Saturday, April 26, 2014

Back to Normal (HA!) on Monday

1. We are wrapping up Spring Break and go back to our regular schedule tomorrow, really, since we'll have church at the usual time and I have Youth Group tomorrow night. Then back to a 6:10 am alarm Monday morning. We did a few fun things this week, the Garden State Discovery Museum on Tuesday and Johnson's Farm today, but Miranda had a low-grade fever that came and went (Monday and Wednesday) and Alex had a sore throat starting yesterday that we finally figured out was allergy-related, both of which kept us from running out somewhere fun every day. Miranda did get to see her best friend from kindergarten (he goes to a different elementary school now which is probably wise because we think these two are most likely to set the school afire if left alone together, but she misses him because I think he really understands her and accepts her for who she is) twice over break and both kids did 2 egg hunts (anyone want Easter candy? In about a week, I'm going to throw most of it away). Then there was the lovely Easter dinner with family and friends at my folks' place last Sunday where we feasted for hours and nearly rolled home.

I will be glad to be back in a routine where I know what's coming next and I don't have to drag everyone with me to the grocery store. Alex is often irritated when we make more than one stop to or from anywhere else and I am the queen of multiple stops; I don't want to leave the house to only go to one place. But I am going to hate getting up early. The children have been kind this week not to rouse me until 8:30. I'm sure they get up earlier; they just forage for themselves until I'm up. But it will not be a quiet week as my calendar has something for nearly every day.

9 more weeks of school. Then 10 days in San Diego. Then 5 weeks of summer school for Alex (possibly 3 for Miranda; we'll find out at her IEP meeting if she qualifies.) Then 2.5 weeks of more vacation. Then school starts again because it will be September. When I look forward, time seems to move slowly. But when I look back, it seems to have flitted by so quickly, when I wasn't looking.

2. Spring continues to bloom around here. Two years ago, my mother-in-law gave me some grape hyacinth bulbs from her yard and they look gorgeous this year:

Yesterday, Miranda and I planted some sunflower seeds in Chinese food containers to see if they would germinate. She loves sunflowers and if the seeds are good, I'm going to dig her a trench for them on the side of the house where there is both room and sun.

I did other gardening this week. My father helpfully hacked large pieces off of my hosta plants so they won't overshadow the callas when they bloom in June (the hostas and callas are all mixed together in the front bed). And I finally cut back the butterfly bushes, even though leaves had just started to show, so they are only head height at present. I wish the flowers weren't so beautiful but I love them and the kids love the butterflies. So I'll just have to trim them more frequently so my husband doesn't worry about them grabbing him every time he walks out the back door and heads for the garage. I wish I knew how to train them like the ones at Longwood Gardens, where they have a large, thick trunk and branches delicately falling down from that. I have a poor picture from my trip last year to show you what I mean:

Of course, that's like wishing I was a master gardener rather than the ersatz one I am now. I love my garden because it has enough grass (and weeds) for the children to play in and I have some flowers in bloom from February until the ground freezes in November. But it is rather haphazardly kept and nothing I grow is edible. I want flowers; I can buy vegetables.

My biggest job in upcoming weeks will be to disassemble the pallets that have been tied together for a dozen years to hold my compost heap mostly in the same place and install a new system. I'm going to transition to a bottomless container but it will be smaller and look ... tidier. I don't mind the rotting pallets but there have been complaints.

3. I was tired and pollen-oppressed last night so I watched a couple of fun movies requiring little thought to follow, Dredd and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It was my second time for the former which I still like though it was gorier than I remembered and the latter was, well, exactly what the reviews said it was: campy with an almost nonexistent plot. But I still like the actors. If you've never seen it, The Unusuals was an excellent if abbreviated series on ABC from 2009 that completely sold me on Jeremy Renner. Even though the series was created as a vehicle for Amber Tamblyn, Renner stole it from her from the first moment he was on screen. And all of this is available from Amazon Prime streaming video.

4. One of my goals for this year is finishing things, like televisions series. I didn't manage to watch the last 3 episodes of Awake, but I did watch the end of Leverage. It was forgettable, but at least I crossed if off my list, only 1.4 years late. The best episode of the fifth season is "The Gimme a K Street Job" one from August, 2012. If you ever want to show someone, in 43 minutes, how Congress works, this is perfect. Scary and disgusting, but that's only because it's accurate.

5. If you missed it, Thursday was Take You Child to Work day. For the occasion, I took Miranda into the city to have lunch with daddy (it was Qdoba day) and get a tour of his floor and meet some of the people he works with. Something we've been emphasizing with her at home is that everyone has a boss; it's not just Miranda who gets bossed around all day by her bossy parents. So she met Marshall's direct supervisor as well as another man higher up the chain of command so she would have a better understanding of how her father answers to other people.

She was perfectly behaved the whole time. I think she was overawed by the big building and thousands of computers. And a whole new place she never had a picture of before. But it went well.

She chose the outfit: black Hawaiian dress and bright blue leggings with white flowers. I insisted on the pink shirt underneath. More color is always better with her.

6. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is breaking my heart. Everything keeps going from bad to worse to even worse than that. Why did I think this was going to be some fluffy series that I could watch without calculating any emotional impact? It's produced by Joss Whedon. His series are never fluffy. It's like watching Doctor Who or Sherlock. I have to prepare myself for the experience. My favorite Buffy episodes are still "Surprise" and "Innocence" from Season 2; they are absolutely brilliant and still break my heart every time.

I did manage to watch 2 more episodes of Justified last weekend, but I still have 4 more to finish season 5. It's like mainlining adrenaline; it takes me hours to come down afterwards. This is why I never watched The Wire or Breaking Bad or any of their ilk; as excellent as I understand those series to be, I don't need my pulse racing for hours on end.

7. April is almost finished, our Autism Awareness month. I'm not sure if I wrote more about Autism but I did write more about us and about me, and Autism is intricately wound into our daily life. Passing for Normal, that is, behaving appropriately in public no matter the situation, will continue to challenge us, but I am grateful for everyone who is helping us along the way.

Here are some pictures from our trip to Johnson's Farm today:

This last one is my new favorite picture of Alex.

Here's Jen. Her new book, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It, comes out this week. I think I might have to purchase this one; I don't think the library is likely to buy it for me, like they do many of my other requests.

Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 Films, Continued

January 17
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit  (I saw it with my father the first weeks it was out. Lots of fun, even for die-hard Jack Ryan such as ourselves. Christ Pine and Kevin Costner were excellent; Keira Knightly wasn't bad. Kenneth Branagh has lots of fun playing the bad guy.)

January 24
I, Frankenstein (The horrible reviews steered me away.)

January 31
Labor Day (Passed.)

February 7
The Monuments Men (Middling reviews put me off.)
Lego Movie (I never managed to see it but my friends said it was fun.)

February 14
Robocop (I was not a fan of the original but I understood why it was cinematically significant. I'm curious about this one.)

March 7
300: Rise of an Empire (Still plan to see it on video.)
Jodorowsky's Dune (This still looks very interesting.)

March 14
Veronica Mars (IT WAS AWESOME! ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! A love letter to fans. I think it's still available on VOD.)
Need for Speed (Still looks fun. Sometime later, on video.)

March 21
Muppets Most Wanted (Poor reviews steered me off.)

March 28
Noah (Not interested in Kabbalah pretending to be scripture.)
Sabotage (Another pretty trailer. Middling reviews pushed it to video.)

April 4
Captain America: Winter Solder (We watched the second Thor movie and 10 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in one week so we could see it. It was awesome!)

April 11
Rio 2 (Loved the first one. So looking forward to this. Miranda has condescended to see it with me.)

April 25
Locke (Looks very interesting.)

May 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Liked the first one, even though I saw it on video.)

May 16
Godzilla (Looks terrifying. In a good way. I think.)

May 23
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Has the potential to be amazing.)

May 30
Maleficent (Latest trailer made it look even more interesting.)

June 6
Edge of Tomorrow (Another awesome trailer.)

June 13
22 Jump Street (Although I still need to watch the first one.)

June 22
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Sorry, I just can't seem to stop watching these. Besides, I like Mark Wahlberg.)

July 25
Jupiter Ascending (Yup, another pretty trailer.)

August 1
Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel has yet to let me down.)

August 8
Lucy (Awesome trailer.)

August 15
The Expendables 3 (Another popcorn flick.)

September 26
The Equalizer (When is Denzel ever bad?)

November 7
Interstellar (Directed by Christopher Nolan. Good enough for me.)

December 17
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies  (Can't wait for more Smaug.)

December 25
Into the Woods (Love the musical. Film could be good.)

And that's your mid-spring update.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Poem and Photos

Always in my Lenten thoughts is T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. I always return to the section from "East Coker" for Good Friday. But this is the passage which is always in the back of my mind when I spend any extended time in prayer, from "Little Gidding," Section I. Photos are from Grounds for Sculpture last week except for the tulips, which are front my front yard.

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city--
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

If you came this way, 
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

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.