Thursday, December 20, 2012

About time for a winter post.

So many things!  The posts pile up in my head and then don't get written.

A blizzard is coming our way.  For those raised in places that get Big Snows, you can relate to that sense of giddiness of a pending snow day.  Added to that is the possibility of an early start to school Christmas break, extra cookies in the house, AND new snow boots, and we have a recipe for all of us brimming with excitement.

All this is after of our third annual Pre-Christmas Weekend Waterpark Escape!  For the third year in a row, our family has had the great pleasure of being treated to an extended-family get-together at a nearby resort complex.  Hero's dad has some kind of condo club membership that applies to this resort, and all the siblings on that side of the family meet up for a weekend of water-filled fun.  There are cousins to play with, lots-o-nothin' to talk about, grownup beverages, and silly movies.

Primo loves the water.  This year's favorite feature for him was the wave pool. If Primo could be in a warm pool for a couple of hours every day, he would be.  That's something we haven't figured out how to do yet.  But escaping into a rhythmic pool of waves once a year is such a treat--he can spend hours at a time swimming, floating, and body surfing.  He gets hungry and deeply tired from the exercise, retreats to the room, and refuels.  It's a beautiful cycle.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday morning in October

And was thinking last night about feeling thankful.

I am thankful for the tiny meow-snores of my giant orange cat.  He does this as he's falling into his first big sleep of the night.  He is still new enough to our family that we are still learning his sounds, his patterns, and his personality.

I am thankful for the warm clothes I wear, and for an extra blanket on the bed that makes sleep time just right.

I am thankful for the kisses that blossom from Spark's lips and speckle me until I can hardly breathe.  And how 'just one more' is always five or ten or twelve, really.

I am thankful for each white hair I find on Primo's head, mixed in with the thick dark browns.  I wonder whether he will be all-white by his late 20's, like his grandfather.  When Primo hugs me now, his arms can go around my shoulders; no longer is he waist-high.

I am thankful for the love I feel when I look at my husband's face.  That feeling is not a choice or a decision; when I see that arrangement of his eyebrows, his eyes, his lips, his nose--it just comes, and I am often surprised by the joy of it.

I am thankful for understanding what it means to feel thankful, especially when I have known despair, fear, and darkness of the soul.  Today I know I am thankful.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chores for urban kids

So, what shall these next weeks bring?  I'm hoping for more fun with my sons, some conscious face time with my beloved husband, and far less screen time in my household.  After a rather painful offense against his father, Primo was given housekeeping chores this weekend; he performed them willingly and fairly well, with guidance appropriate to a boy cleaning a bathroom and kitchen for the first time.  He asked useful questions, requested appropriate breaks, had a snack, and was generally in a playful mood as we went through the chores together.

The rest of that day was pretty great, behaviorally, for Primo.  There was a less-than-usual amount of backtalk and disobedience, and some useful suggestions for what to do with the evening.  He proposed early combined showers with his brother, in order to get to watch a movie -- displaying forethought and the planning required to get a desired privilege.  Primo has to be in a really good emotional place to be able to put all of those steps together and make the proposal in a manner that is appealing to his parents.  It was pretty great.

These Ralph Moody books have me thinking about what kids like Primo would have done to get along and survive in the days before Asperger's was a diagnosis, and autism was an identified neuro-psych disorder. I've been considering the chores that many non-urban kids still do, and wondering what we can do with Primo to keep his body working hard enough that his mind and emotions are mellowed by it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday: We are Here!

Two weeks ago, I was in denial about summer schedules and something being vaguely awry with Spark's ability to learn to read.  Then school ended and we had a week to ourselves to try and configure ourselves into a new mode of living.

We have now survived our first week of "our family sport is autism therapy," for Primo and summer school for Spark.  It's been profoundly satisfying to know Hero and I could hold the family together for another week.  I still haven't made all the medical and psych appointments Spark's going to need, but I think that'll come this week.

A great reason for things feeling good is that the money situation may be looking up.  This week we applied for the HAARP refinance program for our mortgage, paid off my car loan, and I sold some old jewelry for more than I expected to get.  We may end up replacing our bald tires before the summer's over, after all.

The cats still need tune-ups, though they seem to be holding up all right.  We've been rather neglectful pet owners of late, and there have been a couple of incidents that forced us to reacquaint ourselves with the local vet.  Our 100-year-old equivalent cat, Gracie, has been in slow decline for the last two years or so, and she required some IV fluids and attention for what appears to have been an intestinal blockage.  The big fella, George, is about 8 years old, and he apparently needs dental work.  We woke up one morning to find that one of his lower fangs was poking haphazardly out of his mouth.  It fell out when I touched it, rotten.  It seems that our dental coverage doesn't extend to our fuzzy babies, though.

I've been reading a series of books that were recommended by Mary at Owlhaven, written by Ralph Moody.  My library's set of them is mostly from the 1960's, with that old-book smell and acid-yellowed paper.  The stories Ralph tells are from his life in the late 1800's and early 1900's; they're full of his boyhood thoughts, working with his family, and the seasonal rhythms and routines of years on western ranches.  The stories are reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, but I relish the male viewpoint and the mostly out-of-doors living young Ralph did.

Often, when I'm checking in on my favorite bloggers' writings during the week, I have some fantastic ideas for posts of my own.  Then the next appointment or mealtime comes up, and I'm off the computer to do the required task.  Sigh.  But then, staying busy keeps the depression at bay.  

I don't have time to feel melancholy when I try to be fully present with my sons.  Hero and I have been making specific efforts to be kind and supportive to Primo, setting an example for how we would like to be treated.  Sometimes it works, though I wonder whether the exercise benefits us more than Primo. The boys have been tangling with each other more, though; Spark just doesn't seem to understand the futility of physically fighting against a brother who is twice his size and age.  He rails at Primo like a crazed amateur boxer.  It's been hot, though, and the boys have been cooped up in the house, trying to stay cool in the a/c.  That's breeding an environment where lack of activity makes nerves go on edge.

Another of my favorite blog-friends is Mrs.G from Derfwad Manor.  This Wacky Wonder Woman will eventually visiting my hometown this summer, and I've actually started dreaming about seeing her.  Perhaps it's the amazing journey Mrs. G has embarked upon, perhaps it's the freedom that I yearn for, perhaps it's just the great vistas she's sharing with us, her Derfs.  I am inspired.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First-world problems

I have two sets of blogs I love to read: one set is just for me and my interests, and the other set is about autism and parenting kids who have autism.  Over time, the blogs in the lists have changed, but they remain a list of those that are mostly family-friendly (for those who read over my shoulder) and mostly G-rated.

I know that being the parent of a kid with autism is hard.  My kid's flavor of autism -- Asperger's -- is an intellectually-gifted, socially-pathetic (almost-sociopathic) kind.  Primo has almost no ability to empathize with anyone else, except when their point of view is very similar to his.

I know that parents who have kids with autism didn't choose the life they have.  Many parents would choose to have their kid, without the autism.  Others will say that the autism and the kid are inseparable, and the autism is part of who the kid is.  For me, I would be lying if I said that I'd take Primo with autism as readily as I'd accept him without it.  His struggles with life, his loneliness, and his antisocial behaviors are all hard on him as well as the rest of his family.  Having Primo's autism in our family makes our lives so much more challenging, and often downright miserable.  If I could choose to have him become neurotypical, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  I wonder whether he would.

Having Spark come into our family has provided a sharp contrast for me as a mother.  As far as we know, Spark is neurotypical.  He joined our family when Primo was four years old, right when the autism started to become more markedly apparent.  I knew, through the haze of nursing and diapering and trying to mother those different needs, that something was up with Primo.  I was raised in a family with a father has Asperger's Syndrome, too, so I recognized what was going on.  Spark knows that his brother has autism, and to a degree he can understand that the autism is what makes Primo so unable to be mostly polite and kind.  It's hard for Spark, though.  He's a deeply emotive and sweet person.  I wish his big brother could be the strong, sure, kind and assuring type.

Some days I'm in a state of grace, and some days I'm not.  I've got my own issues, like major depression and anxiety, which I mostly manage with medications and supplements.  I'm about 65 pounds overweight.  Hero's got more anxiety than I do.  He's a gifted musician with no time to make music.  We've got no discretionary income, lots of debt, a house in strong need of rewiring and insulation, and two cars with almost-bald tires.

We also have a lots of family members who love us, though they are unable to help us with caring for our children or our finances.  They can and do pray for us on a regular basis.

I think about the complaints that I have and the complaints I hear and read from others every day.  For the most part, we are lower-middle-class white U.S. residents who have homes to live in, food to eat, and people who care about us.  I know that some hurts run extra-deep, and some pains from mental illness and addiction are extra-strong.  But really, what is it with the navel-gazing and inward-scrutiny?

Sheesh.  Get over yourself already.  It's not about YOU.  Do some good for someone else today, will ya?  You might feel better.

Tell 'em Glori B. said you should.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Adventure Girl

Spark and I were talking the other night.  He asked about why I don't wear dresses very often.  I explained that I do dress up from time to time, wearing a skirt or dress if I have a special occasion to attend.  (And then I had to explain what the word occasion meant.)

To summarize, I told him that I've never been much of a girlie-girl.  He responded, "Yeah, you're more of an Adventure Girl."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stories all around me

Today's Random Question:  How do the Incredibles' masks stick to their faces?  And if they stick, how are they so easily removed?

I ride the bus to work and back almost every day.  Not a lot of people have conversations on the rides downtown, before work and/or classes at the university. 

I like to greet the bus driver, gently, when I get on each morning.  I like to notice how we both react--are we sleepy, cheerful, distant, grouchy?  Then I pay attention to the people who are already on the bus at the point where I get on.  Very few of them are riders who are on this route at this time every day.

While I sometimes will have reading material to occupy my attention on the bus, I also enjoy just taking the duration of my ride to be mindful of the people around me and the conditions outside.  Yesterday, I sat looking out the window and listened to the cell conversation of a guy behind me.  (It was impossible not to listen.)  He was talking, in varying shades of introspection, about the woman in his life, and how he felt about her.

In just those ten minutes of conversation and from the way he spoke, I put together a fairly detailed idea of who this man was, where he might have been raised, how old he was, that he'd been in jail before, and that he'd had at least one long-term relationship with a woman.  He was unemployed and trying to get on a path of self-improvement.

All these people on the bus all around me.  All these people who share my daily life and space, who I don't really know.  But their stories swirl and flit around me, making me wonder and wonder.  This is the time in my day when I stay unplugged and keep my eyes open.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Burdens, weariness, and rest (part 2)

The newly-turned young married woman at the end of the Part 1 post has now grown up quite a bit. In the last few weeks, I have been coming to terms with what I feel is the truth about my adult experience with churches and the Church, big and small C's.  That little girl who grew up in the bosom of the Church, in close community and communion with the Lord, found out that unless she invest in her faith and her faith community, the foundation that was built in her early life will deteriorate.

That's where I am now, camped in the cracked, propped, and shimmed foundations where I grew up, realizing that I can't build on a foundation that needs repair.  I've got work to do.

Here's my meditation passage for today: 

Hebrews 6 (NIV)

 "1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

 4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

 9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday short

My children are downstairs, making up songs and singing at the top of their lungs.  They crack up, laughing.  Some are songs about sagging pants and pee, but really, I'd expect that from 7 and 11 year-old boys.  Their boisterous rollicking is likely fueled by the freshly-baked cookies that are rapidly disappearing next to the stove.  Today's Cookie Day recipes were for coconut-sugar cookies, and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies with coconut.  Though Hero doesn't like coconut nearly as much as I do, I am fortunate enough to have sons who understand my need for this favorite flavor.  Spark and I have a deal to do something with coconut and marshmallows for next Cookie Day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Burdens, weariness, and rest (part 1)

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

To be honest, my heart, my spirit, and my relationship with God and the Church are not in a place where I am able to do much more than survive.  I am weary, poor, tired, weak, lonely and disappointed in myself and the way I've lived my life in recent years. 

Perhaps the church is exactly where I need to be. My childhood was full of the relationships shared with people in my church.  The first church I remember attending was a very small, vibrant group of about 50 people.  It was the mid-1970s. Services were held at our local YMCA, which was closed to the public on Sundays.

Can you imagine a fitness facility being closed on Sundays today?

As I grew up, the little YMCA church group changed and we moved to a larger church in a different part of town. This one was much more established, with a large building and an independent Christian grade school.  There were lots of families with kids my age, older and younger. My family--my brother, my mom and dad--went to services three times  week, Sunday morning and night, and Wednesday evenings.

In that larger church, I found it easy to make friends. There were Sunday School classes and youth groups that I participated in on a regular basis. In my junior high and high school years, a group of us girls built some strong, faith-filled relationships through Bible studies, youth activities, church trips, and more.  I felt strong and secure in my beliefs and thought I might be hearing a divine call to missions, particularly mission work on the African continent.

After high school, I attended two years of undergrad at a small Christian liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Students there were required to attend Chapel services a minimum of four days a week. The campus was small and a bit remote, though, and I didn't join an off-campus congregation for Sunday services on a regular basis.

I would say that, until college, I had gone to church for all but a handful of Sundays in my entire life. Our family would even find churches to attend while we were on vacations, in and out of the United States. Being among believers and having a living faith was my reality for my first nineteen years of life.

At the tender age of nineteen, I married Hero. We moved back home from the Massachusetts college and applied to attend our much larger (and financially accessible) hometown university. We became active in serving the children of the congregation of the larger church of my childhood--also Hero's first church home.

But that congregation had grown rapidly and gone through an enormous building project, reaching out to many new families and many new members.  Attendance nearly doubled in the first two years in the new building; we used to joke that the whole complex was the size of a large strip mall. It just had a cross on the top.

So, what happened to that child of the church, that girl of faith?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Kids and Technology

Why is it that every time I sit down to write a post, I need to use the bathroom?

We're getting a big snowstorm again today. I'd say we've gotten about 3 inches of fresh powder so far, and it's only 4pm. Hero was sent home early from work, which is wonderful. That sometimes happens for him on Friday afternoons. I usually take time to greet him well when he comes home. It's something that really fills up his well of joy.

We have a 1972 olive green rotary wall phone in the dining room at our house. We got it in order to have a family-friendly phone for the kids to use when they got older. I'm not a big believer in the idea of having my kids have their own cell phones. Fortunately, Primo's just 11 and Spark is 6, so that means we have some time to think about the issue.

In our 1920s house, it took a special trip from an electrician, two hours of fishing wire through the walls, a special digital adapter, and surgery on the phone itself in order to install the phone on our wall. But it works!  Now we have a phone that really does all of the verbs phones are supposed to do: when someone calls, the phone rings. No electronic tones there. (We turned our other cordless phones' ringers off after getting this phone.)  When you wish to make a call, you dial the numbers. When you're done talking, you hang up the receiver. I know it's not revolutionary, but it's satisfying to have a familiar piece of childhood around. If we didn't have it, they may never have seen one in person!

Today our DVD player died, though, and that means that if the boys want some video stimulation to chill out with, they're restricted to the broadcast channels in our city, most of which play shows that aren't suitable for young kids. We've never paid for cable TV. The PBS channels' afternoon kids shows are pretty limited. Whenever Super Why comes on, it's highly likely the Sarcasm Train will disgorge a whole load as the boys watch. It seems like they make fun of and critique every sentence and idea. I don't like them to get into that habit.

So, it being Friday and a regular family movie night, I did what parents in older generations could not have done: I signed up to stream movies via Netflix. Hero puttered for a minute or two with a connection cable, and viola!--movies on the TV. The boys were amazed. I'd never had a Netflix account, usually because when 9pm rolls around, I'm spent and wish I was already asleep. No energy for movies, no extra time for viewing much that isn't life or the written word. But I can't argue with being able to select the programs and movies my boys will see. I think that Saturday nights should be reserved for nature and science shows!

I just read another person's blog post about the end of coin-operated parking meters and pay phones. My husband and I are personally very fond of Old Time Radio programs and early twentieth-century culture. I wonder what my children will be nostalgic for as they reach my age.  How much is our cultural experience a product of its technology, and technology a product of an era?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday afternoon

Thoughts going through my head late at night, ideas for writing posts. Not falling asleep.

Did Hero know what he was suggesting when he said I should have a blog?  Thinking of setting up categories, organizing ideas.  But I should also get the laundry up into the bedrooms and make some dinner and scoop the cat boxes.  Then back to work for the evening shift.  Then home to bed and not sleeping because I'm thinking about writing.


Now, in the early evening, Primo sits at the table, crunching on cereal and trying to do his math homework.  Spark is silently playing a builders game on the computer. It's snowed for half the day and now the temperature is dropping to the coldest yet of this season.  Drafts move through the house, swirling, making our little cat pester me to hold her for warmth.  She hides near a heat vent, waiting for the furnace. I've got a hat and vest on.

Hot dogs?  Soup?  Dinner. The boys have gotten picky about food lately.

Dinner was left to Hero last night when I left for work in a huff.  After the Christmas break, he didn't remember I usually work on Monday nights.  They all set a place for me: pork chops and green beans.  And I stayed away until my shift was over.  There were hugs and kisses and I'm sorrys when I returned.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Post

What am I doing with a blog?  I read a few favorites every day, and find that there's a point at which I have nothing left to read and haven't found anyone new to read.   So perhaps it's time to write.

I'll be filling in more and more information about me, and having fun, I'm sure, with fomatting this blog, too.  More to come.