August 22, 2009

The Done List: August 22

Another Done List, mostly because I am at this point far too tired to stand up and figured I could just blog instead. I'm hoping a list of accomplishments will go a long way toward improving my irritable disposition.

In the past 24 hours I have:
  • Earned a living
  • Cleaned a lovely pile of grassy dog vomit off the kitchen floor
  • Assisted old, tired, wheezy dog in quest for water, ice, and a lift up the stairs
  • Cleaned out and emptied minivan and assisted younger sister and her boyfriend in their move to DC (yay!)
  • Paid people to clean my house ... dog hair now under control for the next day or two
  • Enjoyed conversations with not one but two genuine girlfriends
  • Washed two slipcovers and super-cleaned sofa peed on by redhead during surprise nap
  • Visited elementary school to drop off vacation postcards and find out where diva and her friends are placed for school starting Monday
  • Organized $167 of school supplies into appropriate piles and placed into backpacks
  • Cleaned up playroom in preparation for double sleepover ... a task slightly more Herculean than usual because the playroom was a storehouse for the stuff owned by said little sister (yay!)
  • Successfully entertained and put to bed two-thirds more children than usual
  • Successfully organized more than 100 11- and 12-year-old boys into (I hope) evenly matched soccer teams and only pissed off two coaches in the process
  • When I figured out I did not actually have enough coaches for all seven soccer teams, I creatively put all four assistant coach volunteers into one team along with two past coaches and told them to work it out amongst themselves ... lets hope that one doesn't blow up in my face
  • Squeezed in two and a half hours of sleep - and did not throttle my lovable Aspie when he woke everyone up at 6:00 a.m. (after 10:00 p.m. bedtime) so that he could take best advantage of his sleepover
  • Seasoned critically injured cast iron pan and then restored it further with the healing properties of bacon - bad for the arteries, great for the pan
  • Made massive breakfast of said bacon, scrambled eggs, raisin toast and bananas that was, quite literally, INHALED by the five children in residence
  • Managed to sneak a piece of toast away from the ravenous hordes so I could have something to eat, too
  • Made and drank life-giving coffee
I'm now going to go dress myself - assuming I can remember how - and take all these lovely children home before hitting the grocery store, making a picnic, taking diva and others to the park for brownies meet and greet and then driving to another state to pick up lovely gift of home furnishings from an old friend. Even better, we get to enjoy some social & cooking time afterward. Yay!

Tonight? Melatonin, baby. I'm gettin' me some sleep.

August 17, 2009

Mom Fears

Do you remember middle school?

I do. It was hell. I got hate mail from girls I thought were my friends. Kids made fun of my name and my complete and utter lack of athletic ability. One day I even got a face full of shaving cream when I got on the bus.

Torture is fun, isn't it?

I don't often talk specifically about my Aspie or the way his different abilities affect him or our family, because really it's all just a part of our life. But less than a week from today, he heads off to middle school. And I'm terrified.

He's going to be dealing with things he can't possibly understand. Kids with hormones and cell phones - he has neither as yet. A massive new school - when lots of people and sound set him on edge, something he doesn't really get about himself. And a schedule that rotates every third day. Every third day. Yeah, 'cause that makes sense in a five-day week.

His ADHD means he still dashes into the street without looking. And now he's expected to walk to school by himself every day.

His Asperger's means he's got limited social skills. And all that non-verbal stuff? Goes right over his head. He doesn't understand when people are sarcastic with him, or mean to him. He thinks bullies are his friends.

There are definitely bullies in middle school.

He's smart, and he knows when he's being left out or ostracized. And it hurts.

He has a very hard time staying organized. And now he's expected to track assignments in six core classes plus extras.

He needs frequent breaks to keep his sanity - and now his school day is longer, with no recess.

He's got a raging high metabolism, thanks to the ritalin and his own biology. He needs protein and carbs constantly. Yet he won't get lunch until 1:30, and snacks aren't allowed.

He's also a sweet kid with a big loving heart. I think it makes him vulnerable. But maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe he's smart enough to figure it all out. Right? And the bigger school may mean he'll find his niche and a few friends, real friends. Maybe even some kids like him.

And he thinks he's ready. He really does.

Maybe he is. Most likely, it's just me who's not.

August 9, 2009

12 Things We Learned on Our Vacation

There is no denying this has been a pretty crap year for my kids. Lots of stress and turmoil mixed in with a few lovely moments that kept us all going. Figured we should make a few more lovely moments, so I took them on vacation.

We'd already planned on coming west to Washington for a family reunion. I turned that weekend into a two-week trip. It's the single longest vacation I've ever had ... and easily worth every moment of leave and every penny of savings I've poured into it.

Here are 12 things we learned on our vacation, in no particular order.
  1. There are at least 10 words for poop: caca, feces, droppings, guano, scat, spoor, manure, dung, ordure, excrement. Granted, I already knew most of those. But my kids were thrilled. A whole new set of potty words to play with. Yay. And many, many thanks to the "Animal Grossology" exhibit at Seattle's Pacific Science Center.
  2. Shouting "Uncle Jon is a poopyface!" to a mountain full of strangers is the surest way to get my kids to smile for a photo.
  3. My diva can sing. She had her little brother laughing hysterically in the voice synthesizer room at the Experience Music Project. But her Oma & I, off headsets, were treated to the real thing - a beautiful rendition of Hoku's Perfect Day. My diva rocks!
  4. My diva talks in her sleep. And her little brother snores.
  5. You can fake an underarm fart. I have not tried this myself, but my kids are available for demonstrations.
  6. If you're standing on the deck of a ferry zipping across Puget Sound, do not blow spit bubbles into the wind. My oldest learned this lesson the hard way.
  7. You can get a non-resident library card in Olympia for $10. Worth the price because it kept my Aspie awash in Hardy Boys books - a new discovery for him this trip. Why that's important: in one 24-hour period, between 6:33 p.m. on Wednesday and 6:33 p.m. on Thursday (yes, he kept track), he read three whole books cover to cover. And he could tell me their plots. He did it again the next day.
  8. My redhead is four. He finally admitted it on Friday, just 6 days after his birthday.
  9. Cupcakes and bookstores are my family's answer to Prozac.
  10. The best vacations let you take a break every few days just to read, watch TV and play Uno.
  11. The subalpine meadows of Paradise at Mount Rainier were designed by Walt Disney. It's true. Just go visit Paradise some random August day and you'll see what I mean. It is, hands down, the prettiest place on earth.
  12. There are at least 35 people in the world who love my kids to pieces just because they were born. They love me, too. I knew that, in my heart of hearts, but it helps to be reminded.
When you get right down to it, of course, a single mom is never really on vacation. In these two weeks, I've barely had time to knit a full row, read a page in my book or even take a shower in peace. But I did get to spend real time with my kids. I read them books and held their hands and tickled them till they couldn't stop laughing. I showed them a bison and an elk, taught them how to find a good skipping stone, and took them to the Pacific Ocean. Well, close to it, anyway. And, in between "Don't hit your brother" and "Keep your spit in your mouth," I got to listen to them. They are great kids.

Turns out, I've missed them.

August 6, 2009

Suzie's Cakes

My kids and I are on vacation this week, exploring all that Washington state has to offer.

Yesterday we went to Aberdeen.

Not a ton of reasons to go there, except on the way to someplace else. We were on our way to Westport, a quiet coastal town with fabulous seafood (get the chowder), decent beer, and ... um ... great big rocks.

Aberdeen has none of these things. It's a logging town, and these days it's mostly gray and sad. Its biggest claims to fame are that it is the birthplace of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, and it is the home port for Lady Washington, a tall ship used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The ship was enough to send us off the highway on a quest to find the harbor. We never made it. First, they hid the harbor. Damn fine job, too - we couldn't find it, and we had a map. Then, someone raised a drawbridge and created a giant trafficky mess.

So instead we got to listen to my kids bickering in the backseat. My grumpy redhead was calling everyone "stupid moron" and "idiot boy" (thank you, Television) and hitting his siblings on the head with his brother's action figures. My little guy is unnaturally strong, so this really hurt. Why his brother was sharing his action figures, no one knows. You'd think one Wolverine to the head would make you realize, "Hey, maybe I should hang onto these."

Then, like a beacon, happiness appeared.

The sign on the window said Suzie's Cakes. The building itself was a cheery one-story with bright pink shutters - color enough to make the place stand out in the midst of a giant sea of gray. There was a little sign out front announcing "Wednesdays are Cupcake Days!" Well, it was Wednesday. That was enough to make us pull over.

Inside, heaven. The cakes were stunning. Even the sample cakes. There were reams of kid-friendly treats and decadent cupcakes. And coffee. Good coffee. Lots of coffee. Oh, and a beautiful, clean bathroom (I do have three kids, after all - we spent a lot of time in there).

The kids all chose brownie popsicles. You jam a brownie onto a stick, dip it in melted chocolate, then in either M&Ms or sprinkles. The kids adored 'em. Even my sweets-avoiding Aspie finished his, right down to the stick.

My au pair and I, we went for the cupcakes. Hers was a raspberry-filled vanilla. And I chose the Cupcake of the Day: a moist, lemony poppyseed cake frosted with a fat dollop of chocolate almond buttercream and sprinkled with almond slivers. Not flavors I'd have put together myself. But ... well, I ate it all up. Every crumb. I did not share.

Westport was fun - corn dogs and the Pacific Ocean. But Suzie's Cakes was the highlight of the day. Cupcake magic and an overdose of chocolate knocked the grumpies right out of my kids. They got along beautifully for the whole rest of the day.

Next time we vacation here? I'm heading to Aberdeen first.

August 3, 2009

The Numbers Game

This weekend was all about the numbers.

4 The new age of my youngest child, who celebrated with Lucky Charms for breakfast, pizza for dinner, and SpongeBob cake for dessert. It was also a rare opportunity for him to be sole proprietor of the Center of Attention. Good day for him.

3 The age my youngest child insists he is. No amount of cajoling or bribery has convinced him otherwise. He's in total denial.

70 My dad's new age, as of February this year. Unlike my little guy, he admits to it.

30 The number of years he and my beloved step-mom have been married.

Together, those two numbers add up to 100, a good, round number and a phenomenal excuse to host a family reunion.

At the reunion this weekend, representing both sides of the family: 14 aunts and uncles (including my folks), 11 first cousins & their spouses, my 3 kids, and 7 significant others and treasured family friends. That's 35 members of our clan gathered in one place, at one time. (And given the high proportion of math geeks in that crew, I'd darn well better have gotten those numbers right.)

3 generations attending. We represent states from Alaska to Massachusetts. We were born all over the world, from Indonesia to Washington, D.C., from Bangkok to Toledo. And we were born in every decade straight through from the 1930s to the 2000s. Except for the 1970s. Slow time for us, I guess.

And the reason why this was such a big, huge deal?

. That, my friends, is the number of years that have passed since my father, his sister, and their three brothers have been in the same room together. 52. Five full decades. And then some.

This reunion, it was a bit of history in the making.

The bonus?

0 The number of times I put my kids in time-out, took away privileges or even got stern with them during two full days of reunion events. Yes, they were that amazingly good.

I'm a very proud mom. Though it's kinda cool to also be a proud daughter, sister, cousin and niece.

My family rocks.

August 1, 2009

Fear of Flying

I love my cast iron. I love it almost as much as I hate to fly. And I really hate to fly.

On Tuesday, these two facts collided.

On Tuesday, I set fire to my favorite cast iron pan. Real fire. Orange flames leaping toward the ceiling. Smoke alarms screaming madly all over the house. In other words, a scary fire. A little one. But scary nevertheless.

The fire started because I'm afraid to fly. In the face of that fear, my everyday insomnia had become a big hairy insomnia monster. Lack of sleep is normal for me. But lack of sleep to that degree? It'd make Einstein stupid.

The fire started because I couldn't find my Xanax. Xanax is the miracle that makes flying possible. Without it, I get panic attacks and can't even set foot on a plane. I was getting on a plane in 12 hours, and I couldn't find my Xanax. My brain had stopped cold.

But mostly, the fire started because I love my pan.

This pan, it's a simple 12-inch skillet. My grandfather made a gift of just such a skillet to my mom when she left home for college in the early 1960s. My mom gave that same skillet to me in 1985, when I moved into my first apartment. And I gave that skillet to my sister when she moved into her first place all by her lonesome.

My sister knew just how much I missed that skillet. So she took the time to find me a new one. She seasoned it lovingly until it attained that black patina good cast iron gets when it's properly cared for. And then she gave it to me. Twin skillets, one for me, one for her.

We don't have twin skillets anymore.

Late Tuesday, on a quest to feed the insomnia monster, I set a pot of water on the stove to boil for noodles. I turned the burner on high and went upstairs to pack. Thing is, I turned on the wrong burner. I turned on the burner under my beautiful - and very empty - cast iron skillet. When I came back to check on my water, the bottom of that beautiful skillet was peeling and gray and ugly.

My first thought? My poor pan! It needs oil!

You can see how sleep deprivation and panic may have played a role here. In my normal, well-rested state, I can tell you, point of fact, that if you pour oil into a superheated skillet, it will light up like a giant fireball.

But that night? That night all I could think about was my beautiful pan. I didn't turn off the stove. I didn't let the pan cool. No, I pulled out my big bottle of Trader Joe's cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and poured a good quarter cup into that hot cast iron frying pan sitting on a glowing red electric burner set to HIGH.

Moments later that pan exploded into flame. Gosh, what a surprise that was, eh?

I'm damn lucky the whole bottle of oil didn't explode in my hand. I'm luckier still that the part of my brain saying "Oh shit, better put that burning skillet of oil into the sink and pour water on it" got stuck on "Oh shit," so I didn't act on the thought. Instead, I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the cabinet next to the stove. I heard some voice in my head - I think it may have been Dick Van Dyke's - telling me to pull the pin and shoot. So I pulled the pin, and I put that damn fire out.

The oil splattered. It burned the crap out of one of my fingers and singed my kitchen floor. My formerly white cabinets are a dingy, smoky gray. My kitchen is covered in extinguisher dust. And my poor, beautiful, well-loved skillet is sitting in the sink, a ruined, greasy, extinguished mess.

That's all waiting for me when I get home.

The good news? I found the Xanax. I got on the plane. I got off the plane. And then I got a great big hug from my dad.

I think that makes it all better.