Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Train Down...

We did one holiday train display right after Thanksgiving, and did our second one today. Only one more train display to go!

This guy has this entire train display in his front yard with multilevel tracks, tons of "scenes", and it's free. Most people mosey away happy after a few minutes, but us? We (along with some friends of ours) are there for at least 30 minutes
(would be longer if it were up to all of our boys), and the boys do not hide their enthusiasm.

Bubba was a little upset that the Coca-Cola train with the polar bears wasn't running today (apparently the owner had to simplify because he was having some medical tests done and had to have a friend help with the train system) but Mooser was ecstatic that the trolley was on the line. Since this was our third year doing this, I managed to grab a business card so that we can send the gentleman a card with a donation.

FYI, for local folks.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Moosie

Momma is sick today and Daddy is working until 9PM, so we should be very sad that today will not be a birthday extravaganza. But we don't have to worry, because you opened your presents this morning and you were excited about the toolbox (um, that we found downstairs) filled with a sink plunger and a level and a plastic scraper (um, yeah all from downstairs).

We gave you books and a calendar and a wii accessory box, and you were as happy as happy could be. You were opening presents with Bubba and Mommy and Daddy, and that was "extravaganza" enough for you.

Thank you for bringing that into our lives. Thank you for being in our lives. We love you.

I still can't believe you are FIVE. Five! I love you baby.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cotton-Eye Bubba?

No, even though it is possible that Bubba has pink eye, this post is not about that.

Bubba and Moosie received toy trucks that play music. Bubba loves these types of toys. He will play the music over and over and over until he nails it. And now that he has discovered the powers of YouTube, he will find the song and then listen to and analyze every version he can locate. His final step appears to be his performance/reenactment, complete with his own costume design.

For those of you who thought you couldn't hear that song even one more time on Christmas eve...believe me if I can hear it 30,000 times, clap to it, and dance to it, and still be smiling, then so can you!

I only had a little room left on my chip, so I just caught a you are lucky...this time! Notice Mooser tapping his toes trying not to call too much attention to himself. He also picked out his costume.

And seriously, look at my boys fingers on that fake guitar. I think he watched the YouTube videos so much he memorized the guitar pattern. He also picked up some dance moves that did not get captured. My boy has rhythm but he can't dance.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We Love the Wii

Until I can further divulge Christmas fun, enjoy Bubba boxing on the Wii.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Autism Night Before Christmas

After attending one of many family Christmas parties on Sunday, I thought the below appropriate to share. Bubba was overly excited, his one red ear glowing with Christmas cheer, sharing his Christmas ham with another kid's face. Moosie was like his momma and his lip quivered every time he was forced to enter the big room full of people. Ugh. People.

Boys in a "safe zone" with their cousin

Me in the corner

Boys doing their "Christmas poses"

I don't see eye to eye with everything alluded to in this poem, but there are quite a few lines that resonate with this here family with two boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. 'Tis true that my boys bring me great joy, but it's simply because they are wonderful exactly how they are (it's how the rest of word sees them that causes a stir).

Autism Night Before Christmas
by Cindy Waeltermann
(I couldn't get the original site to open up to link to the poem, so I am posting here for now.)

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift
The right color
And style
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come
But they don't understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.

"He needs discipline," they say
"Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent..."
And on goes the attack

We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side

We know what it's like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
Achievements, regressions...

But what they don't know
And what they don't see
Is the joy that we feel
Over simplicity

He said "hello"
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!

He peed on the potty
Who cares if he's ten,
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!

Others don't realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope

But what they don't see
Is the joy we can't hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride

We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,

But what they don't know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
Bring simplicity.

We don't get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings

Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.

They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky

So to those who don't get it
Or can't get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I'll assure you

That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You'll look at me
With respect, even shock.

You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you

That you won't say a thing
You'll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned.......

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas -- Sorta

This year I got everyone...

... a root canal. An unplanned one, that still hurts, and costs money we don't have. I suffered through the dentist. I cried. Apparently it was a "hot" tooth, so the anesthetic didn't work all of the way. I shook. I took a Xanax beforehand, and my daddy came and drove me home. He's a good daddy. But now I can't eat my favorite cookie, unless I eat them through a straw. Which I just might do.

...a cell phone bill that was a fat ol' mistake, and costs $300 we don't have. Turns out when we canceled our home phone to save money? Well that didn't work out so well. Hubby works for a cell phone company. And our cell phones are free. Well apparently his is free, and I get 1000 minutes for free. Didn't know that. But $300 dollars later, we figured it out. And his wonderful company (that I can't complain about because I don't want him to get fired right now) will not credit our account, but would've "fixed" it if I was a stupid customer as opposed to an employee's stupid wife. Oh, and yeah, we have to pay it in full, like right now, or they fire Hubby. And, yeah, since their pay periods are changing, they decided December should be the month they skip one paycheck. And because they really suck (in the nicest way possible), Hubby has to work from 7:30-5:00PM on Christmas Eve. Maybe not a big deal to some, but nearly all of our family stuff is on Christmas Eve. So if you buy a cell phone on Christmas Eve, I will try not to hate you.

...a Christmas card.

...and maybe, if I don't burn them all, some cookies. Not just any cookies, but my favorite cookies. Yeah, the ones I can't eat.

I feel a little selfish, because we got a Wii. For ourselves. But we spread that $250 far since me and our children are so lucky to have birthdays during the holiday season. So Happy Birthday Mommy. Merry Christmas Mommy, Daddy, Bubba, and Moose. Happy Birthday Mooser. Happy Birthday Bubba. Is it sad that we're wrapping up the remotes and cables separately to make it look like we have more gifts? Well, it was either that or wrapping up my tooth bits and shredded cell phone bill. Actually, I got some books and such at Goodwill for real cheap, so the boys should be happy. If they don't like it, they can kiss Santa's rosy red ass.

Hope every one knows I am not a bitter person, this is my screwed up sense of humor dealing with reality. But I'm not joking, unless you have lived under the same roof as me for 5 years or longer, you're getting a card. I know that sucks, and I am sorry.

Surprisingly though, me and my little family are super happy minus all of the piddly shit going on. And I am going to enjoy that fact rather than let commercialism get me down. At least I am going to try.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let's Review

So, reviewing the rules from Practice Christmas, I asked Bubba, "What do we say if we open a present and we don't like it?"

Without missing a beat as he concentrated on building his Lego dudes, "Thank you, and better luck next time."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Practice Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas traditions that I started with my boys is "Practice Christmas." (If you've only missed one year, it can still be a tradition, right?) A few days before Christmas we satisfy our impatient giving and receiving curiosities and we wrap and deliver one small present for each person in the family.

We then go over gift-giving and gift receiving etiquette, because well, this is fun and when I go over the rules on the way to people's houses, the boys know what the hell I am talking about.

After we go through the rules, we act out the scenarios and talk about them. Some years it helps, some years it doesn't. In any case, it's fun to open a present early. And the boys are excited. The rule part of the tradition ends when it becomes tedious and pointless, but I think we will always do an early gift as long as I can get away with it.

Gift-Giving Etiquette:

1) Look at the name tag. (Shit, I forgot this step this year!)
2) Softly hand the present to the person.
3) Let them open the present--do not rip the paper for them.
4) Take two steps back. (After our practice Christmas, I have determined this will be the most difficult for them, so be prepared to get laughing-spit on your face and your feet smooshed by some serious happy-dancing. I have determined this to be the best part for me because I am thrilled to see them so damn excited about someone else besides them getting a gift. So deal with the spittle and the bruised toes.)

Gift-Receiving Etiquette:

1) Wait with you hands in your lap. (Note that I don't care what their feet are doing!)
2) Do not open a present until Mommy and/or Daddy say you can.
3) Look at the name tag. (Shit, I forgot this step this year!)
4) Open the present (no restrictions on that one!).
a) If you do not like the present or you do not know what it is, say "thank you" and set the present down softly. Mommy and daddy will help you. You do not have to lie and say you like the present. Do not say "Thank you. I am not lying. I don't like your present."
b) If you like the present, say "thank you." Do not say "I like your present so much better than so-and-sos."
5) When the crazy people want to take your picture holding a present, do your typical "Christmas Picture" pose. (That is, Bubba looks like a monkey and Mooser looks drunk or is moving.)
6) Do not look around like greedy, disappointed children and ask "Where are the rest of the presents?"
7) Help throw away the paper before you open any boxes (and lose half of the pieces).
8) Give all of the crazy people with the big eye balls and cameras hugs and smile. (OK this one, for the most part I let them choose. I hate when people make the kids be physically affectionate because I hate it myself. I'll mention it, but I usually don't force it unless I think it means we can get the hell outta there faster.)

You may ask why so many "rules"? It's more important to me to set Bubba and Moose up for a pleasant Christmas and good reactions from all the crazy people staring at them as opposed to waiting for them to screw up and then teach 'em what to do (and have all the crazy people telling them how to behave).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Clues for Stimey

To further help the brainstorming process, these are places that would make sense to have "borrowed crap". But there is no room or really any sense to the madness.

This is the very ill-planned laundry room wedged in-between the garage door and kitchen. The washer and dryer are not in the picture, but there is no space by them. You can tell we utilize this space so well by the crap that is thrown in the narrow opening. To the left is the door to the garage, to the right is the door to the kitchen. The kitchen door opens onto the stairs that go to the basement (yeah, that's really safe, huh?).

And here is my bakers rack, the collector of all things important. The baskets (labeled by Mooser) hold 1) all of the boys' paperwork from school and 2) all of the paid bills and official mommy/daddy documents until all of it can be filed away. I know for a fact that each basket can hold a years' worth of stuff. The metal inbox is for all stuff requiring action, like bills. Doesn't it all look so clean and tidy?

To the right is the paper shredder that doesn't work. To the left is the basket that contains magazines and such. Underneath are containers that function as my "junk drawer". In fact, most of the little containers all over the bakers rack contain crap that I can't get rid of but don't know what to do with. And that little box on the main shelf.... yeah those are Christmas cards that I haven't touched.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Other People's Junk

I have a big problem, and I'm hoping you (yeah you Stimey) can fix it!

Dear Stimey,

Even though I am a longtime stalker at Stimeyland, I am a new reader of The Junk Pyramid. I am in need of your decluttering wisdom.

Because we are in close proximity to family and friends, we often accumulate other people's junk. I'm telling you, it knows where we live, and it knows how to find us! We have so much of other people's clutter in our house: food containers that eventually get washed that once contained the in-laws' leftovers we never asked for (or ate), toys that were 'borrowed' from a friend to ease a transition (and avert a temper tantrum), magazines and books that I supposedly have to read (but never will), clothes that were needed after an unexpected puking or expected mud puddle incident (I think those got laundered? hmmmm), and of course the fine-accumulating library books and movie rentals.

So we have all of this clutter we can't get rid of until we remember to return it. Yeah, that remembering part is hard. And the locating of the junk is even more difficult in the off chance we do remember.

So what do we do? Donating it all to Goodwill is not an option. I did that last year and the tax write off did not balance out the fines and tsk tsks. The couch won't work, because that's where we put the clean laundry that my mother-in-law folds sometimes. The kitchen won't work because that's where all the shit we have to keep goes. My office? My bedroom? A spare room or shelf or table in the hallway, you say? Nice try.

Please share your wisdom. I'm sure I could put my children through college by saving on the fines alone. And my sanity would be much improved if I had a way to organize borrowed clutter (at least I tell myself that in one of my many voices).


the borrower of other people's trouble (and crap)

Boy hangs self in seclusion room

My son was placed in a seclusion room several times in kindergarten. These rooms are still used heavily in our school district, and they are being used for behavior modification and "punishment" much more so than the rationalized use of "imminent danger."

And please don't jump to the conclusion that "this boy must have had serious issues to take his own life." You would "have issues" too if you were put in a prison-cell like room for hours at a time. And like these parents, we were lead to believe this room would only be used in an emergency and that "time out" was nothing more than some time to cool down.

Please pray for this family and all of the children, adults, and families going through seclusion room experiences.

[Cross posted at]

Children forced into cell-like school seclusion rooms (Click on the link and then click on the word video under the title of the article to see the interview with Jonathan's parents)

The story
A few weeks before 13-year-old Jonathan King killed himself, he told his parents that his teachers had put him in "time-out."

"We thought that meant go sit in the corner and be quiet for a few minutes," Tina King said, tears washing her face as she remembered the child she called "our baby ... a good kid."

But time-out in the boy's north Georgia special education school was spent in something akin to a prison cell -- a concrete room latched from the outside, its tiny window obscured by a piece of paper. Read the full story here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annual Fake Gingerbread Construction

Every holiday season, we do something with icing. Every 6 months after that, I scrape icing off of the floor and table and try to eradicate pulverized graham crackers and mashed jelly beans from the carpet.

We were all in a half-ass mood this year, but we still had fun eating the icing and candy. Mmmmmmmmm.... nothing's better than icing on graham crackers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seeing Things

I watched a horror show once when I was a child where blood came out of the shower head. And then later I heard a story of a woman who had spiders come out of her shower head (and I actually did have one fall out of our air vent once while I was in the bathroom, so that didn't help). So anyhow, since I refuse to close my eyes when showering and I try very hard not to think about anything either, I am forced to stare at the shower walls.

After seeing the letter A on my husband's head, I thought I'd share my "shower stall visions."

Cat and mouse (sorry about the glare)

Jesus? Or maybe his cousin?

Old man winter

The naughty wall

The water pitcher

Nude torso

There are lots more, but these are the ones that really stand out to me. Don't you wish you could be inside my brain? I told you I was crazy.

A Marked Man

Hubby was looking at something in our bedroom--and I saw it--a letter on his head!

Oh my gosh, you have the letter A on your head!

Huh, I do not!

Um, yeah, you do so!

So I corralled the boys and asked them what letter they saw on daddy's head. They both thought it was either an H or an A. I took a picture with my cellphone and showed Hubby because he did not believe us. He believes us now--so much so he seems kind of scared.

The scarlet letter? Grade A? My initial?

Well, whatever, he is a marked man. Too bad it wasn't Jesus or Mary that appeared on his head, then we could sell it on ebay.

(You may have to enlarge the picture or step back from your monitor to really see it.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Guitar Hero

We expose the boys to a lot music, which is why you see videos of them moving along to Johnny Cash , Nickleback, Alan Jackson, and...

ZZ Top.

I know they are my children and all, but I can't watch Bubba play his Gee-tar without beaming. And notice Mooser trying to 'take a bow' at the beginning rather than at the end? Oh, don't tell anyone that I let my children stand on our coffee table (an old handmade chest). Well, it does make a pretty awesome stage.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, Bells are ringing, Children are screaming...

Last Friday, me and the boys went to ring the bell for the Salvation Army at a local grocery store. It was cold. Damn cold. I tried to explain why we were ringing the bell. I tried to explain the idea of collecting donations, what the donations were for, and our responsibility to do community service. I tried to explain that there are people who need help and people who may be not have a place to live or food to eat. I tried to relate it to our experiences and why we can't just take, but we also must give.

Well, I failed miserably. After 10 minutes the boys wanted to collect donations for themselves because they were cold and they were hungry. To them, it made perfect sense. How many times does mommy say "No, we can't buy that because I don't have any money."

So yesterday we were signed up to ring the bell again. Since the first time didn't go so well and I spent most of my time trying to keep the boys from playing with the automatic doors and running out into the parking lot, I decided to do what any self-respecting mother trying to teach her kids about civic responsibility in the freezing cold would do-- I bribed them.

So I told them if they said "Merry Christmas" to 100 people, they would get a prize. So they both rang the bell, said "Merry Christmas," and every so often remembered to say "Thank You!" when people donated. Of course every minute Mooser asked "We done yet? Getta pwizha?" and Bubba was more interested in trying to direct cart traffic or figuring out how the bell made a ringing sound more than anything else.

I am sure I have corrupted them in some irreversible way, but they made a lot of people smile. And they encouraged a lot of people to donate. And we lasted for the full 30 minutes without incident, which in itself is a Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Winter Days and Nights

What do you do on cold winter days and nights?

We do puzzles. Play games. Watch movies. Make Lego guys (virtual and otherwise). We work (grudgingly).

We walk on old railroad tracks. Watch parades. Decorate. Watch the cat torture a cute brown mouse (and then set it free because we can't bare to watch her kill it).

We see Santa (several times at several places). We ring bells for the Salvation Army. We freeze our asses off.

(Yes I realize my son is wearing cowboy boots with sweatpants. And that is a reindeer!)

And my favorite thing to do? We rock out (country style)!

(Beware of my Yee Haw towards the end. A little embarrassing maybe, but worth that smile I get. Sorry for the cell phone quality--it's one of the few ways I can get videos/pictures of my kids without them knowing.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Procrastination Meme

read this over here, so doing it here because it's a good way to procrastinate

1. Five names you go by

a) Ange
b) Angelique
c) Sister
d) Mommy
e) Ang

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
a) t-shirt
b) navy exercise pants
c) glasses

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
a) to give myself what I try so hard to give my boys (all of them)
b) my husband home (he works retail, tis the season for goofy hours)

4. Three people whom I would like to see fill this out:

a) Sister
b) Aunt Janice
c) Aunt Elaine

5. Two things you did last night
a) Went on an impromptu date (dinner with a gift certificate!) with Hubby when he got home from work
b) Cleaned up Moosie's puke

6. Two things you ate today:
a) Peanut M&Ms
b) Coffee (this counts if I had it for breakfast, right?)

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
a) Hubby
b) My dad

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
a) Work on one of my freelance projects
b) Decorate outside to surprise the boys (if I can con Hubby into helping)

9. Two longest car rides
a) From MO to Niagara Falls when 5 months pregnant and driving (riding) straight through (minus a pee break here or there)
b) From MO to Duck Shores North Carolina and back with two little boys, a Hubby, and a lovesick sister
(I'm sure I had longer rides on vacations when I was a kid, but I have blocked those out permanently.)

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
a) strong coffee with cream
b) fountain cherry coke in the summatime

Pick a color for the things that you have done. Mine are asterisked.
I have…
*1. Started my own blog
*2. Slept under the stars
*3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
*5. Watched a meteor shower
*6. Given more than I can afford to charity
*7. Been to Disneyland/world
*8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
*10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
*13. Watched lightning at sea
*14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
*18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
*21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
*23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
*24. Built a snow fort
*25. Held a lamb (Bubba's stuffed animal one)
*26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Skied a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
*29. Seen a total eclipse
*30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
*32. Been on a cruise (a small one from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas)
*33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
*35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
*41. Sung karaoke
*42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
*45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
*46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
*52. Kissed in the rain
*53. Played in the mud
*54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (documentary)
*56. Visited the Great Wall of China Well, I was in China when I was 12, I think I saw it, but didn't get to walk on it)
*57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
*61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
*62. Gone whale watching
*63. Got flowers for no reason
*64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
*67. Bounced a check
*68. Flown in a helicopter
*69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
*70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
*71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
*74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
*79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
*80. Published a book (I worked in book production, so technically I was part of publishing lots of books.)
81. Visited the Vatican
*82. Bought a brand new car (truck)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
*84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
*86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
*88. Had chickenpox
*89. Saved someone’s life (Sister, when she choked on a butterscotch when we were kids)
90. Sat on a jury
*91. Met someone famous (Um, Vicki from the Loveboat. Fozzie Bear. Do they count? Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.)
*92. Joined a book club
*93. Lost a loved one
*94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
*98. Owned a cell phone
*99. Been stung by a bee
*100. Ridden an elephant

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Teacher Gifts

Between both boys and their various bus drivers, paraprofessionals, teachers, and therapists, I have the need for potentially 40+ "teacher gifts." Since I believe that, yes, even the bus driver has a powerful influence over my children, I want each person to know that he or she matters to my children's lives.

Since I have not won the lottery, this year seems to not lean towards being a "baking year", and matter of factly half of the people responsible for at least one of my children have not taken their responsibility sincerely, I have decided to take the boys' art work and adorn it with a poem I just wrote, but seems unfinished.

Maybe it will come to me. Or maybe I will let the recipients finish it for themselves.


inside I am everything
that you
do not see

I am everything
you do not know
that you want me to be, inside
I can give you
what you do not know
you need

I am breathing, beating, bursting
what you're afraid
to believe

if you look
and choose to see

--AH, 2008

** Edited: I changed the title (and keep messing with the last verse), but maybe it is too strong of a word. I wanted this to feel as it is coming from a child's voice as this is what I hear in my heart when Bubba struggles with understanding his emotions and other people's reactions.