Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keeping Up with Science Boy

Do you ever just sit back and stare at your kids and wonder, "How on earth did you know that??"

I do, especially with M1, though M2 definitely has her moments.

Today, the subject of future occupations came up. It started with a discussion of 'Anne of Green Gables.' Bear with me. He admitted that he didn't think that there was any way that his imagination could stretch as far as Anne's.

"Oh, really?" I asked. "I happen to know one little boy who loves to sit in my car and dream up vehicles of the future. I honestly wonder if someday you'll be an engineer for a car manufacturer."

"No," he replied. "I don't want to do that. I want to work at a zoo so I can be around all the animals, especially the reptiles. And do they have bugs in some zoos?"

Bugs were his first true love. I don't think he'll ever get past them. I admitted that I didn't think that most zoos had bugs but that there were lots of places that do study bugs.

"Actually," he suddenly exclaimed, cutting off my statement, "I want to work at an aquarium so I can feed the cuttlefish. I want to make one of them mad so it'll squirt me."

I had to giggle at that one.

"Well, you could always work with Woods Hole."

"Woods Hole? What's that?"

"An oceanographic institution. They study all sorts of things. I'm sure they have a web site if you want to see it."

He did.

Forty-five minutes, two job descriptions, an article about plastic-eating bacteria, and a description of a conference in China on the genomes of social insects later, and he's telling me all about symbiotic relationships between golden jellyfish and a certain kind of algae. Heck, I didn't even know such a thing as a golden jellyfish existed!

I know he is smart. I know he picks these things up from various magazines, TV shows, etc. I know he doesn't understand it all yet because sometimes he'll totally have a light bulb moment. But what blows me away is his ability to see how everything connects, put it all together, and retain it. Someday I just hope he's able to capitalize on all of this. I don't ever want to lose the wonder of being amazed at my own child.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Consequences of Studying Art with an Aspie

Today, in art, M1 and I discussed the term 'form.' We discussed how it signifies something three-dimensional and is therefore different from drawings or paintings. We discussed the terms height, width, and depth. We looked at a picture of a statue and made inferences from it. And then I asked M1 to make a sculpture. He, of course, first wanted to know what medium he was supposed to use. I was in a lazy mood and suggested Play-Doh.

"Can I make a snake?"

"No snakes. Nice try, Mr. McFly."

*grin*

He pulled out the red Play-Doh first, then black. He doesn't mix Play-Doh colors [any more], so I was curious to see what he uses he would find for those two particular colors. I watched for a minute and then forgot to pay attention since I was putting curtains into the dryer and cutting out a picture to put in a frame. Then I heard my name.

"Mom? I'm done, but it's not portable. You have to come see it."

I came.

Honestly, at first, I thought it was some sort of elephant gone horribly, horribly wrong. But no.

"It's a dung beetle! And it's rolling a ball of dung into a hole! They do this backwards and then they lay eggs inside the dung. Wanna see?"

*pause* "Wanna see what?"

"The eggs, of course!"

Serious points were given for creativity and scientific accuracy. A dung beetle. Whoda thunk?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Disturbing Birthday Images

As I mentioned a few days ago, the following child has had a birthday:

She's this old now:

And, as happens with all good birthdays, there were pictures taken, some of them disturbing.

The disturbing images aren't the ones where she loves her gifts, such as the pincushion that came with her sewing kit...

... or the charm to go with the charm bracelet we got her...

... or even the weird grin she displayed when she found a shirt she loved.

No... the disturbing images came when she unwrapped a Pillow Pet.



Kuro's in luv.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blessed

Six years ago today, I gave birth to one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

It's hard to believe that she was born six years ago. SIX. How did I get so lucky as to have one wonderful child, let alone two?

Because this guy is equally wonderful.

I may not be a "churchy person," as M1 so eloquently put it, but I am still a very blessed person.

Today is a perfect example.

First, M2 waited patiently for everyone to get up before asking to open her gifts. She was so happy and grateful for what she got, even there weren't any "big" gifts. I'll have a proper birthday post tomorrow. M2 then asked what we were doing today and was very enthusiastic about going to see M1 at his swimming lesson, even though I know that she desperately wishes it was June so she could have swimming lessons, too, and attending his lesson meant that she wouldn't get to have a "home day" for her birthday.

After the swimming lesson, we went to the mall to pick up another gift for her (I wanted her to be present when we bought it). M1 wandered around the store and found something he wanted to get for his sister. It came out that he was very upset that he hadn't been able to buy her a gift. How sweet is that? Oz took him through the mall, and M1 found this:

He wanted to give that to her because she loves art and she's one of his best friends. *I* almost cried when he gave it to her, and she gave him a huge hug in thanks. They really are close for siblings who are so different in so many ways. I never was close to my sister as a child (my fault), and it's heartwarming.

After M1 presented his gift, both kids wanted to go outside. A few minutes later, they came back in and told me they had started getting the garden ready for me. Garden? Honestly, I had given up the idea of having a garden this year because it wasn't fenced and I knew marauding poultry would eat anything I planted. But the kids were weeding it and digging up the soil and getting everything ready to be planted. Even Oz fell under their spell.

I now have chicken wire running around my garden, and it's nearly all dug out.

My heart is so full of love for my amazing family. I can only hope that I can live up to the standards they're setting. How else can I deserve to be called "Mom?"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Horse Lady

Every once in a while, I refer to The Horse Lady. I think it's time to introduce her properly. After all, I've been blogging for how long? Oh, OK, let's be honest, I don't keep track of things like that. I barely remember my own anniversary sometimes (sorry, dear... I know I'm the bad one in our relationship). Thankfully I have a back-up anniversary if I really do forget. Long story. I digress.

I hereby introduce K, aka The Horse Lady.

That's my back yard; that's her horse. That's actually the "baby" horse. He's 2. His name is Ace. He's kind of a turd, as 2-year-olds often are. I'm sure many of you can relate. K is trying to work on his stubborn streak, but he's a tad mulish. It must come from his father's side. How do I know?

Because K owns Mama Horse, too. Her name is Cherokee, and she's the sweetest horse ever. She's so steady, I'd trust my kids to run around her without any fear whatsoever. Not that they DO, but they COULD. Cherokee is K's baby now that her own kids are grown and have babies of their own.


She loves Cherokee the best. No mistaking her favorite at all.



Even though Ace likes to butt in now and then for extra lovin' of his own.

The Horse Lady. Animal Lover Extraordinaire. Housesitter (when I'm out of town). Surrogate Grandmother (she claims my kids and has known both of them since before birth, so I can't deny her that).

All in all, I'm happy to know her and to have her horses in my yard. They sort of came with the house, and I've never regretted it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Moments

I was inspired to break out the camera today. It's been so long since I've posted any photos, and I was feeling the emptiness. I still only have a point-and-shoot camera, I've never taken a photography class, and, well, I've never used Photoshop in my life. So these are what they are. They are spring, in all its unedited glory. Enjoy.






Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gorgeous Sunday post

Here are some random thoughts for a gorgeous, sunny Sunday.

1. A roll of toilet paper can last an entire week if Oz is gone.

2. I can sleep with four cats and not realize it until I wake up and can't move because the bedspread is pinned down in all directions.

3. One good day in the sun brings my skin color back to the same shade as my foundation. This is good.

4. Geese are remarkably talkative. We had nine of them stop by yesterday after a small thunderstorm. They said hello. And a lot of other things. Some of them are not repeatable. I know they're not repeatable because nobody says polite things while hissing and chasing someone while trying to bite their neck.

5. My husband is the self-proclaimed King of Tacky T-shirts. His latest one is this. At 6'8" tall, nobody has taken the dare yet. Except me. Repeatedly.

6. My baby girl is getting freckles. They're really, really tiny and really, really cute.

7. Watching anything with Charlie Sheen in it is hilarious now that he's such a "winning" person. I highly recommend the original "Wall Street" for a great laugh. It was a good movie, anyway.

8. The second Borders in our town has been added to the hit list. This particular Borders has been a haven for me during lots of crises. I am going to cry. And then I'm going to have to see if I can have one last coffee with friends there before it shuts.

9. Bruises and unwounded skin are fighting a battle for control of my son's limbs. It's a close contest. The best(?) part is that he has no idea how 98% of the bruises happened.

10. The kids have decided they NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED one of these. M2 has volunteered to pay for it. He even factored in shipping. Oz and I are pondering where to hang it.

Enjoy the weather!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break, Round One

The first week of Spring Break is officially over. It's amazing how quickly it flew by. It's been amazing. I'm so glad I get to spend these days with my kids.

Yesterday we ran errands and bought summerish things like flip-flops, swimsuits, and sunglasses. Of course, that meant it turned colder today. Not that M2 noticed. She woke up and put on a tank top and skirt. Girl doesn't have a 'cold' setting.

Since we were inside, we cleaned the house, took down the St. Paddy's Day decorations and put up Easter, and just played. The kids invented games to play together, and I got to laugh hysterically at the differences in their ideas of fun.

M1 invented a game first. He brought out his cars and pretended they were all bombers. The goal of the game, which was in fact a competition, was to bomb the crap out of your opponent's 'bombers' before they bombed yours. M2 got very upset for two reasons: 1) M1 wasn't playing fair (and he wasn't, and I took care of it), and 2) M1 kept bombing the Red Cross truck. How do you explain the idea of war crimes to an 8-year-old? I let that one slide. They worked it out. Mostly M1 handed the truck to M2 and let her hide it in her bunker.

Then M2 had a turn. She broke out her mermaids and Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie and, just for M1, a shark, because he refused to play a girl part with a high voice like M2 had originally wanted. The shark was supposed to be hunting for food and treasure in the lagoon where the mermaids and Strawberry lived. Barbie only got to participate for a few minutes before she got tossed aside. My daughter is not a Barbie girl. It was really funny, though, when M1 got completely confused by the fact that his shark wasn't allowed to eat the mermaids. And when the shark turned out to be the mermaids' brother and had to talk about emotions... well... it was all I could do to keep a straight face. I tried to record it on video for teenage blackmail purposes, but M1 heard the ding of the camera and froze in place until I turned it off.

M1 had a rather difficult day, all told. Besides having to be fair (heaven forbid), I had to spend a good chunk of the day working out ways to keep him occupado, because - God love him - the boy is my child through and through. If his hands aren't kept busy, they find a way to pester his sister. If she walked through a doorway and he was near it, he felt the need to block it. If she was helping me and he was in between jobs, he'd find a way to distract her. He found a bar magnet of hers today and wanted to return it, but he couldn't just give it back. Oh, no. He had to stick it down the back of her skirt. At bedtime (before I caught him trying to fill a glass test tube - with a huge chip gone - with water to conduct post-bedtime experiments in his room), I sat him down and cuddled him and told him the story of a girl who was terribly mean to her sister and had a hard time learning to control herself. He worked out very quickly that the mean girl was me, and I think he was reassured that we're alike that way. Oz wasn't mean to his brothers, and I think sometimes M1 feels very alone when he gets in trouble. M2 likes to pester, too, but she prefers me as her subject, which makes it easier to handle most of the time. It's hard not to make the kids feel like I have favorites. I'm sure no parent masters it.

All in all, though, I think the first week of Spring Break has been a success. One more to go, with M2's birthday in it. It's gonna be another wild ride!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Small Talk

M1 cracks me up with his bluntness sometimes. He embarrasses me at others. Sometimes he manages to do both at once.

We've been struggling lately with the idea of small talk. For example, when we went to a store to get him some inserts for his tennis shoes, the young salesman there introduced himself first to me and then to M1.

"And what's your name?" he asked M1.

M1 froze. Literally. Then he choked out his name and breathed a huge sigh of relief. He'd gotten through an introduction successfully. He usually does. Those are pretty well scripted, so he can manage them. But then the salesman asked M1 his shoe size.

Insert gaping mouth and frozen eyes.

"Seven," I answered a few seconds later, saving M1 from having to try to respond to a question he didn't have in his mental script.

The guy nodded. He got the insert. He came back, and M1 found his voice. "My feet are huge. My mom calls me a moose. I'm only eight years old, but I wear a men's size 7. I'm tall for my age, too, and my daddy was tall for his age, but he wasn't as tall as me. He was never the tallest in his class until he was a teenager."

"Oh yeah?" the guy asked, genuinely trying to feign interest. I gave him big kudos for that.

"Yeah, my mom has pictures, and they show that my dad was only the third or fourth tallest in his class. I'm going to be tall like my dad someday, maybe taller, but my mom doesn't want me to be taller than him because our doorways aren't tall enough, and we have ceiling fans, too. My dad is 6'8". My sister's tall, too. She's only five and she's four feet tall. Someday she'll be taller than my mom, and so will I. My mom's going to be the shrimp in the family."

By this time, the poor salesman has the inserts into M1's shoes and has been trying to get a word in edgewise for about 15 seconds to ask him to stand and see how they feel, but it's hard to stop M1 when he gets his lecture on.

And this is a typical exchange. Most of the dialogue I've written above has come from things that either A) M1 has heard me say to friends or other folks a few times or B) a well-worn script that M1 has developed over the years on his own.

We talked about it after we left the store, and M1 admitted that he totally freezes when he has to talk to anyone he doesn't know very well. He also admitted that he doesn't understand when other people want to talk. And as for the notion of choosing a subject? Fugettaboutit.

This has left me with the parent-of-an-ASD-child dilemma of having to explain the entire concept of small talk to an 8-year-old boy who has NO CLUE.

I went at it a bit backward first, trying to skip straight to 'safe' subjects and using short sentences and things like that. But I'm am realizing that the REAL first step is to get M1 to create 'social circles' in his head. His inner or "first" circle has to be his family, immediate and secondary, and maybe a few close friends, though we might have to tweak that circle a bit, too, eventually. More on that later. But those of us in the first circle are the ones who are used to him, accept him as he is, and aren't in the least bit bugged when he starts lecturing or when he freezes. We don't notice the difference!

The second circle are people who have met him more than once and whom we know and trust. These would be people in the mom's group, people in our homeschool group, etc. In other words, people who aren't strangers, but they might find some of his statements or actions a bit off sometimes. Not all the time, because all kids are weird sometimes, but once in a while you just get the 'weird' vibe. It happens.

The third circle includes strangers. Cashiers, salespeople, random folks in stores... all the people with whom one normally doesn't share the intimate details of your life/day/shoe size. Normally.

After the circles are established, THEN I can work within those parameters to create safe subjects and introduce the notion of not jumping from topic to topic or launching into a speech with no preamble whatsoever. The entire process is truly like programming a computer, only with a few extra lines of code in there that constitute human emotion and DNA.

Clearly I have my work cut out for me. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Once we get all this done, then I've got to hint at the idea of circles within circles. For example, my grandmother is one who needs to fall somewhere on the cusp of Circles 1 and 2.

Why?

When we went to visit her, M1 was talking to her and she asked him how Sunday School was going. My grandmother is a very religious Lutheran woman. It's just who she is, how she was raised, how she has lived, and how she will die. My mother has yet to tell her she's not attending a Lutheran church, and nobody wants to burst that particular bubble, because it won't be pretty. So when Grandma asked about Sunday School, my insides hit the roof and I mentally screamed, "NOOOOOOO!!!!"

Quoth M1: "Well, my mom's not really a churchy person sometimes, so we haven't been going. I go with my Nana sometimes, though, and it's fun."

*headthwack*

I spent the next 10 minutes running damage control and attempting to soften the tractor beam of a glare that had directed itself at me.

Then, as we were leaving, my grandmother was hugging the kids goodbye and told them, "Come back and see me again soon."

Quoth M1: "Okay, but don't die first."

That one... well, that one just makes me laugh hysterically.

Small talk. Not such a small subject after all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Break Fatigue

I. Am. Tired. I am typing this and going to bed. It's 8:49 p.m. Last night I was in bed by 9, too, though I didn't flip the light off till about 10:30 because Oz gave me his Kindle since he got an iPad 2 and I downloaded Tom Clancy's "Without Remorse" and had the stupidity to pick it up to read "a few words." Anyway, I don't plan to read tonight. The last two days have been long. Good, just really looooooooooooooong.

Two nights ago I caught a bad case of insomnia. The kids had experienced it, too, and I had to tell them both to turn their lamps off at 10. I went to bed at midnight, like a good girl and like I usually do. At 12:30 I gave up, got up and read the Kindle till 1. At 1 I decided to try to sleep again. At 1:45 I got up and puttered on the computer till 2:15. At 2:30 my bladder announced its presence. At 2:45 I finally felt tired, checked my watch so I'd know if a significant amount of time passed before I surfaced again, and fell asleep.

The kids woke me up at 5:15. The Waking of the Mommy wasn't deliberate, but M1 had woken, gone and gotten M2 up, and they had subsequently trashed his room and were giggling like hyenas. I went a little Vesuvius. They went back to their beds, and I to mine, till my alarm went off at 6:48. I hit snooze repeatedly till 7:15 and then realized that if I wanted to leave the house by 8:30, I needed to rise and make a half-hearted attempt to shine... all the way to the coffee pot. The kids were nowhere to be seen. I had to wake them at 7:45. I was jealous. But I got them up and around and fed and in the car, and off we went to visit my grandmother in Kansas. It was a two-hour drive up. We visited. It was lovely. She fixed the following food for lunch:

Cornflake-coated oven-fried chicken
Green beans with bacon
Cole slaw
Macaroni and cheese
Pickles
Lime Jell-O salad with pears and marshmallows
Biscuits

She decided that since we had macaroni and cheese, she didn't need to fix potatoes. I concurred.

And this was all NOT including dessert, which we had later, and which consisted of pineapple upside-down cake, snickerdoodles, and grapes. That's right. Dessert had courses. The kids and I didn't eat supper last night. She has enough leftovers to feed herself for the next week. And I brought home the mac 'n' cheese and the rest of the cake and some of the cookies, since she's technically on a gluten-free diet.

Anyway, we took the kids to the park, wore them out thoroughly, and then I made the two-hour trek back home. I'm sure my grandmother went straight to bed. She had a lot less energy this time than she did even six months ago. It's worrying.

As I said, last night I was out like a light by 10:30, which is saying something for a woman who never goes to bed at that time without a migraine or some other medical cause. Time change + one night of insomnia = Apparent Sleep Problems. This morning I got up when M2 woke me up around 8:45. I fed the kids upside-down cake and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (What? Cake is awesome breakfast food, right??), puttered around and did some chores, and then we went to a friend's house. She had invited several people over to play. She lives on a lake in the area, and so after lunch, we all went down to the shoreline. The kids played and played and played. We adults sat and talked. We all baked in the sun, and most of us came away with a little sunburn. M1 also has about a dozen scratches in various places, all of which he can locate due to a strong sense of pain but most of which he can't identify a source for. The drama is amusing.

After we left, I assessed our plans. We were supposed to have done our grocery shopping today, but yeah... soooo didn't happen. We came home, the kids voluntarily took showers and changed into pajamas, and we oozed on the couch watching the original Scooby-Doo cartoons till the frozen pizza was done cooking. Bed was at 7 for anyone under the age of Me. M1 claimed to have "so much energy," but I haven't heard a peep out of him since about 7:15. M2 just got up and came to me crying, sound asleep, something she hasn't done for about a year and a half.

I was going to take them to a museum tomorrow, but I think that instead we'll hit up the grocery store, maybe run to a clothing store to get M2 some summer pajamas, maybe go to a bakery and pick up carbohydrate-loaded treats, and otherwise recover from the past two days.

Spring Break is exhausting! G'night, everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh, the Things I Teach

Since Oz left on a trip for work today and won't be back till late Friday, the kids and I had a lazy day. We watched 'Fantasia 2000.' M1 made bubble gum from a kit he had. M2 created designs with Perler beads, which Oz had never even heard of until this week. That kind of blew my mind. We did do laundry and M2 practiced her violin, but that was the extent of the 'work' around here today.

Spring Break is loverly.

After lunch, I broke out The Book. I have been reading the Little House books to my children. I started this months ago, so you'd think that we would be well into the series by now, but no. Life happened, we skipped a few weeks (or more), and we're just now in the middle of "Little House on the Prairie."

The third or fourth chapter that we read today was entitled Fever 'n' Ague. Halfway through, Dr. Tan appeared with his magical powder that was so, so bitter. I interrupted myself - I do this frequently to explain references or further clarify something the kids don't understand, and they often ask questions, too - to let the kids know that I'd tell them what the powder was once we got to the end of the chapter.

I reached the end of the chapter, where it explains that the Ingalls family had caught malaria from the mosquito swarms, and stopped.

"What was it??" M1 instantly wanted to know. "What was the powder?"

I got up and wandered to the kitchen. The children followed. I reached up on top of the fridge and got down a small glass bottle with a yellow label.

I showed them the bottle and asked M1 to read the small print under the company name. "Contains quinine," he read. "What's quinine?"

"That's what the powder had in it," I explained. "Quinine can also be mixed into a liquid. It can help treat malaria. Even mixed into a liquid and in a lesser concentration, it's still pretty bitter, though. Want to try it?"

M1 was game; M2 was skeptical but not about to be outdone by her brother. I broke out a small glass and poured a tiny amount into the bottom. I offered it to M1. He wet his lips but didn't really try it. I laughed. "If you're going to try it, TRY it," I told him. "Don't do it halfway." He grimaced but sucked up his courage and took a real sip.

[pause]

"I LIKE it!" he exclaimed.

"WHAT?? No, you don't," I protested. "It's okay to not like it. I don't like it, either."

"No, I really like it!" he insisted. To prove his point, he finished the glass.

I couldn't stop laughing. I got out a second glass and poured an equal amount for M2, who completely hated it and wouldn't take more than the tiniest sip, even after I added some lime juice. M1 was more than happy to finish that up for her.

Now I know what to hide when he gets older. No gin for him!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Showing Love

M2 has been hung up lately with the idea that nobody in her school class loves her. It's not true. I've been there and watched her classmates interact with her, and her teachers assure me that it's the same way when I'm not there. The girl is loved. But she doesn't believe it. So the other day, in a desperate attempt to get her to see through the fog in her brain, I told her that people show love in different ways. I tried to cover all the different love languages. I told her that love can be playing with her, which is what she wants and thinks she isn't getting, but love can also be hiding in things like helping someone out, sitting next to a person, and yes, even pestering!

I don't know how much of it she bought, but I'd like to think a little of it sank in. We're on Spring Break for the next two weeks, so we'll see how excited (or not) she is to see her friends again when the time comes.

I also told her that love can be making things for people, which is something she enjoys doing. M1 enjoys this, too. One of his assignments recently turned into a little more, and our family has reaped the benefits.

Grandma, you haven't seen this.

The assignment was to create a greeting card for someone. The idea was to write a small poem, illustrate it, and send it to someone. Since we haven't delivered the original card yet, I can show it to you:


Keep that poem in mind. It's going to come into play again very shortly.

Two days after he wrote this card, he had a rough night. He couldn't fall asleep. I heard him puttering around in his room, but he wasn't coming out, so I let him be. When I was getting dressed in my bedroom the following morning, I heard a rustle at the door. I opened it and looked down to find...


That's us scaring Daddy. It's somewhat of a tradition to try to scare the pants off of Oz when he "rests his eyes."

That afternoon Oz got a card that had "Together we make a big moo" in the middle with a picture of them saying MOO together. I can't find it for a photo, but by this time, we were all giggling from the random cards. (M2 didn't get left out. She has a Valentine's Day mailbox she brought home from school, and M1 delivers little notes to her all the time. The most recent one said, "I love you M2. XOXOXOXO")

So clearly, this poem was getting some wear.

Oz took it and ran with it. He created cards for each kid that afternoon. The top one is M1's, and the bottom is M2's. For the record, M2 thought his handwriting was horrible ("Your 'n' is an 'm', Daddy!") but thought his drawing was simply mind-blowing ("I didn't know you could make that!"). The front of each card says, "I love my [child's name]. He/she loves me, too."


Showing love. It's got a funny way of showing itself in ways you'd never expect. If I can teach M2 this, we'll be good to go.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eau de Dog Poo

I am prone to migraines. Yesterday morning, I woke up with one. I could feel the throbbing. I could feel that my eyes were a little bit fuzzy. Light hurt. My alarm clock blaring REALLY hurt. M2's high-pitched squeal made me pretty sure my head was going to explode on the spot. But the worst part was that when I sat up in bed, I smelled...

DOG POO.

I was fully aware that I sounded crazy when I told Oz that I smelled this particular odor, especially since I said it as I was sticking my head under the bed to check for evidence of such. No sign of any. The dogs spend the night outside, so the chances of actual poo were slim, and yet... as I walked around the room getting dressed... I smelled it again.

"I don't smell it, honey," my husband assured me. This statement comes from the man who can't hear a single engine noise, no matter how much I freak out about it, and who can't see the item he's hunting in the fridge. I don't trust his senses.

I gave up and chalked the smell up as a new prodromal migraine symptom. After all, who doesn't love the idea of smelling dog doody every time they get a migraine?!? I took my Treximet and went on about my day, and I didn't smell it again... until this morning. I smelled it as I was going out to the van to take the kids to school. I smelled it when I was feeding the chickens. And I smelled it when I came back into the house. Part of me considered taking some Aleve as a migraine preventative, but then I came into the living room to start school for the day and forgot.

No headache.

11 o'clock rolled around, and M1 and I got ready to head to swim class. I put on my shoes and walked out to the van... AND SMELLED IT AGAIN.

This time, something in my brain clicked.

SHOE.

Usually my shoes live in my bedroom closet. They had been on my feet this morning when I had smelled the poo again. As I stepped into the van, I checked. Sure enough, poo on my shoe. I hopped back out of the van and scraped off as much as I could on the grass and railroad tie that surrounds the garden area. Unfortunately, that had the lovely effect of sloughing off the grass and other 'protective' barrier between me and the actual poo. I drove to swim class with the rank odor in my nose and realized that A) I couldn't go into the swim school reeking of dog feces, and B) I couldn't go in barefoot.

Thank heaven for Kleenex and wet wipes.

And thank heaven that I don't have to smell dog poo every time I have a migraine. I'll take what small blessings I can get.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can-Do Attitude!

I am coming out of my uber-funk. I would like to extend a truly heartfelt THANK YOU! to all of you folks who reached out and helped me through the darkness of the past few days. It really, really meant a lot.

Now that I have hit bottom, I'm coming back up and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am making a plan for M1. We talked this morning. He said that he is having a hard time sleeping at night, so we're going to work on his melatonin. I had been slacking off with it lately, so I have to try to fix MY oversight before worrying about his. We may wind up back on medication; we may not. We shall see, but at least now I have a plan. This is good. As for M2, I'm going to keep a close eye on her. She bawled for 20 minutes yesterday (would have been longer except we had to go into her violin lesson, and so she stopped) because she's convinced her entire class hates her. They love her. I've watched them around her, and they truly adore her. She just can't see it right now. So my job is to try to build her up so her depression doesn't eat her alive. Nobody should be eaten alive at the age of 5.9. Again, we may end up on medication; we may not. But there is a plan.

I also am going into all this with a positive attitude, a 'can-do' attitude. I am the Little Engine That Could. One of my friends posted a status message on Facebook this morning: "Today, I'm trying out the Law of Attraction and purposely not focusing on anything negative in my life. The theory is, by focusing on only positive things, you bring more positivity into your life. I'm also joyfully thinking of what I DO WANT, instead of what I do not want." I think this post is amazing and wonderful, and I hope to join her in her endeavor. She's really cool to begin with, but it's easy to get bogged down in details and drama. Guilty as charged right here. Sentencing: Positive thinking for 21 days. My mother always told me, "Twenty-one days to break a habit; 21 days to make a habit." Here's to three GOOD weeks.

Now, to begin. Without further ado, I present to you a POSITIVE story from my week:

M1 fixed dinner on Sunday night. Really, he started the process on Wednesday. I had been puttering around the house doing chores and getting ready to go run errands when I noticed that he had disappeared from the living room. I heard bangs in the kitchen. I worry whenever I hear bangs in the kitchen, so I hollered across the house to ask him what he was doing.

"Picking out recipes."

???

I wandered in, and sure enough, he had several of his cookbooks strewn across the floor and counter.

"I think this," he said, pointing to a recipe that said "BBQ Burgers." Oddest BBQ burger recipe I'd ever seen since it called for chicken gumbo soup and no BBQ sauce whatsoever, but I didn't say a word.

"And a tossed green salad," he continued, flipping pages, "and fries. And tapioca pudding for dessert."

Had to say something there. Not a tapioca fan. He nodded, accepted the input calmly, and flipped to a baked apple recipe instead. "This?"

Sure.

He got out a piece of paper and went through the ingredient list for every recipe. He asked me about ingredients if he didn't know whether we had them or not, and he created his own shopping list. When we went to the store, I put him in charge of his own shopping, and he didn't forget a single thing.

On Sunday, he was so excited that when I called him into the house about 2 p.m. to make the salad (so he didn't have to do everything at once), he wanted to make the whole dinner then and there. We settled for making the salad and prepping the apples. He was so cute making the salad: He made it according to the recipe, looked at it, and announced, "This needs more lettuce." My boy is already learning to improvise. Proud mama moment.

When dinnertime came, he asked for some help from Oz with putting things in and out of the oven, but he largely did fix the meal himself. I avoided the kitchen so I wouldn't interfere, so I don't have pictures, but the sounds were calm, not chaotic.

The 'burgers' were good. We discussed the recipe and decided they needed some added spice next time, and M1 took the constructive criticism as it was given and made notes on his recipe. The salad was delicious. Oz hates red apples but ate his baked apple dutifully and was relieved to hear that the kids didn't care for the recipe, either, though he didn't say as much to them. M1 put a big "NO" next to that recipe. It was a wonderful meal.

Positive experiences. Good times. These are my goals for the days ahead. I want more of THESE stories. I can do it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Oi and Vey (said with a smile)

We had M2's psychiatric appointment yesterday. It went well! I do like the doctor more and more each time we go. This is good because I don't want anyone icky poking around in my kid's head.

It all went about as I expected. We sat down with the doctor and exchanged the typical formalities. He reviewed the history, and off we went. I explained the unpredictability of her behavior and sleep patterns. I went over the psychosomatic episode with the vomiting. I covered the fact that she whines about not having friends but is the one who separates herself from them in the first place (he got a chuckle out of that). Thus concluded Psych Appointment, Act I, otherwise entitled, "My Turn."

Act II: "His Turn." He asks questions. I answer. He sits back in the chair and asks a few more. He takes a deep breath, leans forward, and we launch into...

Act III: "Conclusions." He tells me that her behavior doesn't fit an anxiety profile but does fit a mood disorder profile due to the daily inconsistencies. He adds that there are definitely some elements of anxiety that are still there, particularly those of separation anxiety. All in all, this is nothing I didn't already know, but to hear it officially is two parts exhilarating and one part depressing. He gives me several medication options to consider if her current depression gets worse (or if the anxiety flares or if her symptoms turn manic). At this point, he tries to engage M2 herself, but she merely grunts at him, glares at me, and resumes playing with the wooden blocks he keeps in his office. He reassures her that she's not in trouble for not talking and tells her that she's a good girl. She remains silent, her back to us. He prints off some information about the different med options. We agree to meet again in four months, sooner if symptoms escalate. Exit, stage left.

All the way home, I received the silent treatment. I don't know why because she had told me for the past two days that she was happy to be going to see her doctor. When we got home, I asked her if she wanted to write a letter or draw a picture about her anger. She nodded.

Shortly thereafter, I received a letter. It read: "Behave yourself Mommy. Ph.Ph. [her version of blowing a raspberry]. Hmph! Lov, M2. [insert heart drawing here] Lov, the end."

Mood disorder or not, I'm saving that letter. Someday I'll upload it to passiveaggressivenotes.com.

I love her. When she's not driving me literally insane, she cracks me up.

Like a Bad Country Song

It is amazing to me how much a kid can hurt your heart when he's not even IN THE HOUSE.

I was planning to write a happy blog this morning. M1 made dinner for the family last night, and I wanted to talk about that. I really did. And I will write about it at some point. Just not now. I've got thoughts echoing in my mind and they just won't shut up till I put them somewhere, and this is my venting spot.

M1 is at Grandma's today and tomorrow. He's doing schoolwork there so we don't get behind, but mostly he ISN'T HERE. She wanted him for the entire week, but it doesn't work logistically... and besides anything else, the kids are out on Friday anyway for the beginning of Spring Break. Why did she want to keep him? Because my stress level is roughly at the level of the Sears Tower (which I learned last night isn't called the Sears Tower any more, which I'm sure makes me behind the times, but seriously, what the heck is up with that??), and she could tell I needed a break.

I am exhausted. I tried to see the positive in yesterday's post, and I don't want this to sound like there isn't anything good that has happened lately, but I feel like I've been stuck in a bad country song for the past couple of weeks, maybe months. You know the kind of song I mean - the ones where it starts to sound like Job had it easy. My heart is being slowly squeezed apart by the very children who hold it in their hands.

I discovered more tic-tac-toe grids carved into M1's furniture/wallpaper this morning, and it just set me off. I feel like I help and I give and I do for him, and in return, my reward is to do even more the next day, starting from scratch. There is simply no progress. Give him an inch and he'll take a mile. And if I get two seconds of reprieve from him (which is rare), M2 wants to claim a spot in my attention, too. I don't want her to feel neglected, so I can't ignore her. She's my baby, too! So he gets my mind and my body, because I have to chase him down and constantly come up with new ideas to try to curb whatever new behavior he has invented, and she gets my soul, because that's all that's left. Without the kids, I am a shell, and with them, I'm slowly being broken into pieces.

I sometimes think I was never meant to be a mom. I certainly was never meant to be a helicopter/Tiger Mom, but I can't be the opposite, either, and walk away. These are my babies, parts of me, and I think that's why it kills me so much that I don't feel like I can help them. I just want to go for an entire day without destruction or fighting or feeling like I'm working a constant search-and-rescue mission rather than riding on a normal patrol.

I'd say this break would be good for me, except I still can't separate myself from the thoughts that follow me 24/7. Obviously I'm still thinking about the kids. I can't get away from it. They are my world. I envy Oz his ability to compartmentalize and let it all go while he's at work. Adult conversation is healthy. I should find some of that, perhaps, except I don't know what I'd talk about other than the kids!

To those of you out there who have never doubted your ability to parent your child(ren) and who feel like you were always meant to be a parent, I know you won't understand this post. That's okay. You don't have to. Just remember that not everyone has it as easy as you do. All I ask is that you don't judge me till you've walked a mile in my shoes.

To continue the bad country song cliche... this is my road. I have to walk it. I won't run away. But Lord... some sunshine would be nice.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Week of Extremes

This past week has been a week of extremes. Either things have gone really, really well, or things have gone really, really badly.

It's made for a crappy week. I need to get it all out of my system, so here goes:

M1 has still not located his brain. This morning we found a Lego spear embedded into a couch pillow. He's enlarged one of the holes in his closet wall. We went to Lego Club on HIS REQUEST, and out of the 90 minutes we were there, I think he spent 5-10 in building something with Legos. The rest of the time was spent in making mewling noises while climbing under tables and/or eavesdropping and interrupting my conversations. He can't follow even the simplest of directions, and his ability to talk to strangers is getting more and more awkward and strained. He told me on Thursday that he 'can't' talk to new people any more. So now I am starting social lessons on small talk and how to make it. It's going to be a long, long process.

He's also been getting up in the middle of the night and roaming the house, apparently. We won't even get into what he did when he was up on Tuesday night, but we'll just say that I spent most of Wednesday in a very special level of hell that I wouldn't wish on any parent. Ugly, ugly place.

But he's also been incredibly snuggly. He gets frantic for attention at the end of the day and has enjoyed nothing more than pushing his head under my arm so I'll hug him. I know I'm only a year away - two at most - from when he won't let me do that any more, so I'll take it! Last weekend, he won the two ribbons at his swim meet. He's been studying the weather and enjoyed making his own forecasts. He's discovered the joys of Google and Wikipedia and has spent a few hours researching topics on his own. I am fully aware that robotics camp is a MUST for him this summer.

M2 has been unpredictable. Either she hates everyone and nobody at school will play with her and she just wants to go to bed and get away from everyone or she clings to me like a leech and won't let me out of her sight and insists that she help me with everything. We see the psychiatrist tomorrow for a checkup. That's good because I'm tired of not knowing whether I'm getting Jekyl (the happy-go-lucky girl who wakes up before her alarm, loves everyone and doesn't want me out of her sight) or Hyde (the Grumpy Gus who sleeps through her alarm, hates everyone and wants me to go the heck away) every day. This will be an object of discussion.

On the other hand, when she's good, she's very, very good. She helps me clean, fix meals, wants to read books, and is just great to be around. She doesn't argue with me over every little thing. And when we went to her violin solo festival yesterday, she got a 1, which means she can now compete at the state level! She doesn't compete against other kids, just herself, and she did beautifully. I was so proud of her.

So while the bad has often outweighed the good this week (outside factors were much of the negative), I can't really say too much. I just keep reminding myself that it could be so much worse!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lifesavers

And on the 27th day, God created Chocolate. And He saw that it was good. He presented it to the Man, who, in turn, presented it to the Woman for immediate consumption. For without Chocolate, the Woman's anger had increased without reason, and the Man felt his life was in mortal peril, and he was sore afraid. - Book of Heretical Thoughts, Chapter 1

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OK, that had no bearing on anything whatsoever, but I'm in a bit of a chocoholic mood tonight and thought it needed a good story/quote to go with it. Plus, I am reasonably sure that the great I Am did indeed have a good deal to do with the invention of chocolate. I'm sure it's saved a lot of lives over the years.

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Speaking of lives, I'm pretty sure Oz helped save mine (and the kids') tonight... or, barring exaggeration, he definitely kept a potentially deadly situation from happening.

It's why I keep him, really. That and the Aussie accent. He's a good man.

Before we go further, let me do the whole DISCLAIMER bit: I've got nothing against Rottweilers or any other breed of dog, though I'm not a big fan of Chihuahuas on principle. I can't stand yappy dogs. Anyway, Oz's mother has two Rotties and Oz himself had one as a teen. They're great dogs.

This is pertinent because the folks across the street from us have a Rottie. This one is older. He's territorial. And during Snowstorm Round 2, Oz's wedding ring flew off his finger one morning while cleaning off his car. So I went out and looked for it. It was trash day, so I walked out to the road to look in the snow around the trash can. Just as I was walking back to the house, this dog decided I'd been out there long enough and came rushing at me, growling and SERIOUSLY upset. He stopped at the end of his driveway, but I had a hunch that was luck since I was headed back to the house already.

Fast forward to this weekend. I hadn't been able to get this incident out of my mind, so I told Oz about my concern that this dog was only going to get worse and that I was worried about his safety during mowing season as well as mine and the kids' on an everyday basis. I wanted to be able to go out to the mailbox ON OUR PROPERTY without having to worry about getting mauled!

Oz listened, but he wasn't sure how to approach the subject to the neighbors since the dog had never crossed the street.

Till today.

I was fixing dinner and looked out the kitchen window just in time to see the dog wander up to the fencepost at the end of our driveway. He sniffed. He peed. And then he sauntered INTO MY YARD. I was glad I had the dogs and the kids in the house. I shudder to think of what might have happened. I let Oz know that the dog was in the front yard, and he kept an eye on it. A few minutes later, he stepped out the front door onto the porch. The owner, our neighbor, was outside our fence trying to get the dog to come back, but the dog had no intention of listening (I've noticed several times before that he doesn't obey unless it suits him). Oz invited the neighbor into the yard to get the dog, and she did.

And then the dog started barking at Oz and lunged at him. Oz said he got within inches of him. Oz took a step back. The dog continued to press him. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if that had been one of my kids; they would have turned and run, and that... that just doesn't bear thinking about. Anyway, Oz kicked the dog in the head. Then he told our neighbor politely but in no uncertain terms that it was NOT okay that this dog was in our yard and that he expected this problem to be taken care of.

Thankfully, our neighbor is a good one. She admitted that she knew the dog had been becoming an issue and that they were going to start keeping him penned around the back of their house (and since they are good neighbors, it'll probably be sooner rather than later after today's incident).

I don't want to say I'm glad that today's confrontation happened, but in a way, I am. Oz is, too. He's glad that he was able to take care of the issue in a peaceful way, without anyone getting upset or hurt. I'm just glad the dog will be penned.

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Stress makes me want chocolate. Thank heaven for chocolate chip cookie dough.

(P.S. If anyone has a thought to spare, if you could send a few up for my friend Megan, I'd appreciate it. She has a detached retina and is scheduled for surgery on Thursday. Scary stuff. Thanks.)