November 29, 2011

One. Big. Update.

Hello, blog. I've missed you.
Hello, readers. Anybody still out there?

Rather than write a bunch of posts over the next week catching everybody up on what has been happening over the last few weeks, I'm going to update you all on everything here in one big update. I'll try to be brief, but since my month has been all about words, words and more words, it won't be easy.

I wrote a 50,000 word novel this month. And now I have a pretty crappy novel (but a still, a novel!) and an updated "Winner!" badge over there on the left. The novel is called Usually Sometimes Never.

Novel writing has become such an ingrained part of my days over the last month, that I can no longer guarantee the accuracy of anything I write here. The line between fiction and reality has officially blurred. At least until I find my truth glasses. (Ooh - truth glasses. Now that's something I could put in a novel!)
Thanksgiving at my BFF's house went better than expected. Moe ate a lot of food, which kept him occupied and let us all eat. Jelly ate only ice cream, but she enjoyed drinking water out of my crystal glass. We still had to follow Moe around the house when we weren't eating, but I guess we Jeff is getting used to that. Also, Jelly pooped on the rug.
All of Moe's genetic tests came back normal. While that's Good News, it is still somehow unsatisfying.
The dog threw up in the back of my car yesterday.
I had a flat tire over the weekend. There was a nail in the tire. This is the second time this has happened. I suspect my neighbor. (Not really, but again, would be a cool character.)
When I put Jelly in the car after preschool yesterday, she said "no weapons!" I can only assume this was her political commentary on the use of pepper spray by police on Occupy protesters.
We went to an awesome concert on Sunday called the Kizuna Family Concert. Professional musicians performed classical music for kids with special needs and their families. Moe and Jelly loved it.

Why, yes that is my child. Sitting. Like, in a chair.
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. It's good to be back.

November 18, 2011

Awkward School Photos

So there are these autism bloggers. You've probably heard of them. Their names are Dani G and Lynn. I like these bloggers a lot, even though they probably wonder why I'm never on twitter anymore and hardly ever comment on their blogs. (Or maybe they don't wonder at all. *Sniff*)

So these girls are doing a blog hop and I've reached my NaNoWriMo word count for the day (see: above).

You're supposed to post an old-school photo of yourself. I thought I didn't have any of these, so I might get out of this. But I found some.

And here they are.

Let's see. Pre-80s new wave haircut, front teeth still enormous and not yet broken, ears are pierced. I'm guessing fourth or fifth grade.

I think this is my high school senior photo. I was young for my class, still 16. The braces were supposed to have been off by then. Thankfully, they were removed before I went off to college. I have no idea why I'm squinting with one eye. 

And now I'm going to go all Jedi mind trick on you and make you forget the above pictures by reminding you of this one:

More tulips!
And Lynn, the rest are for you.

Old castle. Now with more ivy!

I'll take what's behind door number 1!

Why yes, my mom would like more mai tai.

November 17, 2011

Will Power

The other day, someone posted this picture on Facebook:

photo credit unknown
I had a lot of thoughts about this. Like first of all, there is no way getting that body is simple. If it were, we'd all look like that, and we wouldn't marvel at this woman. I'd also hazard a guess that this woman (and her photoshop expert) worked very hard on this and that she wouldn't consider her daily exercise routine "simple."

But this is not a post about body image or exercise. It is about will power.

For a little over a year now, Jeff has been going to they gym three days a week. He has worked very hard, but the most important thing is that he goes. Every week, no excuses. If he has to miss a day, he makes it up. And guess what? He looks good. He has muscles and everything. Now he's doing CrossFit and I get tired just listening to his description of the workout of the day. It's not like Jeff was always a super fit, athletic guy.  But he decided this was important and so he made it happen.

I bitch and moan about not having time to go to the gym, and yes, it is easier to a certain degree for Jeff because of his work schedule. But the truth is he gets up in the 5:00 hour to be able to work out and get home to take Moe to school. That was our deal (since otherwise I'd have to get both kids ready and to school in the morning). He made the time, even if it is a time I'd rather not be awake. And I could do that too, if that's what I chose to do.

I recently heard an interview on NPR with John Tierney, who wrote a book called Willpower. (You can listen to the story here.) I do not generally have a lot of will power. If there are cookies in front of me, I will eat them. But Tierney writes that will power is something that can be trained.
Willpower really is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it during the day. But over time, you can increase your stamina through regular exercise. Simple exercises like forcing yourself to sit up straight, or using your left hand for something that you ordinarily use your right hand for - those have been shown in experiments to improve self-control for all kinds of other tasks in your life.
So if you are trying to lose weight or exercise more, and find you just aren't sticking to it, you can try something easier for a while to build up your will power. You can also fatigue your will power. And I'd guess that like your physical muscles, if you stop working out your will power, it will get soft and mushy and you might have to start working on it again.

This month, I've been writing a novel for NaNoWriMo. I've never written this much on a consistent basis. But I want to finish and so I'm doing it. Even on days that I would rather just sit and watch Grey's Anatomy, I write a minimum of 1,667 words. I haven't gone beyond that many days, but I've hit my goal every day except one. And I made up those words the very next day.

I can only remember one other time when I really stuck to something like this, and that was when I was pregnant and had to be on a restricted diet for gestational diabetes. I was really bummed about having to do this, but I did not want to have to go on insulin shots, so I did it. And I know it worked because I had the blood tests four times a day to prove it. And it wasn't really all that hard.

The nice thing about both of those was the constant feedback that I was on track. Every day I update my word count on the NaNo website, and I can see a progress bar going across the screen. How thrilling it was to get past the half way mark! It helps that writing is something that I enjoy. But in both these cases, it may also help that there is an end date. When I was pregnant with Moe, I could say "I only have to do this for fourteen weeks." For NaNo, I know it's all done on November 30.

But what a waste that would be, to spend a month working on my will power muscle to just let it atrophy again. Maybe I'll actually start going to the gym.

For real this time.

*Okay, I have no idea if this was photoshopped or not. Most pictures like this are to a certain degree (i.e. strategic shadows, etc.) 

November 11, 2011

Problem Solving

I don't often talk to much about Moe's strengths on this blog, and for that I'm sorry. It's not that I don't think he has any, but they do often get hidden under the behaviors, sensory needs, and language delays. They're also not the things I'm processing in my own mind, so they're not quite as therapeutic or interesting for me to write about.

Except when those strengths become problems. No, not problems exactly, at least not for him. Moe, for example is a pretty good problem solver, especially when there is something he wants. He is also quite a good climber (hypotonia be damned!). Even before he could walk, Moe figured out how to push the foot stool to his crib so he could get higher.

Moe likes the iPad but he is not allowed to use it unsupervised. If you're unsure why, you may remember the demise of my phone. So I keep it, and other things out of his reach. One of my favorite landing places for all things electronic (as well as DVDs, remotes, and random pieces of junk) is on the mantel over the fireplace.

So today, I came into the living room to find Moe sitting on the couch, playing with the iPad. And then I saw this.

I promise you that is not where I keep the rocking crocodile. It's all about motivation, right?

November 9, 2011

Expecting Adam

Do not tell me that God chose me to parent Moe. I don't believe there is a supply of babies hanging around, and when one is to be born, God picks just the right one for us.


Jeff and I mixed our genes and out came Moe, perfect and flawed, with beautiful blue eyes and curly hair and autism.


Do not tell me that God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. If I were weaker, does that mean Moe would not have autism?


You rise to the occasion. You just do. I love Moe so I have no choice but to parent him the best I can. I assure you, it isn't always pretty.


Do not tell me that I have been blessed by autism. I do not consider autism a blessing. Moe himself is a blessing, in as much as I believe in that word. He is my son and I love him unconditionally. But does the fact that he has autism make him more of a blessing than my other, neuro-typical child?


Moe and Jelly are my children, completely different, but equally blessed, equally loved, both testing and teaching me every day.


Every so often, Moe will do something so appropriate, that I can't help but think he's going to be just fine. Maybe Moe isn't even autistic, perhaps just severely speech delayed. Someday all of this will be behind us.


Moe is going to continue to grow and develop and learn how to cope in this world. But he he will always have autism, be autistic. I still can't quite let go of my dreams of Moe's future. In my head, he's an architect. Maybe he still will be. But maybe not. I don't know. But those are my dreams, not his. They are irrelevant.


Have I found acceptance, peace with where we are in life? Have I stopped asking "why me, why him?"


But I'm working on it.

This post was inspired by the book Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck. I was given a copy of this book as part of From Left to Write. Read other posts inspired by Expecting Adam on Thursday, November 10, at From Left to Write.

November 6, 2011

There Has to be a Better Way

I have never met another kid like Moe. "You've met one child with autism..." and all that. But seriously, I've never met, read, or heard about another kid who is quite like Moe. And maybe that is because I don't often write about what it is like at our house when Moe is at home.

Unless he's sleeping, Moe does not stay still. Almost ever. The boy is in constant motion, and because he doesn't really play with toys, this means he is always getting into trouble. We try to make our house as Moe-friendly as possible, child-proofing the doors to rooms we'd rather he didn't go into unsupervised: our bedroom (in which he has cracked a lamp and torn the snooze off my alarm clock), the office (which now, once again, has a fish tank in it), and the bathroom. But Moe climbs kitchen counters, his shelves, his dresser, behind the TV. He'll climb his bed and go on top of the bed tent, laying on it like a hammock. He's already bent two of the poles.

Did I mention that he broke his crib tent by climbing on top of it? It inverted and when I tried to fix it, I broke the poles. So technically, I guess I broke it. Either way, I had to buy another one, and those cost less than half of what the bed tents cost.

Occasionally, Moe will stop and read books or flip through magazines but even then he's making a mess, pulling all the books out of the shelves, crumpling the magazine pages or tearing them up. As far as I can tell, he's not destructive on purpose, just not neat or careful in any way. And he's a sensory seeker, so it's fun.

I love to spend time in the back yard, but even that requires constant supervision, as Moe puts everything in his mouth. Ideally, I prep the backyard before we go out, making sure Berkeley's dog run is closed and latched and that all fruit that has fallen from the trees has been picked up lest Moe put a rotting or half squirrel-eaten orange in his mouth. But no place is truly safe for him. You remember the time he ate a snail, right?

When we're out of the house, Moe just wants to run. He loves to run free, but doesn't have the instinct to stay close (or stay out of the street, or other people's picnics), so either Jeff or I has to follow him around. If we're at a busy place, like the farmer's market, or I'm by myself, I have to keep the kids in the stroller. Moe is generally pretty happy there, but he doesn't get much exercise nor does the experience help him expend some of this excess energy. We try walking with Moe, holding his hand, but he'll drop to the ground over and over. It's frustrating for all of us.

It's the same when we visit other people's houses. As soon as we arrive, Moe wants to explore, and by "explore" I mean find the nearest bathroom and splash his hands in the toilet, or eat some crayons, or take food off the table. Honestly, I'm envious of people whose kids are obsessed with dinosaurs, or bugs, or Thomas, or, frankly, anything. I'd love to have something in my back pocket I could let Moe obsess about for an hour or three if needed. Even the iPad or TV won't keep him still.

It is worst on the weekends, when Moe doesn't have the structure of school for most of the day. Part of the problem is that I think Moe is bored. I am able to occupy Moe's attention for very brief intervals of activity, usually just a couple minutes, sometimes up to 15 if he's interested and I'm working very hard. But I have another kid who is also very demanding, a dog, a novel, a blog, and a husband, and even if I neglect most of those things, I still can't devote constant attention to Moe for over 12 hours a day. I want to. But I just can't.

So we end up frustrated and yelling a lot, which makes me sad. I don't want my relationship with my son to be based around me telling him what he can't do. Stop climbing. Get out of there. Put that down. Not for mouth. Be careful. Repeat.

If your kid is like Moe, what do you do? How do you manage your time at home and when you're out? And, if your kid is older, has it gotten better? Or has your child just gotten bigger?

November 3, 2011

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore

It is not often that I get to use the word "whore" on my blog. It is hard to imagine another situation in which I will do so. But today I'm reviewing the book, Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore: A Novel, by Stella Duffy. (My book club will also be quite smitten with the fact that there are two colons in the title.)

Imagine the story of a young girl, born to an animal trainer, living a modest but comfortable life. When her father is killed by one of his bears, she is reduced to living just off the street, sold into a life of stage acting and prostitution. She is good at both jobs, performs for many wealthy and influential men, and quickly becomes well-known in the fashionable city. But this girl is also smart and quick-witted, and although her mouth can get her into trouble, she learns a lot about human nature, and rises well above her natural born station, finding God and power along the way.

Sounds like the typical American rags to riches Hollywood movie, but this is no Pretty Woman. This is the story of Theodora, Byzantine empress and wife of Justinian I. Duffy's novel is entertaining and made me want to learn more about this time and Theodora's fascinating life. I'm sure I could go to the library for that, but seems that HBO has optioned the rights to Theodora. Although a series may not be historically accurate, I'm sure it will be wildly entertaining.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. Be sure to head over to BlogHer for some discussions on Theodora and look for the #BHBC and #Theodora hashtags on Twitter!


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