and skinny sweet potato fries. Trust me on the zucchini noodles…. they are delicious. We ate them with a bolognese sauce, and they soaked up the sauce beautifully. We felt like we’d had a huge bowl of pasta, without that bloated, yucky feeling afterwards. I don’t eat them raw – I put them in a wok and stir fry with a bit of olive oil, before topping with the sauce. Yum… And the other night, topping them with shrimp curry…

Zucchini noodles topped with shrimp curry!

Zucchini noodles topped with shrimp curry!

This making you hungry? Give it a go!

A Bump In The Road

Watch Out!!

Watch Out!!

A couple of weeks ago, Henry was jazzed!  A friend of his from camp had been accepted to his college for next year.  They hatched a plan…  They would be roommates.  Great – I’m thinking – a known quantity….

Then of course, I started asking specific questions.  Has she even asked her parents if this is OK?  Doesn’t she want to live in residence for her first year?  What is her budget per month?  He tells me she’s flush!  She has a job – so no problem!  Of course, Henry’s idea of flush is $100….

We started some research into 2-bedroom apartments in the bustling metropolis of The Shwa.  Surprisingly (but maybe not – this seems to be a trend for college/university towns)…. a 2-bedroom apartment is quite expensive.  Then he said, OK – I’ve talked to my friend and we’ll get a 1-bedroom and take turns sleeping on the sofa!  Uh… no.  That would get old pretty darn fast. Then – the proverbial bump in the road…

Her parents don’t think she’s ready to live on her own (she is also on the spectrum).  And then I find out that she lives in a nearby town, so can bus to school.  Not surprisingly, Mom wants her to live at home in her first year at college.  So – what’s the big deal you say?

Well – kids on the spectrum don’t make friends easily.  In fact, upon gently quizzing Henry, I find out that he has not really made any friends.  Acquaintances and congenial classmates – yes.  But somebody that he would feel comfortable asking to be roommates with him?  No.  So – aren’t there housing campus services that would help him find a roommate?  Yes – there are.  But would you trust an unknown person, arranging for an unknown roommate for your kid with special needs?  No – I didn’t think so.

And this makes me feel very bad for Henry… and sad.  I have lots of friends that I can call on in times of need – but my son does not.  I don’t need things to be easy all the time – but do they always have to be so damn hard?

 

I’m Worth It – Part 3 – What I’ve Learned So Far

Hello Jaw Line - it's nice to meet you...  It's been a few years!!

Hello Jaw Line – it’s nice to meet you… It’s been a few years!!

OK – so not the best title… too long.  But I am 2 1/2 months into this process and thought that some of you out there might be interested in my progress.  I am down 25 lbs.!!  Wow!!  That’s a pretty big turkey!  Just to remind you – I’ve been off sugar, wheat and dairy.  Here is what I’ve learned so far.

  • You absolutely cannot undertake a process to overhaul yourself without the unwavering support and loyalty of your biggest fan (that would be Left Brain).  When I’ve been discouraged, he’s there to listen.  When I’m celebrating, he there’s applauding.  When I’m trying out new recipes that might be kind of yucky, he eats thankfully.  I don’t think I’ve gotten one negative vibe from him during this whole process.
  • Surround yourself with a good team.  Besides your partner (who is the most important person), find the right team.  My nutritionist Krissy is awesome – she is encouraging, down to earth, and provides me with lots of new inspiration and ideas when I visit her (find her at http://eatplaylivenutrition.ca.)   I have also been seeing a hypnotist; because I figured that there had to be subconscious reasons why I continued to lapse into the same old bad habits and I wanted to unlock that.
  • I like kale!  Who knew?!  But there are some tricks to kale…  My first kale salad was an exercise in mastication…  As I was building up my jaw muscles, I looked over at Left Brain and he was patiently chewing; and chewing; and chewing….  I read somewhere once that you’re supposed to chew every mouthful 25 times.  Have you ever tried it?  I did – once.  It’s gross…  Not doing it….  You need to chop up the pieces really small so that the vinaigrette can soak in…  And kale chips are great!  But don’t use baby kale – the leaves are too delicate to stand up to baking at 400…
  • Being over 50 is living in a new eco-system.  Things that you could get away with in your 30’s and 40’s just ain’t happening anymore.  So – have a moment of silence for your dearly departed tolerance for alcohol, or sugar, or wheat or whatever… and move on.  I can only surmise that this state of being will only get worse the older I get.  Something to look forward to!
  • Shopping is fun when you have a myriad of choices.  It’s also fun to fit back into stuff that you really liked at one time.  I have a whole collection of golf clothes from LoudMouth – really fun colours and patterns that I haven’t been able to wear in about 2 years.  We’re going to California in a couple of weeks to golf, and I’m looking forward to wearing my new “old” wardrobe!
  • Some people are seemingly threatened when you decide to improve yourself.  If you hear the words, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”, guaranteed – you’re not going to like what comes next!  Run!  Run away from these people – they are dealing with their own s–t – which has nothing to do with your s–t!
  • Like Cortez, who burned all of his ships after reaching the New World, I am getting rid of all of my “big lady” clothes.  In the same way that I have made this journey public, by ridding myself of the seeming security blanket of a bigger wardrobe that I can slip into, should I slip back into my old ways – I’m getting rid of the possibility.  I will concentrate on how great I feel!
  • If somebody tells you that they can eat or drink whatever they want with no consequences, you need to stop being friends with this person.  Because they suck….  Even if the above were true, they should have the bloody good sense to keep that little tidbit to themselves…  And it’s bulls–t…  Enough said.
  • I have become slightly OCD, with regard to eating on time.  I absolutely have to have my snacks, and if I don’t, I eat like a ravenous wolf at dinner, and beyond.  DON’T skip your snacks – it will bite you in the ass in the end.
  • Now this might horrify all oenophiles out there (better spell check that one…), but I got through the entire holiday season by imbibing…. red wine spritzers.  Now hold on – before you recoil in horror and immediately shut down this website… they’re actually pretty good.  Use lemon or grapefruit Perrier, and lots of limes.  They taste like a non-sweet sangria.  Why bother, you say?  Well – if you’re strong enough to just not drink at all – then good for you – and bugger off….  This was a good compromise.  And just as a general rule, no drinking during the week – unless there’s something going on….  I try to stick to the “No Drinking At Home” rule – which actually hasn’t been that hard.  Left Brain is not drinking wine anymore – he was over served about a year ago and that was that…  He drinks beer – which I hate – so no problem.
  • So – has this been hard?  YES!  At the beginning – but I’m Worth It!

Ode to The Other One

My handsome oldest son!

My handsome oldest son!

A couple of weeks ago, #1 Son turned 21.  21!!!  How did that happen?!  My birthday is 2 days after his – I’ve been telling him his whole life that he was the absolute best birthday present I ever got in my life.  By the way, we do not actually call him #1 – that would infer a Second-in-Command status that is presently the job position of Left Brain…  On this momentous occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what it’s like for The Other One.

There is obviously a whole lot that can be written on this subject (see earlier post, https://mypuzzledlife.com/2015/01/11/recommended-reading-part-2/).  John was perhaps the easiest baby ever born – he was happy, placid, easy-going and slept through the night at 3 weeks old.  We used to dine out in restaurants often with the baby seat beside us with no worry about disrupting other diners (obviously, not so with Henry…)  He had a quiet watchfulness about him – as if he was observing everything around him before making any judgements – he’s very much like Left Brain in this sense.  He was the little guy that everyone invited over for playdates.  I never had to worry about him in new situations – he went with the flow.  In fact, when I found myself pregnant again before John’s first birthday, there was no panic – we had this parenting thing figured out!!  It was easy!! (Let me take some time here while I laugh hysterically at our innocent naiveté!!!!!)

When our life exploded with the arrival of Henry, he again, went with the flow.  He was very sweet with his little brother, often making him smile and laugh.  I have a video of John making faces at Henry, with his little brother breaking out in belly laughs – the camera is shaking because I was laughing so hard.  And he would do this over, and over, and over again.  He shared everything, without hesitation.  I remember at the time, there being a lot of discussion about easing the transition when a new child comes into the house – about smoothing over any jealousy the older sibling might have.  I have never seen that emotion from my older son – not to this day.  Irritation sometimes (and well deserved)… but never jealousy at the time I have had to spend looking after Henry’s needs.

There were things that we didn’t do because it would have been too much – ski weekends, family movie outings, family vacations sometimes, family dinners to restaurants.  The most notable family rite of passage that we skipped, was the trip to Disneyland.  As I’ve said before, I think the #1 rule of having a child with special needs, is this;  ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B.  Sometimes the creation of a Plan B is too much work – there – I said it.  But John never complained.  He saw his friends doing things that we weren’t doing – and he never complained.  As I said, occasionally, there was irritation.  Around the time that teenagers start caring more about what their friends think than you, he said he was embarrassed to have friends over because Henry “did things”.  “I understand,” I said.  “Do you know how many times he’s embarrassed me in public?”  I didn’t tell him that he was lucky because he didn’t have the same problems that his brother had, or that life was easier for him in so many ways than his brother. I acknowledged his feelings – John felt validated by that and accepted it.

As my intelligent, good-looking, funny, introspective, popular and easy-going son has matured, I am continually impressed by the man he is becoming.  He is actually a lot like Left Brain, version 2.0.  It’s no wonder I love and like him so much.  I am amazed, as every parent is, at the wonderful combination that our DNA has produced!  He knows that at some point, he will have to be responsible for his younger brother (hopefully, this won’t be necessary – but the story hasn’t ended yet and we don’t know…)  He accepts it without resentment.

So, The Other One does not have a typical sibling relationship.  There have been times when #1 Son has received the short end of the stick.  But we are so proud of this unique young man.  So, my darling boy, Happy 21st Birthday and congratulations on being who you are.

I Can Do It “By My Own”

He is, indeed, doing it "By My Own"...  nothing a hose couldn't take care of after!

He is, indeed, doing it “By My Own”… nothing a hose couldn’t take care of after!

“By My Own…”  This is a phrase that Henry used regularly when he was a little guy.  He couldn’t quite get the phraseology right…  I would patiently remind him that it’s, “I can do it on my own,” or the ever popular, “I can do it by myself.”  But I’ve gotten used to the By My Own phrase – because he still uses it.

Towards the end of his last semester, he was required to pick his courses for semester 2, all while studying for exams for semester 1.  Was he stressed?  Uh – yeah!!  He is registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities and has an advisor.  As well, we connected with his guidance counsellor so that he could discuss his options.  So – courses were picked, he studied and wrote his exams.

Fast forward to his return to school.  His first week back, he attended one of the selected courses, Chemistry, and decided he didn’t like the class (or the prof, or the vibe or whatever…)  So he wanted to drop the course to lighten his load – given that he’s taking two math courses this semester (and math is always a challenge) – this would give him more time to work on math.  Great idea…  But let’s meet with your guidance counsellor or disability advisor first just to make sure we’re making the right move.  He agreed.  And then could not get a meeting fast enough before his next Chemistry class to drop the course.  Anxiety and a sense of urgency (on his part) started to set in.

But here’s the thing…  Certainly, there are many things that we can all do on our own – but we don’t have to.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.

On Wednesday morning, my lower back spasmed while doing a yoga pose.  And you can bet that I didn’t hesitate to ask for help and call in the professionals as soon as I got home!!  But it took me a long time to learn this lesson – it’s NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help!!!  For a 2-3 year period when I was looking for a school for Henry, and then we began the arduous process of trying to get a diagnosis for Henry, I became slowly and more overwhelmed.  After his diagnosis, I had a crisis of sorts.  It all caught up and came crashing down.  It was at this time that I sought help – and realized and learned in the process, that I needed to ask for help.  (This is a long story and worthy of several posts….)

We ALL need help from time to time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a team together to achieve a desired goal.  How about peace of mind?  So…  Henry; and I; will continue to do it “By My Own”, with help.

What is my Deal?

This week I’ve been feeling kind of low…  I injured my back in yoga this week, and as Left Brain keeps reminding me, “You are turning 53 and we are getting older and you have to expect this kind of thing once in a while…”  Whoa, whoa, whoa….  First of all, I’m turning 52 next week, NOT 53….  He has to be reminded once in a while that he did indeed marry a trophy babe – he is waaay older than me – he’s turning 56 this year….  And after making that comment, he was pleasantly surprised by the response time of the EMS team…  But back to the injury…  I am pissed that I’ve been waylaid for the week, but the blues I’ve been feeling are a little more than that.

So, I tried to figure it out this afternoon – while I cranked the tunes to continue painting the basement TV room – which is basically only used by Son # 1 – Left Brain likes to call it the room where our son has sex in (!!!!)  OK – ew…  Even if I do acknowledge that in the far reaches of my mind, I don’t need it pointed out to me!  I’m repainting because I have to look at this room on my way by to the laundry room!  And I might use it occasionally, because Left Brain and I do not always agree on the Netflix selection for the evening – which he maintains has saved our marriage since the kids left in the fall….  But I digress…  Back to the tunes – I had Supertramp going (I didn’t realize as a teenager how deep some of those lyrics are!), Phantom of the Opera (because what’s a work session without some show tunes?), and finally, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra for those out there who were born after 1975…).  By the way, I challenge anyone not to “air drum” at the beginning of Evil Woman – listen to it again – you can’t do it!!

1977 - the era of the music...  I'm wearing my railroad overalls - cool, man!

1977 – the era of the music… I’m wearing my railroad overalls – cool, man!

But while I was working and singing away, my subconscious was figuring out this latest problem.  Why have I been so bummed out?  While I was out in the car doing errands this morning, I called both of the boys (relax – I have Bluetooth…)  And then it hit me.  I’m missing them all over again.  It’s like September again…  I feel like I’m experiencing the Empty Nest all over again.  I thought I had re-adjusted – but I guess not.  Anyways, just figuring this out made me feel better – and belting out all those old tunes!

Recommended Reading – Part 2

Looks fascinating!!

Looks fascinating!!

So, this is a follow up to my first post on Recommended Reading.  There are sooo many books out there – some are absolute crap – but others really helpful.  In fact, there should probably be another post on what not to read.  I find that the ones that tell us what it’s like to be inside an autistic’s brain to be the most helpful.  Here are my other Top 5 (to finish the Top 10 list – because nobody does a Top 5 list….)

  1. Carly’s Voice – Breaking Through Autism – by Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann – This young girl is a twin and is non-verbal.  With help from her therapists and the world which was opened up with a computer, she is able to communicate what it’s like to be her.  She also writes a blog, which you can find at carlysvoice.com.
  2. look me in the eye – my life with asperger’s – by John Elder Robison – This guy did not find out he had Asperger’s until he was 40.  He dropped out of school, and worked with KISS – he developed their fire-breathing guitars.  He has a dark sense of humour, and it is fascinating to read his story.  Mr. Robison also wrote a subsequent book called be different – Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian.
  3. the curious incident of the dog in the night-time – by Mark Haddon – I’m sure practically everyone has read this book; but if you haven’t, it strives to solve a mystery as told by a young autistic man.  Mr. Haddon worked with autistic people, and he really “gets” it.  The story is also very funny – at least I thought it was – but then, I recognized a lot of the idiosyncrasies.
  4. There are 2 books by Gabor Mate, M.D. that I thought were fascinating.  Although they don’t deal directly with autism, they do capture what it’s like to be on the fringe of society.  They are:  In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and Scattered Minds – A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder.
  5. Being the Other One:  Growing Up with a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs by Kate Strohm.  Siblings of the disabled face particular emotional challenges that are often overlooked.  The author conducts extensive interviews with siblings of all ages.  This particular topic is obviously worth a blog post – more to come on that….

So – that’s it – for now…

Happy New Year!!!

Guess who!!

Guess who!!

I cannot believe it’s 2015!!!  But first – a few musings on New Years Eve…

  1. Ryan Seacrest is a poor substitute for Dick Clark.
  2. All of the other hosts on the other programs featured people I’ve never heard of….
  3. I also have never heard of most of the acts that were “performing” (doesn’t anybody just sing anymore?  I’ve never seen so much lip-synching in my life!)
  4. I couldn’t care less whether or not I make it to midnight to see the ball drop!
  5. I’m not much of one for New Year’s resolutions.  I’m more of a beginning of school, September kind of gal.

I did get to thinking about resolutions that we make around this time of year.  Of course, there’s the usual losing weight, quitting smoking, getting healthier kind of fare.  And these are all laudable goals.  But why particularly, on January 1st?  Aren’t these things we should be striving for every single day?  It can also be rather overwhelming if you’re facing a goal of 30+ pounds to lose, or cutting out your regular 10 ciggies a day, or trying to start exercising if you hate it!  But I think that if you break your goals down into small, measurable steps, you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come when you look back.

And, if you are a parent to a child with special needs, the future can be quite scary.  When we first moved into our present house 13 years ago, Henry was just beginning primary school.  Besides the fact that it felt like we jumped through hoops to get him accepted to this school in the first place, the other things that I worried about every day could be rather overwhelming.  Would he ever learn to read?  Would he ever “get” math?  Would he have friends?  Would he get kicked out of the school for acting out?  Never mind – would he ever graduate from high school, go to college/university, find a girlfriend, get a job, live on his own…. If I thought about these things, I would have driven myself crazy.  So Left Brain and I learned very quickly to only think about the things that were directly in front of our face at that particular moment.

If I could share my New Year’s resolution wish for all of those parents out there who are frightened and worried about the future, it would be:  “Deal with what you can at the moment.  Don’t beat yourself up – and don’t sweat the small stuff.”  As time passes, you might be surprised and amazed at how far you’ve come!

I’m Worth It (Part 2)

Ahhh - the good life!!

Ahhh – the good life!!

It was a dark and stormy Friday… but only over me.  I went to see my nutritionist and AFTER DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT, AND GOING TO BED HUNGRY EVERY NIGHT!!!!, I did not lose ANY weight for the week!  F**k!!!  I have been off sugar, wheat and dairy for 5 weeks now.  I am happy to admit that I feel a hundred times better – the pooch under my belly button feels SO much smaller.  But COME ON!!!!

During that week, I went to spinning class twice, ashtanga yoga three times, and got “walked”* by one of my besties.  OK – I will admit that during that week, I consumed 4 glasses of wine (and okay – one martini – because I was feeling especially cheeky and cocky that night…)  And I don’t even want to tell you how much my alcohol consumption has dropped – but it’s at least by half (if not more….)

Left Brain was working at home that day – I went in to his office to commiserate.  He immediately went into the “you have to look at the long game – think how much better you feel – blah blah blah…”  Of course he’s right – but I just wanted to be pissed off and mad for awhile.  And yes – to have a moment (or a couple of hours) silence, for my dearly departed tolerance for alcohol…

But here’s the good news…. In the past, I would have thrown up my hands and said “F**k it!”  If I’m going to be miserable and deprive myself and still not get results, I might as well do what I want.  Except doing what I wanted led to 30 pounds of misery – and not feeling like myself.  I realize I’m moaning and this is definitely a first world problem.  So – I put my head down, prepared a healthy dinner, and decided that damn it!!  I’m Worth It!  So I will keep trucking along, and do my best and feel better in the morning.  (And I really did feel better in the morning – the scale showed a 2 lb. drop!!!  Go figure….)

* Note to Self:  “Self!  Consider walking with friends who are slower and in worse shape than you…”  Her dog is getting older and didn’t want to do the long jaunt that morning, so I got walked… I should have been wearing a leash!