Friday, January 27, 2017

Wow. New Blog Post.

I haven't posted in more than a year. And our 2016 Christmas Letter (Valentine's Letter?) is still unfinished and we didn't send Christmas letters the previous two years so some of my readers are probably wondering if I dropped off of the edge of the Earth. (Which is silly because the Earth is round so it has no edges, but still.) Here's a quick review of our prominent stressors:

1. My father-in-law's health started deteriorating during the 2015 Christmas season and never recovered. My mother-in-law was able to care for him at home until July when he moved to the hospital and thence to hospice. He died August 25, 2016. He suffered from multiple disabilities but it was metastastizing cancer that finished him in the end. My husband, his sister and his mother prepared a beautiful memorial which you can actually watch here, if you so choose.

I had a complicated relationship with him. Years before, when he was healthier, we spent a lot of time together and had some really fun times. But as his disabilities took over more and more of his life, he was harder to be with because he really wasn't the same person as before. And processing grief is an uneven, unexpected experience, especially when my besetting sin is anger. And I was very angry. We spent 15 years watching him die by inches and that is a horrible experience. It batters your heart constantly until you are past exhaustion and just want it all to end. Now, 5 months later, it's easier to miss him and not be so infuriated by the helpless feeling that permeated our relationship for years. He was a remarkable man, nonetheless, and life is a little more mundane without him.

2. Alex started at Archway Lower School in late January, 2016, and it took a while for him to feel comfortable in their program. Now, after a year, we feel secure and happy with his teachers and school structure. And, since they have an indoor pool at the Lower School, I'm not sure he'll ever want to move up to the Upper School. Maybe. One year at a time. This is only 7th grade. But he loves his teachers, is coping better with his non-preferred activities (cooking class and gym!), and has a BFF. And we're going to try piano lessons next week; I give it 50/50 chance of success. And since we get to keep our district Case Managers that we've known so long until the end of 8th grade, we're golden until 9th. Our district feeds into a regional HS so we'll get a new case manager then. Hopefully, they won't quibble at the cost for Archway, because they will have to pay for it. I don't see us changing his placement any time soon; he's thriving now and I wouldn't upset that for anything.

3. Third grade was really tough for Miranda. She became the target of several groups of bullies and spent so much of her time feeling awful. The school personnel really tried to protect her but some bullies are particularly good at waiting until the teacher's back is turned and striking then. And 9 year old girls can be particularly unkind to each other; that hasn't changed because I remember that. But her academic and emotional supports were strengthened in her IEP and we all weathered the storm. 4th grade so far has been a lot more positive at school in terms of classroom interactions, but she has started adolescence and as her body is changing and growing, the hormones bathing her brain can make her grumpy and her mood swings violent. But, at least Alex is stable, so we can cope better with Miranda's growing pains.

4. I did not have a good 2016. I tend to sublimate my stress so deeply that my health breaks down, so I had lots of mystery fevers and periods that wouldn't end. This is in addition to my chronic, treatment-resistant depression. I have a good doctor, I have a good counselor, but we tried 3 different meds in 2016 to help me cope. My current cocktail seems to be working better especially as many of the stressors are lessening, but the long dark of the winter is hard. It helps to be on a regular schedule of Bible study, Youth Group and occasional MOPS Next meetings. And weekly dinners with my parents, and time alone with my husband (thanks to my parents). But I'm pretty much dug in until spring, reading lots of books (I love Goodreads) and watching tennis and Premier League Soccer. I am currently 4 days behind on watching the Australian Open so don't tell me who won!

5. Last Monday, 4 days ago, my husband started a new job, changing from a place of employment where'd he'd been working for nearly 13 years. Big change. He is tremendously happier because the commute is a quarter of the previous driving time, local, work from home is encouraged, and he's working now in cloud computing and he loves to stay up with what the technology industry is doing right now. He's also working with his bestest friend from 15 years ago, which cheers him to no end. He left his previous employer on good terms and wished them well, but left happily with the promise of new challenges.

Now, as a family rife with ASD, we hate change, even change for the better. We are beginning to adjust (seeing Daddy a lot more is always cool) but it will be way different when he's working in a home office that he will carve out of the living room. But if Daddy is happier, everyone can be happier. I will just have to plan to cook a meal. Or three. Per day. That will be weird.

6. Marshall's mother is adjusting as best she can. There was a lot of cleaning to be done in the office and basement and she's making good progress on that. We help her as we are able, as does the rest of the family. But it is a big change.

7. One good week we spent last March was in San Antonio with dear friends. I am taking the kids back this year, but Marshall will not have earned enough vacation yet with the new job to come with us. Still, we're good at flying now and looking forward to the time away. It will be warmer there; we might need swim suits.

And there you go, 2016 in brief. If you don't read Anne Kennedy's blog, you should. Buy her book, too, assuming you've already purchased my mother's book. And here's Kelly.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Still Stuck

I realize that I haven't posted a Seven Quick Takes in forever and when I caught up with Kelly's blog this morning it was too funny not to share. You can find that link at the bottom.

We are still waiting for Archway to give Alex a start date, biding our time through the afternoon hours with teachers from his past and present who come to our house for approximately two hours a day and persuade him to do something resembling work. And the rest of the day Alex spends playing Mine Craft or indulging in his Star Wars obsession. If I have to hear his rendition of Darth Vader's confrontation with Luke Skywalker at Bespin one more time, I might just die.

So, in no particular order, here are 7 Things I Do to help me cope with stress:

1. Watch tennis. The Australian Open starts tomorrow! I CAN'T WAIT! My favorite way to start my day is to watch tennis while I eat my breakfast. And this Monday is a school holiday so I plan to spend the entire day watching tennis and stitching.

If there's no tennis to watch, my next choice is Women's College Volleyball, but that's only broadcast during the fall. I recently started watching English Premier Soccer (Football!) to tide me over until tennis starts. World Cup, men and women's, is a given. Also, the Olympics.

2. Stitch. I always have at least one unfinished cross stitch project lying about (and at least 5 more planned) and it is the perfect thing to work on while watching something on the television.

3. Go to the movies. By myself, with my spouse, with my parents, etc. Just leave the house and go experience a film in a theatre. I'm hoping to see Spotlight when Alex goes back to school. I might even see Star Wars again.

4. Read. The more stressed I am, the harder it is to focus on a book, however. It has been more of a chore than a pleasure lately, but I have several library books that I've renewed 3 times already and just need to finish and return. Goodreads has been both a blessing and a curse. I can keep track of all the books I want to read and have read, but for every book I finish, I find 3 more I want to read.

I also decided, last summer, that I should read all of Georgette Heyer's published works from beginning to end. She is my mother-in-law's favorite author and I've only previously read about half of her works so it's been interesting, starting at the beginning. I've just started Faro's Daughter, number twenty-four on Heyer's list, which is an old favorite. I still have the last page memorized.

5. Do Laundry. It always relaxes me to make something clean. Kathleen Norris writes eloquently about it in The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work.

6. Take a walk. Of course, since Alex has been home with me 24/7, this has been impossible to do.

7. Write a letter or a postcard. Make a card or a postcard. Go to the post office to mail stacks of letters and postcards. I don't actually journal anywhere. I write letters or cards and send them to other people. I guess I always need an audience. Which is why a blog is perfect for me. Yes, I really am trying to blog more.

I brought my gerberas inside for the winter and they surprised me by blooming. This is a good thing I just dumped all my pots of African violets because they were getting leggy and my amaryllis haven't sprouted yet. Orange is my favorite color flower.

Here's Kelly's post. It is very funny.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Dr. Seuss from Oh, the Places You'll Go

The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

(There was a year when Alex recited the lines from this book over and over and over again until we had to ban it from the household. But I still remember.)

So the plan was for Alex to have one day to say good-bye to his friends at Hartford, That was January 4th. On January 5th, Alex and I went together to visit Archway Upper School with his case manager and one to one aide. On January 6th, Alex was supposed to start attending  Archway, his aide with him for the rest of the week. But there was a hitch.

Late on January 5th, Alex's case manager called to say Archway wanted to wait. So Wednesday, Alex stayed home with me and then went to Grandpa's to read The Empire Strikes Back to him while I went to physical therapy, and then came back home with me. And we waited. After school, his case manager called to say Archway was delaying because they wanted to be sure they put him in the right classroom. What they wanted was the results of an interview with the school psychiatrist to help them to do this. That appointment was scheduled for January 7th. And since the report from that wouldn't be immediately forthcoming, Alex needed to be put into homebound instruction. This means a Mt. Laurel teacher would come to our house after school on weekdays to sit with him for approximately two hours to have some semblance of "school." 

So, Thursday Alex sat in the car while I ran into the library and then went to Target with me to pick up some groceries and school supplies (we were out of plain paper which Alex uses for drawing which is his most common stim and heaven help us if we run out) and then home again. About 2:30, we left for the psychiatrist appointment because the letter said to be 10 minutes early except we didn't need to be early and ended up sitting for about 25 minutes while Alex glanced at the toys and went through the stacks of books and magazines at least 3 times. Yes, of course, we'd brought a book with us but he always wants to check out his options. I think they write the "Please come early" phrase for the people who aren't obsessively on time to important appointments like myself. I am usually on time for doctor appointments, even with children in tow. Sunday morning church, we often walk in 5 minutes late.  

Anyway, we met with the psychiatrist and he was very helpful. He asked me why I thought Archway would be the best placement for Alex when we do have other options and I told him it was because the place was quiet. One of the primary causes of Alex's anxiety at Hartford this year has been from all the transitions: homeroom for ten minutes then gym then his main class then the secondary class then the main class then back to the secondary class. But he needs to be in a class of his peers, students that talk and relate, rather than the self contained class of the last few years. Archway should provide a small classroom of similarly abled peers in a quiet and safe environment with a calm down room just down the hallway. 

That brings us to today, Friday, January 8, 2016. He's presently working with his homebound teacher who much to my relief knows how to cope with him and his constant attempts to get out of doing anything substantial. She will be back Monday afternoon as well and then we have some old friends coming Tues-Thurs. Hopefully, by then, everything at Archway will be settled and we can go back to finding our new normal. 

In the meantime, we are waiting. I love to imitate Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, "I hate waiting." I can do my regular stuff around the house of dishes and laundry, which I have. Wednesday morning Alex and I cleaned his room, which was particularly bad. The pile of paper that went into recycling (all his stim drawings and leftovers) was twice the usual size and I didn't even dig out the whole pile from under his bed. I didn't want to know how many cheese stix wrappers and crushed chips were under there. I think I found all the dirty socks and dishes and that's what's most important. 

But everything else has to be done with Alex along or have him safely disposed with a grandparent or aunt. I didn't think I was that busy but I have something on the calendar for every morning next week. That will take some arranging.

But all the physical machinations are a good cover for the emotional ones that I'm not really looking at. The part that makes me second guess all of my parenting decisions for his entire life. Should I have chased new doctors or a new neurologist? How long will we have to wait? Is Archway really the right place for him? Will it work forever or just for a school year or two and then we'll have to do this all over again?


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Movies Galore

Somehow, I let the whole of 2015 go by without one blog post about what films I'm looking forward to or even manage to see. There was that whole "peak" television thing going on, plus all the personal crap. Grueling is a way to describe my year. Too much grieving.

But 2016 is a brand new year. Here's what looks interesting:

February 5
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies 
This is a maybe. I tried to read the book and only made it through 3 pages before I had to put it down (weak stomach). I rarely make it through a whole episode of The Walking Dead. But the premise is still hilarious.

February 12
I'm not a big fan of the character but it is supposed to be outrageously funny. I'll wait for the reviews.

March 4
London Has Fallen
I was one of the few people who enjoyed the first one. But I liked White House Down, too. Popcorn movies.

March 25
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I'm a sucker for a good comic book movie. I play no favorites between Marvel and DC. It could be good.

I Saw the Light
Tom Hiddleston. I'm convinced.

May 6
Captain America: Civil War
Can't Wait!

May 27
X-Men: Apocalypse

June 17
Finding Dory
I can still do all the lines and know every note of the soundtrack of Nemo. Popular movie here.

July 1
The Legend of Tarzan
Could be fun. Looks pretty.

July 8
Secret Life of Pets
This looks like so much fun.

July 22
Star Trek Beyond
I loved the first but liked the second. Still, Idris Elba. Swoon.

Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur
Directed by Guy Ritchie; could be interesting.

July 29
Bourne Sequel
Very interesting cast.

August 5
Suicide Squad
See above re: comic book movies.

August 16
I like the original but I'm not a huge fan. Bekmanbetov is an interesting director, though.

November 4
Doctor Strange
More Marvel fun.

November 18
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Can you ever go wrong with JK?

November 23
The Great Wall
This could be fascinating. Or just pretty.

December 16
Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie
Goes without saying.

December 23
Assassin's Creed
Michael Fassbender and a decent script could make this work. Maybe.

And that's my first pass. Lots of fun stuff here.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

There Be Dragons! Er, Well, One Dragon, Minus One Leg

There haven't been a whole lot of happy things to blog about here lately, but when my depression hasn't totally oppressed me, I've been able to stitch.

Teresa Wentzler's Celestial Dragon is what's known as a BAP (big ass project) and there have been many evenings when I stare at all the little x's and wonder at my foolishness. But any progress is movement forwards and closer to completion. Sometimes, all I have are small victories, so I mark them.

Remember, here's the finished project:

This is the lower right corner.








Finished this section. BTW, that design in the middle is stitched one over one. Not to be attempted in anything but natural light.

Back to the dragon body and the world of confetti.








So my focus presently is finishing this section of trunk and leg and then I'll move to the upper right corner, which is the last one. But, wait! There's more! The beading and backstitching will probably take another six weeks after that. But I can see the end from here and it feels good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Random Thoughts

I haven't posted in forever because my depression has limited my desire to do anything not absolutely necessary, but I started new meds almost 3 weeks ago and suddenly I have energy again. Strange.

Just a few minutes ago I was looking for a cross stitch pattern I have just learned is out of print (one of those cases when I should have bought it when I saw it 5 years ago) and somehow joined Pinterest in my search for it. As if I needed more social media platforms.

What I'm looking for is the Dragon Virtues Afghan pattern by Dragon Dreams. Here's a photo of the finished product.

Ah, well. It's still beautiful.

There is presently a vacationing brown labrador in my living room and two contractors in my attic who are a part of our energy saving upgrades and neither is happy with the other. I could really go for a boring day where everything went according to plan.

12 Days Later

There are now 6 more contractors all over my house, finishing the work started on the 15th and
Roman likes them even less. Silly puppy.

In the fun of this household upgrade, we have emptied the attic of the dusty boxes of stuff we forgot about and 3 diaper boxes of our cd collection. If someone could tell how long we have to keep the cd's to prove the legality of our digital music collection, that would be very handy.

Something helpful I did find was my Cabbage Patch doll which looks surprisingly good for being 30 years old (at least) and Miranda immediately decided she liked it. Even better, I have clothes made for her by my maternal grandmother who's been gone since 1986. I was so pleased to wash them again and see Miranda's delight. Everything old is new again.

I've been told that Dragon Virtues isn't completely out of print and I might be able to get a copy for myself in a month or so. Happy news. A series cross stitcher will always have on hand the patterns she wants to stitch sometime in the next ten years.

I actually picked up Celestial Dragon on Friday, which was remarkable. I was in the mood for one over one stitching, which is crazy. I went from this

to this

I also remembered why it's much easier to work on this with my upright wooden stitching stand and not the simple hand held q snaps. Hmmm. I'll have to decide if it's worth moving the whole stand out of the closet.

Best to post this now. Always time to blog more later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Calla Progress

I always know that I'm feeling better, that my depression is retreating, when I can pick up my cross stitch project again. (I always have something going; someday I'm actually going to finish Celestial Dragon.)

For some reason, I can't find any pictures from last year. Ah, well. Some things are just permanently lost to cyberspace.

Beginning on May 30, 2015

End of May 30, 2015

June 14, 2015

June 16, 2015 

July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015

 July 7, 2015

Here's a finished project.

And here is Celestial Dragon which I started 5? years ago. I hope I wrote it down somewhere.

Here's a link with details.