Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mind the Gap

If you've looked to the side of my blog lately, you know that I am currently counting down the days until I have a full-time house husband at my disposal. For all those who made funny faces or scathing remarks when I married above my age bracket, this is my big chance to have the last laugh. Here I am with a house full of kids, still a relatively young woman with what I hope is at least half of my life before me, and I get to enter the retiree phase of life. You are welcome to envy me.

While I never set out to marry someone much older, it can hardly have been a surprise to anyone who knew me. When I was 15, I had a crush on a 52-year-old friend of my parents. When I was 17, I took a 22-year-old to my junior prom. The truth is, I never really felt at ease with many people of my own age. So, when I found myself falling for the wonderful man who became my husband, discovering the 20-year gap in our ages only gave me the briefest pause. Why, I asked myself, does that need to matter?

My husband, bless him, worried that it would matter. He wasted a portion of our courtship in trying to convince me of this, to no avail. It is true that there are some generational differences. My children's cousins were mostly grown up by the time they were just entering the scene. And I have been mistaken for my husband's daughter a handful of times--though I might just attribute that to my deceptively youthful appearance and count it as a compliment to me.

The thing is, it has never mattered. The age issue has never been a part of our relationship. We have grown up together just as surely as any same-age couple. When I look at him, I see nothing more or less than the sweet companion of my life. It is only through others' eyes that I am reminded that there is anything out of the common way in our situation. Which makes me realize that they are right--I am uncommonly blessed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

There's not much to say about Thanksgiving except that it was glorious. It was an easy, breezy day full of yummy food, courtesy of Cracker Barrel and the lovely Petya--waitress extraordinaire. Seriously, if you're going to eat away from home on a major holiday, why not make it someplace where you can rock on the porch and play checkers.

So then it was over the boardwalk to bask in the sunshine and salt air. I fell in love with a little white goldendoodle puppy, but managed to keep from running off with the little nipping furball. What a lovely day it was!

After a literal kicking and screaming departure from the scene, we had a peaceful drive home. Traditional football watching was replaced by a stirring episode of Dinosaur Planet followed by a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Cookies and pie were eaten, a Christmas tree was hauled up from the basement and decorated, and a happy, tired family snuggled in front of the fire.

Next stop . . . Christmas!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


While my husband was off helping a friend assemble a table and chairs this evening, a bat made its way into my house. This happens sometimes. It's one of the occupational hazards of living in the woods. We have developed a number of strategies that we use for removing such intruders, all of which involve my husband, welding gloves, and a broom. Tonight, being in possession of only the gloves and broom, I had to contemplate new strategies, like the huddle-in-the-corner-with-a-large-stick-until-my-husband-came-home strategy or the pack-the-kids-into-the-car-and-leave-home strategy. But I am proud to say I faced my fear and grabbed that tiny flying mammal (wearing the welding gloves, of course) and so saved my entire family.

I was reminded today of the fear component that goes along with autism. When my oldest was 5, he saw a commercial in which a woman grabs a paper towel and her arm becomes huge and muscled and yanks her around the room, cleaning everything in her path. I didn't realize at the time how frightening this was to him. He's still not hugely communicative when it comes to his anxieties, but back then he was a completely closed book. It wasn't until we were grocery shopping with his baby brother in the cart and I made an attempt to go down the paper goods aisle that the problem revealed itself. Austin bolted like he was being charged down by a pack of ravenous wolves and I, being a loving and protective parent unwilling to leave an infant to go off in pursuit, grabbed him and wrestled him right to the floor. Such a proud moment in my history as a mother. I have this image of the store security camera footage of the event being kept on file in some dark warehouse somewhere.

While we were able to get to the bottom of that one, and eventually move past it, irrational fears like this have plagued Austin all his life. His fears are inconsistent, rarely based on anything in reality, entirely random, and almost completely paralyzing to him. He faced one fear today, venturing into the basement while the dryer was on, trembling in mortal terror that the buzzer would go off while he was down there. The buzzer remained silent, he emerged intact, and he was very proud of himself that he bested his emotions.

All of which puts me in mind of the motto for HANDLE, one of the therapies we utilize for Austin--"Helping extraordinary people do ordinary things." That's really what it all comes down to. Autism makes it so difficult to do the ordinary things. And it always feels that as soon as one obstacle is removed, another springs up to take its place. But I am thankful (gratuitous Thanksgiving tie-in) at how far we have come and at how long it's been since I've had to tackle my son (especially since he's now bigger than me). And so pleased that he's doing some of his own tackling these days.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Gratitude

First, I would like to thank all the people who invited my family to Thanksgiving dinner after my last post. You are all too kind!

And now, because--as everyone who's ever stuffed themselves silly on this fine holiday knows--there is a gluttonous side to Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks for my most valuable material indulgences. Those things I could live without, but can't--you know what I mean.

1. My DVR. How life changing it was when I could suddenly pause and/or rewind my television! Once I'd experienced it, I could never go back. *sigh*

2. My computer. My life is on this sleek little machine (Toshiba, not Apple, thank-you-very-much). Anything I can get done by using it is always the first thing completed on my to-do list. If I could ever figure out a way to clean my house via software it would be a perfect world.

3. My tablet. We actually have three in our family--and iPad, a Galaxy Tab, and a Toshiba Thrive. They are flashy, fun, practical, and frivolous. But the best part is how any one of them will thoroughly occupy a restless toddler in a pinch. I never leave home without one.

4. My PurePro Water Ionizer. Because I'm not all about the tech gadgets, here's one toy that's about being healthier. If you want to get in on the hexagonal water craze, this is about as cheap as you can do it and still have top quality. My favorite thing about this machine is the way it acidified the water I put in my fish tank, clearing up a long-fought algae problem in one day.

5. My Chevy Traverse. We saved, we scrimped, we shopped, and 3 months ago we brought this beauty home. I love everything about this car. Someday it will be towing a camper, but for now it's just toting my family around town in fine style.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Non-Traditional Traditions

Ever since I met my husband twenty years ago, we have spent Thanksgiving with his family. It was already a long-standing tradition with them that I stepped into--hesitantly at first, but then with anticipation as it became my tradition, too. But time has a way of evolving old traditions into new ones and, as my niece and nephews grew up and moved away to start families of their own, the old custom began to lose its shape a bit. Last year, it came to a final end, with each of my husband's siblings moving on to new traditions.

And so it was that we found ourselves unexpectedly on our own for the holiday. After the requisite moping over the situation, it struck us that we were free for the first time to shape our own new tradition. What we ended up with was something I never thought I'd do. It may shock you to hear, but there will be no turkey in my oven this Thursday, nor will I be slaving away in any part of my kitchen.

The cold, hard truth is that we are eating our Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant. So fun! We will be in front of a roaring fire at Cracker Barrel where my kids can have burgers and fries or pancakes and bacon or anything else they desire for Thanksgiving. I won't have to clean, cook, or clean up from cooking. When the meal is over, there is nothing to do but leave a big tip. And remember to pay. That's right, last year we left without paying. Well, we didn't fully leave. My husband thought I had grabbed the check and I thought he had. We were at the car when I asked him how much he tipped our server. At this point the restaurant was very crowded. I went charging through the mob to find our waitress standing by our table with the check crumpled in her hand. What a proud moment that was. How much should you tip someone who is working on Thanksgiving so that you can be decadent and self-indulgent after you leave her to think you were a thieving ingrate? And that's not even going into the piece of pie we left on the roof of our car as we drove away . . .

Clearly our new tradition needs some refining.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey Trot

Carter leading the cheering section

Austin has been running for P.E. this year. He's always loved to run, but getting him to do it in a straight line and with a purpose has been a little challenging. He's still inclined to give in to the sensory delight of the wind rushing by him, but he's gotten better at putting those long legs to good use. Today was his first venture into racing. He was very nervous, which, of course, manifested itself in a little less control of his breathing and stride. In the end, though, he did quite well for his first time. Our good friend Donna, an experienced runner, partnered with Austin to help show him the ropes. Thanks goodness for her, because none of us can run to save our lives. 

 Waiting for the race to start

Coming to the finish line


Austin didn't place in his age group this time around, but he showed plenty of great potential. We're betting he does great in the spring races. He did, however, win the drawing for a free turkey--the perfect prize for a boy driven by his stomach.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks

In honor of Thanksgiving next week, I thought I would share some of the things I am most thankful for in my life. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it's a diverse list, so I'll tackle it in sections. Today I present five challenges for which I am (at least in part) grateful.

1. Autism tops this list. When my oldest was diagnosed almost 14 years ago, I crumbled into a million dysfunctional pieces. I had to say goodbye to nearly all the plans I had laid for my adult life. I had to mourn the loss of the life I dreamed my child would have. But the person that arose from that rubble is living a happier life today than she ever thought possible. I was forced to rebuild and reshape everything and while I hate autism dearly, I am sincerely thankful for the new path I was compelled to find for myself. The rebuilding process was not pretty, however, which brings me to . . .

2. The fallout from the first post-diagnosis year. I went from denial to self-destruct mode, withdrawing from my family and careening around like an adolescent with no boundaries or responsibilities. I have been to the brink of wrecking my life and I still remember the view from the precipice. What I learned from that experience was the single most powerful and sacred lesson of my life. Not only did I return to God and family, I found myself in a very fundamental way.

3. Not having a daughter was a crushing blow that now seems laughable to me. The bitterness I felt when I discovered our last child would be a third son instead of the wished for girl is, well, embarrassing. I can't even remember why I wished for such a thing. I am grateful for the lesson of humility that came from this spell of childishness and call upon it regularly to remind myself to not question why I have received some blessings and not others.

4. While I'm on the topic of that third cherubic now 2-year-old, I have to give thanks for the many, many sleepless nights and napless days he has put me through. For all the times I had to endure other moms gushing over babies who napped for 3 hours and slept for 12 every night; for all the nights I woke up for the 5th time; for all the times I got him settled in his crib only to have him wake 10 minutes later, I have struggled, but never despaired. Even at 3 am I have given thanks for this child who makes my life difficult all while batting those big blue eyes at me. There are so many mothers in the world in real pain--mothers whose children are severely impaired, mothers whose children are sick or suffering, mothers whose children have died. I give thanks to those mothers for sharing that perspective with me.

5. Last, but not least, I must express my gratitude for the unending piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and clutter that I battle on a daily basis. Perhaps I will one day conquer them, but for now they are constant reminders of a home full of life and a life of plenty.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One More Try

So, I had pretty much decided to give up on the whole blogging venture. I got seriously derailed back in May when I stumbled across the blog of a young woman who lost her 4-month-old baby to a horrible disease. After reading her story and those of others like her, talking about my ordinary little life seemed trite. I just couldn't think there was anything meaningful I could say when there were people out there struggling through such horrific experiences.

However, trite though it may sometimes be, my life is my life. I am struggling through my own issues to be sure and, just as my perspective is altered by reading the accounts of others, perhaps someone may benefit from peeking into my corner of earth. If not, at least it can serve as my little venture in self-indulgence.

Today's lesson: the tyrannosaurus rex was actually a scavenger not a hunter. This is life-altering information. The sub-text to this lesson is that we've decided we would run from one anyway.