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I have to admit there are days when I wonder HOW we survive our children…”Capt. Obvious” decided, in his infinite lack of wisdom that it would be a good thing to torrent/download a copyrighted file containing the Harry Potter audio books… How many ways can you say, “DUH???” So, in typical litigious fashion, our internet provider (who shall remain nameless, because *I* don’t want to face any kind of lawsuit) has sent their “warning letter across the bow.” Meaning, they have told us, “BUSTED!”

Now, here’s the thing…Capt. Obvious knows better. He’s 19. But this is also a kid who has no driver’s license, no money in the bank, no job, and no car …and who wants to move in with his friends next year to go to another college – one for which he has not applied. Ok – how many ways can you say “Unprepared”? This is a kid who is 19 going on 10-11. He says he’s going to take full responsibility for the copyright thing – and I think that’s wonderful. However, if he gets fined, I’m wondering where he thinks the money is going to come from? AND, he’s 19 – he’s not a kid anymore in the eyes of the law. The penalities could (and should) be bigger for someone who should know better.

Hopefully, this is a warning and it will go no further. Me, being me, though – I catastrophize. I’m envisioning lawyers descending on the house, subpoenas in hand, having to turn over every bit of electronica for examination of something that MIGHT have violated the copyright. I try to be honest – I really do. I know my husband does too – he works for the police, for crying out loud…I have to wonder if Capt. Obvious here realizes the hot water he could get us ALL into.

So…am I ticked off with him? OH yes…Hubby and I have told him he has to erase/delete every single bit of everything he’s ever downloaded. If he doesn’t have a receipt for it – it’s gone. Period. He has to use his computer in full view of us at all times, now, and I’m tempted to tell him he has to use it for school purposes only (although even that might be a stretch given his grades last semester.)

Meanwhile, MY blood pressure has skyrocketed, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose my connection because of his stupidity. Sigh…I guess we’ll see what happens. In the mean time, if I disappear, you know why. If someone else out there has gone through this with their kid, would you please let me know, and let me know how it turned out? I love my kid, pain in the rear that he can be.

My son, Aidan, is autistic. We began to suspect that something was wrong when Aidan didn’t start to walk on time, like other kids. He eventually did walk, at 16 months, and our doctors told us, “Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Now to any other parent, that might sound reassuring – but to me it was extremely frustrating, because I KNEW something wasn’t right. I have the advantage of doctoral training in counseling psychology; one of the many things we learn is how to recognize, assess, and treat developmental disorders in children. And yes, autism is one of those disorders. So, I had an “in” when I started recognizing symptoms.

Aidan is a little different in that he never really regressed, as many children with autism do. Aidan simply stopped. At about 18 months, he had tubes put in his ears for chronic ear infections – we had hoped that he would start catching up when he stopped being sick so much of the time. His second birthday came and went, and he was still delayed. He had trouble eating independently, and didn’t like to be hugged as much as I would have liked to hug him…so, although there were some “red flags,” they weren’t flying high enough to really warrant a lot of attention. Still, at his checkups, I brought up the possibility of autism with our family doctor. Her advice was to “wait and see.”

One thing I should tell you is that I have a really, REALLY good working relationship with my family doctor. She is an incredible, amazing woman that I trust. More importantly, she listened to me and considered my concerns. Again, though – I had an “in” because of my training, and I’m sure that helped.

Aidan’s sister was born a few months after his second birthday, and Aidan didn’t react to her at all in the way you’d expect a toddler to react to a new intruder. He simply didn’t care and actually acted as though she simply didn’t exist. Unlike most toddlers, he wasn’t curious and he wasn’t jealous. He simply…was. Again, I was concerned – after all, I knew what to look for.

Aidan’s 3rd birthday came and went, and he was pretty clearly not meeting the developmental milestones. I’d been keeping track of these since I’d first noticed difficulties early on – and, as I mentioned earlier, he simply “stopped.” He wa stuck at about 2 to 2 1/2 years old. Our doctor listened to my concerns, and again we give it a few more months just to wait and see. Ok…so we did.

At three and half years, she saw him again – she’d wanted to assess his development specificially withing the few months between visits to see if there were any changes. There weren’t…he as still “stuck” in the two year old phase.

Now if any you know, have been around, or have children at this age, you KNOW what fun I’m talking about. Learning the power of “no” is huge at this age – now imagine getting stuck there, and dealing with it for over two and half years. Potty training – the same. Stuck at early two.

After this visit, our doctor decided that it would be a good thing to run a complete evaluation – ironically enough, she recommended my training clinic as the best place to do this. I KNEW what the outcome of the evaluation would be – after all, I’d been tracking symptoms and such for 2 1/2 years. So, off we went to CSU for the evaluation. I remember telling therapist (who again ironically enough was in the same exact position I’d been in three years before) that I thought Aidan had autism and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD; essentially disobeying for the sheer idea of disobeying and argumentation.) She said, “Well, let’s do the tests and we’ll see.”

Guess what? Amazingly enough…he was diagnosed with mild-moderate autism and oppositional defiance disorder. Here’s the thing – even when you’re prepared, even when you know what’s coming – hearing it is a shock. No parent ever wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child. I’d been through this before when my oldest was diagnosed with ADHD. I thought I was prepared.

And on the way home, with Aidan babbling in the back seat of the care, I cried. Partially out of relief – here was the evidence for what I’d known for years – and partially out of a profound grief. There was something very wrong with my baby.

From this point, we entered the world of “services” and “therapy.” I have to say that I’m eternally grateful to the local hospital and therapists – their work in speech and occupational therapy worked wonders. It’s expensive and I’m also glad we had insurance that covered it. AND, I thought about what life would be like if we didn’t have these advantages.

Today, Aidan speaks relatively close to his age group – he’s about 1 year behind. His motor coordination is better, and he interacts with people much more often and appropriately. I thank God every day for that. He has improved immensely, also in part due to the wonderful Head Start program – he had a wonderful classroom staff and was thrilled to be a “big kid” and go to school. He hugs, kisses, shows affection, interacts and even initiates play with other kids – all of these are miracles I’ll never take for granted again.

There are things about Aidan, though, that are noticeably different. He tends to speak in a monotone that sounds intense or pressured – there isn’t much emotion or inflection in his words. He looks a little different too – there is just something about him that seems a little “off.” He’s fascinated with things no other child I know of has ever even noticed: power poles and lines, “red balls,” train tracks (not the trains – the tracks) and signs. One more thing – heaven help me…I’m STILL changing diapers. (Changing poopy diapers for a 5 1/2 year old is NOT fun, either!)

His little sister speaks more clearly and in a more complex manner than he does, and she’s potty-trained now. She’s teaching him some things with language, interacting, and normal pre-school stuff that he needs and can really only get by interacting. He’ll be in a regular kindergarten next year, and I’m worried for him.

We all know how kids treat other kids who are different and how early it starts. My prayer for the other children and for Aidan is that, somehow, they can overcome the differences and help each other.

I posted a little while ago on how “fat” is not a four letter word. And yet, it comes up again and again and again – in how people have lost weight, gained weight, lost it again, gained it again, etc. Look at Oprah – how many times are we (and her) confronted with her weight? I mean, REALLY! The woman has done incredible things with her life, and has helped so many people…but what do we (and the tabloids and magazines) focus on? Whether Oprah has gained or regained weight -as if her entire identity is defined by what she looks like. Puh-LEEZE!

Nia Vardalos – the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has written about her journey with weight loss…yes, yet another star telling us how she did it. (http://www.usmagazine.com/news/nia-vardalos-opens-up-about-pressure-to-lose-40-pounds-2009126)  The difference? She’s REAL. She doesn’t talk about liquid diets, personal trainers, diets in general, weight loss pills or anything of the like. She talk about how diet changes and exercising more was the way she did it. Nia also mentions that people don’t want to hear that – they want the miracle cure and quick fix.

Folks, there is no magic pill or quick fix. The weight didn’t come on overnight  (although for some people it’s quicker than others – and I’ll explain that in a bit), and it’s not going to come off overnight, either. I know this from both research and experience. Yes, I’m fat. I wasn’t always fat, and I’ve both gained and lost weight in the last year.

Over the last two years, I had lost 70 lbs. I had people coming up to me all the time, asking “How did you do it?” These people wanted the same answers that people wanted from Nia – they wanted to know a diet they could do, a pill they could take, etc. I got the point where I’d say, “It’s pretty simple. It’s called the ‘Eat less, exericse more diet’ .” I’d see people’s face reflect disappointment as they’d say, “Oh. Ok.”

I wish I could say I’ve kept the weight off. Throughout my life, I’ve also dealt with a mood disorder, and have been looking for something that woud help that as well. I finally found a combination of medications that has really helped. The problem? They CAUSE weight gain. Not just “weight gain may be a side effect,” but actually, “This product usually causes weight gain in patients who use it.” I am faced with a choice of feeling decent in terms of my mood or staying thin.

You can guess which path I chose, based on the focus of this post. I’d much rather be feeling good – about myself, my world, and my future – than be skinny. This flies in the face of what a lot of women say: “I’d rather be dead than fat.” That kind of thinking really pisses me off, to be honest. So, in the 6 months that I’ve been on this medication, 30 of the 70 lbs. have come back.

Here’s the thing that’s really hard. I still eat the way I did and exercise the way I did when I lost the 70 lbs. That hasn’t changed. It’s hard to look at myself in the mirror and realize that, after all that hard work and continuing hard work, the weight is coming back. There are times, honestly, when I’ve looked at myself and cried. I really worked hard for that, and it took time.

My doctor tells me, “Well…just eat less and exercise more again.” Folks, I eat 1000 calories a day. I walk 3-4 times a week, for about 4-5 miles (at an aerobic pace.) For those people who are going to tell me, “Well, you can’t be doing all that and have weight gain,” guess what? I can and do. And it sucks, to be honest. If I cut out anymore or exercise more, I’m going to start falling into the realm of anorexia. I sometimes joke that I’d be the world’s fattest anorexic, but it’s really NOT funny. Anorexia is serious problem, and eating disorders run in my family. I’m NOT going to go down that path, simply to look thin so other people can tell me how great I look.

Frankly, I think I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been. My latest blood pressure reading was 106/69. And again, for those of you who want to believe that you can’t be fat and healthy – think again. It IS possible, and I’m living proof. Am I going to give up and just go back to the way I had been before my weight loss? Hell no.

I’m going to keep doing what I did to lose the weight in the first place. If things stable out and I start losing again, great. If not…well, I’m a good person, I’m attractive the way I am (and yes, I’ve had people tell me that), and I like myself. And that’s worth more than anything any diet or weight loss pill could ever bring me.

I’m fat…and I’m smart. I’m fat…and I feel good. I’m fat…and I’m heathy (believe it or not). I’m fat …and I exercise and eat well. I’m fat…and I’m beautiful. Period.

I took the kidlets to the park today. We are lucky here in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, because there are some really nice, well-kept parks. Our favorite is the Veteran’s Park by Lake Loveland. The weather was nice (and lately it’s been pretty volatile), the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or chilly – Perfect park weather.

I learned a lesson today, too…never, ever judge a situation by what it appears to be. A few weeks ago, we went to the same park and I was looking for a picnic table. I work on my art and writing while the kids play, and a table really helps. This particular weekend, both shelters were booked. “Ohh-kay,” I thought..there was a group using one shelter and they had dragged over the two “public” tables as well – and weren’t using them. So I asked politely if they would mind if I used one of the tables. The lady who had rented the space coldly told me that, “We paid $100 for this and we’ll use what we want.” I was taken aback and told her that the fee didn’t include the public tables and she argued that it did. Long story, short was that she pretty snidely informed that it was “first come, first serve” and too bad for me. To say it left a bad taste in my mouth is an understatement – I was PO’d. Anyway, we stayed at the park that day for a little bit anyway – the kids wanted to play, and I sat on the grass and the edge of the playground and watched.

Which brings me to today. We went again to this same park, and there was a group setting up a birthday party in one of the shelters – they had taken two tables. I TRIPLE-checked the reservation list, and they weren’t on it, so I sat down at one of the tables where I could both work and watch the kids. There were some murmured comments, which I assumed were “What’s she doing? Doesn’t she see that we have these tables?” Me being me, I stubbornly refused to move, just waiting for a confrontation like the last one. This time I was working on reading and planning for my business, so it was easy to concentrate on the other stuff.

My munchkins had brought sidewalk chalk with them, and I encouraged them to share it with everyone – not just themselves. They did and we got quite a gallery going on the sidewalk of kid’s drawings in the summer – it was great. A few of the girls from the birthday party even joined in. So, after a bit everyone kind of scattered. Aidan and Becca came over to drink their water, and it was at this time that the party gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” and open presents. My kidlets watched and I told them, “It’s not ours guys…but you can wish the little girl happy birthday if you want.” They didn’t, and so I went back to work.

About 5 minutes later, someone touched me on the arm. It was the mother of the birthday girl. Uh-oh, I thought…here it comes. I’m sure my face reflected this, because she immediately said, “Oh, nothing’s wrong. I was just wondering if your kids would like a piece of cake?”

And yes…there was the lesson I’ve written about, wearing a kind smile and an offer of friendship. Be the change you want to see in the world, indeed. My munchkins gratefully accepted, and we decided to do something in return. We got the sidewalk chalk, drew some balloons and wrote, “Happy Birthday Arianna! From Aidan and Rebecca”

I was humbled today. I thought I was above being judgmental and arrogant, and I was taught a lesson. Thank God for people who teach us – and I’m glad I was open enough to hear the lesson. And so…I pick myself up, dust myself off and begin again to try to practice what I preach. It pays to look at the other side of the mirror.

So, happy birthday Arianna – you and your family gave ME the gift today. I wish you the best, and am glad there are people like you and your family in the world. You give me hope.

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror