Saturday, October 29, 2011

What, me thankful?

1. My coping mechanism with another tough week around here has been baseball, and more Baseball. So, not much different from last week. I did finish watching the Ken Burns series and liked it; I know a lot more about baseball than before, that's for sure. My favorite episodes were the ones talking about the Black Sox Scandal, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. I even watched the "Tenth Inning" episode that was released last year but didn't like it as well as the original series; that may be because much of it dealt with 9/11 and the steroids scandals, and there's not a lot of happy things to be said about either of those subjects. I did decide to request from the library a book called Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. I'm a history buff; I like to know what happened. And I'll bet nowhere in their book do they mention living with autism, so it counts as escapist reading.

I expect I will watch Burns' Prohibition series next, and maybe then Jazz, which Marshall might watch with me. I know The War is supposed to be excellent, but I don't think I could handle watching real people die. I've never watched all of Band of Brothers, as good as I know it is and as much as I love Damian Lewis, because it would make me cry. There's enough to cry about around here without adding entertainment to the list.

2. Like geography tests (things to cry about, that is.) Alex was scheduled to have his first classroom test ever this morning in his neurotypical second grade class and so I sat down with him Wednesday night to try to help him study. One look at the blank map of the world (continents and oceans) I had produced and he completely fell apart and had to be put to bed immediately with hugs and soothing stories from Daddy.

Yesterday, I communicated back and forth with his teacher (of the self-contained autistic class) to check and see what might be on the test and what he would be required to do. From her answers, I decided there was nothing I should mention to him about it and he probably knew all the answers anyway.

And I thought I was an anxious student. My poor, sweet boy, who seems to be Mr. Popular in this neurotypical second grade class (a little blonde girl has a crush on him), apparently needs no interference from me about his school work. But when I discussed it later with Marshall, I wondered what "regular" parents do. I mean, if Alex seriously could not sit and take this test, he would simple be excused from it. He is "classified" and it's not worth fighting him over it when doing so would create in him more anxiety than necessary. But neurotypical kids can have anxiety over exams. What do their parents say?

******************* Oops, got busy yesterday afternoon (actually, I stopped at the library before going to Alex's Halloween parade and party and picked up Naked City and read it, practically, cover to cover, because Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs had new short stories in it) and didn't finish this until Saturday afternoon. Sorry. ************************

3. Since it's now Saturday, I can tell you that after talking with Alex's teacher and his primary aide, Miss Kathy, I learned that he did fine on the geography test. He was allowed to cut the titles out of a list (Pacific Ocean, Asia, Antarctica, etc.) and paste them in the appropriate places on the map. Phew!

4. When exactly did zombies go mainstream? On the Bubble Guppies Halloween episode, that premiered last Monday (I looked everywhere for the video but couldn't find it, sorry), one of the characters is dressed as a zombie. And this is a pre-school show! Zombies were even referenced on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me this week. (If you want to hear it, click on "Listen to the Full Show" and after the player launches, listen to the segment "Panel Round Two.") I guess it's time to request Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from the library at last and catch up on the latest serious movement sweeping the nation.

5. And, even though it's only October 29th, a combination of rain, snow and hail has been falling since early this morning and will continue all day. It was an interesting drive to church for the Fall Festival, let me tell you. Of course, though, since there was a Moonbounce there, I couldn't miss the event. My children would never forgive me.

Miranda is confused. "It's Fall and Winter at the same time," she said as we were driving home in the slush. I agreed with her.

6. I should have planned my children's birthdays better. Both of them are in October and Miranda's is the day before Halloween, which means it's been party time for an entire month, even though the official family party was on the 15th. Tomorrow, Miranda will have a treat with her Sunday school class (we did her regular school class yesterday), we will do her Halloween parade Monday afternoon, and do a little trick or treating Monday night. We will, of course, give out candy at the door, candy which I foolishly bought on Wednesday and have already been eating myself (next year I'm really going to wait until the day before Halloween to buy candy to give out to our neighborhood children!), and rejoice on Tuesday that October is behind us for a whole other year.

The Halloween-so-far pictures are here, but I thought I'd include a few cute ones.

Miranda, the fairy princess.

Two fairy princesses! (That's the Youth Pastor's daughter).

Alex playing Angry Birds while waiting for the Moonbounce to inflate.

Moustache courtesy of Miss Susan.

7. If you have time to kill and have a fondness for dummies, let me introduce Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Really, really NSFW or children or anyone who worries about political correctness. And, even worse, Achmed sings Jingle Bombs.

And here's Jen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Get Thankful Already! (Said to myself)

1. I am having a hard time finding my thankfulness today. Miranda is home with a low-grade fever that I'm hoping a couple of days of rest will keep from growing into something more exciting. I'm tired because Alex was up late and Miranda was up early. And I really did need to go out this afternoon and run a few errands, like picking up Alex's Halloween costume and buying a present for his school friend's birthday party on Sunday. Now, I didn't want to go out, so I should be happy I have to stay in, but I'm grouchy anyway. Go figure. Although it's probably nothing a Diet Coke and some chocolate can't fix!

2. The party last Saturday was a great success, and I credit my mother for supervising a really cool craft (I hope to have pictures next week) and our wonderful friends and family whose company is a joy. But everybody in this house had a party hangover on Sunday. Last week was very full with all the usual craziness plus getting the house in shape for the party and all the house-hunting for my parents, and I think we were all overloaded, especially since the only extroverts in the building are Miranda and my mother. The rest of us just wanted to hide in a nice, quiet corner and recharge. 

3. My parents did find a condo nearby to rent and all the details for their move are starting to come together. They hope to drive out the week before Thanksgiving and be settled in the place by early December. It's going to be awesome, eventually. It's just really stressful right now.

4. I have found my favorite new show is Revenge. It's everything Ringer should have been. The acting is impressive, the costuming is perfect, the mystery set up in the pilot episode is incredibly compelling, and the writing keeps me coming back for more. And, often, I am watching it in the middle of my children screaming around me and interrupting me because I can't wait until they go to bed to watch it by myself. Some critics have called it "soapy." Why do some people feel compelled to disparage a drama about relationships? Must be too "girly." Like romance novels! I refuse to read John Grisham or Nicolas Sparks novels because, one, I consider them poor writers, but mostly because if their books had been written by women, they would have made, maybe, 1/10th of the amount of money currently banked by these dudes. Sexist Pigs! Okay, I'm done. Exiting my soapbox now. But if you'd like to donate any Grisham or Sparks books for a bonfire, let me know. :)

5. The other thing I've been watching this week is Baseball and, well, baseball. Of the former, I've made it through the 5th Inning, ending in 1939, and learned a lot more about Babe Ruth than I ever expected to know. He really was bigger than life. And of the latter, well, I'm rooting for the Cardinals, I think. Both teams are incredibly appealing. Or maybe I just make a really bad fan, rooting for everyone because I hate to see anyone lose. And, well, the Phillies aren't playing.

6. I'm not ready for Halloween yet, which is 10 days away, and some of my friends have started talking about Christmas. I just want to laugh at them. Do you realize all the things I have to do before I even think about Christmas? Then there's the parents' move. And both of my sisters-in-law are pregnant, one due in January and the other in March. And Miranda is insisting we go back to Aunt Katie's house in California asap, but she'll settle for next summer sometime, if she can't manage to wheedle anything else out of me. To quote that classic from the 80's, Short Circuit, "Oh, for the sake of Pete!"

7. Some helpful links for you:
And that's all folks. Here's Jen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just a Small, Simple Party

1. So my children both have October birthdays (Alex on the 4th and Miranda on the 30th). And my parents are here this weekend to house hunt for a place to move into next month. So I thought, let's just invite the rest of the family over for snacks and cake. But when you say "birthday party" to Miranda, she imagines it in Olivia terms. Balloons, every present she's ever wanted or dreamed of, cake and ice cream, prizes, games, crafts, moon bounce--the works. Well, thanks to my mother, there will be a craft. I have made a cake and Mimi is making a cake so there will be enough for everybody. I may pick up enough balloons for each child to take one home. (I hate, hate, hate party bags and refuse to make them.) We will have all kinds of appetizers to munch on, even healthy ones, and tea and diet soda to drink, before we fall, like ravening wolves, upon the chocolate cakes. But that's it.

Now, you mention to my mother, "We're going to be having a few people over for the party" and she wants to clean up every cluttered corner in the house and yard. Now, in her defense, all the cleaning that we've done together has been great and our place is the better for it, but I had been automatically ignoring all those piles for so long that it was a little shock to my system to look at them in the face again, as it were. There is still a pile in my bedroom and I have yet to tackle the filing of school papers that I've been avoiding for almost 6 months now, but the rest of the house looks tremendously better.

2. Since my mother is here, we qualified for free babysitting last night and so Marshall and I were able to meet our friend at the movies and see Moneyball, which we both enjoyed. Even though the Phillies lost last week and are out of the running for the World Series, I have begun watching the Ken Burns' series of Baseball and while it is a little slow and dry, it is informative. Since I've made it to 1920, I now have a much better grasp of the 8 Men Out scandal.

3. 2 new books came in the mail for me this week: Richard Castle's Heat Rises, which I read in one sitting on Tuesday night when Marshall was at a meeting at church and my mother was looking over some realty options, and Rick Riordan's Son of Neptune. I haven't read The Lost Hero yet; it's been sitting on my shelf gathering dust for six months because I hate cliffhangers. I was able to read the whole Percy Jackson series in one fell swoop and have hated waiting between books on Riordan's excellent Egyptian series, so I've decided to wait to start his new Heroes of Olympus books. Or life just got busy. Richard Castle's books are fun fluff to pick up, read, and pass along to my sister-in-law. I should be able to get it in the mail to her on Monday.

4. DVR Update: I decided to stop picking up A Gifted Man because I just didn't have the time to watch it and even though it stars 3 actors I like very much (Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle and Margo Martindale), I couldn't muster interest or energy even to watch the pilot, so it went overboard. So did Ringer. I am a huge SMG fan because I am a huge Buffy fan, but her new show is all about lying to the people you care about and even with its great cast of actors, it's not keeping my interest. I'm still behind on a whole stack of shows, which is what happens when your husband builds you a DVR with almost infinite amounts of space.

5. The Avengers trailer was released this week! This might be the trailer I watch once a week until the movie comes out, like I did with Star Trek. Sigh.

6. Surely I did other useful things this week. Wrote some cards. Enjoyed my mother's company. Cleaned. That seems to be about it.

7. Bathsheba's LamentOrder it. Read it. Review it. Hooray!

And here's Jen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Ray of Hope

1. Life hereabouts has been difficult lately. All 4 of us were sick in succession: I had a bad cold, then Miranda had croup, then Alex had strep and finally, Marshall came down with a bronchial infection last Sunday that put him in bed for 3 days. Adding this to our usual Autumn craziness have left us feeling extremely overwhelmed. But God keeps sending me back to Matthew 6:1-18, which I've been focusing on in my iGroup (Youth Group small group). Here, let me remind you of the passage:

The Message (MSG)

Matthew 6

The World Is Not a Stage
 1 "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. 2-4"When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Pray with Simplicity
 5"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
 6"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
 7-13"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

   Our Father in heaven,
   Reveal who you are.
   Set the world right;
   Do what's best— as above, so below.
   Keep us alive with three square meals.
   Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
   Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
   You're in charge!
   You can do anything you want!
   You're ablaze in beauty!
      Yes. Yes. Yes.

 14-15"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part.
 16-18"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well.

So, for the past few days, when life has seemed unbearable, I stop for a moment and remind myself of this passage. And pray for mercy. Mercy always works for me.

2. My canna lilies are in their glory in late summer and early autumn, blooming until the first freeze. 

In fact, they overhang the front steps, leaving room for little else. 

However, Miranda has noticed our neighbors' practice of buying potted chrysanthemums and decorating their front steps with them and wanted to point out to me my lack of appropriate autumnal accessories, so she helped:

Yes, that's my darling girl who has filled two containers with dirt and planted sticks in them. At least we know her imaginative play skills have really come along. 

3. Alex's 8th birthday was Tuesday and he spent it at home, recovering from the strep infection, and playing lots of Angry Birds. So he missed the pumpkin picking trip his class took that was reported in the local paper. Ah, well. His lovely teacher brought him back a pumpkin of his own and we will be celebrating both Alex and Miranda's birthdays with family on the 15th, when my parents will be visiting.

4. For some strange reason, I've become a Phillies phan and spent a lot of time this week watching baseball games. My family has been very tolerant of my strange obsession. Game 5 of the NLDS is tonight and I have some actual apprehension for the team's prospects. One of our friends writes on the Phillies Nation blog and I highly recommend his articles, if you want an update. 

5. Surely I did more this week than whine and complain about my sick family and watch baseball? Well, I finished Storm Front and started Grave Peril. (Yes, I know those are books 1 & 3 of the series; I read book 2 in San Diego while on vacation.) I also wrote some postcards. Man, this is a pathetic report of a sad little week.

6. The good news is that my mother arrives Sunday afternoon for a week long visit with my father joining her for the following weekend. Life is always better when they are here. And they will be looking for a place to rent after the move out here in late November. Yay!

7. Bathsheba's Lament. Order it. Read it. Review it. Hooray!

And here's Jen.