Once again this blog has suffered due to the summer doldrums. I am not a fan of summer, and it seems to sap all that is creative out of me. Thankfully, October begins tomorrow, and this Saturday we’ll have a high of only 68! Super excited!
Summer has been busy, and we will continue to be busy as fall approaches. Lydia has joined up with fall soccer, which keeps us hopping on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sam has begun drum lessons, and he’s taken to those like a duck to water. I should’ve known I would end up with a drummer. Gymnastics continues, though Sam has stopped for a while. Lydia has also been doing a little homeschool theatre.
In between all that we somehow have to fit in time for school and my part-time teaching gig. Wheeeeeee!
Way back last February, we made plans for a trip in October. A special trip. A kid’s-greatest-dream trip. A trip to the fabled Disneyworld! Back in February it seemed like a long way off, but suddenly we’re looking at mere weeks before we leave! The kids are stoked (I did not do that surprise-them-at-the-last-minute deal that some parents are so fond of — Sam would not have taken that well).
I feel like I’ve been planning at a level usually reserved for wartime generals. Disneyworld is no longer the simple place we visited for marching band trips. Now you have to make 180-days-in-advance restaurant reservations and FastPass plans 60 days out. Anna and Elsa from Frozen are tough reservations to get. It’s nuts. Nuts, I tell you!
Hopefully, we all will survive.
During all of this planning and drumming, acting and learning, Sam was formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in August. To tell you the truth, I am relieved. After years of worrying, struggling, and second-guessing, it turns out that first psychologist we saw back in 2012 was on the right track. We have an answer. We have a path.
The occupational therapy that Sam started last October has helped him immensely. He still goes to therapy once a week, so between that and a lot of ways and means we’ve established at the house have served him well. Though Sam will never be ‘cured’ per se, he will be fine, both now and when he’s an adult. He will have to work harder on some things (handwriting, modulation of his movements, social situations) but will have an easier time with many other activities (music, spelling, memorization, physical strength).
So who is Sam?
Sam is a musician.
Sam is a lover of all things orange and Godzilla.
Sam is a comedian.
Sam is an autist.
Sam is my son.
So. That’s what we’ve been doing this summer. And now, Disneyworld awaits!
Last week, in amongst all the Watson-disappearing business, Lydia quietly turned seven years old. Well, I say ‘quietly,’ but there was some singing involved. (Don’t watch if you are completely sick of Frozen)
As Lydia has gotten older, the year-to-year changes have become more subtle. There are fewer large milestones like crawling, walking, and talking; now we have to be more astute to notice the smaller advancements, especially when it comes to mental growth.
Lydia has made many of these smaller advancements when it comes to her friendships and how she relates with people. She is very extroverted and I hope she is able to keep that as the years advance. Her vibrant personality and need for friendships has driven her farther outside the comforting boundaries of home over the past few months.
Last summer and into the fall as Lydia became more comfortable on her new bike, she began to explore the neighborhood, finding new friends along the way. Though these new friendships are a great thing, there were some trying weeks where we all had to find the right balance between freedom and safety. It’s a hard thing to let your petite six year old fly down the road on her bike and out of sight, sometimes for hours.
Now Lydia wears a watch whenever she goes ‘out and about,’ as we call it, and I set the alarm to go off after a certain amount of time. Once the alarm goes off, she has to check in with us at the house, use the restroom, then we reset the watch and off she goes again. This system has worked very well. Lydia gets her freedom and Steven and I have our peace of mind.
After years of missing her front teeth, Lydia finally grew some new teeth to fill the hole. She also lost the two baby teeth on the bottom — one of them we never could find. Thanks to her new front teeth, she can finally say ‘bath’ and ‘path’ instead of ‘baff’ and ‘paff.’ They’re definitely a bit crooked — I foresee braces in her future.
Lydia continued with gymnastics this year. She is still enjoying it and she just recently moved up another level. She is working on getting stronger for all the upper arm stuff she has to do. Every night she and Steven do a set of push-ups together. She’s getting pretty good at it!
This spring she played soccer through the YMCA. Though most of the kids had no clue how to play soccer, Lydia included, they all had fun playing together. Lydia is hoping she can do soccer again this fall.
Due to some exciting circumstances coming up this fall, we took a beach trip this spring to go along with the beach trip we took last September. Both kids greatly enjoy the beach, and both trips were a great success. Both times Lydia made friends with some other kids that were staying at the same condo, and they would play together in the surf all day long. On the trip last September, we took a ride on a boat to see some dolphins. Lydia loved being so close to the animals.
We’re definitely a beach family, and already they’re asking us when, oh when, are we going back?
You would think that Sam, with his penchant for running full-tilt into walls, would be the one that gets injured all the time, but it’s never him. It’s Lydia, always Lydia. This spring she managed to get a concussion from falling off a plastic cow at the McWane Center. We ended up at the Children’s Hospital two days in a row, breaking our no-ER streak we had going. After a lot of Advil, anti-nausea medicine, and a CT scan, Lydia slowly got better. Now she’s the proud contributor of a ‘DO NOT CLIMB’ sign at the McWane Center. Kid-tested, man.
Lydia completed her second year of homeschool this year. Well, I say ‘completed,’ but we’re actually doing some school over the summer, but you get the idea. Anyway, homeschooling is still going well, and this year we added on the subjects of Spelling, Grammar, Science, and History to go along with our Reading and Math. Lydia is a big science girl and she loved every second we were talking about or doing something science-related. This year was Life Science, so we learned about animals, plants, and the human body. She enjoyed History as well, though not as much as Mommy. Math is still one of her strengths, and she did surprisingly well with Grammar.
Then there’s reading and spelling. Since we started school, reading has not been Lydia’s favorite subject, despite her love of having stories read to her. Spelling goes in one ear and out the other. Despite these struggles, we continued to slog through it this year, trying many different ways to help Lydia remember all the myriad phonics rules and all those silly exceptions. By March, Lydia still couldn’t read, and she was beginning to be self-conscious about it.
Little red flags began waving in my head, so I began to research. That’s what I do — I’m like Hermione Granger. To the library! I researched, and I read, and I watched videos and lectures, and I called Lydia’s pediatrician. They directed me to a psychologist, and they in turn, after a series of tests, diagnosed Lydia with dyslexia.
At first ‘dyslexia’ seems like a scary word, a defeating word, but it’s a word that tells us what we need to do. It tells us how Lydia’s brain works, and how she learns best. It’s a word that you probably think you know what it means, but read up on it anyway. You just might be surprised.
So just last week I began to re-teach Lydia reading with a method that is geared towards people with brains like hers. It’s way too early to know if it’s helping, but I have hope. I’m an optimistic person, after all.
So, what’s coming up for next year? Lydia will be an official second grader in a few months, and hopefully the reading and spelling will begin to improve. Lydia might do soccer again this fall. I’ve even looked into a theatre class. The beginning of September and the end of October will be very interesting. Other than that, who knows?
Hopefully there aren’t any more concussions in her future.
I wiggle my feet a lot. It’s just a little habit I have. I rarely even notice when I’m doing it. It’s also genetic, apparently. One afternoon at a family get-together my half-first cousin, once removed, (yeah) noticed this and exclaimed, “Ooh, look! You’ve got the Brasher Feet, too!”
The other component of Brasher Feet is we don’t like them to be under the covers much. They dangle out over the side of the bed and peek out from under blankets. I do this, my mother did it, and so did my grandmother, who on her deathbed would wiggle her feet out from under the covers despite the best efforts of the nurses that tucked them in.
Last week my wiggly Brasher Feet helped to set in motion Watson’s Big Adventure.
A wiggling foot is Watson’s greatest temptation, and my poor feet have borne the brunt of his attacks. Many times I never realize I’m even wiggling my feet until I feel Watson’s claws sink into me. This began to happen so much I became paranoid, making sure to hide my feet under the covers and checking for stalking cats under the bed the same way young children check for monsters. The only difference is my monsters are real.
In order to curtail the feet attacks, we began to let Watson explore the main part of the basement at night so my feet and I could sleep in peace. Watson got to climb on top of our cars like a mountain lion and my feet got to wiggle without fear. It was a decent solution.
Last Saturday was Lydia’s birthday party. It went as parties usually do — many people, lots of food, paper, presents, and commotion everywhere. Watson just camped out in our bedroom to wait for the bedlam to subside.
The next day we were preparing to go out when Steven said to me, “Hey, have you seen Watson?”
“Well, no . . .”
After a quick search it was clear that Watson was M.I.A. The basement door to the back yard was wide open, a leftover bit of turmoil from the party. Watson’s nightly basement visit turned into something a bit more adventurous.
Outside, there was no sign of Watson, and there wasn’t much we could do. He’s a black cat, no collar, no microchip, no discernible features whatsoever except for a longish tail and a penchant for attacking feet. Surely he’ll come home when he’s hungry, we hoped, and we went on with our lives.
But what if he doesn’t come back? What if there’s another cat hanging around outside the house? A very territorial cat that would keep Watson at bay? Why would we worry about such a specific thing?
Well . . .
I need to tell y’all about Crunchy.
Our neighborhood has its fair share of stray cats, and over the years a few of them have tried to adopt us. Recently, a pretty tortoiseshell cat we dubbed ‘Minerva’ came pretty close, but she was very skittish. One day she was scared away in a flying fit of fur by a tiny black cat who was much more brave, and this one let me pet it.
“Oooh, he feels crunchy,” I remarked, so Crunchy he became. Soon we realized he was adopting us. You’d step outside — there was Crunchy. You’d sit down — Crunchy was in your lap. Touch the doorknob on the back door — Crunchy would come running. Within the week we took him by the vet’s to have his shots and get the ol’ snip-snip.
Since Crunchy showed up we have not seen hide nor hair of Minerva, so we were afraid Crunchy would prevent Watson from coming back to the house as well.
So . . .
When Watson disappeared, we brought Crunchy inside. It was the logical thing to do. And Crunchy LOVED IT. He loved exploring all the rooms. He loved lounging on all the furniture. He loved getting all the cuddles and pets from the kids. And he loved, loved, LOVED to sleep on my face at night. Crunchy is like a little fuzzy face-hugger alien that purrs.
And all the while we kept Crunchy inside while trying not to absolutely fall in love with him, there was no sign of Watson. I called for him every once in a while. We kept the garage door cracked open. I made posts on various pages on Facebook, imploring people to keep an eye out for a nondescript black cat.
I didn’t worry. I couldn’t worry; there was nothing more I could do. And as I didn’t worry, I began to feel guilty for not worrying. In the mix of all that guilt and not-worrying, I began to worry and feel unsettled. We were in cat limbo. It’s not a fun place to be.
This morning I shuffled into the kitchen to get my blessed cup of coffee. I glanced out the back door to gauge the damage after the thunderstorm from the night before and was surprised to see two scared yellow eyes staring back at me. The eyes, and the black cat they belonged to, ducked in and out from under the grill. Looking back on that moment, I am reminded of one of my favorite videos of all time.
Yes, it was Watson! Though at first I wasn’t entirely sure, and he looked like he wasn’t entirely sure, either. He slowly crept up to me while repeating a high-pitched squeaky meow. He had a wide-eyed look, as if he had truly seen some shit and was ready to be an inside cat once again. Crunchy was quickly shuffled off to a bedroom while Watson alternated between his food bowl (EAT!) and us (LOVE AND PETS!).
After a while, Watson settled down on our bed to sleep, Crunchy was popped back outside, and we began our day as planned.
It’s the afternoon now and we’re back home after a long day of life. Usually in the afternoons you can find Watson lazily sleeping on our bed, but when we got home he was nowhere to be found. As I put up my bags I looked around while thinking, “Okay, he has GOT to be in this house somewhere. The doors are shut; there’s nowhere for him to go.” Lydia eventually found him under the bed, and that is where he still is. The Great Big Outside must not have agreed with him at all and he has seen some things that cannot be unseen.
I’m kinda hoping he attacks my wiggly feet tonight. That will let me know he’s feeling okay.
Time for your yearly belated Samwise report! On Tuesday Sam turned five years old; how crazy is that?! We celebrated the day with three breakfasts, a trip to the Queen Center (McWane Center), a color car wash, and his weekly O.T. appointment. Very much fun was had!
Overall, the past year has been good for Sam. The older he gets the better he can deal with the odd little things in life. Soon after Sam turned four he began gymnastics. I was afraid he would be too overwhelmed with all that goes on down on the gymnastics floor, but Sam took to it very well. He listens to his teachers and his amazing muscular strength lets him do most of the activities with ease. His favorite part is the trampoline — he could jump on that until the cows come home. The only part of gymnastics he doesn’t care for is the balance beam. He has since moved up to an all-boys class and the balance beam is no more. None of us shed any tears over that.
Last summer, Sam went through a thorough developmental evaluation, a long process that I went into detail about in another post. The evaluation led Sam to a second set of ear tubes, the removal of his adenoids, and to an occupational therapist to help with his fine motor skills. Sam has gone to his O.T. since October. Therapy has helped him a lot, and he always looks forward to seeing Miss Donna at his ‘play appointment.’ Every week Sam gets to do very Sam-esque activities like jumping in a ball pit, wall climbing, swinging, and playing in sand. He also works with writing and cutting with scissors. Already he is much better with buttons, snaps, and holding his pencil.
Working with Sam’s O.T. has helped us to better understand what Sam needs. His room is much more Sam-friendly now with the addition of a swing, a weighted blanket, and a box of sensory fidget-type toys known as the Quiet Box. We also got Sam some chewing toys, sometimes known as ‘chewelry.’ After all these years he is no longer sucking on his two fingers — instead, he gnaws away at one of the toughest chewing aids you can buy. He goes through one every three weeks or so. It’s amazing to realize he used to put all that stress into his fingers and fingernails. His fingers are much healthier but they still have more healing to do.
Last fall we took another successful trip to the beach. Sam is very keen on the beach now, and he often asks when we will go back. When we went in September a fantastic sand bar had formed just off the beach, which made a great area for the kids to play in. While Lydia played mermaids with her new best friend, Sam made his own friends in the form of a school of fish. He ran his fingers through the sand on the sand bar and the fish swam all around him.
Due to some upcoming events this fall, we elected to take another trip to the beach this past May. Sadly, the sand bar was no longer there, but Sam had a blast anyway. He was very content to play in the sand, both the dry sand up on the beach and the wet sand where the waves break. He also managed to lick a fish. Typical Sam.
Though Sam doesn’t start any formal school until this fall, he has picked up on a lot of things just by hanging around while Lydia worked on her school subjects. Recently Lydia has been teaching him addition, so in the car he will dutifully recite, “Plus two plus two equals four. Plus three plus three equals six. Plus five plus five equals ten!” The way he adds in that extra ‘plus’ reminds me of a Hewlett-Packard calculator I used to have — a finicky thing that made you type in the ‘plus’ first.
He has also picked up other random facts. Earlier this year I was working with Lydia on memorizing the list of American presidents, more as a mental exercise than anything. She would repeat them back to me on occasion: “George Washington, John Adams, ummm . . .”
“Thomas Jefferson!” reminded Sam.
Sam has also fallen into the fascinating world of volcanoes. One day the kids were bouncing off the walls so I found a volcano documentary on Netflix. After it was over Lydia was ready to eat lunch. Sam was ready to watch the documentary again from the beginning. Since then, we’ve talked a lot about volcanoes, read a lot of books, and completed a few experiments. He owns around six volcano books now, and they are a standard feature of our nightly book-reading time.
In fact, Sam’s birthday party was an Orange Volcano Party. He is still super into orange and had been talking about an orange birthday party for a while. Once he found out about volcanoes, the two just melded together.
Sam is still my sweet boy, my cuddly boy, the one who brings me a blanket when I’m sick and always makes me laugh, notoriously when he’s in trouble. He’s a night owl, and long after bedtime has come and gone he plays quietly in his closet, looking at books or being mesmerized by a Quiet Toy. He still loves all things water and eagerly awaits his nightly bath. He’s a gremlin, and many things end up getting broken once he messes with them. Recently we had to fix the refrigerator handle.
Sam is many things, really. He’s charming.
He’s a man of habits.
Truly, he’s the most Sammy-est Sam that has ever Sam’d.
Y’all, April has been a busy month. I’m looking forward to June when all we’ve got to do is have three birthdays.
So, let’s see. Earlier this month Steven went to a .NET conference in Portland, Oregon. Since his parents are super awesome and agreed to keep the kids, I got to tag along with him! I’m always ready and willing to travel somewhere new.
Portland is a great little city. I say ‘little,’ but Portland is pretty big compared to Birmingham, it just didn’t feel that way. It was very walkable and had a great public transit system. As I walked around I kept finding myself thinking, “Birmingham should do this! Birmingham should do that!” If only, man. If only.
While Steven immersed himself in programming awesomeness, I explored the city, beginning with Washington Park. Inside the park is where you find things such as the zoo, a children’s museum, a forestry museum, an arboretum, and a Japanese garden, among others. When I first entered the arboretum and found myself surrounded by humongous Douglas firs, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was in my own personal heaven. For most of that day I walked all of the trails of the arboretum and then moved down to the Japanese gardens in early afternoon.
It was only when I was having to work my way back towards Steven that I realized how far I had gone. It was quite the hike back to civilization.
There were many great things to eat around town. I’m sure I missed a lot of great stuff, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. We feasted on huge hamburgers with avocado, spicy thai food, sushi, ramen, pizza, coffee, beer, wine, and a great sandwich from a food truck.
And then . . . there were these doughnuts.
And I’m not a doughnut kind of girl. I’ve never really liked the overly fluffy Krispy Kreme stuff. I know, I know — I probably need to turn in my Southern Girl card.
But these doughnuts. Ohhh my giddy aunt. There was a Mexican chocolate doughnut with cayenne. There was a doughnut with Cocoa Puffs on them. There was a doughnut shaped like a cock and balls (creme filled!). There was one with bubble gum. One with Rice Crispies. And on and on and on. And they were so damn good.
VooDoo Doughnuts, people. I didn’t believe the hype, but I was wrong.
I also found my second heaven in Powell’s Used Book Store. Four stories of books and books and books. It was very hard to limit myself, knowing Steven and I only brought one carry-on between us. I settled on Select Charters Illustrative of English Constitutional History, published in 1900, along with some smaller books for the kids.
Between my horticultural amusement and Steven’s progressively bushier beard, we would fit quite well in Portland. As an added bonus, Honda Elements seem much more popular there.
Very soon we were back in the humid South, and it was back to business. Steven hopped back to work while the kids and I tried to get back on a schedule.
And this is where I reach the second half of my story. What, you thought I was done? Ha ha ha. Ha.
Saturday morning the four of us pile into Steven’s car to heard towards his parents to celebrate Kevin’s birthday. Everybody buckled, ready to go . . . aaaaaaand the car doesn’t start.
Now, this wasn’t exactly out of the blue. Steven’s car, a 2004 Saturn we bought from my parents in preparation for an impending Lydia, has been acting squirrelly for the last six months or so. There’s been noises, vibrations, some flicking lights business, and on rare occasion it will refuse to start.
So we wait a few minutes and try again — nothing. Well. We decide to worry about this looming event later and hop in Elliott to attend the birthday festivities.
On Sunday, the car magically starts, no problem. Okay . . fool me once. Plans are made for a bit of car shopping later in the week.
Steven drives to work fine on Monday. We figure the car is on its best behavior since we were contemplating a replacement. Monday afternoon I’m at gymnastics with the kids when I get a call from Steven — the car starts in the technical sense of the term, but really bad things are afoot and it is essentially undriveable.
Tuesday we find ourselves test-driving cars. “Hondas are good,” my brother-in-law texted me that morning. “Also Nissans and Fords. And don’t count out GM.”
“Haha,” I texted back. “It’s a GM car we just had to tow.”
We tried out a Honda Civic, Accord, and Crosstour (sadly, NO.), a Hyundai something, a Nissan that really didn’t do it for us, and a Volkswagen (nah). Then Steven scanned across the sea of cars, pointed, and said, “Is that a Volt?”
Five minutes later we’re test-driving a Chevrolet Volt. And it was awesome. It’s a range-extended electric vehicle, which is another way to say ‘fancy hybrid.’
And it was a GM.
And yet . . . we drove off the lot with a Chevy Volt. Whould’a thunk it?? Not me. So, here he is! His name is Voltaire.
. . . get it?
. . . . .
As for the Saturn, that saga is still ongoing. It’s a sad affair that I hopefully will never bore you with.