Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nikon Coolpix S3600

In case anyone was wondering what nifty little purchase I made on Prime Day... I got a Coolpix S3600. It's pink on the front and purple on the back! *squee* It fits into my purse better than my cheapy "smart" phone does and has better specs than my full sized DSLR. Which is kinda sad. But I'm happy to have something very light weight and easily portable. 



Now for the bad parts. The internal memory holds 5 (FIVE!) pictures and it didn't come with an SDHC card. That stinks, but it was quickly remedied. (Those little cards are pretty cheap these days.) The next problem came when I tried to off-load the 5 (FIVE!) whole photos I took. I plugged the USB cable into my hub and the entire hub powered down. Boom. 

Harrumph. 

So I juggled plugs and moved the cable to one of my front USB outlets. Boom, all the front ports shut down. WTF. One visit to the Nikon website later and the less than helpful help article recommends I use an available REAR USB port. Why?! For gosh sakes, whyyyy?? 

Double Harrumph. 

This is going to take some gymnastics and major cable wrangling... wish me luck. I should have gotten the newest version of this little gem. It has WIFI. WI-freakin-FI. Dang it. But hey, it was cheap. tongue emoticon and PINK.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Job Search

So after my FaceBook post on modern job-search techniques and looking for help for my unemployed friends, I decided to take a peek at listings for myself. Why? Well...after busting my ass in the working world for decades, I took 13 years off to do one of the world's best 24x7 jobs - mothering. But that gig doesn't pay well and all my friends' awesome vacation photos are making me insanely jealous. That vacation thing looks GREAT and we haven't been able to afford one in many years.

I spent over an hour last night combing through hundreds of job listings and only found 2 that even remotely appealed to me. One was as a sales associate at Barnes and Noble. Because...books! Everyone knows how much I lurve my books and the thought of sharing that daily with other book lovers was very appealing. Until I saw the fine print at the bottom that mentioned lots of bending (nope), lifting (nope), standing (NOPE), and occasional cleaning of the toilets (nope nope nope I won't even clean the boy's bathroom without a hazmat suit...so a public bathroom is a no go.)

Then there was the listing that said I could do the job from home and they needed someone IMMEDIATELY. It was the shortest job ad I've ever seen. One sentence that asked for intelligence (check), computer proficiency (check), and a high level of knowledge in 2 things I'd never heard of - Sterling Order Management (I Googled it - it's an inventory management database thingy) and something called SIM (no idea). [insert sound of penalty buzzer]  I could probably figure out the database pretty quickly, but they want someone who is already an expert. Rats.

So the search continues.

Anyone want to hire a disabled work-from-home person with mad computer skillz? I'm happy to work nights. Teen boy has me up half the night, most nights, anyway. :D *sigh* Back to the search.

My dream job would be at home, on the computer, but I'd also love a job where I had to wear a superhero (or villain) costume, in a wheelchair or other less mobile but seated position, using a computer or hand-held device, that had to do with books, writing, comics, movies, photo taking/editing, or music. There's a job like that, right?

Friday, July 03, 2015

How To Flunk English

The husband has been cleaning out a crawl space that has basically gone untouched since the year we moved into this house. He brought me the contents of a box that contained items from my high school years. One folder contained a bunch of term papers, essays, and other writing assignments from various classes. From an English class, I found this comic gem -

How To Flunk English
October 24, 1982


The many ways to aid you in flunking English come under two basic subjects: flunking at school and flunking at home. Flunking at school is relatively easy. In the area of class participation, there is one basic rule to follow - never raise your hand and always say you do not know the answer when your English teacher calls on you. The second area is class work. Have several excuses ready if your teacher catches you not taking notes or day dreaming (spacing out) in class. For example, when you are caught not taking notes, tell your teacher that pens burn your hands because you are very sensitive. If he or she catches you day dreaming, tell him that you are into transcendental meditation...


Oh how I wish I'd continued that essay. It was left incomplete, sadly. I was hilarious! ;)


Edit: I found a finished copy deeper in the box! Continuing...

...for relaxation and you need to relax because of your frayed nerves. Additionally, listening for your teacher to say "um" or use other grammatical and speech errors while he/she is lecturing can help you to ignore the topic of his speech.

At certain times during the school year, your teacher will pass out an object called a "test". Avoid writing anything on this at all costs. Naturally, after a certain amount of time, your teacher will ask you to stop by after school to discuss your difficulties with him. Do not avoid this meeting. On the contrary, go see him/her and be prepared to be very confused and stupid (on purpose, of course.) This way you can complain to your parents about the communication problem you have with your teacher.

At home, flunking English can be relatively simple. When you go home either never take your text book home, or don't open it if you do. Studying for a test or going over your notes (hopefully you will not have any notes) is the wrong thing to do. Asking your parents for help with your English homework IS a sure way to get everything wrong. Parents have not been to school in such a long time that they do not remember half the things they are supposed to know.

If you do bring home your English book by accident, you can still put it to good use. Use it as a plate for your onion and garlic sandwich while you work hard on your algebra homework.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Because...Science!

"Mom? I'm bored." 

I think to myself...and so it begins. 

"Can we do a science experiment?" 

Oh good! I've got some of those. I dig through our collection of Magic School Bus science club mailings and read off the choices. Bacteria and Fungi? No. Weather experiments? Yes! Build your own weather station...sounds fun! So we get to work. 

An hour later we have a wind vane, a rain gauge, a thermometer, a wet sponge (something about air saturation/100% humidity and rain), and two bottles connected together that are supposed to show a "vortex" or indoor tornado. I think we did that one wrong. 

After reading all the interesting facts and filling out the scientist's workbook, Max says, "Mom? Weather is boring..."

Maybe we'll try Bacteria and Fungi next. *gulp* 

Imagines our house as ground zero for a new plague outbreak. With zombies. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

McDonald's Breakfast

Once upon a time, I would swing through the McDonald's drive-thru several times each week on my way to work. I looked forward to those thick and juicy sausage patties, crispy hash browns, and generous portions of scrambled eggs. Or I'd choose a nice sausage McMuffin with egg - the egg would be perfectly round and thick after being cooked to perfection in a form on the griddle and the muffin was high quality (like a Thomas' English Muffin), brushed with butter after being lightly toasted. In other words, quality ingredients made the same way, every day, hot and fresh. I could count on it.

Then things began to change. The sausage patty got smaller and thinner. The portion of scrambled eggs got smaller and smaller. The hash browns were no longer crisp on the outside and soft inside...they were just mushy and often squashed into a greasy stain at the bottom of my bag, all glued to that sad paper sleeve. The egg McMuffin? The egg was no longer cooked perfectly round and thick, it turned into a sad shriveled little yolk with only the slightest amount of white clinging to it. And the so-called muffin - ick! It had been substituted with this crumbly bun-like substitute that fell apart at my first bite. It was more like a biscuit! I hate biscuits. It wasn't even toasted any more. And it tastes horrible. Grainy, doughy and slightly sweet. All wrong.

I stopped going through the drive-thru at McDonalds. Breakfast there is no longer a treat. Sometimes months will go by and I'll kind of forget how bad things have gotten and I'll remember the good times when the food was great. Then I'll run through and grab some breakfast only to be bitterly disappointed.

I think today was my last sausage McMuffin. My heart can no longer take the crushing let-down.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Special Needs Parenting Whine

My blog hasn't been very entertaining, lately. It's gone back to being a therapy tool where I spill out all my frustrations, failings and sadness.  This post isn't going to be amusing either. Sorry.

It's the end of the school year and that means all those fun end-of-the-school-year things. Field Day was an absolute blast for Max and an absolute nightmare for Tyler. Yes, they made him go outside and tried to make him participate. He has learned that the only way to get out of situations that he can't handle is to "play sick". This so called special needs environment he's been in seems to ignore him when he is trying to tell them he can't handle something. So he cries headache or stomach ache and goes to the nurse. Then we get a phone call.

They used to let him call home from his classroom when he was starting to feel overwhelmed, but that suddenly stopped about a month ago. Right about the time his teacher vanished. We still have no idea what happened to her, but who ever took over the classroom obviously has no idea how to help my son. They ignore his requests to call home and do things like send us text messages every day asking for a permission slip or pestering us about whether Tyler will be attending XYZ event. Awards ceremony? No. Crowds + buffet dinner with associated food smells + music + endless presentations and talking = meltdown. Field Day? Yeah. We asked them to exempt him from that event. Why? Bright sunlight + heat + crowds + noise level + loud music + allergies = meltdown. End of year BBQ at some park 30+ minutes away? Bus ride + crowds + sun + heat + noise + BBQ food smells = meltdown. Hello?! DO THE MATH.

How many times do we need to tell them about his sensory issues? No, we are not coddling him. No, we are not letting him "get away with stuff." No, we are not encouraging him to just "stay home, nap, and eat ice cream."  YOU are trying to put him into situations where he just can't cope. Simple. And pestering us with daily text messages and emails and ignoring everything we say about WHY our son won't be participating is not going to push us into changing our minds.

Or is it. Poor John got so worried over the constant push to make Tyler attend the end of year BBQ that he finally broke down and gave permission for Ty to attend ONLY if he could drive him there, personally (thus avoiding the bus) and ONLY if they had the understanding that if Tyler was feeling overwhelmed, John would just take him right back home. The problem? This was the day before the event. Tyler needs at least a week to get used to the idea of needing to be somewhere he doesn't like. Sometimes more time. He'd already been told he didn't need to go to the stupid picnic. Now, they bullied and pestered poor John into telling our boy he was going.

no notice + breaking a promise + being pushed into something = meltdown

Thanks for that. Did he go to the stupid picnic today? Nope. He has barricaded himself in his bedroom, eaten nothing, and refused to go to school. At all. He might not go tomorrow either. Not that it's a big hairy deal. That's the last day. A half-day. But still... None of this drama was necessary.

Get your act together, ILA. You should know better! If you want to have a fun event that is more inclusive, why not have it INDOORS, in an environment the kids are familiar with (like, the school), break the kids up into smaller groups and maybe have something fun in each classroom (chess/board games in one, video games in another, food in another, music and dancing in another, perhaps a short outdoor activity like a water balloon fight) and let the kids choose. Limit the amount of kids in each room and rotate so everyone has a chance with one quiet room for kids who are done and just want to chill.  Tyler would be all over THAT kind of party.

*sigh*

And they wonder why these kids sometimes beat their heads against a wall. Hell, I want to do that now.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

On being poor...

Max told me the saddest thing today. Just because he has pocket money for snacks, his friends think we are wealthy and ask him to buy them things. I said, "I hope you corrected them...because snack money for you is about ALL we can afford. We are so very far from rich." (Plus I just worry about him going hungry all day if he doesn't like what they serve for lunch.)

He told me "No way! If I told them we weren't rich, no one would like me. Nobody likes poor people."

I was horrified and deeply sad that he thinks no one would like him if they knew he wasn't wealthy. I told him no one in our town is "wealthy". If we were truly rich, we'd be living somewhere ELSE. (No offense to my fellow town residents. LMAO But if we won the lottery, we'd be moving to a McMansion compound near the shore.)

I just don't know where/how he picked up on this burden of shame society puts on people from lower income brackets. There is nothing wrong with being from a working class family! Sure, we'd all like to be better off, have nicer stuff, and we play the lottery (I never said we were the smartest of smart people. lol) But I come back to the core of the issue. Pocket money. We always make sure Max has a little spending money. School Store day, in particular, is a big deal. Max LOVES buying the little trinkets from the school store once a month. Is it true that hardly any other parents give a buck or two to their kids, just in case? Is Max really the only kid walking around with $2 in his pocket every day?

I know we had issues over this kind of thing in the past. In Kindergarten, we'd give Max just enough change to buy an ice cream at lunch. There was another child who started begging Max for money. That swiftly turned into demands for money, but a teacher overheard one day and called this child's parents in for a discussion about their child extorting money from our boy. They felt really badly and made the boy pay Max back. We were careful to instruct Max that the money we gave him was HIS and he did NOT have to give it to anyone. Nor should he feel like he had to buy things for people. If his little "friends" told him they wouldn't BE his "friends" if he didn't fork over the cash, then that meant they were not his friends to begin with. No true friend takes your money.

Yes, we had to revisit this in first grade. Max was spending his pocket money on friends and coming home sad because he couldn't afford the snacks he wanted. Or the school store items he craved.

I have a feeling this is going to be an on-going battle. He is a people pleaser and loves being the center of attention. The temptation to "buy" his friends is very strong! I fell into the same trap when I was in 7th grade. I was so desperate to be liked, I spent my hard earned babysitting money on gifts or snacks for girls I wished would be friendly toward me (instead of hateful bitches.) *sigh* And no, it didn't work. It never works. You can't buy real friendship.

Then there is that deeper issue. Where DID Max get the impression that being financially restricted (i.e. POOR) was something to hide? To feel shame over? We can't help where the economy has placed us. Heck, we are luckier than many. John makes just enough that I can stay at home with the boys. We are in debt, can't afford real vacations, and are one paycheck away from total disaster, but we limp along and make it work. I never say "don't tell your friends we can't afford to buy you Under Armor or name brand sneakers!" I have no hesitation in saying we do most of our shopping at Walmart. I've never even seen the inside of a Trader Joe's and I have no problem telling people that.

I'm going to have to dig deeper and see if I can figure out where this is coming from.

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 kids...in 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

Irreplaceable

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 that...it was all her gift. But she didn't see it that way. Nope. I forgot.

So...no 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

Depression

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!
No!











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