Friday, June 29, 2012

No Matter What, Trust God!

1. I am tired. It was another very full week. I'm going to really try to keep this post "Quick." I mean it this time. Really.

2. Here's the progress picture of Celestial Dragon:

You will notice that I finished up the top blue section which I used as a diversion while I was dragging my feet over the section that needed frogging. But, after I finished that, I had no more excuses so I spent the 2 hours studying the pattern and my work, back and forth, until I figured out where I went wrong. Another 20 minutes taking out about 20 stitches, and then I moved on. I haven't redone that section yet so I'm not absolutely certain I found exactly where I went wrong (it is a very complex pattern), but I'm hopeful that I identified the right wrong (hah!) and can move forward.

The great thing is that I'm really starting to feel confident about my work on this pattern and my progress is faster than it ever was when I worked on it previously (2-3 years ago). It helps that I'm still using the lesson I learned with White Lilies on Red: work on one small section at a time and don't move on until you finish it! So this dragon's going to have a whole head real soon like!

3. While stitching in the evenings this week, I've been watching the Olympic Trials. So much fun! Just no more gaga over Michael Phelps, please. I've moved on.

4. A few movies were viewed last weekend:

  • On Friday night, Marshall and I watched Let The Bullets Fly. We are both long-time fans of Yun-Fat Chow and he played against type this time as the bad guy, which was fun to see. We are also new fans of Wen Jiang who both starred and directed the film. A little quirky but a lot of fun.
  • On Sunday night, my mother graciously watched the kids for us so we could finally go see Prometheus. It was good and very pretty. And Michael Fassbender was excellent, as always. 
  • Only 4 more days until The Amazing Spider-Man opens!
  • I still want to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, though. But I'm not sure I want to see it alone, so it may have to wait for video.
5. I know, I know; I should have put VBS as number 1. It's only what we did ALL WEEK LONG!

The program for this was Sky and I'm sure we will be singing the music for the rest of the summer. And the theme was, guess what, "No matter what, trust God!"

Some highlights:

  • Miranda is a social animal so she loves activities like this; she would do this every week all summer long. Alex has more difficulty adapting to the schedule and following along with his peers. But he was given 3 boys who, at different times, helped him through his difficult times so that he could participate. I am so very thankful!
  • While the children were off learning how to trust God, I spent 3 of the mornings writing cards and postcards for Youth Group students (16 postcards and 17 Mission Trip cards) in peaceful, quiet places where I could pray over each card and write from my heart. 
  • Wednesday morning I spent with my mother-in-law and Thursday with my mother, which is always fun. We got to have whole conversations without children interrupting!
The end result is the kids are tired and happy and so am I: WIN-WIN!

6. The only down-side is that Alex got stung on each thumb by yellow jackets on Wednesday when he was outside and his thumbs are now inflamed which necessitated a trip to the pediatrician's after VBS ended, this afternoon. He was prescribed a very, heavy-duty antihistamine and, if the swelling hasn't started to recede by tomorrow, an antibiotic. More fun for all.

7. The church picnic is this Sunday after church and it's at the lake and we are going to play and have a good time until Miranda is crying with exhaustion (which is our barometer for when we need to leave a party). And then we will go home and call it a good day.

That was shortish, wasn't it? :)

Here's Jen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lessons in Disappointment

1. It's Saturday morning and I really need to get something posted for this week.

It wasn't that awful of a week; I think the severe thunderstorm that ruined our beach day yesterday is coloring my perspective on our week. But I had forgotten how much I don't get done when both children are home with me all the time, while Marshall is working very long hours and my parents are still out of town. My mother-in-law was a huge help this week, though; I'm not sure how we would have managed driving home from Long Beach Island yesterday in a terrible downpour without her help navigating and placating the disappointed children in the back seat.

2. I really did try to plan fun things for the children to do this week. They had a cool babysitter last Saturday night while I was out celebrating the end of the school year with the ladies in my small group from Youth Group, we went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on Sunday night, met the cousins at Chick Fil'A on Monday for lunch, went swimming at a friend's house on Thursday afternoon and then to the beach Friday.

But then the beach trip was rained out by severe thunderstorms and it was a difficult trip home because Alex's spirit was just crushed by having to be dragged out of the water when he was having such a good time, and then he had to sit in the car for more than an hour while we tried to decide if we should just go home, and then sit in the car for two more hours trying to get home through the horrible storm. (Our usual travel time to Surf City, NJ, is 75 minutes.)

I was so disappointed for him, because we had talked about it all week and we got a late start because while I was trying to get everything ready, both he and Miranda were horsing around and collided, which caused him to bite his tongue, which bled everywhere and upset all of us. And added half an hour to prep time. So we might have had an hour in the water before the thunder started.

I know Alex has to learn to cope with disappointments just like any kid, autism notwithstanding, but it breaks a mommy's heart.

3. Our other big disappointment this week was Wednesday morning, I dragged both kids out early to the Cinemark Theatre in Somerdale for a showing of Rio, a household favorite. I left in such a time to leave about 5 minutes before show time so that Alex wouldn't have to sit in the seat interminably, which was a problem at the only other movie we've been to all together, but when we arrived, all the tickets were sold out. It was very hard for both children to just turn around and go home, especially with half an hour travel time each way.

I'm hoping to see Despicable Me there on Tuesday, July 3. We'll plan better for next time.

4. On Tuesday, I was working on paperwork for Youth Group and the children were bored, so I put the sprinkler on in the backyard for them. And a happy, muddy time ensued:

Somehow, for any descendant of my mother, water + mud is always much more fun than just water. Maybe it's a sensory thing.

5. I did get a few pictures of the happy boy before the lifeguards rushed us out of the water:

The last two are of Alex wallowing in the sand, bemoaning his lack of surf. It took forever to get all the sand off of him and I don't think it will every completely come out of his white shirt; that's what I get for buying white instead of yellow like last year.

And just so you don't think Miranda was bored all this time, she was happily digging with her cousin, Collin:

The depth of the hole is Collin's work; Miranda was just incidental labor.

6. I did make some good progress this week on Celestial Dragon, although on Tuesday night I ran into a problem on the bottom-left side of his jaw. I made a mistake somewhere and haven't been able to figure out where my counting went wrong, so I've left the thread trailing and moved onto to other sections. If I can't figure out where I went wrong, I'll just have to frog the whole section, a fate which I'm doing my best to avoid.

But he has half of an eye now and a tongue a looks a lot more interesting.

7. I have trouble finishing things. I was two-thirds of the way through the last Harry Potter book for, like, a year. I've had the last episode of the Miss Marple series left the watch for almost the whole week. Also waiting for me on my DVR:

Maybe I just latch onto the next, shiny thing that comes by (which lately has been episodes of the original Perry Mason series from the '50's). Or I just don't want to say good-bye to a beloved series that won't have any new episodes ever (like Awake). Or I'm avoiding emotional conclusions (like The Mentalist). Or I hate cliffhangers so much I'd rather wait until the new season starts before watching the end of the old season (like Person of Interest). Or I'm just strange.

Bonus 8. So Marshall and I have had difficultly coming to agreement on new blinds for the back door, since the children destroyed the previous two sets. But with the summer heat beating down on us every afternoon, we were finally able to find something we both liked, which he installed this morning:

It will help tremendously. We may buy a fancy topper sometime, but the priority now was to keep the heat out in a room that already runs hot in the summer, however cool the rest of the house is.

Here's Jen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good-bye School, Hello Summer

1. So it's Saturday afternoon, and I was just sitting down to write this post when I realized my darling husband, who left at about 7 this morning for a weekend full of VW shows, took the camera with him. So this isn't going to get posted until Monday, because he won't be back until late tomorrow. Ah, well. Happy Father's Day to him.

It was such a busy week around here that on Monday, I did absolutely nothing (beyond the necessary feeding, clothing and herding of the children on and off of their buses) because it was my last chance to be completely lazy before summer vacation started yesterday. Although, so far, they have been fairly happy and cheerful and played together for long periods of time without incident. Even if it doesn't last, it's a good way to start the summer.

I read Baby Blues every day and this week it was particularly appropriate:

2. Tuesday the great baking adventure started as I was making chocolate chip oatmeal bar cookies for all of the aides and it's a tricky recipe to multiply or make in anything other than my pyrex 9 x 13" pan. But I needed 16 small pans of them for all the aides, therapists and bus drivers who worked with Alex & Miranda's. I bought pots of miniature roses for Miranda's teacher and case manager and hydrangea planters for Alex's teachers and case manager.

Here are the flowers on their way to school, shoved into the foot well of the passenger seat:

This is only 2 of the planters; there was another one in the back seat. Costco had really nice hydrangeas this year.

I also printed nice cards for everyone, which Miranda and Alex did sign. It was a 3 day adventure and delivered to the schools in batches but it all got done by Thursday afternoon, just in time for my brother Jonathan to stop buy in between a conference and his flight back to California Friday morning.

3. Now it's Monday morning and I really need to get this blog posted!

My brother came to visit Thursday night. We picked him up at the Trenton train station about 5:30 pm and took him back about 9:30 the next morning, but it was still great to see him.

Miranda and Jon were battling with bubbles, chasing each other around, trying to land their bubbles on the other person. It was really funny, but difficult to photograph.

4. Miranda "graduated" from preschool on Wednesday afternoon. I have a few mediocre pictures to share, but the only one that came out well was of the party afterwards, with chocolate cake on her face. Not surprising, really.

The ceremony was cute and I think Miranda was the only student who only had one family member attend (me). In my opinion, it was a whole lot of fuss over not much, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

That's my girl. :)

5. I've been stitching a lot in the evenings, while watching the whole of the Marple series. I only have 3 episodes left. The women playing Miss Marple are excellent, of course, but it's also wonderful to see favorite actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hannah or Phil Davis be excellent in period pieces like this.

Here's the progress pic:

The more I work on it, the better it goes. But it is a lot of half-stitches. All those angles look pretty on paper but are difficult to reproduce in real life.

6. Here are all of Alex's wonderful Angry Birds plush toys:

The next teeth he pulls out will bring him the helmet pig and the orange bird. Our collection must be complete. Funny boy.

7. And here's my flower bed, looking cool in the fading light of day:

Must run off and do Monday things!

Here's Jen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

All Bad Moody

1. For any Buffy fans out there, the title refers to a line from "Once More, With Feeling," the musical episode, one of the greatest ever. And, since it came to mind, I had to find the quote and listen to the soundtrack while I write this post.

Cut to Spike's crypt. Buffy enters. Spike emerges from his underground lair. 

SPIKE: The sun sets and she appears. (climbs up the rest of the way) Come to serenade me?
BUFFY: So you know what's going on.
SPIKE: Well, I've seen some damn funny things in the last two days. A 600 pound Chirago demon making like Yma Sumac, that one will stay with you. I remain immune, happy to say. (holds up a bottle of whiskey) Drink?
BUFFY: A world of no. (sits) So any idea what's causing this?
SPIKE: (disappointed) Oh. So that's all. You've just come to pump me for information.
BUFFY: What else would I wanna pump you for? (cringes) I really just said that, didn't I?
SPIKE: Yeah, well ... don't wanna bore you with the small talk. 

Spike walks to the door, opens it and turns toward Buffy. 

SPIKE: Don't know a thing.
BUFFY: (frowns) What's up? You're all bad moody.
SPIKE: Nothing. Glad you could stop by. 

He makes a gesture toward the door. Buffy stays seated, looks at him. 

SPIKE: (defensive) It's nothing.
BUFFY: What? 

And for the record, I like Buffy's Season 6.

What was I writing about again? Oh, yeah, all bad moody.

Well, my parents left this morning for Madison (my mother will return in 2 weeks, my father in 4), Marshall's parents are off in Lancaster for the weekend, both kids finish up school for the year next week, an event for which I am not in the least prepared. But, hey, my flowers are blooming:

2. In fact, my butterfly bushes, which I cut back significantly last fall, are just starting to bloom:

And they smell heavenly. I'm sure a rabble of butterflies (or swarm or lek; yes, Google is your friend) will be along soon.

When I bought them several years ago I thought they would stay small and dainty like the one I saw at my sister-in-law's house. Perhaps if I'd read the label more clearly, I wouldn't have planted them in front of a window.

Ah, well, we don't really use that window, anyway.

3. Saw a few movies in the last week: Men in Black III last Friday night with my mother and mother-in-law (we really enjoyed it and Josh Brolin is excellent, as advertised), Avengers again with my mother on Monday afternoon (still good, although it goes by faster the second time) and then Snow White & the Huntsman last night with my husband.

My feelings about that last film can best be described as mixed. Thankfully, Steven Greydanus of Decent Films Guide has a great review of it that explains everything. He also has a review of Wrath of the Titans that explains why I didn't like that film much either. And that would be why he gets paid to review films and I do not.

I planted Stella De Oro day lilies for the first time this year and they opened this week:

4. Got a bit more stitching done this week, while watching the first 2/3 of season 2 of Warehouse 13 and then, Wednesday night, catching up on Thundercats. Of the latter, I watched episodes 14-21, straight through. It's a lot less kid-friendly than I thought it would be but well-written. I still have the last 9 episodes of Clone Wars to watch; I stopped watching sometime over the winter because it's been rather dark lately, and not in a way I enjoy. Still, I'm sure I'll get caught up during the summer dolldrums. Oh, and here's the progress pic:

A lot of this week was spent finishing up the one-over-one work on the symbol for happiness. Here's a great close-up for you:

(The image is sideways. I have rotated it the right direction in 4 different applications and still, it's wrong. Maybe tonight my husband can fix it for me, because I GIVE UP!)

5. The Asiatic lilies that I have were from grab-bags of bulbs, so the fact they are still blooming is rather surprising. So are the occasional color variations.

And these are sideways, too. Yes, I know, I should really learn some basic HTML. I've been a little busy, you know, raising children with ASD. Or this was just one of those tasks I sub-contracted out to my husband. And he's busy you know, like, working. Dang.

BTW, the "Once More, With Feeling" soundtrack ran out 20 minutes ago. It takes me a little while to create these posts, especially when the pictures just won't cooperate.

6. Speaking (writing) of color variation, my hydrangea bushes are just weird.

These are pictures from the same bush:

And here's a picture from my smaller bush, which has never before bloomed, with separate flower clusters of both colors:

And that one is sideways, too. Dang.

The color variation has to do with the fertilizer components but I haven't analyzed what I've been using because the roses have their stuff, the Japanese maples got tree spikes this spring and all the flowering bulb plants get their own bulb food. Too weird.

7. I think I've been lazy this week because it's the calm before the storm. Next week is going to be bonkers because of all the end of the year parties and presents and such. I really need to get to work on those cards. Or go grocery shopping. Or not.

My hostas this year didn't get trimmed; consequently, they are trying to crowd out everything else. If you hadn't noticed already, I plant rather haphazardly and it comes back to bite me later.

Alex's marigolds look really nice, though:

And here's a few more calla pictures for you:

And here's Jen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Welcome to June! Please Postpone Your Panic; I'm Too Busy.

1. Was it only a week ago I was preparing to leave the house for 48 hours to attend a family wedding in North Jersey? That seems ages ago. I've done scads of stuff since then.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful but the best part was seeing my cousins, who I love dearly, and their kids and catching up on each other's lives. We are all spread out (New York, Fresno, Boston, D.C., although the largest contingent is in the Bay Area in CA, which now includes my youngest brother and his family) but I never tire of spending time with them. My cousins are awesome and their kids are turning out to be really great people. Family is the best!

My hydrangea is just starting to bloom, which means I have to pour enormous amounts of water on it every morning, but it's worth it:

2. Even though I did everything I could to make the weekend at home go smoothly for Alex, he did not appreciate being handed off to a babysitter for 24 hours or that Mommy was away for 48. He wasn't nice to the sitter, he was upset when Marshall returned Sunday night and really upset with me when I returned Monday afternoon. Poor boy; we all hate change.

On a happy note, my callas are in full bloom, so we were able to take a vase full of them to school yesterday afternoon to present to Mrs. Garrett, who is Alex's full-time aide whenever he's outside of his anchor class. She's been working with him for 2 years and an absolute angel; we adore her and wanted her to know how much we appreciate her efforts.

3. Alex isn't smiling wide enough in this picture to show how he lost one of his top teeth this week. I need to get a better picture of him later this weekend. Anyway, he won, from the "tooth fairy," a Pig King plush toy. Miranda, helpful girl that she is, set it up in the castle Alex brought home earlier in the week from Art class:

4. My last MOPS meeting was Tuesday morning. Part of the reason we rushed home Monday (the other was to beat the traffic on the Turnpike) was so that I could bake individual pans of chocolate chip oatmeal bars as gifts for the ladies at my table as well as the women who've been corralling Miranda with the other 5 year old's all year long. It's a tricky recipe from the Campus By the Sea cookbook that was difficult to bake in small, individual pans. I'm hoping I'll get better at it in the weeks to come since this is what I'm making for all the teachers and aides at school and church.

Anyway, it was a lovely meeting and I was able to get up and say, with tears in my voice, what a God-send this MOPS group has been to me for the last 6 years. God has honored the efforts of every leadership team and been honored at every meeting. I'm sure I rambled a bit, (I had meant to write up my remarks ahead of time, but got busy with the weekend planning) but I was careful to give God the glory and bless, in the name of Jesus, the continuing efforts of these women, and that's really what mattered most.

As a "graduating" mom, I was given flowers by the mentor moms at my table, Barbara Randazzo and Peg Montgomery. They are really lovely:

5. I do a lot of surfing between running from here and there (or between laundry loads; I lost count of how many I did on Wednesday, but it was an all day affair) and have been following a couple of interesting writing series online.

Drew McWeeny, who used to write as Moriarty for Ain't It Cool News (which I loved and miss his contributions on the site) and now has his own site, HitFix, is doing a fascinating revisit of all the James Bond films and books. You can start with his first entry here.

I also read The Guardian regularly, mostly to keep up on UK television shows, and have really enjoyed Natalie Haynes Guide to TV detectives. It makes me wonder if I shouldn't find Magnum, P.I., on DVD somewhere. (Short break while I log in to the library and request the DVD box set for season 1!)

And here's some more callas for you:

I love it when one of the flowers "blends into" one of the leaves and makes them both beautiful.

6. Made more progress on Celestial Dragon this week, slowly but surely with only a little frogging (yet another reminder to avoid stitching when you're too tired to count). Here's your progress pic:

That tiny little stitching in the middle of the square, that would be one-over-one. (Here's a diagram; not the best, but it will give you an idea of what I mean). Ugh. By the time I finish this square and all the half-stitches, I'm going to be relieved to return to the dragon body and all the sparklies. Or not.

7. Tonight I'm going to see Men in Black III with my mom and my mother-in-law. It should be fun! Sometime in the next week Marshall and I hope to see Snow White & the Huntsman. And I still need to see The Avengers again. Oh, and the first trailer for Les Miz hit this week; it looks awesome!

I really need to go mow the lawn before it gets hotter outside.

Here's Jen. And a few more flowers for you, Asiatic lilies.