Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

It's officially only an hour into this year's Mother's Day celebration...but so far, so good. My children are all sleeping like the little angels only I know they are. *grin* But seriously, I wanted to write a special Mother's Day message to my boys.

Without the two of you, I wouldn't be a mother. Despite what you might sometimes think, I really wanted this job. Being your mother is the best part of my life, to date. Sure there are challenges, but that's life. I just want you to know that no matter how tough things might get, I'll always be your Mom and I'll always be there for you. Yes, even if I'm dead. I'll haunt you (in a good way) until the day you join me in the hereafter. I have to keep an eye on you and make sure your life turns out ok. I'll try not to butt in too much but you know I'm always ready to give advice. If you want it.

That's it. I love you both so very much. I don't need cards, flowers, candy or jewels. That stuff is nice, but I'd be happy with a bagel and a hug. Really. Cinnamon raisin bagel. Lightly toasted. With cream cheese. In bed. And a hug. I'm off to the bedroom now to wait...


Happy Mother's Day to all my Mom friends, single Dads, pet parents, step parents, and people who step in every day to help care for kids. You all deserve a special day of pampering and love.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Holy Moly

It was an exciting day today as Max made his First Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church...or as I like to think of it:  The day my boy officially became a cannibal.

That's a Catholic joke. Don't get freaked out, go Google transubstantiation. LOL

But seriously, it was a beautiful day. Max looked dapper in his new suit and all his church school friends looked fabulous. The girls were all very traditional in gorgeous white dresses, crowns and veils. The boys mostly wore dark color or gray suits, but one fella wore a stark white suit, white shirt, black and white bow tie and very shiny black and white shoes that reminded me of spats. I leaned in to John and whispered "I am your host, Mr. Roarke! Welcome to Fantasy Island!" *giggle snort* He was not amused. He was too busy trying to look serious and attentive because the whole proceeding was being filmed by a video professional. Since we were basically in the front row, I expect people will be seeing a lot of us. I hope I didn't rub my nose or touch my face too often. I tend to fidget.

Max did fabulously well. He and his pal Sean P. were part of the posse that delivered the gifts/offerings up to the altar. He never missed a beat and performed all required actions with style. We were instructed to take NO photos during the service, but John wanted to get a shot of the boys bringing things up, stealthily brought out his cell phone, got it into camera mode and then chickened out when the priests and deacon came down off the altar and were practically standing next to us. I was trying hard not to giggle. No way was he going to get away with a sneak photo with the god squad standing so close.

He did take lots of photos after mass, then we had a nice brunch here at home. Glad Max's grandma Lois was able to make it. She's had some major health issues in recent months and was in and out of the hospital, but she's doing much better at the moment. We missed seeing my parents but my mom had major back surgery a few months ago and still isn't up to making that long drive. Plus my Dad sorta wrecked the car in a minor accident last Friday. It's always something. But Max had a good day and I think he feels sufficiently loved and supported even with our tiny family.  I may have over-done it with the First Communion party supplies (at one point I was doing brunch for 8 or more, so...) but the dining room looks super spiffy and I think Max liked me making a fuss. Win.

I have a ton of extra bagels, so if anyone is hungry over the next day or two, stop on by. I have cream cheese too.

My handsome boy!  Special thanks to Jen for her studio session/photos.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Mental Mother

Often, late at night I find myself rehashing conversations I've had with my my head. My teen is rapidly maturing and developing his own viewpoints on the world around him. Sometimes those viewpoints are so far removed from anything I think or feel that I'm left momentarily speechless. Taking into account the fact that our conversations are largely one-sided because teen boy is autistic and his delivery of thoughts is frequently a rapid brain dump with my take only being a source of argument with his opinion always the correct one, it's difficult to get my ideas across.

We had a largely one-sided discussion on religion earlier with Tyler stating that all religions are a crock, there's no such thing as "God" and people who believe in a faith are deluded. He called all religions "magical thinking" and blamed them for many of the problems in the world. He is a super logical kid and often a very linear and b&w thinker.

I tried to get across the idea that even if you don't believe in the more miraculous aspects of organized religious beliefs, you can't really argue with the basic tenants of doing unto others and just generally not being a jerk. I got a response of "Jesus wasn't real, mom. Why do what a fictional character tells you to."

Yeah. Speechless.

So, here I am, rehashing how that conversation could have gone better. "Son? One very important thing I take away from the teachings of Jesus is the idea of unconditional love. Love for the world and love for our fellow man. I feel a sense of responsibility to leave this world a better place by being kind and being a source of goodness and light. Just because a good idea comes from a source you think is fictional doesn't mean it isn't a great idea that you can apply to your own life. There are absolute truths in this universe that very wise and enlightened people have come to accept, no matter the source. I love you and want to help you in your journey towards becoming a good man. Don't be distracted by the pomp and circumstance of organized religions...simply seek out what is the central message of faith. Be enlightened. Reject darkness and embrace light. I won't ever force my own beliefs on you, but encourage you to expose yourself to a variety of faiths and seek your own answers. As long as your heart remains open to hope and love, you'll be ok."

Huh. Not too bad for a 4am ramble. I'll just leave this here in the hopes that one day my son will get curious and read it. Then he can continue this conversation in HIS head at 4am. Love you, my boys!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shh! I'm working here!

Does anyone else get a running commentary in their heads from individual body parts as they work? No? Just me then... This is how my morning went.

Self:  OK! Wake up and get to work. Lots to do before company comes next weekend! First up, pick up all the dirty laundry and put it into baskets.

My Back: You aren't going to try and move those without help, are you? You'd better not!

Self: Now to just move these into the hallway... [PUSH]

My Back: Oh my GLOB! You ARE trying to do it without help! No! NO! Stop it!

Self:  Ow holy crap, that hurt. OK, OK! Calm down. I'll sit for a minute. [Darling husband comes in, freaks out over more laundry to do and lists all the reasons why it can't be done before pushing baskets into the hall.] Thanks honey! What's next... Dining room needs to be picked up, large things moved about to make room, table cleared, room vacuumed, and new rug laid down.

My Back: You can't be serious. You've already taken an Aleve. Take the hint, Woman!

I set about picking up toys, trash, more clothes, costumes, legos, art supplies, and so on - sorting into various toy bins, boxes, and trays. Trash pile grows and lego table over flows. Video games missing for months are found. Max fights over which things are trash and which are trinkets to be kept. The mess on his desk grows higher. Bending, stooping, pushing, pulling, moving the big toybox across the room...

My Back: Hello! You need to sit down. Now. I'm serious! If you don't take a break right this second I'm going to make you fall over in pain. I mean it! SIT! Sit down! I'm counting to ten...1, 2, 3, 4, 5...

Self: Oh for the love of...fine! I'm sitting! [plops down on dining room chair in the nick of time]

My Knees: If you think you're getting up again, I can tell you now, you are seriously mistaken.

Self: Come on, you guys! We've made a dent! Look! I just want to clear off that little side table, move it back where it belongs, moving the chairs over there, have Max stack his snack stash on the table and then I can vacuum! Then we can roll out the new rug!

My Back: No. I'm done. You stay sitting or I'll quit on you for the next three days. Then how much can you do? Hmm? Ha!

My Knees: Listen to Back. I'm done too. And you'd better put Feet up or they are gonna start barking at you.

Feet: Ruff! Bow wow wow wow! Grrrrrr!

Self: *sigh* Fine. I'll take a break. Can I get some quiet now?!

Body parts all sigh with relief.

Self: Don't get too comfortable. We have more to do...

Feet: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

And so it goes. I'm sitting and resting. Kinda. I better eat something before my stomach starts in on me too. No one wants to hear THAT conversation. Stomach has a potty mouth.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


The dryer broke this weekend, but unlike when its inefficient and water wasting partner broke down, this time I didn't get my hopes up.  Nope, no heading off to the Lowes website shopping for a shiny new washer/dryer set because I knew my resourceful and mechanically inclined man was going to fix it. See, this ancient and inefficient pair are rather like the equivalent of a classic car...before the advent of complex catalytic converters or computer controlled fuel injectors.  Mechanically inclined men can just run out to one of those ubiquitous junk yards and find a replacement part, hunker down, get greasy and fix the ancient hunk of junk.

Sometimes it stinks having a mechanically inclined man. ;)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

I'm fully aware of autism, thanks very much...

International Autism Awareness Day. Yep. Check. Am I wearing blue? Heck no! My son would have a fit! My contrary teen on the spectrum HATES the color blue and all things "Autism Speaks." (You wave a blue light bulb or puzzle piece in his direction and I can't be responsible for your safety. Be warned!)

We've had a couple of recent discussions about "Autism Awareness Month" and all the hoopla going on in his school. He has described to me (in very inappropriate and colorful language) the posters, shirts and activities going on around him. He did NOT appreciate the "art" project he was forced to do involving a ribbon covered in puzzle pieces. I mean, seriously? You are making the autistic kids do an autism awareness project?! REALLY?! How stupid is that! Like THEY aren't fully aware. Duh.

Two favorite moments from these discussions:

  • The moment when he blurted out his feelings about a certain poster in the hall that says "Does your child have Autism Spectral Disorder?" It was designed by a kid. Did you notice the problem? Tyler did. "What the hell is autism spectral disorder? Where you think you are haunted by dead autistic kids?!?!" His observation came at the rapid-fire rate that is Tyler's normal mode of communication and I about fell off my chair laughing. 
  • The other moment was when Tyler snatched a blue sheet of paper off my desk that was printed with the t-shirt design contest his old school was running. Design an Autism Awareness Month shirt. "Let me do that! I have the perfect one!" Max instantly objected to Tyler using HIS blue form, so Tyler took a blank sheet of paper and in about 60 seconds he'd sketched his own shirt design. The "shirt" was wildly inappropriate, of course. It contained a certain 4-letter word starting with F and a drawing of a hand with the middle finger pointing upward and the instructions that this be a blue shirt with white letters. You know, because...awareness. *facepalm* yes, but I was really impressed at the level of art talent in his sketch! 60 seconds and he'd done a perfect line-art drawing of a shirt and a hand/finger with legible text. He really DOES have artistic talent, but has no desire to utilize it. Sad.
No, I won't be posting a scan of his shirt design. It's very very inappropriate. But that brings me back to the point I'm trying to make with this post. This awareness month hoopla is rather painful for those of us who struggle with autism every day and particularly painful for my ASD teen. See, I think, like your average teen, he is struggling with self-identity right now. There is a particular autistic teen in his school that is, erm, highly noticeable? He loudly stims in the hallways and sometimes escapes from his aids and randomly shows up in other classrooms while wearing underwear on his head or some other unusual behavior. 

Tyler doesn't approve. He doesn't like making a spectacle out of himself (unless he feels he needs to take a stand, then he will loudly protest.) He doesn't want anyone to think that he and this boy have anything in common. He finds the "autistic" label embarrassing and maybe inaccurate. 7th and 8th grade is a really hard time under normal circumstances. Imagine you have something about you that makes you different when you don't want to BE different. He won't admit to that if you ask him directly. He will tell you different is good. Better to be different than one of the boring sheep that follow the herd. 

Ah that lovely teen attitude coupled with ADHD, ASD, sleep disorder, anxiety and depression. We are having fun. Not. We are wearing blue. Not. I take the few moments of levity and cherish them, because they are links in my mom armor that help me survive another day. 

Please consider lending your support to organizations that provide services and support directly to people with autism and their families. Like local charities that provide help, training, and job opportunities are very important. Flashy awareness campaigns and sales of things that are blue only benefit that big corporate entity, typically, and not any actual autistic people.

Monday, March 23, 2015

I'm not dead yet!

My 49th year isn't off to a great start. There have now been two times in my life where I felt close to death. The first time I spent a week in the hospital recovering from emergency surgery that finally confirmed just how damaged my reproductive organs really were. Before I got to the hospital, I was lying on the bathroom floor in the fetal position after vomiting my guts out from the pain. The husband stood over me, worried, and asking if he should call an ambulance. I stupidly said no and we drove to the hospital. Worst car ride of my life.

The second time I thought I was going to die was Thursday morning (3/19). I woke just after 5am to a tidal wave of dizziness and nausea. I barely made it to the bathroom. I spent the next two hours spewing evilness out of every orifice. I've heard the term "flop sweat" before and chuckled at the depictions of it in movies (water pouring down the face, etc.) until it happened to me. An hour into my misery, I broke out into a sweat the likes of which I'd never experienced before...pouring down my face, blinding me, filling my ears, nose draining, everything dripping off my chin into the waste basket I had clutched to my chest. Why was I holding my trash can? I had to sit on the toilet and there was no where else to be sick. My nightgown was drenched and clinging to me. I had sweat running down my back and legs and I was sliding around on my toilet seat trying desperately to stay upright. Thank goodness I'd opened the bathroom window a crack the night before because the cold winter air blowing in was the only thing keeping me from losing consciousness.

I was burning up and the blackness kept creeping in around the edges of my vision. I was sure that if I passed out, I was dead. The boys would find me slumped on the toilet...I'd die just like Elvis did. What a lasting memory THAT would be. So I fought to stay conscious. I'd lost all the strength in my legs and arms. It was all I could do to hang on to the trash can. I'd have long since called 911, if I could have managed to get to a phone. I'd gather myself now and then to yell HELP, but no one heard me. John and Max were still sleeping downstairs in the guest room (Max gave up his bedroom to his ailing grandmother and was keeping it open for her, but was too scared to sleep all the way downstairs by himself.) Tyler was asleep in his room, with his door closed. My bedroom door was closed. He might as well have been miles away. Grandma was in the hospital again...but even if she'd been home with us, she never would have heard me. She takes her hearing aid out to sleep.

I would bang on the wall now and then too. Praying someone would come. Finally, close to 7:30, the boys came upstairs to get ready for school. Max heard my weak cry for help. He took one look at me and turned almost as white as I must have been. He ran for his Dad and I got "What?! What's wrong?!" I don't think I've ever been happier to see him in my life. I was spent. He watched me heaving into the trash can and waiting for the nausea to subside then asked what I wanted him to do. Poor guy had to help me out of the drenched nightgown, clean me up and half carry me to bed. I wanted to lie down (he brought me a bowl, just in case) and see if I started to feel better. I was stupidly resisting that little voice that was screaming at me to go to the hospital.

It kept running through my head. What is making me so sick? Oh God, I'm going to die. Was it the left-over birthday pie? It was days old. Probably shouldn't have eaten it. Could food poisoning make me THIS sick? So so sick. Never been this sick before. Not even the last stomach virus just a few weeks ago, which was really bad, but...not THIS bad. omg. I almost wish I'd die because that would be better than feeling this way.

Then I fell asleep. When I woke a couple hours later, I was feeling a little better. I spent 2 days in bed and the only thing I ate was a bowl of chicken noodle soup. I drank lots of water trying to re-hydrate myself. Now it's days later and I am still recovering. I get dizzy easily. Everything I eat makes my stomach hurt and my digestion...ugh. But I didn't die.

I'm still here. And a little surprised that I am.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Where is the love?

I got a phone call from my parents on my birthday. They seemed fine and I thought all was right with the world again. The next day I got a card from them. That is their typical delivery method for birthday gifts, so I opened it with some vague hope of a check or gift card. (Theirs was the only card I got via actual snail mail.) It was empty. If you refer to my previous post, this was a message from my mother. You don't gift us in a way we expect? No gift for YOU!

Yeah, I know it's petty. Yes they are in their 70s or older. No, it wasn't totally unexpected. But it still hurt. A lot. By yesterday morning, I was a wreck. I sat down and wrote a letter to my mom. I haven't sat down to write an actual snail-mail letter in many years. I unburdened myself in a cathartic outpouring of emotion, tears and hurt. Then I set the letter aside. I wanted to just stuff it in an envelope and send it immediately but wisdom prevailed. Best to sit on these things for a day or two and revisit them in a more calm state.

My mom made it a point in a more recent phone call to let me know that I "forgot" to get her a birthday gift. It's all a matter of perspective. See, spending weeks trying to convince Tyler to get in a car for 6 hours to go visit his grandma for her birthday was a major undertaking. The whole family getting into a van and heading north at a cost of $70 per fill up (we needed 2), food on the road, sleeping in strange beds...then a pricey gift certificate to her favorite restaurant that, yes, was partly a Christmas gift too because we can't AFFORD more than was all her gift. But she didn't see it that way. Nope. I forgot. gift for me. Bad daughter. BAD BAD daughter. *sigh*

I'm still on the fence about sending that letter.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How does she DO that?!

I got a call from my Mother last weekend. Apparently my taste in birthday cards sucks. She called my card to my Dad "offensive." Ouch. And my gift? They "didn't get it." I put a lot of time and thought into that gift too. Tried to find something truly unique and personal. Usually I just send food or books to my Dad. You can bet your sweet bippy that is what I'll be doing going forward. Or maybe it's time to just stop gifting? Can you be too old to appreciate birthdays and gifts?

I dunno. All I know is my mother really hurt my feelings with that phone call. She made me feel small, stupid and thoughtless. How does she DO that?! I am almost 50 years old, but after 20 minutes on the phone with her, I feel about 12.

I sent an apology note to my Dad. Tried to keep the snark to a minimum (anyone who knows me knows how hard THAT was.) I just wanted to convey my thought process in card and gift choices, how mom's call made me feel, the fact that I was still feeling hurt, and that I was sorry if I really did make him feel that badly (or it could all just be a typical Mom exaggeration.) Plus I told him I was proud of him and his years of service to our country.

That's something I never get from them...the sense that they are proud of me. I just get this constant barrage of disapproval and disappointment. I sure hope my boys don't ever feel that way. I'm going to check in with them and see.

I am VERY proud of my boys.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

I have my ebola boy back!

I was awoken at 3am with the sound of a door slamming and running feet pounding down the hallway. I stumbled groggily to my bathroom (because I always have to go as soon as I wake up) and waited for the knock on my door. I heard commotion in the kitchen. Then the hall bathroom. No knock.

I crawled back into bed knowing something was up but if teen boy wasn't asking for help, I'd let him sort it. An hour later, I was still awake and still hearing noises periodically. I gave up and got out of bed. I knocked on Tyler's door to see if he was ok. He was wide awake and asked for eggs. He sounded congested, but in good spirits.

I headed for the kitchen and found the trashcan overflowing with red-stained paper towels and splatters of red on the kitchen sink, cabinets, and floor (I have an all white kitchen.) When Tyler came looking for his eggs, I asked about the paper towels. "Oh. I had a really bad bloody nose."

Eww. I was afraid it was something gross. Why he ran for the kitchen I can only guess...his first thought was paper towels?

I turn to the fry pan and continue cooking and hear Ty blowing his nose behind me. He shoves the used paper towel in my direction and says "See?! Blood!" then takes a smear of it on his finger, runs the blood down from the corner of his eye and yells "Look Mom! I have ebola!"

Most people would gag. Me? I laughed. Why? I most certainly do have empathy for anyone infected with that dreaded disease. I laughed because my boy has his snarky, irreverent sense of humor back. This means he is finally nearly recovered from his bout with the flu.

Trust me, it's a good thing. I do have to say, however, than if you plan to become a Mom, a strong stomach is a necessity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Just when you see a light...

...that's when you realize it's not the end of the tunnel, it's just an oncoming TRAIN. So, my mother-in-law had a bad fall at home. She broke her shoulder in, as her doctor so nicely said, the worst most painful spot you can break it. John spent a week at her house helping out, which meant a week without Daddy here at home. Not gonna lie, it was rough. Then my MIL went to stay with her other son for a bit. But he has travel for work and they want to re-do the bathroom... Hubby has to travel for work too, but he got "can't you just reschedule it?" Yeah. No. Do we want the Daddy to vanish for another week or two? No!

Therein lies the dilemma. We have a 3 bedroom house. All the bedrooms are occupied. We kinda have a guest space down in the basement...but as I've mention before it's COLD and there is no bathroom down there. Plus 2 flights of stairs. So, we displace one of the boys and give grandma his room so she has easy access to the hall bathroom (which is too small to negotiate with a walker, remember.) Tyler? No. He won't change beds for a week or two. He hardly leaves his room. Max? He is willing but too scared to sleep downstairs by himself. So Hubby will move down there too and sleep with Max. But that means he won't hear his mother if she needs help at night. I guess I'll be sleeping with my door open and dealing with the cat jumping on my head all night long.

Next dilemma? I have barely managed pain levels. I get through my day with carefully managed spurts of activity followed by 30-60 minute rest periods. Is the house ready for company? I live with 3 boys. Hell no. We haven't been company ready since before Max was born. Here is an example of why I can't keep the house up. I spent 2 days cleaning my bedroom so I could move around without tripping. Available floor space! Within minutes of finishing with my new vacuum, Max was in there playing basketball/kickball. Then the animals started moving in. Then more toys and some books. In less than 3 hours I couldn't see the floor. Now picture this accelerated entropy happening throughout the entire house.

You guess it. We don't have clear floor space anywhere. It's covered with stuff and there are paths through it. Some of these paths are wide enough to accommodate me. Where they aren't I just don't go to that part of the house. There are many parts of the house that I just don't go to anymore. I threw up my hands and said NOPE a long time ago. Once upon a time, I would have said we were a happy but cluttered home - it was just a lack of neatness and organization. Now? Oh it's dirty. If I can't even walk there, then no way a vacuum or mop is going there.

John told me years ago to hire some help...get a cleaning service. Yeah. If I can't even walk into a space, how is a stranger going to CLEAN it? I used to laugh when my mother would make me clean before her cleaning woman arrived at the house. Now I get it. You have to clear off every surface, pick up all loose items from the floor and then get out of the way. I can't clean my kitchen counters or table because it is COVERED with stuff. I've finally managed to put away the bags and bags of groceries that were sitting on the floor because of a lack of pantry space (I'm the only one who throws away expired food items. I found fruit snacks and granola from 2013 today.)

Yes, I am easily overwhelmed. If I can't even see where to start, my eyes glaze over and I stare helplessly until I need to sit down. That happens a lot.

Get the boys to help me, you say? Yeah. Max is given lots of little jobs I know he can handle. But we will no sooner pick up a spot and he is putting something back into it. "Max! We just picked that spot up!" "Oh. Right." The item moves to another more cluttered spot. Poor kid has no idea how to be organized. He's certainly not going to learn it from us. Tyler doesn't clean. Not going to happen. John works full time and helps me with the laundry in his off times. Other major cleaning? Uh, no. At least, not until we realized his MOM was coming to stay. He's been cleaning his ass off with me for days now. I am shooting for sorta clean but crazy cluttered by Friday. Pray for us.

Thursday, January 08, 2015


I've been in a downward spiral for a while now. Healthy habits have fallen by the wayside and my weight has slowly crept upward. It took a while for the family to start noticing the change in me. See, I don't broadcast my feelings much. I crawl deeper into my self, get quiet, retreat from the world slowly, eat poorly, sleep more...and the fog of depression gets thicker and thicker. Am I sad? I think so. But serious depression is more about the inability to feel...anything. I am moving through waist deep sludge, can't focus, everyday tasks seem so so hard, I am tired all the time and I just want to be left alone.

Rather hard when you have young people counting on you. I don't even get to use the bathroom alone most days.

Yes, humor is still my go-to way to try and lighten the oppressive cloud that surrounds me. I cherish every smile. Everything that manages to pull a laugh out of me. Laughter is in very short supply these days. When I heard the news about Robin Williams and most people reacted with "why" and "he was so great" and "he had everything to live for - despite the dire diagnosis on his future health" yadda yadda yadda...I just nodded to myself, cried, and understood.

The desire to just have it all stop. The world, demands, expectations, life, stress, and on and on - it can get to be too much for some. Is it a selfish act? I suppose. But some may argue that family/friends would be better off without the depressed person in their lives. Heck, I've had an angry teenager tell me that fairly often recently.

But I don't have time for this. I have a teen who might have pink eye but won't let me look at his eye a second time because I didn't see what he wanted me to the first time. I have an 8 year old who needs me to pick him up at school in 2 hours. I have to feed these small humans. I may have to do battle with autism yet again and convince the teen to see the eye doctor. I can't even get him to go to school or do any school or home work. He doesn't care if he repeats 7th grade (or so he says.) School is a waste of time. He is already in a special school environment...if they can't get him to do work (and they are trained to work with kids like my special teen) then how am I supposed to get him to perform? He's not a trained monkey. He will not be threatened, bribed, guilted, or begged into doing anything he doesn't want to do. Period.

I digress. I sit. I wallow. I dwell. I rehash. I despair. I sag. I hurt. I cry.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Our House

The first place John and I lived in was a tiny, one-bedroom house we rented in Denville. We really liked Denville. It was a sleepy little bedroom community with an adorable downtown area, cute shops, convenient train station, respected hospital, good schools...pretty much an ideal place to live. The problem? We couldn't afford to buy a house there. Oh sure, we probably could have purchased the house we were renting at the time, but it was a cottage with no room to grow a family.  One bedroom and one bathroom just wasn't going to work once we started a family. And we did plan to start a family. We talked about 3 or more kids!

So we worked (often 12 hour days) and scrimped and saved and payed down our debts...but time passed and I really wanted to have a baby. Were we ready? John didn't think so. We still didn't have enough saved to buy even a starter home. See, houses in New Jersey within any reasonable commute to NYC are VERY expensive. But then something amazing happened.

John's grandma Sophie had been living on her own down in Florida for a number of years, but her health was starting to fail. Long story short, she moved in with my in-laws and, when it became apparent that this was going to be a permanent situation, she went to work selling her Florida retirement home. Through a series of sad circumstances, eventually it became necessary to find a nursing home for Sophie. The problem? She had a sizable nest-egg in the bank and any decent home in the area would require her to turn over her assets to put toward her care. Sure, she might go on living for many more years, but she wanted to leave something to her family. So she decided to give each of her grand-kids a gift. We were elated when she gave us this money. With what we had saved, it was finally enough to make a decent down-payment on our first house. Or so we thought.

One last thing before I get to the really useful information. At that time, the internet was just starting to build. I was using dial-up and AOL to get online. (Yes, we are ancient.) Did I think to search for tips for first time home buyers? Nope. Not really. I was more focused on finding the lowest interest rate loan possible! We were pretty confident that it was just going to take a lot of looking and patience to find just the right place. So we found a Realtor, gave him a price range based on what the bank said we could afford, and started hunting. And hunting. And hunting. Wow, what an eye-opening experience. What we could "afford" was horrifying. But I'm pretty sure I've written about our house hunting experiences here before. You can't un-see orange shag carpet and avocado appliances. (What the HECK were they thinking in the 70's?!)

1. So yes, first and foremost, know what you want! You could start house-hunting blindly, like we did, until you figure that out, but the neat thing about the internet these days is you can look at houses inside and out ONLINE! You can get a good idea of what is in your price range before you ever leave the house. Amazing!

2. We decided to go with new construction. Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Kudos to you, if you are! You have lots more options, especially if you are a first time home buyer. You can work with the seller to get into the house and paint, change carpet, redo floors, etc. BEFORE you move in your furniture and belongings. Once all your stuff is in the way, it gets a lot harder to do things. We are not Home Depot people. So...

3. New construction is great if you don't have the time or skill to change out light fixtures, rip out carpet, install hardwood, refinish cabinets, etc. You get to pick all these things out before your house is even finished. However, the choices can be really overwhelming. Visit remodeling and home design centers. Look at lots of photos online of kitchens and bathrooms. Do your homework and think about your future needs!

     a) When we were making our choices, the hot and popular kitchen choice was all white cabinets and white appliances with marble counter-tops and low maintenance solarian (vinyl) flooring to match. Bright, clean and spiffy. Don't do it. Almost 15+ years later and the cabinets are stained with years of splatter that we can't get clean. The floors showed every bit of soil from day 1. Hard wood in a kitchen, while it looks nice, is also a really bad choice. As is slate (really hard on the feet and back.) Most kinds of wood + exposure to water just don't mix. We've replaced our dishwasher. Trust me, when a dishwasher goes bad, it goes very very bad. Water, water everywhere. White appliances? Also a bad idea. Again, with the stains. Every bit of splatter and soil is highly visible. I am still bummed that we missed the whole stainless steel fad. If I had it to do over again, my cabinets would be like this:

High gloss, easy to clean, with stainless steel accents and appliances. Not the black counters though. I'd probably go with a dark grey granite. And the floors? That's not wood! It's tile that LOOKS like wood. Greatest invention ever.

     b) Carpet. Carpet is an economical choice, but if you can afford it, get hardwood right from the start. Something sustainable like bamboo flooring would be my choice. What did we pick? Well, in my defense, we did not have any kids at the time. We were young, in an empty house full of possibilities and I went with pretty, airy and light choices. Pale sage green, white berber, pale beige... add 2 boys and multiple cats and you know what you get? Stains! Horrible, awful, disgusting stains. Don't get me wrong, the berber has stood the test of time! I just wish I'd gotten a nice shade of speckled brown or grey. Got pets? Kids? Then hardwood or mid-range colors are best. Dark colors will show lint and hair.
See? Pretty pretty bamboo...wears like iron and ages nicely.
     c) Furniture. Here is where we actually made some good choices. We got a sectional sofa from a respected furniture maker (Ethan Allen) and picked a modern plaid/geometric fabric with stain guard. That sofa has been to hell and back and is a bit frayed, but it does NOT look stained. Entertainment center is solid oak and is also in great shape. The only problem? It's HEAVY and BIG. So, now that I want to get rid of the stained and hideous carpet? We can't move that sucker. I'm sure the berber under it is in perfect condition. Maybe someday the floor guy can just cut away around it...leave a little berber island and put in my bamboo everywhere else? Maybe? Might look interesting. So, go modular. Something you can break down and carry around the house easily. You'll thank me later!

     d) Closets. You'll be tempted to cut corners there. A rod with a shelf above it? Good enough, right? No. There are closet companies out there for a reason! California Closets! Seriously. A well organized closet with lots of storage options is a sanity saver. We could fit SO much more into our nice walk-in closet if only I'd given it a little thought.

Yes! yes yes yes!

So there you have it. Lessons learned. Oh, and if you have the option to get a nice front porch? Do it! You'd be surprised how many times I've wished there was room for a rocking chair or swing out front. And the deck! We got the builder's standard model and it ended up barely serviceable. We should have gotten bigger. With a patio under it. And stairs. It would be nice to have more than one way to enter our kitchen.

4) Finally, we come to my biggest regret. Years ago, when my eldest was still small, we decided to finish the basement into a playroom. We'd had the foresight when we built the house to take the "walk-out" basement upgrade (extra windows and a slider to the back yard) and requested roughed-in plumbing for a future half bath. The builder forgot our plumbing. They poured the foundation and we were stuck. Lesson? Watch your new construction carefully! We caught several other errors before things got permanent, but not that plumbing snafu. *big sigh* Why was this so important? We brought in a respected contractor to finish off an office space, add a guest bedroom, and put in floors, walls, ceiling (tiles, so we have access to plumbing and ducts - VERY important!) and moldings. Painted and did lighting too. Bathroom? Nope. Not without adding one on to the back of the house at great expense. Solid slab down there. No way to put in plumbing now. That office space off the guest bedroom would have made a perfect guest bath too. *big sigh* Other problem? Heating/cooling. It's a big space down there. It really needs its own zone, but we have just one thermostat. In our upstairs hallway. What does that mean? It's fricken freezing down in the playroom and guest room. All. Year. Round. Heat rises so in the winter, it's a meat locker. Summer? The air conditioning works REALLY well down there while the upstairs is still relatively warm. Meat locker again. We had guests stay in our guest room a couple times, but once they figured out the only bathroom was up 2 flights of stairs in the hallway? And they froze their asses off? Yeah. We don't have guests anymore. Plus the boys don't stay downstairs for long to play. It's fricken FREEZING down there. So the beautiful playroom has slowly reverted back into a basement. Full of random junk and toys.

I should have had the contractor put in storage cabinets downstairs too. Shelves. That would have been good. I bought some later but they are pre-fabs. Hardwood pre-fabs. I managed to put together a corner armoire desk unit with the thought that the kids could use it for homework and gaming in the future...but it was back breaking work and no one ever uses it. I have shelves and a tv/entertainment unit still in boxes waiting to be assembled. Years have gone by now. Still in boxes.

So many regrets. Maybe when Tyler gets a wee bit older, I'll put him to work constructing the rest of the furniture for downstairs. I figure one day soon he might be interested in taking that bedroom downstairs. Teenagers, you know. That playroom would make a great hangout spot too. The kids could all wear parkas and gloves while watching the big screen or gaming. Yeah. It could work. ;) I just fear all the peeing out the back door will kill the grass. :p

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stargate Universe - Part 2

Well, it took all of Season 1 and a good chunk of Season 2 to finally invest me in SG-U, but I got there. By episode 20, I was sobbing at the end. (I love you, Eli!) Did I dare to go looking for Season 3 knowing full well that the show was probably cancelled? I dared. It was cancelled, as I suspected.


Well, similar to Firefly, maybe the fans can talk SyFy into doing a made-for-tv movie with a satisfying ending to the show. For the fans. For me. Do it for ME, SyFy!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Stargate Universe

I've recently binge watched every season of Stargate:SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. Love them. So I thought I'd give Stargate Universe one more try.

Universe is one branch of the Stargate series' that I was never quite able to get into when it first aired. Back then, when John Scalzi let us know he was going to be a creative consultant on the series, I was excited! He rocks! Then I saw the first few episodes and, frankly, hated it. I wasn't sure just wasn't floating my boat.

Now that I have watched the first 3 episodes again, I have figured it out. Stargate to me has meant lighthearted fun and a shining example of the best of humanity fighting against impossible odds and nearly always winning. Sure there was tragedy and some low points where certain humans let their peers and team down, but someone else was always there to clean up the mess and make everything ok,

I think Universe was trying to be more like the Battlestar reboot - gritty realism and hard sci-fi. Loads of people like that, don't get me wrong (I loved Battlestar) but in the Stargate universe, watching people be...PEOPLE was very off-putting. If I want to watch people be dicks in a crisis, horde food, backstab and just fall apart, I'll turn on the evening news. I know how people usually are. That's real life. I guess I don't want too much real in my evening entertainment.

The story line has grabbed my attention this time. I'll keep watching and see if it grows on me. It'll be just my luck...I'll start to love it and bam, the series was cancelled. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Nervous in the Service

I was lounging in bed earlier, reading a new book when the cat decided to join me. He paced around, up and down my body (ouch, bony little feet) and circled trying to find his "spot". I got exasperated and burst out with, "What's the matter? You nervous in the service?!"  Then chuckled to myself. That is one of my Dad's old expressions. He used to say that to me, occasionally, and to my brother a LOT. It's especially funny because I have seriously fidgety kids and have NEVER (in my memory) said this to them. Curious.

I wondered about the origins of the expression. I do recall Ruby Rhod saying it in The Fifth Element (one of my fav movies) and chuckling over it every time. But my Dad is an old this expression must go WAY back.

I finally found a reference to it through a web search that attributes the phrase to a marching song from WWII, sung by women in the armed forces, with the stanza "If you're nervous in the service, And you don't know what to do / Have a baby, get out of the Navy." I also found a song from the era called To A Wave that may have been the source for that marching nonsense rhyme.

If you're nervous in the service and you don't know what to do,
If you're hurried and you're worried and you're feelin' kind o' blue,
If you're bleary and you're weary and you wish the war was through,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the regimentation,
And you'd like to return to civilization,
I can help you, pretty Wavey,
If you'd like to leave the Navy,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the color that you're wearing every day,
And you'd like to dress in violet or even cruiser grey,
If you'd like to leave the Waves, but you're afraid they'll make you stay,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the work you're allotted,
And you're looking for a discharge...I've got it,
You'll be feeling like a million,
And you'll wind up a civilian,
Have a baby on me.

If you're sick of all the mashers with the braid along the sleeve,
If you gotta act like Garbo just to get a weekend leave,
If you're tired of the Adams who've decided you're their Eve,
Have a baby on me.

Why bother with a two day vacation,
I can get you home for the duration,
You might get a bit distended,
But your troubles would be ended,
Have a baby on me.

Oscar Brand

Yep, comedy gold. Amazingly sexist too, but consider the era. So that was my history lesson for the day.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Parent Politics

I've never been very good at "parent politics". I'm awkward under the best of circumstances so when put into an already awkward situation, I just freeze up. 

Max has a birthday coming up and in past years I always insisted that we invite everyone in his class and Max was happy with that. Last year he had a couple issues with certain kids, but he's so easy going he didn't mind if they came to his party. This year, he put the hammer down. He has a strict "be kind" policy and if you act like a "jerk" to him or any of his other classmates, then no party invite. He was adamant. 

I said, "Isn't leaving certain kids out sorta unkind too?" He said, "Why would I want to reward them for being a joik?" (Yes, he pronounces the word "jerk" like a 1930s gangster. No idea where that accent came from. lol) *sigh* So today I watched Max ambush his friends after school to give them party invites (passing them out in class isn't allowed.) One kid who was at his party last year but wasn't invited this year kind stood by and watched as others got invites but he didn't. I winced at the expression on his face. 

As Max climbed into the van, I had to double check with him...was he SURE he didn't want to invite so-and-so? Nope. No dice. Apparently just that day this kid had grabbed another child's hand and slammed it into the back of Max's head during gym. Not cool. No invite for you. *double sigh*

John is quite friendly with this kid's mom. I know that not being invited to the party will probably get back to her (if she didn't already notice the awkward moment at pickup today...since she was there.) What would YOU do in this situation? I feel like we should say something to her so she knows why her kid is being excluded. But how do you nicely tell someone their kid is being kinda jerky this year to his classmates without sounding like "My kid can't stand your kid anymore. What can ya do?" See? Awkward.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Minivan Conversations

Being an introvert in a house full of fellow introverts (except poor Max, who is extroverted to the...well...max) it is pretty rare that more than 2 of us are together for longer than a minute or two, without distractions, to just talk.

Today it was Tyler and I sitting in the van after school, waiting for Max to exit the building (Ty gets out earlier than Max) and we got into an animated conversation about, what else, video games. But then things started to get super interesting. Tyler quoted Einstein and started applying the Theory of Relativity to the Super Mario universe and certain games therein and talked about how time slows down the closer you approach the speed of light, and how one of the characters in one of the games was aging at a slower rate because she was traveling so fast and only appearing in Mario's world once ever 100 years without aging that much...and so on.

Then he went off on a tangent about how he strongly feels time travel is possible which sparked an animated discussion about faster than light travel and the difficulties that would present to human flesh when it comes to acceleration and g-forces. Then another tangent about the many worlds theory and quantum mechanics featuring a trans-dimensional travelling Mario and Luigi. Then a tangent about the evilness of Megaman and his breaking Asimov's First Rule of Robotics.

Really, our conversation left me a little dizzy and Max (who had joined us at some point) completely lost and only able to offer his opinion that Sonic the Hedgehog is probably not as fast as The Flash, but he did gamely try and throw in his 2 cents now and again. (He is only 7 and needs a bunch more sci-fi book, movie and tv exposure to catch up. LOL)

I love my boys and moments like this are solid gold in my book. I love how Tyler's mind works. I hope we keep finding new ways to engage and challenge him and that he continues to share his brilliance with me in these rare and quiet moments of deep conversation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I am Princess Jellyfish

I'm sure I've blogged about this deep affection for Japanese animation (anime). I adored Speed Racer and Star Blazers as a kid and the love never faded. I still love to watch good anime to this day. Lately, I've been looking for something. I had such a strong connection to certain shows when I was younger, but I don't have a crush on Speed Racer anymore.

Over the years various friends have raved about certain movies and series, so I would watch and typically I would agree. They were good. But I was still looking for something. I wasn't sure what.

I found it tonight!

The kids were in bed and I was done binge-watching True Blood, so, what do I watch now? I watched a few more episodes of Heaven's Lost Property. Meh. It's good. Weird (which I like) and somewhat funny. But...not IT. Black Butler...also good. Super weird and twisted. Also not IT. Then I found Princess Jellyfish.

This is IT! Tsukimi is my long lost twin. Awkward, paralyzed in social situations, intimidated by super beautiful people...she is otaku. Just like me. Geeky, nerdy, yadda yadda. Finally, a character who speaks to the me I was at age 16 or so.

She made me realize something critical. Thank goodness the internet, as it exists today, did NOT exist back when I was a teen. I would have found my own tribe of like-minded girls online to hang with and I'd probably never have met a nice guy or gotten married. Not that my life would have been BAD if that were the case, but I am rather fond of my life now.

If you are a shy otaku girl reading this right now, I encourage you to take a risk now and then. Put yourself out there. I know it's scary! But things worked out pretty well for me. And I am still Princess Jellyfish on the inside. :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Star Wars Trading Cards!

Yes! It's so exciting, I'll say it again! STAR WARS TRADING CARDS!

Why am I yelling about the above twice mentioned cards? When I was 11-14 years old, Stars Wars was new. (Yes, I am that old.) It was new, exciting, and it captured my science fiction loving brain like no other film or television show had before. Why? Luke Skywalker and Han Solo... *sighs dreamily*  Oh I fell deeply in girlhood crush with those dashing fictional heroes. Hard core.

If it had anything Star Wars on it, I wanted it. Unfortunately, my mother didn't see the appeal or understand my all consuming obsession. I wanted a Star Wars lunch box. "That's for boys!" I didn't get one. But I think my brother might have. :( I wanted action figures and the big play sets! "That's for boys!" My brother got some, but I had to spend my babysitting money and buy my own Luke and Leia (keep in mind we didn't know they were brother and sister, yet! Sorry...spoiler alert!) They never got together on the big screen, but they did many many times in my Barbie Dream House. *cue cheezy 70s porn music*

Oh grow up. Most of their clothes were molded plastic and non-removable. ;)

Where was I? Oh cards! Fast forward to present day:  My brother was cleaning out my old bedroom and came across a shoe box stuffed with old hosiery. My mother handed me the box when I was up for a visit, apparently to see if I wanted to keep my old pantyhose from the 80s. *chuckles* I was ready to toss the whole box into the trash! Good thing I looked inside.  Under the hose I found THESE!

Rewind back to 1977 again! One thing I could afford were packs of Topps trading cards. Just like the baseball cards, the Star Wars cards came in these wax paper wrapped packages that included around 8-10 cards, sometimes a sticker and a stick of bubblegum.  My friends would make fun of that gum calling it "card board" and making wild claims that you could cut your tongue with it...but I loved that gum. It would shatter in my mouth on the first bite but would later soften. Good stuff!

But the cards! Oh how I loved those cards. I'd buy them every chance I got. Eventually, I found a friend in the neighborhood who was also collecting them. We would get together and trade our duplicates to each other. We both wanted a complete set of cards and would painstakingly put all our cards in numerical order. That's how I ended up with 2 of the "blue with stars" bordered cards (the original 1st series of cards from the first movie) and one card with a green border featuring Luke Skywalker (*sighs dreamily*). They are the oddballs in my collection but I'm really happy I have them.

My collection stops in 1980 when I abruptly stopped buying. Why? I can only speculate. I was a freshman in high school then. Maybe I thought those cards were just for kids? Maybe I was too busy being a teen with all the associated drama? Maybe I found more important things to spend my hard earned cash on? Who knows. I was a dumb teen. All I know is, there are no more cards in my collection after the 1980 Empire Strikes Back cards. I have a lot of those. Almost two complete sets - red and blue borders. I'm bummed I don't have any from Return of the Jedi. *grumbles* Stupid teenage me.

But what to do with all those nifty cards!? I had hundreds of them in that box. I brought the box home and lovingly put the cards into piles by type, then sorted them into numerical order just like I did when I was 12. They are in such great shape, I can almost smell the scent of bubblegum on them, but I knew they wouldn't stay that way for long in a house with 2 curious and somewhat careless boys.

It also hit me that one of those boys is 12. Yes, that very age I was transported back to while looking at my totally nifty and cool trading cards. Holy cow! I wonder what memories will stand out in his mind about this age one day in the distant future. I need to get that boy some comics or trading cards, stat!

Where was I? Oh yes, what to DO with my cards. I knew they must be preserved, but I didn't know anything about modern day card care. I vaguely recalled flipping through albums of cards at a Star Trek con years maybe a photo album or something?  I popped on to Amazon and BAM, it was overwhelming! So...much...card...stuff!  Snap cases, cases with screw-on tops, slip covers, album pages of all sizes, albums, yadda yadda.  Soon I learned buzz words like "penny sheets" and "top loaders". After hours of research, I decided on penny sheets, 9 card top loaders and a nice generic D-ring collector's album (like a 3 ring binder, only made to keep the sheets flat and from bending, rolling or crimping your cards.)

Tada! Isn't it beautiful?! Now we can safely flip through the collection and read the cards, front and back. I find myself wondering if I should go to another convention, bring my binder, and maybe see if I can get someone interesting to sign it. I love being a nerd.