Nervous Much?

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Anxiety, Autism, Awkward! | 0 comments

Image of two people falling from a tightrope, one of them grabbing the rope with one hand and the second person with the other, thus saving them both.I didn’t get much sleep this week. I had three meetings and the nerves really got to me. Two of the meetings were for school and the other was just for me.

To recap the plan from last week’s post, we needed

  • FBA/BIP and accommodations to be in place – √ (Yes, I know that’s a square root sign, but I couldn’t find a checkmark. Refer to first sentence of this post.)
  • Officially change Zookeeper’s name and submit it to school – √
  • Meet teacher and special education teacher before school starts – √ and meetings to be described in this post
  • Mom talk to class about autism – much sweating, hemming, and hawing has commenced regarding this step
  • Mom/Dad check in with Zookeeper every day/week and make changes as needed – √ and I’ll tell you about it next week

The first order of business was to find out who Zookeeper’s teachers would be. Because it’s written into his IEP, we were able to find out which teachers Zookeeper would have a week before anyone else. There was a service day, where volunteers sign up to come get the school/teachers ready for the year, on Saturday, August 27th. I signed the four of us up in the hope that we would know who the teachers were by then and meet them ahead of the swarming crowds that gather at the official Meet and Greet.

We did. So, while BamBam and I went to his teacher’s classroom to help, Sparky and Zookeeper went to his teacher’s classroom. I didn’t tell the boys that these were their teachers until after because I didn’t want them to go tell their friends, but it also turned out to be a good idea because there was no pressure on them. BamBam was hoping for the teacher every second grader in the school was hoping for, the equivalent of my friend Lora, but he didn’t get her. I was really worried about that, but meeting his teacher helped me see that this teacher might be even better for him. Which is also the equivalent of Lora because she would absolutely be the best teacher ever for my boys. Meeting her first helped to soften the blow when I told him he would be in her class instead.

I didn’t spend much time with Zookeeper’s teacher that day, but he and Sparky really liked her a lot. I didn’t make the split on purpose, but I now realize it was better for me to go to BamBam’s class because I think the room would have been emotionally charged had I been the one with Zookeeper.

So, Zookeeper meeting his teacher DONE!

Next was my meeting with Zookeeper’s teacher, special education teacher, and principal. We set that meeting for Wednesday, August 31st. The principal told me in advance that his former special ed teacher, the one we loved, will be his special ed teacher again. I told Zookeeper and his response was, “Good.” Sounds anticlimactic, but it was said with enthusiasm.

I got an assortment of pastries to bring in to show how much I appreciated them taking the time to meet with me. We had a very productive meeting, going over all the accommodations and how they will work. The principal even mentioned that Zookeeper had trouble with kids while waiting in line to go into class first thing in the morning. There’s no supervision at that time, except for the safety patrol walking around the building, and some of the kids are out there a long time before the bell rings. They get restless.

The special education teacher suggested that Zookeeper go through the office in the mornings, show them a pass she made for him, and go straight up to his classroom. There he will pick up a schedule for the day, compare it to the regular schedule to see if there’s anything different, then either help teachers with tasks or read quietly until it’s time to bring the class in.

They even suggested he start this the first day of school. Because once Zookeeper starts a routine, even if it’s one he doesn’t like, there is no getting him to change it. He is definitely a stick-with-the-devil-you-know kind of kid.

So, meeting with teacher and special ed teacher DONE!

Earlier in the week, I got an email from the choir I’m in about the start of the new season on September 3rd. The choir is in its seventh year, so the email listed the goals and accomplishments for the previous years and for the one ahead. The new goal is to establish a small, auditioned sub-choir.

That’s right in my wheelhouse! Given, that wheelhouse has 30 years of cobwebs on it, but still.

I signed up for the 7:40pm audition on September 1st, thinking that it would be soon enough that I wouldn’t chicken out, but after the school meetings so I would be relieved and able to relax.

Turns out, not so much with the relaxed. Because, once I’d finished the meetings and was satisfied we had done everything we could until school starts, I realized how totally freaked out I was about the audition. I had nightmares on Wednesday night and slept even less than I had the night before.

The email didn’t say anything about what the audition entailed. Neither did the sign-up sheet. I could have postponed my audition until after the first rehearsal, where I was sure there would be more information (there was), but I was afraid I would chicken out all together if I didn’t do it on September 1st. I had convinced myself that I could not ask anyone and, once I decide something like that, well, let’s just say Zookeeper’s rigidity apple didn’t have very far to fall.

I started trying to remember what was involved in high school and, for some reason, all I could think of was harmonic and melodic minor scales. Turns out the audition involved most of the all-state choir audition parts except for the scales.

Image of a large woman belting out a song.The director had me warm up a little, then she told me what the four parts of the audition would be: more warm up to check out my range, call and response (what I’m calling it because she plays notes on the piano and I sing them back to her),sight singing, and a PREPARED PIECE. Why couldn’t the prepared piece be what I remembered from high school?

I crapped out on the range. My voice just stopped coming out. I used to be a mezzo soprano, but now I’m close to a contralto. Very strange. She said it’s because I haven’t sung for a while and it’ll take more time for it to come back.

The call and response went well. I think she said I got all five.

The sight singing was disastrous. I started off okay, but then missed a couple of intervals and it went downhill from there. I commented on how flat I was and she said yes, but that I’d ended on the right note in reference to the piece. Meaning I was in the general vicinity of the right note, I guess.

Then there was the prepared piece and the fact that I didn’t have one. She said I could sing something from our last show or Amazing Grace or Happy Birthday or Do Re Mi…

I still have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about Do Re Me from our last concert, so I picked that one without pausing to give it thought. I should have picked Happy Birthday. She asked what general key I wanted, but I didn’t know, so she just chose one and I took off singing. By about Mi I realized it was too high for me. I kept going, but it felt like a disaster.

I was so nervous that I babbled about god knows what all the way through the audition. It was an embarrassment to the memory of the singer I used to be. The director was very kind and patient and said I did a great job. I guess we’ll see. The last of the auditions are on September 20th and the first rehearsal is the 26th, so I’ll know soon.

Either way, I’m hoping I can relax now and get some sleep.

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The Happiest Place on Earth

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Anxiety, Awkward!, Sensory | 3 comments

We interrupt this writer’s narrative experience of jury duty to bring you coverage of Overstimfest 2015.

Photo of Mickey and Minnie Mouse riding in a parade float alongside a sign that says, "Disney Parks."

Photo of Mickey and Minnie Mouse riding in a parade float alongside a sign that says, “Disney Parks.”

The Quirky family went to Disneyland the first week of May, 2015 to experience what will forever be known in Quirkylore as Overstimfest 2015. Five days in the happiest place on Earth did not go well for these four crazy travelers.

Monday: The flight and trip to the hotel pretty much wiped the parents out. The kids did not care, so the family went from the hotel to Disneyland to stand in long lines. They did get to go on the jungle cruise ride, which was, admittedly, pretty cool. Then they went back to the hotel for a dip in the pool. Unfortunately, Anaheim had traded weather with Seattle for the week, making the pool water a bit nippy. The family pressed on bravely, but decided not to return to the pool for the remainder of the trip. Ravenous from exertion after the very light lunch where the children opted not to eat anything ordered for them in the Downtown Disney District restaurant that did not have chicken strips on its menu, they went in search of a restaurant acceptable to all parties. The La Brea Bakery was the ultimate destination and their braised spareribs turned out to be the best thing this author had to eat the entire trip.

Tuesday: Disneyland and California Adventure Park alternate opening their doors to resort hotel guests an hour early each morning. Tuesday, May 5th, was Disneyland, so that’s where the family began their day. This author woke up with a sore back and, although she spent the early morning icing it, was in a good deal of pain by the time the family arrived at City Hall in Disneyland. They had foregone City Hall the previous day due to a long line and anxious children, but knew they needed to stop there for disability passes if they had any hope of actually getting on any rides. City Hall wasn’t even open yet, but there was already a line. It was decided that the kids and their father would go find a ride while this author waited in line. And wait she did. The line finally started to move and, just before she got to the front, there was an announcement that people needing birthday buttons should form a line to the right of the original line. As she was not in search of a birthday button, this author stayed where she was.

When the Disney cast member helping the original line was finished with the person in front of this author…you know what? I’m dropping the third person stuff because it’s exhausting. When the lady finished helping the person in front of me, she turned to the line that was waiting for birthday buttons, even though she could see me standing in front of her. Confused (and in pain – did I mention the pain?), I said, “Excuse me?” quite politely, I felt. She turned and asked what I needed.

“I’m autistic, as are both of my sons, and I need to talk to someone about accommodations,” I said.

“Okay, you need to go stand in that line over there.” I followed her point to the line that had formed to the left of the original line.

I looked back at her and said, “You mean that relatively long line that wasn’t there a moment ago?”

“Yes,” she smiled.

“So, I’m at the front of this line, but I have to go stand at the end of that line, which goes up stairs with no ramp, to get disability passes so that you can hand out birthday buttons?” Well, I said most of that, everything but the ramp and birthday button parts.

“Yes,” she smiled again. “They made an announcement. Didn’t you hear it?”

“No, I guess I didn’t.” I gave her my best evil eye. She just smiled. “So, I have to go to the end of that line to get the disability passes.”

“Yes,” she nodded this time for emphasis. “Sorry.”

I bet.

So I went to the back of the other line, trying to light her on fire with my laser eyes, and listened to the people in front of me discussing whether or not it was worth it to do the Fast Pass. When I was finally waved inside, I spread my hands on the counter and, with a shaky voice, said, “I’m autistic and I’m pretty close to having a meltdown.” Then I told him what I’d just experienced.

He said, “Technically, all of the people in the party have to be present to do this,” I held up the four lanyards with our 5-day passes in them. And shook them. A little. He began to talk faster, “but, since it would take a while for your family to get back and then you’d all have to stand in line, I’ll make an exception for you. Because this is supposed to be a happy thing.” Uh-huh.

I found the boys, but they were half-way through the line for a ride, so we stayed there. For what felt like hours. I discovered that the two things that made my back hurt more were walking long distances and standing in one place. Like you do when you’re waiting in line. Forever. I don’t even remember what the ride was, but it definitely was not worth it.

Then we rode the monorail and probably some other rides that I don’t remember. I was not happy with Disneyland that day.

Photo of Michelle wearing a hat made from balloons of all colors of the rainbow.

Photo of Michelle wearing a hat made from balloons of all colors of the rainbow.

That night, we went to an Italian restaurant in the Downtown Disney District. Once again, there were balloon animals to be had. Zoo Keeper asked for a shark. BamBam asked for a rainbow hat he then refused to wear. Too big to put anywhere on the table and too windy to put on the floor, Sparky and I took turns wearing it.

Reentry into daily life is taking a lot out of me, so I’m going to stop here and leave the rest of the trip for another post.


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The Jury Room

Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Anxiety, Awkward!, Sensory | 0 comments

This morning went much better than yesterday, the first day of jury duty. Today there was an entertaining pair of pants on the curb at the bus stop. A fellow bus traveler wondered if their owner had been vaporized by someone else or was practicing disapparition and had forgotten his pants. I discovered the bus has a scrolling monitor that tells the time and the cross street for the next stop, so I didn’t mis my stop like I did yesterday. I got to the jury room early, so there were plenty of seats to choose from.

After a while, I wen to get a hot chocolate from the machine in the kitchenette. Upon returning, I found a heavy smoker occupying the formerly empty seat next to mine. Gagging on the smell of stale cigarettes, I left to find another seat, which is what I should have done much much earlier than I did yesterday.

Speaking of the yesterday, I passed by that jerk on my way back from the kitchenette. He was sitting up by the main desk, so, when I moved, I went back to the place I was sitting yesterday. I actually just heard people talking about him back here, so I guess I’m not the only one who returned to this area. The woman who first spoke up is here, sitting in the same seat. She jumped a little when she saw me, which makes me feel bad all over again.

But wait!

I haven’t told you about yesterday yet. Let me back up.

At the very back of the jury waiting room, there’s a little alcove with four round tables. The chairs are even less comfortable than the ones in the main jury room, but the tables make up for that for people with laptops or notepads, like me. I ended up back here yesterday simply because it was the only seat I could find, but I liked it. At first, anyway.

Frustrated muscular man with thought balloon sits next to loud man on mobile telephone. Thought bubble says, "OMG! STFU!"

Frustrated muscular man with thought balloon sits next to loud man on mobile telephone. Thought bubble says, “OMG! STFU!”

After orientation was over, a man at the next table began to talk on his cell phone. Loudly. In French. Continuously for what felt like an hour. I realize now that this probably was not annoying to most of the people around us. But after a 45 minute bus ride with people standing in the aisle and missing my stop because I couldn’t see street signs and a long walk with an even longer line to get in to the courthouse, meaning I was late, which is why there were no other seats available and nowhere I could move to get away from the French phone call, I was pretty much one big exposed nerve. I couldn’t concentrate to write, which didn’t really matter anyway, as my legs were bouncing away (one of my stims) and I was trying not to touch the table so that I wouldn’t make it shake.

Eventually, the woman sitting next to me – the one who reacted when she saw me today – said to me, “Is that bothering you, too?”

As I replied affirmatively, so did a second man, who was sitting behind the woman, in a seat not affiliated with a table. He added that it’s really rude and how people have no consideration for others anymore and how he had been accosted by people in the line to get in the courthouse simply because he refused to let a woman cut in front of him.  The woman who asked the question gave him a blank look, which is when I realized she was talking about the intermittent squeaky noise coming from the wall opposite us.

“Oh, you mean the noise,” I said.

“Yes,” she said, as the man behind her said, “No, the guy on the phone.”

I nodded at him and said, “Me, too.” I told the woman I thought the noise was one of the air vents or something with a joint that needed oil.

The man behind us got up and down a few times, sometimes saying stuff about rude people on phones, while the French man went right on talking and consulting his iPad as if this were his private office.

There were four other women sitting at the table with me. The upset man finally said to us, “Is it just me?”

This is the part I regret. I said, “No, it’s not just you.”

He nodded, got up, and began to berate the French man, who ignored him for a few minutes, then stopped talking into the phone and looked up from his iPad. “Are you talking to me? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking to me.” He said that a few times while the other man continued to rant, and then the French man left the area. Pretty graciously under the circumstances.

Everyone in the area was stunned. I was ashamed by my complicity.

Over the next hour or so, the women at the table with me would try to talk to each other. Not to me, which was fine by me, but each other. The angry man would invariable insert himself into the conversation, talk over everyone, and not notice that the original conversants had gone back to staring at their devices.

There was one point where he began talking about how we’re not supposed to talk to anyone or seek out news regarding a trial we’re on (that was part of the jury orientation) and how he would disregard that were he chosen because they don’t tell you everything in a trial. They throw out the information you really need to make a decision, so he would look that up on the internet or watch news programs for it.

You know I couldn’t stay silent for that, right?

I said, “And you think you’re going to get the information you need from the media?” He missed my point and kept right on talking.

One by one, the other women at my table got up and left the area. In fairness, two of them were called to courts for jury selection, but still.

New people wandered in to fill the empty seats, including the one vacated by the French man. And people began to talk on their phones. Not like the Frenchman; these people were making an effort to lower their voices and the calls were short. I even made one to cancel an appointment I’d forgotten for today. I went over by the bathrooms to do it because I thought that would be quieter, but a woman just did the same thing a few minutes ago and it actually acts like a microphone. Oops.

The angry man began to grumble again. As I took my seat after my phone call, he bagan to rail at a man sitting at the French man’s former table. This time, though, people around the alcove defended the man on the phone.

“Hey, his mother just died and he’s making arrangements.”

“He’s not bothering anyone.”

“We all have to be here, let’s just be tolerant.”

Cartoon businessman standing, angry and yelling on phone.

Cartoon businessman standing, angry and yelling on phone.

The angry man escalated. He yelled about how he has sick relatives and is missing work, he’s not bothering people with his phone calls. “People should take it outside! Maybe I should just call my friends and talk really loud for an hour. See how everyone likes that!”

One of the other men said, “Go ahead. Nobody’s going to say anything about it. You’re the only one who’s being rude here.”

So he got on his cell and began to pace around, telling the person he called about his new “friends” (quotation marks his) and how they were persecuting him and everyone is out to get him.

That’s when I walked away to another area. Shaking. They let us go for the day not long after and I was still shaking when I got home. I was still arguing with him in my head this morning, even though I said nothing at the time.

I found out today that the man whose mother had died has been on a jury for six months and they wouldn’t let him leave to take care of business for his mom. They have run out of alternates and, if they’d let this man go, it would be declared a mistrial and the six months would have been a wasted effort for everyone involved. Apparently jurors on that trial have had all kinds of things happen: one fell off a ladder, one’s mother had a heart attack, one woman’s job refuses to pay her while she’s serving. There were others, but I couldn’t write fast enough. I don’t know what kind of trial it was because you’re not allowed to say – because they don’t want people giving you their unsolicited opinions about whatever the alleged offense is – but I’m guessing murder. What else would take six months to try?

At noon today they let all but 20 of us go home, having completed jury service if you hadn’t been called by that point. Guess whose name was called last to stay for jury selection. Me. The angry man isn’t staying, but the woman who reacted when she saw me this morning is. I really hope we aren’t both chosen for the jury.

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Social Mom

Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 in Awkward! | 4 comments

Maybe I should just not plan what to write during April. This is my third pass at a post for this week.

This afternoon, when we got back from speech therapy, we saw all of the neighborhood kids out playing. I convinced mine to come in to at least eat the chicken I’d bought for dinner on the way home before going out to join. I took a notebook out with the intention of sitting on the porch swing and writing, but felt guilty about being antisocial, so ended up chatting with the other moms on our block.

A stressed-looking mom with two wailing kids pulling her in different directions.

Illustration of a stressed-looking mom with two wailing kids pulling her in different directions.

Then some of the kids went in and the rest went to our backyard to play on our fort/play set. Having kids other than my own on our fort (or at our house) is weird. They do stuff that would never occur to my kids to do. Climbing up and sitting on the yardarm that holds up the swing, climbing into the tree next to the fort, climbing into the neighbor’s yard, which is what brought another mother and I back there. We made the neighbor’s yard off limits.

Well, the other mother made it off limits. I stood there, sheepishly wondering if we had liability insurance.

Thing is, I have no idea how to manage other people’s children. I don’t know what other mom’s rules might be. I don’t know what should be off limits. I can’t anticipate what they’re going to do. When I tell them to do something and they challenge me, I don’t know what to do. Little kids push me around…and I let them.

Because I don’t understand the social rules of being a mom. More than that, actually. I don’t know what the rules are.

Even being out front with the other moms was too much social for me. The mom’s are nice and I like them, even enjoyed talking to them, but I get overstimulated easily when there are that many people around. And I start to think about the summer and being out there every day.

I’m not sure I can do that.

And I know there have to be rules for our backyard: when other kids can be back there and what they’re allowed to take up on the fort and how long they’re allowed to stay. But I don’t know how to go about making those rules, let alone how to disseminate them.  The whole thing makes me feel pretty pathetic.

It’s not just playing outside that I can’t handle. I get anxious when there are uninvited people in my house. Last weekend, Zoo Keeper came inside while I was watching TV and asked if he could bring his friend in for a tour of the house. I said yes, then retreated to my office, eventually donning headphones because I couldn’t take the noise of the kids playing.

Illustration of a blonde woman in a yellow polka dotted dress with a pink apron holding a cupcake with pink frosting.

Illustration of a blonde woman in a yellow polka dotted dress with a pink apron holding a cupcake with pink frosting.

Here’s the other thing: I want to be THAT mom. You know the one. Everyone calls her Mom and she feeds the whole neighborhood as all the kids come through her house. She’s always ready for company, welcoming everyone with a gracious smile.

But I’ll never be her. I can’t; I don’t have it in me. I’m too introverted. Too sensitive to noise and chaos. Too rigid in my ways. Too anxious. I’d be a much better grouchy old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.

I need to accept that I’m not a social mom, but I don’t know how to reconcile who I am with who I want to be. No, that’s not quite right. I don’t want to be her exactly; I want to be her for my kids. I want my kids to have a great social experience in the neighborhood. For our family’s sake, I don’t want the neighborhood thinking I’m weird and antisocial.

I have to figure out how to strike a balance between the social mom world and my own needs, but I can’t think when it’s going on and I’m overstimulated. I can’t think now, either, so I’m going to go watch TV with Sparky. Maybe I’ll figure it out tomorrow. Or not.

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