Don’t Let Poppable Events Define You

I am one of those people who doesn’t want their kids to jump in the swimming pool that she just spent 20 minutes inflating by hand because it could get a hole.

So while I am standing there repeatedly telling Ash to stop jumping in the pool, I think about those stories you hear from other moms about the pool that survived 5 summers despite being jumped in, drug around, and any other poppable event.

Why can’t I ever manage to end up with that pool?

Well, the odds are I probably have but since I don’t let the boys jump in the pool, I would never know it.

I have seriously got to start living a little looser. I have recognized that Tyler’s autism means that our journey is more like a train on fixed tracks than a car that can alter course at any time. But I guess I am not so good at just relaxing on the ride and enjoying the view. I stay tense the entire time. Isn’t one of the best parts of being on a train the fact that for a time you can just let go and ride?

Right now the boys are getting in and out of the pool repeatedly. They are carrying the pool water in buckets and bowls to all parts of the yard. Everything is soaked. Ash is currently turning my potted flowers into “swamps.”

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I am having a much better time today than I normally would. I even get to blog before they have gone to bed. I like my boys more than those flowers anyway.

Instead of managing my life more when things get crazy, I am going to try to manage less. Will some things crash and burn? Yes, but those are the things I probably am not meant to be doing anyway.

I just need to let go of my pride long enough to allow myself to figure out who I really am and not who I am “supposed” to be.

Now the dirt is being removed from my pots. Doing breathing exercises. I will not get caught up in the micro-managing scenario. I am going to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

From my heart,
Rachel

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(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/11/2013

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Self-fulfilling Expectations – I Create My Own Demise

Friday morning I was not supposed to take the boys to the in-laws before work. Once or twice a week, my husband does this so I don’t have to. Yea! I set my alarm for 6:25 instead of 5:40.

My alarm goes off and my husband is still in bed. He has overslept and can’t take the boys or he will be late to work.

I take the boys all the time, but because I wasn’t expecting to that morning, it threw my whole morning off. I was rushing and I let it set a bad tone to the start of my day.

All because of an expectation.

It made me think about how much my life revolves around expectations filled or expectations unfilled.

What if I woke up every day with no expectations on what would happen? What if I went into every situation like this?

I knew I would love my children no matter what they wanted to do in life, but I still had an expectation of a certain relationship with them. How much wasted time and grief and anger have I wasted because of this expectation? Tyler’s autism totally blindsided me.

I have always been a social outcast. This makes me nervous when meeting new people. I know I think differently and act differently, especially in The South, USA. Here everything is a complex social dance that I have never been able to learn or appreciate. How many relationships have I doomed because my own expectation of rejection? How much more awkward do I behave because I am nervous? How much harder is it for me to open up because I am expecting to be hurt?

I get migraines. Bad migraines. Lately they have been getting worse. Did you know one of the biggest triggers for making your migraine worse is the stress caused by one starting? When I feel the first signs of a migraine, I become stressed because I expect the worst. Therefore I achieve the worst.

How often have you expected to get sick and then you got sick?

How often has a change in plans ruined your day?

How often do situations become so much less tolerable because of an expectation unfulfilled?

If we could start each day with no expectations, we would be more flexible, less disappointed, much happier.

I, for one, would like to stop wasting my energy on what could have been and start living in the what is.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/11/2013

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Remembering The Way Home

Yesterday evening, I picked up the boys from the in-laws and we went home. I decided to take them on a walk around the block. My Charity Miles says its about 0.5 miles.

I have been trying to teach the boys the importance of looking for cars before crossing the street. This has been a lesson since they could walk.

Ash is two and gets distracted by his destination and Tyler has autism with no sense of danger in his environment. The only hope is to ingrain this in them via memorization and not function.

My teaching style is usually based on the reason. You act one way and you get this result. For crossing the street, I have to abandon this and just stick to, you have to stop and look for cars.

We did not do well for this last night. My backup, Tyler has to hold my hand when we walk. He is used to this now. I couldn’t hardly get the car doors closed and locked because he was freaking out that I wasn’t holding his hand yet.

Ash is more independent. He doesn’t want to hold hands. He is a big boy.

I wanted to let Ash walk in front of us because the sidewalk was too narrow and as long as he stayed close, I was good with this.

Tyler was not. “Mommy, hold Ashie’s hand! Hold Ashie’s hand!” He was non-functional if I wasn’t holding Ash’s hand. I tried to push him on this. I would hold Ash’s hand for awhile and then let go. Tyler kept freaking out though.

Towards the end of the walk, we saw the ice cream truck. The ice cream truck which was playing a new song and was too loud according to Tyler. But we ran and got ice cream anyway.

Afterwards, I turned the boys down our street to go home. Tyler flipped. He kept pointing back to where we had come from. “That way! Grass! That way! Grass!”

“But Tyler, we have to go home. The ice cream will melt.”

“That way! Grass!”

In my confusion, I let him lead me back to where we were when we first saw the ice cream truck.

Then a very relieved Tyler walked home using the route he normally takes.

He does this in the car as well. He knows how to get to everywhere that we go and if you go a different way, he lets you know quite adamantly that you are going the wrong way.

What goes on inside Tyler’s head that makes even the smallest changes so difficult? What is causing life to be so hard that routines and patterns are his coping mechanism? In my experience, routine is usually used to counter stress.

I can’t see the world through Tyler’s eyes. I can only try to learn it from him. I know most people, including the families of these children, don’t really understand autism.

I only know my four-year-old struggles with things that a four-year-old shouldn’t have to. If I couldn’t respond to changes in my life, I could not function on a daily basis.

My little boy has a long road ahead of him. But he won’t get lost nearly as often as I do. Even if he has to backtrack, he will remember the way home.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/7/2013

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Different? vs Different!

I have always had a soft heart for animals. Growing up, I considered it a top priority to save all the animals in the world. I still am a big fan of The Nature Conservatory and other such organizations that protect our wildlife and their habitats. I used to give money every year to numerous organizations toward this end. (Sadly, when I read in Revelations that all the sea creatures were doomed, I moved all of my save the animal funds away from dolphins and stockpiled it into wolves. I love wolves. Before it was more of a 50:50.)

Now that I don’t live with my parents and have bills, my funds get allocated completely away from wolves.

But the point is, ecological diversity is something that is easy for me to connect with, appreciate, and understand the need of.

I have been painting more lately. Scenes that represent my thoughts on the value of diversity. I have been looking for a new series to add to my Dare To Be Different and Different…Not Less series. I have been thinking about diversity.

Protect Diversity is what I am going to call it I think.

I have never before associated the great importance diversity within the human race with ecological diversity.

For true ecological balance, you need the presence of innumerable kinds of life all working in perfect harmony. Some of this life is very likable…bunnies and flowers. But without bees and mosquitoes, the system would fall apart. Sometimes the bunnies can multiply too quickly and destroy it all. You have to have the wolves and foxes too.

How is it so easy to see this about wolves and bunnies but not about people? I have always appreciated diversity among people and have been taught all people have equal value.

But I am learning it is more than that. Not only is this diversity something to be appreciated, it is vital. It should be fought for. If we lost diversity, we would lose a part of our abilities. We would lose a valuable color in our spectrum of existence.

Our diversity can make life so very, very difficult. In fact, we will spend most of our lives learning how to interact because of our diversity.

What if, instead, we could spend our lives learning how to interact in the bloom of our diversity? What if, instead of being impaired, our society empowered us? What if, instead of Tyler having autism spectrum disorder, he had autism spectrum gifts? Instead of someone saying, “Oh, he isn’t responding in therapy,” they said, “Tyler can read? That is amazing! Let’s forget the speech averages he isn’t hitting and get him into a classroom so maybe he can help other kids get inspired to read. What an exceptional child you have. His teacher is so lucky.”

If people were raised up to focus on their gifts instead of in spite of their gifts, perhaps our harmony would be sweeter.

Our disharmony is not currently working. People flock to others of their kind to find a “home” and persecute others to justify their security. We cannot all be bunnies or wolves or flowers. We need all kinds to flourish and survive through time.

I am socially awkward and blunt, but I can write and I can see the world in a different way than anyone else. I see patterns and hints of the unseen by most. Judged by the former, I am unworthy. Judged by the latter, I am invaluable. All individuals have both a former and a latter.

Which will the world accept? It is in your hands.

From my heart,
Rachel

(C) Rachel Flinchum 8/5/2013

Battle Royale: Autism vs Migraine

Today started out wonderfully. Tyler and I went to the Post Office, Walmart, and the fish store.

He was more needy than normal and actually wanted me to pick him up quite a bit. But the good thing about that is that it was because he was interacting with his environment and wanting to be involved. He wanted up so that he could see what was happening during checkouts. This is good. This is what I was hoping to see in him.

We still were on Tyler’s Train. That is what I call it when you go out with Tyler. He ends up dictating the flow of the outing. When you have a child with autism, you learn that your child has certain rules about how things are “supposed” to happen. That is the world he can understand and thrive in.

It is important to always push those limits to expand his ability to function, but sometimes you give your 4-year-old a break and hop on the train with no reservations.

Tyler helped me push the cart at Walmart. He had gotten it in his head that he needed new toothpaste so we picked some up. Also got a new yellow Angry Bird toothbrush and a new Angry Bird toy set. Can you tell what Tyler likes?

The big surprise of the day was when I realized I had told Tyler we were going to the fish store. As we were leaving Walmart, I asked him if he was excited about seeing the birds and fish and mice at the pet store. He looked so hurt. “You said fish store. Not pet store.”

The “fish store” is a fish-only store 20 minutes away. The look on Tyler’s face made my decision. I had, in fact, said fish store.

We got back home and played with the new Angry Bird toy. Tyler had interacted with me the entire trip and let me talk him into several things he wasn’t sure about. He interacted with all the environments.

The best part of the day was when he saw something on the kitchen counter and asked, “What is that?” That is his sixth time to ask a question. Ever.

We took a nap and I woke up feeling like death left out in the sun. I spent the rest of the day losing a battle with a migraine that was phenomenally painful and disabling. I was laying on the floor with an ice pack hoping that the fan would shut the hell up because there is no reason why a ceiling fan should be so loud as to make me want to throw up.

There seems to me no reason why a working mother raising two boys, one with autism, should have the additional tribulations of migraines and a bad back. Hello Injustice, nice to meet you!

But you know what? Despite the fact that I had the worst migraine of my life, the progress Tyler showed me today makes this one of the best days of my life and the best day in a long time.

To see my little boy want to know more about his environment. To see him interacting with me. To see him totally engaged with what we were doing. I would pay the price of a migraine and so much more.

It is crazy the things a parent of an autistic child will never take for granted. Small victories to most are monumental to us. Some of those victories stick but many will be lost and have to be won again and again. But each time a victory is won, our hearts soar and our sacrifices and personal struggles melt away.

In that moment, we see the light of hope, the colors of love, the beauty of perspective, and the face of peace.

I want to win victories. Not just for my family but for everyone. For autistic individuals and the world they interact with. That is why I am doing a Walk Now for Autism Speaks event this October. For children like Tyler, for the families, and for the world. If you are willing and able, please click on the link to make a contribution towards winning victories.
http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum

From my heart,
Rachel

New Angry Bird Toy Set

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My planted fish tank with four new platys that Tyler helped pick out

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Day 2 of Potty-Training (For Reals This Time)

I knew when I started potty training Tyler he only showed 2 of the 6 signs of an autistic child being ready to potty train.

What I didn’t know was whether or not my being at work during the week was interfering with a For Reals effort.

After two days of potty training, I have come to the conclusion that Tyler is not physically capable of either knowing he needs to go or keeping himself from doing it as it happens.

He sits on the potty now when I ask him to but does not understand trying to pee. He also is very embarrassed when he wets his clothes and will try to hide it. But when I ask him why he didn’t let me know he needed to go in between the every fifteen minute potty sessions, he looks lost. He only looks like that when something is beyond his comprehension. He also doesn’t seem to care or notice when he goes on the toilet, even with all my mega-praise.

He has also started having stronger physical reactions to it. He starts shaking and stimming with his hands. He loses all speech when he has wet clothes or is in between clothes changing.

We have moved from diapers to pull-ups at night with underwear during the day. So a full-time transition from diapers to pull-ups is a big step up.

Two days is not a long time to try potty training. But I know my son and I know he is just not capable of doing this right now. I am glad I took time off work to be with him and figure this out. It gives me a great measure of peace about the fact that it hasn’t happened yet.

I have two more days off with Tyler before I go back to work. The other issue that Tyler has been having is decreased verbal communication and interaction with people.

Time to accept victory over moving beyond diapers to pull-ups and focus on building Tyler up and encouraging him to talk and interact.

Time to play! Heaven knows Tyler and I need a little playdoh time after the past two days.

I would like to thank everyone for their advice and support during this effort. We haven’t given up. Just giving Tyler’s body more time to mature.

My mind is split in two right now as I fight to reconcile my perfectionist side which hates defeat and my mommy side which is learning to interpret defeats as a victory in something unintended. We all fail…if we did not, would we ever learn anything?

I feel like I have been learning A LOT lately. There is still A LOT I don’t know yet. Maybe playdoh can show me some answers.

From my heart,
Rachel

My beautiful boy bathing with bubbles

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If you are able and interested, please consider a donation to Autism Speaks to help families like mine.
http://www.autismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum

(C) Rachel Flinchum

Majority vs Minority

Today I want to talk more about Autism Speaks. I will frequently mention my Walk Now for Autism Speaks Walk Fund at the end of my posts, but I don’t do much more than a sentence.

So here’s the deal. Autism is a mysterious thing. It is a difficult concept to grasp. This is a problem.

There is a group of people that do not thrive under the same circumstances as most people. Have you ever heard of the concept that the blue I see may not be the blue you see? Your blue may look like my green. So who decides what is blue? The same thing that has been shaping society for all time…public opinion. The greater majority.

This is good. The greater majority will always struggle for what is best for the majority of people. With the greater majority you get a greater good.

So what happens if you are not a part of the greater majority? Unfortunately, you have to convince the greater majority that you are relevant.

The Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights, Disability Rights Act. These are all products of that. A minority was able to convince the majority that they were relevant.

But the greater majority is always settling back into its default…greater good for the majority. No minority is secure under this mechanism. The struggle will endure until either that minority disappears or until it becomes the majority. It is the way of society.

But that does not mean society is not capable of greater good for the minorities. Handicap parking, wheelchair access, women’s right to vote, and equal opportunity employment are all achievements that required the backing of the greater majority.

So, back to Autism Speaks. They are the largest organization involved with our minority movement. Who are they fighting for?

A minority whose blue is not your blue. Who whither where you would thrive. Who can see the world in a way we cannot, and therefore have trouble thriving in the world we have focused on.

Autism does not mean Tyler will have a set list of things he can and cannot do. No other member of his minority will be like him. But he needs extra help to learn how to navigate our crazy, visual, and social world. This is not who he is. He is not greater majority. But he is relevant and I must join with other tired, frustrated, and loving parents to prove to the greater majority that our children are relevant.

There are infinite ways to try to do this but not all of them are effective or helpful. I choose to use a variety of methods, but supporting Autism Speaks is a solid investment that I want to make towards my son and all families living with autism.

Their website (www.autismspeaks.org) says this:
“Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Their longtime friend Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and look forward to continued successes in the years ahead.”

They have solid goals that I can understand and support. They are probably one of Tyler’s best chances at being heard by the greater majority.

If you believe all children are relevant, if you support minorities, if you support what myself or Autism Speaks is doing, then I would like to thank you.
If you would like to also help us with our goals, please consider a donation to my Walk Fund for Autism Speaks.

http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum

From my heart,
Rachel

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(C) Rachel Flinchum 7/30/2013