Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thoughtless Thursday

Seems the packing/managing two houses/having life spread over multiple states/dealing with ASD kid who's entered pre-move implosion phase affects my ability to be articulate, so today, I bring you "Thoughtless Thursday."

Actually, we should probably call it "Minimally Thought-out Thursday," but I hate to lose the alliteration.

Yeah, so anyway, without further ado, I give to you:

The Bane of My Existence

Don't let the teeny-tiny cuteness fool you.

I know they seem all harmless and everything, but these tiny tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) sauce* holders can ruin an entire day. Sure, you say, they're so cute and friendly, and gosh, they're so small, what possible trouble could they cause? You try getting a serving of tonkatsu sauce into one of these! I managed to get about a half a teaspoon into them before I gave up. The kids didn't complain. After all no one else at their respective summer camps had miniature sauce-holding animals in their lunches, but you see, this is exactly the thing that Japanese moms do to make me feel so darn incompetent. How do they get the sauce into this one-inch long container with an opening about the size of a pencil tip without splattering their shirts (and half the kitchen)? And why can't they just go ahead and put the sauce on the cutlet? Sure, it'll be a little soggy come lunch time, but, really, can't we all agree it's better for everyone if the bar is set low?


Disclaimer: If you're new here and feeling cheated by my lame post (people who've been reading for awhile know that this is just the way it goes sometimes), I encourage you to look at some of my other ones. Most recently, I kind of like the one about my kids getting glasses. Then there's the top ten list over there on the side. I kind of like those, too.

* Tonkatsu sauce is basically a sweet brown sauce used specifically for fried pork cutlets.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why I Hate Moving, Part 1 (Plus Some More Bad English Toddler T-shirts)

Seven moves in thirteen years and you're bound to misplace a few things. Big things: a pearl necklace, immigration papers. Small things: the play you wrote in college, your first passport.

Actually, we kept track of our stuff pretty well until that last big move, the move seven weeks after Pink P's birth, eleven weeks after we put the house on the market, and five weeks after we sold it. The move where some of our stuff went into storage, some of it went to my parents', and the rest of it crammed into seven suitcases and made the trip across the Pacific to Japan. 

Before that, we had a house and file cabinets, and a pretty good idea of where we'd come from and where we were headed. But, when we decided to sell the house (to move to Tokyo for my dissertation research), we became nomads, not sure where we'd end up.

Essentially, we've been living out of suitcases (albeit disguised as cheap rentals, bad furniture, and a file system relying heavily on cardboard boxes and plastic drawers) for the last six years. So, this summer marks the first time since 2006 that we know where we will be for two consecutive years. In other words, the time has finally come for us to try try to get our sh** together.

It's not as easy as it sounds. 

First, there are the books. I'm a professor (which means I basically collects books for a living) married to a bibliophile. We have tons of books. Literally. Since transport companies charge by weight, we like to move our books ourselves. When we drove up to close on our new house we took about 1200 pounds of books with us, and those 1200 pounds represent only a fraction of the books that need to be moved. Nothing good comes from schlepping books all over the world. And, yet, I feel compelled to schlep them. (Incidentally, I'm pretty sure this is how you figure out whether you should pursue a career in academia. If you feel compelled to carry heavy books wherever you go, then this may be the life for you.) Many of these books have made every single move with me. Others were acquired along the way. For this move,  between fifty and sixty boxes of book will make the journey first from my current office, then to our old house, then to our new house, and finally to my new office. If there was an easier way to do this, believe me, I'd do it.

Next, there is the small island worth of stuff still stuck in storage at my parents' house. The island, which is the size of five pallets and once reached the ceiling, is made up of all the things we couldn't take with us to Japan (and didn't want to pay to store) back in early 2008. Theoretically, if we haven't needed it for the past 5 years, we probably don't need it in our new house. But, we can't just let it sit there, either.  So, yesterday, I loaded up Stow and we drove the 80 minutes to my parents' house so I could go through it.

Stow bubbled with excitement, and when we finally pulled into their driveway, he exclaimed, "Yay! Sissy! Ganma!" (Sissy=Grandma and Ganma=Grandpa. Totally obvious, right?) While Stow played with Sissy and Ganma, I dug worked my way through the pile. Good thing I did because I found our long-lost Halloween decorations, the koi nobori I got back when I was an ALT, and the mysterious missing tub of Sky's old toddler clothes. The good news? I'm not crazy. There really was another tub of clothes. And also? I found 5 more awesome Japanese t-shirts. The bad news? Stow has already outgrown half of it.  And also, oh my gosh, how much shopping I did for that first child!

All the stuff that doesn't fit Stow.
While I was at it, I also tried to get through the closetful of stuff I'd left when I went off to to get married. I'm pretty sure I don't need the old Beta tape of my favorite television shows from junior high. Also think I can go on without the copies of my grad school applications or xerox copies of every single reading from my Master's program. I also managed to get rid of two boxes of books I'll never read again, my financial records from 1997-2001, a high school creative writing journal (shudder), and all the material I collected for my post-college job search (I graduated in 1994, so I think it was time). I didn't manage to purge myself of any of the following, however: every post-high school paper I've ever written, ten bookshelves of my favorite novels, four old license plates, or every t-shirt I've ever bought. In the end, after six hours of work, I left only a couple of boxes on the pallets in the storage room and stuff in just half of the closet. One of these trips, I'm hoping to make it back with our wedding china, which went into my closet the day after our wedding and has been there ever since.

A girl can dream, can't she?


The shirts:

Sometimes the hyphen really matters.

Existential guilt from a toddler tee.

If existential guilt isn't your thing, how about some good old unintentional sexist nationalism (complete with a misplaced apostrophe)?

Sorry, even the big doe-like eyes can't make this guy cute.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Epic Summer Saga 4: Four Eyes

A couple of months ago, after finishing a homework assignment, Sky rubbed his eyes and mentioned that he had a headache.

"Can you see the chalkboard at school?" I asked.

"Not really. That's why I sit in front."

The next day, I asked Mrs. N about this and she confirmed he seemed not to be able to see. I had absolutely no idea.

Given end of school year activities and the tight schedule at the optometrist's office, another month passed before we got Sky's vision evaluated. By then, I figured we should check Pink P's, too. If nothing else, it'd save me a trip later.

You know how the chart has a big E at the top and then gradually gets smaller? Well, Sky could kind of make out the E and then nothing else at all. As I realized just how little he could actually see, I wondered why he never mentioned it to me. I mean, he always seemed to be able to make out the details of television shows and movies with no trouble.  Then it occurred to me that he probably didn't know he couldn't see. Which made me feel worse.

The chart on the far right approximates what Sky sees without glasses. Whenever I need to feel guilty, I just refer to this image.
The doctor wanted to know if the change in vision happened suddenly because apparently that matters. Of course, I had no idea. I mean my kid's only seeing 20/100 and if I hadn't picked up on his headache comment, I may have never known. We (rather arbitrarily) decided it must've happened gradually (to make me feel better).

When Pink P realized Sky needed glasses, she started to whine, "I want glasses, too!" She even added a stomp of her foot for effect.  Of course, I wanted to tell her that glasses are a pain and it's much better if you have naturally good eyesight. But since one kid was already on his way to getting them, I decided against it.

Thirty minutes and four eye dialations later, we left the optometrist with two new eye glasses prescriptions. Myopia for him and an astigmatism for her.

On Monday, we brought home two new pairs of glasses. Sky's, which he'd picked immediately and perfectly on the first try, look like they have always been there. His ability to choose the right pair of glasses so instinctively was kind of amazing. Pink P chose purple but only because they didn't have pink. She inherited a particularly Japanese nose, so her choices were limited to the glasses that stand even the slightest chance of staying on her face.

As we drove home from the optometrist, we discussed proper eyewear care. I learned the hard way that it's important to be specific about the care of new support devices. If your shoe falls off at the park, for example, you should always make sure your arch support is still in the shoe when you put it back on. Always. Otherwise, your mom gets to spend 45 minutes baking in the sun as she combs every inch of the playground, dodging filthy, rabid-looking children in a desperate search for a tiny black plastic thing that costs approximately $50 per square inch. Not that that actually happened to Pink P last week or anything. And not that she said to me afterwards, "Mommy, you never told me I needed to check on them before."

Anyway, these are the eye glasses rules:

  1. Leave them on your face unless you are bathing or sleeping. 
  2. When you take them off of your face, put them in the same place every time. 
  3. Never place them lens down.
  4. As much as possible, try not to get hit in the face when wearing them. 

Honestly, if I could get Ren to follow the first two rules on this list, I would not have spent approximately a month of my life looking for his glasses. Luckily, the kids hate looking for his glasses as much as I do, so I think these rules might actually stick with them.

With the rules clearly articulated, things seemed to get off to a good start. The first night, when I got into bed, I found two small pairs of glasses, properly cased, and sitting on the window sill where I put mine. The next morning, when a nervous Pink P went to her old preschool for summer camp, the awesome teachers there handled it perfectly. She came home proud of her glasses and fiddling with them much less.

The first (and--spoiler alert!--last) night

For the briefest of instances, I thought this whole glasses transition might turn out to be no big deal. But then we lost a pair. It only took 32 hours (which is about 8 hours more than I thought it would take).  It turns out Pink left hers at Grandma and Grandpa's, but it required several conversations and several grown-ups searching for close to an hour to finally find them.

The conversations went something like this:

"Pink, did you have your glasses on when we got into the car?"
"Do you remember when you took them off?"
"No. I didn't take them off."


"Do you think you left them at Grandma and Grandpa's house?"
"Do you remember where you took them off?"
"No. I didn't take them off."


"Pink, we really need to find them. New glasses cost a lot of money."
"How much?"
"Hundreds of dollars."
"A thousand?"
"No, not a thousand."
"Oh." (Totally unimpressed)

Apparently her glasses mysteriously disappeared right off her face, but that's okay because they cost less than a thousand dollars, and everybody knows if it's not a thousand dollars it's practically nothing at all. On the bright side, we probably won't have a chance to get those glasses back from my parents until least next week, so for a little while anyway, I know exactly where they are.


I went out with a friend last night. When I got home, I saw this placed perfectly at eye level right as I walked in the door:

So, yeah, these glasses are going to be a lot of fun. I can tell already.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Image: Eye chart from

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Epic Summer Saga 3: How Can Video Games Lead to Meltdown? Let Me Count the Ways

Any parent to boys, especially boys with Asperger-ish tendencies, knows that video games can be a blessing and a curse. Nothing short cuts sensory overload and anxiety-induced meltdowns quite like a screen full of computer graphics. Then again, nothing can trigger a meltdown quite like my kid's obsession with games like Mine Craft.  Just over a week ago, Sky got an upgrade on Mine Craft. Things have been hellish ever since. Here's a list of meltdown triggers since then:

1. Four words: revert to factory settings

The day after Sky got his upgrade, his Kindle Fire inexplicably uninstalled itself. Apparently Sky had no idea something like this could happen. How could technology fail him so? Oh, the horror! Oh, the injustice! Oh. My. Gosh. I've never seem him meltdown so quickly and so thoroughly as he did when he turned on his Kindle to discover a black screen.  The apps, the books, the everything? Gone. Pfft. Vanished without a trace. And he was inconsolable. In the end, I had to promise him a day of unlimited play time once the Kindle was fixed (thus setting myself up for the next major cause for meltdown...) just to keep him from hyperventilating.

2.  Kindle Free Time

Do you guys know about this app? You pay $3 a month, and then you get access to tons of free kids books, games, apps and movies. More importantly, though, you get the ability to set usage time limits. We love it. Sky, not so much. Sky's Kindle is set to allow unlimited access to books, but his app usage is limited to an hour a day in the summer. Ironically, we thought putting Free Time onto Sky's Kindle would help eliminate the constant negotiations we endured when he played the DS.

Ah, nope. According to Sky, using Kindle Free time = torture. He even polls his friends to see if their parents are as mean as we are. According to Sky NONE of his friends have limits set on their gaming. This may actually be true. I've asked several and only found one other parent who seems to have some means of controlling how much her kid games.  Maybe those kids don't get as obsessed with games as mine. Maybe their parents don't care how much time they spend glued to a screen. I'm not sure, but I do know that Sky thinks we must be the meanest, most strict parents in like ever.

Major meltdown number two came when I told Sky he could only play for three hours the day after Ren fixed the Kindle instead of the initial all day I'd originally promised. See, I figured it would take  Ren a couple of days to get it fixed, but actually, it only took an hour. So, the next morning, when I gave the Kindle back to Sky, I explained that he would get three hours instead of the usual one since he'd missed play time the day before. Silly me thinking he'd adjust to the change, thinking he meant it when he said he understood why the daily limit was (an incredibly generous) three hours. Silly me, when I was shocked by his meltdown.

3. Taking Away the Device

After two consecutive days of meltdown, on the third day, I suggested that he take a break from his Kindle.


I mean, I didn't even have the chance to talk him through the pros of giving it up for a day or two. Ren and I were headed out of town, and I knew I couldn't leave a highly meltdown-prone Sky with my parents. But, I also couldn't give in and give him his Kindle after such bad behavior the days before. So, I told him he could play his DS a little.

And, he played non-stop pretty much the entire time we were gone.  I don't know about you, but when I leave my kids with someone else, I don't expect them to strictly enforce all of our rules, especially the ones about how the kids spend their free time. So, by the time we got back, Sky had played DS for hours and hours.  I suppose this wouldn't have been a big deal, except that it was Father's Day.

4. Father's Day Cards

Ren and I spent Father's Day weekend driving to our new city to close on our new house. Six hours each way, with a house closing, house cleaning, and construction preparation sandwiched in between. When we finally got home, it was 8:30 and time for the kids to go to bed. Sky didn't even realize we'd returned because he was so obsessed by his DS. But, as soon as I was able to get him away from his game, he realized that he hadn't finished the Father's Day card he'd started making hours before.


How could we have gotten home so soon? Why didn't Big Sissy make him stop playing his game? Why didn't someone remind him to color it? Why, oh why, was Father's Day ruined by this ill-fated turn of events?

The cover of the Father's Day card Sky didn't finish. It's a super hero with a vacuum, and really, I can't think of a better homage to Ren than this.
By the time we got him through the Great Father's Day Meltdown of 2013, I was convinced that everything had the potential to cause video-game-related meltdowns. This made me more determined than ever to get him away from his games for awhile.

Thankfully, finally, on day five, Sky agreed he needed put his devices away** for the day. And, we had a great day, a great one!

**TODAY'S PSA: Apparently, one must say "put them away" and NOT "put them into time out." Even though these are the exact same thing in practice, one phrase causes meltdowns and the other does not.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Epic Summer Saga, Part 2 - It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

"Sky hit Emma in the face." 

I didn't expect to be confronted outside the door of performing arts camp by the rather large and not terribly friendly father of one of the girls in Sky's group. We know Emma from school, and church, and swim class, and just about everywhere else kids their age  hang out. So I knew there had to be more to the story.

"Did you hit her?" I asked Sky.

"Yeah because she hit me," he replied morosely. In the background Emma whined a "nuh-uuuuuh."

"Can you tell me what happened?" I continued, ignoring her protestations, trying to keep my focus on him. 

One thing I've learned about Sky is that after years of having people not understand his language processing issues, he's used to not being heard. So, it's important to give him the space and time he needs to tell his side of the story.

"I had my elbows on the back of her chair doing this (mimics bouncing up and down) and she slapped my arms, so I did this  (mimics returning a slap/pushing her hand away) and accidentally hit her in the face." 

He obviously felt bad about it and was worried I wouldn't believe him (he gets that from people a lot, even though he's one of the most honest people you will ever meet).

Since I know Sky never hits people on purpose (except  his sister--that's another story), and since I know Emma has a history of trying to get her classmates into trouble, I was pretty sure Sky was telling the truth. I also knew that neither Emma or her father was likely to believe this to be the case. So, I loudly reminded Sky to be careful and told both kids to work on keeping their hands to themselves. 

Then we walked away.

I'm not sure what Emma's dad hoped to gain from his fairly aggressive "communication" style. And, really, I don't care. All I can ever do in a case like that is listen to my kid and help him make the best behavioral choices possible. But, to tell you the truth, the whole incident thrilled me because, you guys, Sky stood up for himself and explained what had happened in a timely and appropriate manner.

It was freaking amazing!

Giddy from such clear progress, my bubble quickly burst a few minutes later when Sky announced, "I don't like theater camp. They're mean there." 

My experience with Sky tells me that when he doesn't like something, it's indicative of one of two things: 1) someone is being mean to him, or 2) he doesn't understand what's going on. Problem is, a lot of times, he can't quite identify and articulate the problem. 

Still, I had to try, so I asked, "Why, what happened?"

"They're mean."

"All of them?"



"The staff. She keeps pulling me by the arm even though I don't understand what she said. It hurts." (Now, I could've freaked out right here. Believe me, it crossed my mind. It's bad enough people tend to assume Sky is being a pain in the a**, but I hate it when they treat him meanly. Still, I knew if I freaked out here, I wouldn't get to the bottom of what was going on, so I kept asking questions.)

"So, just one person,  right?"


"Do you know her name?"

"No, but she's one of the younger ones." (Ugh, does anyone else have this problem? He's terrible with names!)

"Did you tell her you don't like it when she does that?"


"You have to tell her you don't like it. And also that you don't understand what she's saying. Then if she still does it, you have to tell the person in charge."

Here's the thing. I can't always be there. I wish I could. I wish I could tell people to stop being idiots and to embrace difference and to teach their kids not to be jerks. But, I can't. What I can do is teach Sky how to find his voice and the words he can use to advocate for himself.

So, we went over it a few times. He was nervous, but the next day, when he signed in a camp, he told the woman in charge: "There's a staff. I don't know her name. But she doesn't know I can't understand her, and she gets mad and pulls me by the arm. It hurts, and I don't like it. Can you tell her not to do it?"

And, by gosh, they did. 

And fast.


By now, you're probably thinking we've got this all figured out. You may even be worried I'm going to run out of blog topics. Have no fear, because four days after these two amazing communication feats, I had to take Sky out of tennis lessons. He was so overwhelmed by all the new people and the various types of sensory input that he spent the entire hour walking around the court fiddling with tennis balls. He rolled them. He kicked them. He bounced them. He tried to stand on them. In fact, he did everything but hit them with a tennis racket. There are times to persist, and there are times to cut your losses, and when he almost got hit in the head by someone else's racket (which he never saw) for the third time, I knew it was time to walk away.

Maybe next year.

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Epic Saga, Part 1

It's June 10th. That means we're ten days deep into the kids' summer vacation. Ten days. Then why does it feel like I've lived through an epic saga? No, really. I need someone to explain it to me. How is it that these last ten days have felt more like a thousand?

Looking back, I guess there might be a good explanation for this.

First, there was the garage sale. For reasons not entirely clear to me, I decided to have my get-rid-of-as-much-as-possible-before-moving garage sale the first weekend of June. This coincided nicely with the last week of school and Pink P's dance recital. Being new to the whole dance-mom thing, it never occurred to me that I'd spend three nights the last week of school sitting in the auditorium trying to keep a preschooler occupied while we waited.

You know what keeps little girls quiet? Minnie Mouse on the iPhone.
Have you ever watched preschoolers dance together on stage? It's kind of like a game of telephone. Whichever kid performs with the most conviction starts to influence the dance moves of those around her. In turn, those kids influence the kids nearest them. Then, the first kid, who was probably doing okay initially, realizes everyone else is doing something different and starts to imitate the girls next to her. By the end of the dance all the girls have stopped and are chewing nervously on their fingernails. It happens almost every time. Someone should study this, really. I think it'd make a great dissertation topic. And I'm totally qualified to choose your dissertation topic since I already wrote one. That's how it works.

The garage sale started early the morning after the dance recital, so I stayed up until 2 a.m. getting ready for it and then spent about 10 hours each day that weekend manning the sale. Fortunately, Big Sissy came down to help. Turns out she may have missed her calling as a retail associate. That girl could sell you a box of old receipts if she wanted to. In the end, we sold about 80% of the stuff we wanted to get out of our lives. Though we did have a couple of unfortunate hangers-on. Does anyone want an old computer monitor that weighs approximately 6 tons or queen-size box springs? They're free! All you have to do is come pick them up.

Shhh, don't tell Ren I sold his spice rack. You know, the one he never used that took up valuable counter space.
Garage sales always turn out to be pretty educational. As usual, I was reminded that people will buy just about anything if it's priced right. I sold a collapsible wardrobe that was missing its cover, and Big Sissy sold a window decorating kit straight from the 1970s. Interestingly, people had trouble thinking outside the box. No one wanted my out-of-season Halloween costumes or Christmas dishes. And one couple decided against my box springs because "they needed a mattress, too." (If anyone can explain that logic to me, I'd appreciate it!) And, while the grandmother who aggressively whipped her grandson in front of my children made me wonder about the future of humanity, the three boys (age 7, 11, and 16) buying baby clothes gave me hope. They were taking advantage of the nationwide rummage sale that happened to be running through our town to buy little boy clothes for their uncle who was about to become a father. Have you ever seen three kids shopping for baby clothes? No? Me, neither. It was super sweet and not a little heart-breaking.

Nothing like a garage sale to help you realize you may need to learn to let go sooner next time.
So, we survived the first weekend of summer vacation. Just 12 more weekends to go!

Epic Summer Part 2
Epic Summer Part 3
Epic Summer Part 4

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guess Who's 2?

So I uncovered another Japanese t-shirt. Poor Stow. I made him wear this even though it's two inches too short.

Space Trip: The Original Flight. It may not be too long before ordinary people travel in space. (I'm proud of this person's grammar. They clearly paid attention in junior high English classes).


Speaking of Stow, you know what's awesome? When Stow sneaks into the pantry and figures out how to open a brand-new container of chocolate soy milk. Even better? When he dumps the whole thing out on the floor that doubles as the cellar door. Granted, the whole idea of a cellar door in the floor of the pantry is ridiculous, but, hey, the house is over 100 years old so it can have its cellar door wherever the heck it wants!

Here's the thing: gravity stinks when there's a hole in the floor covering a damp, cobwebbed filled cellar that's the perfect place  for chocolate soy milk to flow. Of course, this all happened while Sky and I were out, so Ren was thrilled, let me tell you. By the time we got home, he was sitting on the sofa in resignation, staring off into space in his chocolate-milk-covered t-shirt.

Meanwhile, Stow was stripped down to the diaper watching PBS with Pink P who seemed oblivious to the whole thing.

"Stow, no play pantry food!" I said, leaving out the prepositions the way the speech therapist suggested.

"Ooookaaaaay," he replied with an impeccable sense of timing and just the right tone, remorseful yet not pandering.

It's hard to be mad when your speech-delayed toddler gives the perfect response.

I had to bribe Sky with 10 magnets to get him to climb through the cobwebs and under the cellar steps (he was the only one who could fit) to mop up all the chocolate milk . Who knew one tiny carton could turn into a major catastrophe at the hands of a recently-turned-2-year old? All I can say is that we're looking forward to living in a newer house where there aren't holes in the floor and where we stand a better chance of keeping delinquent toddlers out of our pantry. And, if this week is any indication, we'll probably also be pretty glad when Stow turns three.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Awards Day

Awards Day gets me every time. Part of it, of course, is that school is ending, leaving a vast unknown ahead of us. Before I had kids, I wasn't great with change. Then I had a kid with ASD, and change is even more anxiety-provoking. Besides the yawning abyss of summer vacation immediately before us, I also know that most of what we accomplished during the school year will need to be re-accomplished come August, and the thought of this makes my heart race.

So maybe I don't always go into Awards Day with the best attitude. I mean, I appreciate the idea of rewarding accomplishments and noting things that are notable. Thing is, my kid isn't going to get most improved. He will probably never be the best citizen in the class. And, his Christian attitude is easy to miss when it's camouflaged by his personal space issues and his tendency to say whatever's on his mind regardless of whether it's appropriate or not. He won't even have perfect attendance since he misses an hour every Wednesday for speech and OT (even though we get up extra early that day so he can get most of it finished before his classmates are even done with breakfast).

Sky's accomplishments are no less noteworthy than his classmates', though he will probably never be rewarded for them. He interrupted his teacher less this year. He had fewer meltdowns and panic attacks. He started to better grasp the concepts of personal space and turn-taking in conversations. He didn't hate school.

I know I'm supposed to take solace in the fact that he's making progress, but it's still hard to sit through Awards Day and not daydream about how things could be different. Part of the time, I find myself wishing Sky's struggles didn't distract from his learning experience, and part of the time I wonder if he has some hidden untapped genius like the Indiana kid who turned out to be an astrophysicist. I know I'm being ridiculous and that I just need to keep encouraging Sky's strengths and helping him overcome his weaknesses, but sometimes it's hard to stifle those thoughts especially when award-day activities slip from the first hour into the second one.

Fortunately, it seems like whenever I find myself obsessing about these things, Sky turns around and does something that reminds me we're doing okay as his parents.

Today, it was this:

In case you're wondering (if you aren't now, you will be by the end--trust me), he hijacked the Mary Engelbreit stamps I had in the garage sale pile. Of course, you will have to get to the end to find out why the robot got an "F" on his attempt to rule the world. And, I know some of you probably think I should stop posting these stories by my 8 year-old, but you see what he wrote in red. How can I say no to that?

I love two things about this picture:  the sense of perspective and motion, and the fact that the guy in the picture is making a Japanese sound effect when he flies through the air.

The good news is the robot seems to have an on-off switch. The bad news is that I have no idea how Sky knows the "I believe I can fly" reference. 

Some of this feels vaguely like Iron Giant, which would explain a lot. But not everything. I mean, where does he get this stuff? We don't let him watch much that's PG even, and besides one of the Star Wars films, he's not seen any of the stuff most boys his age have watched.

This is where the story initially ended, but I had more work to do, so I encouraged him to keep going. You can tell me whether you think it was a good idea. Also, in case you're wondering, the X's on the eyes are never a good thing.

More X eyes and smashed buildings. 

Notice the bird on this page and the one before it?

I kinda love this alien. It's as if he's a cross between Gumby and the Marshmallow Man from Ghost Busters.

But he's totally bad ass.

Even when running away.

Of course he was. 

Of course he did.

Of course they did.

I had to ask about this one. Apparently this little robot can only shoot from his feet. You'd think that might be a disadvantage.

But it turns out it's not.

I don't know about you, but I think the ME illustrations might add a layer of meaning that wasn't entirely intended.
Before I had a chance to post this story, Sky went to speech and OT and wrote this addition. I really heart it on a number of levels:

About the Author 
Sky grew up in [small town, state] with his family. He loves robots and is always curious about how they work. He loves to look at the detail in explosions. He likes to hear them too. He also loves to build and draw; that's why he made this book on June 3, 2013. He also has autism. He never lets autism get in the way of things, even though it's hard sometimes. Autism has made him really good at some things too, especially drawing. He made more books and comic books, like "The Wagon" and "The Wagon 2 Weirdo." He's very good at origami. His dad named Ren is Japanese. His mom Moe is American. He lived in Japan for a few years when he was young. He loves the trains in Japan, almost as much as he loves robots!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

An Unbecoming Post in Which I Feel Sorry for Myself

There are probably thousands, if not millions, of ways life has not gone how I thought it would. And, for the most part, I've learned to let go of my expectations since things tend to turn out way more fun and interesting than how I imagined them anyway.

I mean, I didn't expect to spend most of my life in the Midwest. I didn't think I'd be a stepmom or end my tennis career with a torn ACL. I didn't expect to have a kid on the autism spectrum or to deal with life-threatening food allergies.  I could go on forever (but I won't) about all the things that I didn't see coming. I will say, though, that even when things haven't gone like I thought they would, something better has happened instead. I'm not a huge quoter of scripture, but I've often felt my life with Ren has been filled with the "immeasurably more than we ask or imagine" of Ephesians 3:20 (which happens to be the bible verse used in our wedding message).

Having a kid on the autism spectrum stinks, but it's also really interesting. Sky sees things so differently that it's kind of like living with someone on a never-ending trip. He's one non sequitur after another. And his quirkiness is often just enough to keep all of us on our toes.*** Despite his challenges, I'm sure Sky will become a functional member of society. Who knows, given the way he sees, hears, and conceptualizes the world around him, he may even do something amazing.

In other words, I have hope that Sky's ASD (and Pink P and Stow's allergies and asthma) are manageable and ultimately won't define them. But what I don't have much hope for is Ren's back. Ren's back is the shits, you guys. I don't think I'm exaggerating here. He can't stand for longer than a minute, and he can't walk more than 30 feet unless he's pushing something. He looks like a little old lady with a walker, which would be cool if he was old and if we didn't have three small kids. I mean, really.

Obviously, this means he also can't lift, which is totally awesome when facing an inter-state move. Yeah, it's inconvenient, but much worse than that is the fact we are staring down a much different future than we'd imagined. Ren and I started dating because of our shared love of hiking and camping. He convinced me that I wouldn't regret marrying an older man when he ran to the top of the mountain to check out the view for me (and then ran back down to tell me we should check it out together, which we did). I'm guessing we're never going to hike or camp again, so our kids will never know that part of our lives. Ren can't run or do judo or any other physical activity he used to love. He can't fly or drive for long distances. He can't give the kids piggy back rides or lift the baby. There are a lot of things he used to do that he won't be able to do any more, and it's heartbreaking to realize that the kids will never know those things about him.

Most days we try not to think about all we have lost since the back went south nearly 2 years ago. But with each back surgery (two so far) and the subsequent deterioration of his overall condition, it's hard to stay positive.  I'm not sure what to say to the kids when they tell me they can't remember Daddy ever being able to swing them around and carry them on his shoulders. All they know now is the daddy who can't come to their dance recitals and gymnastics demonstrations because he can't stand to sit for that long.

We haven't given up, not by a long shot, but I'm afraid it might be time to entertain the possibility that this is as good as Ren's back is going to get. And, I'm sure one day I will look back and be able to see that "immeasurably more" that I so wholeheartedly believe in. I'm just not quite there, yet.

***I'm not saying I'm glad he's autistic, I'm just saying that even though having an autistic kid is hard, it also leads to some really fascinating conversations.