Monday, May 26, 2014

Paris in the Springtime

1. The French Open started yesterday so I'm busy watching all those lovely hours of coverage, so this will definitely be quick takes. Here are my top 7 movies to see this summer: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I saw it last month, as previously mentioned, and it was excellent. I never get tired of watching Chris Evans' take on Cappy or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

2. Godzilla

I saw this in Saturday with my honey and really liked it. I did watch the original Gojira on Friday and shrugged.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past

I saw this on Friday with my mother and loved it. I was thinking yesterday how time travel in fiction allows us to redeem the past and heal the future, those things that in real life, only Christ offers.

4. Edge of Tomorrow

Every time I see this trailer, I become more interested. The film opens June 6th.

5. Transformers: Age of Extinction

Apparently, I can't pass up on something shiny. Opens June 22.

6. Lucy

So much for my determined avoidance of Luc Besson. This film opens July 25.

7. Jupiter Ascending

For the record, I loved Speed Racer, but I never saw Cloud Atlas. This film also opens July 25.

Bonus 8. Guardians of the Galaxy

I have become a devoted Marvel fan-girl.

And here's Jen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Few Gardening Notes

1. Completely stealing from Anne at Preventing Grace and having no desire to consider the events of the last week in any clear focus, especially since everything is blurry anyway as I went to the eye doctor this morning for my regular checkup and still feel like my eyeballs are trying to crawl out of my head. I am definitely reminded of this scene from "A Clockwork Nebari" from Farscape:

Season 2, Episode 18, but I had to look it up. I really thought it was a Season 1 episode. I guess I'm losing some trivial details.

But I'm supposed to be writing about gardening.

2. For the past couple of years, each of the children are allowed to pick some flowers for themselves to love, even if they never actually water them. Alex has chosen marigolds the past few years but when I asked him what he wanted this year he said Purple Daisies. No idea where he saw them or why he changed his mind but I found a pot of them at our local hardware store a week ago when I was having a key made and instantly snatched them up. They are in a very handsome pot on the back patio.

Of course the pot is turquoise, but it was the last one Aldi had.

3. Miranda wanted sunflowers last year but I put her off because of the hassle then regretted it later in the season. So, this year, Grandma gave us the seeds and we (well, she helped a little) seeded them in good potting soil in Chinese food containers for a few weeks and then I dug a trench on the side of the house so that when they are taller, they will have somewhere to lean.

4. My irises are in bloom.

5. Last year my neighbor suggested an iris exchange program, She took some of my bulbs and gave me these:

In fact, there are so many varieties of iris in my neighborhood that I am currently collecting photos of all the different colors and sizes. So pretty.

6. So I really want to see Godzilla. There's a great article about what the monster means in The American Interest. I started thinking about this when I was out driving earlier, about how a society copes with the aftermath of a bad war, or when your side loses. I was reminded about America's sojourn in Vietnam and how horribly it went for everyone there, on all sides. It's apparently important to examine such disasters in the open because if you don't, they turn into giant monsters who decimate your city. Still, it's an interesting concept to consider. Your sins will always return to haunt you.

7. Carl Kasell retired from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on Saturday. And everyone was sad. But as I keep telling Alex, no one lives forever.

We actually won when I played the show in December of 2005, but we couldn't decide on a script and then I got pregnant and then Alex was diagnosed and we forgot. They might still let me redeem my prize, though. At least, I think it was then. I would have to look it up in the archives.

And here's Jen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kicking and Screaming

1. If you follow my life at all, you'll know that my husband and I bought smart phones nearly 2 years ago and I regularly use mine to do check my email, post things on Facebook, update my calendar, etc. However, until today, really, I've continued to use our ancient iPod's to play music anytime I'm out of the house (driving, walking, whatever) instead of putting my music on my phone like everyone else on the planet. What can I say? I hate change.

But the iPod's, being actually ancient (the white one is older than Miranda), have started to fail, so after my darling husband offered for the thousandth time to show me how to move music off of our server and onto my phone and I promised this week to actually do that. And so I have spent the last few hours sitting at the table, patiently adding the music I listen to most frequently and all my kids' favorites to my phone. I'm told most people using iTunes to manage their music; if you hadn't realized it by now, we are not most people. Our home server, which has the DVR and all of our video files, also holds all of our music so that we can play all music through the tv or on any laptop that's connected to the network. So the process of moving it from the server onto my phone is a little complicated, but after he showed me once and watched as I did it myself several times, a couple of albums at a time, I am confident I can do it on my own.

2. On Friday, my mother-in-law and I went to Longwood Gardens to enjoy the spring blooms. I took dozens of pictures and if you really want to look at all of them, you can check the gallery here. But the best of them are scattered throughout this post. Again, if you don't know, you can tell tulips are my favorite flower.

3. So Miranda's IEP meeting was on Tuesday. Yes, I am trying to avoid talking (writing) about it so I'm burying it in the middle of the blog post, surrounded by beautiful, distracting pictures.

The meeting went well. Everything is fine. We have a solid plan for next year.

But, her case manager is retiring. Thankfully, she's passing her duties off to another person in the building, so there will be continuity. And even though she'll have a new teacher for second grade next year, the special ed. teacher who helps her throughout the week will continue to supervise her. I have to remind myself that most students have new teachers every year. And that Miranda will be in the same building next year with a very supportive staff.

And, yet, it is hard to hear plainly all the ways she is behind. Her academic progress this year was outstanding, but behaviorally and socially, she falls farther behind every year. That is, the distance between her skills and those of her peers seems or maybe is a larger gap than the last time I measured it. And while kids in first grade are rather forgiving of those in the class who aren't "normal," they get crueler as the years go on.

At the present, Miranda chooses her own clothes and doesn't care if they match or fit together well or anything. Eventually, that's going to become a problem. And we decided she will go on the "big bus" next year, the regular size school bus that picks up and drops off all the kids on our block, instead of door to door service. That will be interesting. She will think it's awesome because then she can be with everyone else but I wonder how her behavior will be. But it's time to try.

Something else that was added to my To Do list at the meeting was scheduling play dates for Miranda with some of the kids in her class. Building these relationships outside of school will help her inside school, says her teacher. So I'm just going to set aside my introverted-ness and do this because it's good for her. I hate change.

4. Two ways we are spending our time in therapeutic ways this summer (with special needs kids, every moment is supposed to be therapy!!!) is joining the local pool and (we think) starting both kids in karate.

Going to the pool will be something I do with the kids in the afternoons after Alex gets home from summer school (he's in class Monday - Thursday from 8:30 - 11:30 am for the six weeks after 4th of July, although he'll miss the first week this year because of our California trip). Miranda did not qualify for summer school so that means I will have to be reading with her and making her practice her writing, all summer long. I'm going to have to come up with a daily schedule checklist thing to get us to do this every day when Alex is in school or we'll never do it.

The past two summers, Alex has joined some of his peers in an afternoon program that we paid cash for that was run by some of the teachers and aides that included all kids of activities like bowling, swimming, trips to the movies and restaurants; all things they need practice doing and behaving "normally." This year, the program is not being offered and a pool pass for the 3 of us will cost less, anyway. And this way, Miranda gets to have fun, too.

The problem of going to the pool with the two of them is that I have to protect everyone else from them. Alex usually swims on his own (maybe he will condescend to taking the swim exam this year so that he can swim in the deep end, which he is capable of doing) and talks to people occasionally. Miranda shoves herself into every social group she sees and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. I never understood how important social skills are until I had kids who didn't come with them hardwired.

Karate is something we've been considering for quite some time. It is often recommended for kids on the spectrum. But it takes a lot of time out of your week if you want to make it financially worthwhile. But there is a dojo in the shopping center near us where Miranda's best friend takes classes and so I can talk to his mom (who also happens to be an aide in Alex's class) about whether or not it would work for us and who to talk to. Again, another step out of my comfort zone because it's new and different and would radically change our weekly schedule. But homework trauma has lessened in recent months and my parents are willing to help take them to and fro, so it might be worth it. I thought to start in the summer to ease our way into it.

But, again, I hate change. But reading a book at home or reading one in the dojo isn't terribly different; I can read almost anywhere.

5. No one had a good week, really. Both Marshall and I had IEP hangovers after Tuesday morning and I think the kids just sucked up all the anxiety in the environment and then acted out at school. Sigh. It's really hard to tell yourself to stop stressing, in a stressful situation, because you're only going to stress your kids out more by being stressed yourself. Talk about circular logic.

But I am thankful to have had a chance to have lunch out with a friend Wednesday, hang out with my mother Thursday and watch Strong Poison together for the first time in ages, and visit Longwood on Friday with my mother-in-law. And the ladies who clean my house came Friday. And I redid my nails on Saturday (still need to do my toes).

6.  I didn't watch much television this week, except a casual look-in on the Phillies. I think both the new Spider-Man movie and Rio 2 are going to be viewed on DVD. Still, I expect to go see X-Men: Days of Future Past in theatres. And, finish up Person of Interest in the month of May.

By Tuesday, we'll have the last 4 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sitting together on our DVR so we can watch them in one fell swoop. The show has been picked up again for next year, so I expect there will be a cliff hanger of some sort. Man, I hate those things.

I've spent most of the week reading my way through Amanda Quick novels, which are usually light and fun and only have 6 left. But I also need to read How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray and The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan because they are due back at the library this week. These authors do not write books that I classify as fluffy. The Duchess War by Milan, her first book in the Brothers Sinister series, was devastating. Excellent, but devastating. But having met the characters, I want to finish the story. Such is the mark of a good writer.

7. Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler (of Conversion Diary) is now available and I'm hoping to win myself a copy! I can usually convince the library to get me most of the books I want to read but somehow I don't think this is on their list of books to buy this summer.

And here's Jen.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Long List of the "I Should's"

1. I often frustrate my husband by refusing to write down my To Do List. Generally, being a specialist in Household Management, what I need to do surrounds me (unfolded clean laundry, sink full of dirty dishes, flower bed full of weeds, lawn in need of mowing) and yells at me regularly so I don't feel the need to make an actual list. I do what I can and stop when I'm tired. Or when something shiny walks by and distracts me.

However I have a growing list (in the back of my head) of things I need to do, doctor appointments for myself that need making, prescriptions I need to call for refills, but it's very easy to put those things off. Somehow taking care of myself always falls to the bottom of the list. And all of this is complicated by the fact that Miranda's IEP meeting is tomorrow morning.

I both look forward and dread these meetings. It's a great opportunity to evaluate this year and see how far we've come as well as look forward to what's planned for next year. Miranda has an excellent team of head teacher, special ed. teacher and Case Manager, women I like and trust and communicate with frequently. But it also means I have to look her disabilities straight in the face with no opportunity to look away and nothing to lessen the blow.

I usually survive emotionally by compartmentalizing and scheduling and proceduring and pragmatizing my life. I deal with each thing separately (Alex's anxiety or Miranda's refusal to get dressed) instead of looking at it rationally as a part of the whole child. We have procedures for morning and evenings, traveling and special events. This certainly makes it easier for my children to function, but it helps me as well. I don't want to look their diagnoses in the face every morning. I just want to start the pancakes and empty the dishwasher.

But tomorrow is our date with Miranda's team and I should have realized it was bugging me when I spent all of yesterday afternoon making cards (more than 40--Teacher Appreciation Week, Mother's Day, birthdays, get well, etc) and as soon as the children got on their buses this morning, I finished a book and took a nap, instead of looking at the next "I Should."

We don't expect bad news tomorrow. Miranda has done far better academically this year than we expected and the behavioral problems aren't a surprise. Her temper tantrums at 2 years old were impressive and her maturity has been delayed by her disabilities so she doesn't yet have the ability to yank herself back from the edge every time.

I know all of this. But I still dread the meeting.

2. I took the children to Sahara Sam's on Friday night for their Special Needs night which runs quarterly from 6-9 pm and it was a lot of fun. Of course, we came home exhausted but I'm glad we went. Without the crowds and music and other noises of a regular session there, Alex had a much better time. And I never had to worry about getting funny looks from other parents about his behavior. Or worrying that Miranda would get into trouble if she went off by herself. But if we do it again, I'm going to need prescription goggles. I always forget how dependent I am on my glasses until I can't wear them.

3. For my television show to finish for May, I've chosen Person of Interest. I stopped watching it in October because I accidentally saw a spoiler that they were going to kill off Taraji P. Henson's character and then didn't want to watch that happen. So, before Saturday, I had 13 episodes to watch. Now I only have 10. It was a Joss Whedon character kill; it made sense for the story but man, it hurt to watch.

4. On Friday my mother-in-law and I are going to make our annual trip to Longwood Gardens. So prepare yourself for lots and lots of pretty pictures, come next week. Best of all, the wisteria should be in bloom!

5. On Saturday, my darling husband gave three presentations at LOPSA-EAST, 2014, which is a peer group meeting for System Administrators. He did nothing else for the two weeks previous and came up with the coolest handouts, which I happily helped him to construct. I turned 60 of these:

into these:

I was very pleased with the final products and according to him, so were his audiences.

6. I'm hoping to see Rio 2 with my mother sometime this week. Miranda was all set to go with us last Saturday until she got cold feet. Maybe next time.

7. Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler (of Conversion Diary) is now available and I'm hoping to win myself a copy! I can usually convince the library to get me most of the books I want to read but somehow I don't think this is on their list of books to buy this summer.

And here's Jen.