Wandering.

I have to say something about this.

I wish there was no need.

I wish this had never happened.

The day before our family started training for our Paws With a Cause dog, a boy with autism died. His family was having a get together and he wasn’t as supervised as he needed to be. He wandered FIVE MILES, onto the US 60 in Mesa, AZ, and was tragically hit by a truck and killed. His family had only just realized he was gone. It could have been neglect. It could have been any of us with a child on the spectrum, and if we tell ourselves it couldn’t, we are LYING to ourselves
This could happen to us if we are as vigilant as we know how to be. This is an unbelievable tragedy and it broke my heart to hear the story. It broke my heart more to read it.

What can we do for our kids? How are we supposed to prevent this sort of tragedy? We can have locks on our doors to keep them inside, but are we really going to lock our children up all the time? Otis is going to help us keep Jake under control in public places, it’s one of the things he’s trained to do and quite handy in parking lots. But at home? At a family gathering? All we can do is keep constant watch on him. And sometimes that is not an option. We have a reasonably sized single family home, although I would sell a kidney for a second bathroom, and our holidays are easy to keep in the house. I wouldn’t think twice about letting Gray keep an eye on Jake in our backyard, which is a long acre. But we don’t have a fence. And there is something of a highway a lot closer than five miles away.
Reading this story woke me up. This could happen to us. I just don’t know how I feel about that. Jake doesn’t show a tendency to wander far from home . . . Yet. I know as well as anyone that autism one day can turn on a dime and look totally different the next day. Last year we did catch his crazy butt way back on our property. I flipped out on the kids. We were on lockdown. Every so often we’d do a “Jake Check” and find him.
He comes to kissy noises now . . .
Like a dog . . .
I’m not ashamed to say this. At least he comes. And he hasn’t been wandering since those couple times where he was just in the back. But that doesn’t guarantee that he won’t wander again. Nor does it mean that he won’t go further next time.

I am calling for advice from other parents who’ve dealt with this. What do you do? What locks for sliding doors and screen doors and all kinds of doors. Do you have some sort of GPS tracker? I want to know about it. Is there a renegade vet who will microchip your kid like we microchip our pets? Message me his info. I don’t want to imagine the pain and guilt and grief this baby’s family has been going through. I’m praying for Au-Juna Banks-Taylor and his family. His death has woken me up to our somewhat lax security around here. I don’t want to make our home into a prison, but what else are we to do? What do other people do?

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Here we go . . .

Our Paws With a Cause has started! We have spent the week learning to handle this amazing new addition to our family. We got to bring the dog home on Tuesday night! I am very excited about this dog. A best friend for Jake . . . Could any mother hope for anything better than that? Well, it got better! The dog is named Otis. Which is the name of the main character in the movie Barnyard, a favorite of Jake’s. That has certainly made the process of teaching him the dog’s name easier!
Jake always loved dogs until a year or so ago when a friend’s slightly excitable, nippy dog snipped at him. Since then, the only dog he trusts is his aunt’s trusty mutt. On Monday he met Otis for the first time. He was kind of nervous. Our little guy stayed toward the tail for safety’s sake. By Tuesday night, when Otis came home with us, Jake was feeling much more comfortable. I am sure that by this time next week he’ll be giving hugs.
Tomorrow is our last day with the geniuses who have trained this dog so far. They have done their darnedest to turn three sets of parents of kids on the spectrum into seasoned dog handlers. They have warned us not to be swayed by those big puppy eyes. Apparently, making your dog obey your every command is a lot of work! We will have better luck if we are extremely consistent for the next 6 months. They said that it is important for the dog to only do things when I tell him to, unless he is “free”. So that means that if he anticipates what I want him to do, I have to correct him and make him do it when I say.
This is the only part of the training that I am really struggling to wrap may head around. Because when Jake does something that I don’t have to tell him to do, I am thrilled! And the training itself is very similar to behavior therapy. So I am struggling to remember that rule.

The older boys are dying to get in on the giving of commands, but they have to wait until our home trainer comes and works with them. There are so many nuances that I was totally unprepared for! I kind of knew of some things, but the sheer volume of knowledge I am taking in is pretty intense.

I am going to hit the hay now. Long day of training tomorrow.

Meet Otis. Our SDA dog. He has a cape. ūüėČ

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A dog? For Jake?

This will be a quick post. I was delighted yesterday to learn that Paws with a Cause has a dog for our little guy!! I am too excited for this right now. More later.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same . . .

Well, today is the Republican Primary in my state.¬† I am glad that this is a state where you don’t have to register specifically to one party because I like to have my opinion count in who will be running.¬† There are some GOPeeps that are scary as all get out this season.¬† I find that so much of this campaign has left a sour taste in my mouth.¬† The people running have all turned me off in one way or another, but there are some who freak me out more than most.
I was so glad to see Michelle Bachmann lose her momentum.¬† She has an attitude about homosexuality that I find personally offensive as a person with a brain.¬† That she feels free to spout off her closed minded notions and be cheered anywhere makes my skin crawl and that her rhetoric garners any support at all in this country makes me very sad.¬† I feel like if you were to say the things she feels free to say about homosexuals in reference to any other group¬†you would be booed off stage . . . As she should be.¬† The trouble with holding such views and spreading them is this:¬† THEY SPREAD.¬† As is clear in looking at the treatment of GLBTQ youth (and those suspected of it) in Michelle’s district.¬†¬†¬†Rolling Stone recently did an article on it:¬† HERE

As a liberal minded sort, I was distressed to see that so many lefties were leaning toward Ron Paul.¬† As a friend posted on Facebook: “If you are against gay marriage, you are a fascist . . .¬† No matter how much you like weed.”¬† I agreed so much with that sentiment that I stole his status and used it for my own.¬† But Ron Paul is a bit of a wackadoo and I don’t see him gaining enough ground to make a difference at this point.

Mitt Romney actually seems like a pretty decent sort.¬† I think he has a very common sense approach and is unlikely to drive the country off into the ditch like our last Republican.¬† I also think that his faith is going to be a problem for a lot of the GOP’s base.¬† As wrong as it is, I feel like there are too many conservatives that will get their panties in a twist over Mormon = Christian or not.¬† And that makes me sad because out of the choices we have for the Republican nominee, Romney is the one I like the most.

Last I checked, Rick Santorum was the front-runner  . . .

Talk about someone who will do his darnedest to roll back any rights the gay community has secured!¬† And he strikes me as the sort of Christian Conservative who would actually work to get that Constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage.¬† I don’t think he is playing politics on these issues . . .¬† I think he believes his BS with the fervor of a Fundamentalist.¬† And I think that the fact that he is a frontrunner is a sickening statement about our country.¬† This man was willing to let his wife risk death and leave their children motherless; rather than have an abortion when they were told that the child she carried had a bunch of problems and could kill her during delivery.¬† He doesn’t support BIRTH CONTROL!?¬† He thinks that people can pray away the gay.¬† He thinks that homosexuals are a threat to national security.¬† He thinks that gays are dangerous to children and would move to get rid of protections from housing/employment discrimination.

He has views on the gays that were common about Blacks not so long ago.¬† We look at those times as if they are so long ago, but they are happening right now.¬† They are happening all over the place.¬† Read that article from Rolling Stone and see if it doesn’t turn your stomach.¬† Howard Stern commented on it the other day and I would like to share it with you.¬† He started talking about the protest against Ellen and JC Penney and rolled from there.¬†¬†You can hear it HERE.

It is shameful that this is even an issue.¬† It is shameful that these politicians know that if they pull these issues out of their hats and pander to the religious right (err – wrong) that they will manage to get quite a few votes out of it!¬† And it is disgusting that they are right.¬† It is vile that so many people are willing to turn a blind eye to what is such a clear example of fundamentalist driven injustice.¬† It hurts my heart to see another example of God’s word being used to justify oppression and bigotry.¬† I¬†imagine that every time his love for us is twisted into hate, it hurts as much¬†as the nails in his wrists, the thorns in his brow . . . Get out there and vote!¬† We have to make ourselves heard over the loud masses of ignorant sheep.

Kristy – The Puzzled Parent

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Let’s talk about . . .

I have neglected my blog for long enough.¬† Working part time has seriously compressed the time I have for the stuff I have always done anyway and I am reworking my time management.¬† I am excited to share something I did way back in October.¬† Our pastor asked me to speak about autism during the Children’s Message . . . I wasn’t sure what I would say and prayed for guidance.¬† It came to me that we are blessed to have a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome in our Church family also.¬† I called his mom and she asked if he would like to talk to me.¬† I knew what I was supposed to do . . .

There are a lot of things that people who don’t go to church think about people who do go to church . . . And vice versa.¬† And both views are often slightly based in truth (like all stereotypes) and mostly based on a generalization of limited experience with a person or persons from the other group.¬† I have experienced some pretty crappy things from churches and churchgoers in my time on this planet.¬† And I have felt slightly offended by some of the comments my Atheist friends make that seem to imply that they think all Christians are of the same mindset as Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson, and therefore complete morons.¬† It is one of the things that I started to really dislike about Bill Maher.¬† Everything else he says cracks me up, but he seems to be filled with such hatred and disrespect and pity for people of faith that I can’t watch him anymore.

And I had been to a church when we were first learning about Jake’s Autism that was not welcoming and was not understanding and seemed to view him and us as an inconvenience.¬† And there is a church down the street from our house that has the rudest, snottiest elitist people as members that I can’t recognize them as Christians at all.¬† Even people I had trusted spiritually have let me down in one way or another.

But . . . I have many dear friends who don’t believe in God or religion.¬† I have friends who have been wounded by religion and struggle to relate to God in any real way, so they have written Him off.¬† And I love them.¬† They are wonderful people!¬† At the same time I pray that God will bless their lives and grant them peace however they can find it.¬† I have Christian friends who disagree with my view on some theological issues, and I love them anyway, I just try to avoid those subjects.¬†¬† And when I have felt hurt by them, I have chosen forgiveness.¬† I have found a Church in Hudsonville that is welcoming and accepting of us.

I know that the world pits us against each other and I know that it is hard to understand other people’s perspectives.¬† I also know that understanding just takes a little effort and a decision to work toward understanding.¬† I know Bill Maher and many others have a legitimate beef with religion;there has been a shameful amount of bloodshed in the name of one God or another.¬† And the argument can be made that allegiance to any religion can be harmful to the world at large.¬† Let us not forget, however, that Stalin’s Soviet Union slaughtered an estimated twenty million people, Mao’s Cultural Revolution took 65-million, the Khmer Rouge destroyed an entre generation (about 2 million) in Cambodia, and at least two million have died in North Korea where the oppression continues.¬† All of these regimes were founded on the philosphical foundations of secular atheism.¬† So we are clearly more than willing to slaughter each other no matter what¬† fundamentalist philosophy we subscribe to.

I have long believed that the fundamentalism is the true evil.¬† When you are so certain that YOUR way is the only way that you become offended that anyone could believe differently . . .¬† When you are so sure you are right that when you look at people who are “wrong” you think them foolish sheep, or lost souls, or infidels . . . When any perceived violation of your right to believe what you believe happens you assume the role of “victim” and take up your cross . . . It turns you into a fundamentalist and you become unkind, angry, bitter and judgemental.¬† I think we all have our “fundie” moments.¬† Politics, sports, kids, religion . . . Well, you know what they say about opinions . . .

What does this have to do with that children’s message?¬† I have arrived at my point . . . One thing about autism that is a blessing and a curse is the impaired understanding of social situations.¬† This can be a super awkward thing of course and it certainly adds a tricky element to an already tricky disorder, so it is easy to focus on how it’s a problem.¬† Let’s change that lense a bit, though.¬† I don’t know about all people on the autism spectrum, but Jake could not care less what you look like, what you believe or don’t believe, how much money you have, or any of the other things we are so sunk in these days.¬† Because whether you have faith in God or Science or Capitalism or Nature or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you believe something all of it can easily bog you down.¬† Jake is not bogged.¬† His communication is not great (though it is improving) and that could be viewed as a horrible burden.¬† But Jake is so happy. He takes a while to get used to people and once he does he is a loving sweetie pie regardless of where you came from or where you are on life’s journey.¬† We could all use a little of that “impairment” in my opinion.¬† The world would be a more peaceful place.

Kristy – The Puzzled Parent

Originally published December 7, 2011.

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For my Sweetie! (: That means YOU honey!

I need to say something here.¬† I could have said it on that totally bogus “Male Valentine’s Day” that Hallmark invented called “Sweetest Day.”¬† But I, like the rest of the world, paid absolutely no mind to Sweetest Day’s approach and only remembered its existence when I saw the balloon arrangements at Meijer on the actual day . . . I think it was October 14.¬† Since that day, when I briefly considered getting my husband a balloon (before dismissing it when I imagined his annoyance that I had spent money on a balloon), I have thought about how little love society is showing to the MEN.¬† Seriously, show of hands:¬† Who celebrated Sweetest Day by giving their sweetie a gift?¬† Anyone?¬† I guess we can’t really feel guilty about it.¬† It isn’t like men are easy to shop for and no one markets this “holiday” like they do Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day gets only a fraction of ad time when compared with either of those!¬† Is it because women need gifts more?¬† Is it because we need to feel cherished more?¬† Who knows.¬† However you crack it, men are getting the shaft when it comes to being appreciated via holiday.

I kind of think those are lame holidays anyway.¬† I don’t want cherishing two days a year and I don’t think men do either.¬† We can’t really cherish and appreciate people the way that the commercials try to make us think.¬† A necklace, a power drill, a box of chocolates or a balloon . . .What BS is that?¬† I’ve started to think that I need to do more.¬† We all probably need to do more.¬† If you are lucky enough to have a partner in life who knows all your ugliness and sticks with you anyway, don’t they deserve more than a canned “Atta Boy/Girl” once or twice a year?¬† I try to show my husband that I appreciate him every day, but it is hard to do.¬† Life gets in the way so often.¬† Sometimes I am just tired or he is; in a bad mood or he is; feeling unloved or he’s feeling unappreciated . . . How easy it is to get caught up in the petty day to day!

I have had an eye opening experience in the past week.¬† My husband has a very physical, very competitive career.¬† He is brilliant at it and so efficient it is scary to most mortals.¬† He logs something like nine miles of walking every day.¬† And when he’s being still, he is usually contorted into some crazy shape to reach something that most people couldn’t even locate.¬† All the while his brain has to be working a mile a minute.¬† I think he’s awesome, literally as opposed to the slang.¬† Anyhow, since I met him at work and my dad did the same kind of work, I thought I had an inkling of how hard he works.¬† This week, I have been training to be a waitress in a busy restaurant and I have put some miles in!¬† Good Lord!¬† I did three eight hour days and my legs have been feeling it!¬† Hustling here and there . . . It is work!¬† I don’t know how he does it all week long!¬† Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the activity and the people, and I was worn out by the end of the day.¬† But my husband?¬† The man comes home from work and keeps going.¬† He does outside chores, works on cars, goes huntng (and all the tree climbing prep work that involves) and whatever else has to be done every day.¬† It makes me tired just thinking about all the stuff he does!

I think that all of that deserves a heck of a lot more than some “holiday” that no one even knows about!¬† I think I should remind him every day that I think the world of him.¬† And I totally do!¬† He is so driven about things and smart! I hope you read this blog, Honey because you never sit still long enough for me to let you know that you are totally awesome and I thank you for all your hard work.¬† My husband has made it possible for me to stay home with our kids.¬† He wanted them to have me with them when they were little and because he’s committed to that idea, he works his butt off every day to make it possible for me to go to every IEP meeting for Jake.¬† More than that, he made it possible for me to understand all the stuff involved in an IEP and a million other things about Autism that I would not have had time to read about if I had to work 40 hours a week.¬† He makes it possible for me to know my sons’ friends well, which I think is very important, and because of that I know that our sons have some pretty groovy friends!¬† He makes it possible for me to bake goodies from scratch because I have the time to do it.¬† And, even though I know I have yet to master this one, he makes it possible for me to keep the house clean and organized.¬† I love that I am able to dedicate all my energy to being “Mom” . . . I think it has been a blessing for our boys.¬† And I know that I would not have been able to dedicate that time to them if it weren’t for him.

So, here’s to you, Sweetie!¬† It isn’t Sweetest Day, but you probably don’t even know that Sweetest Day exists . . . And if you do know it exists, you probably think it’s bullspit.¬† But you are my sweetie and I want to let you know that you are appreciated!¬† ALWAYS.

And this song reminds me of you . . .

Because you never sit when there is work to be done, and you have such a compassionate heart.  Love you!

 

Kristy – The Puzzled Parent.

 

P.S. How do you let your partner know you love and appreciate them?  I can always use more ideas!

Originally published October 22, 2011.

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Can’t we all just . . .

Life is very confusing sometimes.¬† I have found that so many people seem to exist and go through life with what appears to be extremely flawed logic.¬† I just do not understand it.¬† I hear people saying this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles.¬† But, by and large, these people in the news and their fellow “Christians” seem to have missed one of those principles.¬† Remember “Love your neighbor as yourself”?¬† What happened to THAT?¬† Are we still learning that in Church?¬† Are we teaching it in school?¬† I am pretty sure that churches ARE teaching this Greatest Commandment . . . One of TWO laws that Christ said were the most important laws, (the other being “Love God above all.”)¬† And I know that my kids’ schools teach this rule . . . So that leaves home.¬† When did parents stop insisting that their children treat people with compassion and kindness?¬† What makes so many adults think they can be nasty to whomever they choose?¬† It doesn’t make sense to me, but it seems to be getting worse.¬† I see it in how kids are treating each other.¬† I see it in how customers treat the people they are receiving service from.¬† I see it in how coworkers act toward each other. We have had another child take his life after years of cruelty.¬† Kids are bombarded with nastiness once they have become targets.¬† I know from my own child’s experience that the school can do everything in their power, but when the parents don’t step up, the problem is not solved.¬† And even if one of the bullies changes his/her tune, there are others just waiting to pick up where it was left off.¬† I have to say that I find it especially puzzling because we live in an extremely Christian area.¬† I know that churches like the Westboro Baptist Church are not the norm, so how are children missing lessons in kindness?¬† Almost every child goes to church with their parents.¬† And there is still just nothing that changes.¬† In fact, in our neighborhood, there is a Protestant Reform church and the kids that attend that church and go to their school are the rudest, snobbiest kids I have ever seen!¬† A couple years ago I had to march down to the parsonage because the preacher’s kid was throwing rocks at my son.¬† I thought that things might change when the boy in question was marched to our house by his very angry father and made to apologize . . . Well, they don’t throw rocks anymore, but they are still snarky to any kids that don’t go to their church.¬† Maybe it makes me judgemental, but I would never go to a church that failed to instill common decency into the children and parents of the congregation. I am a stay at home mom.¬† But I have worked in the customer service field in my lifetime.¬† And my husband works in the service field also.¬† All this to say that I have seen, first hand, how horribly people can treat the minimum wage workers they come in contact with.¬† A few years ago, I did time as swing shift cashier at a superstore from September thru December 24.¬† In that position, I gained a new perspective on people.¬† I saw horrible parenting,¬† I saw horrible behavior on the part of adults.¬† I found myself starting to really dislike my fellow man.¬† A girl I worked with told me how she was stocking the freezer when a customer approached her and started ranting at her about her cart blocking the freezer.¬† This old man was tossing four letter words at her like nobody’s business.¬† She ended up simply leaving her cart there and walking away, after thanking him and wishing him a nice day.¬† Another girl was the head cashier.¬† Right before Christmas, the brilliant minds at corporate cut all the cashiers’ hours.¬† So, naturally,¬† the customers were upset.¬† And, since she was the only manager type around, they were letting her have it.¬† When it finally slowed down I saw her crying.¬† This girl is just working her way through college, and she has nothing to do with the (ridiculous) shortage of cashiers, but that didn’t stop people from blaming her for it.¬† Really?¬† This is how the people who do the jobs that keep us going get treated?¬† Why?¬† Because, as a customer, you have the right to vomit into an employee’s ears?¬† Because she is not worth anything?¬† Because the store needs your money?¬† No . . . I think it’s because some people are assholes.¬† Maybe their moms didn’t hug them enough or something . . . She obviously didn’t instill any manners in them.¬† And everyone has seen someone acting like this!¬† You have stood behind them at McDonald’s while they berate the counter person about the presence of onions on their burger.¬† You have sat in a waiting room while someone takes out their billing frustration on the receptionist at the doctor’s office.¬† These people are everywhere.¬† People are so entitled that they have lost their damn minds!¬†¬†¬†

 

I met my husband in Las Vegas, when we both worked at a car dealership.¬† Shortly after we started seeing each other, a woman came into the truck shop.¬† She had driven from Pahrump (about 90 miles away) on a 110 degree day and reported tha her service engine light was on.¬† A service advisor asked my (now) husband to come speak with her.¬† He told her that, since it was lunch time, he was going to let her truck cool off and fix it after lunch.¬† This woman started freaking out.¬† She wanted her truck worked on NOW. He calmly told her that if he worked on it now he would burn his arms.¬† She didn’t care.¬† She wanted it fixed immediately.¬† I remember fighting the urge to invite her to take her truck elsewhere.¬† Really, a manager should have told her just that, but in the end he had to tell her.

When I was in customer service, I felt like the people I worked with were in it with me.¬† In some fields, though, there exists competition.¬† Competition can be very healthy in a workplace.¬† However, does competition mean that coworkers should sabotage each other?¬† Does it mean that they should be looking for a way to stab each other in the back?¬† Or does that make it unhealthy competition?¬† Do managers and owners have a responsibility to encourage a healthy workplace?¬† I understand that the competition needs to be in place, it is the nature of some careeers.¬† I just think that companies are better served if everyone feels like part of a team.¬† I think that, on every team, there are diverse talents and a good manager is skilled at bringing out the best in all of the people on their team.¬† And I also think that managers and owners should stand behind their employees. When you consider how much of your life you give to your job, is it so unrealistic to think that an employer could offer a little more than a paycheck?¬† What would it cost the owners and managers to encourage teamwork before competition?¬† Call me an idealist, but I think that the place where you spend most of your waking hours should be, at the very least, bearable.¬† It certainly shouldn’t feel like swimming with piranahs. Maybe I am crazy.¬† Maybe selfishness has won in our society, with greed a close second.¬† I hope not.¬† I think we all need to be the change we want to see in the world.¬† Parents can teach their children the golden rule.¬† You don’t need to subscribe to any particular religion to recognize the value of this rule.¬† And when you teach¬† them the rule . . . You have to enforce it.¬† It is a rule, after all.¬† We can all remember that the people who provide us with service are people! They are not there for us to verbally abuse or bully.¬† And when our kids see us treating people the way we want to be treated it means even more that simply teaching them the rule.¬† We can’t behave like mean children anymore . . . We have children, and they are watching us to learn how to relate to the world.¬† And bosses can remind themselves that they need the people who work for them.¬† I have seen Undercover Boss and the bottom line seems to be that bosses aren’t necessarily able to successfully complete the work their employees do every day.¬† The head of McDonald’s would struggle to keep up with a lunch rush.¬† Mr. Hilton couldn’t get all those guest rooms cleaned in the time the maids do it.¬† The head of Ford probably wouldn’t be able to diagnose and repair one of the highly technical cars that company produces.¬† They need their employees to be good at their jobs and those employees deserve to be appreciated.¬† One way to show your appreciation is to foster a pleasant working environment. We have the power to fix this.¬† I truly believe that there are more decent people than not and if we all do our part we could make “common decency” common again.

Kristy – The Puzzled Parent

Originally published October 2, 2011.

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