Monday, August 4, 2014

4 weekends with Guests and a Wedding


My dear readers

 

If you have been wondering where I have been – I have been busy with guests this summer

 

4 weekends with Guests

 

DH and I learned the following rules after running the A& K B&B

 

  1. Meeting different guests show you all the different people you have been over the years- I dont think I have changed too much - everyone assured us we were just the same ( only fatter) 
  2. Don't make too much food unless you know exactly what your guests like  -- we made a lot of food that we ended up being wasted
  3. You can be blunt – these are your close friends. One day when everyone rushed into the kitchen to help clear up – DH just told them firmly to put all the plates in the counter and leave it for me as that is what I prefer. I could have hugged him – I was that grateful.( It is one of the most annoying experiences of my life with 2 people standing in the tiny kitchen- emptying the dishwasher and asking me questions at me as to where each cup and plate and spoon should go)
  4. R does really well with guests (MUCH better than I expected) but he is growing up.Still its important to give him some downtime. 
  5. He and I still need down time – DH somehow does not. On sightseeing days he would just take them by himself and I and R would stay at home
  6. Our guests were hassle free. These are all people with multiple servants at home. But they soon saw that DH and I were the butler and maid respectively so the all pitched in and cooked and cleaned and sometimes DH and I would eat a meal where we had made nothing  

Here are all the guests who were parts of our lives over the years 

From when DH was in school in 1970's  these guys stopped in and they were running a biking tour for kids

 


From when DH was an engineer  and was dating someone else


From when DH and I did a Forestry internship - Sambalpur in Orissa in 1996 and our team was kicked out of the Forestry guest house( place were govt. officials stay and sometimes poor interns are allowed to stay for free as well ) and an alum who had never met us – offered us a place to stay for 10 days –

 Now 18 years later he lives in Texas and  N has become like a brother to me and we are super close to his family- I really love his wife and am amazed by the pure acceptance that R gets with their family. Imagine we would never have met had we not been kicked out of the Guest House 



 

From when DH and I just met and we were studying  Forestry  in 1995in a small town in Bhopal – I was 20 when I met DH and I met and we used to live on Instant Noodles( Maggie was the Indian brand ) and D& P  became really close to us - DH and D ( below) also went to boarding school together.

They met when they were 8/9 and below are there two sons aged 8/ 9 almost  4 decades  later.

 



 

Work

A couple of weeks ago,  I spoke to my dear friend from my past job – he asked if I could still come back if they created my dream job.

I was surprised to realize that the answer was No

When did this change happen – when did I start to feel like Microsoft was home? 

Things are not any less crazier ( in fact if you read the papers you would know just how crazy they have been)

It's not just that I have adapted to Microsoft – its also that I am still managing to do things "my way "( touchy feely way) and that Microsoft seems to be giving a lot of importance to the soft skills side .

For instance -the other day I had a team off site and did things in a completely Bush way – example one of our exercises was to share something that no- one would guess.

We learned a lot of interesting things about each other – example someone shared that they women was an Israel soldier and a professional athlete, One very proper person said that he had started out as a professional DJ. 

For me it was that all the major decisions in my life have been on impulse- marrying DH( we literally fell in love at first sight and decided to get married the first week of being together – despite having next to nothing in common), choosing MR as a career, moving to America, coming to Bush, coming to Microsoft

 

R and imagination

R finally has real imagination – real bonafide imagination.

This is more than just the recreating of scenes which he still does. 

For instance, he has been reading a book called "caps for sale" – a story about a peddler who stacks a bunch of caps on his head to sell them.


Now of course he has to stack the caps on his own and my head 

We look like fools I can tell you . But I am so grateful that R is showing SO much imagination – that I do not care one tiny bit

Plus there is  real imaginationblooming.

Nowadays when he tells me to make something imaginary go "higher higher up" he looks at the imaginary object in the sky and I know he can see it

God

As we have had so many visitors – inevitable the question of faith has come up umpteen times.

I will confess that my child have two life altering diagnoses before turning 9 have made me want to ask god – why my child?

Here are the various bits of advice
  1. Visit your family deity and ask for help
  2. Go to a gurudwara – but always tell God that you accept whatever god has in store for you
  3. MIL, who is a super practical person had a long discussion with us on spirituality. MIL was talking about how in her cancer days – she had been feeling completely broken down and she decided to talk to God without any specific prayer. She had felt something physical rise within her and felt a connection to God and then she had just calmly surrendered to whatever would happen. In Christian literature this would probably be called "grace". In Hinduism they refer to this as the rise of the "Kundalini". And she never felt sick again during the chemo etc. She has been cancer free for 13 years
The god platitudes (god loves you more – so has given you extra trouble.. your child is just suffering from evil deeds of past life) give me the hives.

But faith feels good. 

While I acknowledge all the anger of  these past couple of years

I also know that I want to believe and that the two qualities of "acceptance" and hope that faith can give you are beautiful things.

My sister

Dear readers, do you know how close I am to my sister? 

 She also writes(infrequently) in  this cute blog

My dad, mum, sister and I are on an email thread that we all respond to - so on a normal day - I get at least 3 emails from them

She has moved to Dehradun- which is a small town in Uttaranchal. 

This is the place where DH is from. MIL and SIL live there now in a gorgeous house.

And coincidentally my sister and I were also both born in Dehradun  ( though DH and I would not meet for 20 years)

Now  that she is in Dehradun and going to all these places that I used to go to - I feel more incredibly nostalgic than ever 

I feel so nostalgic for the days when my niece was still a toddler ( she is now in college)  we were buying her  ladybug books from the stationary shop ( uniquitoud stores that sell books as well as school  and office supplies)  – I can see it in my mind's eye like it was yesterday and I right there in that little market behind our house


A wedding  

Today we went for KS's wedding – R was  so excited.

We dressed up to the 9's and discouraged R's plan to wear PJ's



We love Miss KS-   Alas she is leaving us because she is getting married and moving for her husband's job

She send me this special note a couple of weeks ago. Read it and you will know why she is so special to us 

About 2 weeks ago I wrote on his white board. "R I have something I need to ask you." He looked up at me. "I am getting married soon and I wanted to know if you want to come?" As he I watched his eyes read each word he started to smile. He took my pen and wrote in big letters "YES". Then I wrote something else "After my wedding R, I have to move away."  I watched again as his eyes skipped past each word. He looked up, clearly confused. I then wrote, "I am moving to San Diego on August 15th." He looked down and then grabbed the eraser and erased what I wrote. I left it at that, days went by and I would check his search history and find things like San Diego, hotels San Diego, and San Francisco. A year ago I was traveling a bit and would frequent San Francisco, he wouldn't see me for a few days but I would always return. I wondered if he thought I would come back like I did before. When his parents found someone who I could train to work in my place, I think he finally understood I was actually leaving. Tomorrow is the first day of the new therapists training with me, and although I was anxious about having to train someone I hadn't said much about it to R. Today R, was crying; I couldn't figure out what was up, at first I thought he was just trying to waste time because he was bored with division, but something just felt different. So I wrote on his board "Why are you upset" I handed him the pen and he wrote "because linsy is coming". It hit me Lindsay the new ABA therapist was coming tomorrow and he understood she was going to be taking my place. I wrote "do you want her to come" he looked down; then I wrote "Why are you sad that Lindsay is coming?" He held the pen in his hand for a few seconds wrote the word "because" and looked up at me, then continued to write "Alice the Camel." ----to anyone else this would have made no sense; but to me "Alice the Camel" is a joke we have about a song. He plays the song and giggles, waits for me to smile at him, I will start singing, he then hugs me, smells my hair, and starts doing his work. R, in his own way was telling me that he was sad I was leaving, I started to tear up he looked up at me, climbed onto my lap, and hugged me so tight. 

On her wedding -he was so a little sad when the ceremony was going on  without including him 
He told me loudly to "tell Miss KS that he wants to be in the show"

Of course I did not - as the show was her wedding ceremony!!

He sat there looking sad 
Even though we made a fuss of him


Until she came down the stairs and walked towards the audience. Then R rushed forward to take her picture.

She immediately stopped  and came to hug him. But he pushed her away so he could look at her and take pictures of her looking so beautiful 



Many of her  family recognized him as she has been telling them stories about him and showing them pictures  
Really while its been a very hectic summer - its also been a  great one. 

We are so blessed to have all these wonderful people in our lives 

Dear readers- here is what July was like for me 

I have to be up at 6 for a conference call  and yet I am so glad that I took the time to write down this long ramble 

Promise to come visit your blogs soon 

Good night 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Start of Summer in Seattle

Dear readers

May is the first month in the days since the blog started that I have not written at all

Not just me but all my autism friends – whether it be Julie, Four sea stars, Sturlungi, Once upon, Lynn Hudoba  and so many more

It’s as though we have made a collective decision to do other things

We worry about having said too much

Sometimes we have said it all and we have nothing more to say.

And sometimes life gets in the way

But blogging for me is as much a connection with you, as it’s a connection to me.

More, it’s a connection to the self that I want to be.

It’s a moment to stop and think about my life and where I am going.

Where is my energy, where is my focus?

So I don’t intend to stop writing anytime son

Thank you for reading and I promise to keep writing.

Going out

We took a day trip to Deception Pass and the Tulip festival in Skagit Valley. You guys it’s so beautiful. 

While these past almost 2 years now – have been some of the most stressful years of my life – a huge compensating factor has been the sheer beauty of this part of America

I will say no more and just let the pictures do the talking






Reclaiming weekends

Work is again encroaching into my personal life.  This is like the weeds that take over your life as soon as you stop weeding them out.

I have to do all the disciplined things again – turn my email off on the weekend – 45-50 hour intense work week is enough.

Some days I am so bedraggled after having been in meetings for 9 hours straight – I am just completely depleted and all I can do is just be.

Still I do the little things. I pause myself from getting out of bed instantly in the mornings – on Saturdays and Sundays-

 I bring in Nespressos for DH and me and we all sit together in this little love nest pushing away the hurry of the day 


Isn't the difficult world so much easier to face when you ease into it so gently?

I read happy books like the Harry Potter series, Merry Hall (Beverly Nichols)- (this book is in the 1940's and he is in the closet - a fact that is so obvious when he writes about how repelled he is by women's advances. But its apparently not obvious to these women) and find myself reverting to more gentler ways of being

We lounge in our hammocks
DH and I take long walks in the trails behind our house


Whenever we can - I find time for myself and nature 


Getting organized

DH and I are finally getting into spring cleaning – 

I have taken away about a 1000 books from R’s playroom that are the combination of not being loved nor being appropriate

R’s progress

In April we get notes from his teachers  saying he is not very social and that he will frequently go off topic completely – I am very upset.

DH – ever practical - works out some strategies with the teacher and he is doing so much better.

I am often reinforced in my belief as to how unsuitable school is for a kid like R.

 That he is either stuck “counting leaves” with all special needs lumped into one. OR he has to work with the very social special needs kids.

 Where is the child with classic autism and academic potential to go?

If we could start over, there are three things I would do differently – start speech therapy earlier, not send him to daycare and have a home based program for most of the day. We always had a home-based program but it was all after school and he was spending so much time and energy in school that there was not much left over for the rest.

I go for a meeting with his school teachers.

Fortuitously, his teachers have had days with him just prior to the school meeting where the other kids in the groups have not turned up. They have gotten to see a very different R – regulated, interactive and joyful
As such their impression of him is very different than it was before and they now think that he needs to be paired up with peer-mentors – not other kids with special needs – something we have been wanting to do anyway

I have been stressed about this meeting and have taken cookie brownies ( have you ever made these guys? So awesome) 

His center where he spends most of his time he is doing very well- lots of challenges in Reading comprehension but doing very well in Math and Science

Other kids 

DH and I always said that R was never interested in other kids. But there is a certain change in this  that we are noticing 

Play dates with other kids with Autism 

In R's social skills class there is another child whose parents we really like and so we decide to do a play date - This child is very sweet and they have the funniest interactions - kind of like a relay race. 

S will leave a bucket in the sand. Then he will move away.

R will then play with the bucket

And so on 

These funny little interactions are clearly enjoyable to both as the next two weeks they ask to play with each other again

He is suddenly into other kids as well - DH's engineering friends come for a trip to India and R is so enamored by "the girl". He follows her everywhere, her picture is now his screensaver and he tries to get me to mix some Sprite in her glass of water so she can have the little cocktail that is R's favorite thing 

 Ditto  our neighbors- on both sides of our house - we have found really accepting pleasant people who are completely unfazed by R walking into their garages to take a closer look at their cases of Coca Cola.R always takes pics of their kids as well.


Floortime and Autism 

What about Floortime? Well I would tell you how he was doing if there really was a lick’s worth of Floortime I was doing.

I am just too tired from work and now in the 7th year of autism and the second year of Crohn’s some of my energy has fizzled out.

I just want to be mom.

And sometimes I just want to be.

Most days though we have a fairly interactive routine- so very much a floortime lifestyle.

Usually when I come home and the rain has held off - R is waiting with his picnic bag.

We take cupcake for R and small Sprite can and a bottle of Talking Rain (club soda) for me.

On evenings like this I get little gems from R.

We were drinking our sodas

He said “Sprite has 90 calories” and then he asked me “how many calories does Talking rain have”

I am  so proud

We make boats with a soap that he was carrying in the picnic basket. 

With a leaf and twig as mast. We pretend things are other things and act our little scenes - a bottle cap will become a hot air balloon ( my idea ). But then the doll will fly away (r's idea) 

 Even though his pretend play is primitive - it is very much present!

A high school student who is doing a project on R comes by to interview us. She is very impressed with us( or atleast very polite :-) ). 

As we talk to her, I think how much more we know than before.

Example - I used to think the question was about method -  what should we do Floortime or ABA or Sonrise. But I think just as important  as the  "what" question is the "who" question.

If I had an autism haiku  it would be 

Find the right people
Let them spend the right amount of time 
Make sure your child is happy

We are all sick today. 

And yet  I write this in my silent house when all the chores are done , the dishwasher and washing machine are set on their timers and my two sweets are tucked in bed with their cough drops and Vicks, all I feel is the blessedness of life when I stop rushing.

The pleasure of sitting down with a cup of peppermint tea and talking to you dear reader.

As though time was endless and I had all of eternity to watch each thought  come to life on the screen.

 I think of what his teacher told me " he is a happy little guy.. but the world is just going by too fast for him"

And I think, as much as we can, as long as we can we will slow things down.

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
Time is short, the music won’t last

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Start of Spring in Seattle

When we first moved here, someone told me that the hardest month here was June."

Surely summer should be here by now".

DH and I though- find that we don't mind the rain at all.

I think we were really sensible to buy the house that we are in -  not too big nor fancy - just right..

Lots of windows and light.

Its somewhere we love coming back to. Our Knoxville house is large and comfortable too but in that house we were always looking to go out and be in the backyard.

Saturday

A bit of a gloom hangs over this weekend as I need to go to New York tomorrow.

Oh how I hate traveling!!!

However-  I am speaking on an "expert" panel and that is making me feel very.grown.up.

Someone whom I once interviewed sends me a note saying she heard I was one of the "distinguished" members of the panel and this makes me walk on air

R is weeping beasue he cannot find the cupcakes we baked yesterday - they are on the stove and are just covered with a napkin. Once Discovered - all is well

R settles in with a cupcake and I settle in with my Espresso- my latest addiction .

Mother and son - We do love our pleasures

DH has been grumbling about my Nespresso a lot - he is not cheap - but he hates getting into these  relationship "traps" with companies.

He has already looked for how to make a DIY coffee capsule but its a real flop so now he has given in

We take R for his socials skills class which is in a bowling alley today- we are early ( we are "getting to be like white people now" I tell DH - as this is a joke among us - Indians are always 15 minutes late while white people are always on time)


We go to our date restaurant"The Guilt Trip".

Delicious Indian- American Fusion.

The owner comes out to greet us and tells us that the reason he calls it a guilt trip is because " you should come here once in a month - not every week .. but when you are here - please don't think of calories and fat" he says all his food is inspired by his mum.

We meet his charming husband as well who works for the company that makes Wii and we chat and he suggests that we bring R to the Nintendo store sometime.

A pleasant faced plump woman comes out - his mum- she is very traditional as I can see she is making a long string with alternating green peppers and limes - this is a traditional Indian recipe to ward off the evil eye.

The food is sublime and we enjoy ourselves thoroughly -

We walk over to Macy's DH has been jonesing for a Harris tweed coat and we go and try his size out - 44 is ideal.
Then off to pick up R who has had a good session .
We cook in the afternoon and watch TV which is our usual routine  and then the evening routine of
the sports club -
OMG this boy has a great sense of direction and he just revels in going into all the nooks and crannies of this large 4 story building .
The day is endless as I have to get things ready for next week since I am only back on Wednesday.

Sunday 

I gird my loins to go and DH reminds me that I will be really glad I went

We have started binge-watching Blacklist and we are halfway thru an episode when the taxi comes - evidence of the power of story is that DH and I actually speculate whether we should watch the next 20 minutes and be late to the airport or lot.

Its a gorgeous sunny day and of course NYC is under a cold wave.

R and DH come out to say goodbye and feel such a pang while taking the picture below, that DH tells me to go fast and not linger.

 At this unceremonious send off - I have to smile

By the time I reach the hotel in NYC - its freezing and 10 pm - the cabbie has taken me to the wrong hotel and insists on taking me to the right one gratis- he is of Indian origin and wants to look after me  - he is so sweet that I give him an extra generous tip.

I have not had dinner and Times Square looks bright and shining - so I decide to take a walk

OMG Its FREEZING and I have to buy hat and gloves for the princely sum of 10 dollars - The shop owner also tells me that he is charging me half price as I am from India as he is.

How nice people are!!

I pose in front of an Applebee's in Times Square  as DH and R are eating at our Redmond Applebees

I work till 2 am in the night and sleep like the dead

Monday 

The conference is very interesting to me but I want to not tell you anything about it as it will be horribly boring for you ( do I hear you sigh in relief?)

My niece - whom I last met when I was a 1st grader works-( so about 32 year ago )  in NYC and she comes over - Its SO lovely to see here - we eat dinner and catch up on our family.

My dad's side of the family is full of eccentrics and give you a lot to talk about.

We walk and walk - oh how I love the Sidewalks of New york.-- Above I am in front of the main New York Library which is the scene for so many Law and Order episodes.

 Once again  back in my hotel room and I have a load of work  and its 2 am by the time I am able to sleep

Tuesday 

Is the panel - all the other panelists look so smart - there is Verizon, ESPN, Huffing ton Post, Merck Lab and ordinary me.

The panel goes really well and I am super happy.

The interviewer is French - I sit next to him at dinner.

I think the French must feel such pressure to live up to the impossible standards to which the rest of the world hold them- we discuss the differences in French culture and American culture.

He says one of the biggest differences about the French is that they appreciate "melancholy".

"The feeling of the end of Autumn in Paris when everything is dying". He says that melancholy is a real experience while in other Western cultures there is a lot of pressure to be positive.

This makes me pause - as I am exactly the sort of person who urges people to "look on the bright side"

I see his point- that there is no reason to want to live in just one part of the emotional spectrum - even if its the most joyous one.

Remember the William Blake poem

Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go

In India there is a similar concept regarding sorrow ( the word directly translated means "pain" but I am not using it as its nothing to do with the 50 shades of grey :-) It will commonly be said "he can really not sing or act because he his voice has no sorrow"

We talk and talk and  - he describes his fiancee( Australian-Indian)  "who wants a pink diamond of all things"
I and a colleague get to accept an award on behalf of Microsoft for this ad campaign.


And I have my own assertive moment. As me and a woman pose- a tall  man comes and stands in front of us - completely blocking us - we both insist he move.

I am super proud of myself for being assertive.

Wednesday 

Is a mad rush - Lots of meetings and calls- I spend 6 hours on the plane.

DH and R have come to pick me up and I greet them with presents - chocolate for DH and Jelly beans for R.
R is very cool and relaxed.

Its LOVELY to be home - the house is so neat and clean - I am very pleasantly surprised -

I want to cook dinner from scratch as I am sick of eating the bland food of Marriott.

We cook and watch Blacklist and don't check email and feel the bliss of being home all around me

Thursday and Friday 

Are madly hectic days at work and home is very routine

Saturday

DH drop R off at the library - there is a petition at the library that I go to sign - the library is to be closed for remodeling and there is a petition to stop that.

This is something I love about Seattle - people are passionate about their books !!

As I come out a young man( obviously on the A-team approaches me) he says "My name is Steven .. what is yours"
He shoots questions at me and is very happy that I answer all of them without missing a beat.

He also tells me that since I am Indian I should say Namaste to him - we say Namaste solemnly to each other and I bid him adieu- I love autistic people - I really do.

There is such joy in interacting with them - they are so simple and so without an hidden agenda.

We eat at a restaurant that I love - not only do they have fried spicy tofu that is DELICIOUS - the tables are the EXACT same table we have at the cabin

Then we go to the mall and get DH"s Tweed jacket ( that he eventually ordered from JCP as they had original Harris tweed) and he looks like a prince.

DH says his shin hurts and " do you think I am exercising too much"

This is such a smug and pious thing to say - since he is very virtuous about all the weight he has lost and says sanctimonious things like "you should eat sweets in moderation" or " just eat one piece of chocolate instead of 5"

( knowing fully well that this is impossible for me. These sort of comments are  why fat people loathe skinny people - as they share this info with the air of giving you great wisdom.)

I tease him for the rest of the day saying things like "do you think I am too good a person for this world "?...." do you think that I may have become too charming"..."do you think I just love you too much"

 (These weak jokes are like the breath of air to our marriage - Does each marriage have its own language? Mine certainly does- I tell DH that if he were to leave me  - a huge slice of me would be gone- for that K exists between us and us alone and belongs only in this marriage - nowhere else)

Back home we cook and have to go to out for dinner as this is R's weekly ritual. He is very particular that we do not fob him off with a cheap dinner ( McDonalds/Spazzo) and go to a semi fancy place.

DH and I are aching for something sweet and such is our motivation that even though its raining heavily - I run into the store and get Ritter Sport White Chocolate(me), Toblerone( DH) and candy corn ( R)

At home we have our iconic moments - Bliss. Perfection is a good cup of espresso with white chocolate - a good show on TV and no chores.

Sunday

Is the first lazy day I have had in 2 weeks - I am tired at a molecular level - I wake up late -
R has got into the candy corn but I do not care.

We drink espressos and chocolate for breakfast and when R has his therapist we hike at the park.


You know guys - think I am falling in love with these gorgeous trees -

Their majesty - look how much taller these trees are than me.

 the queer quality of the emerald light - how on days of cloud and sun - you get these shades of green.


 the almost fluorescent green that the moss on the trees has

A bit of the sun has come out and R insists I go outside and set up the hammock. I do so - he points at a tiny sliver of space next to him and indicates that I should accommodate my considerable bulk in it

I negotiate that we can go and lie down upstairs in our bedroom- we loll about about reading our books and snuggling.

The sun comes out - R lolls about in a beam of sunlight that turns his skin to gold.

I ask him if he know what a gift from god he is to us.

R does not know rhetorical questions yet and he answers  "Yes"

Such was this week.

Floortime Lite Mama

On my life as the mother of an adorable 5 year old with Autism and Apraxia