musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “May, 2010”

Beach Season

We got a late start to everything yesterday, which included forgetting to grab an actual camera rather than just the cellphones.  When we finally got rolling, we had to stop for sunglasses, because Toots has been begging for them since we all got our prescription glasses renewed a while back.  She felt left out, I guess, but now she’s the coolest chick in the van.
When we reached Grandview Beach in Hampton, VA, we joined friends on the neighborhood private beach area rather than going into the conservation area.  The walk was still quite long.  I did who-knows-what to my ankle earlier in the week, and then found the tidal pool ditch with the same foot.  Weird crunch in said ankle followed, as well as increased swelling.  But otherwise we had a lovely time at the beach.  Even Mr. Cynic, who was none too pleased about hanging out with his family in the bright sun, enjoyed himself in the end. 
The boys found a clam in the dry area of the sand and moved it here, where it could dig back into the wet sand.
Lots of stumps littered the shoreline.  At first I wondered if they were remnants of an old pier, then realized they had to be parts of some old shoreline forest. 
Captain Comic, of course gunned for the water as soon as we arrived.  I had to yell him back for sunscreen, but while I was trying to sunscreen Honey’s back and Toots, while she dumped handfuls of sand all over the blanket we just spread out, he slapped two streaks on himself and ran back to the water, never to be within 15 yards of waterline after. 
Last night, his back was on fire.  Still is.  Minimal white hand streaks are visible in the hot pink fire wall.  No amount of aloe will soothe it, and he won’t let me put zinc oxide (diaper cream) on it.  So I said, okay, kiddo, then suffer, and no pool today.  He’s fine with suffering the sting, but not with missing out on the pool’s opening weekend.  He still won’t let me put zinc on it.  No worries, I’ll win when the rest of us head to the pool, seemingly without him.


Don’t tell anyone, but I was thinking about my manuscript, and you know what?

Even though I’m in the midst of tearing it apart and putting it back together again,

the story is really good.  It has a bit of science, it resolves a major conflict and some subplot conflicts along the way which serve the main conflict. It concerns a boy and his dog and his family and friends, a bully, and just how angst-ridden being 12 can be. And it still has some good laughs.  The kids are kids you’d expect to meet.

It’s movie from the book good.

But you didn’t hear it from me.  I’m much too modest for that.

Road Blocks

I went to bed last night and woke up this morning with every intention to write today.

I feel groggy and have a huge headache because we had big thunderstorm in the wee hours.

Toots is running around per usual.

The kitchen is a mess and I skipped laundry yesterday, so there’s more to do today. 

Grandma, who is usually out of the house by 9am, is playing Farmville next to me, so I hear whinnies and moos and clucks along with Toots’s Seasame Street theme from the other side of the wall.

I opened both the new piece and the manuscript to work on, unsure which direction I felt gung-ho about earlier.

Then the highway that runs behind my house that has been torn up and repaved four times in the past six months is illogically being torn up again on this thunderstorm threatening Friday before Memorial Day weekend, when we all know, they won’t be back until at least Tuesday to begin to deal with the mess, and the trucks’ constant motors and grinding are hell on my headache.

Calgon, Take me away!!!!

looks like summer

Lucy, our little black terror – er terrier, I swear that started as a typo – is dropping ‘lucy bombs’ all over the yard, which I am dutifully scooping and throwing over the back fence.

She is also digging again and leaving us ‘presents’ of dead moles and voles.

And it is about 4,000 90 degrees out. That did not start out as a typo.

Thank goodness our neighborhood pool opens this weekend.  And we’re headed to the beach, too. 



Some people are born list makers and some definitively are not.  I fall somewhere in between. 

I like to make a list then buck it; or avoid making a list, thinking I can keep this, that and everything else in my head.

The truth of the matter is there are some instances where making a bonafide list is truly necessary.

Otherwise I go into the grocery store for lemons, milk, asparagus, dill, and artichokes, and I come out with ice cream, cookies, potato chips and baking soda.  Then we have no vegetable side dish for dinner.

In the case of working on my manuscript, I found, I had a good editing list ‘in my head’, but I wasn’t doing the editing.  It became daunting knowing I had to look for, and keep in mind this variety of ‘to dos’ as I read through the manuscript.  So what I actually ended up doing was nit pick editing the first 20-30 pages over and over again, getting hung up on a comma or a sentence, or a preposition.  Then let two weeks go by, until I hit my writing group again and could sit there for three hours and look at the same 20-30 pages over again.

So, when I was at writing group yesterday, this suddenly dawned on me.  I mean, it wasn’t really a new concept.  I had been vaguely aware that I was preventing myself from doing the real work that needed doing for a while, but I saw an honest to goodness bluebird out the window, which set me dreaming about the edges of things, because they live in edge forests by open fields. The next thing I knew, I realized, I had been on the edge of my manuscript for months now. 

So, yes, I KNEW what I needed to do, and it was plenty the more I mulled it, so I decided to write it down.

First I wrote down the chapter headings, made a list of all the chapters, like a table of contents without the page numbers.  While I was doing that, it occurred to me that I could combine a couple of these short chapters into one in a few places, which would simplify a lot, really. 

Then I made a list at the bottom of that which looks like this:

Working on:

~ continue to edit Joe out/Mike into Thanksgiving and Observatory scenes

~write observatory scene using A. H.’s notes

~pay attention to name changes for T. B. and T. N.

~characterize supporting characters more through action and physical description

~make ‘thought bubbles’ action scenes or move them to more fitting scene

~ edit down cooking relevance

~more on comets

While it still covers a lot of tasks, some quite involved, to see them written down is so much less confungulating (hybrid of confusing and confounding and frustrating my non-writer Honey came up with, which I love!) than when I was trying to keep them in my mind. 

This way I can separate out the tasks and work on them, one at a time, and maybe fix a few of those name changes along the way. 

What a concept!  And to think I used to counsel my tutorial students to do exactly the same thing in organizing their much shorter papers. 


So, of course, last night and this morning, everyone is discussing the finale of Lost.

I don’t have much to say, except to accept the premise from the pilot episode, “We need to stick together, or we will all die alone.”

The rest is great storytelling: archetypal themes from every world religion and philosophy; the story of Jacob and Esau, with Esau’s name never being divulged; battle of good and evil and how easily the lines between are blurred; the nature of war;  break down of most stereotypes, and a great love of character development. And Daddy issues. 

Most of it is told through Jack’s eyes, because he is the primary doubter, and it is his story we are here for.  Only through his final acceptance of the truth of himself, can he move on.

Other than that, everything is open to individual interpretation, which is why we discuss great epic tales since Homer so many centuries later.  Because they matter.  They tell us how to life and die.  They point out our humanity. 

Lost was one of those tales, in a newer form.  And it was told beautifully, kept us guessing, not so much in the WTF? department as in the how will this resolve department.  That is what great storytelling is all about. 

The polar bear was a red herring all along.

The Elephant in the Room

That’s right, I’m going to talk about it. 

There is a big myth floating around that Asperger’s Syndrome is a label put on a person who is categorically a Supergenius, if a bit of a quirky oddball.  I may be contributing to that myth a bit by going a full year in my blog talking about the lighter moments of what it is like to live with someone or parent someone with Asperger’s.  I’m very lucky to live with one who is extremely funny, oftentimes intentionally, and more often, not intentionally. 

But to be honest, luck has little to do with it.  Many people worked very hard to get him to this place from the screamer he was for his first three years.  His early childhood is what made me find out what I was made from, and it was much stronger stuff than I ever could have imagined.  And I have a huge imagination.  I became the lion that roared, the Mama Bear who did everything she could to protect her cub.  Part of that was taking him to this doctor and that for tests, etc that included two sedations before he turned three.  And like his mother, Captain Comic is extremely sensitive to sedation.  There is nothing scarier to a parent than to watch your tiny child not wake up for 36 hours. 

Part of that process was getting him into Early Intervention, which I was a bit late in doing, so he only got three months worth of it.  He received at home and Center-based treatments (two towns away) in Occupational and Speech Therapies.  By that third month, I learned a lot of tools to help him, and he aged into the local Integrated Preschool in the next town.  By the following year, they opened one in our little town’s only public school, the elementary his brother already attended, which simplified things a great deal for me, and I was finally able to return to work part time, rather than just manage around his care and treatments which continued throughout his three years of preschool.  His team and I decided, with his late August birthday and where he was at that time, it was best that he remain in preschool rather than advance to Kindergarten just yet.

The following year, days after his 6th birthday, he entered his brother’s old Kindergarten class, with the same supports available to him as he had in the Integrated Preschool.  Thankfully, We were in Massachusetts, among the top ranked Special Needs states especially in regards to Autism Spectrum Disorders, and in an excellent school district whose main mode of thought on special needs was to integrate them as much as possible.  Captain Comic was challenging, but with the right supports in place, from continuing his Speech and OT, to Sensory Feeds in the OT room on regular and as needed basis, he progressed well. 

By the end of first grade, He had friends and went to birthday parties.  Other kids came to his. We had regular playdates at parks and at each other’s homes.  The girls looked out for him in the cafeteria and playground. He had a girlfriend and they were going to grow up and get married.  She was also the prettiest girl in the class. He was thriving and everyone who worked with him loved him.  We cried in IEP meetings about how far he had come from the kid who when the OT met him at the original Integrated Preschool, wondered how she was going to help this kid, who looked impossible.  He was down from one-on-one micromanaged  support in the classroom to one-to-three, more observation-oriented support.

And then we moved to Virginia, one of the worst ranked states in Special Needs, and the first thing that happened, the first school he attended ripped his brand spanking new IEP to shreds because it was jam-packed with accomodations, “there was no way they could provide!”  I replied, “Well they did in Massachusetts!” 

But I was alone in the room, which began to shrink and swell, and it was the first time I ever really felt I had to fight for his needs, and I didn’t know how to do so without making more issues. 

They tried the Integrated approach without the old accomodations to keep him functioning in the classroom well. They didn’t believe me that that was why he did so well in Massachusetts. They had issues.  Eventually we moved into a different school’s neighborhood, but kept him where he was, because all the other transitions, like the double move, were setting him off as well, let’s try some kind of consistency, but I chose the wrong place to provide it.  I should have moved him to the newer school as soon as we bought the house and moved from the apartment.  By the time I did at the start of the new school year, it was far too late, and the District refused to provide the summer program that was a given for consistency where we came from.  It was provided in the old District, because consistency is what any person on the Autism Spectrum needs.

Needless to say, at the end of the first semester in his zone elementary, things had gone from bad to worse.  The ‘supports’ they provided were basically to keep him from disturbing the rest of the class too much.  To say that he can be loud is an understatement.

The tipping point, and what landed him in what is now being referred to as a Behavior Support class, but upon his entering was called The Emotionally Disturbed class in yet another elementary, was they were trying to give him one of his sensory feed walking breaks to calm him down (I think they more used it to get him away from the other students, and a lot)  and Captain Comic grabbed onto the door frame and screamed a la Calvin and Hobbes, “Get the authorities!  Call 911! Police, Help!  They’re trying to kidnap me!”

See, now I read that as he wanted to stay in the class and work with the rest of the students.  But because at that point, he was so far gone in ability to manage him without the proper tools – accomodations – in place, he was moved to a smaller class environment in a different school with ‘troubled kids’.

I met his teacher before he entered, and mind you, through all of this, I was going through two miscarriages and then a complete bedrest pregnancy, so I was wheeled into this meeting. I’m sure a lot of what I was going through wasn’t helping his behavior at school, either, as he worried about me and was excited about having a new sibling.  I was barely able to speak, to be honest, and my parent advocate pretty much handled the meeting, bless her heart.  She saw us through all three schools.  I could not be civil anymore after they had broken down my highly functioning child so thoroughly within 18 months. 

His current teacher and her team, learned with him to the point that all the other kids in the District with Asperger’s ended up in her program, because she cared and wanted to learn what worked with them.  I love her.  I want to keep her. 

So, what has prompted me to write this treatise on my child, is Friday afternoon, we had his Transition to Middle School meeting.  And here is where I start to cry again.  Captain Comic briefly attended the meeting, mostly to meet the Head of SPED for his new school.  He was a part of the meeting, until I noticed ‘that look in his eye’, the one that means he is about to burst from nervousness into a repeated monologue  from a video, or his description of a funny dog video playing in his head. So I interrupted the meeting with an opportunity for him to exit before his vocal outburst.  On his way out the door, he said he was “glad to go back to his Science class, because Ms. I is such a fun teacher.”  The others in the meeting seemed to appreciate that. 

Then we discussed the possibility of his moving out of the Behavioral Support Model, which I neglected to mention above is a stepped program back into Mainstream. Right now, he is fully re-integrated in Mainstream. That’s a long climb back from that screaming doorframe moment. His next three year IEP Eligibility meeting comes up at the end of October.  He’ll still need accomodations to function in school, but it won’t be under the label of Behavioral Needs.  It will be provided under his Autism label through standard Special Education, according to his IEP. 

We’re going to keep an eye on how he does in the beginning of the school year at the Middle School, but he’ll be back in his zoned school, with the kids from the neighborhood.  I think this will all help him to integrate in the neighborhood better, too, because for now, he’s the odd kid at the pool come summertime, the other kids don’t understand. And during the school year, they see him wander periodically with our dog, but mostly, I keep him close to home.  There is a boy across the street who is a year ahead and another kid who comes to shoot baskets with him. They are nice guys, but I think they don’t quite get Captain Comic, largely because they don’t see him at school.  Captain Comic really wants to be friends with them both, and have a ‘normal boyhood’ in which he hangs out with his friends. 

It may finally start to happen.

on the matter of split lips and white shirts

Yesterday, I left the clean laundry in the family room, folded and sorted on the coffee table trunk and arm of one sofa, as well as an empty basket, and a full one waiting to be folded, while I took a minute at the computer, and to discuss dinner options of pizza or leftovers with Grandma in the office.  Our tv/family room is a fairly small space crammed with big furniture.  Toots was hitting the dinnertime wind up all kids go through every night, known as the witching hour.

I figured, even though a lot was precarious in the room, Mr. Cynic was there, so I could walk away for ten minutes. 

Next I hear is the rhythmic cry scream of a downed Toots.  I go in to see what happened and comfort her, and there she is on the floor on her back, empty laundry basket on top of her.  Mr. Cynic has not moved from the couch, but he’s fifteen, I can hardly expect him to, honestly.  He says, “I think she pulled the basket down on top of her,” when I asked if he saw anything. Yea, I got that much on my own.

I don’t see anything right away, hug her close until she calms down, during which red spots magically appear all over my white shirt. But first concern is to calm her down, then check for wounds.  Stroke hair, do not feel unusual bumps.    Eventually she does calm down, and I assess that the blood is coming from her mouth. Miss sucky fingers does not let me get a good look, though.  and I think, mouth wound, let a doctor do the dirty work.  She can be mad at him/her for the poking and prodding.

Look at clock, of course, not only is it approaching dinnertime, but the pediatrician has just closed.  Get insurance card out of purse, call the number that usually sends me to the ER for the kids and calmly tell them she does not need the ER, an Urgent Care place will do just fine, looks like she may just need a stitch or two.

Arrive at Urgent Care.  Toots is very excited by this sudden turn of events out of the ordinary dinnertime rituals.  She greets everyone in there with, “I got a boo-boo, I have to go see the doctor.  Mm-hm.  Yes, I do!” 

We check in and wait.  She tries out every seat, saying to the nice woman who held the door for us on the way in, “This one is too small.  This one is jess right.  Mmm-hmm.”

She wants to hold the ficus tree, she runs and runs and runs making silly bouncy noises while bobbing her head with every step.  She counts the ficus leaves.  Everytime the door to the inner sanctum opens, she want to go see the doctor.  She leans on the glass entry to watch the traffic go by.  She greets everyone coming in.

We are called back, and go through the motions of weigh in and questions with the nurse. Then Toots told me to “Open wide and say AAAAH!” as she pried my mouth open. She tells the nurse ‘The basket huwt my wip.”

Doctor comes in rather quickly, nice change from the pediatric office or ER.  Toots is quite wiggly now, but he manages to check all her teeth, none knocked loose, and her eyes to make sure she didn’t get another more serious bonk on the head.  He looked at the chart and said, “it says here no bleeding”  I said, “Oh she bled, most of it must have gone down her throat, but look, ”  and I showed him my shirt, bodice and sleeves covered in bloody smears.

All in all she was fine, just a fat lip, which is still apparent today. My white shirt, however, probably can not be saved.  Except for posterity. 

So now, I remember why I do not typically own white shirts.  In sixteen years of parenting three younguns, each has split open a lip or forehead on a white shirt of mine.  It is good to hold your kids close when they get hurt.  Just don’t wear white until they move out of the house.

Mr. Cynic, forehead, age 4, jumping off a stone wall into a parking lot, and younger, eyebrow, jumping off a sofa arm into a doorframe. He still has a space in his eyebrow from that one. My white shirt, both times, goners.

Captain Comic, age 2, running in socks on New Year’s Eve through another family’s marble foyer, tooth all the way through his lip. ER determined there was no way they could stitch this kid’s lip back together, because he freaked with them just trying to get a look at it.  Three of us had to hold him down for the doctor. My white sweater, goner.

And now Toots.  White shirt, goner.  They are just about the only 4 white shirts or sweater I owned in a lifetime of parenting. 

These things always seem to happen at dinnertime, too. 


Yesterday was full of milestones.

In the morning, five minutes prior to Toots’s 9:30am clockwork diaper change, I was proudly presented with two handfuls of poop.  Time to start potty training in earnest.

I know, I swore I wouldn’t poop post, but she’s two!  It’s all about poop these days!

Last night, my little darling ran around repeating, “Is evwone a weady a WOCK?!”

Translation:  Is Everyone ready to ROCK?!

When she got an appropriate response, of “I’m ready to rock!” or “Rocknroll!” she replied, as if she were the recently departed Ronnie James Dio.

“Okay then! LET’S ROCK!!!”  Though she doesn’t quite have the maloika down just yet.

Captain Comic had a nice one, too.  When he saw Toots stirring from her nap, he gently uncovered her, said sweetly, “Did you have a good nap?  Want to see Mommy?”  And even though, she was slightly thrown by who was waking her, she let him carry her to where I was sitting.  And he did a nice job of that, too. 

There’s hope for his gentility, yet.  😉

Still raining

Something about the sound of rain and what most consider to be drab and blah colors of a rainy day, actually gets me going, in a wistful, dreamy way. Rain makes me happy. 

It also helps me to write.  So that is what I am doing today. 

That, and the laundry, of course.  I am a day late on that and the sheets need washing, too…

Water water everywhere….and the spring leaves are so green again the grey backdrop. And the pale birch trunks!  wow.

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