Thursday, February 28, 2013

NORAD Constance Tracker

Okay, there's no such thing as the NORAD Constance Tracker, but it'd be cool if there was. No word so far on where Constance our rogue killer whale Air Swimmer has gotten off to (link). I've received some awesome "sightings" which you can follow at the Help Bring Constance the Whale Home Facebook page (link). I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who finds any of this funny, and the kids have pretty much given up on the chance of ever finding their beloved whale. Still, as long as there are sightings, I will keep writing about Constance. 

Here's where she's been so far:

Someone needs to give that whale a geography lesson. Either she's moving in circles, or there's more than one whale.......You that I think about it, she's probably just moving in big circles. That's what she did at our house. She moved in big circles and followed me around all the damn time. She also lurked in dark corners and ambushed me just beyond the noren (Never seen a noren? Find examples here.) You'll have to trust me when I say that nothing scares the beans out of you quite like a whale waiting at eye level right on the other side of the curtain. And, no, I did NOT kidnap her. I swear (though I'm still not sure I buy Ren's alibi).


I know, I know, I know. This is another one of those non-post posts. What can I say? I'm back off Diet Coke after my day of backsliding (link), and it's hard to concentrate. The real thing I wanted to tell you is that I'm honored to be featured over at Rants from Mommyland today. If you've never read it, get on over there and check it out (link)!

Oh, and thanks to FMBMC Stephanie for the great shots of Constance (and for the new banner for my blog)! You make my technical ineptness a lot less obvious!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Top 10 Sky Meltdown Triggers

Well, I made it ten days. Ten days until I broke down and bought a Diet Coke. So not only did I fail in my goal, but I'm probably also damned (click here if you have no idea what I am talking about). Like I said, I'm new to the whole giving up something for Lent thing, so I'm hoping there are do-overs.  Or maybe my inability to make it for forty days proves my spiritual inferiority? I'm not sure, but I tend to think God doesn't care if I drink Diet Coke or not. I'm a free-wheelin' Protestant, though, so what do I know?

I'll bet you're wondering what drove me to drink (Diet Coke, obviously!). I'm pretty sure it's the full moon. I mean the full moon and its apparent impact on the behavior of a certain 8 y.o. ASD kid I know. Sometimes Sky seems to come a bit unhinged, and I am starting to see that things like changing seasons, unpredictable weather, and the phases of the moon influence this.

The behavioral challenges vary. Sometimes it's a type of echolalia marked by the repetition of certain unsavory words or phrases ("butt" and "poop" come to mind). Other times it's heightened anxiety, and this time it's an increased likelihood of meltdowns. I've said this before, but when Sky melts down, everything else grinds to a halt (although we are getting better at, whenever possible, isolating him with one parent while the other goes about the daily routine with Stow and Pink P). What makes me crazy is that it is nearly impossible to predict why or when Sky will melt down with any kind of accuracy. Two days ago it was a lid left off of a marker (not even his). Today it was Pink P's unclear explanation of the cupcake picture she drew at school.

That said, certain things are sure to get his goat if he's at all out of sorts. Here's a list of the Top 10 Sky Meltdown Triggers:

1. Pink P: Mommy, I'm wearing my fast shoes today, so I'm a cheetah. Sky: No, you're not.  Pink P: Yuh-huhh. Sky: (*meltdown*)
2. The sauce touched my rice! (*meltdown*) 
3. Stop singing princess songs! (*meltdown*)
4. The sun's not out yet, why is it time to wake up? (*meltdown*) 
5. "Homework" doesn't make any sense. We work at school, we don't work at home. Whoever invented homework didn't know what they were talking about. (*meltdown*) 
6. Stow, don't touch my stuff! (*meltdown*) 
7. Nobody understands me! (*meltdown*) 
8. Sky: Pink P that's not how you spell [INSERT WORD HERE]. Pink P: Yuh-huhh Sky: (*meltdown*) 
9. Babies make bad choices! (*meltdown*) 
10. I wish I was an only child! (*meltdown*), or alternatively, I wish I was a twin! (*meltdown*)
Clearly, he's a boy struggling for control of his world, and we'll keep working to help him find the balance between being able to accept what he can't control and being able to take control when he can. Until then, I'm probably gonna need a few Diet Cokes, though. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Death-defying Feats of a Twenty-month Old

We have three kids at home. Only three. I know you know this, but I find it helpful to remind myself constantly from time to time. There are only three of them, but sometimes it feels like we are parenting in the middle of a Friday-night rave or Daytona Beach during spring break.

We had things under control, however tenuously, until last week when Stow figured out how to escape from our elaborately constructed child-proofing. By "elaborately constructed child-proofing" I mean a cheap sofa hastily purchased at IKEA to block the archway between the playroom and the living room. I know there are extra wide baby gates out there, but the sofa was cheaper, and it opens into a(n extremely uncomfortable) guest bed. You know my hyper-frugality requires me to buy multipurpose items when at all possible. Couch = Bed = Makeshift Baby Gate. That's three for one! Score! It seemed like such an elegant solution. Until it wasn't. And it wasn't at 5:15 p.m. last Saturday when I was cooking dinner and looked down to find Stow right underfoot. I put him back into the playroom and seconds later, he was under my feet again. After that, there was no going back. None.

Stow waiting for his chance. Don't let his innocent puzzle play fool you. It took a few tries to catch him in the act, but when I did, I was surprised to learn that not only can he get up and over the back of the couch, he can also scale down the unstable, unattached shelf just on the other side of that wall. Needless to say, we moved the shelf, but we haven't been able to stop the escapes.
Here's the thing, we weren't confining Stow to the playroom to keep him out from under our feet, though that was certainly a desirable side effect. We were keeping him there because it kept him safe.  Safe from the wild world of Pink and Sky "playing" together, safe from Skyrific meltdowns, safe from all the stuff in the living room he could so easily pull down onto his head. Plus, there's a word that describes what happens when all three kids get together unmonitored by adults. Unfortunately, I can't type it here (hint, it starts with "cluster"), but the bedlam that ensues when they are all three alone together is another reason I liked to keep Stow trapped safely nearby.

You might think I'm exaggerating.

I assure you I am not. He's only been wandering freely for three days, but the impact has been hard to ignore.

On Saturday, Stow decided to rearrange the girl's doll display (link). He is also fond of vacuuming and cleaning and was nice enough to clean the toilet with the dust mop, but only after he decided to draw on Pink P's floor with chalk.

On Sunday, Sky woke up to discover Pink P had left a lid off of one of her pens. Oh the horror! She'd let one of her pens go dry and wouldn't be able to use it any more. I'd already reprimanded Pink for this. It was old news. Besides, it did not directly affect Sky in any possible way.  Unfortunately, this was one of our manic mornings that did not involve simple facts and random observations (see link above).  Instead of letting it go, Sky proceeded to have a massive meltdown about it, berating Pink for her negligence and then  taking away all her pens and telling her that, "Mom and Dad will never buy pens for you ever again!" Part of his meltdown involved yelling at and shoving Pink. With nowhere to put Stow, I could not intervene as much as I would have liked since I knew if I let go of him, he would just join the fray.***

On Monday, Stow thought I needed help making dinner. He did this by taking things (like egg shells and icky banana peels) out of the trash and dumping Sky's cup of milk onto the floor. He also felt free to help himself to some cereal out of the cereal cabinet that I'd inadvertently left unlocked.

I knew Stow's independence was coming, but I need at least another 6 months to adjust to having three kids. Pretty, please? By then, I'll be ready for it. I promise!

***Until you've experienced the irrational meltdown of a kid with ASD, you probably can't grasp the logic of Sky's behavior or my response. Just trust me when I tell you I handled it about as well as anyone might.

Five Things You Should Know About Ren

Of course, there are a lot more than five,** but this is a start:

1. He's indefatigible.

Right now I can hear him downstairs rearranging the furniture. After that, he will probably clean out the car and start getting things ready for breakfast. He might also do the laundry and vacuum a little. It's 11:30 p.m. Oh, and he's had two major back surgeries in the last 12 months.

2. He loves to clean.

You might think this is awesome for me. And in many ways it is, but it can also be very tragic (at least in the eyes of our kids). They have learned that if it's not picked up, it might get sucked up. Or that Dad will put it away in places they can't even fathom. Today, Sky left his intricately designed Hex Bug track on the floor just long enough to go take a quick bath as I'd requested. When he got out of the bath, the track was gone, vanished without a trace. It took quick thinking on my part to avert a major crisis--Ren knows Sky doesn't handle lack of fairness or unexpected change well, and yet he always picks up his stuff without asking first. Sigh.

Ren also has trouble with the 24-hour rule: "No child's artwork can be thrown away in the first twenty-four hours after its creation." Before I explained this to him, Ren threw away art almost as fast as Pink P could make it. Nothing produces drama quite like the crumpled up picture of a pink unicorn discovered in the trash can. If nothing else, Ren has become better at covering his tracks.

3. He is not romantic.

And yet he's totally a romantic. Shhh. Don't tell him I'm onto his secret.

4. He can taste something and then make the dish from scratch without ever consulting a recipe.

This is why I married him. Duh.

5. He's a bargain shopper.

The first year we lived in the US, he bought 20 boxes of Hamburger/Tuna/Chicken Helper because it was on sale. When we moved almost two years later, we still had some left. He's learning to differentiate between bargain and binge, and the difference in storage space is amazing.

We're still working through his issues with online shopping. Maybe some day soon, I won't find 4D models of the male reproductive system in my Amazon shopping cart. Then again, maybe I should just get a separate account.

**For example, you already know he's a stay-at-home dad (link) who sews (link) and comes up with interesting parenting techniques (link).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Back by Popular Demand

Back by popular demand (at least in the mind of Sky), a new illustrated story.

I'll just let this one speak for itself (though it'd be super fun if some of you offered possible captions for this story).

It sure does make you wonder what he watches on TV, doesn't it? It also kind of makes you wonder why he set it in May of 2004, approximately 6 months before he was born. I've quit trying to figure him out...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Recap: Save the Whale

Here's the weekly round up. Remember to click on the titles to see the posts.

This week turned out to be more exciting than I expected because on Thursday, we realized our five-foot long (i.e. larger than any of our children) "Air Swimmer" whale had disappeared. What's most disturbing is that nobody noticed it was gone, at least not right away. I'm hoping assuming I'd notice a little sooner if one of the kids disappeared, though I can't be 100% sure. So far we don't have any leads, but Ren seems like the number 1 suspect. According to Pink P, he moved Constance to the screened-in porch so he could "clean." Hmmm...

Anyway, late Thursday, I wrote a post about it called "Missing! Can You Help?" which you should check out, if only to see the whale's awesome missing poster. I also started a "Help Bring Constance the Whale Home" page on FB (link). So far, it only has three likes, which is a shame, because that means the rest of you are missing out on awesome whale sightings like this one:

Constance spotted at Epcot Center.
Anyway, I'm hoping more of you will join Constance's FB page (and while you're at it, Mom in Two Culture's FB page -- link), so you can play along and report sightings. Sky and Pink are worried about the whale (for real) and the pretend sightings make them smile. And, who knows, maybe Constance will see how much they miss her and make her way back home.

Before I got totally preoccupied with the missing whale, I wrote a few other posts. On Monday, I wrote "Maybe This Wasn't Such a Good Idea After All" about our foray into giving things up for Lent. Since that post, I've learned from people with way more Lent experience than me that I made the most basic of rookie mistakes. I gave up something I consume every single day. I have been paying for it ever since. I suppose in the end, it won't kill me will make me a better person. Sky is doing awesome on his Lenten challenge to give up Mine Craft and other apps, which makes me proud, but I really, really, really, really, really, really want a Diet Coke. 

On Tuesday, I wrote about my misguided attempts to appropriately use and inappropriate tattoo that Pink P got from dance class in "A Shockingly Imperfect Solution." I'm still amazed at how bad my solution turned out to be.

On Wednesday, I wrote "Manic Mornings" about a fairly typical morning at our house. As a bonus, there's a picture of our Girl's Day set. If you've never seen one, check it out. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Missing! Can You Help?

Okay, so we may have lost a five foot long whale Air Swimmer. One day she was lurking around corners scaring the holy heck out of me when I came down in the pre-dawn darkness to start breakfast and tailing me late at night as I worked, and the next day she was gone. I'll be honest, I'm not exactly sure when she disappeared, but I remember seeing her on Monday, so there's that. 

My guess is she got tired of just hanging around. Sky played with her exactly five times between her arrival and her disappearance.  Stow, on the other hand, loved her and enjoyed standing on the couch, grabbing her, wrestling her to the ground, and pulling off her fins. I may have unlovingly shoved her across the room hourly a time or two. Still, her great escape took some planning. I mean, how'd she get out the back door and off the screened-in porch without anyone seeing? And once she was in the yard, how did she manage to get over the fence in the freezing cold? Surely someone saw her making her way down the street. I mean, really, how far could she have gotten?

All I know is that it's the first time I can literally say that my money vanished into thin air. I just hope she's made her way to a happier place.

PS-- please don't call the phone number on that poster because it's obviously fake (Sky wanted me to say that).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Manic Mornings

Some bloggers do Silent Sundays. Others, Wordless Wednesdays.  These are chances to take a step back and reflect on an image or an idea. There's not a lot of time for silence or meditation at my house, so instead, I bring you Manic Mornings,  a list of the stream of thoughts Sky bombards me with in the first minute I'm awake. Invariably these mornings come when I've had little sleep and am too tired to form a coherent response. So, here you go:

Manic Morning (Wednesday, February 20)

*Violet blue is my favorite color. (Me: I think you mean "royal" blue. He continues unfazed...) Violet blue is so great. It's bright, shiny, and cheerful. It makes me think of the sky.  Only brighter. Do you like violet blue?

*While you were gone yesterday Stow hit me three times, sat on me two times, scratched this eye once, screamed, and climbed over the back of the couch five times. We really need to do something about him, Mom. 

*Instead of giving up my whole Kindle for Lent how about if I just give up my apps. 

*Can we get a pet fish? I really think my tadpole died because he was old. I'm sure I won't kill a fish. 

*Is today a school day or the weekend?

*Why is Pink P still sleeping? She should be up by now. 

*The new Sim City looks awesome! I saw a picture of it in my magazine. You can build talk buildings and the people look realistic. You can even put one level on top of another level. 

*Can we test whether I'm allergic to hamsters or guinea pigs? I bet I'm not, and I really want a pet. It's not fair I'm allergic to cats and dogs.


Just for kicks, here's the picture I would have posted if "Wordless Wednesdays" existed at my house:

Getting ready for Girl's Day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Shockingly Imperfect Solution

You know how I've been complaining lately about the fact that kids seem to get sweets and junk food just about everywhere they go? Well, one place, at least has come up with an alternative: Pink P's dance class. After each lesson the girls can choose from the candy bin or from the goody bin. Instead of suckers with red dye or M&Ms that she can't eat, Pink now has a chance to choose from stickers, tattoos, plastic jewelry, and even a few little books. So, for a brief, shining moment, it seemed like we'd overcome the special diet issue, at least at dance class.

Then one day, she came out clutching a temporary tattoo in her hand. "Look what I got, Mommy!" she said proudly, shoving it into my face so I could get a good look. What she "got" was an arm band tattoo that had butterflies made out of skull and cross bones. Yes, that's right. My daughter's preschool dance teacher's collection of temporary tattoos includes goth arm bands. Perfect.

"Wow, honey," I replied. "That's big." I mean, what could I have said? She was so excited to have gotten a prize.

"Can I put it on when we get home?" she asked eagerly.

"You'd better wait. Tonight's bath night, and you don't want it to wash off, right?"

Pink P agreed that this made sense, and (of course) as soon as she forgot about the tattoo, I put it in a safe place where no one would find it. Ever again.

Problem solved.

Only, not quite.

Today, after dance class, Pink selected another skull and cross bones butterfly arm band tattoo because, well,  why wouldn't she? (Note to self: remind dance teacher to remove inappropriate tattoos from preschool prize bin).

"Mommy, we have to make sure this one doesn't get lost, okay?"

I didn't see a way around it this time. So, after bath, I agreed to help Pink apply the new tattoo. We decided that maybe it wasn't appropriate for school, so it needed to be hidden by her clothing. After much discussion and debate, we thought we'd found the ideal spot.

On her thigh.

Only, in retrospect, that might not have been such a good idea.

Especially since tomorrow she has swim lessons.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Maybe This Wasn't Such a Good Idea After All

My kids go to a Catholic school. We are not Catholic. I am protestant, and Ren is agnostic or possibly even atheist. So we have some fairly interesting conversations about who believes what. My extremely protestant father nearly fainted the first time he saw his grandchildren doing the sign of the cross for dinner blessing. (That alone made our choice to send the kids to Catholic school worthwhile.) We chose their current school because it's small and offers a predictable structure with superior academics. In other words, it's a perfect fit for Sky. The religious eclecticism that's become part of our life as a result is just an added bonus.

Sky already had a year of Catholic preschool under his belt when we left Tokyo and moved to our small Midwestern town, so I didn't expect there to be too many differences in terms of the religious influence of his education. It turns out I was wrong. See, where Catholic school in Japan just looks like Protestant school with a tad more emphasis on Mary (a.k.a. Maria-sama), in the U.S., there's a greater focus on teaching kids what it means to be Catholic and not just what it means to be Christian. When Sky came home from his first day at his current school a few years ago, he was captivated by the fact that he had seen real life bits of Jesus and his blood. Sensing the emergence of a new, most likely inappropriate obsession, I explained that these things symbolized Jesus and weren't actually Jesus. Then, not knowing whether my comments were in line with what he learned at school, I added, somewhat furtively, "But maybe you shouldn't tell your teacher about this." It turns out it's hard to walk the line between helping him learn the religious lessons that are part of his school life and helping him make sense of the discrepancies he encounters between school during the week and church on Sunday.

Lent is a big deal for kids at Catholic school. The last two years, Sky and I decided that he would prepare for the coming of Easter by helping others and saying additional prayers at night. My protestant family never gave up anything for Lent, so my experience with this is thin. I had a friend in high school who gave up stopping at stop signs once and another who gave up doing homework.  What I learned from observing them is that I didn't want to ride in a car with the first, and I didn't want to sit next to the second in biology class. In other words, I gained no practical knowledge about the practice of going without.

To help Sky learn about the idea of self-sacrifice and preparation behind Lent, and to help him be a little more like his classmates, we decided Sky would give up something this year. Many of his classmates gave up candy and soda. Sky thought that was an awesome idea, particularly since he never eats candy or drinks soda. Then he suggested he give up doing homework, practicing piano, or sitting on the floor heater to keep warm. "That last one would be a real sacrifice, Mom," he said. Somehow, though, none of these things seemed quite in the spirit of Lent.

I needed to help him grasp the meaning behind the practice, but how? Then it hit me. He needed to give up his Kindle, and the only way he'd grasp the gravity of his sacrifice is if I modeled good Lenten practice for him by sacrificing something, too.  And that's how, on the fifth day of Lent, a few days late, but with plenty of time left until Easter, I find myself sitting in my office exhausted from a busy weekend, with piles of work in front of me, and absolutely no Diet Coke in sight. Curse you, Catholic school, curse you!***

A break from Diet Coke might not be all bad...

***Now you know I'd never really curse an entire religious tradition. That'd be bad on a lot of different levels. Besides, if this all works as planned, I have thirty plus days to enjoy not bring awakened by Sky at 5:30 each morning with, "Can I play my Kindle?" And I might also be able to kick my Diet Coke habit. It's too early to tell, but I'm thinking this could be a win-win for me!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Recap: Sometimes These Posts Write Themselves (For An Entire Week, And I Can't Complain Even If The Whole Family Is Completely Loony)

I started the week thinking I might be able to pull off two or three posts given my lack of time and inspiration, but then Ren left some odd things in our online shopping cart, and Sky came home from school with the most awesome comic ever, and I was reinvigorated.

In case you missed the excitement, here's a recap. Click on titles to go to the posts.

On Monday, in "It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times," I describe what's been going right for Sky at school and what hasn't. This year, for the first time, Sky's teacher talked to his class about his ASD, and it's made a big difference.

"Does Any of This Seem Strange to You?" is my take on the things I found in our Amazon shopping cart. I got so distracted by what I found there, I didn't realize I hadn't bought the book I planned to purchase until two days later.

In "Sometimes These Posts Just Write Themselves," I offer you the world premier of Sky's latest comic. I think you'll be fascinated by it. I was. And also a tad disturbed.

Thursday, I wrote the obligatory Valentine's post, "How Does He Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways." Don't tell Ren what I wrote. He might get a big head, and we really don't need that.

Lest you start to think our life resembles something on a Hallmark card, I felt I needed to tell you the real story of our Valentine's Day in "A Valentine's Vignette." I swear I didn't plan to post on Friday, but my whole family seems keen on keeping me busy with their antics.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentine's Vignette

Yesterday, I wrote the obligatory Valentine's Day post (link). Truth told, I've never been a fan of Valentine's Day. That, coupled with the fact that the way it's celebrated in Japan is much different than in the US, makes it one of the "take it or leave it" holidays for us (link and link). This year, we decided to "take it." Here's what happened.

A Series of Shots

Shot 1

Establishing shot. White-tiled table covered with red envelopes, stuffed animals, and a bag of dark chocolate.

Shot 2

Five year-old walks into kitchen, sees pink unicorn and her face immediately lights up, "A pink pony! My favorite!!!" Next she opens the card and finds a small princess bracelet that she immediately places on her arm. As she turns, she glimpses a gray hippo in her peripheral vision, "Hey, I wanted a 'Stuffie,' too!" and her laughter dissolves into tears.

Shot 3

Eight year-old enters next, stage right. Eyes two lonely envelopes and asks, "I just got envelopes?" "Look inside," comes the reply. He does and finds a $10 gift card. For a moment, he is distracted by the Perry the Platypus cardboard figure inside the card, but then he looks around. "Hey! She got two things and I only got one!" He, too, starts to cry.

Shot 4

Mom exits stage right. Camera follows as she climbs the stairs and crawls back into bed.

Shot 5

Cut to living room. Eight year-old struggles to deal with the injustices of the world. Like many other obsessions in his life, he is unable to let this one go.  He weeps. He screams. He thrashes about. He knocks over toys. Eventually, he is subdued by his father, an older gentleman with a bad back, a soft voice, and stories of dinosaur extinction. Off-screen, Mom makes bentos and feeds the baby.

Shot 6

Eight year-old returns to kitchen. Sees Mom and immediately loses it again. Yells about the unfairness of receiving only one gift instead of two. Mom walks into pantry and comes out with year-old leftovers from birthday piƱata -- cheap plastic whistle, yo-yo with no string, glasses and moustache--emphatically places them on the table and says, "There, now you have four."

Shot 7

Everyone at kitchen table, eating cereal in sullen silence. Except the baby who giggles with uncontrollable joy over his new Stuffie.



The Agitants (in order of appearance)

The Unsuspecting Unicorn
The Culprit (don't let those droopy eyes fool you)
The Single Card (oh, the horror)
The Payoff

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How Does He Love, Me? Let Me Count the Ways

Last year for  Valentine's Day, I recounted the story of how Ren and I met and ended up getting married. You  can read  that story here, here, here, and here (What can I say? It's such a good story, I had to tell it in 4 parts.)

This year's Valentine's post is appropriately titled: How Does He Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways. I've already established that Ren is an unconventional romantic (link).  He's certainly no Browning (see what I did there? A literary reference), but it seems he is a pretty typical Japanese man (In fact, just as I was writing this, NPR ran a story--link --substantiating my claim. Amazing timing!). According to Ren, saying "I love you" too much is the surest sign your relationship is in trouble. True love is  understood and needn't be spoken. A friend of mine was with her boyfriend/husband for 5 years before he said the words, "I love you," and even then, he only said it once. Compared to that, Ren's a regular Don Juan. Not only does he say, "I love you" from time to time, he also makes unmistakably romantic gestures. Let me count them for you:

Number 1:
He always fixes my computer problems, even when I am having the same self-inflicted crisis for the fourth time, and it will take days and a complete reinstallation to undo my mess. Usually he will do this without sleeping.

Number 2:
Each morning, he hands me an apple slice when I'm on my way out the door. I'm pretty sure he does it because he knows eating breakfast could actually help me shed my post-partum spare tire, but I like to imagine he does it because he loves me that much.

Number 3:
He let's me write about him in my blog even though he'd much prefer his privacy.

Number 4:
He only buys half of the things he sees on sale instead of all of them. Sure we end up with skeletons in our study, but so far, no other body parts (link).

Number 5:
When Sky is having a total meltdown  and yelling at me for the umpteenth time, Ren drops what he's doing and distracts him with stories of dinosaurs or outer space. 

Number 6:
Not once has he complained when I've left him home alone with the kids while I go have a drink with friends or to work at my office or to shop frantically for something that fits and still looks professional (link).

Number 7:
He doesn't care that I can beat him in most ball sports but that I hate to cook. One of these skills is highly useful around the house. The other is not.

Number 8:
He no longer grumbles when I scratch the car. 

Number 9:
He cooks, cleans, does laundry, makes the bed, vacuums, and changes 90% of Stow's diapers, all while his back hurts and his legs are partially numb. And somehow he manages to do this without making me feel guilty for leaving all the backbreaking work to him.

Number 10:
He once bought me an insulated Pyrex dish and a snow cone maker in the same year. And when I defended my dissertation, he offered to buy me diamonds. Both times, I was moved by the gesture. The second time, I opted for a new phone instead of jewelry, and he was totally cool with that. 

Here's hoping your Valentine knows you as well as mine knows me!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sometimes These Posts Just Write Themselves

Me: Wow, Sky! That's a great story. I'm going to put it on my blog.

Sky: Are you being sarcastic? (He's dubious because he knows how I feel about violence and undue suffering).

Me: No, really, I'm serious. It's awesome.

Sky: There's a Part 2, you know.

Me: I think Part 1 will be enough.



Sky is thrilled to "star" in today's post. Lately he's become very interested in my blog. He's proud that my stories about him teach people about kids with "special brains." Show him your support by clicking over to Facebook (link) and becoming a fan or leaving a comment.

In case you're interested, the entire thing is broken into sections below.  Click on the pictures for more detail. (One day I will figure out how to take better pictures so that white paper will actually look white. Until then...)




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Does Any of This Seem Strange to You?

Today when I went to buy a book I needed from Amazon, I found the more than 60 items in my shopping cart. Thankfully, they were "saved for later" or I might have had quite a shock when the package(s) arrived. Here is some of what I found...

First, the expected: TV and computer cables, various lenses and camera accessories, two workout videos (I put in the cart and then completely forgot about), a Lego something or other for Sky, and a princess DVD for Pink--all proof that we need to clear the unpurchased items from our cart from time to time.

Next came the slightly more unusual. My favorite was the Budget Life-Size Skull. Like I always say, if you're going to buy a skull, you should definitely get it at a bargain price. In a close second? The Famemaster 4D-Vision Human Male Reproductive Anatomy Model. I guess the 4D in the name means that this male anatomy model will carry you away to the fourth dimension, and to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The Famemaster 4D-Vision Human Male Reproductive Anatomy Model. What more could you ask for? Also, now you can never unsee this. You’re welcome. 
Accompanying the skull and boy parts, I found a model of an ear as well as one of the human heart, a 4-inch model of an eye that breaks down into 35 easy-to-swallow pieces and a 5-in-1stethoscope with interchangeable parts--all perfect for homes with small children.

I'm thinking these items made their way into our shopping cart around the time of Ren's back surgery last summer. He was on some pretty serious narcotics for pain and may not have been in his right mind. That was about the same time this showed up:

We call him "Scully," but we're open to suggestions.
The day this appeared, we may have had a tiny argument. I mean, I'm all for the study of science. It's just I'd rather not have to vacuum around it.

(Pause for effect.)

HAHAHAHA. Who am I kidding? You've all been reading this blog long enough to know Ren does all the vacuuming! Actually, I'm mostly opposed to the skeleton because he further clutters an already cluttered space. Plus, you can't even dress him. I tried. Nothing fits over his bolts and screws.

He can't even rock a cool hat. And, really, what's the point of having a skeleton if you can't snaz him up a bit?


In other news, Pink continues to vie for the distinction of being the oddest member of our family (and given the previous story, that's saying a lot). Besides singing to the birds each morning as she walks to the garage--something she refers to as "teaching her class" -- she also seems to think she sees her "students" out around town. If they didn't show up for ''class" that morning, she gives them a strong dressing down. Yesterday, she rushed to get out of the car because she wanted to talk to the squirrel and couldn't begin to fathom why he fled when he saw her coming. Then today, on our way to dance class, she transmitted a message to the teddy bear she forgot at home by "sending it on the wings of the butterflies." It's not spring here, so I'm assuming butterflies south of the equator must have done the job. How else would she have heard back from her bear so quickly?

I try to ask about these things but she always looks at me like I'm the crazy one.

UPDATE 9/2014:

Scully's become just one of the family, and now I can't imagine life with out him. Just look:


Man down.

You're never too old (or dead) for a pacifier.

First image from

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Recap: I May Not Have Been in My Right Mind

I started coming down with something early in the week, so my posting sputtered a tad. Still, here's the week in review in case you missed it. Click on titles to go to posts.

On Monday, I wrote a post called "Your Perfect Child." It's in response to my experience with one particular couple at Sky's school but relates to many similar experiences I know we've all had when taking our autism spectrum kids out into the world. It may be a bit on the heavy side, but I'm glad I finally figured out a way to express my thoughts on the subject.

On Tuesday, I was too tired to think, so I let the kids write my post. In "This Post is Brought to You by the Letter P and the Number WTH!" Sky reflects on Christmas and rocket landing gear (hahaha, just now autocorrect put "fear" instead of "gear" and that might actually be more accurate), and Pink P seeks to broaden her artistic horizons. She fails, and it's all Ren's fault.

On Wednesday Stow and I took a little trip to the pediatric gastroenterologist, but I'll write more about that later. By Thursday, the cold caught up with me.

Somehow on Friday, in my congestion-induced haze, I was able to write "A Post about Gymnastics when My Head is Fuzzy with a Cold." The story of our accidental gymnastics paraprofessional is a good one, though I'm not sure I communicated it well in my post. If you think this post is bad, you should've seen the intro class I taught that day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Post about Gymnastics While My Head is Fuzzy with a Cold

 I've heard plenty of other moms talk about how busy they are shuttling their kids to various friends' houses and activities, but this has never been a "problem" of ours. I've always known that life goes on without Sky in some ways. There are birthday parties and baseball games and school skate nights that he misses out on. And, some days I worry about his atypical-ness and the fact that he is being left behind by his peers.

But to be honest, most days I don't. See, all of those things--sports practices, overnights with friends, and birthday parties--are outside of our daily routine. And, doing anything outside of the routine can make life a lot harder than the pangs of regret I feel when I know he's being left out. A lot harder. When you're trying to raise a kid on the autism spectrum, there's not a lot of time to worry about the things you can't change.

We tried sports when Sky was younger--baseball, basketball, and soccer. In baseball, Sky couldn't begin to grasp the point. He spent his time lying in the grass trying to understand the habits of ants. The sounds echoing through the gym during basketball made Sky crazy, so any time he was in the game, he would run around like a madman and crash into the padding at the base of the goals and on all the walls of the gym. Soccer resulted in a combination of both those behaviors. He would by turns study the grass and then crash into other players as if he was a pinball and they were the bumpers. It didn't take an autism diagnosis for us to figure out baseball, basketball, and soccer weren't his thing.

But, he cares about sports and about the fact that most of his classmates are on teams. He can tell me which kids play baseball, and basketball, and football, and he wants to do what they do. So, we came up with a list of sports he'd like to try that might be better suited to his particular challenges. We are working through the list one sport at a time. Right now, it's gymnastics.

In theory, gymnastics should give Sky better body awareness and fulfill his need to jump and crash by enabling him to get the same kind of input in more socially acceptable ways. In theory, the set-up of the gym and the classes should not overwhelm his senses. In theory.

In reality, there's still a lot of crashing and spacing, and since he's in a class with several other boys, this can be a problem. It's hard to watch. It's hard to get the coaches to remember that Sky doesn't have the same ability to hear instructions and do what's being asked with his body. It's hard to convince them that his dramatic flopping on the floor is not to get attention but because he's experiencing a breakdown between the words and his body parts and the hard crashing on the mat makes it easier for him to regroup and concentrate. It's hard to take him every week when I know exactly how it's going to go.

Enter Kevin. Kevin recently finished an advanced degree in special education and is in the process of making a pretty significant career change. He works as a paraprofessional in one of the local junior high schools, and we first met to discuss the pros and cons of public and private education in our area. Somehow the discussion turned to my frustration with gymnastics. I knew I wanted Sky to keep with it and to get better so that one day he could be proud of himself and the work he's done there, but I also knew that the constant frustration of not being able to follow the rules and do what was being asked of him made him feel like he was failing.

Just as I was thinking we'd have to stop gymnastics, Kevin offered to help. On a completely voluntary basis, Kevin has become our gymnastics paraprofessional. Every week, he joins Sky on the mats and acts as a translator for him: giving him instructions in easier-to-process ways, making suggestions for the coaches to help them relate better to Sky, and even facilitating the interactions between boys in the class. And, for the first time, Sky loves gymnastics.

Kevin won't always be able to be with us. He already isn't with us in all the other parts of Sky's life where he faces similar misunderstandings and frustrations. But, I am grateful for his willingness to step in and help and for the reminder that I really can't rest until my son is truly understood. I know one day we will get to a place where Sky can be more independent and successful on his own, but until then, I am so thankful for people like Kevin who offer to walk beside us for part of the journey.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

This Post is Brought to You by the Letter P and the Number WTH?!?

Too tired to come up with something new, so I'll let the kids write today's blog.**

First, Sky's "essay." I took him with me to a coffee shop yesterday so I could work and he could stay out of Ren's hair for an hour or so. Over a soy hot chocolate, this is what he wrote:

I guess this just goes to show that you can never really have enough Christmas in your life.  It also goes to show that Sky didn't think much of the presents from Mom and Dad this year. WTH?

Sky also has a plan (which he outlined in excruciating detail on the 15-minute ride home from the coffee shop) for how to land a space craft without having to worry about parachute failure or cracked heat shields. It involves an attachment that drills holes into the sides of mountains to slow the ship down. I'm not sure how well that will work, so in the future, if you get a chance to ride on a spaceship, you might just want to make sure he wasn't the head engineer on the project.

Meanwhile, Pink P had fun introducing her much older cousins to our town over the weekend. On our way to eat, she pointed out our church and said with as much gravity as she could muster, "That's our church. It's about God." She said "God" like she was Morgan Freeman narrating the story of the creation of time.

I wanted to share a cool picture Pink drew of two women picking apples by climbing the biggest darn ladder you've ever seen, but Ren threw it away before I could digitize it. Apparently the nuances of the 24-hour rule (link) are lost on him. Too bad, too. It really was a great picture, remarkable most of all because it contained neither a princess, a pony/unicorn, nor the color pink.***

**I know, I know, I know. Super lame, Moe. I promise to do better next time. Really. No, really!
***Somehow the grammar seems wrong on this sentence, but I am too tired to fix it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Your Perfect Child

I shouldn't care. I know I shouldn't care. 

I know your closed-mindedness and hyper-narrow world view say more about you than they do about me or my kid. I know your choice to ignore me when I say "hello"--even though our kids go to the same school and participate in some of the same extracurricular activities--is immature and not even worth the energy it takes me to wonder about it. I know that what you say to others about my kid's behavior and my presumed failures as a parent reflects your ignorance about autism and special needs parenting. I know that your sense of religious superiority indicates a grave lack of understanding of grace and much of what Christianity represents. 

I know all these things.

And, I know I shouldn't care. 

But, I still do.

I care because it's not just about you and me. It's about how you treat my kid and kids like him when you volunteer at school or chaperone a field trip. 

I care because I know you are passing your ignorance and self righteousness on to your perfect children. You are teaching them to be unaccepting of those who are not like them. You are teaching them that it's okay to treat others as "less than" and to judge and look down on them. 

I care because some days your close-mindedness makes me want to pray that God would bless you with a son who has autism or ADHD. And then I feel guilty. 

I care because I realize there are so many more people like you out there, and it scares me to think of what people like you might do to kids like Sky.  

I care because life is too short to have to worry about people like you.

There are days, especially the really hard ones (like today), when the baby is sick and Sky is in permanent impulsive meltdown mode, when I wish I could have perfect kids like you think you do.  

And then I remember that I have something much better.  I have kids who are compassionate,  kind,  and curious. 

I have kids who understand that no one is perfect but that the imperfections are where we find grace and strength and joy and hope.

And I'd say that makes me pretty darn lucky--maybe even luckier than you. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Recap: Close Encounters of the Unknown Kind

It was a weird week at the Moe household. If you missed any of the excitement, here's a little recap (click the titles to link to the posts):

You know how they say, "It takes a village?" I've discovered it also doesn't hurt to have a geologist. After a hard weekend, a chat I had with my geologist friend awhile back gave me the courage I needed to keep going. I wrote about it in "Well, At Least They Probably Won't Become Extinct." I mean, in the long run, isn't that all that matters?

Tuesday started out with a little more vomit than I typically like that early in the morning. In What Magic is This? I talk about Ren's secret cure for the pukes (you have to read it to find out). And, again, I am amazed by the tricks up his sleeve.

I Think Aliens Maybe Abducted My Kids describes the completely unexpected change in behavior that occurred in my kids midweek. After complete mayhem over the weekend, suddenly they acted like no children of mine. The only possible explanation? Aliens.

In "There May Be Something to this Alien Thing," I wonder whether the aliens got a hold of Stow, too. How else can you explain his sudden ability to talk? I mean, alien invasion definitely makes the most sense.

Friday, February 1, 2013

There May Be Something to This Alien Thing

I've written several times in the past about Stow's various developmental delays. The worst of these has been his speech delay. Stow's been a pretty quiet guy most of his life. As a baby, he didn't babble. At 12 months, his silence was punctuated only by the occasional "aah, aah." By 14 months, we had started weekly speech therapy sessions, and gradually he started picking up words ("mama," being the main one).  By 15 months, he seemed to be making progress, but every time he got sick, he would lose some or most of his words, sometimes reverting back to only "mama." This gaining and losing has been our biggest worry, by far. 

Here's the thing about having a kid who doesn't really talk: a lot of times, you don't really notice he's not talking. Instead you think, "What a laid back kid. I'm so glad we were blessed with such a mellow baby!" I can't tell you how many times I realized I was taking advantage of the silence to gather my thoughts instead of engaging him. It took me a long time to realize his silence doesn't necessarily mean he's just super zen. 

Some people try to tell us that Stow's silence is "just because he's the third kid." I'm sure having an older brother who's on the autism spectrum and an older sister who's a bit of a drama queen makes it harder to get a word in edgewise, but I don't think that's all that's going on.  It's more like there's a lock on the part of his brain where his words are stored, and sometimes he can find the key and sometimes he can't. Whenever he gets sick, the key gets lost and  he loses words. I suppose this is true of all of us when we're really sick, but even with a fever/cold/ear infection/C. diff he can be playing around energetically but just not talking. 

So, you know, he's been doing speech therapy every week for about six months now. And every week, he says a word or two the therapist hasn't heard before, but he neglects to produce most of his other words. Plus, he rarely manages to imitate a modeled sound or word. And, at the end of each session, we schedule a session for the following week with a shared but unspoken sense of fear that nothing will ever change. 

That is, until today.

Today Stow produced thirty words, some of them old, some of them new, some of them spontaneously, and some of them when asked. He even repeated words that were modeled to him. 

Thirty words in one hour! 

By far the most exciting one for me was "eye." He pointed to Rody's eye and then his eye, and then he said, "eye." I'm sure it doesn't sound like much. But, until today, he had never acknowledged a part of his body. Ever.

The speech therapist was floored by his performance. I was floored by his performance. It's like he's a different kid. At this rate, our therapist be out of a job in another couple of weeks. 

But here's what I want to know: Has he just been holding out on us? Is it because the C diff is finally under control (thanks to 4 weeks on some pretty serious medicine--who knows what will happen when he goes off it) and he's finally well? Is it the changes in diet? 

Or, has he been abducted by aliens, too?