musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

mr. cynic

Saturday is Mr. Cynic’s birthday.

I was talking with my friend Joe the other day.  He has known me since before I had kids, and seemed just about as thrilled to hold the newborn who became Mr. Cynic, as I was  – even as he grumbled, humoring me about washing his hands with anti-bacterial soap.

I was a new mom, whaddya want?

Anyway, Joe said, “17?! That’s no joke!”

Thanks, Joe, yes I am old enough to have a 17 year old. Older in fact, he didn’t make me a mom until I was 29.

This Mr. Cynic business was always a part of him. 1996, in Maine, flipping the bird, oh so subtly.

But he really always was a beautiful and sensitive boy. Later, 1996, at grandparents in Connecticut, the house where I grew up.

Just don’t tell him I told you he is sensitive. “Mom.” 2003, Massachusetts

A couple of elementary pictures from Massachusetts days. See what I mean? Beautiful and cynical, or is it skeptical?

There was a long long-haired period that started after the 4th grade pic on the right.

This is basically what I see of him now:

Only usually wearing a black rock band tshirt.

17 things about Mr. Cynic:

1. When it comes down to it, he’s really got a big heart.

2. Just don’t mention The Bush Years around him.

3. He claims to be doubly cursed with short genes. It’s probably true, but he and I both still hold some hope after his recent bone age test. My father grew taller after he graduated high school. Mr. Cynic may, too.

4. He goes about accomplishing things in his own way and time. Take his Driver’s License for instance, still in the permit stage, since he was 15.

5. But he does pretty much kill it academically.

6. We’re exploring braces. He doesn’t really seem to care one way or the other.

7. There is only one path he is considering: rock star. And he is serious about. Very serious about it. Berklee College of Music is his only college consideration at the moment. I have tried to broaden, but nope.

8. But when he was 4 he wanted to be a world famous marine biologist and paleontologist and discover the largest prehistoric whale remains somewhere in a desert.

9. He takes bass lessons, is self-teaching guitar, writes songs and is about to embark upon teaching himself keyboard. Yes, that is his birthday present.

10. He has also been writing books and worlds since he first imagined fighting dragons or riding them as a little one.

11. He shoots zombies. a lot.

12. He is quite erudite.

13. But silly, and likes cute bunnies. Mostly tigers – White Siberian Tigers – and wolves.  He seems to identify with those cool-headed, ruthless canines.

14. Grudgingly does what he is asked, but always does it, eventually.

15. Has a few really good friends and gives everyone a chance.

16. Mr. Cynic roots for and defends the underdog, even his brother, Captain Comic. except when he is annoying.

17. He has a special bond with Toots. Who knew having kids 13 years apart could work out so well for them?

I am proud to say that he is my kid. I think I did alright with this one.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo. I love you.

of monsters and waffles

Toots: Daddy, can Payina have waffos?
Daddy: Does Palina like waffles, too?
Toots: Yes, she yikes waffos.
Mommy: Is Palina your new friend?
(Toots imaginary world is heavily populated, starting with Fish, who is not a fish, and Mint who is her brother)
Toots: (looks up at me sweetly blinking, boy can she do cute.)
Daddy: Palina is the new monster that she found in her closet this morning.
Toots: Yeah, and she yikes waffos.



I had a rare Saturday off from work with nothing else scheduled and suddenly the world was full of possibilities.

We slept in. We cleaned out Bertha (my old minivan), made an exploratory errand, and then, with Mr. Cynic in Disney World with his choir trip,  we took the younger two for a ride up to the James River Festival.

We were late arrivals, most of the boat races and activities were earlier in the day. A band was blasting as we got out of Bertha. Captain Comic’s biggest sensitivity is noise, especially live music that includes vocals. So when he groaned, I flashed a rock hand and yelled, “ROCKNROLL!!!” He looked at me, nearly expressionless, as to say, WTH, Mom.” So I showed him how to throw the rock hand.

Some things are hopeless.

But I love him. Even this made me laugh. And that’s when he shook his head with a mom is nuts look and walked toward the music.

Honey said, “Look at her! She’s like ten! and the kid on bass isn’t much older.” I had been watching Toots and Capt Comic make a V- line in divergent directions fast away from the music. Turns out the girl is 11, her brother is 14, and that’s mom on the drum kit. We checked in after the music ended while the dad was breaking down equipment.  Sorry, didn’t get the name of the band, but they really rocked! She sang Janis, Carol King/Aretha, Grace Slick, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bon Jovi . And she was really good. Even Captain Comic was like, “Whoa, she sounds like an adult!”

Addendum: Honey pointed out to me after reading the blog that I incorrectly assigned instruments: the girl sang and played bass, the boy was the shredder.]

Toots got a snow cone. Honey got a dog and burger.  There was also a very coveted bag of cotton candy. I am not proud of Toots’s sugar addicted behavior over that.

Captain Comic got a dog and snow cone. It must be a Red day for him.

I had a little fried oyster sandwich, tasty and not too much fried or oyster. I don’t eat seafood very often, so when I do, I just want a little taste. This hit the spot.

Then we headed to the river. These two kids are usually like oil and water, but at least they both have a similar magnetic attachment to water, rather like their mother. I love how she is following his steps here:

She threw rocks. He examined the current, or lack there of.

Then Toots examined the light on the water between the dock slats.

They moved down, exploring closer to the water. The lower dock is a floater that was tied on. It took a lot of verbal effort to keep them from moving onto it and possibly falling in in the process. We had no changes of clothes, and the water had that marina patina.

The little waves soothed him. Trust me.

The view across the water.

They didn’t really care for the view.

It was a nice little jaunt to the riverfest. We talked with the Virginia Marine Institute folks at their tent, where they had a Dusk Shark jaw and a sea turtle shell, I put the camera away by then.

We took the Colonial Parkway home. It can be a sleeper, with the drone of the pebbly concrete under wheels but when the tree cover opens up to the water views, it really is stunning. Toots said, “Yook at the water! Darn I fowdot my tamewa!” So I pulled out mine. I love these clouds above the James River.

I have loved this tree by the York River since the first time I saw it. 

And right now, these yellow wildflowers are coating roadsides and yards all over this area. Some of the yellow is buttercups, but I’m not sure what the littlest flowers are.

We had a lovely family day, relaxed, and rare.


Me: Toots, Mr. Cynic is probably in Disney World right now. I dropped him off for the bus to the plane for his Jazz Choir trip in the middle of the night.
Toots: (three octave leap) WEALLY?! I want to go to Disney, too! Tan I go, too, Mommy?
Me: Not right now, sweetie, but we’ll see what we can do to go some other time.
Toots: AOooow. I wannu go now.
Me: I know, honey, sorry.
Toots: Betause they hab ALL de pincesses, and Middy Mouse and Minnie Mouse and I tan hug them!! Wouldn’t dat be geat?!
Me: (chuckles) Yes it would, Toots.

john elder robison, neurodiversity

Yesterday, John Elder Robison gave a talk at William & Mary College.

I brought Captain Comic. We were early. We were very early, and it was beautiful day out, but there were bugs – two bees and a hornet to be exact – that buzzed by us on their way elsewhere, so he wanted to go inside. Of course, I wanted to stay outside. He suffered nobly and drew for as long as he could stand. Then we went inside. There is always a give and take, a finding the balance between the extremes.

Admittedly, I hesitated about bringing him, figuring that during the lecture, the Captain would have a tough time with the crowd full of shifters and breathers, coughers and sneezers for the scheduled hour and a half sit. But by a stroke of luck and a Facebook post in which I tagged JER, we were given seats down front. JER was very friendly to the young aspies in the crowd waiting to get in, and brought them and their people in ahead of the main audience.

Captain Comic did have a time of it before, and after in the book signing line, but he held it together a lot better than I expected or feared. He surprised me during the talk, by being completely riveted by JER.  Though Capt and JER have differences in their areas of interest, they have very similar ways about them that buck the usual assumptions about autism – they are both very funny and speak in a booming way, and are very apt to keep right on speaking when they are talking about what interests them. And explosions, Captain Comic’s eyes widened and he laughed a lot when JER talked about explosions, especially the magnesium fire incident when he was teen.

I just hope he didn’t give the Captain any instructionally related ideas.

What I took away from the talk was that Aspergerians are necessary and have always been a part of the general society. The very thing that sets them apart is what can bring them success later in life, even when the social part of it is so hard when they are young. The social isolation and hyperfocus in areas of interest allows for them to spend hours a day learning and doing what others would not. For instance, think of Stonehenge or the pyramids: before there was written language and math, someone had to visualize and execute the exact engineering behind those structures that line up to the stars to determine certain seasons of planting and harvesting. Who do you think had the time and visual thinking to come up with that? That’s right, people on the Autism Spectrum.

Things that stood out for me:

As socially isolated as he was when he was young, JER found an accepting community who appreciated what he could do for them, and accept him the way he was: the “mad dogs and freaks” of the music world.  This means, Captain Comic will find his niche, too. I have thought about this before, and talked with him about finding his way among people who will accept him as an illustrator or such in the digital animation studios or Google, etc.

Even after his commercial successes, JER still had an inverted sense of confidence.  He knew he was successful, but still felt like he he was screwing up or faking it because he didn’t do things the socially prescribed way. Enough people had responded to him in that regard over the course of lifetime. I see this with the Captain, too. I hope I can be more aware of helping others understand that how he learns and walks through the world is just as acceptable as the way anyone else does. I think there is a growing movement of us more neurotypicals working toward that, including the new program being built at W&M to accommodate students with differences – what brought JER to speak here.

When he figured out how logical good manners were, and made a concerted effort to learn them and use them,  that’s when people started choosing to hang out with him. Also when he learned that you almost never get into trouble if you learn to keep your mouth shut. I think these are particularly good for Captain Comic to hear from someone like himself.

JER realized after his brother’s memoir, Running with Scissors came out, the way people responded to it was the exact opposite of what he feared. He knew his family was crazy and weird, but now people approached him and told him their families’ weirdness. Then he realized that that the feelings he had of being a fake or not fitting in were shared by EVERYONE. Everyone feels alone, and reaching out and connecting is what is important to relieve that loneliness.

One of the common misperceptions about autism is that people with it lack emotion or empathy. Honestly, if you meet Captain Comic even once, you would know that is not true in the slightest. Break past those social expectations that he doesn’t meet, and inside is a very loving guy. So everyone, including people with autism, have the same feelings.

JER learned how to not make enemies. This is separate from learning how to make friends, and an important survival skill. It largely entails keeping your mouth shut. Don’t make yourself a target. Bullies will leave you alone. “This one is not good to eat” is the message you will give to bullies if you just keep quiet. So act like a possum and do not draw attention to yourself.

Geeks are valuable.

After the lecture, we stood in line to get my copy of Look Me in the Eye signed, and I picked up his new book, Be Different, which is more of a practical guide to autism and Asperger’s. I have read many practical guides in this area, and if I will enjoy one, it will be his. JER’s books are very anecdotal, which is exactly how I think and talk.

I squeezed the two aspies together for a picture – lo and behold, betwixt their expressions is the cover of Look Me in the Eye! Of course, this is mostly because of the flash and the fact that Captain Comic was well ready to leave.

In the end, I was very glad that I did decide to bring Captain Comic. He surpassed the response I feared, I was able to enjoy the lecture even more by watching his reactions to a lot of what John Elder Robison said. He was very attentive, absolutely riveted, until the very end in the Q&A portion, when one aspie asked about engineering stuff, and that was about when Captain Comic started asking if it was time to leave yet. He had lasted the whole talk, an hour and a half, without a peep. Miraculous, trust me, especially since we had arrived so early and had to wait.

I highly recommend that if John Elder Robison comes to talk in your vicinity, you should make the effort, even if it seems tough, to go see and hear him. He was funny, insightful, passionate and informative, a fantastic speaker on a very timely topic.

And pick up his books. They are well worth the read. He is a great story teller with tales of being on the road with bands like KISS in the 70s. His stories  bridge that gap between people of any stripe to say, hey, I can recognize myself in you.




end of school break

Captain Comic reaches for the tablet, in his neverending quest to play Angry Birds.

Mom: (Succinctly) No.
Captain Comic: (Brightly) Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: Please?
Mom: Do you really think this is going to work?
Capt:(Throws in a big smile) Please?
Mom: No.
Capt: (Pleadingly) Oh c’mon.
Mom: No.
Capt: (Goes in for a hug) Pleeease?
Mom: No, you already snuck it today.
Capt: (Recognizes defeat and walks away. Begins to raid the pantry and refrigerator)
Mom: Stop foraging!

Yesterday, Mr. Cynic came down with the cruds after snuffling his way through all of  spring break. Today he feels better, but Toots woke us with the dreaded 5am call of the small child, “Mommy! I few up!”

Thank goodness school starts back on Monday.


It has taken me a while to sit down and post Toots’s birthday. It is school break, big allergy season for my household, the pollen is even giving me a run for my money this year!  And I finally printed up my manuscript, which I’m still mildly apprehensive about reading through. And I burnt out my printer and made a bit of a day of it at Office Max to get the job done. Enough excuses, her birthday was a joyful day, and I think everyone had fun. Per usual, I held the camera, thereby managed to avoid being captured.

I went into her room first thing in the morning to cuddle with her in her new big girl bed on the morning she turned four. Honey and I finished the antique process the day before and he assembled it in her room to wake up in on her birthday. She was really excited about her new bed! She picked out the sheets and new quilt, etc.

Her walls are cafe au lait because this used to be Captain Comic’s room, and I thought it would be a soothing color for a retreat space for him when we moved in six years ago. Now it just looks like mud. Painting is a bit of problem, I would love to liven up the room, but standard paints send me into respiratory distress. I am thinking of a way we could milk paint the room, much like we did with her bed frame.

Don’t be distressed by the expression on her face in the picture with the bed. She had just gotten a booboo on her thumb. She really does love her new big girl bed!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The birthday festivities included a Diego cake (I missed making her cake myself, she was pretty adamant about Diego – but I did make scratch cupcakes for the in preschool celebration and I must add, they were the fluffiest best cupcakes I have ever made) which made for blue lips all around; slide and trampoline were very popular; all the little kids had a go at the pinata before my friend’s older daughter’s 1st whack burst it and then Captain Comic destroyed it (which was his mission of the day); presents; and lots of running around and fun. I once again realized that the average age of Toots’s preschool friends’ moms is about 15-20 years younger than I am. sigh. They’re very nice, I just feel like a polka dotted horse among zebras.

Toots was so excited all day long, and loved her birthday very much!

So did I.

Post Navigation