A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Life Without The Net And Other Privileged Whining

We went nearly a solid week without internet and cable while we waiting for our service to be switched to a less douchebaggy company than the one that rhymes with "boo hearse". In a week you have a lot of time to realize how much time you spend on the internet.
You realize that there IS a way to get TV shows without a cable box, and it involves exposed co-ax, aluminum foil and pie plates. It's not ideal. After some modifications though, we actually could get about 50 channels. Not bad for actually free.
I watched a bit of Flying Nun and cringed at the lack of PC - the Korean girl named Kim Chi ...REALLY? You couldn't even give her a better name than that? But still I was kind of giddy to watch the Flying Nun since I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it in 40 years.

We introduced my oldest son to our Kids in the Hall DVD collection and he suddenly realizes what half the stuff we say ALL THE TIME means. (Onions is all I eat). And we broke out some old "little kid" staples from the boys toddler days, such as Teletubbies DVDs which the twins still loved.

We were watching one of those DVDs when a little segment came on with some children in South Africa who were doing the wash. They stomped the clothes around in the soapy water, scrubbing them and getting them nice and clean, then they ran to get a bucket of fresh water for rinsing. They laughed and giggled as they rinsed the clothes and played in the water at the same time. That's when the oldest boy pipes up, "Mom that's so sad. How can they be happy?"

I knew what he meant, but let him talk , "Look how poor they are Mom. That's so sad."

"Are they happy?" I asked him He said he thought that they were. "Are they healthy and safe?" He said he thought they seemed so. I noted their mother was nearby, "She's right there letting them help, but she's not left them alone - so they seem well loved right?" He agrees.

"So why is it sad?" I asked him He answered because they were doing their wash in buckets.

I asked again why that means they are sad. I noted that they seemed pretty happy. He agreed but then looked confused, "How can they be happy when they are that poor?"

"Children very often don't know they're poor, especially when they live the same way as everyone else around them. THINGS don't make people happy, not real happiness." I told him.

He thought about that. "I guess you're right, I miss not having internet and cable but we've still had fun and stuff these days."


But I'll admit this, there is a part of me that wishes I COULD get that mom a washing machine, and the electricity to run it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How a Mom of Four Works Out

First of all you have to move the rocking horse, Hug Me Elmo and sundry Hot Wheels out of the way. Next I ask the twelve year old to work the PS4 so I can use the DVD. Turn on the work out I want to do, and begin. It goes like this.

  • Oldest son gets out trumpet and begins to play.
  • Instructor gives slow motion jab - cross motions
  • Miles runs up behind me and grabs my butt
  • Begin working out, shake off Miles and try to shut out background noise
  • Hear Julia say "I hate that sound that trumpet IS TOO LOUD"
  • Ignore, focus, step step jab step step jab
  • Louis says "Mom I can't focus, Charlie is pooping."
  • Ignore, Cross punch, cross, punch
  • Julia starts whining about the noise - I yell at everyone to leave me alone and promise to deal with Charlie in 18 minutes
  • Step Step kick jab step step kick jab
  • Julia brings her crayons and coloring books to the living room angrily
  • I announce that everyone who isn't Charlie has to leave the living room now 
  • Side kick jab side kick jab
  • Julia arrives back in the living room and puts two q-tips in her ears to protest the noise
  • Hook, Jab, Hook, Jab, Hook jab, Back Kick, Side Kick
  • Oh god did she just say Capoeira? Step step back step step back jab...
  • Hook Jab Step Step Hook Jab Step Step
  • "Mom, are you dance fighting?"
  • No
  • "Is there such a thing as dance fighting?"
I don't even know...
Oh, apparently there is.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sunny Days at Cold Lakes

We actually live quite close to a really lovely lake. We never go. I feel like we should go up there more, it's about 15 minutes away and it's amazing. The sun came out this past weekend and it wasn't a single digit temperature so we decided to go exploring a bit.
The kids all seem to do better when we get out of the house. Being in the house stagnates us, we get cranky and annoyed with one another. Yet with the same company in the fresh air we're like different, happier people.
Miles had become a fan of all jackets that have hoods. He loves to have his hood up even when it's not particularly necessary. However it was quite windy, so he was really better prepared than most of us for the icy air blowing in off the lake.
We stopped by the water for a snack of beef jerky and ridiculous gas station pastries (BIG TEXAS I do LOVE YOU!) and just spent some time just...BEING. I love the sound of air whooshing through the big Georgia pines.
We saw the dam which we hadn't really taken in before, and drove over it. Louis obviously thought that was awesome. Ok I did too. The twins love taking walks even when they don't, it seems to relax them even though Charlie will fuss if we walk for too long. Mostly he wants to pick up sticks and crumble them in a world where no one bothers him about it. Nature walks are the perfect place for that.
And as for us, I think sometimes we just like to walk and watch our children discover the world. Some days that's as good as it gets.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Innate Sexism of Four Year Olds

Well, we're not Brad and Angelina but I think we've tried really hard NOT to be the sexist parents, forcing boy toy and girl toy rules, or who can wear what etc. Julia carries a purse full of Hot Wheels. Louis was the Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween when he was three. He had a baby doll and a baby stroller for it. Julia loves trains. In fact, we've never drawn those lines but let them gravitate toward whatever toys and things they were interested in. Mostly boys were interested in boy toys and the girl was interested in girl toys. Sometimes not. Miles still loves dolls.
Lately the girl has been telling us what's for girls and what's for boys. She's using GIRL toys and GIRL stuff to taunt her brother "You play with girl toys."
This isn't a behavior she's learned here. Nor anywhere else because she only plays with her brothers so, where? Is this a home grown insult? Do girls just naturally know where to sting a man in his pride?
At first we addressed this behavior explaining it intelligently, "We don't say that, there are not girl toys nor boy toys - toys are for everyone." But she doesn't seem to be stopping. She sees a commercial for something and shows me which one she wants, because it's for girls. 
I think I had a moment of clarity with this situation this morning, there was a commercial for some stupid stuffed animal that lights up, plays songs, holds your pajamas and does your yard work and she tells me she wants the unicorn, "Because unicorns are for girls." So I gently responded, "But everyone can love unicorns. Boys can love unicorns." Her answer was, "But they are my favorite."

So I asked her if she meant that unicorns are for HER? She laughed and said "Of course silly!" 

I think she's defining what she likes, rather than making sweeping declarations of what defines her sex. She's telling us what defines JULIA. She still carries cars in her purse, and has dinosaurs eat her princesses. But she's figuring out who she is, and what it means to be the little girl she is. 

We didn't really go through this with the boys, maybe it's a girl thing. Maybe it's a Julia thing. I'm not sure. What I do know is, I'd like one of those unicorns too. Because unicorns are for MOMS.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Scones Or Thick Cookies

I've seen some recipes floating around for making scones out of cake mix for a few months. I got this bright idea of making some for Christmas breakfast and picked up a red velvet/green velvet combo cake mix from the grocery before the holiday.
Then life happened and I didn't do it.
I finally made them this past weekend and the jury is sort of OUT on this. I liked them and thought they were good. The husband thinks they were just thick cookies. I do agree that they're not as...dense or something, as traditional scones. So how's it work?
I modded this recipe for mine following the baking instructions but not using sprinkles etc.
The mixing bit was fine, I followed it to the exact instructions and did in fact get a dough I could roll into a dough and then press flat.
It is, however, some of the tackiest dough I've ever touched. It's like velcro. You touch it, you're one with it. Also red dye and green dye stain. Prepare yourself for that bit and be ready to work fast. I used a butter knife to make my wedges which didn't look quite perfect but I thought were good enough.
Mostly wedge shaped as you can see. And these would've been festive for Christmas breakfast wouldn't they? I'm such a dork. I have to do better next year.
I felt like they came out really well, however. Mostly scone shaped, and possibly a bit fluffier than I anticipated but that's because of the baking powder in the cake mix obviously. And not a hardship to me.
Because these are chocolate, despite their color, we opted for our traditional butter cream icing. I had said we'd drizzle them with icing. I got some help and perhaps drizzle was just a suggestion.

I'm not sure if they are scones or just thick cookies. Or are scones simply thick cookies anyway? Regardless, I thought they were good. I took some to work, people at work thought they were good.

Verdict? Good.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Elvis Day

Yesterday was Elvis day, at my house that's a combo of the day Elvis was born and the day we got engaged. We celebrate it every year, even in just small ways or just acknowledging it. It gets harder to do, as most things seem to, as life goes on - simply because life keeps getting in the way.

I started my morning at Charlie's school at 745 am for what I thought was an IEP meeting. Your IEP meetings are where you talk about what services your child is getting, what services your child WILL be getting and stuff like that. It's boring as crap mostly, because you listen to three hours of sentences that sound like this "With three or less manual interventions Charlie will follow a three step instruction 70% of the time." That is no joke. It goes on for hours. There's probably some important stuff at the end but I've zoned out by the time we get there. I have a little mental list of what's important TO ME to talk about and let them report the data they've gathered and make sure he's not getting LESS of ANY service. There is always a general education teacher who has to sit in and I always formally excuse her as there is no way my Charlie is going to be mainstreamed into regular ed ANY time soon. I consider it a mercy act. You're welcome random teachers.

But yesterday was a re-evaluation. That's' where the school system psychologist has come in and is requalifying Charlie for his services - and re-diagnosing him. It's not really a big deal on the outside. There are no secrets here I know Charlie is severely autistic. He's in level 1 class, the most delayed.

The words that cause that moment of pain are always when they tell you what his level is - what age he's developed to. Charlie's RECEPTIVE language, the words he understands when you speak them, have DRAMATICALLY gone up. He's estimated at about 45 months of development. As a ten year old that's terrible. As a severely autistic ten year old that's really good. He understands you.

His expressive language skills continue to lag. When we put him in pre-k for autism they estimated Charlie at about 10 months old. He was four. That was hard to hear. I'd expected a similar result in his expressive language but no. He tests about approximately 28 months old. He's ten.

When I sat and thought about it I realized that's probably right. Short two word sentences, usually one word. That's about a two year old. While it's light years from where we've come it's still so heartbreaking. He's a giant two year old.

I guess they saw my face and the psychologist got super positive about his progress and how she feels he has a lot of capacity to learn and retain, he remembers things very well over long spans of time. That didn't make me feel any better. It should, but it's hard to feel positive about any of it sometimes.

We'd both planned to spend some romantic alone time when I got home from work, but alas Autism once again took ahold of our day and Charlie had a diaper incident. Let's just say the smell of a horrible diaper incident is the opposite of romance inducing.

I got to spend Elvis day with the five people I love best, however, regardless of the frustrations the day was tinged with.

And somehow I got a coffee and Starbucks and they put my name on my cup without asking which I'm calling magic because witchcraft seems unlikely. (I suppose the really friendly barrista could've known me but I seriously didn't recognize her - part of me is afraid she's someone I fired). The coffee was one of the highlights of my day.
But Happy Elvis day ONE DAY LATE to my husband. 1/8/2011 was a pretty good day. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Need for Someone to Blame

Autism is a weird thing. It's hard to get your mind around it's seeming lack of consistency. Actually that's a bad statement. It's absolutely inconsistent. That's the one thing you realize quickly. Take everything you know about logic and throw it away. It's hard to figure out. It's never the same. My kids do some things the same and some things completely differently.

It's caused by the unknown.

There's lots of things that are bad for us that impact our brains during development and those things are all around us. Why don't they impact everyone? Why only some? There have been lots of theories on which things they are that are the most troublesome, and some things have been dis-proven over the years.

The debates get hot and heavy, and rage & tear filled because of one simple reason. These are our children. We fear for our other children. We fear for your children. We want a reason and we want it to not be about us. I think that's just human, I know that the burden of being the reason my twins have such a disability is a huge one that I would struggle to knowingly bear.

I don't ever debate anyone for the reasons they think it exists. Ok well that might be a bit untrue, let's say I'm TRYING not to. It's a subject that no one has a casual opinion about. People are fervent in what they believe, and aren't afraid to rip your head off if you disagree with them. When you disagree with them, you're disagreeing with what gets them through the night you see.

They've figured out who to blame. And that helps them cope.

I cry as much as any special needs parent does, I can promise you that. But I don't rely on a spiritual reason for Autism. I don't believe that God has a plan that will reveal what all this means. That doesn't mean I think you shouldn't. It just means that it doesn't work for me. It doesn't make me feel any better to think that way, and so I don't.

So what do I rely on?

Nothing but myself and my husband. Very often my oldest son.

Who I blame?

No one.

That doesn't make me better it just makes me different. I've reached this point where blaming doesn't make it better. What I want is science to bring a real answer, and I want it figured out for REAL and I want it to stop happening to other people. I could sit here for a year and find links to studies that link developmental issues with this or that and the other thing. Chemicals are bad. Pollution is bad. Hell, MONSANTO is bad. I don't even dispute that.

What I need is for the Surgeon General to put on a package "Use of this product increases your risk of passing on Autism." I need iron clad science - like smoking and lung cancer. Why can't we get that?

I read an article by an MIT scientist person talking about Monsanto and Autism.  I need more science like this. More and more and more. But the truth is, as harrowing as that prediction is, we don't know - we need to keep studying. I don't need random conspiracy blogs and I definitely don't need Jenny McCarthy (no you don't get to backtrack Jenny sorry).

I want more people like that studying and giving us real science.

Because if we could just get someone real to blame, I could get behind the blame game (not that it would fix anything). Until then, I'm going to say that nature is cruel but they told me that nature said I would have no children, and I have four. So nature is really a confused thing.

And Autism sucks.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Lazy Days and Free Time

I've cut myself down to one cup of coffee a day. My children, however, are still 2 cup a day kids. So despite my own efforts to reduce my caffeine intake, they will pester me until I make a second or today THIRD cup. I get a sip or two and the three little ones steal it without apology. I don't even mind. They get pretty happy thinking they are stealing drinks, and it amuses me a little.
I wasted my day today doing a lot of nothing. I watched part of a movie I had barely heard of, all myself in the EARLY AM, and then spent the rest of the day either playing video games or playing with the kids.
I also napped. Did I mention the nap? The nap was amazing.
It rained and poured and it's going to do that all night. My accomplishment is that I emptied the dishwasher. I also accidentally erased a family in the Sims4 that I just spent three days creating. Oh well I'll do it all again and this time the dad won't die of shame from peeing his pants (maybe).

I didn't get anything productive done.

This was a pretty good day.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Yes It's A Pink Pig

People invariably say the same thing, you drove to LENNOX just to ride a 3 minute ride? Yes. We drove 45 minutes to ride a three minute train ride. We rode it twice though, so that's six minutes. Does that make it better? 
The Pink Pig is an Atlanta tradition of the best kind, whimsy and silly holiday fun. They run it on top of the parking deck at Macy's so we make the pilgrimage annually to ride the pig and hear the story of Priscilla and her quest to learn her place in life.
Priscilla, you see, isn't sure what her place in life is. But after sharing her fears with her mother, she realizes that being the Pink Pig at Macy's and letting children ride her is what she should do with her life. I'm not sure there is actually a lesson in that. 
There is a different story being told on the storyborards you view as you ride around, which is something about being confident about what you're good at and we also learn that pigs through HUGE feasts and eat turkey. They also dress quite fancily.
Other important things we learn from Macy's Pink Pig? Well probably not much, except it's fun and it's family time together. Although Louis let me know that he thinks the Pink Pig is "really for little kids" I think even he, with his mature sensibilities, enjoyed it. 
See you next year, Pink Pig.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Another Year Over And A New One Just Begun

We have a standing New Year's Eve tradition of making S'mores in our fireplace (or in the microwave if it's JUST too hot for a fire) to share and watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve. It's a far cry from getting tickets to some hotel event and renting a room so we can stay up all night and drink & party. 
I prefer this, I have to admit.
I think it's one of the great advantages of having your kids a bit later in life. I don't regret NOT getting to go out and party, I already did all of that. In fact, the idea of going out and staying up till 3 or 4 is downright unappealing. I stayed up till almost 12:30 (because I wanted to see Elton John darnit!) and then I put my kids in bed and crashed myself. I had one glass of pink champagne because WHY NOT and really slept like the dead. 
I don't have any resolutions this year. I started some things I will keep going and there are things I need to do better and there are things I need to change but they aren't going to be resolutions because that to me makes me feel like I need to join a gym or something. (Ok I might need to but still no).
Well, maybe I have one resolution. I resolve that for 2015, I am going to make sure we create more moments like this:
And more moments like this:
There. That's my resolution. More of that. Less of not that.

Happy New Year.