Monday, April 2, 2012

Be Aware!

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and I'm doing my job to make you, world, aware of Autism, and what it could look like. Because in my experience, some of you still don't know.

I (very often) hear, "Oh, your son has Autism? But he's so social & talks so much!" I run to defend his diagnosis, "Well, but his social skills with his peers!" I blurt out. I'm usually able to stop myself there.

I used to end up listing all of our daily challenges, because if I could prove his diagnosis, I could prove my competence as a parent! I'd point out the difficulty we had transitioning him to solid foods. ("oh, but my kids are picky eaters, too. You can't say he has Autism just because he's a picky eater...") His adult-like language ("oh, well he's an only child & is around so many grown ups!" ...he's been in pre-school since he was 3. Not all only-children speak like grown-ups.) The difficulty we've had with potty training ("Oh, well my sister's kid had problems potty training...boys are just more difficult. That's not necessarily Autism, though..".) The difficulty he has changing a routine. ("oh, my girls hate it when we skip a story at bedtime, too. Routines are good for everyone.") The hand-flapping, the echolalia (repetition of words), the monotone speech, the inability to cope with loss (even if that loss is "You already had your treat for the day" or "I'm sorry, we can't buy the $24,000 playhouse"). The anxiety, the inability to recognize sarcasm, the fact that he still doesn't know all of his classmates' names/faces (after being in the same school for 4 years).

And yet, I think that because my son is rad in so many other ways, people assume his life is a breeze. There can't be anything wrong with him, look at all of his talents! His improvisational skills on the piano, for instance. His ability to memorize almost anything. His thoughtfulness. His mature sense of humor (even if he can't recognize or cope with sarcasm, he's an incredibly witty kid). His reasoning when looking at things objectively. His math skills are stellar, and when you're a grown-up around a 5-year-old who is trying to teach you how to play the piano? You'll become enchanted. As humans, we like small versions of bigger things (like kids who act like grown-ups). But because he's so rad in so many ways, people want to think that there's nothing "wrong" with him at all. In one sense, there isn't anything wrong with him. His brain functions differently. He has a different way of thinking, and in some ways it's way better than yours or mine, and in other ways his way of thinking is more challenging. In the same way, you have just as many things wrong with you.

Do I get angry when people question it? I get defensive at first, but I realize that deep down they wish for him to be a neuro-typical 8-year-old (at least the ones that keep pushing the issue do), and they have hopes that this is something he'll out-grow. (It's not. He'll find ways to cope, but his brain will always have a certain way it works, and that's good!) And I realize that the people who don't push the issue probably just don't have an accurate picture in their heads of what Autism can look like. And I love the people who genuinely want to know what it looks like for us.

So I challenge you, dear internet, to change your perception of Autism. To trust parents, teachers, therapists, and developmental pediatricians. To lend your emotional and physical support to frustrated & exhausted moms & dads. Honestly, it's enough on my plate to try to convince the child that he can overcome having to wear a new pair of shoes, try a different brand of canned corn, or take a bath... parents of kids with Autism (particularly High Functioning Autism) shouldn't have to prove to friends, strangers, and family that their kid is struggling.

The next time you see a child flipping out in a store, or a child not staying in their seat at a restaurant, or a mom or dad not forcing their child to at least try everything on their plate, or if a child doesn't say thank you, or goodbye. Or if your kid gets a toy taken away by another kid who has no idea why yours is upset. Don't assume it's bad parenting. And don't assume it's a naughty child. This is where the support comes in. We need your support with your understanding and your actions. With your kind eyes, and your ability to censor yourself.

If you'd like to know more about how you can help, advocate, or just learn about Autism, you can visit Autism Speaks. Pester your insurance company/legislature to be sure that Autism therapies are covered by all insurance companies everywhere. Offer to help out when a need arises. Listen. And just, in general, be aware that Autism has lots of faces. Most of them are incredibly adorable, and all of them need your compassion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's Pi Day!

Ok so even if I slack on most every other resolution, I know I at least need to post something on Pi Day.

After a round of fisticuffs with bronchitis (not to mention the near-constant disease our son has had since December), I'm back to updating my Etsy shop. I'm making a few projects for non-etsy clients, which have all been a lot of fun to work on.
The top two puppets have gone into the shop & the bottom 3 are for other projects. The Chicken & the Pig will go to my friends Lisa and Chris in Seattle & their children's band, The Bears Upstairs (who has chosen the same blogger background as I have, because we all like grass and making wishes).

I used a pattern for the bases of the two on the top. It's nice to use an easy pattern when making non-specific projects, just because it gets the puppet done quickly & I know what I'll get from it...and I can get it done quickly without much troubleshooting. I know a lot of other puppeteers on Etsy are using the same pattern, but hey, there's a reason. It's a good, solid pattern. I don't use it for the hands. At this point I'm rambling. Does anyone really care why I don't use their hand pattern...or even that I use a pattern?

So the 3 patterns on the bottom are mine. The pig is done in my typical hap-hazard way, but the Chicken and the Sheep are more elaborate. I'm taking more time with some of the bigger pieces, and I think it's paying off. The chicken and the sheep are both fully lined, which should help them last longer. That and their heads are constructed in a different way than I normally do. I'm also getting more & more into arm rods. While I've been a puppeteer for quite some time, for the last 10 years or so, the shows I've done usually have had me use 1 puppet on each hand, so instead I just sculpt the arms. (It also makes shipping them a lot easier if you don't have to account for giant stick). But rods are fun (sex truck!) & it's time I bite the bullet & use them in my live shows more.

I'm hoping to spend time making some more larger puppets. I've still got a lot of projects in my queue, but I think with the deadlines, it will allow for making some extra puppets for me/Etsy/Comicon. Should be fun!

Note to self: Next time I'm going to post about puppetry manipulation & workshops... Wheee!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

From the time I re-opened the shop mid-August, up until now has been awesome! I'm so thankful for all of the support of all kinds I've received from everyone. Friends, strangers, and family have all been cheering me on, and that's so incredibly appreciated.

I've got a few New Year's Resolutions to go over, and this is probably one of the first years that I've been serious about them, which means it all may last a week and a half, and they may not go into effect until mid-June. I'll list them here (they don't all have to do with Puppet Pie).

1. Get a bit healthier. I slack. I totally slack. I don't exercise beyond...well, anything, and that should probably change. I bought some jeans that had a "tummy panel" in them. I decided maybe I should return them for the ones that lift my tuchus up a bit. Unfortunately they didn't have any left when I went to exchange them (good to know they're in high demand), so I figured I'd have to do it all the old fashioned way. That being said, I hope to ride my bike more (yay Phoenix weather!), and maybe do a sit-up or two (tummy panel be damned!). I should also probably cut back on the soda and Spam.

2. I want to try to clean up after myself right away. My son and I were cleaning his room & I discovered that one of his science project went awry-- in that it spilled all over his bookshelf--and from the looks of it, it happened a long time ago (whee!). I sat scrubbing chunks of yellow...something... off of the darn thing and thought "hey now, this boy could be doing something useful, too!" I set him up scrubbing some..."gook" off of his wall near his bed (gotta wipe it somewhere!). It's also been there awhile. So with various cleaning supplies in hand, we were off to scrub. It took us each probably about 45 minutes. I commented about how long it was taking and he replied, "There's a year-an-hour rule. If you leave something gooey up for a year, it will take you an hour to clean it." My 8-year-old has wisdom. In my work-space, I tend to just go-go-go with projects, and then clean up when I realize I have no work-space left, and it takes much longer to clean. Much like the Mayan calendar, I hope for this to end in 2012.

3. Time management. I think a little Ritalin-type substance could help out with this, but let's just say I don't currently have a prescription for Adderall... I think a full-on schedule is in order. Monday: Making
Tuesday: Making, packaging, post office
Wednesday: Photographing & listing
Thursday: listing and making, and maybe a little blog posting
Friday: Packaging & post office

4. More hand puppets. I miss making them. Specifically I want to make some excellent ones. I know I can do it, I just rarely dedicate the time necessary to pull it off. I'll do a few and see how they do in the Etsy shop. I need a few more wow pieces, that's fo' shizzle.

5. Long-distance Craftiness. I wish to do a craft show far away from my house. One that requires a road trip with a friend or two.

6. Write more here. Yes. That.

That's about all I can think of for now. We'll see how I'm doing in 5 days!