Friday, April 18, 2014

No One Says It Better

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets
East Coker, IV

Friday, April 11, 2014


1. There's nothing like an immaculate (well, at least, much cleaner) front room to make you want to sigh happily and rest on your laurels instead of continuing down your To Do list and tackling the pile of paper sitting behind me of stuff from school that needs to go in this year's binders. In fact, the room is so clean, when Miranda walked in, she asked me if our cleaning lady had come today. I have to say I was a little offended, as if I can't clean off the table and vacuum by myself. But she's right; it hasn't happened much lately. I generally start the day intending to clean off the table (it's a dining table in our front room that doubles as a dining room, my office and the entry to the rest of the house, including a coat closet off to the side) and end the day reconciling myself to the fact I made a little headway through the piles and try to ignore the drops of maple syrup that decorate the places where the children sit for breakfast that have hardened into cement. (On school mornings, both children have pancakes for breakfast.) I gave up on table cloths sometime in the winter because Alex was forever pulling it half-way off so he could have a hard surface to write or draw on, which looks even messier because it would stay that way for at least a week. Before that we tried plastic place mats but he was forever peeling off the laminate, so those are all hidden in a cabinet somewhere, at least, the ones that survived. I have a drawer full of cloth place mats; maybe I should unearth them.

I did manage quite a bit of my To Do list this week and got back into walking regularly (so lovely to have cooperative weather!) so I'm feeling pleased. Also, the kids are spending tomorrow afternoon at my parents' so Marshall and I can go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier together. I'm trying to remember the last film we saw together. (Checks list). It was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in January. Yes, I know, we're pathetic. It was a rough winter.

2. So, since we're off to see Cappy tomorrow, that means we're all caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes, I can confirm that in the last week, we've watched 10 episodes. We enjoy the complicated plotting and tons of unanswered questions but it does explain why it isn't overwhelmingly popular. You really need to start at the beginning of the show to understand all the nuances. Still, the acting is good, the guest stars are fun and I want to see what happens next. But we're starting to call it the Farscape Syndrome. After S01E18 of Farscape, it was very difficult to follow the action and characters if you didn't have all the background. Now, for myself, I started watching Farscape in the summer of 2001 when it was halfway through Season 3 so I managed to be fascinated without understanding everything. And the Scifi channel helpfully ran Seasons 1 & 2 every weekday evening after the end of Season 3, so we did get caught up eventually.

But catching up on on TV series just reminds me of all the other unfinished series littering my DVR. The advantage of a 2 terabyte drive is that I can collect video almost at will but the disadvantage is that sometimes it sits there for years, unwatched, because I hate finishing things. For example, the series finale of Awake aired May 24, 2012, and I've yet to watch it, or the two episodes before it. I haven't seen the finales of either Lie to Me or The Chicago Code, even though I liked the shows. But it's not just the canceled series that are difficult for me to finish. I haven't watched an episode of Castle, NCIS, or Sherlock yet this year. Sure, I've spent the time watching baseball or tennis or reading lots of good books. But I still have anxiety about finishing these series. I guess my brain finds more comfort in the unknown than in the possibility of disappointment (either because the series doesn't end well or because even if it does, there won't be any more). I am notorious for hating cliff hangers so much that if I know a season is going to end with a cliff hanger, I will wait until the new season premieres to watch the previous season's finale. Or, if it's a 2 parter from Doctor Who, Marshall has learned by now we're going to finish the story, no matter how late at night it might be at that moment. This would also explain why I haven't read the last two Percy Jackson books and am waiting until October when The Blood of Olympus comes out to play catch up. Or, at least, that's what I'm telling myself. It's probably telling that I didn't discover Percy Jackson until reading a book review for The Last Olympian, book 5 of the first Percy series. I feel like Inigo Montoya: "I hate waiting."

I'm going to try, in the coming months, to pick something each month to finish. One thing. It's probably cheating to count Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for April, so I'll pick Awake.

3. Alex had a very anxious week. I think it was blow back from saying good-bye on Saturday to Truman and the Fenglers, but I have no idea if that's why. We did make the changes to his meds recommended by the new psychiatrist (an increase in his AD/HD med and exchanging his Zyrtec for Cyproheptadine in hopes of increasing his appetite) and are cautiously optimistic. He is at least eating more. But I have the challenge of integrating yet another physician into our web of advice. The kids see one set of pediatricians for sick visits and our GP for ADD or AD/HD medical advice and now we're folding in the psychiatrist for more specialized medication advice. I want to continue to see all of them because each brings something valuable to the table but it is a complicated challenge.

Miranda will meet the psychiatrist on Monday. Our focus for her is a possible ODD diagnosis. She certainly has the behaviors and we need help helping her get unstuck when she's dug herself a hole and fallen in.

4. The great thing, though, is that Monday after we see the shrink, we get to go back to my parents' house and visit with my brother Brandon and his wife and daughter. They are staying here for 3 days on their way to France and I'm really looking forward to spending time with them. My kids adore their cousins, all of them, but especially the younger ones since I've insisted there will be no more siblings for them. Here's hoping for lots of adorable pictures.

5. Speaking (writing) of adorable pictures, Miranda's school pictures came home yesterday and they are amazingly good, despite the fact that I once again forgot to dress her in something photogenic. Yes, I wrote myself a note and reminded myself several times the day before, and still forgot.

Here's last year's adorable debacle:

and then this year's offering.

Remarkably handsome child.

6. I did manage to do some gardening this week. My purple hyacinths were looking ratty so I bought seven new pots of them and planted them in the gaps. I forgot to take a before picture, but here's the happy after one.

The darker flowers are the new ones. My hostas are just starting to come up so I've already warned my father that he'll be getting a large pile of them in about a week. If I don't cut them back every year, they try to take over the world. And my father was kind enough to come over and trim my roses so they won't be going haywire this year, but I still need to give them the rose food. And I promised to radically cut back the butterfly bushes before they start blooming. But gardening makes me happy, especially when I indulge my compulsions and dig wild onions out of the lawn. There's nothing so satisfying as putting them in the trash can by the handful.

7. I gave up on Intelligence and The Blacklist a few weeks ago and deleted them from the DVR. The former because the writing was so awful even the pretty visuals and good actors couldn't make the show palatable. The latter because the body count was awfully high and I have enough difficulty stomaching Justified for that reason. Besides, I think Alias did twists and mysteries better.

Don't miss Jen this week. She's very funny.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Catch Up

1. I should start calling this 7 Quick Takes Sunday because that seems to be when I have the time and energy to write it.

Yesterday I took the kids across the bridge to Limerick, PA, to say good-bye to my high school friend and her husband whose company we've enjoyed for the last couple of years but who are now off to a new adventure in Colorado Springs. You see, they have a dog named Truman who Alex is very attached to.

I started talking to Alex about saying good-bye to Truman a few weeks ago and planned this trip last week. But mid-week he started telling me he didn't want to go and they needed to stay and not move away. Then I realized Alex has never had the experience of saying good-bye to anyone he doesn't have some reasonable expectation of seeing again. No one he really cared about, that is. So this was a big deal. But I knew if I didn't make him go, it would be worse later.

I have to say, my favorite scene ever on The Big Bang Theory, which I only started watching last summer, is this one:

If you live in a house with ASD, you know change is hard. Terribly, terribly hard. There are many debates about Dr. Sheldon Cooper and what classification he might have, but he gets this part perfectly right.

So, armed with food, electronic toys for the children, dog toys for the dogs, we set off for the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The drive time is only about an hour but my spoiled children thought it took forever. Alex had some anxiety getting in the car, didn't spend every possible moment in Truman's lap, and he decided after 2 hours it was time to come home. But we did go and come back without a major explosion. I'll call that a success.

2. We had a few warm days this week that allowed that poor daffodil to open almost completely. This photo is from yesterday:

3. The Phillies had their opening day in Texas with the Rangers on Monday, which they won 14-10, so it was a rather odd game. I watched the game in the evening and found it did not interest me as much as in the past. If you read my blog, you'll know that watching the Phillies games last spring helped to keep me sane, because Alex was on the verge of exploding every day, all day, for months on end. When we finally had him settled in October with new meds, a new school, and a new teacher, Marshall and I found ourselves in a state of PTSD. That probably contributed to the nasty winter we experienced; it wasn't just the weather making us blue.

If you missed it the last time I shared this link, read this blog entry now from another mother who lives a life like ours. And don't miss the comments or you'll miss the label Marshall and I use to describe our life: Ongoing Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We are blessed that right now because life is fairly calm. But the whole trip to say good-bye to our friends and their dogs yesterday was exhausting; I came home completely spent. And we are currently trying to fit into our regular medical visits a psychiatrist who is seeing all of us individually (well, kinda; I'm taking each kid to see him and staying to talk to him about them, so he gets Alex + me or Miranda + me) which is helpful, yes, but complicates everything.

I just spent 10 minutes trying to find the Animaniacs episode "De-Zanitized" on YouTube but Warner Brothers has helpfully taken it down. It's on Amazon Prime, if you need a refresher. It was definitely in the back of my mind and I traveled to and from Dr. Ayala's office a week ago Friday for my own appointment and this last Friday for Alex's.

4. If you don't follow me on Goodreads, my new favorite authors are Julie James and Jill Shalvis. I have only two more books of James' that I haven't read yet, one of which comes out next month, which is disappointing because they are a great deal of fun. Shalvis has helpfully written 12 stories in her Lucky Harbor series and I've only read 4 so far, so hopefully that will keep me busy for a while. I also read Anne Gracie's new book Winter Bride this week and loved it. Waiting for me on my desk is Kristan Higgins' Waiting for You, which has only been out for a week or two, which is book 3 of her Blue Heron series that is excellent. I spent the winter reading everything Higgins had ever published and while I don't love every one of her books, they are all worth reading. I did give up on the Julie Garwood contemporary series that started with Heartbreaker. I read about 80 pages of Mercy and decided I didn't want to finish it. She spent too much time with the villains and not enough with her hero and heroine and that kind of story does not interest me.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened on Friday and I realized when I glanced at the reviews that, in order to make everything work out in the right order, we would need to finally watch Thor: The Dark World and then catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which we stopped watching the week that the new Thor film came out because it referenced the movie and I didn't want to experience any spoilers, before we went to see Cappy's new adventure. So, last night we watched Thor and, as usual, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is my absolute favorite part of movie. He's just ... perfect. Maybe we can get through 9 episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. before next weekend when we might talk the grandparents' into babysitting.

Rio 2 comes out next weekend and my mother and I have decided to see it together since the children refuse to go with us. Yet another annoying ASD aspect: they're just not into movie theatres. Too dark, no way to stop the film if it's scary, no snacks, no bathroom breaks. Well, I can see their point.

6. What with baseball and Thor this week, I had more time to stitch. Here's the progress pic:

7. My gluten free adventure continues. I tried my impossible to ruin pork pot pie recipe on Wednesday night with a gluten free pie pastry and corn starch as a gravy thickener instead of flour and it failed horribly. Mostly inedible. But what was constant stomach discomfort 3 weeks ago has subsided into an occasional thing and I'm able to eat fruit and vegetables again, which I haven't regularly in months, so it's not all bad. But I'm still figuring out my way.

And here's Jen. Her new book is coming out soon and looks fascinating.

Monday, March 31, 2014


1. We had more than 3 inches of rain fall over the weekend. But I'm trying to keep myself in a grateful frame of mind, so I'm telling myself, at least it wasn't snow.

2. Since it wasn't snow but rain, that must mean it's been warmer! Yes, it has. Here's proof:

It's not quite open, but it's closer.

3. From FB on Friday:

As many of you are aware, April is Autism Awareness month. Usually, since we live with it every day, our household doesn't pay much attention to events and such. But this year, I want to be blogging and posting about it more, from the perspective of what it's like to live with 2 children on the spectrum. And I want to start by thanking our many friends and family who love our kids as they are and don't expect them to be anything else. I was just counting in my head and it's too many to tag. That's a lot of people. Thank you. It is a tremendous help to me to know my kids can be themselves when they are with you and I can relax from being Over-Vigilant Parent. You help me rest.

4. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I ran off and saw Veronica Mars on Friday night. It was perfect.  I came home with a smile on my face so big, it lasted all night, in spite of the incessant rain, and I want to binge my way through the first season all over again. I can't even decide which is my favorite episode. Maybe "Clash of the Tritons." I don't actually own the DVD's. Maybe that should change. And did you hear? There's a book that follows directly after the events of the film, called The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line. I can't wait to read it.

5. But, hey, the wonderful roofer came Tuesday and repaired the leaky roof, so there was no water in the house during the 3 days of rain. Very thankful!

6. Friday, I took off my Porcelain nail wraps and put on Queen Anne. They are awesome. And it only took me about an hour to do the application. Definitely getting faster.

They're so pretty. I don't hate my nails anymore.

7. I did get a little stitching done Saturday night while catching up on tennis. Although both finals were kinda boring. It's much more interesting when the battle isn't one-sided. Still, congratulations to Novak and Serena.

Moving forward, slowly but surely.

And here's Jen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring is Here?

1. So Thursday was officially the first day of spring, which is great an all, but there's another storm coming Tuesday night. It will probably only give us a dusting of snow. Probably.

But in happier news, my crocuses are blooming:

2. In other happy news, we got an estimate from a roofer for our roof repair and he expects we don't need a whole new roof but will charge a reasonable amount to fix the leak and might even be able to do it this Tuesday, before the next storm arrives. This is especially helpful since we had to have a bowl catching water in the front room closet during the rain storm last week.

3. On the recommendation of several friends, I saw Dr. Chung of the Chung Institute of Integrative Medicine on Thursday, hoping to find someone to help me with the my escalating stomach issues. He identified 3 possible problems, ordered a bunch of tests, and recommended a gluten-free diet as one part of a solution. So, good-bye chocolate covered pretzels, sour dough bread and any gluten-filled lasagna. Still, I'm consoling myself that I'd rather lose gluten than chocolate. But it will be quite a process of adaptation.

4. I have not yet been able to see the Veronica Mars movie. Somehow, the regular stuff of daily life seems more pressing. But the ladies who clean my house came Tuesday which always cheers me up.

5. My honey seems to have restored our DVR to perfection and cut the cable bill. Talk about my own personal super hero.

6. One of my friends from church shared this great list of 21 Tips to Keep Your S**t Together When You're Depressed. I think she expresses many of my own thoughts perfectly.

7. If you've never seen any of the videos from How It Should Have Ended, boy, are you missing out.

And here's Jen, although she didn't have time to write her own list this week, so this is just the aggregation of all the others.

Monday, March 17, 2014

From the Land of the Hacking Cough

1. We've all had the flu now. I have one more dose of my antibiotic; Marshall went on antibiotics on Friday since a week spent in bed did nothing to bring down his fever. And Alex spiked a fever as soon as we woke him to get ready to fly to Texas last Monday. We think Miranda had a mild version last weekend although she barely ran a fever at all. She mostly stayed in bed watching some videos on YouTube of people playing Minecraft. She doesn't actually play the game, mind you, but just watches someone else playing and narrating.

It was exciting flying from Philadelphia to Orlando to San Antonio to visit dear friends for 5 days with a feverish child. I was praying the whole week that all the germs would stay with us and no one we encountered would get sick. But we'd planned the trip for 15 months previously and the tickets were non-refundable. So we went.

And even though Alex was living from one dose of Children's Advil to the next and sleeping poorly (he and I shared a bed) for the first 3 days, we still had a lovely time.

I can't honestly say he had less anxiety on this trip (a new place, flying on airplanes without daddy, to meet new people who don't have all the right food) because of his fever or not. I've no idea. The sweet doggies certainly helped calm him.

Tiger on the left, Daisy on the right. Alex and I spent many happy moments snuggling with them. I didn't get a picture of Tiger sitting on Miranda's lap, unfortunately.

2. On the way out, in the Orlando airport:

On the way home. Our flight leaving Atlanta for Philadelphia was delayed about 45 minutes.

3. Here's Dawn and I at my wedding, June 21, 1997:

Here's our picture from Saturday morning, right before leaving for the airport. We've aged a bit, 6 kids later.

4. Tirzah is almost 4 and a complete ham.

5. This is Aaron reading Calvin & Hobbes to Miranda before bed, on Friday night. Sorry it's out of focus.

6. Dawn recently joined Jamberry as an Independent Consultant. Here are my efforts to help her out:

I like the blue nails even better than I expected.

7. Other random pictures:

Next week I hope to have a review of the Veronica Mars movie!

And here's Jen.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I Hate Packing

1. Tomorrow the children and I fly to San Antonio, TX, to visit my best friends from college who conveniently married each other and we haven't seen each other for 8 years. I would have been all prepared to go (house clean, bags packed, etc.) if I hadn't spent the last 11 days in bed with the flu. Marshall finally sent me to the doctor yesterday morning where they gave me antibiotics and real cough syrup. So, today, I'm starting to feel like myself and am spending the whole day packing because that's all the energy I have. Hopefully, tomorrow, I will have enough adrenaline going to keep the children in tow from Philly to Orlando to San Antonio.

2. This is our first trip with just the three of us, leaving Daddy at home. I've been planning it with my college besties for 15 months. But it will be an adventure. Of course, we're flying Southwest Airlines, because they have special "get on first" boarding passes for special needs families and their flight crews are, on the whole, a lot more cheerful. I plan to throw myself on their mercy at every opportunity.

3. I don't have a packing list. I generally just work from the one in my head, which frustrates Marshall to no end because then he doesn't know what to do to help. But it would take too long to write it all down.

4. Alex has no homework for the week (I'm taking both kids out of school for the trip because we're going when San Antonio schools have their spring break) because his teacher understands that going to a new place with people he doesn't remember or has never met before without daddy there to help is plenty to do in one week. You should have seen the grocery list I emailed to my friends just to keep him afloat for the week we're away. Miranda's teacher wasn't quite so understanding and sent home a big packet. I've decided to try to do some everyday and then not worry about it. Our spring break has already been all but eaten up by snow days, anyway.

5. As I was thinking about packing snacks for the plane, I was trying to prepare myself to be calm and insistent with the TSA. I always bring cups of applesauce for the kids to take their meds with and applesauce only comes in 4 oz containers. And I usually bring some of Miranda's vanilla milk drink boxes, which are 8 ounces. I've decided I can buy Alex some juice drink boxes on the other side of security, but these things I need to take with me. Hopefully, they won't go for the strip search this time. (Not kidding. I got that coming back from San Diego in 2012 because I wouldn't give up the drink boxes and they smelled funny to the machines.) Someday, we're going to have actual security instead of security theatre, but until then, I try to be patient and keep saying the magic word, "autism."

6. Pray for us. Pray that Alex's anxiety with be replaced with interest and excitement about seeing a cool new place. And meeting two new dogs. And people, of course.

7. I'll try to post fun pictures from Texas, but we don't have a lot of plans to go places. Mostly, to just be together and play. I think Miranda will find staying in a house with 3 little girls to be the best thing ever, after Aunt Katie's pool in San Diego. I think Alex will attach himself to the daddy of the house or follow the dogs around, reading to them. And I will enjoy being with good friends.

Here's Jen.