Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Best Gift

Christmas morning arrived before 7:00 a.m. at our house. Joe-Henry usually wakes up about 6:30 to use the bathroom, and I usually hear his pitiful cries for "Maaawwwmm" because he's afraid to walk down the hall in the dark by himself. So I wait in the bathroom with him, then of course there is the begging for snuggling, and he's usually too polite to refuse me. Anyway, we're snuggled up, and he's chatting away, wondering what Santa brought, and if he left a letter (she did), when I finally said, "you know, we could just get up now and go see", and he thought that was a terrific idea.

I'm remembering myself at his age, and Christmas morning was chaos: I don't believe I stopped to take a breath when opening packages. I usually had all my presents counted, and if I remembered to say thank you, it was usually because my mom was threatening to send everything back if I didn't. But somehow, this trait didn't rub off on my son - the first thing he wanted to do yesterday morning, before checking to see if Santa left anything, before tearing into the giant packages that have been mocking him for days by the tree, was to give me MY present. He was so excited about it. He has totally caught my husband's gift giving gene too. They are both excellent at getting the perfect gift. It's usually something you had no idea you wanted or needed, and it's always something lovely and useful, as well as sentimental.

So I sat on the couch and he got it from under the tree, and I unwrapped a movie I hadn't seen in years and didn't own until Christmas morning. Anne of Green Gables, with Megan Follows. When I was 29 I played Anne at Seattle Children's Theater. It's one of my favorite theater experiences, and the movie is just so lovely and perfect, and it never fails to make me weep. I saw it a while ago at Costco, and sort of said "awwww! I love this movie!", and it must have been the way I said it, because he was so excited to give it to me - he just knew that it was perfect, and he was right.

After that, we went downstairs to open Santa presents, then back upstairs for an iChat with the Grandparents, then the next couple hours were spent leisurely opening gifts, stopping to play for a while, then on to the next one. It didn't feel overwhelming, it felt nice. I was so proud of him for taking the time to appreciate everything, genuinely, and be thankful without having to be reminded. It was a relief after last year's bout of the gimme's to realize that it was mostly just an age appropriate, yet still really irritating, phase.

Hope you all had a wonderful day, with just enough snow to make it magical.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Wishes

"Twas the night before Christmas....

WAIT! It's the NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS?!!! WTF!!! How did THAT happen? SHIT! I have more to do! Shopping, cleaning, especially cleaning, cooking, baking....


Okay, AnnieMcQ, breathe...just...breathe....lay down and rest your hands on your belly, and watch them rise and fall with each relaxed breath....


There, that's better. Ah, now that I've headed off my stroke, I'd like to pull a few gifts out of my bag for each of you, my lovely, loyal readers. The one's who comment, anyway!

For Suttonhoo: I do believe you have already received the best gift you could have ever wished for, but I still have a a couple stocking stuffers for you. May you spend more time travelling for play and less time travelling for work. May you have time and energy to put forth the creative efforts you need for your own personal artistic pursuits. Hugs and Kisses, my dear friend.

For Franklin: Ah, my sweet twin sister of a different mother! A kiss on both cheeks for you! I wish you, selfishly, a bit more mommy time, so that you might blog enough to keep me entertained. I also wish to silence your inner editor, so that you might more freely share with us, without worrying if it's "good enough". I've turned mine completely off, and.. wait, maybe that's not the best example. Um, I don't know, ask Suttonhoo how she does it. She posts all the time and always sounds brilliant. Love you, friend!

For Tracey: I wish you time and a calm center. To make the tough decisions you need to make about getting your MSW. I wish you a year free of guilt brought on by things you should or shouldn't do for your family, and the clear knowledge that by just being who you are, you are setting a brilliant, loving example to your gorgeous children. I also wish for you more nights with the Dallas Posse, and hopes that I might join you one of these days....

For Lola: Mz. Bola, I wish you spectacular light in your apartment, I wish you a forever honeymoon with your wonderful new husband. I wish you students who make you laugh, and artistic fulfillment. Go Canada!

For Rodius: I wish you a good, solid nights sleep, and a date with the Mrs. I wish you memories of this first year with Thumper that will make your eyes moist for years to come.

For Purelight: I wish you more visits with your new grandson, and of course many happy times with your family, and open communication with your other visitors! May they guide you to great new lights!

For Ambernator: Aside from wishing you a good nights sleep (see above), I wish you a strong back for when Isaac starts walking, I wish you big sloppy baby kisses and good health all year. Squeeze that sweet little guy from his great Auntie!

For Debby: I wish you an easy delivery, and much much joy as you bring two more beautiful babies into this world.

For Kari: I wish you an easy move to LA, and a job writing for your favorite show. Or even not your favorite show. A job writing and getting paid for writing. And as soon as you get there, take a hike in Runyon Canyon for me. You'll be amazed at what you see.

For Donna: I wish you continued good humor, and time enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor and your family.

For my newest reader, Stutopian: I wish you clarity and peace and an open, fearless heart. And while we're at it, strength and a continued sense of humor.

And for my husband (who never comments, but still reads faithfully): You know what I wish for you, Hotstuff. I got plans for you. Oh, and some mushy stuff too. I'll whisper it in your ear later when I'm doing that thing that gets you all hot and bothered.

As for those of you I've forgotten to mention due to my limited brain capacity, and those of you who stop by and read but don't comment because you might be afraid that I'm slightly unbalanced and might stalk you (wise, wise people)....

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, dear friends, one and all!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Think Outside the Box

Dear Aunt Jackie,

Your package arrived today.

I'm sure that the presents will be enjoyed, almost as much as the box that they arrived in.

Thank you for all the packing peanuts.

Packing peanuts are so much fun.

While we were opening the boxes, the neighbor boy came over and joined in the chaos.
And yes. I made them clean up every. last. peanut.

The box was pretty much destroyed by the kids, but Joe-Henry is now using it, in it's flattened state as a ramp between our living room and dining room, sending his hotwheels into the box that Aunt Jill sent today.

Happy Birthday, Herman

My Dad, Herman Cyrus Christianson would have been 91 today.

Everyone called him "Cy". There were a select few though, who could get away with "Herman". I was nervy enough to try, and lucky enough to get away with it.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm Sorry, Santa....

I am hanging on by a thread, people. I have two days left until Christmas break, and I'm hoping my sanity holds out that long. I've been fighting a cold and an ear infection, and trying to tie up loose ends for the holidays. Got the packages mailed, but not the cards; got the presents (mostly) but they aren't wrapped (mostly); the kids at school, God Bless 'Em Every One, are sending me over the fence into the Crazy Yard. and I just want to take a long nap.

And have sex.

And drink a beer.

The thing that is keeping me tethered to my life and honestly, still in a fairly elf-ish mood, is, of course, Joe-Henry. He hasn't needed to be reminded too many times about Santa, and as I watched him sleeping tonight, his gorgeous face so soft and sweet, I started to cry. He's so much older this year than last - his humor is more sophisticated (meaning knock knock jokes are BEGINNING TO MAKE SENSE, but he still thinks farts are hilarious), and his reasoning is clearer.

But he still believes in Santa. And it struck me today: what is the ratio of Santa is Magic to Santa is Watching? How often have I just listened and encouraged him to marvel at the nicest man in the world who brings every child a present on Christmas morning, and how often have I threatened him with "You know Santa's elves are looking RIGHT NOW, don't you?"
Did I miss out?
Did I blow it?
Do I deserve a lump of coal?

I hope not.

I'm missing the sing-a-long at his school this Friday, and it is chewing a hole in my heart. He's being so sweet about it, and honestly I don't think it's a huge deal to him. But it is to me. I want to be there. Holding his hand and singing those songs, and storing away just a few moments more of the magic you have when you're seven and old enough to know better than to NOT believe in Santa.

A Lovely Christmas CD

If you're looking for an alternative to the standard Christmas fare, check out Mindy Smith's new Christmas cd "My Holiday". Love her voice, and "It Really Is A Wonderful Life" and most especially "Santa Will Find You" will make your hardened, cynical insides turn to mush. It did mine.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This just in....

Well, that's just misleading. Sorry. It's not "just in". Today's post is about stuff I've heard over the past three weeks that have just been percolating away in my brain. I try hard not to be a reactionary. I try my best to process things, and reason them out in my head, but what usually happens is that they don't percolate, they just ferment and fester until I'm really worked up. Well, it's been a rough week, and so now, here you go, I'm letting it all out.

I'm sure you're all aware of the story that came out about a month ago regarding John McCain's tacit approval of someone calling Hillary a bitch? If you were sleeping, or perhaps at Disneyland and unaware of National Events, take a peek...

Of course, McCain has gotten little coverage in the past couple weeks, thanks in part to the fact that Mitt Romney is now talking about the fact that he's a Morman, and Mike Huckabee's stellar showing in the polls, despite the fact that he thinks women should be subservient to men. Here's the deal for me, and honestly, I mean no offense to any of my five readers, but how in the world is it possible to truly believe that we women should follow men blindly, even if they are wrong? How is it possible to believe that anyone else has a right to tell you what to do with your body, or to deny you the right to equal wages for equal work? It may come as a surprise to some, but we women not only have the right to vote, which means we don't just have to influence the men in our lives about the candidate we believe is best, we can vote for him OR HER ourselves. Honestly, please tell me. I want to know.

But the thing that is really sticking in my craw is this: It's all a show. There are no solutions - the national debate has become about religion and "moral character" - who has it and who doesn't, instead of how to get this country back on track. Don't get me wrong - I do believe that "moral character" is important, but I don't personally believe that it has anything to do with religion. I think it has to do with action - How we treat others, how we solve problems, how we listen and learn.

My Dad, who never went to college, had some excellent advice for me when I was dating. I've applied to it many different areas of my life. He said "It doesn't really matter what they say. It's what they do."

Can you imagine what would happen if we all started paying closer attention to voting records instead of sound bites and town hall meetings and speeches? If we were truly informed, and they knew it? If we held them accountable for their actions, instead of just complaining about their lousy performance? If we based our votes on what they did instead of what they said?

Might make for an interesting experiment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Father Christmas & My Elf

Tonight we had something at my school called "Father Christmas". It's a night where the whole school is used - they have room for Christmas crafts, games, a visit with Santa, and shopping in the gym. They take donations the week before, and set up tables - two 25 cent tables, a 50 cent table and a $2.00 table. Only the kids are allowed in, they are given a personal shopper and they can choose 4 gifts to buy for family or friends, or themselves. Then they go into the cafeteria to purchase their items, and have them wrapped so no one knows what they got. The school I work at has such an amazing supportive community, and it was such fun to be part of it - it really put me in the spirit.

I was a "personal shopper" and Joe-Henry was my elf. He was a little disappointed that he didn't get to shop, but I think it put him in the mood, too. He would point out things that he thought might be fun for brothers or sisters, and the kids loved having another kid to relate to.

When we got home tonight, we were both pretty tired, but at bedtime I told him I was excited about the presents I'd gotten him, and he asked me what it was. "Do you really want to know?" I asked, my eyes wide with sincerity? He nodded, afraid to say anything that might jinx his good luck. "Come here, I'll whisper it in your ear". He snuggled up, his ear to my mouth, and I whispered "I'm not telling". "Oh MAN, Mom! Just tell me where you got it then!" "Okay, lean in close...." I can't believe he's falling for it again, but it's so fun to torture children at Christmas! "I got it at the store" I whisper, and he collapses in a fit of groans and giggles.

Christmas IS for kids. But I'm learning that it's pretty fun for those of us who are lucky enough to hang with them too.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deep. Breaths.

Went to Costco today. Shopped on a Sunday. Before Christmas. With PMS.

Managed, by the grace of Joe-Henry to not have a nervous breakdown, but forgot my debit card and had to go home, retrieve it AND COME BACK. They put the cold stuff back, so we had to get them again, and go through the check out AGAIN.

My ankles are killing me from the THREE carts that rammed into them, and I still feel the need to scream, two hours later.

The sweet spot though was that when I was berating myself in the car on the way to retrieve my debit card, I called myself a dummy, and my sweet zen master said "Mom! you're not dumb, you just made a mistake."

I'll remember that after the desire to punch someone fades away.

I am now assigning Costco duties to my husband.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Fever Effect

There was a story on NPR the other day about the Fever Effect in children with autism. There was a study done that says that fever in some children with autism will decrease their autistic behaviors, and goes on to say that they are studying how certain protiens that change in the brain during a fever could be developed to help children without actually causing illness. I didn't hear the story, rabid npr listener though I am, but a colleague at school was talking about it. I listened, mouth open in awe, because I had just witnessed it earlier in the week. One of my kids' behaviors when he is anxious is to say "I don't like" to whoever he happens to lay eyes on, or "I don't want" something he knows is coming up, even if the thing that is coming up is candy or something enjoyable. He was out sick for two days this week, and I knew it was coming because the morning he came down with it, he got off the bus, quietly said "good morning, Anne, where's Pam?", and proceeded to have appropriate behavior all morning long. Even his voice was different. He was a completely different child. At about 10:00 his nose started to run, and he got pale, and when he went home at the end of the day, I knew he'd be out sick the next day.

Yesterday he was back at school, still not feeling entirely himself, but most of his behaviors were back, so I knew he was on the mend. And yesterday my partner was out sick, so it was particularly stressful, not just for me but for the kids as well. Especially for the kids. We had a sub with us, who was terrific, but kids with autism have a hard time with change. One of the girls in our group is very attached to my partner, and she had a very difficult time, hitting herself, pulling her hair, when I instructed her to do things that we normally do every day. I am still learning at this job - getting them from point a to b in their schedule is easy, getting them to communicate is much harder, and talking them down from a tantrum is still scary for me - not because I feel that I am in danger, but because the tools I have at my disposal - timers and calm down schedules and a different language - are still so new to me that I feel clumsy when I use them, and I think even years of doing this can never innoculate you to how heartwrenching it is. But I know they need me, in that moment, to be solidly there for them. I was able to just be with her, talk her through her calm down schedule, and she finally calmed herself down enough to get through the rest of the day. But I know more than anything, she doesn't want to do this, she doesn't want to feel this way or to hurt herself or anyone else, and it takes a harder heart than my own to not feel it for hours after it's over.

As I put her on the bus, she said "boo, peas", which I knew meant that she wanted a piece of blue candy. My partner usually tucks her on the bus with a piece of candy, because she's nicer than I am. I explained that I didn't have candy, and signed that I was sorry, and she copied me, signing sorry herself, and asked me to squeeze her hands. As I squeezed her tiny hands, the hands she uses to hit herself, to fling her hair when she's angry, the hands she bites when she's out of control, I wanted so much to be able to give her something - not candy - but a cure that would allow us to talk about, well, anything really.

That's why I can't get that story out of my mind. Because it seems so hopeful, so possible, that one day they might be able to maneuver in the world like you and I do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm Sad, or How Weather Can Suck

There is something about living in the Northwest - it can be sooo beautiful here, and if you visit from, say, California, you notice how GREEN it all is. And it's true, there are beautiful trees, and lovely parks, and wide-open green spaces to run in slow motion toward a tall soy latte.

But there is a reason why it is so green - it is the flip side to living here, and most of the time it doesn't get to me at all, but this past week, I have just been too constantly damp to not feel it....S.A.D. And honestly, it's not the rain, as much as it is the persistent grey. And the fact that nearly everyone else is affected by it too, so you constantly are surrounded by grumpy people. Or slow people. Or crying people.

We are lucky, though, because we don't live in a flood plain, and our roof wasn't torn off by hurricane force winds. And yesterday, the sun actually came out for a while, and at school, we all squinted and blinked and basked in it's warmth and talked about things other than how grumpy we were.

But that's over - the ten day trend has us getting rain, rain and more rain, except for this Saturday when it will be gorgeous, and I will be inside all day for a training session for school. Sigh....

The bright side of all this is that there is excellent coffee and beer in the Northwest. Which makes for some jittery drunks, but hey, whatever gets you through the winter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

In Other Newth...

Joe-Henry lost another tooth yesterday, this one located on the bottom, next to his front bottom teeth. It's been hanging by a thread for days, and I was relieved that it happened at home, and it wouldn't be distracting him (and everyone else at school). Last night, after bath time, I found him in his pj's in bed, feverishly writing a note to the tooth fairy, which read:

"Dear Tooth Fairy, Here is a dime for you because you often don't get paid for your bisness. Love Joe-Henry"

It was on Pirates of the Caribbean note paper, and he decorated it with hearts.

The tooth fairy took the dime, but I'm pretty sure the note was worth more to her.

Party Pooped

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the "party" yesterday. An odd experiment, I know, but it did put me in a holiday frame of mind - hope it did for you, too!

If you missed it yesterday, don't worry, there's leftovers - help yourself! And the beauty of a blog party is there isn't a mess to clean up!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Come In!

Hi! Welcome!! I'm so happy to see you - thank you so much for coming! What's that? Oh, it looks delicious, let me take your coat. I know! The roads are so icy this morning, I'm glad you got here safely!

Who's that playing on the iPod? Sufjan Stevens! I'd heard of him, but never heard his music until last year, and Charley picked it up as a gift for a friend, and we decided to get it too. It's so festive and mellow, isn't it?

Help yourself to the table - I've made Brie topped with fresh cranberry relish, and there are some dipping crackers next to it on the table, and some yummy chile & cheese spirals. Both recipes are below:

Wheel of Brie
Topped with fresh cranberry relish, it can be store bought (not jellied), or home made. I make mine following the directions on the bag of fresh cranberries, substituting brown sugar for white, using orange juice instead of water, adding apple chunks and some hot pepper flakes. Stop wrinkling your noses - it's delicious! I'm serving it with Milton's Multi-grain crackers, but any sturdy, slightly sweet cracker would be perfect.

Chile & Cheese Spirals
4 oz. Room temp cream cheese
1 small can mild green chiles
1 small can chopped black olives
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup green onions

Mix cheeses, chiles, olives (drained), and onions, spread on lavosh, roll into logs & slice into spirals.

Please, help yourself, there's wine & beer and hot chocolate & spiced cider on the stove.

I'm going to go pour some cider for myself, and see who's at the door....

Edit 12:00 p.m.: Look who's here! It's Lola and Franklin! Lola is getting tipsy on beer, and is promising to make this an interesting party - we're going to play some Apples to Apples, and I've added a salad to the table. Here's the recipe:

AnnieMcQ's Holiday Green Salad

1 bag of mixed greens (make sure there's arugula in there)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of dried cranberries (sweetened is best)
1 apple
1/4 cup toasted pecans or almonds
good aged parmesan, shaved
Girard's Champagne Dressing

Soak cranberries in hot water for 10 minutes, or until soft, drain. Pour enough Champagne dressing over softened cranberries, just to cover. Arrange greens on a large platter, peel and dice apple, sprinkle on toasted almonds, add cranberries just before serving (so it doesn't wilt), top each serving with shaved parmesan.

Make yourselves comfy, I'm going to change the music on the iPod to Vince Guaraldi. I'll be back in a bit!

Edit 4:30

Kari's here, with the Winona Ryder version of "Little Women", and Franklin is burping away in some corner of the house! I think she might take a nap, then party on with us into the night. I'm putting on some chili, because it's raining outside, and the fire is roaring, and chili with sides of sour cream, cheddar, and green onions, with some cheddar cheese biscuits sound pretty heavenly.

From Nestle's Make it Simple Entertaining:
Pumpkin Chili Mexicana

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1/2 c chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. lean ground turkey
3 1/2 cups (2 14.5 oz cans) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 3/4 (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 can tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans
1/2 cup diced green chiles
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
1 Tblspn chili powder
1 tspn ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste

heat oil over med-high heat, add onion & peppers & garlic, cook 'til tender. Add meat, cook 'til browned, drain.

Add everything else. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cook covered for 30 minutes. Serve with garnishes. Makes 6-8 servings.

Who wants to chop the onions? It always makes me cry... I'm going to change the music on the iPod to A Merry Affair.

Edit 8:00 p.m.:

I'm hoping Suttonhoo can make it back - she's traveling, as usual, but I've decided that maybe if I post a good eggnog recipe, she might just make it back!

Traditional Eggnog Recipe, from

12 eggs, separated
6 cups milk
2 cups heavy/ thickened cream
2 cups bourbon
1+ ½ cups sugar
¾ cup brandy
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

In a large bowl and using a mixer, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar for approx 10 minutes (you want the mixture to be firm and the colour of butter).
Very slowly, add in the bourbon and brandy - just a little at a time.
When bourbon and brandy have been added, allow the mixture to cool in the fridge (for up to 6 hours, depending on how long before your party you're making the eggnog).
30 minutes before your guests arrive, stir the milk into the chilled yolk mixture.
Stir in 1+ ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream with a mixer on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.
In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
Gently fold the cream into the egg mixture.
After ladling into cups, garnish with the remainder of the ground nutmeg.

Serves: 8.

Drink up! I'm changing the music on the iPod again: this time it's James Taylor, At Christmas, one of my new all-time faves...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

party, party, party

Hoop-de-dooo! The party is tomorrow, everybody! Where your best jammies or your favorite Christmas Sweater! There will be music, and food (or at least recipes!), and tales of Christmas' long ago, when someone or other got really drunk and told everyone how they really felt.

Doesn't it sound like fun?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Code Red Cancelled

I sent the boy to school yesterday, all legs bending properly. It appears to be growing pains - yesterday he complained of pain in his right leg, and this afternoon, said his left thigh felt sore. We will still seek out the specialist, because they are good to know, but in the meantime, we are returning to normal around here. Knocking on wood, loudly.

In other news, we hit Trader Joe's last night to stock up on some groceries and it was packed with Christmas goodies. We came home with just a few, namely the gingerbread house (natch) and the advent calendar (double natch), and the CANDY CANE JOE-JOES. A note: when my time comes, and I go to my great reward, I would like to be buried with a box of these tasty morsels.

Do you realize that Christmas is coming? I KNOW, right?! But still... You know, I do try to be somewhat organized, and not to fly too much by the seat of my pants, but it does still sneak up on me. So I've decided that one thing that might be a good way to get in the spirit is to host a party, here on my blog. It'll be sweet, because I don't have to clean my house, but I can still enjoy your charming company. Please come, this Sunday, bring your best Christmas recipe, or story, or the best/worst Christmas present you've ever received, or just come and vent about the fact that Christmas is less than a month away and you are using up valuable shopping time by reading blogs instead of getting things done.

I'll be here, with a plate of Candy Cane Joe-Joes and a cup of coffee. See you then!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the land of worry

When Joe-Henry was first born, it was clear to the doctor's but not to us that there was something different about him. All we saw were these eyes, wide open, that took in the whole room and the measure of everyone he saw. But the nurse noticed it first: He had a large birthmark that ran the length of his left leg, and two of his tiny fingers on his right hand were, well, not tiny. Or at least not as tiny as the other three fingers on that hand. There were whispers amongst the staff, and eye contact, and after his bath, and some initial routine baby tests, they whisked him away to the NICU. After days of tests and more tests, days in which I could not feed him lest he have involvement in his intestines, it was concluded that he had something called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome. We could barely say it at the time, sleep addled and worried as we were, but in the years since, it has become another member of our family. It is something of an identity - not just for Joe-Henry, but for us, his parents, as well. It won't always be that way, there will come a time when he will make decisions about how to deal with it, if indeed he has to, on his own. But until then, it's mine, too.

We have been fortunate, so fortunate. His case is fairly mild, and his involvement does not cause him constant, debilitating pain. There have been a few bouts of cellulitis, which have been scary, and some odd hiccups here and there, but mostly it's just the syndrome's underlying there-ness that has caused my hair to turn white in places. It has just been this other creature sitting in the corner that looks me in the eye when he gets an odd symptom, as he did last night, when his left leg wouldn't bend.

I took him to his pediatrician today, who recommended ibuprofen for a few days, and if it gets no better, an mri. I've been in touch with the folks from the support group, sending emails, receiving knowledge and hope due to their familiarity with this terrain. I've requested a referral to Shriner's Hospital in Portland, because I've heard of an ortho specialist who has a lot of knowledge about kt, which is almost as rare as the syndrome itself.

I'm doing my best to take action, to stay positive, to not worry too much. I am staying within my worry speed limit, working hard not to get too far ahead, to not picture my boy being wheeled into surgery, or hobbling about as a grown man. But it's so hard. This is when motherhood is hardest for me - I can soothe away bad dreams, stomach aches, trouble in school, temper tantrums. But this - this is just me keeping the monster at bay so that he doesn't pick up on it. I busy myself with tasks, I keep my voice cheerful, but all I want to do is have someone, someone who knows for sure, tell me it will be alright. And I know that just isn't going to happen. Because no one really knows for sure, do they? That is the cold, hard fact of parenting: there is so much that is unknowable and out of our control.

That is the nasty bitch of motherhood, right there.

A good thought needed

Last night, as Joe-Henry was coming up the stairs from playing music with his friend next door, he complained that suddenly he couldn't bend his knee. I thought maybe he just tweaked it a bit on the stairs, but after a while it became clear that, no he couldn't bend it much at all, and it hurts him when he sits, and getting on the floor (which he has to do at school) is nearly impossible. His left leg is pretty involved with his k-t, and I'm worried that it's some symptom of his this blasted syndrome, and even more worried that there is no one here to deal with it. I'm not panicking, but my intuition is telling me it's not just growing pains, either. I think I'll be taking him to the doctor today, I'll let you know.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Treatise on Panties

You have the title of this post. If you, like me, think there is a point at which you do not need to know so much personal information about a person, then you will stop reading. But I'm not reading it, I'm writing it, and I'm out of fresh, witty insightful material. I have dug to the very bottom of my barrel, so here you go. If you turn back now, there might be hope for you.

There is an old family story about me. When I was about three, we had a house full of relatives visiting, and my mom, up to her elbows in Lutheran hospitality, decided it would be okay if I dressed myself for church. As my uncle carried me down the aisle of Our Saviors Lutheran Church, a smile broke across his face. As he handed me to my mother, her face grew red, and hot, and she marched me back out of the pew, down the aisle and back out to the car, where she had my father drive us home so she could put a pair of proper cotton panties on my bare bum. Apparently, we made it back for the sermon just in the nick. We were late for the opening hymn, but I'm sure mom didn't mind, because of the show off who always sat behind us and insisted on singing harmony, which cheesed her no end. Besides, better late than immodest.

When I was just out of college, I stayed for a couple months with my college roommates at the home of one of their moms, a single divorcee, who gave us all garter belts for Christmas. It was my first gift of that type - I've been given lingerie by a few men in my time since then, most notably my husband, but it seemed like a very loving, cosmopolitan, grown-up gift. I used it once or twice, but mostly I just liked the idea of it.

When I was in my late thirties, I shared a dressing room with a bunch of younger women, one of whom had just started wearing a thong, and swore by it, and so darn it, I had to get one too. It made me feel sexy.... when I looked at it in my drawer. But as soon as I put it on, I felt, well, like I had kitchen twine caught up my ass. I couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to pick something out of there.

I've tried, since then, to wear a thong, trying on different styles of thongs, different fabrics, but it all feels like a nasty joke that I'm not in on. It feels kind of mean, like whoever designed them was someone who never intended to wear one. I fully admit that the IDEA of them is sexy, and that granted, they are not meant to be worn for long. And unfortunately, I will resort to them on occasion, having run out of clean, comfy, normal panties. But all day? Oy, it puts me in a bad mood. I need to take an extra dose of lexapro just to make it to lunch. Someone once gave me a very good piece of advice when I was shopping for lingerie for my honeymoon. They said "see how it looks around your ankles, because that's pretty much where it'll be most of the time." Honestly, that's where it's most comfortable.

I buy my undies in bulk now, from Costco, like a lot of other women in America. It makes me kind of sad, lumping them in my cart with cases of soup and nose spray and giant bags of coffee. I would love a sexier alternative.

If only sexy was comfortable.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

For Sharing the Path...

The pies are baked, the turkey is waiting it's fate in my refridgerator, and the house is still dark. The floor is cold to my bare feet, and I see thick frost on my old car out our dining room window. It's November, alright. Even the kitties are curled up in the down blanket on the sofa.

I woke up early this morning, coughing and hacking, so not wanting to wake the sleeping angel men in my house I padded out to my computer. Thanks must be given today. Because I am oh, so thankful. If you read the paper at all, or watch five minutes of the news at six o'clock, unless you're the headline, you're probably thankful, too. And if you ARE the headline, please know that my heart is with you. truly.

I am thankful for the Lego airlines plane that I just stepped on under my computer desk, for all the toys scattered around my house by a merry imp. A merry imp who seems to be getting a huge influx of testosterone, and is changing daily. Growing taller, getting wiser and funnier by the hour. I am beyond thankful for him, the word "thanks" seems to catch in my throat, it's not enough. Not nearly enough.

I'm thankful for the husband who keeps me grounded, who makes me laugh, and who's intimacy I treasure more than anything. He will not believe this, but he is the most positive person I know. Because he's not a Pollyana, but he keeps going, keeps trudging forth in the world, making a difference in large ways and small just by being himself. He's kind and he's generous and he doesn't suffer fools. When I am with him, I feel like I'm the person I've always wanted to be.

I am thankful for my extended family - my in-laws who make me feel as though I were the best thing to happen since sliced bread. We've not been without our itchy scratchy moments, but they're few and far between, and it just proves that we're family. But how many women can say their mother-in-law is one of their dearest friends? I love their company, I miss them like crazy today, and someday, I hope to find the recipe to Mom's Oatmeal pie. I've tried to recreate it from the internet, and I nearly killed seven people last year who tried to choke it down. Mom - if you read this, and can find the recipe, please send it again!

I'm thankful for my brothers and my sister and my nieces and nephews and their wonderful, growing families. For our shared history and memories and our future adventures. My siblings were all much older than I, so we never really shared that giggling under the covers stuff, and there have been times when we didn't see much of each other at all. But I'm so grateful for their wisdom and guidance and for the fact that they never rub it in that I'm the baby. In fact, they treat me like a grown up, and I'll always strive to earn that.

I'm thankful for my job, and my colleagues and most importantly the kids who try so hard, every day to do their best, to communicate and show me their beautiful hearts. I'm thankful for "NO Anne", and "I don't like...", and lost markers, always yellow and pink, and jeans that are so loose they fall off as he walks down the hall. I'm thankful for the staff that guides me as I learn more about autism, thankful for the laughter and the tears and the sanity they provide.

And I'm thankful, so thankful to my friends who read this far. By some miracle of wires and networks and stuff I don't understand at all, we've connected. Some of you, I've never met, but I feel as though we've shared a bottle of something somewhere along the line. As I've stepped gingerly into the blogging waters, you were there when I shared my most embarrassing stories, my gushing parent stories, my horror stories. You've always had something to say, you've made me feel like less of a dork, and you've made me laugh out loud. You all have your own unique voices, and I love reading your stories. You inspire me daily, and I'm so grateful for all of you: There's Suttonhoo of course, with her infinite knowledge of just about everything and her heart as big as the desert sky, my real-life friend who inspired me to blog in the first place; then there's Franklin, my first official friend I don't know in real life, my sister of a different mother, who makes me spit my coffee out my nose with every thing she writes; there's MinivanMom, with her passion and her nerve and her desire to make the world better daily, there's Lola, the beautiful and kind and fiercely multi-talented; there's Kari the ridiculously talented, hysterically funny and well dressed; there's Rodius, with his humor and depth and heart, and of course the mighty Thumper; there's Rodi's mom, Purelight, with her wisdom and grace and fabulous sense of humor; there's my girl Donna, who's comments always make me feel like I'm chatting with a long lost friend; there's my real-life pal Claire, with her amazing mothering skills and sense of home; there's Kimberly, whose path is so different from mine but whose grace and good heart inspire me. I know there's some I've forgotten, and for that I ask your forgiveness. My house is awake now, and the Lego plane under my desk is being dragged across my big toe, so I'm losing my train of thought. Plane of thought? Anyway....

Today and always, I wish you all a deep well of thanks, full of moments to make you laugh, and think, and hopefully share, in your own amazing voices.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Do a Great Thing....

Are you looking for a way to thrill a child this Christmas, (or perhaps a whole LOT of children) and at the same time, help another child in a third world country? For $399.00, you can give one, and get one, and $200 is completely tax deductible.

Check this out, but do it quick - it's only available for another week:

One Laptop Per Child

While you're on their website, you can check out the laptops amazing features, as well as link directly to David Pogue's excellent review, AND his video review. You can also read a great review, written by a twelve year old user.

Merry Christmas, and you're welcome!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Now THAT'S Optimism....

Tonight, at bedtime, with the lights off, we chattered sleepily about a bully at school, having just watched "He's A Bully, Charley Brown". They always fill the second half hour of any Charley Brown special with the odd, sloppy seconds Charley Browns, the ones without the charming voice overs, the ones that you suspect might have been dashed off on a cocktail napkin over martinis made with expensive vodka.

Anyway, I was trying my best to explain the difference between defending yourself and being mean. I said, "Well, defending yourself is like saying firmly 'stop doing that - it's not okay', and being mean is saying 'stop doing that - it's not okay BUTTHEAD".

He was quiet for a moment, then he said, "wow, mom. If my butt were on my head it would be so much easier to wipe."

Thank God I have this kid, because I could never in a million years make up anything that funny by myself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

When You Wish Upon A Star

Say what you will about The Wonderful World of Disney: It's manipulative, it's ferociously capitalistic, it's driven to brand and license every adorable character within an inch of it's life. Yes, yes, it's all true. But I'll tell you what, it really is the happiest place on earth if you have kids. Of course you pay for it through the nose (and if you're me, in more ways than one - I came down with a nasty cold our last day there), and you'll never feel your feet again from all the walking and standing in line, and you'll crave quiet like an drunk craves the demon drink, and it's guaranteed that at least one person will meltdown every day, although it will not always be a child.

But where else can you get hugged by Winnie-The-Pooh,

get a license to drive your dad around the bend at age seven

and fly a rocket all by yourself?

Where else can you become a Jedi in Training,

defeating Darth Vader AND assist Buzz Lightyear in saving the Universe from the Evil Zorg? All in the same hour? Where else can you help a pirate named "Honest John" find his treasure?

And where else can you stand in line for twenty minutes for a one minute ride on a roller coaster with Grandpa and have it be the bellylaugh of a lifetime?

Once, when Joe-Henry was about four, we hit Disneyland for some random occasion. We lived within an hour's drive then, so we had the California pass, and all we did was visit with Winnie-the-Pooh. We'd finish up standing in line, he'd hug Pooh, and we'd just head on back to the back of the line for another round. On this particular visit, we had waited in line to see Pooh, and he had to go on a lengthy break. He whispered to his "handler" to have us come back during one half hour time slot, so we came back to see Pooh at our appointed time. As we were arriving, he was too, and he saw Joe-Henry, and got down on one knee and opened his arms. Joe-Henry ran to him, and Pooh hugged him tight, and then slipped a note into his hand. He couldn't read yet, but I read the note to him. It was a handwritten note in Pooh's characteristic script, and it said "Joe-Henry - Pooh luvs you like Hunny." I burst into tears, and Joe-Henry has kept the note in a special place ever since.

He knows now that Pooh is just a person in a costume (I'll tell you that sad tale some other day - but for now I've promised to not make certain people cry), but I think that Disneyland, and all that it entails -

family, friends, and a few days of YES, LET'S DO! - really, truly do carry more than a smidgen of magic.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Good Fight

For Joe-Henry's birthday, we got to go to Disneyland, where he was chosen with some other kids to save the Universe from the Dark Side. Here are a few pics....

They got to wear robes

And practice with light sabers

Use the Force

Darth Maul doesn't stand a chance against this young padwan

The Dark Side has been vanquished - we're all safe. At least until the 4:30 show.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seven Years Ago...

I was given a new identity.
It didn't stick immediately, because no one called me by my new name right away, and if they did, they said it in such a way that you could hear the quotation marks surrounding it, like when you first get married and someone calls you "Mrs."

After years of trying, and months of waiting, we had a little baby boy.
And he had parents.
My husband and I.
That was us.

I was his Mom.

It took me a long time to grow into my new self - sometimes, I still feel like I haven't got my arm completely through my sleeve. But there is no shaking it off, because, well, he talks now, a lot, and can yell my name when he needs help: "MOM!"

That's me. That's who I am.

He can do so much on his own now - not like in the beginning. He can walk and talk and get dressed by himself (though he still begs for my help), and makes friends and does homework, and operates in the world without me hovering nearby for a full six hours. Yikes.

You'd think that this identity of mine might loosen up a bit, with that freedom, but it doesn't. It wraps itself tighter around me, and I'm realizing, seven years in, that this is me, now, for life.


Hopefully, I won't mess it up too much. Just enough that he'll have stories to tell, and something to gripe to his friends about.

Oh, and that seven year old? He is full of light, and dark and music.
And he is my son.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another milestone

With not much to do yesterday (or actually many things to do that I was in deep denial about), I decided it would be a great day to take JH on the Max train to the Children's Discovery Museum. It's our favorite place to go, and riding the Max is not only an entertaining ride, it's my only surefire way to not get lost on the way. My nickname around here is Magellan. You get the picture. I also figured it was Joe-Henry's last chance to ride for free, since he turns seven in (gulp) a few days, and that's the cutoff age for free rides. When I told him this fact, he panicked, and said he needed to get a job so that he'd have money to ride. I told him if he takes out the recycling, I'd pay for his tickets on Max.

We had a decent time at the Museum, had it not been for the bossypants older girl in the play grocery store who hogged the cash register for the better part of an hour, it might have been a lot better. He asked nicely for a turn once, and she shoo'd him away with some lame story, so I finally told Joe-Henry to go tell her he only had a few minutes left to play so he needed a turn, she proceeded to give him instructions on the correct way to work the check out line. She apparently didn't know who she was dealing with, so he set her straight with something like "I've WORKED HERE BEFORE - besides, it's just PRETEND. THANKS ANYWAY."

He didn't add "BEEYOTCH", but I know he would have if he'd had it in his vocabulary.

And yes, I know, it won't be long now.

Aaaaanyway, on our trip home, sitting on the Max, I was kind of lulled into my post-chaos coma, staring openly at the mass of humanity sharing our ride: The older couple, nattily dressed, holding hands; the really young black kid with the amazing tattoo of what I'm sure was his baby on his forearm; the homeless guy with taped glasses, reading a philosophy book; the mom and her college-age daughter, her lap piled high with Nordstrom bags, discussing what kind of burritos would be best to buy to stock her new freezer in her new apartment. The daughter stared straight ahead, barely giving her mom an answer, while her mom did her best to engage her in conversation, talking about her new apartment and roommates, but doing her best to not sound like an eager puppy. "Wow", I thought, "couldn't she at least manage some eye contact? Or just a change in inflection? Throw your mom a bone, here - she's doing her best. She just took you to Nordstrom's for pete's sake!"

I put my arm around Joe-Henry, and absent-mindedly kissed the top of his head. He looked up at me, with a pained expression, and then rose up to his knees to whisper in my ear.

"Mom. It embarrasses me when you kiss me in public."

I looked at him, his sweet cheeks, his chapped lips, his tousled hair. Tempted as I was to be ornery and kiss his face all over, I managed to whisper "Okay, sweetie. I'll try not to do it anymore." I removed my arm from around his back, and sat, looking toward the front of the car, doing my best to choke down the huge lump in my throat. I knew this day was coming. I just didn't expect it so soon.

Last night at bedtime, we all snuggled on his tiny bed, all three of us, while he read to us from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. We laughed 'til we cried, and when it was time for lights out, I tucked him in, hesitating for just a moment.

"Mom. It embarrasses me when you kiss me in public. But not when you kiss me at home."

And with that, I got a sweet taste of my future as the mother of a big boy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Veteran's Day

Originally uploaded by anniemcq
I have Monday off - a paid holiday for me. I'm not a Veteran, but my brother is. He is not off on Monday. So. Not. Fair.

Still and all, we had a perfect Autumn afternoon for our small town Veteran's Day Parade. As liberal as I am, I get a huge lump in my throat watching the flag go by, carried by, well, pretty much everyone.

When my dad was in the nursing home, with his memories fading, I remember the story my brother told of a visit with him on Veteran's Day. They wheeled all the residents out to the flag pole, and as they raised the flag, my dad removed his cap, and sat up straighter than he had in months, and saluted until they finished playing "Reveille" on an old cassette tape. As much as I miss him, I'm glad he's not around to see how our flag is used today. He'd have some choice words for our leader, I'm pretty sure.

I disagree with so much about what we are doing to our country today. But I will always, always be grateful to those who are serving our country. So, to all you Veteran's out there - Thank you.

If you want to see a few more photos of our day at the parade, check it out here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

In Five, Four, Three....

Time is giving me the business these days - it is moving too fast, and I can't keep up. My bones and muscles strain at the effort, but it just isn't happening. My dishes sit in the sink for two days because I've been gone from sunup to sundown and so has my husband, my laundry is piled high, and my son is a few inches taller than he was this morning.

He has a birthday coming up, and it is striking me particularly hard that he is no longer little. I mean, of course, he is, but now he's a KID. Not a baby, not a toddler, not even a little boy, really, but a kid. And a boy kid at that. Gone is the little one who thought pink converse were all the rage, and wanted to be Ariel for Halloween. This kid hides his eyes when he sees people kiss, and says loudly and emphatically (YUCK!) He still tells me that he'll play with girls at recess, but more out of necessity - with his syndrome, he just can't run as fast as the boys, so he's stuck there playing on the playstructure. But he's NOT playing house with them. He is driving a bus, or a train, and if they want to play house, well, they'd better move on back. It will be interesting to see what happens when he sees his favorite friend in the world - Grace - next week at Disneyland. Will they fall into their old, easy friendship, or will it be something new, fraught with gender issues? My bet is that they'll be a little nervous at first, but then will relax into their soulmate status, and have the time of their lives.

I always feel like I'm shot out of a canon when his birthday rolls around. Thanksgiving arrives just as I'm cleaning up the wrapping paper from his birthday, and then Christmas, with it's preperatory madness is breathing down my neck. But this year, it's something bigger - it has more to do with years than months or weeks. Decades, in fact. Soon, before I know it he will be ten. When I held him in my arms in the hospital, ten wasn't even in my vocabulary. People who had toddlers were bearers of ancient wisdom, and people with ten year olds, well, they were just too old to remember what it was like. There was no way they could even remember that far back.

I have news for my old self - that might be true of some parents. But I remember. If I close my eyes, I can still smell my baby. He doesn't smell like that anymore, not by a long shot, but I'm going to keep sniffing, because someday, sooner than I care to realize, he won't let me sniff him at all. I still will, of course. Surreptitiously, while getting my mandated one hug per visit home, when he comes back from college on break with mountains of laundry and stays for fifteen minutes because he's heading out with his friends. And honestly, it's what I want for him. That his luck holds with his syndrome and that puberty doesn't bring about health challenges, and if it does, that they're minor and maybe only embarrassing, but no not even that. I'm his mom, I can wish for that even if it isn't necessarily realistic. And I fervently, fervently wish that he has good friends that love and understand and honor him, and make him laugh, and appreciate his gifts and challenges. I have friends like that, and it makes the world a much better place.

In the meantime, he's still six for another six days. I think I'll go take a whiff right now. I'm still bigger than he is, for at least another year.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Perfect Description

Tonight, in the bath, Joe-Henry was lamenting the fact that his older neighbor friend doesn't listen to him, and then JH gets really mad, and gets physical with him, and then his friend tells on him and JH gets in trouble. I posited that, because his friend has a big brother and gets teased a lot, that maybe he thought of JH as a little brother.

To which he replied, "Mom, he's not acting like a big brother. He's acting like an 'OH brother'".

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rock On

Keeping the kid entertained by turning on the camera in my computer.

Look what I caught....

So Proud, Part II

Last night at a large family dinner for my brother, who is having a milestone birthday this week, Joe-Henry was doing his usual dawdling. His nose was running, and he kept wiping at it with his sleeve, AND eating his enchilada's with his hands. With Charley and I at opposite sides of the table, he got two different directions at the same time: "Use your napkin to wipe your nose" and "Use your fork".

Without skipping a beat, and because he knew it would make us proud, he stuck his fork up his nose.

Sure it hurt a bit, but he knows that in this family, funny isn't funny unless it's slightly dangerous. So he took one for the team.

As we like to say around here, the ham doesn't fall far from the tree.

Friday, November 2, 2007

At The Moment

Lola tagged me this morning, and I'm glad, because even though I'm not signed up to do the blog a day thing, I like to keep up!

Wearing: Turquoise snowflake pj's, blue socks and big fluffy white robe

Hair: unfortunate

Makeup: smeared under my eyes

Last thing said: "I had a dream we got married again, and I put the wrong date on the invitation and all these people showed up but there was no caterer, so we rescheduled. We charged people $20 a head to come to the wedding. I was mortified, but you weren't mad at me."

Last phone call: to my sister to remind her of our brother's birthday party on Saturday.

In your bag: my orange emergency kit with bandaids and lipstick, my wallet, my staff badge and some tampons.

Plans for today: to do my best, then go to the staff happy hour after work, or just come home and hang out with my family.

Last thing bought: a silver lamé jumpsuit and silver bike helmet for Joe-Henry's alien costume, a huge rubber spider and a tee shirt (all at Goodwill)

Listening to: the sputter of the coffee maker

Last showered: yesterday morning (I'm not there yet today)

Looking forward to: going to Disneyland with my family for JH's birthday

Worst part of the day: I'll tell you about the worst part of the day yesterday, because I just woke up today. Three of the kids in our class are going to be attending a new school (my son's, in fact) because they had to find another place for them due to overcrowding of our class. I have a LOT of issues about this, first and foremost being that I truly worry about how they will do and how it will affect the kids. One of the girls in my group is going, and she is best friend's with one of the boys in my group. They love each other madly. When his autism gets really big, he talks incessantly, saying negative things, usually "I don't like.." But during calendar time, they mentioned that the three who will be attending the new school were on a field trip there yesterday, I looked over and he was just sitting there, with quiet tears streaming down his face. It broke my heart into a million pieces.

Best part of the day: snuggling at bedtime with JH, while he read to me.

Favorite person of the day: My husband and my son. Don't make me pick between the two.

Thinking about: the fact that I have to get ready for work and I'm doing this instead.

Current annoyance: that I need to drop my husband from my health insurance because it eats half my paycheck, and I think that sucks.

Current obsession: what color to paint my dining room.

Feeling: rushed, but glad it's Friday.

I tag Franklin, and Rodius.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Halloween Check List

Halloween went as expected yesterday:

Excitement - check
fun costume - check
trick or treating with best friend - check
tons of candy - check
HUGE MELTDOWN - check, check, check.

If you think that's from the candy, you'd be mistaken. One piece only, it was just exhaustion and too much excitement.

And starting the morning winning an award for being one of the most respectful first graders at an assembly, and he has a healthy sense of irony.

And being almost seven.
I've told him that seven year olds DO NOT HAVE TANTRUMS.
So he's getting it out of his system while he can.

Of course he hasn't put it together that I'm forty something and still have tantrums...

Shhhhh! Don't tell on me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

good to know

Talking to an LA friend last night, who has met George Clooney, and spent some time in his company ( how did I not know this? perhaps it's because they knew if they told me I would sit on them until they told me every last detail, like how does he SMELL? and is he FUNNY? He must be - look at 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' ), and this I know is a really long and poorly constructed sentence, but bear with me because there is a great payoff:

He's really nice. A good friend. Compassionate and caring. And nice. Did I mention that he's nice?

But how does he SMELL? Never mind -

You don't want me to sit on you, do you?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Botanical Suicide

a yellow leaf,
not satisfied with merely "falling"
threw itself under
my moving car,
making sure
to get the job done

Cruel World.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

in other words, I'm a mom

I visited Lolabola's blog today and took the quiz that she took to find out what Astrological Sign I REALLY am. But I didn't like the answers I got (I took it three times), so I found another quiz. I guess that proves I'm a Leo.

This one was fun, though!

Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

You're highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.
If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.
But you don't harness your energy unless you truly need to.
And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you

Friday, October 26, 2007

So Proud.

I am going to boast here, not about myself, but I am going to go all Un-Lutheran on your unsuspecting asses, and sing the praises of my child. I am going to pull out all the stops, because while I will sometimes post about something cute or funny or crazymaking that he does, I have a hard time going full out Bragging Parent.

But here's the thing - I am so proud of him, so honored to be his mom. With all the mistakes I've made in raising him, with all the times I've doubted myself, he has, thus far, turned out to be a talented, smart and funny person, who is as kind as he is beautiful.

We had his first grade conference today, and although I wasn't worried about getting bad news or anything, I still wasn't prepared for how enthusiastic his teacher is about having Joe-Henry as a student. With Joe-Henry sitting right there, she told us that he is the best listener she's ever had in all her years of teaching. She said he is her touchstone in the class - if he doesn't understand it, then she didn't explain it correctly. She showed us a few of his papers that had mistakes, and pointed out how he learned from them, and how much he's improved since the start of school. She said he is a role model in his class, and that the other kids look to him to know how to behave. She said he is a friend to all the kids in his class, and is always respectful to the students and staff.

When we left, he was floating on a cloud. He said it was the best day of his life. And his dad and I told him that even if he was struggling, as long as he tries his best, we will always, ALWAYS be so proud of him.

When I got home there was an email from his teacher - right after we left, she found out there is going to be an assembly at his school on Wednesday. The topic is RESPECT. Joe-Henry is going to get an award, and will get to go up on the stage to accept it and shake hands with the principal and the school counselor.

But the reason I am so proud of him? The real reason, is this. When I asked him in front of his teacher if there were any problems with other kids, he said "A. used to hurt my feelings, but he helped me stack the chairs the other day. I felt really honored that he wanted to help me. And we finished the job together."

His kindness and ability to look past differences teaches me so much. I am going to try my best to learn from him.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

what I'm listening to...

....right this very minute: Raising Sand, the new collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

My new favorite song is "Gone, Gone, Gone", tied for first place with "Please Read The Letter" and "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson". Oh, and "Killing The Blues". And the other nine songs on the album.

So. Damn. Good.

Catching Clouds

I have two days off work because there are student conferences, so I got to sleep in until 7:00 a.m. this morning! It was so foggy and cold, I convinced Joe-Henry to put on some warm clothes over his pajamas and bring out his camera and we'd go take pictures together. He decided that would be a great idea, but even better was his idea to catch clouds.

I emptied out a Texmati Rice container, and he caught clouds, and his breath,

until he got so cold he started screaming at me.

A trip to Starbucks for a cinnamon roll as big as his head remedied everything.

Now I just have to catch up on, oh, everything. Luckily, I am fueled by coffee and a big jar of clouds.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Embarrassment of Riches

What a start to my weekend! On Wednesday, I told you about my freaky phone conversation with my long lost friend from my other life who is now a PTO mom just like me in our small town. That was one of those cool things that could have lasted me for at least a week or two.

But the goodness just kept going: on Thursday, Joe-Henry and I had dinner at our favorite spot in Portland with some dear friends who were up here scouting the area from LA. I met my friend Shannon when we were in the same theater company down there. She is one of those women: frighteningly gorgeous, amazingly talented and one of the most intuitive and loyal friends you will ever meet. She is one the friends who saved my life when we were getting ready to move here. She is one of the friends I missed like crazy when I got here. But now, NOW, oh, I'm almost too excited to type the words: they are moving to the Portland area. They have their reasons - his daily four hour commute, better schools at more affordable prices, and yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, they're moving up HERE! They had planned the rest of the weekend to scout Seattle, but they aren't even making it up there - they're going to hunt in earnest here! Wooooohoooooooooooooooo! And can I say, right here, right now, I am itching to help her on this end, because lapsed Lutheran girls are like elephants: we never forget a kindness, and returning the favor is a necessity.

As if THAT weren't enough to make me dance around like a freaky balloon on tainted helium, I got to go on a date with my husband last night! It was so perfect, and so needed. My week at school was trying, my cold still hanging on, my voice shot, and my last good nerve was twitching. He had worked late all week, and I was asleep before he got home almost every night, and darn it, I missed him!
So I called in the troups and my niece and her husband came over for pizza, they brought a movie, and entertained Joe-Henry while we headed out for a grown-up evening. And we got to go out for a quick dinner: it had to be quick, the movie started in an hour and the restaurant closed in 10 minutes, so we got it to go, took it to the car, turned on some good music and sat in the dark in the rain and talked about everything. We haven't steamed up the windows like that since we were dating. Then, we saw one of the best movies I've seen in YEARS. We went to see Michael Clayton. It had everything, it was a thriller AND a character study AND just a flippin' good story. Well written, brilliantly acted, and perfectly directed. So. damn. good. It reminded me of those movies from the seventies that took their time telling the story, and where you wind up at the end is miles from where you thought you would at the beginning. Oh, and did I mention it had George Clooney? In a suit? For the whole movie? If the movie wasn't so brilliant, I could have done my review in one word:


But the movie WAS brilliant, so I am telling you - if you like grown up movies where the bad guys aren't stereotypes that you can spot in a crowd, and the good guys are morally ambiguous (and look like George Clooney), and the story will leave you thinking about it for days, then run, don't walk to see this movie.

This morning, I'm tucked in on the couch, great coffee, great music, my favorite almost seven year old playing with trucks on the floor, my handsome, smart, witty, sexy husband downstairs building a fire while the rain taps away on our roof, wondering how I got so lucky.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When Worlds Collide

Tonight I was putting Joe-Henry to bed and the phone rang. It was a parent from his school (one of the few that I actually feel like I have something in common with) calling about volunteering. I had put calls out earlier in the day about a couple events coming up and she was rsvp-ing. We'd talked briefly before - she has a son who is deaf, and she teaches ASL at the School for the Deaf in our neighborhood. Previously we had talked about ASL lessons, and her Etsy shop, and I knew that she was a committed parent AND a crafty girl. And very, very bright.

So, while we're having this conversation, she mentioned that she used to live in LA, and I pounced - THAT's why she seemed so familiar! But while we talked about shows we worked on and things we did in LA, even though we lived fairly close, I knew that wasn't it. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

When Charley and I lived in Seattle, right after we got married, we got hired to do recurring guest spots on a short lived television show playing a couple getting married. He needed a heart transplant, and there was lots of drama and tears, and it was really a fun job to have, being newlyweds and all. I got to wear a big poofy wedding dress and feel okay about it, because it wasn't actually MY dress. I remember having long conversations about marriage with the costumer, who was also getting married, over a weekend when we weren't shooting. She was adorable and friendly and open, and both Charley and I loved her, and thought she was the best part of working on that set.

Well, you see where this is going, don't you? When I finally asked her if she lived in Seattle, and if she had ever worked on Medicine Ball, she took a deep breath in - and we had that moment of forehead slapping, "OH MY GOD THAT WAS YOU!"

And here we are, on the PTO of an Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington. The world just doesn't get much smaller than that. We are definitely going for coffee to catch up on this new life, where what we have in common is even more exciting than showbiz.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I am home from work today, after having gotten good and sick this weekend. Honestly, I tried to save my "sick days" for the weekend, when I could at least hang at home in my sweats, without having to talk as much. I sound like the offspring of Brenda Vaccaro on a ventilator, and a circus seal. My body is sore from coughing all night, and yet my husband had to sit on me and hand me the phone this morning to call in. There have been a lot of absences at work lately, and I hate being one of them. I'm causing stress there, and I feel lousy because of it.

So I'm punishing myself by watching the diy channel and learning everything there is to know about scrapbooking.

If this doesn't absolve my guilt, what will? Perhaps by the end of the day I can make a beautiful pop up card involving used tissues and the empty foil packs for my tylenol cold pills, all stuck on a lovely card stock with my own phlegm.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Woe, Nellie

Having hit a brick wall by Friday of this week, having had every ounce of energy sapped out of my body from the cold I've been fighting and the kids I've been loving, I begged my husband for a day off today. He gave me the kind of hug that I needed, a full body, filled with love hug, and said "Go!", while he got down on the floor to make a playdoh breakfast with Joe-Henry. I'm not sure if I've written yet about how much I love this man, but, man, do I love him.

I packed up my camera and my tissues and a bottle of water, and headed out into the morning mist to "shoot stuff". I am by no means a photographer, I can barely manage to pull what I want into focus, but the act of it, the getting out and looking is so satisfying, and the "click" makes me happy beyond words. If I have ten photos out of a hundred that are useable, that is deliriously successful.

And, now I'm bathed and fed and ready for my nap. Have a wonderful weekend all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

help me out here

Hey all,
JH has been having a tough time with a kid at school who has been doing a lot of teasing. The kid seems to be Capital T Trouble, and I'm sure JH isn't the only one getting teased. His teacher is aware of it, and I'm just trying to arm my son with an arsenal of fabulous comebacks. I've given him "I'm rubber, you're glue, what bounces off me sticks to you" (which seems to get him confused and he winds up saying "you're rubber and I'm glue"), the shorter "get a life", and "I know you are but what am I?", which doesn't always apply grammatically. Because of my lapsed Lutheran conscience, I am blocked when it comes to anything remotely witty or stinging. What I'd really like to do is bop the kid on the head myself, nothing harmful, mind you, just to let him know I mean business, and short of that have him removed permanently from the classroom, but those aren't options.

So- were any of you teased mercilessly as children? Could you pass along your best retorts? It needs to be first grade friendly, and if it makes JH laugh, so much the better.

Thank you from an exasperated mother.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

do you hear what I hear?

Are those the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Because I just read a new post over at The Franklin Five.

Repent, NOW!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chairman of the Board

It was, finally, picture day at Joe-Henry's school today, and he wore his new shirt and tie. He looks like a million dollars, if I do say so myself, and he hasn't taken it off yet, even with a trip to the grocery store and dinner. I think he'd wear it every day if he could, even if the little trouble maker in his class almost made him cry because he called everyone over to look at him and said "we're not going to a wedding!" He feels good about himself, and that is something we could all do with a little more of.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Just killing time

Conversation overheard at bathtime...

Joe-Henry: "Dad, I want to live until I'm 7,000 years old."

Charley: "Wow. What are you going to do with all that time?"

Joe-Henry: "Smoke a pipe."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

turn, turn, turn

This weekend was spent roughing it in the wilderness, which is what my husband really, really wanted for his birthday. And by roughing it, I mean we stayed in a cabin that had a jacuzzi and direct tv, and we had to walk twenty whole yards from our front door to get wi-fi. I mean, come ON.

But it was glorious to be out of town, out of reach, (because our cell phone service was iffy), smelling the fresh mountain air, eating chili baked potatoes and playing one hundred and eighty five games of UNO with the undisputed UNO champion of the world.

I started reading a book, we napped (and by we I mean Charley), we noshed, we wandered, we laughed. We drove around and Charley would stop the car while I got out and took pictures of old barns and longhorn bulls.

Joe-Henry loved our cabin, which had a tiny kitchen where he could play, a window that he could slide open at hip height and pretend to be working the window at McDonalds, and wonder of wonders, a murphey bed, which he put up all by himself before we left today. The lovely woman who owns the cabins brought us hummingbird cake (banana and pineapple) with creamcheese frosting fresh from the oven for dessert last night, and we thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Everything was so green and gold and red - vibrant and exhilarating, and when you breathed in, you felt the clean go all the way to your toes. We took a tiny hike down the Little White Salmon river and watched some kayakers push off, and wandered on a little trail under steep cliffs, rocks covered in emerald moss, happy to be with each other in the wild.

We got huckleberry pie (for me), huckleberry cobbler (for Charley) and a banana milkshake for JH at a small diner that looked like something out of a movie, there were hunters all eating up after a day in the forest, doing what hunters do. Charley's kilt was the talk of the town, but hey, there isn't a lot you can say when you wear camouflage and bright orange.

We drove back today, all of us pretty quiet, storing it up to last until we can do it again. Usually I feel tired after a weekend trip, but this was so peaceful, I actually feel rested and ready for the week ahead. It was heaven to be with my little brood, just the three of us. If I have to rough it, I want to rough it with these guys.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

If October 4th Is Your Birthday

You survived the wretched normality of a suburban childhood, and it gave you a penchant for creativity. You spend your early adult years unaware of your own hotness, and while you think you are only the "friend", it is really your own cluelessness that saves you from the clutches of many ill-fitting matches. You spend your early thirties running away from a tenacious redhead, but this just makes you more attractive, and you will wind up married.

You find balance later in life, but not on a bicycle.

Your forties finds you struggling with the satisfaction of domesticity and the pull to create, but it is in your role as a parent that you shine. Your shimmering mind and loving heart are just two of the tools in your parenting tool kit that make this job so perfect for you. You are admired and adored by your family, and your perserverence and attention to the needs of others are an inspiration to the people in your life.

You are adept with words, and your talent in this area needs to be given more attention as you move into mid-life. Your family is supportive of this endeavor, and will do what is necessary to help you achieve your goals.

You are incredibly sensual and sexual and there is little (if anything) that turns you off. You attract others like moth to a flame with your wit and self-deprecating sense of humor, and your sexy, sexy legs which you choose to show off in middle years by wearing a kilt. This is a very good choice for you - few people can pull it off like you can.

In fact, your "animal magnetism" is so strong that you do share an unspoken love with another species - mornings are especially important, and you must do your best not to let this "love" know of your commitment to your family, as he is jealous, and furry, and will hiss when unhappy.

Oh, and if October 4th is your birthday, you might just be my husband. And that would make me the luckiest woman alive.

Happy Birthday, my sweet love. You are the light of my life.

With apologies to Ellin Dodge.