Archive for the ‘Autism is literal’ Category

Surprise party

Recently, my middle guy turned 12.

As I have said in a previous post, he is not the easiest kid to shop for.  His answers to all the questions regarding “What would you like for you birthday?” were “I don’t know.”

He definitely knows what he wants to eat, if not what gifts he wants.When we asked him what he wanted to eat on his birthday, he said he wanted to go to Dairy Queen and have an ice cream cake.

So on the morning of his birthday I was still unsure of what we are getting him for his birthday. (We figured it out… that’s another post.)  When I asked him again what he would like, he says, “I can’t wait until my surprise party!”

“Surprise party?” I ask.

Yes, indeed.  He proceeds to give me instructions on how we are going to do this.

First, everyone but my boy will walk into the DQ.  He will walk in slowly while we hide under the tables…

“Okay, stop right there, honey.  I don’t like to be on the floor of fast food restaurants.  Ewww!”

So, change of plan.

This is how it happened:

We got home from DQ with the ice cream cake.  Then my boy went to his room to wait while we set everything up and called Grandma to come over for the festivities.  When everyone was ready, we lit the candles , dimmed the lights, and called to P. that we were ready.

We waiting in anticipation.  Birthday Boy came down the stairs slowly, saying, “Hey, where is everybody? What’s going on?”

Suddenly, we turned on the lights and yelled, “Surprise!”

Birthday boy exclaimed, “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!  Wow, a surprise party!”

We sang.  We ate. We partied.  And we were happy.

This was the first time that my boy asked for something specific. He made his wishes known.  He pretended, too, which always thrills my heart.

My boy is 12.

Man, do I feel old.

Converse. Repeat. Converse. Repeat.

Last night I told my middle guy to go up and take a shower.

Before he could answer, I had my own conversation with him alone and outloud. The following is my little monolog:

“Philip, go take a shower.

What?! Why?

“Because I said so.




Philip stood there, looking at me a little dumbfounded.  Then he just said one thing.

“Let’s start over.”


All or nothing

I was reminded a few days ago that, yes, my son is still an “all or nothing boy.”

He has to be completely barefoot or have both his socks and shoes on.

He doesn’t do anything half way.  He doesn’t make small messes, they are big ones!

In his piano lessons, he won’t just play the right or left hand.  It has to be both.  If instructed to play just the treble, someone else has to play the bass.

In church he boycotted the music portion and went to sit in the coat area, because the violin and viola weren’t there that week.  The band was incomplete.

He can’t just wear his swim trunks, he also has to have a swim shirt.

At camp, he was supposed to take at least two pairs of shoes, in case it rained.  He only wears his sneakers, so I threw in his “swim shoes” that he wears to the beach. I figured that he could wear these to go puddle jumping, and he could also wear them in the shower.

No deal.

He said, “Oh….. so I’m just supposed to get naked and wear only my swim shoes?!?”

“IN THE SHOWER!” I exclaimed, because I really didn’t want that to happen.

“Oh.  Well, um, I don’t like it.”

“Fine. You don’t have to.”

Had to be completely naked in the shower, or have his complete swim outfit on.

All or nothing, that’s my boy.

Storage, mopped, thighs… what???

I think this record breaking heat has gotten to my oldest kid.  I’ve been really enjoying hearing his vocabulary lately.

For instance, he asked if he could go to the store to buy something.

“Do you have money?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s in storage.”


“Yes, stor-… I mean, savings.”


Hee hee.

He’s also really into driving lately… he turns 16 in a couple of weeks, but is nowhere near ready to drive.  Trust me.  But he’s looking at things like motorcycles and scooters.

He also tends to stay things out of the blue that make no connection to what I’m doing at the time.  One of those times I was… yes… in the kitchen! He came into tell me something highly urgent.

“I want to get a mopped.”

“Huh? You want to mop?”


“You need a mop?  Where’s the mess?”

“NO!!  I want to get a mopped!”

My husband, who was in the living room, responded (and I imagine that he was rolling his eyes), “He means a moped.”

“Yeah, a moped,” he said.  But he needs “paranental” (parental) permission to drive one.

Score two for me for not laughing my head off… out loud, at least.

And the third example I’ll share:

“Stepmom, can we have that thigh stuff with dinner?”

After my initial inward reaction of “Ewwww… gross!!!”, I asked him what he meant.  He got out the yummy Wildtree Thai Sesame Sunbutter sauce in the fridge. (We’re a peanut free company, so our thai sauce is made from sesame and sunflower seeds.) So, we dipped our chicken tenders in the thigh stuff Thai sauce.

Kids say the darnedest things, huh…

I love Lynn’s daughter’s version of “manicure.”  Read about it here.

So what funny things do your kids say?


“There are jelly bird eggs on the right in front of the house, birds!”

Photo by Maria Corcacas

This was the note that I came home to a couple of days ago.

My mother-in-law had given us two bags of jelly beans.  One bag was called “jelly bird eggs.”  Philip, being literal, and finding his sense of humor, scattered the jelly bird eggs and left a note for the birds to read.  Just in case they were interested, I suppose.

The eggs are still there, to his disappointment.  I’m hoping that they dissolve in this rain we’ve been having lately– then maybe he’d think that the birds finally ate their snack.

Photo by Jyn Meyer

Yes, since discovering that magnets stick to our front door, my son has been writing notes for birds.

And for us.

“Dear Dad,

Please check your room for the video game controller.  If it’s not there, check the basement.



Foiled again! He knows where we hide the darn thing!

“Mom, please tell Dad not to tell me no video games.”

I think there’s a theme here.

Now he’s writing notes in his home/ school TSS communication book.  (Find out what a TSS is here.)  It’s meant for parents and TSS’s, but Philip wanted to add his two cents.  Since he has been having “green days” lately (meaning “no behavior issues”), he has written notes to his TSS’s:

Thanks for me staying on green!  🙂 Philip 🙂

I’m loving this communication.    I am fascinated by reading what he is thinking.  I’m hoping for more.  And more and more and more!

Dolly Partner and a dream come true

A couple of years ago, we had a year of Dolly “Partner.” (That’s what Josh called her when he moved in with us.)

Dolly Partner Parton is one of Josh’s favorite artists.  He thinks she’s young.  He can’t believe she’s old enough to be his grandmother.

When he first moved in, we would hear him singing in the shower, “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, JOLEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNN…”

He would listen to Dolly “Partner” every chance he got.  He especially liked her song called “Joshua.”  “Coat of Many C0lors” was another favorite.  He looked for CD’s at used CD places and yard sales.  He hung CD covers on the wall so he could gaze at Ms. Partner.

He dreamed of going on vacation to… you guessed it… Dollywood!

So,  a couple of years ago, we had the year of Dolly Partner Parton.  Not only did we go to Dollywood (which was somewhat disappointing to my kid because she wasn’t actually living there), but we made sure he got to go to see Dolly live in concert! I saw the ad in the paper, plotted with my hubby, got up early on the day they went on sale to get great tickets online. Since we could only afford two tickets, only one parent could go.  But what mattered most was that Josh would get to see his Dolly Partner.

We were all excited when we told him about the live concert.  He called his bio mom, and told her, “Yes, I’m going to go get to see her– ALIVE! On the stage!”

Since I’ve never been a huge fan, my husband took Josh to the concert.  I regretted it later. I had no idea that she was an accomplished, well-rounded musician. My husband said I would have loved it (and he, being an introvert, would have loved to have quiet time at home).

Anyway, the guys dressed up and left early for dinner. My heart melted seeing them go out for a nice, dream-come-true-evening together. I waited up late that night. I wanted to hear about Josh’s time at the concert, especially since I was the mastermind behind it all (ahem).

Here is how our conversation went:

Me:  “How was it?”

Josh: “Fine.”

“What all did she play?  Did she sing your favorites?”

“Some of them.”

“Which ones?”

“I don’t remember.”


“Well, what was your favorite part about the concert?”

“It was kind of boring.  All I did was sit there.  But it was okay.  Thanks.”

And then he went to bed.

I sat there speechless.  His reaction was definitely either unexpectedly disappointing or unexpectedly funny.

I decided on the latter.

My husband told me that Josh really liked the concert, that Dolly could play a million different instruments, and that Josh really was tired.  He wasn’t used to being up that late.

The next day Josh told everyone who would listen about the concert.  He even said that his stepmom got the tickets and let him go with his dad, and that was really cool.

I learned that living joyfully and peacefully with others, especially those who have autism, usually means letting go of my expectations and accepting what is.  And I appreciate when others do the same for me.

Taking advantage of opportunities that come our way and accepting others for who they are– these things definitely lighten my life!

You can call me anything, as long as it’s nice

Autism is literal.  I found out how literal when my stepson moved in with us when he was almost 9.  It was a sudden thing.  We has just moved, and were still unpacking… and here he came.  (See my first post for more info.)

Josh was unsure of what to call me.  I could sense his struggle over this, as well as the greater struggle of what to name my role in his life.  I gently let him know that he could call me anything…  as long as it was nice.

See, when he first moved in, he cussed like a sailor!  Thus, the qualifier.

He tried out different names for me, all of them “nice.” For the first two weeks, he called me “sweetie pie.”  It was a start! Later, he tried out different names. Sometimes it was “honey bunches of oats.”  Once he copied my husband and said, “Come here, Wife.” (That didn’t happen again, LOL. We explained what “wife” meant and that I definitely was not his.) Other times it was simply “Elizabeth.”

Finally, he just settled on “step mom.”  It worked.

People were shocked that I was okay with this.  However, there are several ways to think about it.

First, it’s the truth.  I am indeed his stepmom. (Autism is literal, after all.)

Second, he wanted to acknowledge me as a mom without betraying his bio mom. (Great problem solving skills!)

Third, it’s a whole lot better than other things he’s called me when he’s angry.  Believe me.

Fourth, it makes perfect sense in the context of our family. I’ll explain:

When his dad married me almost 12 years ago, Josh was 3.  My husband explained to him that I was his “step mommy.”  Here’s the definition my wonderful, genius husband  taught him:

Step mommy = When Mommy’s not here, Elizabeth will “step in” for her and take care of you. See, I told you– Genius!

I remember the day that Josh learned this very clearly.   Suddenly, I was accepted by this literal little lad.  I was putting his things in my purse when he didn’t want to hold them, holding his coat, getting him a drink, and more importantly holding his hand and comforting him when he fell down at the playground.

When he moved in, and his mom wasn’t here, I stepped in.  I was, and am, his stepmom.

Now Josh is 15 and is looking forward to his first job. He just loves to flaunt the fact that he is taller than I am.  We still struggle to define our relationship as we adjust to the daily changes and challenges life brings.

My hope is that he will always remember that he can call me anything as long as it’s nice, and that I’m here for him.  My hope is also that I will remember how far he has come in his life, and to celebrate the milestones with abandon. Literally. 🙂

Epilogue: I don’t know if Josh read this or heard me talking about this or not, but the day I wrote this he started calling me “Mom.”  And the journey continues…