Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shopping with Points!

Last year I bought the vast majority of the boys' Christmas presents with my Amazon credit card reward points. I guess it's now an annual tradition! After a feverish Cyber Monday shopping spree, the final bill was $11.68 after I blew all my points. Not too shabby! The boys are older and more sophisticated now, however, so their wish lists were full of expensive gadgets and games. "No boys, I will not get you both a cell phone just like Dad's. Who are you going to call?! Plus it costs $500. Get a job with HP and they will get you the same phone, m'kay?"

The quantity might not be very impressive, but I hope they realize you PAY for quality. We simply don't have the funds to pay for much, these days. John kicked butt on black Friday too. He got some great deals online. Good job, honey! It's nice having help with the shopping.

Now I just have to think of frugal yet thoughtful gifts for the rest of the extended family.  I may skip the annual Christmas card this year.  While it won't break the bank, I am just not feeling it this year. The holidays have started off rough with illness and family conflict. It's hard to muster holiday cheer. Plus I just don't have a great photo to use and I can't bring myself to use a box of generic cards.

Ah well. Gotta get ready to head out for a bit. Maybe I'll get a chance to write more later.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pricks and Prods

Tyler is quickly approaching a difficult phase in his development. He has his first small cluster of pimples. He grows more surly and disagreeable by the day. His tolerance for his younger brother has all but vanished. Sometimes they play together so nicely, but most of the time I have to intervene to prevent a murder. If they both survive this transition, it will be a miracle.

In just over a week, Tyler will become a tween. Folks think teens are hard. No argument there! But this stage has it's own challenges. He feels too old for many things yet is too young for many others. He is frustrated by these limitations. Adults expect more from him based on his age but at the same time are always telling him "you are too young to understand."

Add in Tyler's own personal challenges (Autism Spectrum diagnosis) and you have the impasse I have currently reached. Most days I am able to talk him off the virtual ledge he seems to be perpetually teetering on. Other days, I regret to say, we resort to good old fashioned yelling and "go to your room and cool off!"

He has a bad habit of teasing his little brother and treating him with emotions ranging from disinterest to down right loathing. He picks and pokes until there is a final straw moment where even my sweet happy-go-lucky littlest goes off the deep end. In that instant I get the patented Tyler response of, "Mom! Max attacked me for no reason! I just touched his balloon and he punched me in the stomach!" Or some variation thereof.

Do I really have to repeat to Ty all the things he has done to Max all morning long to push him to this desperate act? Apparently so. Tyler seems to forget all those little pricks and prods, comments and asides, insults and injuries. Max doesn't. He can take a lot of abuse and shake it off. But everyone has their limits.

Max is a sensitive and intuitive little kid, but he is only just turned 6. He is entitled to his own emotions and he will stand up to his big brother fearlessly (then run for his life.) I can't expect him to understand everything Tyler is dealing with. Why Max has to leave the room to eat his tuna. Why he can't turn on so many lights. Why he has to wear headphones to play his games or watch videos on his computer. Why Tyler will just walk into the room and change his channel on the TV without asking. OK. That last one might just be rude. *wink*

Tyler senses that things are easier for Max. People like him, are drawn to him, and cater to him. Tyler, on the other hand, can be abrasive, stand-offish, rude, and off-putting.  People tend to notice that sort of thing and, over time, are less inclined to want to spend time around him. His grandparents are a prime example. Tyler complained this weekend that his grandmother was giving Max things to eat but he was starving. Tyler felt neglected and ignored. He wasn't, really. She did ask him several times if he wanted various things, but he only half paid attention or said no. She doesn't know that we spend endless time each day offering him various things until he finally tells us what he wants to eat. If you don't take that kind of time to push him, I guess he sees it as you not caring about his welfare.

You have to live with him and take the time to get to know his quirks. Tyler is a good kid. He cares about the world around him. He is smart, funny, witty and opinionated. VERY opinionated. He lacks those filters that most people seem to learn and build over time. He doesn't know how to tell a white lie. He doesn't understand why people don't want to hear "that." If he is curious about something, he asks. Rude? Why is that rude? I explain and he files it away. Sometimes he remembers. Usually not. Or he finds that particular social rule "stupid" and ignores it.

I get tired of making excuses for/defending his behavior and trying to explain to family. I often feel our parenting skills are under attack. I get comments like "you should punish him more" or "you shouldn't let him talk/act that way" and many more. It makes me sad that people can't just love Ty for who he is. Why does he have to fit in your box in order to be loved? He's just a kid who wants to be "normal" and loved. It shouldn't be this hard, for either of us.

So, back to the challenges of being a tween. Yes, I have relaxed a couple rules and given Tyler more freedom. He needs to know I trust his judgement and I want to encourage his future independence. But at the same time, he needs boundaries. He can't do whatever he wants, when ever he wants. Ah the never ending battle of parenthood. Finding that balance.

Right now, I am off balance. I hope to find it again soon. Maybe I need to spend more time talking with other parents of kids with special needs. I could use some advice from someone who has been there and done that. I have a few friends with kids on the spectrum, but their kids are all younger than Ty. I'll have to work on this, I think.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is living...

After we checked out of Great Wolf Lodge week before last, we headed home to check on things. Now that some places around us had power, maybe we could tough it out. We could eat out, give up showering for a few days, have a fire in the fireplace and all sleep in one room to share warmth. Cozy, right?

No. It was so cold that Max was crying. After one night we packed our massive pile of dirty clothes and went to my Mother in law's house. She had recently gotten her power back. We stayed for 2 days, ran her washer and dryer almost non-stop, and were generally very underfoot. We forgot the bed in the guest room has a board under the mattress (used to be Great Grandma's room). I woke up bruised. Now THAT is firm! Ouch.

John was scheduled to go to a training class in Baltimore this past week and we had to decide fast what to do. Go with him or stick it out at home. Home was NOT an option. Nor was extending our stay with grandma. We wore out our welcome there.  Luckily John's company said they would make an exception and allow families of employees affected by Sandy to stay in the hotel and eat at their buffet meals. Baltimore, here we come?

John spoke with the event planner to see if they could get a room with enough beds for the family to sleep comfortably. He was ready to cancel his training and go to the last session they offer in December if they couldn't find space for us. The only problem with that other session is it's in Canada and he would miss Tyler's birthday. Not ideal. Less ideal than hauling the family to Baltimore and cramming into yet another hotel room for a week. But poor John was going to need sleep to survive those long days in training. It could get ugly!

Or not. Between the event coordinator and the hotel, they let us know the room had been upgraded to a "suite" and the coordinator was leaving some gifts for the kids to help keep them occupied. So nice! We started looking forward to our next little family adventure. What KIND of suite, we wondered. It's a super nice hotel with Jr. Suites on up to $4000 a night rock star type suites. We expected the junior variety. We got something pretty darn close to rock star level!

Living/Dining room with murphy bed down - master is thru the french doors
I mean, wow. You should see this place. I'll post photos. The view of the inner harbor alone is worth a pretty penny. The gift bags were super nice too. Games, Matchbox cars, playing cards, snacks...the boys were over the moon. Add a super nice indoor pool on the 7th floor, a nice rooftop garden space to play in, and super nice staff in the pub willing to make special order treats for the boys at lunch and they are ready to live here forever.

It's a 5-star hotel with 5-star gourmet food at every meal they serve to the HP folks. I am in heaven! The boys...not so much. They have more of a 1-star level palate. Hence the special hoops the pub staff keep leaping through to keep my boys happy. 5-star service. Gotta love it! Max actually ate chicken Florentine at lunch today. I was tickled! But he had to have fries with it. *sigh* Heh heh.

We've been so blessed through this trying time. I am so grateful to the hotel and HP for giving us a warm place to live this week. I feel so bad for families without options back home. We STILL don't have power at home. John turned off the water to the house before we left. He was afraid of the pipes freezing while we were away because life isn't interesting enough without adding a Nor'easter to the mix. They think it will prevent crews from working on the lines for a couple extra days. Ugh. I really hope the power is on by the time we get home. 2 weeks without is CRAZY! Yes I feel totally spoiled.

UPDATE: We got home Friday night to find the power ON! Thank you to whom ever worked to get Stanhope back on the grid. We appreciate your efforts! And special thanks to hubby's company who decided to send us a generator. It arrived this morning. Yep. We got our power back last night. Didn't I tell you my life was a sit-com? Get this... When the power came back on, our home alarm system also turned on. It immediately registered a "low temp" alert. Duh. 2 weeks without heat in the winter will do that to a house. The alarm company worker who logged the alert in their system put it in as a "medical emergency alert." The local police called the alarm company to verify the alert and ask for the home owner's cell phone number. Did the alarm company tell them it was a low temp alert? No. Furthermore they claimed they didn't have our cell number. Say what? You folks have had that number for 10+ years. The police, acting in good faith, broke into our house to look for someone in trouble. Other than a cold cat (Sparty is perfectly fine) they found the house empty. They secured the side door as best they could and left.

Yeah. Our side door is totally busted in! Scary that someone could just kick in the door like that with very little effort! John was so upset his voice was shaky when he called the alarm company. They had better be ready to pay for damages! What if the alert went out earlier in the week?! Our house would have been open to anyone for days. Imagine. We get home to a cold EMPTY house. That would have been super swell.

Lastly, the cable and internet are still out. So we are using John's MiFi device. My super awesome quad-core, dual raid dream PC is dead. I was in the middle of backing up my data when Sandy took out our power two weeks ago. I have a nice UPS, so I was able to shut down normally. Now the silly box won't boot up. At all. Did I finish my data backup? No. I am using my laptop currently. I was able to get photos off my camera from the last 2 weeks - found a nifty tool on this thing for managing pictures too. I am praying the silly PC is just cold. Maybe after it warms up for 24 hours or so it will start up for me. Hey, I can hope.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sandy? Can't you see? I'm the one in misery...

After two days of the howling mad fury that was hurricane Sandy and a night without power, the husband suggested we get the heck out of Dodge. You see, last year the freak blizzard around Halloween knocked our power out for a week. Now here we are looking at 7 to 10 days without power.  Why sit around and try to ride it out again? We already knew the contents of the refrigerator and freezer were a lost cause. I looked at the tense faces of our boys, considered my own incredibly stressed out state and the first hotel that came to mind was Great Wolf Lodge. Why not turn fleeing from the devastation into something fun and memorable for the boys?

John called the PA lodge to see if they had power and next thing we knew it was time to pack! John knew if we waited for a day or two (as most folks are inclined to do) the hotel would probably fill up with refugees from the storm and we'd most likely be stuck. Best to abandon ship before the deck vanishes beneath the waves!

I do feel guilty seeing the faces of folks on TV stranded by the storm with flooding and other damage, but I am super grateful for power, comfort and a cozy fireplace.

It took us three tries to get out of our own neighborhood. We had to keep turning around and trying other side streets to get to the main road through town. There were trees and power lines down everywhere we looked. The big billboard with the cute kid dropping an expensive cell phone into a toilet (an ad for insurance that we have pondered over and over) was blown down. Road signs ripped in half, a telephone pole leaning precariously over the road just waiting for the next strong wind gust to knock it over completely, homes with missing shingles and siding (like our own home) and even one home with a massive hole in the roof were just some of the signs of hurricane damage we saw as we left.

As I watch the boys leaping over the artificial waves in the wave pool here, I keep picturing images of Sandy hammering the coast of New Jersey and all our old favorite shore hangouts being washed away. I shake my head and smile reassuringly at the boys trying to embrace a sense of normalcy. I know I will look for ways to help friends and neighbors recover from the storm when we are able to return home safely.

Meanwhile I am praying for other storm victims. Huge thanks to all the workers and volunteers flooding in along with FEMA to help New York and New Jersey rebuild and repair after Sandy had her way with us. Stay warm and dry folks!