At first glance, we have a normal enough house. A decent 4 bedroom home, in a sweet family neighborhood in one of the most beautiful places on earth, (Sonoma County, Ca). You might expect to walk in and find a bottle of white wine chilling on the marble countertop, with cheese and chocolate and crackers to spare. And beautiful professionally taken portraits on the wall of my amazing family….. I mean, that’s what houses like this look like on the inside, right? Well, probably lot’s of other houses in this neighborhood, but not ours. Our house is all about function. Comfort, and not having anything TOO nice, because Ben will likely ruin it anyway. Well, either Ben or his two roughhousing brothers or toddler sister. We don’t have wine glasses because, I mean, come on. We have to be at our top 100% capacity level at all times to deal with the stuff that goes on here. And forget portraits on the wall, Ben has a habit of moving wall hangings around, and if it’s a photo of himself, he LOVES it so much he usually ends up pouring water on it, playing with it, or using scissors and cutting it to little pieces. But here are some other things that look different about THIS house, than you might see in some of yours, (especially those of you who DO NOT have special needs kids living there).
So take a walk with me through my front door, and learn about some of the ways our house probably isn’t like yours at all. Some of it’s sweet, some of it’s gross, some of it’s super frustrating, but one thing for sure. It’s us. I wish I could say I was never embarrassed by it, but sometimes I am. I fall into the “Compare” myself game far too often. But this is it, this is my home, with all of its wonder and hardship. Let’s start at the front of the house…. the downstairs bathroom. Ben’s bathroom.
1. We have an $85 professional grade Toilet Auger. Because of the frequency that Ben play’s the little game, “Let’s see how large of a thing I can flush down the toilet before it backs up and clogs up”. I’m starting with this because well, the photo I’m showing is from today. And this is the second time this week my husband has had to do this. Unfortunately for us, he wasn’t able to slam the toy down and break it like he was last week. He’ll try one more time with the Auger, and then he’ll have to take the toilet off the base, and fish out the toy that by this time is wrapped up with feces and dirty toilet paper. Then with new wax ring in hand, he’ll have to put it back on. Yumm. Yep, I’m betting, and hoping you don’t have one of those bad boy augers.
2. He DUMPS anything that resembles sand or snow ALL OVER HIS ROOM. (photo below) Let’s move on to the Kitchen area issues. There is NO SALT SHAKER safe from Benjamin. Left out for any length of time will result in him SNEAKILY swooping it up, and shaking or pouring the salt all over his toys. We are currently going salt shaker-less to avoid him dumping it, and we are just using the large round can of salt, and if we happen to leave that in eye view…. Then THAT whole thing gets emptied on to his toys and dresser/tables in his room. Truth be told, salt is only the most common household item he uses. Mostly because it get’s left out most often. But he’s really looking for anything that could resemble snow, or sand. For his make-believe world of Disney’s little Einstein and all of the adventures Rocket goes on, or for his underwater SpongeBob world. He goes through periods of time where he’s OBSESSED with dumping my kitchen stuff. He’s dumped several bottles of spices at a time before. Recently in the same week, he dumped a WHOLE LARGE bag of flour, AND about ⅔ of a Costco sized brown sugar. One in his room, one in the living room! We try hard to keep him out of the kitchen, but things up high and away, but he’s sneaky, and tall and resourceful. In the past we have locked the cabinets with magnet locks, but we haven’t lived in this house very long and have yet to REDO the difficult to install locks. But his dumping has gotten more intense lately, and I definitely think it’s time to do that.
3. We can’t have hand soap in the bathroom. This is important for you to know if you’re ever a guest in our home. We are lucky to be able to have Benjamin’s bedroom downstairs. He has bad seizures and since he had a few on the stairs in another house we lived in, we HAD to have him in a bedroom downstairs. We are thankful for that. The only problem is, it’s right next to the “Guest Bathroom”. But if you’re ever at my house, and that toilet doesn’t happen to be clogged, and you get to use it, don’t expect to be able to wash your hands with liquid soap. Whoops. You see, we can’t leave liquid hand soap in there. Benjamin finds a way to get to it, and proceed to squirt it ALL over his toys in his room. I’ve tried so many times to get away with it, even hiding it under the sink or on top of the shower; he still finds it. We usually try to have a bar of soap available, but guests are usually weirded out by that. It’s one of the reasons it’s hard to have people over… sometimes we forget, oops… no soap in the “Guest” bathroom. There is usually some by the kitchen sink though, that he seems to leave alone MOST of the time. So if your here, feel free to use that. 🙂
4. No, that’s not dog pee you smell.. It’s from the Teenager! Try as we might, we cannot contain his pee. Thankfully we receive diapers through state funding, but they are the super crappy kind. They don’t hold much, so we try to put two or three of him on at a time. But he STILL pees through them, pretty much every night. And since he’s always sticking his hands down the front of his pants, (thanks to the penis-obsessed teenage years), he’s always peeing on his shirts, his hands, well, everywhere. If we get busy and don’t change him enough when he’s home….. Pee…. everywhere. He doesn’t care if his diaper is full. If he get’s REALLY wet, then he usually will change his own pants and diaper, which is extra fun because it doesn’t matter if he has poop in his butt, or not, he strips down, and starts to change himself. This is usually the point I realize what’s going on and intervene. We have to wash and change his sheets so often, that we usually end up making a judgement all in the morning, “Is it wet enough to warrant ANOTHER wash? Or can we just leave it since it will need to be washed soon anyway?” We usually do a full Ben load every other day. And since urine smell never REALLY comes out of fabric, he just pretty much smells like it all the time. Ewwwweeee you say, disgusting you might think! Well, sometimes we feel that way too. But for the most part, we are used it, and just roll with it. We have a system that works for clothes and sheets. And we hardly smell it anymore….. But we worry that you do. Once we had a landlord keep our deposit because she smelled pee when she walked in, but had no evidence from the actual carpet, and she thought it was our dog. It wasn’t. Whoops. Our dog NEVER pee’s in the house. Don’t worry, we sued her and got all our money back. 🙂
5. MY HANDS MIGHT SMELL LIKE POOP…. And I don’t really care. I’m going to keep this one short and sweet, (or sour, however you take it). We change a lot of poop. 16 year old poops is different then baby poop. Sometimes it explodes out of him and we are REALLY cleaning it up. So if you run into me, and I happen to smell like poop, no you know why. Yes I wash my hands and arms with antibacterial soap after I change him. But that stuff is STRONG smelling. So there you have it. Deal with it. I have to.
6. There are ZERO rooms in this 4 bedroom 2000 square ft house that are actually MINE. Lately I’ve been sadly realizing something. There is NO WHERE safe from Ben. I’ve had a hard time keeping a desk of my own. With a space for doing bills or a computer, because he likes to open and dump drawers write on or cut with scissors anything he can find, so I just try to do mostly everything online, and tuck things away in corners he can’t find, and get it when I can. Well that doesn’t work very well, because I HIDE THEM FROM MYSELF. Which is also what happens when I have a desk up in my room because truthfully, I don’t spend a lot of time in my room. I have a special needs 16 year old who has seizures, and a toddler too, I need to be around them all the time, which means NOT in my room. And my GOD please don’t tell me to just put a lock on it, or store it away from him. It’s impossible to live in a house with 5 other people where you have to lock and unlock everything all the time, all while hiding the key, because if he could find it, he would open it himself. And the TV, for some reason, he INSISTS on using the TV in the main room, and even when I try to get him to use the other TV, the one in the smaller living room, he wants to use the TV in the main room, but more recently my room. So I took the TV out of my room, because he kept sneaking up there and getting in my bed and using his iPad Roku controller to watch TV on the TV in my room. So I put it in his room. Nope, not good enough. Now, he just goes up into my room, gets in my bed, and plays on his iPad. If i don’t catch him quick enough he messes with stuff in there too, soap, lotion, shaving cream, papers on the desk I finally decided to try and keep IN MY ROOM. Nope. It’s not my room, it’s apparently now Ben’s room too. Sigh. I do have a lock on it, one with a pinhole lock, which is like, impossible to open. So I don’t lock it as much as I should. I forget. And then there he is, in my bed, again, sometimes leaking a pee-stained diaper….. Into my sheets. Fun. Yum, and more fun.
7. NO CD’S of DVD’s allowed in this house. No more, I’m done. So Ben is OBSESSED with disc’s of any kind. He just LOVES to stick them in a disk drive, or computer over and over and over and over again. Not really to watch them, but just to put them in, see them register, start, and then stop and do it again. I’m just SO THANKFUL we can now own movies with digital download like Amazon, thank god for that. But before that, every one was always scratched up. All the disk drives in the computers he’s allowed to use are broken from repetitive use, and he even does this to $50 video games, so we have to hide those from him well, but he’s destroyed a few of those in his day’s for sure.
8. You won’t find wall calendars in this house, and if you do, it would look like this. This one’s short but sweet, and as annoying as it might be, I totally love it. Benjamin is OBSESSED with his birthday. It’s his absolute favorite day of the year. He talks about it frequently, and for whatever reason, any calendar is just an opportunity for him to write on it, write presents, write his name, circle ALL the dates.
9. No clean Windows or Mirrors, Blue’s Clues Paw prints all around. Benjamin has LOVED Blue’s Clues since he was a little kid. He still does, he watches it on his ipad, while he carries it around and acts it out. And part of that means that if he see’s a clean window or mirror that does not already have “Paw prints” on it, it’s like an absolute compulsion to BLESS the area with the print. How does he do it you ask? Well, he licks his hand, and the PRINTS the window or mirror. I’ve tried to take some photos for you to see, it’s hard to see, but if you look you can see SEVERAL big boy paw prints. I’ve just given up washing them outside of big events at our house, or landlord visits. Another one of those things that’s kinda gross, but so sweet, and honestly cute.
10. He’s obsessed with pushing through screens and throwing things out windows. Eventually ALL the screens will be broken through or popped out. Is it even worth fixing them, AGAIN? We are renters. For a variety of reasons we have never had the resources to buy in this very expensive area that we live in. Which is why when anything in the house is messed up, it totally stresses us out. Luckily, this time we have a really nice and understanding landlord. We have already replaced a bunch of the screens, and we will continue to do so, especially when we leave this house. In the meantime….. come on in bugs…. it’s just fine in here. 🙂
So there you have it! The TOP 10 ways OUR Autism house is different than yours. I wrote this particular blog as an introduction to our lives. My prayer, my hope, my desire, is you will see some similarity in your own home if you are a special needs household too… and just like I did reading other peoples blogs, find some normality, and almost universal like acceptance. #thisisBen
Love, Willow ( TheautismMomma)