Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Crisis to Crisis

1. Really a bad week. I went back to the doctor's office Friday because I went back to feeling awful as soon as I finished antibiotic #2 and was immediately given a scrip for antibiotic #3 and told to take a whole handful of antihistamines to help relieve the pressure in my ears. The nurse also took blood and throat cultures to see if I have anything exotic. So not much done on the dragon this week, even though all I've been doing, it seems, is lie around.

I wish you could see the sparklies in the picture. About 1/3 of the stitches have iridescent thread mixed in. It's very pretty.

2. Alex's 20 minutes of homework on weeknights is taking at least 2 hours because he doesn't think he should have to do homework every night. Welcome to third grade, kid. It's making all of us crazy; please pray he gives in soon. He is fully capable of all that's being asked of him; he's just refusing on principle.

3. Our dryer died last Sunday so I spent the whole week without the ability to do laundry (I love doing laundry; it's so satisfyingly concrete to make things clean again). Today, finally, in desperation, I started hauling clothes over to my parents' new place to use their dryer. But, my darling husband came through yet again and had a new (used) dryer installed and working by 4 pm. It required some electronics repair as well as cleaning out the laundry room, so it was a serious pain, but I can now wash and dry clothes again. My backlog is pretty significant, though, which is why I usually do at least one load every day.

4. Saw this on Facebook this week and don't know who to give credit to, but it sums up my feelings about the election pretty well:

5. Saw this on Facebook, too:

I am a tiger; seems fitting. So is Marshall, which is good in terms of mating, I think.

6. Watched a lot of baseball this week, even though the Phillies won't make it to the post-season. It's something I can do with hardly any brain cells and if something interesting happens, I can always back it up and watch it again. Was there life before DVR's?

7. I can't think of anything else. My brain's been pickled by antihistamines. Better luck next week?

Here's Jen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Roller Coast Week

1. I cannot seem to write on Friday's anymore. I'm on week #2 of this ear infection, which means antibiotic #2 with ear drops this time, which means I feel wifty all the time now, either from the antibiotics or the fact the stress around here lately hasn't allowed me to drink any Diet Coke, so I'm running on a lot less caffeine. Anyway, yesterday I kinda wandered through the day, doing the necessities, but nothing else. Probably shouldn't have loaded that free Backgammon app on my phone.

2. Thursday was a big day here. My mother-in-law came over to help me finish a project my mother had started last December, the dreaded school binders. Our kids have so much paper that comes home from school and a lot of it is important, like IEP's and report cards (because they have IEP's, their report cards are 15 pages long because they are essentially updates on their IEP's) and I have been trying to keep it all straight in binders, one per kid per year. (Yes, I now have a whole drawer of them in the filing cabinet.)

Well, About 18 months ago I got discouraged and got behind in my filing. Sometimes it's just hard to look your kids' disabilities full in the face. Last December, when both Marshall and I were laid up with our various ills (his shoulder, my ankle, for those who don't remember), my mother was here helping out a lot and she tackled the then-current piles and made some sense of them. But, busy with PT, I neglected them again, until the pile was at least a foot high. (I really should have taken a before picture to go with the after pictures. Dang.) The pile had been nagging at me for weeks but I just couldn't seem to tackle it on my own, so on Thursday morning, my mother-in-law came over and in 3 hours we had it all licked. And, one of the advantages of waiting so long was that I was able to throw out quite a bit from the 2011-12 school year that I no longer needed to keep handy. Here are the pictures:

I felt exultant! Like I said on Facebook, if you see either of these ladies, give them a hug. Without them, this wouldn't have been possible.

3. I was able to get some stitching done earlier in the week, when I just felt miserable because of the ear infection, so all I wanted to do was sit around, stitch and watch baseball. Go Phillies!

I look at this and am amazed at how fast it's coming together. Somedays, when things are really tough around here, it's so satisfying to make something beautiful. And, since this one is for my honey, it will stay in the house so I can admire it often.

4. Wednesday afternoon I took Alex to see our family doctor who functions as his developmental pediatrician. We had a long chat about Alex's anxiety problems since Memorial Day and decided to raise the dosage on his AD/HD meds first and then, if it isn't enough, raise the anti-anxiety meds as well. Alex did gain 2 pounds over the summer (which is amazing because I swear all he ate all summer for breakfast, lunch and dinner was tortilla chips) so we can make these changes in medication without worrying about his wasting away. I started the new stuff on Thursday and have already noticed an improvement.

For example, homework on Wednesday night was an hour long, torturous ordeal that resulted in Alex being sent to bed early with none of his regular things (light, iPod, snacks, books, etc.) and I still had to sit with him Thursday morning to help him finish it up. Thursday afternoon, he came home from school, read me his library book (we are on a Curious George kick at the moment), which, by the way, was the first school library book he's ever been allowed to take out of the library, much less bring home, and then sat down with me and cheerfully did his homework. He demonstrated he understood the concept (subtraction with borrowing) and only needed a few redirects. So what was the worst thing ever turned into something happy and easy, overnight. It was strange, but good. Now if we can only replicate this in the future.

5. Monday we were off of school for Rosh Hashanah, so being the devious mother that I am, I took Miranda off to get her flu shot. But I made the mistake of prepping her for it so she totally freaked. Next time, I'll just spring it on her and she won't have time to worry about it. And I'll be ready to hold her down. He had to stick her 3 times to empty the syringe, she was wiggling so much. We'd previously used the Flu Mist vaccine but Miranda's lungs reacted poorly to that last year (oral steroids, breathing treatments, the works) so no more Flu Mist for her.

6. We're still working the kinks out of our new morning schedule:

  • 6:30 am I get up and wake Miranda and feed her breakfast.
  • 7:00 am I wake up both Alex and Marshall (unless he's on early schedule, which is next week, in which case, he will be getting himself up at 5:40 am), make coffee and get Alex headed towards breakfast.
  • Then I shoo Miranda off to get dressed and pack her lunch. She wants different things every day but won't tell me what; I'm just supposed to guess. Oh, and yesterday she told me she wants to buy lunch at school, the girl who won't try anything new and only eats a few more foods than her brother. Yeah, whatever. I will have to study the lunch schedule (which I have, for the last 7 years, consigned immediately to the recycle bin because of my children's food issues) on the school website and see if there's anything promising. 
  • Miranda's bus still hasn't firmed up it's arrival times. I try to have her ready by 7:30, even if the bus doesn't come until 8, because, on paper, it's supposed to come at 7:38 am.
  • So I shove her out the door, shove more food at Alex, help him get dressed (all the new pants I bought him are a little long so he is refusing to wear them at the moment; give him a month or so and they'll fit), pack his lunch (the same thing, every day) and then he gets his meds with applesauce at 8:20 am because while his bus isn't supposed to come until 8:38, sometimes it comes at 8:30. 
  • And then, with both children off, I sit down and eat my own breakfast, hopefully. 
Hopefully, we'll have this streamlined soon. I need schedules to function and it I get off, something bad happens, like homework doesn't get packed in backpacks, or something.

7. Speaking (writing) of homework, a week ago a fill in the blank, all about yourself poster came home with Miranda. I rediscovered it when I was going through the piles with my mother-in-law on Thursday morning and guess when it was due: Thursday morning. I sent a groveling email to Miranda's teacher and was forgiven and then worked hard with Miranda Thursday afternoon and evening to have it all done for Friday. 

Here's a picture of the finished product:

About the homework thing: this is just another way to make parents into therapists. I realize, eventually, children are expected to do it on their own, but at this stage of development, this is just me being Mommy the Therapist all over again. Sigh. Whine! Whine! Whine! 

Here's Jen. Be sure to read it, especially her #5. Very funny.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's Been One Week

1. I have already posted twice this week (an occurrence verging on the miraculous) so there isn't a whole lot more to say. I was so tired in the evenings that not much stitching was accomplished, but here is a progress pic, nonetheless:

2. I am a confessed television addict but my husband, not so much. Together we watch Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, Grimm, and, of course, Doctor Who. But over the summer, he watched the first two seasons of The Walking Dead and recently he's been catching up on Season 2 of Falling Skies. In fact, the new series that he's most interested in is Revolution.

I cannot watch these shows with him, though. To even consider living my life in a post-apocalyptic society is deeply upsetting. So I asked him what he liked about this genre and he replied that, for the most part, they are interesting dramas that include unique problems and rarely do those problems resemble his daily life. And he's right: nary a flesh-eating zombie or terrifying alien from outer space intent on enslaving my children to be found here in Mount Laurel.

3. Sadly, the US Open finished on Monday evening. I did, however, watch the Phillies game on Thursday night because I heard on NPR that morning that our local team was still in the running for a Wild Card slot for the post-season. I am such a fair-weather fan.

4. I've been feeling dopey all week and I can't figure out if it's the ear infection healing or the antibiotics I'm taking. Antibiotics for adults are just no fun. Or I just need to sleep more.

5. You'd think with both kids in school all day (Miranda leaves about 7:50 am and returns about 3:15 and Alex leaves about 8:35 and returns just after 4) I'd be so caught up on all my stuff. Not really. I did go to Wednesday morning Bible study at church on Wednesday morning and then went to Panera's for lunch with a friend. And took both children to their 6 month dental check-up appointment on Thursday at noon (what was I thinking when I scheduled that for the first full week of school?) Somehow all those hours passed me by without much beyond the usual tasks. And a few naps, but I blame the ear infection for that.

6. I did manage to mow the backyard on Thursday afternoon and really need to do the front this afternoon. The weeding in the front bed also needs to be taken in hand, although the best way to do this is to go outside 10 minutes before Miranda's bus with my gloves and weed until she comes home. And do this everyday until it's done. That way, my hands don't get blistered from trying to do it all at once but progress is being made.

7. The piles of papers from the last 2 school years are still taunting me in the corners of my room and the front room. And the children's closets. So many projects, so little will.

Jen's taking the week off, but she has a link to Grace.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's A New Day

(Image shamelessly stolen from Campus by the Sea, the camp where my family vacationed when I was growing up.)

Monday's post was such a depressing rant, I thought I should post an update of things to be thankful for, because, really, there are many ways God has granted us mercy in recent days. And no, I'm not writing this because Kimberlee Conway Ireton made me feel guilty for being such a whiner. Well, mostly not.

  1. My Wednesday morning Bible study restarted this morning after the August break and it's always a joy to be together with these women who have supported and prayed me through some very difficult times for about the last 7 years of my life. Our study this Fall will be Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl: Living the Faith After Bible Class is Over by Lysa TerKeurst. I'm looking forward to it.
  2. Had an impromptu lunch date with a good friend after Bible Study at Panera's.
  3. Alex's new favorite book, Toy Story Storybook Collection, arrived via UPS this afternoon. This is both an earned prize for being good last week as well as a push towards getting him to read chapter books. He starts with the first two stories, which he already knows and then reads the whole rest of the book that contains new stories. Of course, with his brain, it will take him about 3 days to memorize all 308 pages. I'm not kidding. Some of the pages do have pictures, though. 
  4. Am feeling fairly confident about taking both children back to the specialty dentist tomorrow at noon for their 6 month check-ups. My mother is coming for moral support. Hopefully, Alex won't have to have another tooth pulled, like his last 2 visits. 
  5. Lots of Miralax has helped Miranda's pooh problems to move along. We haven't solved everything yet but regular movements are good. Now I just have to figure out how much to cut back. Every other day, perhaps?
  6. Miranda's first dance class was last night and she really enjoyed herself, even though we forgot her tutu. Next week she'll move with her friend to a class an hour later with kids that are a little closer to her age. 
  7. Marshall was able to attend Miranda's Back to School night last night and meet her teacher. This is one of his only opportunities during the year to visit the classroom and interact with Mrs. Greene and even though his office kept him late, he still arrived in plenty of time. We agree that Mrs. Greene is just perfect for Miranda, strong and cheerful and very organized. There are 11 students with 3 adults which sounds pretty ideal to us.
  8. Tonight Marshall will attend Alex's Back to School night in hopes of meeting Mrs. Burton, Alex's mainstream third grade teacher and to touch base with his anchor teacher, Mrs. McClafferty. Alex's transition to the new year has been rough so far so we're praying for peace as well as planning to consult with Alex's doctor next week to see if we need to adjust the dosage of his anti-anxiety meds. I like to describe Alex as living without the top layer of skin--he is unable to cope with common anxieties, along with with usual "I hate change" that comes with ASD. Maybe an increase in meds would help his 3+ months of grumpiness.
  9. My parents have been working hard on their new house and while my mother has been peeling wallpaper, my father was able to remove the massive hot tub the previous owners had installed in the master bedroom (makes you wonder, doesn't it?) and give it away, the whole package, to someone who found their listing on Craig's List. Everyone wins. The roofers should come next week, if it doesn't rain. (The need for a new roof was discovered by the Inspector early in the purchasing process and my parents are pleased with what they've chosen to replace the currently greatly damaged structure.)
  10. The weather has cooled off beautifully which means Alex can wear his long pants and hoodies to school without dying but Miranda, whose bus comes before 8 am, needs a sweater first thing in the morning. Still, the house is open and it's very pleasant. Hopefully, I will be able to mow the back yard tomorrow.
Thanks Be To God.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Trying to Keep Up

1. Living as a parent with autistic children is tough going. When I finally made it into the sanctuary this morning (I gave up trying to convince Alex to go to his class and eventually just carried him in, under severe protest), this is the scripture I was reminded of, from Matthew 15:21-28 (MSG):

From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.”
Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.”
Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.”
Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.”
He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”
She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”
Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.

I sat in church in tears, praying for Alex in his class, praying for mercy for him. For peace. For blessings for his teacher and the teenager charged with helping keep him on task and not disruptive to the rest of the class.  He is capable of participating in Sunday school, but it is sometimes easier to let him sit in a corner and draw his pictures. He is capable of memorizing the weekly Scripture verse, but I need to print it out and post it in him room each week. But he really has to want to cooperate and I guess we haven't been persuasive enough. Time to turn Sunday School into an opportunity for "earning." Ugh. 

I don't feel like a mother, I feel like a poorly-paid, woefully under-trained therapist. It's like every interaction with my children has been turned into either therapy or not-therapy. Therapeutic moments are ones where I'm moving the child towards a distinct goal (something grand like potty training or something minor like putting their clean clothes away in the correct drawers). Not-therapy would be like the times I allow Alex to play Angry Birds uninterrupted. There are combination or compromise times, like letting him play Angry Birds so he'll eat his dinner (Alex cannot sit and eat; he must do something and eat, whether it be draw, read, listen to a story, watch a movie, or play a video game), because it's more important for him to eat than just about anything else. (My summer vacation assignment from Alex's doctor was to fatten him up and to tell the truth, I feel like a complete failure. He will get weighed in during our visit to the doctor on the 19th and we'll see how well I did.) 

So many of the "fun" things we do are just well-disguised therapy trips. Vacation to San Diego = chance to test their abilities to cope with new environments that often have rigid rules (like going through Security at the airport). Join the cousins as guests at their swim club = see if Alex can follow new rules in a new place without getting into trouble. I'm just not having any fun with my kids these days, what with Alex on Month #4 of being Mr. Grumpy Pants and Miranda regressing on potty training. 

Okay, end rant. I wrote that last night and I don't have time to finish it or fix it or soften it this morning because I have to go to the doctor's office this morning because I have fluid in my ear. So I'll just finish with pictures. Hopefully, I will be able to pick up these thoughts again later this week.

2. Alex & Miranda on Alex's first day of school, Thursday.

3. Miranda on her first day of school, Friday (picture by Daddy, even though the bus comes from the other direction.

4. Alex's first day of third grade.

5. Miranda's first day of Kindergarten. The sign showed up the afternoon before; I love that PTO!

6. Not much stitching this week because I was too busy watching the US Open (tennis), for some strange reason. But I was able to finish my current section:

7. And here's Jen!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The End of Summer

1. In Fresno, CA, where I grew up, summer lasted well into October. We would swim and get sunburned and sweat for weeks after school started. Here in NJ, not so much. We had our last beach day on Long Beach Island on Saturday and while the water was still warm, the air was not hot and I didn't have to reapply sunscreen quite so fanatically. The waves were so calm that both kids spent most of the afternoon on their boogie boards, in the water:

It was a very pleasant day, though, and I'm glad we went one last time.

2. Here are a few vacation pictures:

This is the birds on vacation, with the addition of the Helmet Pig, which was a gift from Mimi for the plane ride.

Here's Miranda helping me pack the birds and pigs in a vacuum-packed bag so they would fit in the suitcase.

Here's the only good picture I took of them at the San Diego Zoo. My aunt and I took them for a quick tour on the bus and then we saw some of the birds and the pandas.

3. I enjoyed the break from stitching that our California trip provided so I've been working hard since we returned. Here's the progress pic:

I'm almost finished with this section and then I can move on into clean, fresh space. This is the part that I hate, the last little bit of cleanup with five stitches on a color here and two more there and then change colors. It's annoying, but stitching section by section seems to be the best way to move forward.

4. Marshall and I saw Premium Rush on Monday before leaving San Diego and it was as fun as advertised. JGL continues to shine; he was one of the best parts of Dark Knight Rises.

5. Alex starts school on Thursday and Miranda on Friday. I think we all have mixed feelings about it. It will mean, for me, getting up to an alarm again and getting our morning routine readjusted and ready for showtime (Miranda's bus officially arrives at 7:48 and Alex's at 8:45 but these times are liable to be adjusted as the weeks go on). Alex only finished summer school on August 15 so he's not ready to go back to the slog but I think once he gets settled in a new mainstream third grade class (with his aide and then he will be in his anchor class from right before lunch through the rest of the day) he will be a happy boy. Miranda will be with a new teacher in a new building so she's a little apprehensive, even though we've met her teacher and seen her classroom and one of her preschool friends will be going with her. But she makes friends easily. The big thing for her will be adjusting to going to school all day long.

6. A few more beach pictures for you:

7. Still trying to see The Bourne Legacy with my husband and my father. May have to see it once with one of them and another time with the other. Also, there's a great interview with Joss Whedon here that mentions premiering Much Ado About Nothing at a film festival soon, so it must be finished. Hoping I can see it soon, too.

Here's Jen.