This year’s summer vacation: little tiny baby steps towards maturity . . .

20140817_130709 20140817_131106-1-1 20140819_123905This year we all vacationed together. Hubby, baby, P and me! Plus grandma and grandpa and tons of relatives in hubby’s village and some visiting from Australia. I was fearful it would be too much for Panayioti and with the exception of one occasion where he almost seemed to be purposefully pushing his, and mine, limits, it’s been smooth sailing so far. I’m in Athens today because I have to be back at work on Monday but everybody else still has two more weeks of vacation left. Lucky them! The truth is we limited P’s overexposure and over-anything really so that there wouldn’t be any big, public meltdowns and that’s what’s helped really. See? Maturity, on our part. So, no late-night outings to cafes and restaurants and no grand visits to homes of relatives with tons of people there and no loud anything and no pushing him to do stuff he just doesn’t like to do like meeting new people, like his little Aussie cousins. Although we did go to the beach one day with his afore-mentioned 6 and 4 year old cousins and their lovely parents visiting from Australia and that didn’t really go over very well. In fact, I don’t even think it registered with Panayioti that he did in fact meet them. He just gave out a little shriek when Esther, hubby’s 1st cousin, approached him and very gently caressed his arm and that was that. He spent the rest of our beach day running towards strangers and putting pebbles in his mouth. Not so mature on his part but I’m pretty sure he did that ’cause he wanted to leave. That beach he didn’t care for, whereas the one right by our country house he absolutely loves!! He looks so mature when we go there. So at peace with his surroundings, no shrieking and running from one end to the beach to the other, no approaching strangers, no running towards the street, and ALMOST no sand-eating 🙂

The only thing that has been plaguing me for a couple of days now has to do with me really. The mom/person I’ve become. It’s kind of weird but I’ll try to explain so that you understand. I have one ASD kid and one NT kid. I can interract with both. I can play accordingly with both. I can be their mom. I can be the adult at home and outside of the home. Maria is a girl so I can do girl stuff with her. I speak differently to both because as Maria’s maturing, she’s surpassing her brother in ways a typical kid would. Her understanding is getting bigger and bigger by the day and she’s speaking and understanding things at a typically-developing pace for her 21 month old age. Panayioti is my non-verbal ASD son and I have to keep an eye out on him at all times. ASD parents know what I mean. But what about NT boys? Upon meeting Ester’s 6 year old son, Panayioti’s 2nd cousin, I realized that I don’t really know how to act, be around if you must, NT boys P’s age. If I’m not telling Panayioti NOT to put sand, pebbles, ashtrays, etc. in his mouth, if I’m not keeping him from running into the street filled with cars or from taking his shoes off in restaurants and climbing atop the table, if I’m not helping him eat and keeping him from getting up from his seat every two seconds, if I’m not keeping his hands from flapping and telling him to ‘have a good mouth’ to keep him from shrieking . . . if I’m not doing all that then I don’t really know what to say or do around a typical 5-6 year old little boy. What do you say to them?? What kinds of q’s do you ask them and how do you really ‘talk’ to them? Because people, in case I haven’t told you this, you must know that I’ve never ‘talked’ to my boy have I? He’s non-verbal so our conversations are me keeping him from hurting himself, mostly, or others by accident, and giving him ‘mands’ with PECS pictures or by pointing and going absolutely nuts with excitement when he does something as instructed. He will always respond with a grunt or shriek and sometimes, always by a mand given by me, he might shake his index finger ‘no’ to a question. See what I mean? When I’m around a typical little boy I don’t know what to say and I feel a bit uncomfortable. And I sense that the boy in question might also feel uncomfortable.

But I have noticed, and we all have, that Panayioti has matured this summer. I mean, if he hadn’t I would be in Athens right now WITH Panayioti and probably as miserable as I was last summer. He has matured in little tiny ways like going down the steps of our country home by himself and not running towards the street 100% of the time. Like understanding. Like just chilling sometimes and giving us breaks every now and then. And then smiling up at us. When life gives you lemons, right? 

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What if God was one of us? A God post.

In my own small effort to bring more awareness about autism to our community here in Greece, I’ve maybe confided in three of my new coworkers about P’s autism diagnosis. Today I was talking with one of these coworkers when she mentioned I ought to get a priest to perform some kind of special blessing for my son, to drive away evil forces that may possibly be the reason that my son is autistic, and non-verbal. I was taken aback, to say the least. Jeez, I thought, when it comes to autism people have no effing idea, do they? Her comments almost made me feel as if I was being punished for some reason, by God. My sister Tina said to me once that when she was a little girl she wasn’t afraid of the dark, or of spiders or snakes. She was afraid of God. If you do something bad God will punish you she kept hearing over and over. So in her small child’s world there was no greater fear than the fear, and at the same time love, of God. What a strange relatioship,no? Maybe it’s because of my Catholic high school days and the sisters’ stress of Christ’s humanity, rather than His divinity, but I always felt that God could be one of us. Is that weird? I mean, he could be the old man on the train that no one is giving their seat up for. Or, the drug addict begging for change that you pretend you can’t hear. Thinking like this actually makes you think twice before being rude to someone you don’t know. At least, that’s how it’s worked for me. Anyway, I’ve always felt like I had a pretty cool relationship with God. I believe in Him and I pray to Him.  I would hate to think that He is punishing me for past sins by giving my sweet kid autism. That’s just stupid. Panayioti’s been dealt a raw deal but the God that I know, that I believe in, would never do this to him on purpose or keep him from speaking because I don’t go to church every single Sunday. I think at the end of the day, the person I believe in most is my son and if and when the day comes that he speaks I’m going to thank Him.

Beaute with a side of autism.

Last Saturday afternoon, after I dropped off the little guy at my in-law’s and Miss M was taking her siesta I took advantage of the 2 hour gap for some me time and booked an appointment at a nearby spa for a much-needed manicure/pedicure. The moment I walked in, and even though the AC was on high, the smell of nail polish and polish remover was so strong it almost made me faint. I was told to wait while they got ready and soon after me a pregnant girl around 30 years old walked in. She too had an appointment for a manicure/pedicure but as soon as they told her it would be another 5 minutes she decided she would wait outside. Smart, I thought. This smell couldn’t be good for her or her baby. But then I looked outside and there she was, lighting her cigarette and taking nice, long drags. She seemed to be truly enjoying her ciggie. Oh well. I decided I wasn’t going to judge her. But still! She MUST know how toxic that is. Anyway, we were sitted right next to each other in our spa booths and of course we started chatting. As soon as she sat down she said she felt like a whale for gaining [only] 4 kilos by her 5th month. I told her casually that I had gained 14 kilos when I was pregnant with my Maria and a whopping 18 kilos with P. Her mouth dropped. No way, she said, would she let herself gain that much weight, she never wanted to have kids in the first place, her husband apparently talked her into it. After I smiled politely and fake-laughed at what she just said, I told her she would lose all the baby weight with breastfeeding she seemed even more shocked. I don’t plan on breastfeeding at all, she answered very matter-of-factly. Again, I tried to keep the little voice inside my head from judging her. As a mom who both breast and bottle fed her babies, I swear I will never be one of those women who judge and get all on their high horses and feel superior over other women due to their choices and/or decisions regarding their kids and how they raise them. As long as they’re not hurting them, each mom has her own style. But then she said something that made everything all that more confusing to me and kind of took all the joy out of the pampering I was receiving. She was in a hurry because she had an appointment soon after. She was an Occupational Therapist and she had an appointment with a little boy around 4 whose parents are only now seeking help!! What’s wrong with the little boy?, asks the aesthetician. He has autism, she answers in a low hushed voice as if it’s the plague or something. As if it’s something taboo.I hated this encounter. It made me feel bad. It made me feel bad for the little boy she was seeing whose parents waited so long to seek advice and receive a diagnosis and who was going to be evaluated by her. I judged her in the end. And I judged her solely on the fact that she was unprofessional. I judged her for the tone in her voice when she said ‘autism’ as if it’s something to be embarassed of.

Simple yoghurt honey cake

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This cake is so simple, so easy and quick and fun even my little Maria can make it. In fact, she basically did 🙂

All you need is:
200 gr. of yoghurt (I always use FAGE)
1 1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
300 gr. of honey

Mix your sugar with your eggs until they look very creamy, almost white in color. Add the zest, then the yoghurt and last the flour/baking powder which you’ve previously sifted. In our preheated oven this took about half an hour at 200d/C. While it’s still hot and still in the pan all you do then is heat up the honey just until it’s lukewarm and then pour over the cake and let it soak up all the honey before slicing. Enjoy 🙂

Just a little intro

For TBT, thought I’d repost this little intro

Trying to be Super Mom . . . and failing miserably

See, in the beginning, and even though I had read hundreds and I mean hundreds of articles, I thought it was a passing thing.  He’ll do a few months of speech/occupational therapy and he’ll be on his way, talking and playing with kids just like any normal kid.  I mean, that’s what he was doing.  He talked and he played.  He didn’t grunt and do weird hand movements and he certainly didn’t avoid other kids and shut his ears at just about any sound or noise.  I guess like any parent I didn’t want to accept that what I’m seeing, what I’m witnessing my child become is something that’s basically here to stay.  Autism, unfortunately, does not go away.  You just learn to deal with it.  As one parent said you don’t make him/her live in our world, you have to live in their world.  And that’s tough.  So so tough…

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You know how he was last summer? Well, there’s no relation!!

I’m in too good a mood to relive the painful memories of last summer with my little guy. But, let me briefly fill you in: the constant siren sounds/shrieking, which would even spike up in the evening, the constant moving around, the no control of movement and gestures, the spitting/saliva playing, the 2-week long constipation, the lack of control when it came to bowel movements, the total and absolute lack of communication. I mean, it was bad!!I wasn’t blogging then and I was in the worst state possible, psychologically speaking. I just didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and a big part of me felt as though I just was not strong enough to see how ‘this’ would play out. I did all but write a note, let’s just leave it at that.
This year though, my my! Isn’t it great when kids wake up with a smile? That’s what my Panayioti does every single morning. He wakes up giggly and smiling and just plain happy. Yesterday at his OT swimming lessons he went to the deep end with just a foam float! I mean, wow! I am beside myself and so excited with his progress that I can’t believe I was worried and mortified at the thought of summer vacation. Would he regress? Would he freak out on us? Man, we were miserable thinking of what he had in store for us. But now, we’re like “he can go on vacation to the village, he’ll be fine, look how happy he is lately” 🙂 Hope I’m not jinxing him . . .