Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When Thoughts Go Random

If I do say so myself, I'm pretty good at creating some very random posts on this blog.  I even have a label for it.  In my world, random happens.

This Memorial Day weekend was fantabulous.  I couldn't have planned a better one if I'd tried.  The part that makes me smile today, though, wasn't the first ever family bike ride or the spousally-condoned shopping spree or the impromptu construction of a combination bench/picnic table.  Nope... it was M2 and her wandering thoughts.

Apparently her brain has skipped ahead a week and decided it's already out of school.  Ergo, nothing that comes out of her mouth is required to make sense.

Some of the more memorable quotes of the weekend:

[after naming a stuffed baby kangaroo Ava and deciding it's female]
Her:  "Do you want to hold him?"
Me:  "Didn't you say Ava was a girl?"
Her:  "I was using a very common voice.  Herrrrrr-m.  Her-m."

[she is inventing a game in the driveway that involves rocks and a stick]
Her:  "This game is called scuba diving.  It's a very express game.  I have to sevens and eights."
Me:  [pause]  "What?"
Her:  [looks at me impatiently] "I have to push these rocks around with the stick to win."
Me:  "Oh... right."

[after I hear two consecutive massive thuds emanating from her room post-bedtime]
Me:  "Are you jumping off your bed?"
Her:  "No.  I'm rolling off.  I'm rolling onto my squishy pad!"
Me:  "Squishy pad?"
Her:  "All my blankets on the floor because my bed is falling and I won't sleep in it."

She's slept on the floor the last two nights.  I'm not arguing, though.  She's at least sleeping in her room without a massive tantrum.  It's the little things, really.  Disjointed thoughts FTW!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Final

It's almost the end of the school year. I have been looking back at all that M1 and M2 have accomplished since last August, and I am literally blown away. M1's writing ability has especially impressed me. He has gone from being a writing-resistant child to being a writing-centered one. He loves to write.

As our final writing assignment, I asked him to write about his summer. Any summer he could imagine. The only catch is that he had to pretend it had already happened.

So, over the course of three days (one day for a rough draft, two days for editing and rewriting it), he has produced the following. I have kept all spelling, punctuation and grammar as written:

M1's Wormhole Experience

I went through the Azaz wormhole in summer 2011. Nobody went with me. The trip took 3,209 centuries.

I always wanted to fly in a spaceship. I started in 2011. I could do this because a spaceship mysteriously appeared in the yard addressed to me.

I climbed into the space ship. It flew into space all by itself, then I had to control it. I had a hard time keeping my pet monkey Jack quiet.

After 99 centuries, it began to get faster and faster. Then we were in the Azaz wormhole. It was a very good wormhole because it was so strong that we shot past the middle and out the other side. I saw nothing. In a day or two we reached earth. Then after one century I got in a better spaceship so fast that we reached the wormhole immediately. When we came out the other side. The spaceship slowed down. Then I went home. It was like nothing you ever exsperinced. That Nothing had hurt me was the amazing part. I was scared because I thought I was going to be wormhole dinner. I liked it because I saw earth in the future.

It was a good summer. I would like to do it again. My parents were very proud to have a son who saw the future. And when I got home I wrote about my travels so where is this book of travels? It is right here. you just finished reading it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Joplin

I don't usually get caught up in the emotional throes of a tragedy. I feel bad for people and for circumstances, but they don't break my heart.

Till now. The Joplin tornado.

Joplin is a town I've been to many, many times. It was an hour away from where I grew up, so it was the "big city" that we visited when we needed something that the closer towns didn't have. My mother's cousin's daughter (I know, a thin stretch, but I grew up knowing her and her family very well since we went to the same church) works at the hospital that now isn't there. Thankfully she works nights, so she wasn't on shift when it hit. One of my high school classmates lives in Joplin and is currently housing some of her friends who did lose their homes. The amount of devastation is completely overwhelming. I keep staring at pictures, staring deep into them hoping for anything - any small iota - of the town I recognize. It hasn't happened yet. Simply... nothing.

I'm starting to see wish lists ("My sister-in-law's family lost everything. They are in need of 18 month old boys, 5 year old girls, women's 7/8 pants and medium shirts, and mens xl shirts. Of course, all of the other stuff that goes along with losing everything.") pop up on my friend's status messages on Facebook. Charities are pledging money ("Heart of Missouri United Way (Columbia, MO) has stepped up and established the Joplin Tornado Relief Fund. 100% of donations will go directly to Joplin United Way, with ZERO overhead. Follow the link, call 573-443-4523 or text "Joplin" to 864833 to donate $10").

Right now I haven't decided where or how I want to help. All I know is that I have to do SOMETHING. I can't lamely sit here on the sidelines and watch a town that I have known my entire life get wiped off the map. Simply can't do it.

I am not asking that you donate. I am not asking you to feel the pain that I am experiencing, because I know there have been so many disasters over the past few years and that many of you have experienced your own personal tragedies. Joplin is one small town in the middle of America that many people don't have a connection to. I just needed to empty my head and heart of the weight it's been carrying since I saw the news last night.

Thanks for reading. And if anyone more connected to the city than I is reading this, you have my deepest sympathy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Beautiful Weekend

I love beautiful weekends. They remind me of the quote from "Anne of Avonlea" by Lucy Maud Montgomery: "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."

The weekend was lovely. It was cool, especially for May, with highs only in the low 70s, so yard work was the name of the game. The kids and I weeded the garden to within an inch of its rhizomatous life. As soon as the *real* plants are tall enough, I'll mulch and hope not to weed again for a long, LONG time. The ground looks so smooth and dark and warm, I can almost imagine the plants sighing with happiness and spreading their roots out underground.

Oz mowed and weedeated (is that a word??) and started removing stumps from some shrubs we'd cut down until he realized that his brother still had his Sawzall. So instead he cleared out the brush pile that had been sitting in the corner of our yard for a couple of years. It had doubled as a wild rabbit warren from time to time, but the pile was infested with barbed wire, so it really was a hazard.

The horses were gone for the weekend, and we took a family jaunt down to the back of the property to check on all the blackberry bushes. One of them has been completely choked by honeysuckle, but several others are starting to produce, and I'm excited to see what the yield will be this year. The kids found a couple of passionfruit plants, and M1 ran to the pond to check for tadpoles - none yet.

On Sunday we ordered pizza for lunch - something we NEVER do - and sat around watching NASCAR until it was time to go to a birthday party where all the kids got along marvelously and there were no major issues at all. M2 had a blast playing with all the girls, and M1 enjoyed the fact that he wasn't pressured to play with anyone. In fact, for a good chunk of the party he sat next to the fence and played games on Oz's phone. But it was a great party and both kids came home exhausted and happy!

Yesterday was good, too. M1 took a nap to try to get rid of the last of the cold virus he's been fighting. M2 came home a tad worked up but snapped herself out of it by going outside and spending time on her bike and cleaning up parts of the garage since Daddy hadn't done that yet and she felt it needed to be done. My mother-in-law came over to visit and borrow our printer, and when she left, she offered to take one of the dogs home with her so that he could be groomed for summer. I got her a leash and promised to come get him later this week.

Today I went to the dentist, got my rear in gear and cleaned the house - M1 helped without being bribed! - and fixed a fantabulous dinner of grilled beef (I seriously love my two-sided cast iron griddle and highly recommend them to anyone who has a gas stove) with cucumber raita, tabouli, whole wheat rolls, and Waldorf salad. I even took the kids to the book fair!

I'll admit that there have been a few kinks this evening and M2 is very worried about the dog at the moment, as he's run away from my MIL's house and may not return, but that's how life works sometimes. Murphy's Law and all that. I refuse to let it ruin my week, though. Sometimes bad things happen, but it's all about perspective. I plan to have a good week anyway!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Winning... Classical Style

M2 had her state "achievement audition" today.  I know many of you wonderful readers are probably familiar with the process, but in case you're not, here's how it works:  The students first attend a regional or district audition.  They select a piece of music to play and perform it before a single judge, with accompaniment if necessary.  The judge gives ratings: I+, I, I-, II, III, or IV.  I+ is the highest rating; IV is the lowest.  The students also receive a critique sheet where the judge makes notes regarding areas that could be improved.  If the student receives a I- or higher rating at the regional/district level, he or she can then opt to go on to the state audition.  M2 received a I at her regional performance, and she did choose to go to state.

She had a rough morning at home, though she was okay at school.  She was fairly quiet on the ride to the audition, but by the time the judge ushered us into the audition room, she had worked herself into quite a state of panic - dry mouth, clinginess, etc.  I was glad I hadn't mentioned anything about awards.  Thankfully, the judge was amazing.  She settled M2 right down by asking her age.  Then she helped her get adjusted just right so that she could do her job as a judge properly, apologized for not being ready (which was impossible since I was bringing some of the paperwork with me and she couldn't have had it beforehand) and then asked M2 what she called "the most important question."

"Can you read cursive?"

M2 shook her head no.

"Well, then, would you like me to print on your sheet so that you can read it?"

M2 nodded.

And with a smile, we began.  M2 played well.  Afterward, the judge put M2 at ease again by praising her bright yellow dress and telling M2 that she had "made her day brighter" because the sun, which had been behind clouds all day, had broken through and shone through the skylight during M2's performance.  The judge also asked if M2 had intended to have her turquoise shoulder rest match some of the stitching on the dress.  M2 had found her smile by this point and said no. 

When we got the critique sheet, I couldn't help but grin.  M2 had received a 1+.  This accolade came with...


a trophy.  Shortly after this photo was taken, M2 kissed her prize.  We came home so she could be a jammie girl (we discussed going out to dinner, but she was ready to be home again, home again, jiggity jog), and she showed off her award.

She can't wait to share with her classmates on Monday - and even though time flies for me and I can remember her first picking up a violin two years ago like it was yesterday, I suppose that to her, waiting two days seems like forever!

Just Breathe

It's been a crazy week.  I knew it was going to be, but what I hadn't counted on was the toll it is taking on me and my mental stability (which wasn't all that stable to begin with). 

Monday I did chores around the house, though I still haven't managed to make the half a dozen phone calls to various doctors and family members that I need to make.  I have cards sitting on my end table reminding me to call the pediatric ophthalmologist for M1, the vet for Dorian Gray, Oz's stepmother to thank her for the birthday card and gift (yes, my birthday was nearly a month ago, and yes, I am a horrible, horrible daughter-in-law), and a friend to RSVP for a baby shower.  There's also an invitation to a birthday party on Sunday, but that friend and I talk almost daily, so she knows I'm coming.  I also need to call a podiatrist for M1.

On Tuesday M1 and I went to a friend's house to go over materials for the one-room schoolhouse field trip that we're taking in a couple of weeks.  This is the meeting that had been scheduled for Wednesday but which sorted itself out to Tuesday before I could get too worked up about it and make a definitive decision on what I wanted to do.  I like when things work themselves out.  I also must say I enjoyed watching M1 wash a shirt by hand.  He really went after it and actually got the dirt out!  He was appalled when it dried and was stiff and had wrinkles everywhere, though.  He said to me, "Mom, now I know why they ironed everything."  That's correct, son... and it's also why the dryer was invented.  This mama irons diddly-squat.

Yesterday M2's class went on their field trip to the ice cream factory.  M1 and I tagged along (OK, I drove my two plus two other kids).  The best part really is the free ice cream at the end, though I must say I love the way the employees take a couple seconds to wave at the kids from the floor where they're working.  While we were there, one of the other moms asked me what time we were supposed to show up for the performance tonight (Thursday).  "You mean... that's tomorrow??" I asked her.  She seemed rather unsure and asked one of the teachers if this was so.  It was.  Of course it was.  And of course M2 is supposed to come dressed as a pirate.  It would have been nice to have had knowledge this more than 36 hours beforehand!  I'm sure it was printed on a calendar somewhere, but it sure as heck didn't make it into last week's newsletter, and that's what I go by.  *sigh*

So today I am doing the following:  Taking M1 to his last swimming lesson, going shopping for one last piece of curriculum for next year, going shopping for a gift for the birthday party on Sunday, praying M2 doesn't forget that she has art this week, picking her up from art, bringing her home, having her practice violin because her solo festival/competition is tomorrow (Friday), having her change clothes into something pirate-esque, fixing and eating an early dinner, and heading back to the school for the Fine Arts Night.  This is all in addition to the regular stuff.

Friday will entail several loads of laundry and a trip down to the city for the solo festival.  M2 is looking forward to getting out of school for it, and M1 is looking forward to spending an entire afternoon with one of his friends. 

In the meantime, the house is going straight to poo because even though I cleaned parts of it earlier this week, it already looks like it needs work again.  The garden needs work, too.  Various rooms need attention.  I just can't seem to stay ahead of the game, and it's depressing.  By the end of the day, I find myself parked on the couch with no energy and no motivation to do anything, but I can't sleep because my mind is racing and I'm a natural night owl anyway.  I stare at my calendar for the summer and wonder how it got so full so fast and wonder if I'll ever get a moment to myself.  For now, though, I just have to keep telling myself to breathe.  Just breathe.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What a Week

I'm ready for May to be over.  Really I am.  It's deciding to put up a fight.  Today, for example, my entire body went into revolt and refused to let me move without pain.  I have a wonderful husband who stayed home and told me to go back to bed, which I did, and the next thing I knew the phone rang and my watch said 1:25.

1:25 p.m.

I did not know it was possible for me to sleep over 12 hours at a time.  I still hurt, but at least now I can move without feeling like my body is going to come apart in random-sized chunks.  Methinks I need to see a chiropractor sooner rather than later these days.  Must get off my duff and call one.

I am experiencing the joy of planning for and cooking a low-cholesterol diet.  This is not for me.  This is not for Oz.  This is for M2.  Her cholesterol - total, nonfasting - is 234.  She's six.  SIX.  We eat mostly whole grains, organic foods, veggies, fruits, etc.  There are hardly any sweets, though I will admit M2 has a penchant for cheese and other dairy products.  But the pediatrician has asked us to put her on a low cholesterol diet for three months and then come back for fasting labs.  I'm staring into the face of teaching my daughter how to avoid 'bad foods' at the age of 6.  It's a curveball I wasn't expecting.

M2 forgot she had art class after school yesterday and went out to the car line to wait for me to come pick her up.  Usually I'm one of the first parents in line.  Thankfully I was at the school playing substitute teacher, so I was there when I went to the art class to check on whether one of the pre-K students was supposed to be attending or not and realized that my daughter wasn't in there, so I went looking for her and found her just in time for a full-fledged meltdown.  She didn't go to art.  She came home, refused to practice her violin, and spent an hour or two riding her bike in circles in the driveway for stress relief.

Next Wednesday has just blown up in my face.  M1 and I are supposed to go to a meeting with some other homeschooling families to prepare for a trip to a one-room schoolhouse later this month.  We NEED to go to this meeting.  It's not really optional.  But M2's teacher caught me after school today and informed me that their class trip to an ice cream factory - one that M2 has been looking forward to all year - is going to be next Wednesday.  I had promised M1 he could go on this trip, too.  I missed the last field trip, and M2 is going to lose her flippin' mind if I don't drive her to this one.  But we can't miss this meeting.  I don't know what to do.  Did I also mention that I allowed myself to be put on the ballot for the position of co-chair of the PTA equivalent for M2's school?  And that I have never once been to a meeting?  I really don't know what's wrong with me... I'll find out next week whether I 'won.'  Part of me is amused, because I've never won any sort of popularity contest in my life.  Ever.  Ever ever evah

Next Friday is Friday the 13th.  I have a fear of traveling on Friday the 13th.  I do not know why.  There is no logic behind it.  But I get to drive down the turnpike - the same one in which I was in a wreck on Thanksgiving 2009 - on that day to take M2 to her state violin solo festival... competition... thing.  I won't lie; I'm a tad freaked out about the idea.  I'll do it.  I'm just going to be extra, extra paranoid.

My computer cord fell apart on Wednesday, complete with sparks.  Thank heaven for Amazon Prime.

May is killing me.

----

On the positive side...

M1 had his best swim class ever yesterday.  This is according to his teacher.  I am so, so glad.  He is in a much happier, calmer place these days.

M1 also wrote some really good stuff this week.  He even wrote a play.  And typed it.  And printed it.  And it's adorable.

M2 only threw one fit this week.

Both kids have helped re-dig out the garden since I hadn't planted anything in it yet. That's partly due to the fact that we're on the edge of the drought zone - the pictures are scary, especially when compared to those from the Dust Bowl - and I really didn't want to plant a garden and then have a watering limitation.  And up until this week, we've still been getting the odd frost.  I think I'm going to plant a few things this weekend, but not much.  We shall see.

Oz rocks.  He took M2 to the swimming lesson yesterday.  He took the day off today, did four loads of laundry, edumacated the boy, and helped clean the house.  He even said he'd take next Friday off if I wanted so that I didn't have to take M1 to a friend's house while I take M2 to her violin thing.  He took M1 to get a haircut yesterday.  He is a good man.

May might suck, but I am still a lucky girl.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Raising... No... Rearing... No... *Teaching* a Literal Child

I've gotten several good questions out of M1 this week.  Many of them are related to his Asperger's and a new book that we got (details of which I'll share at a later date); some of them are just... him.  All of them have reminded me just how literal my child is and how carefully I have to word certain things for the answers to fit into the correct answer slots in his brain.

Q1:  Why do I get startled when people touch me?
A:  Well, people with Asperger's - and autism in general - usually like to think a lot.  And when most people think, they can still kind of keep part of their brain paying attention to the world around them so that if someone comes up and touches them, they hear them coming and expect it.  But when you think, you get very deep in your brain and some of your other senses kind of switch off so that if someone touches you, it's a very big surprise.  And you don't like surprises too much.

Q2:  So should I tell people about my Asperger's Syndrome?
A:  No, not usually.  Most people don't need to know.  Kids definitely don't need to know, because they're usually not going to understand anyway.  Most adults don't need to know, either, because they aren't going to be around you long enough for it to be noticed... and if you are, and it's an issue, then I'll let them know for you.  However, if you're having trouble with a kid, like at camp, and get overwhelmed, then you can tell the counselor or adult in charge that you don't know how to handle a situation, and you can say it's because of your Asperger's, and that's okay.  But mostly, as long as you're being you, nobody needs to know.

Q3:  So why do I get bullied all the time?  Like at camp last year when those two guys picked on me?
A:  Well, I'm sure that on the weeks you weren't there, they picked on someone else.  Bullies usually pick just one person at a time to be mean to.  Try to walk away or handle the situation yourself if you can, but if they get rough or make you feel like you need to cry, tell an adult.  Bullying happens to other kids, too, but it definitely makes you feel alone. 

Q4:  So is there anything wrong with me?
A:  Absolutely not.  Having Asperger's Syndrome just means that your brain sees the world differently, that's all.
M1:  That's right.  I see the world as a very small ball with lots of people on it floating in space along with billions and billions of other stars and planets.
A:  Um... well, that's kind of what I mean.  I didn't quite mean that the way you understood it.  Your brain understood my answer differently than I meant it.  When I said 'world,' I meant 'environment.'  [pause] And by 'environment,' I mean the immediate world around you, not the environment like plants and animals.  I mean that you don't feel the same things that other people feel.
M1:  I know.  That's why I get startled when people touch me.
A:  Ah.  Um... well, yes.  That's true.  But when I said 'feel,' I meant feeling emotions.  You don't experience all the same emotions that everyone else would feel in certain situations.  You don't necessarily get excited about the same stuff as everyone else or get upset when someone else feels sad.  So in your people environment, your world, you have different reactions to other people.  But it's not a bad thing; it's just how you were made.  It's genetic.
M1:  Like a gene mutation?
A:  Sort of.  Close enough.
M1:  *grin*

Today I gave him a coloring page for history.  We're studying the Reformation, and the coloring page was a blank stained glass image of Mary holding Jesus after he had been taken down from the cross.  M1 colored Mary's robe and then paused.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"What was the weather like the day that Jesus died?"

*blink*  "Uhhhh....." 

He scoured all four Gospels for any information.  He determined that since it got dark at the sixth hour, it must have been at least partly sunny before.  Ergo, the sky in the background of the 'stained glass' image could be blue.  He colored the sky.  Then he paused again.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

He was parked on the floor holding his tray of People Color crayons and looking puzzled.  "What color is people's skin in Jerusalem?"

Google helped with that one.

In the end, though, I think he summed up who he is in one little paragraph.  I typed this as he said it, so I know it's a direct quote.  M1's take on himself:  "It's boring when everybody's just all the same, and they can walk, and they don't have anything wrong with them.  No gene mutations, anything.  Just plain people; nothing wrong with them.  It's boring.  But I'm not one of those boring people.  I am myself.  I am the only me there is."

That's very true, son... very, very true.  Say hello to your boring mother.  ;)

A Cat Post

When you have six cats, it's inevitable that they eventually become furniture.  I don't mean that I sit on them, of course, but I do mean that I know - more or less - where they are at all times and expect them to be in their spots.  Furniture, after all, doesn't tend to get up and wander.

Around here, each cat has a designated place that he or she is usually found after the kids' bedtime hour, i.e. 8 p.m.  Tempest is usually snuggled into the crack between the cushions on the loveseat with Dorian Gray parked nearby.  Less often she will be found on the chair in my bedroom, possessing what she considers to be 'her' blanket.  Dorian still keeps the couch company, though.  Kuro likes my side of the bed.  He warms it.  It's one of the few jobs he's successful at.  Hermes migrates but usually prefers either the top of my closet or to be under someone's bed.  Vixen sleeps on M2's bed.  Pepe hauls his bony carcass into M2's pink princess chair or onto the arm of the couch.

The last few days, however, have seen a substantial shift in the behavior of the cats.  They've been... off.  A little whacked.  Completely flippin' crazy, if I'm honest.  Even Oz has noticed. 

My first clue was this:


This has never happened before.  Hermes snuggling with anybody??  Dorian NOT in an upright position??  Both of them in close proximity to Pepe??  

I was confused.  Then I found the rest of the cats were also in foreign positions related to their normal routine. 


Tempest wasn't on either the couch or my chair; she was guarding the hallway.


Kuro wasn't on my bed or anywhere near it... he had commandeered the dog bed that the dogs don't use.

And Vixen?  Well...

Let's just say she was none too pleased with me for finding her at all.

I'm all about variety being the spice of life, but I'd like the cats to return to predictable, please.  It's better for my sanity.  And probably this blog.