Tales From the Butt

Being new to the world of blogging, I truly appreciate all of the support, likes, follows and shares of my blog posts. I am looking forward to continuing to share my son’s and our family’s story of autism.

Happy New Year to all of my friends and family. I also want to wish my WordPress family the best of luck blogging in 2016. Look forward to reading more of your words!!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

“I’m Sure That You Wish That Your Son Didn’t Have Autism, Right?”

Not too long ago, I picked Adam up from his beloved weekly art class. It was a pretty typical pick-up. I found Adam, in his very methodical, autism manner, returning his brushes, one by one in order of size to the container. He returned his blue apron to the same hook and rearranged the rest of the aprons in rainbow color order. He then returned to his easel and carefully removed his art board from the clips, first the right side, and then the left side, and returned it to his art case. He finally adjusted his signature black ‘engineer’ hat, then put on his jacket. I have learned, after many, many years…just to be patient and wait. While he was going through his routine, another mom, who was walking out the door with her daughter, stops, takes a step back and says.

“Oh, Adam is your son! His artwork is beautiful. I would have never known that he had Autism. I’ll be that you sometimes wish that he didn’t, right?

Now, being a mom of a child with Autism for almost 12 years, I am accustomed to the looks, comments, suggestions, and the input of what people have “heard” and what people have “read”. I am used to smiling politely when people make “suggestions” as to what I should try, how I should “approach”.  As an autism mom, you learn to develop a really thick skin and learn to let a whole lot of things roll off your back. However, I have to say, that this particular encounter, with this particular mom, really stopped me in my tracks. And it really surprised me, for I am typically, not ever, at a loss for words. But this time, I was. All I could do was look at her, raise my eyebrows a bit, and walk out the door; and, in retrospect, I hope that my lack of ability to speak at that moment was a bit more powerful than any word that ever could have exited my mouth.

That encounter happened almost two months ago. I immediately came home, opened my blog site and started pounding on the keyboard of my laptop. The fact is, anything and everything that I was writing was just turning into a rant. I really didn’t feel that much better. So there my words sat….in my draft file….until now.

I read a blog post on Facebook last night entitled  I Know What Causes Autism . It is a hilarious account of all of the ridiculous explanations of what ’causes’ Autism. It really hit me in the gut, for as much as I am curious as to what may have caused Adam’s autism, in the end, does it really matter? Do I wonder sometimes, why Adam is different than my two older, typical children? Of course. Do I sometimes wish that my son did not have autism? Sure, sometimes. Would not having autism mean that I would not have to:

  • make sure that every restaurant that we go to have chicken tenders and fries on the menu
  • run around town, sometimes to four or five grocery stores in frantic search of Blueberry Pomegranate Gatorade..the only “acceptable’ vessel to wash down his medicines?
  • pack up all of his favorite foods when we visit friends homes or go on a vacation?
  • hurl myself like Superwoman, shielding Adam from even a glimpse of the ‘evil’ strawberry?
  • worry that he is being treated fairly by his peers?

When you really get down to it, these ‘inconveniences’ are pretty typical, pretty minor and pretty insignificant. Most of you, with typical children can probably relate.

But, not having autism would mean that I would not:

  • have a tour guide who knows every stop in every order of every Chicago Metra train line, for I will never get lost
  • have all of the beautiful artwork that I have decorating the walls of my home
  •  have a ‘guaranteed’ clean bedroom and an organized (by color…a little excessive) closet
  •  know the exact day of a week that a photograph was taken based on the color shirt that he was wearing
  •  know the exact date, month and year a significant (and sometimes insignificant; for instance, his sister not turning in homework) event took place
  • have two incredibly caring, tolerant, patient typical children, because their younger brother’s autism is the only thing they know
  • have learned to appreciate ‘baby steps’ in order to keep the big picture in perspective.
  • have the closeness that we have as a family
  • have learned the true meaning of patience and acceptance

The list could go on and on……

But, finally, and most importantly, if Adam did not have autism, I would not be constantly talking at infinite length about his absolute favorite topic…. my butt. As odd as this is, it’s also a bit endearing. I’ll bet there aren’t too many moms out there whose sons unconditionally admire their butt.

So,  “Mrs. Art Mom”,  to answer your (I’m sorry, ignornant – yes, a part of me feels better) question, no, I would not trade my son, for the person that he was born to be. Not for a million, trillion years.

 

I am the Butt

Welcome! Please let me take a moment to introduce myself……I am the Butt!

My name is Kim Ketcham. I have been married to my wonderful husband, Chris for 18 years and we have 3 children, Lacey 15, Alex, 12, and Adam 11. My kids keep me very busy. I absolutely love watching my daughter dance for her high school dance company. I also love watching my boys play baseball, soccer, basketball and doing Tae Kwon Do. We love living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and love our Chicago sports…especially the Blackhawks and the Cubs!

Being a mom to 3 kids is probably the most challenging and by far, the most rewarding job that I will ever have. However, throw a child with autism into the mix and life takes on an entirely new meaning. We have had many, many, MANY challenges with our youngest son Adam. There have been times when I didn’t know if I could muster up the energy to wake up and start all over again the next day. But on the flip side, raising a child with autism is pretty darn funny. I have learned how to look at the world through his eyes and I am really enjoying the journey!!

Kids with autism have many perseverations. I am sure that you have heard of kids getting hooked on trains, movies, music, various types of transportation, etc. They can talk hours and hours about their favorite topics. I however, got lucky enough to have a son with autism who takes an in-depth interest in my butt. He likes to remind me of the that infamous day, on May 4, 2014, when my butt caught his autism eye under a blue blanket. That was it…he was hooked.

Adam can talk for hours about my behind. He has nicknames for my butt, he loves to talk to my butt, he loves to pat it, pretend to tatoo it with some of his favorite train engine numbers. Ironically, he has found tomatoes in our garden in the shape of a butt. It would be all “butt talk” all the time, if I let him. We have strict rules in our house as to when and how much he can talk about my behind. In fact, his perseveration has become the “butt” of all of my friend’s jokes. My butt is so well-known all around town and I often wake up to text messages of funny pictures, tagged in “butt” posts on Facebook. I honestly never thought that I would be famous for my booty under these unique circumstances.

So now that you have a little background about me and the title of my blog, I hope that you visit often and enjoy reading my Tales from the Butt!

Mom's butt nicknames

I feel so loved…..

Butt nicknames...the revised addition

…oh, but there’s more! Luckily, I dodged the tatoo this summer!!

tomato butt1

This appeared in his beloved tomato garden in August!

butt pics#2

Found this in a garden center not too long ago and couldn’t resist!

Meanwhile, My Boincy, Bouncy Butt Will Be Sitting in the ‘Wait and See’ Chair

It’s Thanksgiving day….Hands down, my most favorite holiday filled with food, family, friends, and football. A rockin’ dance party has even been know to erupt at our gatherings. It’s a time to reflect. A time to slow down. A time to be grateful….

Earlier this month, I found myself sitting in a new eye doctor office with Adam and Lacey due to a change in insurance.  I hate switching doctors of any kind; especially with these two children. Between the mounds of new patient paperwork, transferring an obscene amount of records, and having to explain their tedious heath histories; I’m shocked that I have made it this far, without an ulcer.

Given that our new eye doctor had never met Adam before, I asked her if she would like for me to come in or if she would like to wait and see… Adam immediately chimes in and says:

“Mom’s boincy bouncy butt needs to sit in the ‘wait and see’ chair”

The doctor looked at me and all I could muster up was…. Long story….

This was only after our new young doctor came  out just minutes earlier after examining Lacey with a very alarmed look on her face. She explained to me that Lacey’s vision has gotten better over the past year and that she wanted to dilate her eyes for she is fearing it could be a sign of diabetes. I was immediately left to sink back down into my ‘wait and see chair’. I began to imagine my daughter’s life with multiple glucose level checks, calloused finger tips, and daily insulin injections. As I told myself that we would adjust to this new life, just like we have adjusted to so many other things, the eye doctor walked out literally a minute later trying to stifle a giggle…… Lacey had two pair of contacts in each of her eyes….Never mind the fact that my daughter had just driven Adam and I to the office….

The Ketchams are known to make such memorable first impressions…. It’s just another day in my life with my ‘bookends’.

A few weeks later, I continue to sit here, still a bit speechless. Between the two of them, I have been in this situation often.  As their mother,  I have had to sit in the “wait and see chair” more times than I can remember…quite frankly, more times that I have ever wanted to. There is a reason that we jokingly call Lacey and Adam the “bookends”. They are the truly the alpha and the omega; the beginning and most definitely the end to our family. There is a reason that I have a crevice in the middle of my forehead that Botox would never even begin to fix. Lacey and Adam are 4 years, 9 days and 8 hours apart to the minute. And they are so alike in so many ways.

I look back on Lacey’s 15 years and Adam’s  11 years and I wonder sometimes how I haven’t run for the hills or I have not had a nervous breakdown. I look back at their unbelievably picky and ritualistic eating habits. I have cooked more mac and cheese, chicken tenders, butter noodles than I ever want to admit. They both swear that Kraft spiral mac and cheese tastes different than the traditional Kraft mac and cheese and the traditional Kraft mac and cheese tastes different from any of the character Kraft mac and cheese. Adam has eaten bags of frozen green peas in one sitting….for at least the past 5 years.  And then there’s Lacey who is convinced that she hates all fruits and vegetables….which is humorous, for unless I rope her and tie her down, I’m fairly certain that  she has never really tried a fruit or vegetable.  The doctors just keep telling me to be patient. It will eventually change. And I continue to sit with my boincy bouncy butt in the ‘wait and see chair’.

And then there’s school. The subject that is the topic of daily conversations in our house.  I have officially spent months, it not years of my life meeting with teachers, sitting in IEP meetings, writing and rewriting their IEP goals and sitting back ‘waiting and seeing’ if this new strategy, this new approach, this new idea will help them to gain success in their academic settings. Sometimes it works, but there have been countless times that we have to go back to the ‘drawing board’, try a new approach, and then return to the ‘wait and see’ chair. It’s a never ending process. Meanwhile, my boincy bouncy butt continues to sit in that wait and see chair.

As I look back over these years, I realize that the amount of times that my boincy bouncy butt has sat in the ‘wait and see chair’ with the ‘bookends’ has caused so much worry; so much angst, and many, many sleepless nights. It has it has also taught me so much more. And for that….I am truly grateful.

For instance

 I waited for over the first  3 years of Lacey’s life for her to speak more than 3 words at a time. After raising my concerns to her pediatrician, we were finally referred to speech therapy. After weeks of evaluations, she began twice a week therapy. Her speech therapists worked tirelessly with her to catch her up to her peers. I learned so much about patience while my butt was in that ‘wait and see’ chair. For that I am grateful

or

In the 5 years that I chased Adam’s autism diagnosis. We met with an insane amount of pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, allergists, geneticists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, all of who negated what I knew was autism. Finally, a neurologist put all of his pieces together and officially gave Adam a diagnosis. I learned so much about persistence while my butt was in that ‘wait and see’ chair. For that, I am grateful.

then

There was the neurologist whom I was referred to at a renown hospital in Chicago. She was ‘convinced’ that Adam did not have a seizure. We had visited the ER just 3 days earlier after we called the paramedics who observed  symptoms which were suspicious of a seizure. Because Adam had thrown up, in the process, I was told that the ‘stomach flu and dehydration can present some strange symptoms’ and  she ‘didn’t know what else to tell me’. Two days later, Adam had a 40 minute seizure that landed him in the hospital on a ventilator for 5 days. I learned so much about trusting my gut while my butt was in that ‘wait and see’ chair. For that, I am grateful.

and

Year after year, I raised concerns that Lacey possibly had a learning disability, and year after year, I was told by her school team that it was ‘too soon to tell’ and that her grades were ‘too good’ to label her with a learning disability. Somehow, 6 years went by and suddenly she left 8th grade reading at barely a 5th grade reading level.  After taking her to an educational psychologist, we discovered that she has dyslexia. She has spent the last 18 months working after school with her tutors, killing herself to catch up. All the while, never complaining. I have learned so much about resilience while my butt has been in that ‘wait and see’ chair. For that, I am grateful.

So today, as I am preparing to spend Thanksgiving day with family and friends; I am reflecting on my past year.  I of course am thankful for everyone in my life.  I am grateful for the things we have, our jobs, and our home. But most of all, I am grateful for the journey that my ‘Bookends’ continue to navigate. A journey which has taught me patience, persistence, trusting my gut, and resilience. A journey that I am excited to continue as my boincy, bouncy butt sits in the ‘wait and see’ chair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Stop. Never Give Up. ….But if Something Gets in Your Way, Just Give It an ‘Ass Kick’!

It’s that time of year again!  Animated conversations with the ones you love that go long into the wee hours of the morning. Laughing, and A LOT of crying. Reflecting on times of long ago; both good and bad, and excitedly talking about the here and now and what could be and what I know, in my gut, will be. An then there’s the wine…my tried and true friend. The one that gets me through, no matter what. No…..I’m not talking about the holidays…… I’m referring to preparing for Adam’s upcoming IEP.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term IEP, I am referring to an Individualized Education Plan. The 20-30 page ‘labor of love’ that is meticulously devised over many hours, days, and months for those of us who have kiddos who fall into one of the 13 categories of disabilities. I am lucky enough to have not one, but two children with IEP’s.  My daughter: Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia; and my youngest son, Adam, who falls into 3 of the 13 categories of disabilities;  Autism, Speech and Language Disorder and Other Health Impairment – a seizure disorder. Are you confused? Exhausted? Shaking your head? Probably.Trust  me….I get it. in fact, this is how I feel most of the time. And I know that there are many, many, MANY parents out there, who just like me,  proudly wear the same badge on their chest that I do.   We are a very unique club.

Recently, my nights have been spent wide awake, obsessing and worrying, for Adam is up for his three year re-evaluation with all of, as I like to call them, the “ists” Over the next two months his occupational therapist, speech therapist, behavior therapist, school psychologist and the school social worker will evaluate him in their own areas of expertise to determine his growth. In the meantime, the “ists” have also assigned my husband and I our own ‘homework’; numerous evaluations which dissect our own personal points of view of our son; his behavior, attention, development, independent skills, early years, health history, current medications, etc. My hand is literally cramped from drawing over 800 tiny circles around answers to the questions and my eyes are literally crossed from the fine print that I have spent the past two weeks reading. As much as I know how important this information is, and how necessary it is to gather the most accurate information of my child, I really am so over answering these questions for I am now going on my 13th year of ‘doing’ IEP’s. By the time that I am done being cross-examined by mounds of questionnaires,  I truly start to wonder…”did this really happen or did I dream that’? I mean, on Adam’s really good days, “almost always” will apply. On the crappy days, “never or almost never” hits the nail on the head and then their are the days in between that  “sometimes” will apply. To an autism parent, each one of these days has it’s individual and unique meaning. They cannot just be lumped into 800 questions.  I mean, how do you really objectively fill out these forms?

So as much as I have been losing sleep, dreading these forms, fearing these upcoming evaluations of my son, and going through all of the different scenarios in my head of what these forms and these upcoming evaluations will tell us,   I was reminded this week of how far he has come since our last go-around of forms and tests in 3rd grade. I am often amazed and truly grateful that these “little” reminders present themselves when I need them most.

The first came earlier this week when his language arts teacher sent me an email asking me to be sure to ask Adam to show me the project that they had worked on in class today. She said that he was really excited to show me a story that he wrote and narrated. I couldn’t wait to get home from work, confiscate his iPad and watch.

Just three short years ago, Adam was not speaking complete sentences. He honestly could not even write more than 2 to 3 words in a sentence. Heck, on some days, we were even lucky if he could write a sentence. And then there was the time not too long ago,  that his neurologist considered him to be non-verbal.  He truly has come a long way.

My second reminder came on Friday evening when Adam tested for his green belt at his Tae Kwon Do school. He has been practicing the green belt curriculum, his forms, Korean terms and his pretty difficult board break, diligently, for the past two months. I grew more and more confident that he was going to pass his belt test with flying colors as I watched him warm up and practice his forms as loudly as he could. As my husband and I were chuckling because he really was EXTREMELY loud, his Master presented him with the ‘Exemplary Student’ award for “never stopping and never giving up”. Adam proudly accepted his trophy bowed to us and then happily continued right on with running though his various kicks, including my two personal favorites: the “frozen up kick” (front snap kick) and his “ass kick” (axe kick). 90 minutes later, Adam passed his belt testing and earned his green belt:

He even tackled that challenging board break!

My third reminder came yesterday. All three of my children participate in our school district’s phenomenal choir program. Once a year, all 8 choirs from all 8 schools in our district come together for a truly amazing day of choir workshops. The last hour is filled with beautiful pieces of music that our extraordinary music teachers have painstakingly worked on with our children over the first 9 weeks of school. It is a truly moving experience to see over 700 choir students from the elementary, middle schools and high school perform these pieces for family and friends in the school field house. Adam couldn’t wait for this day to come. He proudly dove into dress clothes and tie and stood in the front row singing very loudly and proudly…..


…and to think…just 3 years ago, we were lucky if he could tolerate one hour as an audience member. He truly has come a long way.

So tomorrow, I will be sending my 800 question manifesto back to the “ists”. From this and his upcoming evaluations,  a new plan will be devised and then presented when we convene at his next yearly IEP meeting in January. In the meantime, I have to keep reminding myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and remember an extremely valuable lesson in which my son taught me this past week…..To ‘never stop and to never give up’.

Raspberry Iced Tea, an “Epic” Pillow Fight, Ke$ha and a Box of Tampons….

It’s been an exciting weekend. My middle son, Alex’s baseball team won their Fall Ball league championship. The team has only played together for 5 weeks and they ended their season undefeated. As fun as it was watching the team pose with their trophy in their first place sweatshirts, and as proud as I am of my son and his team, I couldn’t help but think that this was only the second or third time in the past five years of playing travel baseball we have been able to take this picture. Maybe that’s why this picture was all the more special. No sooner did we finish this game, our team was back on the road to our final tournament of the fall ball season. I know…. We’re one of those  families.

Sports are a big part of our lives. My daughter, Lacey, danced competitively for many years. She now dances on her high school dance team and is a member of her high school track team. Alex runs cross country, plays basketball and lives and breathes baseball. Adam plays baseball, soccer and is passionate about Tae Kwon Do. Our family vacations are planned around tournaments and competitions. In fact, sometimes our family vacations are incorporated into their sport schedules. I, myself, grew up playing travel soccer. I got to play in some pretty awesome places.  Competitive sports have always been a way of life for me and now I get to live the world of competitive sports from a different perspective… as a parent.

I love to watch my kids participate in sports.  I know first hand, there is so much to be learned from playing sports. And there is so much more to competition than the wins and losses.  There is a difference between being a winner and winning.  A winner works hard, keeps a positive mind, picks up a teammate who is struggling, works hard to better themselves and their teammates, and they never EVER think that they have mastered their skill. A winner leads by example, makes no excuses, and never EVER gives up. A winner develops close relationships with their teammates. But most importantly, a winner has FUN.  These were qualities that were pounded into my head by my coaches while growing up. I am more often than not, reminded of how many of us misunderstand the difference between a winner and winning. The bottom line is….how many wins do you truly remember anyway?  Thus, the reason I had to snap this picture……

Unfortunately, so many of us get caught up in the ugliness of sports….winning. Everyone knows THAT parent. THAT parent  is always yelling at their own kid to run faster, swing harder, dance cleaner. And after they are done criticizing their own kid, they start targeting the other kids on the team. They just can’t help themselves. Winning is just that important to them. They suck the life out of their own kids, not to mention, the rest of team, the team parents, and the coaches. I’ve experienced THAT parent. They truly make me want to stick hot pokers in my eyes, for I’m convinced that the hot pokers have to feel better than enduring hours on a sidelines with THAT parent. In addition, look at the kid of THAT parent… Do they ever look happy? Think about it….

I look back on my own days of playing competitive soccer. My second home was a soccer field. I vaguely remember the wins. I vaguely remember the losses, for that matter. What I do remember is the fierce friendships that I formed with my teammates. Most of whom I still talk to 30 years later.  I remember traveling to overnight tournaments, staying in hotels and the crazy pool parties. I remember sitting on the floor in the hall near our room listening to Prince, The Cure, Duran Duran, the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, and whatever other music was current and popular at that time; over and over on our Walkmans, until we knew every word. I also pride myself on my ability to style every type of braid known to long hair for this is how we passed time in between games…by the way, teammates…my daughter is truly grateful to you! I remember the team lunches, the team dinners. But, I think my most favorite of all of my soccer memories is a long drive back from a tournament in Cincinatti, way before there were televisions is cars. All of the books and magazines that we brought with us were read and tossed aside. We were beyond bored out of our minds, when, a box of tampons caught one of my teammate’s eye. This little blue box of individually wrapped cotton, suddenly came to life. Our tampon family was born, complete with faces and names, all hanging by their strings and happily flapping outside the window all the way back to Chicago! I remember the endless belly laughing until our sides were ready to explode. Obviously a memory that I will never forget.

I am currently sitting on the sidelines of our third game of Alex’s team’s final baseball tournament of the fall 2015 season. We’ve won two games and as of right now, are currently winning our third. I don’t know what the outcome will be. If we win, I’ll be standing there with my camera, because otherwise,  I’m pretty sure this win will be long (or shortly) forgotten. I will happily remember, however, the boys that I took to lunch today in between games, chatting about how great the raspberry iced was in the dining room during their Cooperstown trip this past summer and reminiscing about the “epic ” pillow fight that broke out among the teams on the last night that they stayed in the bunk house; all while Ke$ha’s Tik Tok was blaring on my car radio and the boys were singing at the top of their lungs all the way back to the field.