Saturday, January 31, 2009

Very Quick, Very Triumphant

Have to get the kiddoes to bed, but wanted to report that Nic did fantastic today--had his pic taken alone and with the team for basketball. And I struck a deal with him.

"Can we go to KoP Fountain Store?" he asked me.

"Only if you play half a game today," I answered. All the kids got a play half a game, but Nic up til now has only been doing 3-5 minutes. It was time to kick it up a notch.

He started all quarters, but played the first 5 of the first two and only about 3 minutes of the third. Then he went in for the last quarter. Not only did he play the full quarter, he actually scored a basket and the place went wild! :)

His face lit up the whole gym. He was so proud of himself, and I was so proud of him, myself. The mom who joined me with the coaches on the sidelines shared my joy when the ball went in.

So, we celebrated, took Nic to the fountain store, he and Gabriel shared their very first Starbucks hot chocolate, and then we went out for a celebratory dinner. G has a birthday party while Nic's game was going on, so he and dad went there, and G had an excellent time with his friends.

So there was plenty of celebration this evening.

I am SO proud of them both! What an awesome day.

Now, time for bed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

And the follow up--stellar report card for our Nic

Nic actually went up in just about every subject and grading parameter this quarter. He dropped to an A- in math and came down in one (of 42) grading parameters. But overall, he just blew me out of the water. The icing on the cake was this note from his teacher today (I had shared the good moment at the doctor's, and this is her response):

Thanks so much for sharing this with me. I have seen Nic take a lot of great steps this past year, especially these past few weeks. For example, in the beginning of the year -- Nic always asked to have another boy walk him down to the bathroom, water fountain, another classroom, etc. In the last few weeks, when Nic needs to go somewhere, he has felt very comfortable going by himself and has been very successful at it.

This past week, I was very happy to see him working nicely with his Science project group. His group was working on finding information about rain forests. Nic was able to record all the information with his group and contributed a lot on the poster they had to create. This would have been a huge challenge for him at the beginning of the year. Today, one of the members of his group went home sick and he really stepped it up to help finish the poster with the other group member.

I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to work with Nic each day. We are both learning so much this year! Looking forward to seeing you next week. Have a great weekend!!!

He also brought home 2 As in projects he did, plus an 84 in his map and landform test.

I am SO proud of this boy!!

Can't Teach the Swish and Other Notes

So we get in to see the ped, and after about 10 minutes of searching Nic's ears, throat, tongue and gums, she concludes that the inflammation owes to a new tooth Nic is cutting. The Rx is hot compresses to the inflamed node and salt water washes twice a day.

Here's a problem. Nic doesn't know how to swish.

"Mom, how do you *do* that?" he asked last night.

Er. Hmm. Good question. I take the salt water mix and demonstrate. And Nic stares, fascinated.

"But how do you *do* it?" He asked again.

And I am flummoxed. Much of what I've learned in life has been either by a) direct instruction--getting some one I trusted implicitly to teach me something in a normal universe I would have known how to do on my own and b) trying, failing miserably, brushing myself off, and trying again, and again, and again.

I have no words for any of it, so I demonstrate again. And Nic by now is really amused, fascinated, and just a little bit annoyed that this swish thing is not coming nearly as naturally to him as it is to me.

So, he takes a mouthful, tilts his head to and fro, and spits. I make him repeat it twice more and give him some seltzer to chase the salt out.

I'm not stressing about the swish, however. When we went into the office, Nic greeted Dr. R with a handshake, climbed up on the table, told her exactly what was bothering him, and cooperated willingly with her instructions.

If this does not sound like a big deal, less than six months ago I dragged him kicking and screaming out of the van to see the doctor.

Six years ago, Nic the nonverbal toddler screamed, thrashed and hit his way through a physical in this same office.

Watching this same child conduct himself so maturely and matter-of-factly yesterday simply blew me away.

But it was very simple. I told Nic that if he wanted to get rid of that lump, then he needed to talk to Dr R, tell her what was bothering him, and do whatever Dr R asked him to do. And he simply wants to get better.


Meanwhile, G occupied himself with the toys in her office and was looking forward to our adventures afterward. We went over to the mall and picked up invites for Nic's party (will make some phone calls behind the scenes to make sure we have at least 6 kids next week), and then went over to Costco for a food run after.

So what happened next--instructive to me yet again how different the boys are. G insisted on riding in the front of the cart, despite repeated scoldings to get off, you'll hurt yourself. Predictably, he falls off, hurts himself, and I scold him again.

It takes me a moment to realize that he is blinking back tears, the corners of his little mouth turned down in almost clownish exaggeration. But he is really trying hard not to cry.

I knelt down next to him, ashamed of myself. "Are you okay? Is your foot hurt?"

He threw his little arms around my neck and buried his face in my jacket. Meanwhile, Nic is nattering in the background, "I am behaving, but G is not. I get pizza and he doesn't. G is too big to carry. Mom? Why are you picking him up?"

"Is Nic talking too much?" I whisper in G's ear. G nods against my jacket. "Nic, G says you're talking too much, can you give us a second?"

I put G on the ground again and remove his shoe and sock so I can examine his foot. He appreciates this. "I'm okay, mom, can I have some pizza?"

But that...that he is such a little man already, trying not to cry. So NOT his big brother--where did he learn that? Where did that come from?


Both of my little men are growing quickly....

And Nic addressed his invites this am. I hope for a couple affirmative replies. It's only a week out, so we'll see....I can't believe he's going to be 9....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now what?

So Nic had a bad night at b-ball the other night. I heard him complaining about a cramp when he came in. I was busy getting G down to bed, so didn't see what the cramp was about, where it was, or whatever.

So last night I get called into Nic's room as Dh was getting Nic ready for bed. There's a lump under his chin and above his neck. And he says it hurts.

After DH argue over the fact that this *is* in fact in the first time I've heard about it, we settle down and agree that his doctor needs to be called.

So, we go in this afternoon. I'll pick both he and G up from school and head over. Then we'll have some adventures.

That is, if we don't have to go to the ER first....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

Nothing knocks out the best laid plans better than mother nature.

Not sure why they canceled school altogether since roads are now clear and a two-hour day would have more that sufficed. BUT, as it is, catching up on things around the house, with the spouse, went sledding in the slush with the kids. We're sitting around, enjoying the warmth and drinking hot cocoa.

Although I think the kids like the idea of hot cocoa than the actual thing, because I am finishing theirs. But it's a good thought.

So B was out there on the hill again today--he showed up maybe 10 minutes after us. Nic and he had a good time together, and I really like that he has Nic's back. Nic was a knucklehead a few times out there, and B stepped up and stepped in. What an awesome kid he is.

G and I threw snowballs at each other. I had a few good runs down the hill. But it was more slush than snow, and the hill was a muddy, slushy mess. The kids stripped in the mud room when we got back, it was that bad.

I went out to clear Dh's car earlier and the kids from across the street were circling--not sure why. It's not like they knock for my kids. I'm kind of bad, because I just don't address them at all. I should at least say hello, but what's the point? I used to, and they looked at me like I had two heads.

So now I don't bother.

Well, it's an ongoing thing. I hesitate to call it an issue, because it isn't really. It's just the difference between me and my kids and the rest of the neighborhood.

Easier for DH to cope because he doesn't deal with the crap on a daily basis.

So he went into work, I'm doing work but will have a better shot at getting stuff done tomorrow and Friday. And I'm just trying to get past the rising panic about the economy, work, and all that fun stuff. Just wondering how much further we're going to fall before we hit bottom. Wonder what bottom is going to look like.

Keep telling myself it doesn't matter, but fear is an awful thing. Pervasive.

Wondering how badly I'm failing at other things.

Not really feeling bad or depressed, just wondering what's next. Feeling a little unsettled.

Have to reset Nic's meeting--probably next week some time. Also have to get his invites sent out for his party. Should probably get that done today.

Hope we get a couple kids. That's all I ask.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kid on the Verge of a Nervy Breakthrough

My firstborn really knows how to suck all the air out of the room. And he's doing it again.

The anxiety ratchets up when he's on the verge of doing something new. This is one thing I've learned in my nearly nine years of motherhood. The behaviors amp up, the stims multiply, and just when I think I can't take anymore--*BANG*--he's doing something I never thought possible, or at least thought was years in the offing.

One problem: I never know WHAT'S coming. I only know THAT it's coming.

Interestingly, the word I get from his regular ed teacher is that he's doing fine. Apparently, the behaviors are happening during pullouts.

HMMM. I think I pointed out a correlation between behaviors and safe places for those behaviors...and maybe this argues strongly against pullouts? After all he gets pulled out...with the other autistic kids...

Hm. I'll put that to one side.

So tonight he didn't want to get into the pool. Vince, bless his heart, doesn't take any crap off of Nic and managed to get him in. And guess what, Nic is now swimming across the pool.

This is the kid who a scant two years ago wouldn't even set foot in a pool. Now he's putting goggles on and putting his head under water.

And after all that pushback, he stayed in the pool 40 minutes beyond his lesson tonight, working on his stroke and kicking.

And Gabriel still moves through the water like a little seahorse. He needs to go horizontal, but his vertical hold is broken. At least in bed. Seems to be intact in the pool.

And tonight was pretty cool because while my kids stayed in the pool, I got to sit and talk with a fellow warrior mom about Nic's sitch. She had some good ideas for me to bring into the meeting tomorrow.

If there is a meeting--there may be snow.

Oh well, if there is snow, there be sledding.....

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Food Thing

I had an interesting conversation with some one today that got me thinking about my current situation with Nic and junk food. And body image. And a whole lot of other stuff related to food and eating and all that wonderful stuff.

Nic's big thing right now is junk food and how to get it. If we kept it in the house, he'd tip the scales. Lately, it's just gotten insane.

I lived this myself. Food was a comfort for me, and I ate when I was bored, or sad, or lonely. When we first moved out to Long Island over 17 years ago, food and drink was my solace. As a result, I hit my heaviest adult weight--154 lbs (minus my pregnancies, naturally). In the grand scheme, not horrible, since I am 5' 7 1/2. That was what I was when we married. And I wore a size 12.

I lost my dead end job and found an entry-level job in NYC. And a few things happened. First, it was necessary for me to walk from Penn Station to 3rd Ave and 50th St since the train pass alone beggared us. And over time, the candy bar in the afternoon was replaced with fruit, soda was replaced with water...and within 6 months I dropped 20 lbs and 3 dress sizes. And pretty much have stayed there ever since. I'm not built to be super-skinny, and I'm fine with that. I like myself and am comfortable with the way I look.

But, how I feel is really tied in with how I look, not psychologically, but physically. I had to figure out over time that my bipolar tendencies had its roots in sugar consumption, that digestive complaints came from fried food, and I think I was finally in my late 20s that I figured that I literally was what I ate--and had to monitor that. There was a lot of physiological stuff that was easily corrected with diet and exercise...but I had to work it out on my own.

That said, I need to figure out how to deal with Nic's issues. We share a lot of the same sensitivities...but this kid is a walking id. He's 9. I expect he's going to have to put on a lot of weight, be uncomfortable in that weight, and take it off when he's good and ready to do it.

This is where I really do not think natural consequences is the right way to go. Too much at stake--heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure. I can't just let it happen.

What to do.....what to do.....


I'm still aglow from yesterday.

And the funny thing is, it's not like anything big or important happened. It was just a lot of little good things. For the last little while, it's been like picking up diamonds on a beach. Susan Werner has a great song that describes this called philanthropy. You can check out the lyrics here:

The whole album is excellent, so I recommend you buy it and download it if you don't already have it in your possession--the woman is amazing....

So, a good afternoon with SIL, younger sister and mom, one of those 'at home' parties where everyone is expected to buy stuff and help move the sluggish economy. Wasn't as bad as some things I attended and of course my younger sister is entertaining, so that made for time well spent.

Probably the most surprising aspect of the afternoon was my conversation with mom. We are not particularly tight--never have been. I've been a source of puzzlement to her pretty much my entire life, starting with my startling physical resemblance to her and ending with my complete apparent lack of any other kind of resemblance.

We don't have a typical mother-daughter relationship. My elder sister is her best friend, but I'm her clinical ear and counselor. And I've always been comfortable in that role, since I was never in the running for mom's favorite (I left the other 3 to duke that out). I was dad's favorite and content to leave it there.

Once, when I was a teenager, I sat down with her and went point for point on why nuclear annihilation would never happen (I was obsessed with and scared stupid by the thought so buried myself in academic arguments) and when I finished, she stared at me a moment and asked, "Where did you come from?"

That pretty much sums us up.

Having said that, yesterday I was standing in my sister's kitchen, and she asked how my boys were doing. I described my Saturday. Her friend F was there, and came in saying loudly, "Here she is, your most beautiful daughter. I tell everyone that Betty has the most beautiful daughter, Elizabeth. There is always one shining star in the bunch...."

Meanwhile, my mom is frantically trying to shush her because my younger sister (who would NOT be happy to hear this lavish praise heaped on some one else) was probably in earshot even though she wasn't in the room. And I'm turning 8 shades of red and pink because full frontal flattery is not something I'm accustomed to. (Although it did make my day).

Mom and I continued our conversation in the next room, the nature of which I can't go into here for a number of reasons. But at the very end of the conversation, when she looked at me with an unreadable expression, I expected condemnation. She knocked me back on my heels.

"You really are my daughter, after all," she said. And she smiled. "And I can't tell you why, so you'll just have to take my word for it."

I've long since given up seeking her approval, but the acknowledgment was all I ever *really* wanted.

And she was wearing the necklace I bought her for her 60th birthday. I regretted buying it many times over the last decade, because she never wore it.

She's finally wearing it--five amethysts surrounding a diamond. I chose it because it represented us--the family we've been since late 1974.

And I think she finally sees it.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Brethren, Part 3

Today is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Which is interesting to me on multiple levels.

I left here about an hour ago with a heavy heart. Many reasons for that--after all, see yesterday's events. Other reasons, too. I invest way too much of myself in other people, and it's always a big rude shock when that investment is not reciprocated.

Just because I *deal* well doesn't mean I actually take it well.

Anyway. Found myself at the 7 am mass, saw G's pm bus driver (who DH believes has a crush on me) and Fr M was saying the mass. The big question in my heart went unanswered....well, actually, I think it *was* answered, but it wasn't the answer I wanted to hear.

So, at consecration, I found myself asking another question. And the answer came almost instantaneously.

While it wasn't *quite* what I wanted to hear, my heart lightened. Perspective was lent to the previous question. And I decided I wanted to ask Fr. M to breakfast.

So after mass, I flagged him down and asked if I could interest him in breakfast. And seeing him right in front of me let me know the answer was no--he looked exhausted. But the invite pleased him.

I told him I'd hold him to a future date. Then he thanked me for introducing him to M & L, whom he had dinner with on Monday--said they were good, good people and thanked me for introducing them to him--they had a great evening.

"You're the good news, here, Liz, God's working through you," he said. And he hugged me goodbye, a real hug, not caring who saw.

I practically skipped home from church.

And I find myself asking "So what?"

I need to be reminded of what's real, what real differences I'm making. Because talk is just talk--if there be change, I want to *see* it.

For the rest of it, time will tell. The last couple of days have been as disappointing as they have been enlightening. But whatever happens, I can't let it wreck my good time.

And for today, it *will not* spoil my music.

The Brethren, Part 2 (reposted from Dec 30)

I'm up, still feeling sick, and I touched on something earlier that I really am burning to write more about.

I was reading my journal and came upon this entry, 11:27 pm 24 Dec 2006: 'Early Christmas present. I saw Fr Mike today. Wait, back up. I sent him a note last week, talking about how I didn't know what my place in the world was. When I saw him today, he grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Liz, I'll tell you right now, you are important to me, and your boys, and your place is to BE HERE, RIGHT NOW. I see an amazing amount of good in you, and I can't believe you can't see it in yourself."

I totally needed to hear that. I have value. He actually made me cry.

Merry Christmas to me.'

Present time: There is a certain strata of folk in my life--very few they are--to whom I have to explain nothing. I can speak in a sort of shorthand they just 'get it.' These are the people to whom I refer as The Brethren, and Fr. M is undeniably of the brotherhood.

We met in October of 2002 when Nic and I showed up at the rectory to register at the parish after we moved here. As soon as he opened the door and introduced himself, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. And as we got to know one another, it became abundantly clear that I was in the company of a holy man, family member, and friend all rolled into one.

He's of the same generation and neighborhood as my parents (he graduated two years behind my dad from the same high school); we both delivered the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin as kids; we're both from large Irish Catholic families, raised in those little row houses. And as a man who in another life might have been a family man, he found in me a daughter, and I in him a father.

It's a connection, a mutual recognition and respect, tempered with love.

Which unfortunately looks a certain way to people who look for trouble. I'm thinking of a meeting wherein we sat next to one another, and although our interaction was minimal, everyone in the room was looking at us. And you could see the wheels turning. And everyone arriving at the same--wrong--conclusion.

The net result is a reserve that I resent--because I know it's a command performance. And I'm not a fool--I keep a respectful distance now because the last thing I want is to cause him even more grief and aggravation.

We went out to breakfast a few weeks ago with a visiting sister. She spent maybe the first half of the meal looking askance at us both, but by the end of the meal, it was clear she understood that there was no chicanery involved--we're just a couple of people who 'get' one another, can speak to each other on multiple levels and say so much more because we understand each other's shorthand, and--as simple as it is complicated--we love each other. We have each other's back.

Why does love have to be an admission? Why can't it just be? Real love is such a beautiful thing, but the crass overuse of the word has cheapened the concept and turned it into the stuff of romance novels. I need some help here, so with Wikipedia's assistance once again:

Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection.[1] The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure ("I loved that meal") to intense interpersonal attraction ("I love my girlfriend"). This diversity of meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

As an abstract concept, love usually refers to a deep, ineffable feeling of tenderly caring for another person. Even this limited conception of love, however, encompasses a wealth of different feelings, from the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of familial and platonic love[2] to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love.[3] Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Bingo, two and three sum it up neatly. You see 'love' and everyone assumes the first definition. And having said that, I don't think it's an accident that I've become a much more spiritually connected person since I've known him. He has been a tremendous influence and guiding force in my life, and he's taught me much just by being the amazing steward of his flock he is. He is as gifted as he is humble. And I am tremendously honored he finds me worthy of his friendship.

Balancing Out the Life Ledger

Or talking myself off a ledge?

Yesterday was notable in that there was no bloodshed. I guess that's a big step in the right direction.

The big downside though--the behavior has regressed in such a big way. And the obsession with junk food is through the roof. And I'm not sure what to do about either.

Okay, so last when he joined our heroine, she was sitting here in the dining room reviewing a manuscript and holding a blow dryer to Nic's pinewood derby entry. I looked at the time and realized I had to get over to register G for T-ball, so I left DH to figure it out.

Where was Nic while we were working on the car? On his computer. (which he will NOT have for the next week, but I get ahead of my story)

So I go to register G for T ball and realize when I go to pay that the checkbook is empty--which means running out to the nearest bank and getting cash for it. So that takes an extra 20 minutes.....and time is running out....

So I get home and G is still wandering around in his pjs, DH is in the shower, so I bat cleanup trying to get the boys together. And DH asks "and do you mind my asking where you've been?"

I swear he sets a timer every time I leave the house without them.

Anyway, so we get there, and it's the usual chaos and mayhem at the elementary school cafeteria with all the kids who aren't registering or fixing or doing whatever last minute to their cars are playing chase, getting into spats and generally causing a ruckus. And Nic notices the snack stand and fixates on it, as is his wont whenever we go anywhere.

The snack bar, really, is the beginning and the end of the story.

So, dissecting this. Some of the good things that happened here:

Nic for about 10 minutes was really into the racing and watching his car run the heats; he missed final qualifying by only one point; some of his interaction was not only first-class but age-appropriate.

Downsides: For a vast majority of the time, he acted like he was about 5--and it seemed like the more DH bought him to pacify him, the worse he got (and he heard about that, after). The other factor--lots of kids with issues, so it was *safe* for Nic to act out....and boy, did he take advantage of that.

I took Nic outside at one point over the M&M meltdown and started bleating like a sheep at him. At that point, it was clear his caterwauling was more act than genuine, because he was trying not to laugh--and failing.

So, we canceled the library run, because Nic was in no shape to be taken anywhere, and he howled the whole ride home. DH sent him to his room.

And I went up about 5 minutes later when it became clear he was trying to go out his window.

"I wasn't going out the window, I was calling for help," he told me.


So DH was trying to put the kibosh on Family Fun Night, which was happening over at G's pm placement. It's part of an intergenerational facility, and as a consequence, they have an indoor pool for aquatics. Eventually, I talk Nic off his ledge and we go.

It goes without saying I spent more time in the pool than the kids. I needed the pool after that afternoon. But anyway.

And it was fine. Nic would have stayed by the snacks all night if I left him (and he really is looking doughy around the middle these days, much to my chagrin and dismay), but I fought him, and there was a boy his age to play with. Okay, they were both splashing nuisances, but they were playing together, appropriately, and Nic actually got in the pool, so where's the downside?

And G had a great time doing laps up and down the pool with his noodle. The nice thing about the time in the pool was that I was actually able to swim off on my own and get some laps in, since they are both MUCH more confident in the pool than they were a year ago.

G was the last one in the pool; we all spent about five minutes coaxing him out after every one else had gone to the locker rooms.

And I just crashed and burned with G afterward. Long day.

But we all lived through it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Catchall

I know I forgot some things I wanted to write about throughout the week, so this will be a little potluck post:

My friends L&M had Fr M over for dinner on Monday and report that he thinks the world of me and mine and consider us family. Kind of *knew* that, but how cool he shared that with some one else?

Today is going to go either really well or really bad. Want to throw my weight behind optimism and say it will be ganbusters....

(Also need to sign G up for T-ball)

I need to do some odds and ends like submit my phone billing and finish editing my friend's ms. He sent it around new year's and I haven't gotten to it yet. Will start right after I had my first cup of coffee.

It's been a good week for reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, establishing relationships with new ones, and still figuring out a relatively new friendship which has brought me a great deal of joy and delight. An old friend once signed off a letter to me "Smile Brightly." I always have, but lately? I do. Probably a little more brightly, too.

And just thankful for my posse, those who are looking after my safety and well being--there are many, and I am fortunate to see most of them often, but not nearly as often as I would like.

I still have to line up 4 more interviews this week.....oy.....

I'm grateful to have some time to myself to think and reflect. But it will be back to, now.....

Friday, January 23, 2009

The confluence of weirdness that was my Friday

It all started with a 7:25 phone call. And it rolled downhill at an alarming rate for the next, oh, 5 or so hours.

So R's mom calls and tells me that they are going to implement the experiment that was Nic's first grade experience into grade 4. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I don't think so.

I get the best minds in my circle on it.

While that's simmering, BIL calls DH about the birthday thing. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell DH I called BIL. OOPS. DH is decidedly unhappy with me.

So while these two things are going on, I have a work training. That goes okay. And then the person I was training with disappears behind closed doors with the main boss.


Then my brother calls asking to go to lunch. I'm about 20 miles away. He rightly senses that my laughter is a little frantic and succeeds in *really* making me laugh. And while he's on the line, E brings me a soft pretzel, and it's still hot.

My day does its shift in that moment.

Meanwhile, my friends are all cheering me on; my posse has come to the rescue with a plan of action for the school sit; the work sit rights and rectifies; and oh yes, Nic brought home a 98 on his latest math test.

And now the boys are finishing up Nic's pinewood derby car for the big race tomorrow. I'm feeling pretty good--definitely better than I was 12 hours ago.

My friends, without a doubt, rock.


Word on the wind has it that they want to change Nic's placement next year.

Arming for battle. Wish me luck.

Passing Fancies, Minders and Footgear

Yet at another moment to measure, take notes, figure out directional headings (and speaking of which, Nic has a map to finish this am).

I had in my head what I wanted to write while I was running the event last night (which went well). And I was kind of all over the place. Let's see what's on my mental plate:


I have two I discovered this week, two people I work with. The nature of both is somewhat surprising, because I'm not exactly sure where it comes from. But S, I think is another member of the Brethren--we haven't spoken much at any particular length, but I seem to have become one of his go-to people. Not sure how that worked out, but it makes me smile. And his is a lovely smile.

I feel like I'm undergoing a team-building effort here--it's nothing I planned, just something that is happening. And it's kind of cool--two more sets of eyes to look after me.


Always seems I have to have an extra *something* to get me through the day. My obsessions over the years have run the gamut from my novel (never published, but man, the cheapest and most effective psychotherapy ever) to various musicians, to various authors, to various people in my life....and nature abhors a vacuum, so it's always something or some one.

Oddly, my obsession right now revolves around action....and I do believe that's a first....


Met my SIL for lunch yesterday to catch up and recap my recent adventures. We had some very intense discussion, but at least she didn't take my head off for some of my more, uh, adventurous doings. She also passed along some shoes her mom picked up for next to nothing. Andy thinks they are ugly, but I think they are cool. I wore them to my event last night. Need a little breaking in, but adding to my 'armor' because they work.

Fickle People

More than once in my life it's been shown to me that generally people care more about WHO you are than what you are. I've never been a WHO so much as a WHAT and what an amazingly effective way to filter out the riffraff, bloodsuckers and time-wasters...(note to self, keep up the good work!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Profundity Today

Fresh out, and I have to get stuff done. In no particular order, register G for K (or reschedule registration, I was supposed to go in on Monday....:P), get some food, follow up phone calls for my next article, banging on a few doors and windows for more work, make sure that the friend hanging on by his fingernails is still hanging on, and oh yeah, Walk kick-off tonight (I like work events where I can bring the kids). And if I can get Nic to b-ball practice after, I'm doing something.

How did we get to Thursday so fast?

And looking at the calendar, things are stacking up like planes over O'Hare. Have to remember that the last day for T-ball reg for G is Saturday (as is the Pinewood Derby, Basketball, and family fun night.....)

(I"m going to get yelled at for overscheduling but want to remind the room that scouts was NOT my idea)

Oh yeah, and I have a birthday party to plan...and I'd better get on the stick because that's in just over 2 weeks....

And not for nothing we are asked to come up to dinner next Sunday for nephew's 27th birthday. I already have a call in to BIL to request that we piggyback Nic's festivities on...and I am hoping they go for it, because for God's sake, the kid's not a kid anymore and does he *really* have to have his aunt and uncle over? (and moreover, do I really have to buy him a present? I was supporting myself for 7 years by his age....but anyway)

I am hoping that the mere thought of the inconvenience this places on them to come down will cause sense to prevail....and of course I am trying to head off the inevitable MIL visit, really, *she was just here.*

Hasn't been broached yet, but I know it's coming.

(Besides, we have 70th birthday festivities, just my family, for mom the day after Nic's birthday--and I am going to lean on that for all it's worth)

And as my dear friend K says, I need to expect the extinction burst...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random Neuron Fire

Historic moment today--not sure how much I will be able to catch in real time, so thank goodness for DVRs, the Internet and other play-on-demand goodies.

Thinking a certain some one needs a hobby. Or a pet. Or something. Really.

*Waving* at a few others.

Generally feeling content and at peace. Which I know won't last, especially since things will go off to a flying start in a very short time.

*Exhaling* enjoying my coffee, then off to work.

Monday, January 19, 2009


First big snow fall of the winter today coincided with my kids' day off. And snow means sledding, so we went sledding over on our hill this afternoon. Well, G and I threw snowballs, Nic sledded. He insisted on wearing a hand-crocheted buttercup yellow cap--and I didn't have another hat for him to wear, so the hat stayed.

Figured it was no big deal.

DESPITE the hat, Nic's friend B and his brother approached Nic, and the three of them spent the next hour hanging out and sledding together.

We've been going to that hill the last 3 years and we've never had anyone pay attention to us, let alone want to sled with either of my kids. Yet here was B and brother, and they had a blast, all three together.

And Nic looked just like any other kid. Except for the hat.

Parents of autistic kids live for this particular moment, when a regular kid approaches your kid and just wants to play. Guess what, we've had maybe a half dozen of those moments in the last year with B?

This mom's heart is singing tonight.

Called out (Part 1)

It occurred to me the longer I sit on this, the less of it is going to stay with me. So I'll write down the outline, fill in where I can, and then there will be subsequent parts in which I hope I'll have the presence of mind to refer back to this one.

I keep referring to conversations with a friend, but that seems to have been where much of this last little while has started. I'll write something, he'll write something back, and a voice whispers "why not do something about it?"

I don't hear this voice. I didn't even think about it until now, but that's the pattern. Call. Response. Action.

I am not a born leader. I am painfully shy by nature (most people do not believe this about me), and with the shyness comes all the usual baggage that goes with. I'm a middle child, so a made diplomat. Two things I seem to have been born with that have guided me--a rock-solid internal compass and my faith.

In other words, not much in the way of raw weaponry.

At some point I am going to have to write a little more in depth about my history because the past is prologue. But the short take is that I survived, was wise enough at age 20 to know my soulmate when I met him, and that relationship has become the foundation for the adult I am today.

(This was a much longer and painful process than I make out, but for now it will have to do)

Our belief structures always placed an interesting tension between us. DH is agnostic, a scientist, and doesn't believe anything that he can't mathematically and scientifically prove. That said, he is the mirror for all my blind spots. Yet, I am the steward of my family--I am the mover behind a substantial portion of the bigger decisions regarding our family's welfare.

"Just trust me," I've pleaded more than once.

He always has, and by and large, I've never been wrong.

And not because I am all that brilliant--it's all about the faith and the compass.

So, having scaled this out at the broadest possible level, a series of events in October, mentioned here in part, led me to doing more work in early childhood, early education, joining the local education task force. Two months ago, I knew one person in the room.

At the meeting last week, all the movers and the shakers in the room were talking to me--wanted to talk to me, were seeking me out, wanted to meet.....

How does that happen?

And this isn't the only part of my life where this is happening. I have struck up a couple relationships with a Christian couple and an awesome dad whose 5 year old has Downs Syndrome--and for reasons that aren't altogether clear to me, I'm finding my political views aligning with my personal views...can't go here now, this is a post all its own....

Dealing with the MIL situation, again, talking to this friend, who responds sympathetically, with the impetus to CHANGE hard on its heels. I change. It's fixed. And it's amazing what little it took.

I can't shake the feeling that I'm being spoken to in more ways than one we talk. I took this feeling to church with me, and the answers to my internal questions left me....well, speechless.

First reading, God calls to Samuel in the temple.
Second reading, You are a temple of the holy spirit
Gospel: Jesus calls Peter to follow him

Homily: Fr. Mike once again gets up there and knocks it out of the park "You can't pick and choose what you want to hear, that gives the devil his in," he said. "You need to be listening, really listening, and be prepared to do it all. He's calling each one of us. Are you listening?"

Oh, yes.

The offertory hymn, The Summons, made me sit up straight: verse 2

Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
In you and you in me?

and 4:
Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

It goes without saying that I needed to have a word with Father Mike after church.

I told him about my ongoing conversations and how the homily spoke to me, and he said "Excellent, it's great to be challenged--and we need to be." Then he asked me if MIL was gone and I started jumping down and singing--and wow, I DON'T know where that came from, but I'm cringing thinking about it.

He held my hand and laughed saying peace takes many forms...

So, coming back around, with the events and changes of the last month--and you see, this might not seem like much, but it is, there is so much more happening here that I just can't write about right now--and it's the WAY I'm doing things, too. I remember about a year ago I filled in as lector at a 7 am mass, and I was not dressed to be on the altar (not horrible, but jeans and a Henley shirt--not really church attire), but I did it because there wasn't anyone else stepping forward.

Anyway an elderly woman came up to me and complimented me on my reading and I apologized for not being dressed for it.

"No one notices that," she admonished. "You have a face full of joy-that's what I see."

That encounter stays with me. Lately when I am up there reading, I know I have the attention of every person sitting in there. Suddenly, it seems I have this voice that makes people turn....and pay attention. Not just in this space, but everywhere I go. And I'm wondering what they know that I don't.

I am wise enough to know: "That's not me."

It seems lately I have a lot of help, and I need to get somewhere. And that things have been happening so quickly, almost urgently, scares me.

And the sword and shield metaphor....seems alarmingly apt to me now.

I wonder what's coming. And whether I'm ready for it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Addendum to Now for the Re-set

I have another blog I'm working on, but in the meantime, I posted Nic's teacher's letter in a previous blog to one of my support boards. One mom posted in reply:

I always love to hear about the notes that are sent between you and Nic's teachers. They are always so honest, without any pretense. The teachers seem so invested in Nic. I'm sure the teachers come in with a lot of good qualities, but I think that you and Nic both have a wonderful way of pulling people together and bringing out their very best.

And Nic sure is turning into a super ace!

And the thing that stood out to me was the observation that Nic and I have a way of bringing out the best in people.

Just had a very illuminating conversation with said dear friend on the very topic--although friend is responsible for a lot of things going on in my neck of the forest. It could be that good karma is contagious.

I'm still thinking about this and other stuff. It's been an interesting few weeks and I'm still trying to figure it all out....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Now for the Reset

Okay, finally got through the engineering book, picked up another writing assignment, now have to think about picking up a few more and figuring out where they will come from.

I need to go back and ding a couple people for things pending. Hopefully, that will yield a job or two. Of course it would help if I actually went back and billed some phone expenses...I'll do that this weekend.

We just had a busy week wherein we were out every night but last doing something or other. Nic and G had swimming, plus basketball and scouts, and our trip into the city wherein I spoke to the Board of the organization I'm working with about living with autism, and Nic came in (after announcing a raid on the executive director's office) and proclaimed 'and I found golf balls!' Then G walked in with a fist full.

The Board was amused. And I just picked up and kept going.

One member did ask me what I thought the cause of autism was, and I saw the director and communications person just sort of stop breathing. For anyone who DOESN'T know, there is a huge rift in this community over vaccines--and this guy asked a loaded question without even realizing it.

By now I've done maybe a dozen presentations on autism, and I am used to the question, and my answer was as it always is: "We don't know the causes, but the best guess is an intersection between genetics and environment--and we don't know how much of either it is."

And they both exhaled.

G came in and hugged me at one point. I think they forget that both boys have autism, because director said my 'one son' (talking about Nic) got a lot out of the camp, and I had to correct him.

But even the one son, who varies widely and wildly in affect, is showing signs of learning how to blend. His note from one teacher, received yesterday afternoon:

Wonderful moment to share......Mrs. D told Nic to come down to my room to get a permission slip for the trip. Nic came down on his own, explained that he did not have one and asked for what he needed. It was just so incredibly 'normal', he said thanks and went on his way. He did not get side tracked by anything nor did he begin talking about "Harry and His Horrible... And he stood there very still, looking me in the eyes...all just the right body language, etc.! He is the best!!!

Sounds normal, right? Sounds like typical ho-hum 'what's the big deal' behavior.

The big deal is that my son with autism has pulled this off. He CAN appear like everyone else. I don't want him to BE like everyone else, but if he can pull the affect off, that's half the battle. It takes the target off his back.


And G is still G, my lovely little guy with the smoky eyes and sweet face. Normal will be easier for him, even if learning is more challenging. He's sitting across for me with an enigmatic smile as he eats his bagel. He's as opaque as Nic is transparent.

Need to get on with my day, and it will be busy and eventful. More to come....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's good, it's ALL good......

I'm just going to sit here a moment and exhale.

And concentrate on how good I feel at this particular moment.

Did I say something about clothes and armor? Now I have a hoodie and this feeling.

Sword and shield.

I am ready for anything.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I should be feeling better than I am right now.....

After all, got done an incredible amount of stuff in the last 48 hours, finishing up one project, and at least one more queued up. I'm cracking my editor up. And all of the sudden I am a force to be reckoned with.

I want to say I don't know how that's possible, but I have some ideas.

So with all this good stuff going on, things moving in a positive way, the kids growing and prospering (and Nic is just plain GROWING, finding myself digging up all the size 12 clothes I bought for him at various bag sales because suddenly his pants are too short and his sleeves aren't reaching the bottoms of his hands anymore).

G is moving ahead, we're doing everything we need to do to get him ready for K.

So why am I feeling so sad?

Even crackpot P's getting kicked to the curb (3 months after me) doesn't raise any feelings of schadenfreude--I just feel bad for him. Because for some weird reason, he didn't see it coming, whereas I was actively trolling for alternative work for a good six months before the axe fell.

So I was ready for it.

My friends always seem to know when I need to hear from them. C and K dropped me lines this evening. I'll talk to my other friend K tomorrow after G heads out on the bus.

I feel like I'm putting myself back together again, but I'm not exactly sure when I came apart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back to the Pool

For the first time in 4 weeks, swimmming was not pre-empted by weather or holidays. And Nic wasn't having any of the pool, tonight.

He started complaining about it as soon as he got off the bus, through the afternoon and dinner, and all the way up to the pool.

I vowed to toss him in if he didn't go in on his own.

No need. He not only went in, he's swimming 15 ft independently, spurred on by his determined little brother who was already doing at least that for a month. G is still more treading forward than swimming, but he can stay afloat with a lot of work.

But Nic? He will NOT be outdone by his little brother. They stayed in the pool 40 minutes past their lessons, each working on their own repertoire. G worked on his floating, while Nic put on goggles and put his face in the water. This is the kid who as recently as September would not get his head wet.

And then he started swimming across the play area. I called in that he'd be a deep water swimmer soon.

"When I'm older," he grinned.

"When you're 9," I told him. Which he will be in a little over 3 weeks.

He tried to shrug off his accomplishments tonight, as if he did this all the time, and it was no big deal. But he was beaming. He knows. He gets it.

And G for his part is happy to push his big brother forward. It's official, he will be joining Nic at their home school in the fall, the only time in their school histories that they will be at the same school at the same time. I signed the paperwork that will move the process forward, and hopefully, the evaluations will start sooner rather than later.

Lots of stuff for me to do in the meantime.

As for the other stuff, well, I'll mend the fences I can and not fret about what I can't fix. The long and the short of it is that I stumbled upon a nest of nutjobs, and I'll just have to step with a little more care in the future.

I'm annoyed. There's room in this for a pleasant surprise, but I'm not betting the ranch on it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

People suck

I'd be remiss if I didn't allow myself a little rant on opportunists. In the last week I found myself between individuals working at cross-purposes. And I wasn't smart enough or fast enough to duck. Consequently, there is fallout and clean-up.

I'm too trusting and too gullible by half. I operate on the (mistaken) assumption that everyone is as trustworthy as I am. And then I get annoyed when people treat me like I fell off the turnip truck. And it's without fail a big freaking surprise every time it happens.

What else am I too? Too emotional, too intense, too likely to get swept up in other people's drama? All of that.

I need to let it go and stick to playing solitaire.

G Rising

I spend a lot of time talking about what Nic's been up to and not enough time on G. And he has been doing a number of amazing things lately.

He's writing his last name--Nic didn't do that until first grade. He's engaging in pretend play with his classmates. Nic has yet to learn how to pretend play. He's writing. He's playing--and one of the coolest things he did this week is get out an old Godzilla I gave to Andy as a joke gift two decades ago and roar.

I ask him if he's scaring Spiderman, who seems to be the recipient of Godzilla's wrath.

He just rolls his eyes. "Oh mom," he says. "Spiderman isn't afraid of him. He's scaring the sofa."

Okay! My mistake....

So tomorrow we begin the transition process to K. They will ask me at 10:30 am if I think he will be ready.

And my answer will be--yes.

Men in Black Hats (are not always bad guys)

My pastor rocks.

I've said it here and elsewhere that this man is a holy man--the real deal. In another life he would have been a family man, but as it happens, we've adopted one another. And as such, I'm rather protective of him and have caught myself running interference for him at each and every possibility I've gotten. He's done the same for me.

It's not gone unnoticed. But it's not what it looks like. He's of my parents' generation, graduated two years behind my dad from the same high school, grew up in the same neighborhood as my mom, and like me, delivered the now-extinct Philadelphia Bulletin as a kid and, like me, comes from a big Irish Catholic family that did not have a lot of money.

More than that, we share a common emotional language; it's possible for us to get more into a 5-minute conversation than most people can accomplish in an hour. Which works to our advantage, because 5 minutes is usually all we get.

Not everyone gets the shorthand.

Anyway, it was still dark when I walked over to church to lector mass yesterday morning. I see a figure in a long black coat and a black fedora--looks like putting out rock salt out on the landing near the door? Yep, it's Fr. M., who greets me with a big smile. And I can't remember what he said, but I laughed out loud going into church and people looked. I do have a honking laugh. I'd change it if I could. But anyway.

So I take a look at the readings, and they are LONG. I'm up at the ambo longer than I plan to, making sure there isn't anything I'm going to trip over. Fr. M has petitions this week, so I don't have to make those up on the fly like I did LAST week. Okay, doable. Back to the sacristy.

So I wander back into the sacristy and Fr. M asks me how I got to church this morning. I told him I walked (and yes, it was kind of slick and I did nearly do a header at one point, but I am a clutz and we need to figure on that).

"I can't have that, I'll get you a ride home," he said.

"Oh, don't bother," I laugh.

But as we're processing out at the beginning of mass, doesn't he approach one of the guys enroute to the altar and ask him to give me a lift home?

Yes, he did. And I did get a lift. The guy who was asked was just as surprised at the how as I was.

You know, stuff as minor as that is enough to make me smile for days.

Getting back to normal here. We finally got a replacement trampoline for the boys yesterday, so I am going to set that up this afternoon. Finish taking Christmas decorations up to the attic. Did a whopping four loads of laundry yesterday--one more will catch us up.

And work--finishing up the engineering book at long last, and I've queued up two more projects, and I am beating the bushes for more.

The kids are happy to have me back. We went to see the local model railroad display yesterday, and we were there a good two hours. G was happy to stand on a step ladder, his little arm wrapped around my shoulders and look at the broken bridge with the destroyed coal car. N (who said he didn't want to go) delighted in the little town with the parade, factories with elevators, and the spelunkers in the cave.

G is the reason I don't need blood pressure medication. Just being in the same room with him is soothing.

New week ahead. Much to do.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The State of Nic

It’s been an interesting week back at school for my older son.

MIL notwithstanding, Nic handled the transition back to school on Monday gracefully, according to Mrs. D. He was happy to be back, and I can corroborate that he was relieved to have his routine back.

Thursday I met with Mrs. D to discuss the 48 on his Holistic Reading Comp test last month, and I was relieved and pleased that we were looking at the number the same way. I gave her a brief history of Nic, how Decembers have been historically a miserable time for him, and that I would take a 48 in a test over a grand mal meltdown in front of his class any day of the week.

She concurred, and advised that his independent reading, in conjunction with his class work, his reading comprehension is proficient.

(Chopin Nocturne in E flat playing at the airport as I type….a piece I associate with Nic’s early infancy….how fitting that it’s playing at this particular moment….transported to a late afternoon in March nearly 9 years ago….wow…..seems like yesterday…can see the slant of the late afternoon sun in our old apartment….)

Back to Nic in present day—so, he’s doing well, she’s not concerned, and was happy I stopped in to touch base anyway.

Township basketball. He actually scrimmaged on Thursday night, did some drills, and yes, he fell apart, but you know, for about five minutes there he had game. True, the other 55 minutes were rather painful at best, but you live for the five minutes where he looks like everyone else….

That said, I called in a little while ago to see how he fared in the game today. He played for 5 minutes—which was about 5 minutes longer than I was expecting. DH reported that he spoke with the commissioner and that they had a good conversation. Another dad came up to him and told him to keep Nic coming to practices, that he can be good, but he needs to keep coming.

I knew who it was—this guy worked with Nic one-on-one Thursday night. How cool that he wants to see Nic succeed at this.

The workshop went well, and I am happy to be enroute home. I have one last chapter of the book, some cleanup of family matters this week, and more fun stuff to come….

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dan's Sweater

If I were in a more profound mood I would blog about the general concept of armour and clothes. My good friend K left behind her hoodie when she was here last summer with her brood, and when I am facing a particular challenge, I don the hoodie as if it were armour.

Today, I faced a freezing cold climate for my two-day seminar, and the ever-galant Dan loaned me his extra-large, navy blue Izod sweater.

I spent the better part of the day feeling like I could conquer the world, wearing that sweater.

It came off, but then came back on when I met them in the lounge a little later. We parted company, Dan, C, the sweater and I, a little while ago.

Other stuff going on, but the sweater seems key right now. Not sure why.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Opiate of the Masses Is....

the Internet.

I am in the midst of setting up a workshop on bullying, the Internet and ASD with one of my partners in crime. And in the last 24 hours, this ASD mom has a bit of a wake-up call, herself.

It's time for me to limit my time here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back to School

So the kids went back yesterday, and Gabriel came home with a new book. Nic came home with a recorder, a packet to go with it, more homework than he's had all year, and oh, yes, his second quarter Holistic Assessment for Reading and Writing.

He scored 68% with the writing, no change from the first quarter. He wrote a nice little piece about his friend B, and what he would do to make B feel special if B were ever sad and/or needed cheering up.

He makes up with heart for that he lacks in art.

But the reading, oy. To say his scores were in the toilet is an understatement. He scored 80% (proficient) in October. In December? 48.

Um. WOW.

I think the only reason I am not getting hysterical and beating down Mrs. D's door is that December, historically, is a BAD month for Nic. This is the FIRST December in which we had ZERO meltdowns at school--huge, huge, progress. But I think we paid for that in other ways--like the test score.

I do think there is a comprehension component, and I do think getting him extra help is not a bad idea. But I'm wondering how much of this is a product of the moment over being a long-term issue.

Not sure.

And on another note, MIL decamps TONIGHT.


(a little later)

Nephew is still in B'hem, so MIL will be here another night. She is not happy about it.

And that? Well, looks like the new world order is here to stay.