Thursday, February 19, 2009

About A Dog

This dog. The alpha female of our pack of five pets. The one we call 'police dog' or 'fatty tuna.' The one who will gently hump even the most decrepit of cats, (like a past feline resident named Spike), because, well, it's empowering to her. This dog is named Sydney, though when I adopted her she was called Cassie. There's no telling what she was called before that when she was found chasing cattle on a ranch in rural Oklahoma; before the kind veterinarian recognized that she would be shot and killed if she didn't rescue her. (make note that many years later we'd find that she still has some buckshot in the space between her flesh and her ribcage)
The vet let her sleep in her bed for an entire month before a space was available at the no-kill shelter in the town where I went to college.

I'd tragically witnessed my last rescue dog die in front of me after choking on a discarded piece of deer carcass. It was 3 in the morning, and by 3 the next afternoon, I'd adopted Sydney to fill the void I already felt in my heart, and to help quell the loneliness that had staked out in my being from living alone, feeling like my parents had abandoned me by retiring and moving halfway across the country, and the phase of self-seeking that had followed leaving me thin, tired and confused.

But also at this time I'd recently begun a relationship with the other half. He had just graduated from college and was living at home trying to figure out that next step to being a grownup. My heart was on the mend, and little did I know that this new dog would help mend it even more. The other half was in a really bad jet ski accident and I would drive the three hours to his parents' house to visit him in between summer school classes. I told him that I'd adopted this new dog and asked if I could bring her with me. I warned him that she wasn't very cute; that her skin showed pink in patches, and she was a bit on the skinny side. I was worried he'd think my quick decision to adopt a new dog after the death of the last one had resulted in poor choosing. I needn't have worried...the two hit it off immediately, and Syd showed us her uncanny ability to help those in need. I wish I had the photo to share with you of the two of them on that first visit. She never left his side; the two of them looking a bit bedraggled and sickly. It was clear that she was 'his dog' after that.

Fast forward nine years to when my niece was visiting us. She had recently shown signs of epilepsy and her seizures were not yet under control. On more than a few occasions, Syd would put her entire body before my niece--when they were walking down the stairs or playing in the gameroom--and sure enough, it was always right before she would have a seizure. It was truly amazing.

Fast forward two more years to our four-acre property in Austin. Most of the property was fenced in, so we felt comfortable allowing M to roam and play in the leaves; a favorite sensory activity of his. When we couldn't see him over the gentle curves of the land, we could say, 'Sydney, go find M,' and out she'd race to wherever he was sitting. She'd sit herself down in true cattle dog pose, approximately 10 feet from him and move to the exact same stance anytime he moved.
She still looks out for M in this way and will always backtrack on a trail if we are out of her sight on a hike. She does not have this same affinity for B, (!!) but because of her connection to M, we try to get past her faults.

This dog is a complete pain in the ass. She is way too smart for her own good, and I find that she often gets the best of me. She is stubborn. She doesn't come when called. (though in fairness, she is going deaf now) She steals the other dogs' food. She 'yells' at Daisy when Daisy crosses her. She eats cat poop. She snaps at me if I try to grab her to bring her inside when she does not want to. She sheds like no other dog I have ever had.

And yet, at the ripe, estimated age of fourteen years, I know that I will miss her when she is gone. And I am fairly certain that the stories we'll recant on her behalf will be rose-colored and 'Big Fish'-style; of the wonder dog that she was and all of the adventures she had.

And who knows...perhaps she'll even be the star of her own kids' book one day?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Can You Help Ikeasaurus?

You may have visited Haiku of the Day via my links bar. Whether you have or have not, please take a moment to go to this newly created site for Haiku Mama's sweet baby boy who was born 13 weeks premature, six months ago. He and his family are in need of thoughts, prayers, and financial assistance, as his Dad was laid off with no severance a couple of weeks ago and now the sweet little guy is in the NICU fighting for his life.

Kari (Ike's Mom) is a Plano East graduate for those of you from Plano who are reading. Take a moment to read about Ike and help in any way you may be able. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When The Mice Are Away (and by 'mice' I mean 'the other half')...

The children will get sick. M will stay home from school for three days. It will rain outside thus forcing you to remain inside. And you will be filled with 'conversations' like this one with B just now:

B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "Its the fire engine's door."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's the wheel."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's the ladder."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's the button you push to make the siren sound."
B: (not missing a beat) "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's a Dr. Seuss video."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's a Muppet Show video."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "It's an ambulance."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "The medical equipment the paramedics use to help people."
B: (A-ha! Something new!) "People hurt, Mommy."
Me: "Yes, paramedics help people when they are hurt."
B: "Peoples hurt."
Me: "Yes, they help hurt people."
B: "Peoples hurt."
B: "What's this, Mommy?"
Me: "Lightening McQueen."
B: (holding a smaller replica of the last car in question) "What's this, Mommy?"
B: "Where's Sally, Mommy?"
Me: (realizing an opportunity here) "I think she's in my bathroom....why don't you go look for her."
B: "I go look for Sally, Mommy."
Me: (ahhhhhhhh.....silence for two whole minutes while I posted this)

---And now----

B: "I have diapers, Mommy. I found diapers, Mommy. I found mermaids, Mommy." (when referring to his swim diapers that we, oops, got in the girly, Little Mermaid print). "Put on diaper, Mommy. I put on mermaid, Mommy."

It's going to be a looooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggg day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Where The Wind Takes You

Yesterday M and I had a grand adventure. We had planned to drive to GwendoMama's, but stopped along the way at a coastal dive for a burger first. Just our luck, there was a one-man band playing in the back room. Given M's love for live music, we settled into two stools at the bar for lunch and listening. M was in heaven. We happened to be sitting next to a striking British woman who happened to be in a relationship with the musician. We struck up a conversation and I learned that she had been in the states since '86, spending most of those years as a professor of linguistics at the University of California Santa Cruz. She is now a consultant for companies like Apple and Microsoft, assisting them with voice technology. She also recently worked with a doctor on a communication device that assists children with autism! We ended up staying at that restaurant for nearly two hours...and about 45 minutes of that was just us, the musician and his girlfriend after the lunch crowd had cleared out. Al, the musician, was so kind to M and really took time to show him how to play the tambourine with him. Since we were the only ones in the room I was happy to let my little guy do what he really loves: dance! The ability for children to be so free in their feel the music without worrying what others around them fascinating and touching to watch. We got their contact information and hope to see them there next month when Al performs again.

After our lunchtime fun, we headed south to windy roads, crisp air, and a beautiful redwood forest to see our friend, Gwendolyn, and her kids, Supergirl and Bubbles. We all went for a walk, played on the playground, and enjoyed some wine (the grownups, not the kids!) and snacks.

It was one of those days where we didn't have a schedule and could be wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Sometimes those are the best days; when you allow yourself to go where the wind takes you. There's nothing I love more than a beautiful drive with the windows down and adventure in my spirit. It reminds me of afternoons in high school when L and I would buy a six pack of beer and head north. North of there is now largely populated with housing additions and strip malls, but back in the day it was farmland and roads that stretched for miles. I'm glad to live, at least for now, where I still can drive for hours on end with only nature as my backdrop.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Unabridged Dictionary

Accomodative Esotropia (n) - The reason why M has to wear glasses.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (n) - 1. The reason why M doesn't talk the same as you and I.
2. The reason why M is in a 'special day class.'
3. A thing I wish M didn't have.

Special Day Class (n) - A class filled with kids of different ages and different abilities run by well-meaning teachers who don't always know what to do to specifically help each child develop his or her full potential.

Neurotypical (adj) - 1. The nicer-sounding label for people who are 'normal.'
2. The thing that B is.

Normal (adj) - I have no effing clue.

Fuck (n?) - A word I say way too many times each day.

Insurance (n) - The thing you pay a lot for that causes you headaches and doesn't always give you your money back.

Stimming (v) - 1. A shortened term for 'self-stimulatory behavior.'
2. What M does when he is not in school.
3. The things that may finally cause me to be committed one day :)

Sensory Integration Disorder (or, Sensory Processing Disorder) (n) - 1. The reason M sometimes hops around like an energizer bunny.
2. The reason M thinks it's really cool to chew on everything in sight.
3. The reason M REALLY loves swings.

Global Delays (n) - The thing every pediatric neurologist tells Mothers of children like M because they want to give them a little time to figure out themselves that it's really autism. (please note the word 'sarcasm' at play in the previous statement)

Sarcasm (n) - A skill I always had, but have perfected over the last five years.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I was thinking about how tolerance is mostly a learned thing, with a dash of innateness thrown that starts with your own parents and the example they provide as you grow.

In my home, no one (that I recall) ever stressed that people with disabilities weren't freaks or something to shy away from. Sure, they may have said it to me and I've just forgotten, but I think if it had been an important lesson that my parents wanted to teach me, that I would remember it.

When I was about seven or eight years old, I had an 'encounter' with Gay, a disabled student that attended my elementary school. Gay was at least a few years older than I. Everyone knew who she was, yet no one knew anything about her other than the fact that she was 'the girl who walked with braces, wore thick glasses, and a helmet on her head.' My guess now is that Gay suffered from cerebral palsy and other cognitive impairments. I don't ever recall seeing Gay anywhere except slowly making her way through the hallways when I was on my way to the bathroom or the library. Did she have a homeroom? What did she do all day? I had no idea.

Then one day I found myself in the nurse's office only a few feet away from Gay who was laying on the cot, clearly not feeling well. I admit I didn't know where to look or what to say. And then it happened...Gay turned gray and projectile vomited all over the floor. A small amount landed on my right hand. MY RIGHT HAND! The one I eat with! The one I brush my teeth with! How in the world could this have happened to ME?! I don't recall my exact reaction, but I clearly recall its aftermath. I scrubbed that hand with hot, soapy water, and yet it wasn't good enough. I ate and brushed my teeth with my left hand for what felt like weeks, but I'm sure was only a matter of days. I fretted over the fact that the girl with the helmet had thrown up on me and what that might mean. I was not sure why I thought her vomit was worse than everyone else's, I just knew that it was.

I was never cruel to Gay, unless you count not taking the time to even share a smile with her as cruel. I think about her to this day and wonder if she is even still alive. I have always had compassion for the 'underdog.' My Dad used to tell me I took all of the stray dogs in, literally and figuratively; though the human strays were kids who came from broken families, or who switched schools a lot; NOT kids with disabilities. I just wish that my parents had explained to me that people with disabilities aren't scary. Because I think if they had, I could have done a lot of great things as a kid with that understanding under my belt.

And so I'll end with the famous quote by Ghandi that I'm sure many of you have heard:

'Be the change you want to see in the world.'

Tolerance and understanding has to begin somewhere. Why not start with you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

I briefly mentioned the other day that I'd be contributing to a newly launched site called Hopeful Parents.

The site has officially launched, and many talented writers are already contributing their heartfelt stories of parenting or assisting children with special needs.

Spread the word about this new community, and hop on over there and get to know these amazing women!