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 why...it 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 dude...so 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 before...my 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 yes...trading 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 ago...so 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.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


I have vivid memories from when I was a child of my mother saying, "You'll have to forgive her, she is old and set in her ways."  Mom was talking about my grandmothers, invariably, and I had a hard time absorbing that idea. What did it mean? When you got old, you got stuck somehow? You couldn't change your patterns or habits...why? It was baffling.

I used to get excited when new things came out. I always wanted the latest and greatest. Brand loyalty? Meh. This stuff has a NEW scent/color/package! Must have it!

Lately, I find myself getting annoyed when products I've used for a while suddenly change their packaging or smack "new and improved" on the label. I am downright suspicious! What, exactly, is new? The cynic in me says this means they are just using cheaper materials, having the item made overseas somewhere, put half the amount they used to in the box, and charge us a bit more for a bit less.

I remember my grandmother and great aunt would go positively apoplectic when a trusted brand would discontinue an item they liked. Their little world would nearly come to an end if the packaging on their favorite cereal changed one iota. They really were set in their ways to a rather frightening degree. I seem to be following in their footsteps.

I don't care anymore to find something new. I want what I want and no one had better fuss with it! Humph!

Good Lord, I am getting old.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What am I?

Being a mother to two amazing boys through adoption sometimes presents some unique challenges. We are lucky to have an open adoption for my older son with frequent contact with biological family. My younger son, however, is another story. His adoption is considered open because his birth/first mother knows who/where we are and vice versa, but that is where the similarity stops between my two boys. Sadly, we don't have any real ongoing contact with Max's biological family. One day we hope that will change.

Lately, Max has been very curious about his origins and we, frankly, don't have a lot of answers to give him. The genealogical data provided by his bio-mom on the forms she filled out in the hospital is sketchy, at best. Max wants specifics! Like me, Max has a gift for mimicry. He likes to take on various regional accents and pretend he is from that area/country. He is especially good at Scottish and Jamaican accents, with German following closely behind. It's very funny!  We had a joking conversation that he could be Scottish, German and Jamaican in decent. It's not completely beyond the realm of possibility.

No, it's really not that important to know our exact ancestry (we are American, first and foremost.) I say "our" because I was adopted as an infant too and didn't have many details about my background until I met my biological mom when I was in my thirties. Even she didn't have a complete picture because she didn't know my bio-dad's side of the family that well; so I turned to genetic profiling through Ancestry.com. The results of their DNA test were fascinating! Now, Max really wants the same information. He isn't even 8 years old yet, but he has a powerful need to know about himself.

I remember studying people's faces when I was a child and wondering if I could be related to them. Who knew? I could have walked past a biological relative on the street and had no idea! All my friends looked like their parents and siblings. Sometimes strangers would comment, "Oh! You look just like your Mother!" and sometimes that comment would make me happy, but more often I would be irritated. (No I don't. Not a bit.) Amusingly, I studied my bio-mom's face when she first sent me photos (we found each other via the internet) and I sort of saw a family resemblance from photos of both of us when we were teens, but now? I don't think we look at all alike. I found that sort of disappointing. Ha! Maybe I look more like my bio-dad's side. Who knows.

The point is, Max wants to know. He wants details! We talked about him taking the same DNA test that I did through Ancestry.com and he is eager to try it. It's not cheap, so I may make this a Christmas present. We'll see. I'm just as curious as he is to see the results!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kickstart THIS! ?

While I like to keep my Facebook page on the lighter side, this space is where I come to be real. The reality lately is we are drowning in debt. Much of that debt is medically related. When you have a child with special needs that weren't fully diagnosed until said child was struggling and slowly drowning in anxiety and pressures at school, you find you have a lot of catching up to do.

Instinctively, we adapted to many of our son's quirks and limitations here at home. We never looked at things that way, before his autism diagnosis; that we were adapting. We were managing and learning to be good parents at the same time. He was getting by ok, so we thought. If we had known how much he was struggling, we would have gotten testing and accommodations MUCH sooner. We just didn't SEE it. He was and is our brilliant, handsome and challenging child. That hasn't changed. How we approach certain things, accommodations at home, and adding supports has made a substantial change for the positive in his behavior and ability to cope. Changes at school were long long overdue. Our mistake was in assuming the personnel at his school knew what they were doing. They didn't.

So changes were made/forced and our boy was moved into a new school environment. And he flourished. Getting him there was a major challenge. Since our local school district was too busy assuming Tyler's issues were OUR fault and kept pointing fingers at us, we had to go outside the system for help. We got our own child education advocate, a plethora of testing from a neuro-psychologist, a new psychiatrist (purported to be the best child therapist in the state), tried multiple medications until the right combo was found...it was a months long grueling effort but it was all worth it in the end. Tyler is now where he needs to be. For the moment.

But...ongoing therapy with bills from 2 therapists, medications, hospital visits, adaptive technologies, and catering to a child with multiple environmental sensitivities has taken its toll on us, financially. Insurance doesn't cover much, sadly.

So I found myself thinking. I've been involved in multiple fundraisers over the years for neighborhood kids and children of friends who were gravely ill.  Having a child with a life threatening illness is a horrifying circumstance. I have always gone out of my way to support charities and friends when ever I could. But what about kids with chronic and life-long illness of other sorts. Cancer is something we can work to cure, but what about mental illness or neurological damage like autism? It's not something you can cure. [Sorry Autism Speaks, you are on the WRONG track.]

Plus, there is a certain stigma associated with mental illness. You don't often see fundraisers for that. Why? We are looking at a lifetime of ongoing medical expenses. What makes neurological damage or a chromosomal abnormality so unworthy of charity?  History. We are trying to overcome centuries of mistaken impressions. People with mental illness aren't "crazy", or possessed by demons, or an embarrassment to their family (but that is how they were treated in the past and right up to current day.) It isn't shameful to have problems with your brain! We need to stop acting like it is.

 So I am still thinking. Can I do a fundraiser? If the dude looking for help to make his potato salad can start a Kick-start campaign, would it be wrong to do something for my son? What would people's reaction be? I know a few folks close to the family would really raise some eyebrows over my idea, but they are super judgmental about everything and everyone. No winning there. But in general...what do YOU think of this idea?

I wish I had more readers so I could take a poll. But seriously, how "sick" does a child need to be to deserve an outpouring of well-wishes, sympathy, support and, yes, a fundraiser?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Mother of a teenager??!

I found myself thinking about Tyler's upcoming birthday in the wee hours this morning. He is going to be 13 in December. A teen. I know several mom friends of mine felt very strongly at the thought of their babies turning 13. For me, it kinda happened already. In my mind, Tyler is already a teen and it happened very abruptly. Almost overnight, in fact.

See, Tyler's 12th year started out really tough. He wasn't even attending school by the time December hit. He'd finally hit a wall and could no longer find a way to cope with his autism and ADD on his own and manage to fake his way through the school day too. But I am not going to talk about that struggle. He is in a new school situation and finished the year with all A's and B's on his report card. He is a superstar!

No. That was hard and contributed to his sudden maturation, of course, of that wasn't my ah ha moment. It was the week we bought new beds for the boys.

Let me rewind a little. OK, a lot. I can't recall if I've spent much time talking about Tyler's sleep issues here in my journal. From the time he was an infant, it's always been something. It began with colic, reflux, and lactose intolerance. Then he couldn't sleep flat on his back. Then came the struggle to keep him in his crib. That boy could climb out of anything! Then came the night terrors and sleep walking. We had a 3 gate system, at one point; a gate in his doorway, another in the hall and a third at the top of the stairs. Late one night we caught him just before he walked right out the front door.

He spent the majority of his first few years sleeping in the bedroom with us. Attachment parenting, yeah yeah. Sure. We liked to call it that. It was trendy. But really, for us, it was necessary. We just never knew what he'd try next. His toddler bed just stayed in our room so we could hear and react faster when he woke up. It helped us get some much needed sleep too. But then the day arrived when he was just too big for his little toddler bed. Now what?

We made a big deal over him moving into the twin bed in his own room. He was very excited. But by bedtime, he couldn't shut himself down. We had an established bedtime routine. Teeth, a couple stories, singing and back rub. He would relax and start to nod off, we would tip toe away and he'd jerk awake in a panic. Oh boy. We were sure we'd done it to ourselves. Oh, he was attached alright. So much so, he couldn't fall asleep unless one of us was there.

We tried everything. Finally, we just took turns sitting in the room with him until he was asleep. Sometimes we managed to get into our own bed and get some sleep. Sometimes. But he almost never slept for the whole night. When he woke and found himself alone, he would come looking for us. Or he would sleepwalk and we'd find him lost somewhere else in the house.

Finally, out of desperation, we would take turns lying down in bed with him and pass out. We were so so tired. When he got too big, there wasn't enough room for me in his little twin bed anymore. John made a nest on the floor for himself and that was it. Since I wasn't physically able to get up from the floor, John spent most nights sleeping in with Tyler. I would find them in the morning, both on the floor all cuddled up.

When Max arrived, it fell mostly to me to care for him at night, and John slept in with Tyler. Now it was Max's turn to share the bedroom with me. He only slept in his crib for naps. At night, he was in with me so I could handle late night feedings, diapers and so on. John needed sleep so he could function at work. We adapted.

We expected the situation was temporary. Eventually Tyler would grow out of his anxieties and sleep on his own at night. Right?

No. 11 years later and now Max was also sleeping in a nest on the floor with Daddy in Tyler's room and Tyler was sleeping in his twin bed. They were BOTH looking out for Tyler at night. Little Max had become his big brother's keeper. And I had my nice king-sized bed to myself. Not that I WANTED it that way, mind you. When John went out of town, both boys would move into my bed.

It wasn't ideal, but it was working.

Then, suddenly, once Tyler's school issues were resolved, we'd found a good doctor, and he was on the right medications, he asked if he could move his computer into his bedroom. It was a small thing. He and Max had shared the dining room space for years. It was a computer, art, homework room and almost never used for actual dining. I was so used to the boys sitting side by side in front of their computers...the thought of Tyler off into his room alone was...weird.

The boys were fighting more often, Tyler had a new friend who was a little older and HE had his own space, and Ty was outgrowing that little twin bed FAST. So it was decided. We cleaning out the room that was designated as "Max's room" but had turned into more of a dressing room and storage space, I went new bed shopping at those excellent Memorial Day mattress sales, and John ran Ethernet through the walls and installed a jack in Tyler's room (he needed the bandwidth for gaming and we didn't want him bogging down our wireless network.)

The new beds arrived, the boys' rooms were rearranged, thoroughly cleaned, organized and Tyler's computer and desk made its journey down the hall to its new home in Tyler's room. No more room for Daddy and Max's nest. Nope. He had a big new bed and a nice new workspace with a nifty navy rug to protect the floor. We held our breath. Tyler hadn't slept alone for almost 12 years.

He went to sleep in his new bed, alone, and didn't come out until morning. And just like that, overnight, I had a teenager. His room was HIS ROOM. No one was allowed in without permission. He became fiercely protective of his privacy. He still sleep walks, but now we just lead him back to his bedroom and he closes the door in our faces. Heh heh. That's my boy.

See? I have a teenager. OVERNIGHT. Quite literally. Do I have my husband back in my bed now? No. *laughs* His nest is now on Max's floor. But I don't expect it to be there long. I think Max's transition to having his own space will be much less painful. I don't think I'll be waiting until Max is 12 before I get my bed buddy back.

Then again...I do snore. Maybe that is the REAL reason I sleep alone. Ha ha!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I found myself contemplating a color today...charcoal. My kids think it's a shade of black, but I don't think of it that way. It's a very specific shade of grey. When I was a child, my father would often cook out on the grill. He always used Kingsford charcoal briquettes. I have strong memories of the blue, white and red bags.

Dad would dump a mound of briquettes into the BBQ and neatly arrange them into a pyramid. Then he would spray the stack with an excessive amount of lighter fluid, deftly light a match, toss it onto the pyramid and create an eyebrow searing, two-story high inferno. That was a best part of cooking outside. Well, almost the best part.

See, I would watch the briquettes turn from coal black to a red hot coal covered with a fine ash of charcoal grey. That color. Dad would tap a coal or two with his tongs to see the hot interior. He had a sixth sense about when it was the perfect time to slap steaks or hamburgers down on the grill. I loved that intense sizzle sound the meat would make and the smell of the fragrant smoke.

Many years later, when I got married, my parents gifted us with a little red kettle drum style BBQ. We tried a few times to resurrect the skill our father's had mastered in order to "cook out" but we just didn't have that special talent. Our coals never got that fine charcoal grey coating hiding the very ancient soul that is cooking with fire.

Maybe we needed to use way more lighter fluid than was technically safe. Maybe the perfect shade of charcoal is only achieved through risking your eyebrows.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The New Feminism

I had an enlightening conversation with Max today. He was upset by some comments made by some boys at a classmate's birthday party this weekend. He was playing with a friend's toy and a couple boys were picking on him for playing with a "girl toy." He was outraged.

I told him some people are stuck in old mindsets and they learn this gender segregation from their parents and siblings. Toys are toys and should be made with every child in mind. He agreed with me. We also talked about girls and sports. I told him when I was a little girl, we weren't allowed to play baseball in the Little League. He was horrified! He couldn't understand why because the girls on his team are just as good as the boys.

He had a few words to say about McDonald's restaurants too. He liked the Build-a-Bear toys and resented having to asked for a "girl" toy. Plus, girls like Spiderman and other superhero toys too, according to Max. They shouldn't have to ask for a "boy" toy. Speaking as a girl who loves comics and superheroes, I concurred wholeheartedly.

Now if he can just retain this open and unspoiled world view, I'll be very happy. Sadly, his big brother has succumbed to peer pressure and picks on Max whenever he sees him playing with a "girl toy." I keep correcting him, but Tyler has a pretty unshakable world view right now. The view of a judgmental pre-teen. It's harsh and hurtful. Let's hope he matures right out of it soon.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Being a child of the 60s and the product of a 60s-era adoption, I have nearly 5 decades of experience to draw from. Observations on how the world has evolved since a time of hyper-religious and narrow-minded views about sex, love, pregnancy, marriage, child birth, abortion and adoption. The United States has, for the most part, changed for the better in our views on single motherhood, teen pregnancy, and the options that are available. But not everywhere. There are still large pockets of people in this country with extremely backward views on these subjects. Under the color of "religion" they still shame young people about their bodies and ostracize their daughters if they get pregnant out of wedlock.

Do you think I'm wrong? Just look at the nationwide statistics for young women who hide their pregnancies, get no prenatal care, give birth in secrecy, abandon or kill their babies...this still happens FAR too frequently in this day and age and it all comes back to shame colored by religious fervor.

Many people proudly proclaim their religious beliefs. They are bolstered by community spirit and espouse their faith by pointing fingers and passing judgement on other people they feel are not worthy. Well, I am about to sit in judgement on all you churchy joes.

What is the product of all this dogmatism? This:

Bodies of 796 children found in unmarked mass grave at the site of an old Catholic nunnery and home for unwed mothers.

Sewage tank full of the bodies of children, aged 2 days to 9 years, found at former Bon Secours Sisters home.

This home was run from 1925 to 1961 in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. Under the auspices of the Catholic Church, this nunnery hid the shame of Catholic families who ostracized their pregnant daughters. Women who were thrown out of their homes simply for getting pregnant without being married. Many were the product of rape. (Don't get me started on my feelings on THAT topic.)

What kills me is people KNEW what was happening at these homes. That these children were starved and neglected then buried in an unconsecrated and unmarked mass grave. Some of the babies were lucky enough to be sold to childless couples outside the country and some actually survived to adulthood. A miracle.

I hope many more of the families touched by this heinous crime come forward to file missing persons reports to force the Church and local authorities to investigate, identify the remains, and bury them properly...with the dignity and recognition for their needless suffering that they so richly deserve.

When people ask me how someone raised in a devout Catholic family can support abortion, adoption, gay rights, and feminism...THIS. This is how. Anyone of average intelligence can deduce the evil that is the product of blind obedience to religious doctrine and shame. Don't be a sheep. Don't let shame control your life.

Edit: And the scandal grows... Religious orders allowed over 2,000 Irish children living in homes and orphanages to be used in medical experiments

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Jacket

Many moons ago, back in the 80's, I was a head-banger. Yes - mild mannered, suburban mom was a former rocker chick who loved heavy metal and spent every dime on albums, tapes, concert tickets, and band memorabilia. Ah, those were the days.

As you might imagine, to be a proper rocker chick, you had to dress the part. While some opted for mini-skirts and spandex, I was more inclined toward tight jeans and concert t-shirts. I had a studded wrist cuff, a chain-link belt and matching necklace, big hair (well, as big as I could fluff up this baby fine mop), and boots. The finishing touch, and my crowning glory, was my Levi denim jacket. It was well worn, butter soft, and covered in enamel pins. I had a pin or two for EVERY band I loved. The jacket was covered in them.

There were a few record stores and a couple comic book shops that carried these pins and I would spin the racks every time I stopped in. I was always in search mode. It took years, but that jacket turned into a real work of art.

When it was time to leave for college, I decided it was time to tone down my look just a tad. I didn't want to scare my new roommate (a decision I really regret now...she needed a good scare! But I wrote about that in another entry some time ago.) My best friend at the time had always admired my jacket. She was having a really hard time wrapping her head around the idea that I was moving away to school. See, she was a year younger than me, but two years behind me in school.

Kathleen was very unhappy. She was extremely attached to me and was emotionally fragile. While I hated leaving her behind and was seriously worried about her, I was also looking forward to some time apart. (She was incredibly needy and that could be exhausting at times.)

In a flash of brilliance, I asked her to baby-sit my jacket. I wasn't GIVING it to her, mind you, but I thought she would find some comfort in wearing that denim slice of my soul. She wrapped it around herself like body armor and it did go a long way in making her feel a bit better. She knew I'd never abandon that jacket so there was no chance of me forgetting about her, making new friends, and just never looking back. Nope. I'd have to come back! For the jacket. (Silly goose...she never felt worthy of my friendship and really believed this!)

This shared custody arrangement worked out pretty well, at first. She was always my first choice in side-kicks when I wanted to go to a show. Sometimes I would wear my jacket, sometimes I'd let her wear it. We always got comments on how awesome it was. Great conversation starter with cute rocker boys!

Fast forward a few years. Kathleen was now in college and I was living on my own and working full time. We still shared custody of the jacket, but it spent way more time hanging in her closet than mine. I was wearing business attire for work, so that left only weekends for me to rock out. Then the unthinkable happened. Kathleen was found dead in her bedroom one sad afternoon. I wrote about that sad day, I think, as my very first blog entry so I won't rehash it. Long story short, her death was ruled a suicide and her mother reacted very...oddly...to the loss.

Within days, she had cleaned out Kathleen's room and given away all her worldly possessions, including, my priceless jacket (among many other things.)


Fast forward another 13 years or so... One day, on a whim, I decided to buy a new Levi's denim jacket. I hadn't worn one since the loss of my first one. It was like welcoming home an old friend. The new jacket was a bit stiff, a different style, and I certainly wasn't the svelte teenager anymore, but I decided to make the best of it. After wearing it once or twice and looking at myself critically in the mirror, I realized something was missing. Besides my youth! Heh heh.

On a road trip with my husband, we stopped at a Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. While browsing souvenirs and thinking about buying a t-shirt, I noticed a spinning rack of...enamel pins! Just like the ones I used to have dozens of years before. I picked out a cool Hard Rock pin in the shape of a guitar and proudly pinned it to my new-ish jacket. I thought, "Pin #1 in my new collection!" Then the jacket got hung up in my closet and forgotten about. Life stepped in and kept us busy, distracted, stressed and occupied.

A year or so ago during a major closet clean out, I rediscovered the denim jacket yet again. It still had the lone enamel pin attached and gave me a pang of bittersweet memory. I spent a little time browsing on Ebay, looking for some of the pins I'd lost years ago but I never bought any. The jacket was rehung and out of sight and mind until about a month ago. That's when Think Geek released a new series of enamel collector's pins. First in the series was a set of vintage video game controllers. OK, so it had nothing to do with music, but hey - I am a headbanger AND a nerd. I ordered them.

Now my jacket has 3 pins. I don't know where things might go from here, but for the moment, it makes me smile.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Free Will or Predestination? A soul, redirected...

Lofty question in this post title...yep. Most of the time I think there is no rhyme or reason to our existence. It's just a series of random events that we control with the decisions we make each day. Until it isn't.

A few months ago, John ran across a old friend of a former girlfriend on a topical FaceBook page. One random comment and a conversation was started leading to this old girlfriend sending along a friend request. I'm not a jealous type. Well, not seriously jealous. Just somewhat insecure. I wasn't all that worried that John was friending his old high school fling on FaceBook. Really! I wasn't!

She sounds like a nice lady - mother, wife, friendly and a fun connection to John's youth. How odd that they found each other after all these years. Hmm!

Fast forward to this past weekend. J had a much older brother (17 years older!) who passed away a few years ago. J took the loss hard and decided to travel out of state to go visit her brother's widow and reconnect. She met some extended family including a grand-niece just 20 years old and already with 3 kids under the age of 2. We don't know the details, but we suspect there is an ugly story behind the conception and birth of her oldest child (a little boy, just 18 months old). Long story shorter, this young mother just never bonded with her boy. It happens, sadly.  The child had his basic needs met, but it was obvious that this girl didn't give a hoot about this sweet little boy. She did dote on her younger two, thankfully.

J felt an instant bond with this needy little boy, her great-grand-nephew. He clung to her like she was his port in a storm. She shared his tragic story with John who instantly thought J should suggest putting the baby up for adoption. It was obvious the mother wanted nothing to do with her boy child, so why not give him a chance at a happy life with another loving family? John counselled her on various forms of adoption and made suggestions on things J could do to help this little boy.

All that remained was broaching the delicate conversation with the mother.  Thankfully, she saw the wisdom in this option. (Why it had never occurred to her before is a mystery to us...adoption often doesn't occur to people whose lives were never directly touched by it in the past.)

Things progressed very swiftly and J was given temporary custody of the little boy and will bring him back to NJ for placement. The mother has already signed her rights away and a lawyer was contacted who has 4 portfolios in hand for J and her husband to look over and make the choice.  With luck, this sweet baby could have a new forever home in a matter of weeks!

We pray J and her husband choose the perfect new family for this baby boy. It's obvious that they found him just in time...before the complete lack of affection from his mom broke him forever. He is still young enough to bond with loving parents and have no memory of his rocky start in life.

We often find ourselves advocating for adoption with others who touch our lives. I have so many great stories, some that I have told here in my journal in years past. We love to help! Please pray, send positive vibes, or whatever voodoo you do do to ensure this baby finds his way home!

UPDATE:  The birth mom has asked for more help on behalf of a friend of hers who is currently pregnant and now interested in placing her baby for adoption. J was happy to help this new girl too. Then potential birth mom #2 told ANOTHER friend who is pregnant and she is interested too. That is 3 babies that may be on their way to loving homes from one seed planted. I am thrilled beyond words!

UPDATE 2:  The baby has been placed with his forever family - a lovely couple in their 30s. He is their first child and they are over-the-moon happy. Good luck, little guy!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Special Ed

I learned a new education buzz-phrase today. Pushed Out - That is when a school district works the system in such a way as to nudge parents into moving their "undesirable" child out of the school and into another out-of-district placement. It's very passive-aggressive! Don't get me wrong...I am not dropping hints that this is what happened in our case. No, no. Quite the opposite.

In some states, Charter schools are all the rage. They custom design their education programs to attract a certain type of student. Sounds great, right? If you have a typical child who is academically gifted, sure. But these schools don't have the funding or staff to handle most special needs kids. So they will tell perspective parents things like "I don't think your child would be a good fit for this rigorous and competitive environment." Thus ensuring their school stays high performing. It's a new kind of segregation. Ugly, right? Yeah, I'm not a fan of Charter schools anymore. It's not fair to take my tax dollars to pay for your pseudo-private school masquerading as a public school.

I'm also not a fan of school districts who very deliberately try to hang on to their kids with IEPs but don't make any effort to actually meet their needs. Oooh? Who would do such a crappy thing, and why? Funding. Special Needs kids represent a significant source of additional funding for a school district, if you have enough of them. Strike the right balance and you can keep those kids mainstream, ignore most of their needs, and keep all that sweet sweet funding without having to shell out the dollars for special programs or needed staff. Keep crying poor and underfunded to the stressed out parents as they try to help their floundering kids stay afloat in an environment that isn't suited or adapted for their needs. Then play dumb when those parents start to get wise to the tricks.

Yep. THAT scenario was us. We are not dumb. It took us a while to figure out what was going on, but we fought for our boy and won. He's in a program that combines mainstream activities with typical school kids and a custom education plan that is project based and very progressive. Perfect for our non-neurotypical son. Fantastic! Oh, but wait, there are speed bumps on the horizon.

Enter Common Core. Lots of buzz going around about these nation wide education standards. 46 states have adopted common core, and counting. New testing standards are coming to our district. It means MORE testing and more frequently, too. Gives the department of education all those lovely data points they like to reference. Grade our schools. Sort them by test scores and fix the bugs...bugs being under-performing students or bad teachers. Get rid of the bad seeds and FIX our nation's education system. The proof is in all that *bleeping* testing, people!

But, what if you have a child who doesn't test well. Hell, he freezes at the very idea of sitting in a room for hours doing nothing but coloring in dots or checking boxes on a computer screen. Hmm? What then? Lock all those poor performers up in a couple centralized schools and don't count the scores of those "specials"? Don't think I am exaggerating here. Arizona is already stacking up special needs kids in segregated school programs away from the main stream. It could happen here too!

Education in this country is broken and common core is NOT the answer either. Sadly, it's going to take a generation of kids failing at life to prove my point. My next stop in my quest for knowledge on how our children are expected to acquire learning in this country...who did the research into Common Core standards? What collection of lame brains came up with THAT plan? Shouldn't educational standards for the whole country be designed and implemented by, oh, I don't know, SMART people? I strongly suspect there were not very many smart people working on this. Strongly suspect.

And that is my rant for the day. *steps off soap box*

Thursday, May 15, 2014

When it all goes wrong...

Someday, years in the future, will I look back at this moment and think "why didn't you DO something!"  I hope not. Tyler insists he tried to tell us things were going badly for him as far back as first grade. I just don't remember it that way. So I have been paying particularly close attention to what Max tells me.

He tells me some of the kids are making fun of him and picking on him. They sometimes make him cry. Thankfully, it's still OK to cry in first grade. He is a sensitive kid and gets his feelings hurt pretty easily. Should I worry? This could be where the bullying starts! *sweats*

Then there is that one kid who always seems to want to start something with Max. He pushes him, makes rude comments, threatens and hits him. Time to panic yet? I got a call from the school nurse to "alert" me to another problem today...apparently this kid threatened to stab my boy in the neck with a knife. As it was, he was in the nurse's office for an ice pack for his ribs.

Now? Do I freak out now? The kid was sent to the office for a "talking to" and his Mother was called in. She sent me a note telling me the boy was being punished. Ok.

*fiddles uncomfortably*

See, I was tortured as a kid. For YEARS. Bullied and abused. My parents did NOTHING. Sure, my mom would call the school and complain now and then (particularly when I brought home physical evidence of abuse.) But we all know that you can talk until you're blue in the face and it doesn't change a darn thing.

So I have no frame of reference. What my parents "did" was ineffectual. I've never seen anything done that WORKS other than to take your kid out of school and move them somewhere else or home-school them. We did the school change for Tyler (for way more reasons than just that he was being bullied, obviously) and he is happy as a clam now.

Do we move Max? He has several good friends. He is doing well, academically. It's only first grade.

*paces and chews nails*

I want Max to know we are in his corner. We have his back. He can count on us to really try and help, if he needs it. Does he need it? [talk amongst yourselves while I ask him.]

Max approves of what we have done, so far. He said the only other thing he would wish for would be if that kid were suspended from school for a while, but he understands that we have no control over that decision.  He also concurred that he CAN come to us for help and he knows we'll do our best to help fix things.


That's very encouraging. I guess I'll just stay on top of the situation and keep paying close attention and hope that things get better.

Too optimistic?


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day - It's a wrap!

I know most Mothers look forward to a special day just for them each year. For some reason, I can't seem to get the day right. I seem to spend a lot of time worrying about MY mother or my husband's mother. (Shouldn't they have graduated to "Grandparent's Day" now? Isn't that how it works?) My mom, in particular, still expects the day to be about her. She's had a bit of a rough year, so I tried not to make a big deal of it. I indulged her. I gave up my own Mother's Day weekend to drive 6 hours north with Max and spent the weekend making my Mom happy.  I think that it went rather well.

Meanwhile, because of a series of unfortunate events, the husband had to stay home (at first it was work-related, but then his mom was hospitalized.)  My eldest boy, Tyler, also begged to stay home. Travel is really hard for him, as is being outside his comfort zone. For my high-functioning autistic pre-teen, I am willing to bend and compromise quite a bit. We have learned a LOT in the last year or so about how he functions and are finally making strides in keeping family harmony and peace.  Sadly, that knowledge is not easily transferable. Extended family don't "get it" and I feel sad that they don't know him like we do.

Thankfully, Max seems to wear the mantle of family ambassador very well. He was the dutiful grandchild and dispensed hugs and adorableness wherever we went. He had a great visit, lots of Lego gifts and building, bonding with his Uncle and future/adopted Aunt, and ate like a boss. He was a total delight and beyond helpful to his very tired and slightly stressed out Mommy.

When we finally arrived back home Sunday night, I got a very brief and abbreviated Mother's Day celebration with all my boys. Cards, nifty gifts made in school (a Queen's crown decorated by Max with a coupon good for 1 day of "kitchen duty" and a mason jar of home-made scented hand soap created in chemistry class by Tyler) and cream puffs from the Daddy. Max was tired and cranky, Tyler was a bit annoyed by all the added hubbub in his previously quiet home space, and John was, well, worried about his Mom and a little worn out I guess. Me? After 12+ hours of driving over the weekend, little sleep, heat exhaustion...yeah, I was no bargain either.

Crankiness aside, I love my little family. I just hope that next year I finally get breakfast and cuddles in bed on Mother's Day. That's all I really want.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Gamer's Paradise

I had a dream last night. (Yes, this is going to be one of those posts, but bear with me!) I was in a mall and saw a store front with big windows and a revolving door. Pretty unusual for a store to have a door like that. A big purple neon sign proclaimed it "GAMER'S PARADISE" so, naturally, I had to check it out.

In the front to the left was a half-walled area full of cafe-style tables and chairs. It looked like a party or function room and was unoccupied when I came in, but there was a schedule of events displayed on a screen on the wall. Behind there was a series of built-in desks/cubbyholes installed along the wall. Some had individuals seated with their laptops and some had groups of 2, 3 or 4 people with chairs pulled up in front of various computer screens. I noted that each cubby had cables and gear for free high-speed wi-fi or cable access to the internet.  Walking further to the back and left I found a cozy area of larger octagonal tables, each with a different featured table-top game and a wall full of "floating" shelves loaded with more games. Now I was getting really excited!

The table-top gaming area was as far as I could go to the left, so I turned and wandered back through the gaming station/desk zone and through a short hall that had restrooms to the right. The space opened up on a room with a big screen TV and a sort of living room arrangement with low tables and squishy sofa/chair seating. There were about 8 or 10 people gathered here watching and discussing some kind of tutorial videos for a new MMO out of Korea. The huge universal remote for the TV was navigating to each section and selecting the English language versions of the tutorial videos, but every now and then the girl holding the remote would accidentally click on the wrong language and everyone would laugh and groan, trying to wrest the remote away from her. They seemed like a very friendly bunch. I watched the videos for a while and took notes so I could install the game at home, later.

Curiosity eventually won out, and I crossed to the far side of the room to a series of sliding panels/doors that revealed a craft area with long tables, a couple sewing machines and a cabinet that I saw was overflowing with fabric and supplies. There were a few adjustable dress dummies against the wall displaying costumes in various states of completion. One had an elaborate Victorian style gown that I instantly fell in love with and another had something made from silver fabric with a cleverly quilted cod-piece. Very Renaissance. There were two women collaborating on a project on one of the tables and a guy using another table. I stood admiring the gown for a bit waiting for someone to question my presence there or offer help. Other than a couple friendly Hey's or a nod of greeting, I was left to explore.

Finally, I approached a girl who was sitting in a quiet corner reading a book with a very familiar cover. (I'd read it too.) She looked up as I approached and smiled as I gave her a little wave of greeting. I had just opened my mouth to ask about how this Gamer's Paradise "worked" and I woke up.

Yes, people, it was nerd-vana. They didn't SELL anything, that I could see. Everything was open and available to use. There was no desk at the front, no membership cards or keycard access points... I was left wondering how a place like this could exist. Membership fees? I'm sure it was user-supported in some way, like PBS. Maybe it had corporate sponsors too? I don't know. All I know is, I really really hope a place like that exists in the real world. If not, it totally should.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Alone at last...

I only seem to write when I'm alone. Since that is almost never, these days, you'll understand the spotty nature of my blog posts.

Today, my alone time is courtesy of one child being at baseball practice with his dad and my normally housebound and antisocial child being out at a friend's house. Whaaaat?! YES! Tyler left the house, of his own free will. He has made a new friend at his new school and the boy happens to live right down the street. J came over here first and scoped out our place, then the boys left together. On...their...own. My eldest has left the house. He just walked out the front door without even saying bye.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Highly conflicted, that's for sure.

On the one hand, I am super proud of his independence, his ability to make a new friend so quickly, his desire to be social, and his fearlessness.

On the other hand, who IS this new kid? Do we know his parents? Should I have spoken with them first? Can I trust this kid (who also has some special needs) to be smart and safe with my boy?

[insert worried Mommy hand-wringing]

I am NOT a helicopter mom. I know Tyler has pretty good judgement and I trust him. Most of the time. He is not a follower and has a pretty well developed personal moral code. I want to show him that we trust his judgement and not be too restrictive.

I think, when he gets home, I'll point out how much trust it took to just let him walk out the front door. Just a gentle reminder that I care and was worried, but still let him go have fun.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt 2014

Yep! It was a good day. Mostly. Pre-teen hormones coupled with autism = highly unstable and volatile. Don't touch because he might explode! Heh heh. Just back away slowly. It's a land mine in there just waiting to go off.

On another note, as I sat here fiddling with the 129 photos I took today, I itched my chin and was chagrined to discover a long, bristle-like hair. I have 3 hairs on my chiny-chin-chin that I pluck out with tweezers. As I looked far too closely at my face in my magnifying mirror, I also noted a lot of white hairs in my otherwise brown eyebrows. I plucked those out too. Then I saw how much silver there was on my head.

It's a losing battle. I know this. I started getting silver hairs when I was in high school. I can't recall if I ever told this story, but round about junior year, I spotted my first white hair in my rear view mirror in my car as I sat waiting for a friend. I plucked it out and examined it, figuring it was a fluke. It was a really long hair, so I decided to keep it for posterity. High school stress was making my hair turn white, hardy-har-har. I tied it to my rear view mirror to remind myself to chill out.

My friend Kathleen hopped in the car for the ride home, spotted the hair on my mirror almost immediately, snatched it and let it fly out the car window before I could utter my first syllable of objection. A true *facepalm* moment. Once I explained what it was, she felt really badly for tossing it out. Ah well. I had a feeling that hair was just the first of many. And oh boy was I right.

What's going on?

It's been a hectic couple of weeks. John went out of town to a conference in Dallas for a week - the same week Tyler started at his new school (he did GREAT, by the way.) That left one stressed out Mommy to handle all the logistics on her own. By the end of the week, I was fried. Ex-haus-TED. So, naturally, I got sick. I could feel the sore throat starting Thursday night. By Saturday, I was an achy, snotty, froggy-throated mess. So, naturally, I just went to bed and stayed put. Thank goodness hubby was home by then. He brought me soup. (He's a lovely man, my hubby.)

Sadly, I got my poor hubby sick. He spent 4 days in misery, just like I did. We muddled through the week and by Thursday, the boys were re-wearing socks. Ha. The laundry somehow falls through the cracks when the Mommy and Daddy are sick and tired. (I wonder at what age we should teach Tyler how to run the washer. Hmm. ;)

So here we are...Saturday morning at 6am. What?! I know, right? Anyone who knows me, knows this is a very strange thing. I am NOT a morning person.

Tyler was sleep walking again. He burst into the bedroom sometime just after 3am babbling about something being censored and acting very frantic. No clue. Hubby guided him back and tucked him in. I have a feeling hubby forgot to give Ty one of his sleep meds last night. Heh. I'll ask him once he wakes up. Hubby went back to bed sometime around 5am and I am still sitting here. It's hard to wind down after being startled awake like that in the wee hours.

Did I mention poor Max? He had baseball practice again last night. They had it in the gym at his school. I supposed because it's been raining for 2 days and the fields are a wreck. But they decided, for some nutty reason, to play dodge ball. Max and I had just talking about dodge ball a few days earlier. He wanted to know what my favorite and least favorite parts of gym class were. Dodge ball was a least favorite, for me. He had never played and was curious how it worked, so I shared some anecdotes. His eyes got very big and he told me he didn't think he'd like the game very much. Last night, he found out the hard way that, no, he really doesn't like the game very much. He got hit in the eye with a ball. Hard. This is after being kicked in the head in gym the previous day and hit in the head with a bathroom door at baseball practice earlier in the week. 3 hits to the head in one week.

It's never dull in this house, that's for sure. Today is the town Easter egg hunt. I will hope for some sunshine and enough energy to take some nice photos. I photograph the hunt every year and would hate to miss it! I haven't had many chances to take pictures all winter long and am eager to get snapping.


Uh oh. Maybe I'll try to squeeze a nap in first. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Consumer Cellular is made of Awesome!

I am so confused and elated.

So, the hubby agreed I needed a new phone to update my 10ish year old flip. My birthday was the event that sealed the deal. I did my homework and found a phone and plan that didn't break the bank (go Consumer Cellular! The old folks plan! AARP Discount FTW!) The website was a breeze to sign up. Super clear and easy to follow. Then they asked for my AT&T Wireless account number.

As far as I knew, that is my cell #. Right? I log on to the AT&T website, and then on to the Wireless site, then the Go Phone site and look up my account. First pain in the ass.

No sign of "account number" and just my cell #. Second pain in the ass.

OK, so I put that into the Consumer sign-up page. They send out my new Moto G (great discounted price!) and give me a tentative activation date of 3/20. Then I get the call from Consumer. They need my "account number" to transfer my old phone #. It's not my cell #. *sigh* 3rd pain in the ass. Not Consumer's fault.

So John calls AT&T Wireless because, apparently, they HIDE the account number on PURPOSE so you HAVE TO CALL THEM. 4th pain.

He gets the full court press to not switch. 5th pain. Including an offer to use our banked minutes to pay for our new plan. Oh? Plus they are able to match Consumer's pricing pretty closely. *double sigh* I already have my Moto G in hand. A&T asks, is it locked? John fiddles.

Yup. 6th pain. Locked phone. Pretty standard. He gets his options. We can send the new phone BACK to Consumer, cancel with them, buy the same phone, unlocked, from Amazon (for $50+ more) and go with AT&T and use our banked minutes to pay the bills. More than enough to pay for, like, a year of service. We can't refuse that offer. So John calls Consumer Cellular back to cancel with them and arrange to return the phone.

But wait...what's this? The super nice customer support guy GIVES JOHN THE UNLOCK CODE so I can keep my new phone and use it on ANOTHER SERVICE. What? WHAT?? John is now at an AT&T Wireless store to get a new sim card for my new phone so we can finally activate it with my old account info.

Stay tuned. That may be the 7th pain in the ass. But honestly, how awesome is Consumer? I am still scraping my chin up off the floor. I tell you what...when my AT&T minutes run out, I am going back to Consumer in a heartbeat. I was a customer for about 4 days but I love those guys. :D

Edit: *facepalm* Yep. I jinxed myself. The AT&T Wireless store was unable to unlock the phone. Something to do with it never being activated on any network and the Motorola database taking days to update and recognize activated phones. They did try to activate it with a random available phone number, then deactivate, then unlock and transfer...every permutation they could think of. SO...the phone is going back to Consumer and we got the same phone, unlocked, off Amazon, at a higher price. *le sigh*  It would have been awesome if it had worked out.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Life on the Autism Spectrum

The more we read and discover about autism, the more I find myself saying, "But...I was just like that as a kid too. Still am." John often tells our son, "You are just like your Mother!" So, I started to wonder. By today's standards, would *I* fall on the spectrum?

As a kid, I had a hard time making and maintaining friendships. I usually only had one friend at a time. Friends were complicated and I seemed to hurt their feelings. A lot. I found the best kind of friends were girls who were passive and quiet. They were perfectly content to let me call the shots and dictate our play. I was highly imaginative and created elaborate scenarios for us to act out. I did LARP and CosPlay way before I even knew what the heck that was. *grin*  But honestly, I would much rather spend my time just quietly reading a book in my room. People were hard. Being outside was hard.

I know my mother struggled to understand me. Brushing my teeth was a nightly battle. I hated it! I hated taking baths or showers. I could go days without even brushing my hair. I just didn't think about hygiene. It wasn't a priority. I HATED having my hair washed. My poor mother actually broke my front teeth on the edge of our steel kitchen sink trying to force my head under the water to rinse out the shampoo.

I wanted to spend time in my own little world. A world that I could control and function as I pleased. Being pushed out into the real world...going to school was hard. I never voluntarily raised my hand. I didn't talk. I kept to myself, head down, and just tried to survive each day. Yes, it made me a favorite target of the school bullies. I was weird! I stood out. Anything different must be crushed...that's how it felt to me. I was being crushed. Daily.

I wasn't a happy child. I coped as best I could and did manage to get good grades and survived all the way to college. I had a best friend who was just as damaged and different as I was. Sadly, she didn't survive.

Now I am the parent. In the beginning I tried to do all the things a regular parent is supposed to do. I brought my boy to playgroups, playgrounds and enrichment classes. He was indifferent, but never outright objected to it. He was ok with pre-school. He was managing in early elementary school. He didn't have very many friends and was "quirky" but he was getting by. I didn't push the hygiene thing. I left the tooth care to his daddy (and it was a major struggle).

He didn't seem as sensitive as I was. Not as emotionally fragile. I had hope that he would coast through school like I did and would ignore the "regular" kids. Not let their teasing and cutting remarks get to him, like I did.

My boy was fine. A little different, like me, but fine. Until he wasn't. He had learned to cope up to a point and then middle school hit. Every class was a change. So many decisions, things to keep track of, different schedules every day, so many teachers with different personalities, wants, and ways of working. He broke. School broke my baby.

A quote from the new DSM-5 makes so much sense -  The onset of the symptoms is in the early developmental period (but deficits may not become fully manifest until social communication demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

I barely made it...pray that we can help my little man make it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Play Date

Max has a play-date scheduled for today, so imagine my surprise when he comes running into the kitchen not long after school let out. "What are you doing here?! Did you walk home???" I worried that his friend's mom had forgotten to take both boys home with her. Ha! But no. She drove him here because he insisted he needed a drink and his home had what he really wanted. He helps himself to 3 squeeze bottles of flavored sugar water (you know...the junky crap that has no real juice in it) and runs back out the front door to share with his friend Sean and little brother Jake.

I am so so sorry, Jen. Three boys on a sugar high for the whole afternoon... yikes. I have to say, those drinks were something Max picked on his last trip to the market with his Dad. He knows Mom insists on 100% juice, or water. But, even on a sugar high, I expect Max won't cause any damage.

I hope.

Well... Maybe a few footprints on the furniture.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Doctor Who - The Movie

The doctor saves the new millennium? Yes, it had a very low rating...but I can't resist watching anything in the Doctor's chronicles.  Yes, there are many inconsistencies in the current accepted history of our Doctor. Half human?? The "Eye" is the heart of the TARDIS? Yeah, some of the plot points were sketchy, at best. But I loved Paul McGann's portrayal of the Doctor. Actually, his was the best performance in the whole movie. Doctor Grace whatshername was very soapy. She was not believable as a cardiologist in the slightest. She didn't have the proper...what's the word...gravitas? Yes. The Asian teen character was pretty good but don't get me started on Eric Roberts as The Master! Cheese-y! Sorry Eric. Over all, it was entertaining. I rather liked the Gothic revival TARDIS interior. LOL It's a shame Paul never got his own shot as a series regular, but I'm glad someone had the passion for Doctor Who to take a stab at reviving the old franchise. Just look at it now!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Ender's Game

Just watched Ender's Game. The book series was such a big part of my formative years. I hate that Orson Scott Card's politics and beliefs have cast a pall over what could have been something truly epic. I boycotted the film release in the theaters but a thoughtful editorial made me rethink not ever seeing the film. I really want to share the books with Tyler. I guess I'll have to think about the discussion...does a writer or artist's personal/controversial view points have to affect how we view their work? Can something be enjoyed simply "as is" as long as there is nothing IN the work that reflects those negative view points?

Perhaps a discussion on the flaws in people, first. I don't want to make excuses for the guy. And I am certainly not one to reward bad behavior, bigotry, or hate speech. But the books...oh the books are so so good. It's a crime. It's a tragedy. 

I can't look at the works of Vincent van Gogh now without thinking about his tragic life and mental illness. It "colors" my appreciation of his art a bit. I see it with new eyes. I still remember how I reacted when I first saw Starry Night back in high school. I didn't know anything about the artist back then. It was a purely visceral and teenage critical opinion with absolutely no preconceived notions. Thinking about it now makes me chuckle.

Yeah. No preconceived notions. I think that is the way to play it. Appreciate the work purely for what it is and forming his own thoughts and opinions. Right now he won't really care a fig about the writer. He's not at that level of emotional maturity yet. Heck, I didn't start wondering about the people who wrote the books I loved until I was in my 20s. LOL