Crunchy Thoughts

The thoughts are crunchier here.

June 26, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on nine year old taco

nine year old taco

Wow. I didn’t think nine would be a big change, but oh lordy. Look at this girl. Look at her!

Now compare her with last year:

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I’m not sure what has changed more — her hair or her teeth. The hair change happened in January when Lydia decided to go for a pixie cut. I must admit I was nervous about it at first. The constant chant in my head on the way to the beauty parlor was, “It’s only hair; it can grow back!” We quickly learned that Lydia can totally rock a pixie cut, even more so when the color pink is introduced.

Lydia’s teeth began to go through their transformation last summer. She has had an overbite since she was very young, which puts her front teeth and lips in a precarious position. Remember, this is the kid that always ends up in the ER. She busted her two front baby teeth and had to have them removed, and she once ended up with stitches in her lip. Now that more of her permanent teeth have come in, the orthodontist said it was GO time and fitted Lydia up with headgear.

Now, I never had headgear as a kid, but my sister did, and I remember the nightly howls of pain the first few nights. I prepared myself for more of the same with Lydia, but she was an absolute champ. The only tears came when they put the metal brackets around her back molars. It also helps that headgear can come in outrageous colors now. The color pink can cure many ills.

Right after Christmas, braces were added on the front teeth, and in six short months they were off, leaving Lydia with a straight, gap-less smile. I still can’t get over how quick the change was. She is still wearing her headgear and the orthodontist predicts more braces in her future, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

There have been changes on the school front as well. No worries — it’s all good changes! Lydia completed third grade at the end of May. It was a great school year for her. I admit I was a bit worried when we started — a lot of literature suggests that third grade is when things can go south for a dyslexic kid. You switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” This style change was very evident, especially in math where word problems have increased exponentially.

Beginning last fall, Lydia began to take a low dose of medication for ADHD. She has the Space Cadet/Inattentive variety, so it hasn’t been a huge issue until last summer. Treating her ADHD has helped SO MUCH in her schoolwork! She is able to concentrate now, and can really think without being constantly distracted. Even Crunchy the Math Cat can’t take her eyes away from her work.

And reading. Oh my gosh, the improvements this child had made in reading is incredible. I have fretted about reading since Lydia was four years old, and now she’s doing it, she’s really reading, even for fun. Is she still dyslexic? Of course she is; she always will be. Does she still struggle with it? Absolutely. Reading is still one of the hardest things for her. But she does it. She doesn’t hate it. She’s proud of herself and how much she has improved. It’s more than I could ever have asked for.

And thank goodness for the sudden popularity of kid-friendly graphic novels!

Lydia’s extracurricular activities have varied a bit over the course of the year. In fall we dropped gymnastics for a while. Lydia had been taking gymnastics since she was four. She decided if she missed it, we could sign back up . . . but she didn’t miss it. And honestly, I didn’t miss it, either. So that left room for . . .

Vocal lessons. Lydia started taking vocal lessons at the same school where Sam takes drums. She likes this much more than piano or gymnastics, and we have continued it throughout the entire year. She even sang in a recital in March! Bless Lydia’s little dyslexic heart, finding rhythm in songs is so hard for her. Just as she struggles with hearing syllables in words, finding the beat in music is tough. She still got up on that stage and sang for that large audience! It’s more than I would care to do.

Lydia did continue to participate in soccer, both in fall and spring. Lydia’s soccer-playing ability improved thanks to the ADHD medication. This year there were less on-field conversations and cartwheels and more offensive plays. This next fall she wants to play again. This time she will move up to the 9-10 year old group. Wow!

We were able to take a few trips over the year. First, we got back on our regularly-scheduled fall beach trip. Lydia was very happy to play in the waves, look for shells, and make friends while her brother dug in the sand. She made great friends with a girl from Georgia that week, and afterwards they became pen pals and even Facetimed together.

We also visited Louisville and Chattanooga in the spring. Lydia was delighted by all the animals at the Louisville Zoo and she also enjoyed playing board games with Ken and Lisa. In Chattanooga, Lydia took her sweet time observing every little thing at the Tennessee Aquarium, even reading the little plaques of information by all the tanks.

Though Lydia’s interests are nowhere near as intense as Sam’s, she does have her passions. One of her biggest continues to be all things art and coloring. Lydia is real big on those adult coloring books with the little details. I’m so glad these are a popular thing — she’s got coloring books in all her favorite flavors like cats, unicorns, and dresses.

Lydia also enjoys building with LEGOs. She will have intense LEGO sessions in her room where that is all she does for hours and hours. She recently discovered Steven’s old Technic LEGOs and she is really keen on them.

Whether she is coloring or building with LEGOs, Lydia will be listening to audiobooks. Though Lydia can now read, her comprehension level is much higher than her reading level, so audiobooks are a godsend for her. For a long time she listened to the Harry Potter books over and over . . . and over . . . and over. Later on she discovered the wonderful world of Percy Jackson and all the Rick Riordian books. She is still immersed in that world.

In fact, Lydia’s party was Percy Jackson-themed, complete with water. After all, Percy is Poseidon’s son.

Lydia is changing so fast. It’s been an amazing thing to behold. A short time ago she was a toddler.

Now I’m looking into the eyes of a girl on the cusp of her teenage years.

Oh man, I hope I’m ready for this.

June 14, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on sputnik; 84 months in orbit

sputnik; 84 months in orbit

Wow, 84 months in orbit! That’s seven Earth years!

Just before his seventh birthday, Sam finished up first grade, so he is now officially a second grader. First grade was Sam’s first year of real, bonafide school work and he did really well with it. The first few weeks were a bit of a struggle until the schedule was established. After that, Sam was bothered more by the days when we didn’t have any schoolwork. He has always been a man of routine.

The subjects we worked the most diligently on were math and reading. Science and history are mixed in there, but he mainly absorbs that through Lydia’s work and his general questions about life, the universe, and everything. Reading has gone extremely well, especially in comparison with Lydia. Thankfully, Sam does not show any signs of dyslexia. Finding the syllables in words is a no-brainer for him. Just this morning we practiced finding the syllables in common household words like ‘Godzilla,’ ‘Biollante,’ and ‘King Ghidorah.’

Math is an interesting subject for Sam. He can add and subtract easily, multiplication tables are easy to memorize, but he would much rather think about Very Big Numbers instead of the small-scale stuff we work on for school. He doesn’t care so much that 7+5 is the same as 6+6 — I think that’s already how he does math problems in his head anyway — he wants to think about 7,000,000 + 5,000,000 or how many zeroes are on the end of octillion. In our search for Very Big Numbers, we came across Graham’s Number, which is so large you cannot express it with usual means. From there, Sam made up his own number called Sam’s Number, which he says is a one followed by a Graham’s Number of zeroes. After talking about Graham’s Numbers, Sam’s Numbers, and octillion, thinking about 7+5 is on the mundane side for him.

Too bad, Sam. You still have to do the worksheets Mom gives you.

Though Sam didn’t do a whole lot of history work, he was sometimes very involved in Lydia’s history projects . . . and sometimes unwillingly at that. The addition of Sam makes Lydia’s History Videos much more unpredictable.

Sam is still my little musician and he has continued with drum lessons over the past year. He always enjoys his Tuesday afternoon with Mr. Wes. In March, Sam performed in a music recital by playing “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift. Here is where I would usually post a video of said recital, but Ms. Swift has got her music LOCKED DOWN, so when I uploaded the video to YouTube, they took away all the sound.

Fall Out Boy are much more willing to share. Good for them.

To combat some of the more difficult parts of Sam’s autistic side, he continues to have weekly occupational therapy. OT has helped Sam so much over the past few years and I am ever-grateful for all the help they have provided us. This past year Sam has made great strides with his fine-motor skills. One of his biggest feats he accomplished was learning how to tie his shoes. He is very proud of this accomplishment but he still greatly prefers his ‘Godzilla shoes.’

Sam has also started to master some of the more difficult handwriting tasks as well. Slowly but surely, he continues to improve. A few months ago, the occupational therapist said Sam was doing so well she moved his appointment frequency from once a week to once every two weeks. She has hinted that if Sam continues to improve, he will most likely qualify out of therapy by fall. Wow!

As Sam gets older and some of the fine-motor issues work themselves out, our main concern turns more toward social skills and anxiety flareups. To help us with all this, we began seeing a psychologist this past year. This has helped with some of the worries that Sam comes across. We’re slowly making headway, but there is still a lot of work for us to do.

Sam’s other quirks are really the ‘fun’ ones — the ones that make Sam so one-of-a-kind. Since I’ve recently droned on and on about Sam’s love of Godzilla, I won’t harp on about it here. Suffice to say, that boy loves him some Godzilla.

Sam’s other loves are still going strong. Orange, music, car washes, Harry Potter, it’s all still there. This past year Sam has become increasingly absorbed by the wonderful world of Minecraft. He and Lydia both have been playing Minecraft on the iPads for a couple of years now, but more recently Sam has discovered Minecraft on the computer, which is a totally different ball game. The computer Minecraft can be more personalized by adding mods, or modifications. Sam is allllll about mods. Naturally, one of the first mods Sam got was a Godzilla mod, where you can create a bunch of Godzillas, King Ghidorahs, and other kaiju in the game. There’s also some Harry Potter stuff, Pokemon, and other mods that enable you to build all kinds of things. Sam honestly knows way more about it than I do, and he is always willing to explain everything about mods to anyone who stays still long enough to listen.

We did take a few trips this past year. Nothing quite as exciting as Disneyworld, but we did go to the beach, which is one of Sam’s most favorite places in the world. It had been about a year and a half since our last beach trip and Sam was overjoyed to finally be back in the sand and waves. Last summer Sam learned to swim (yay!) so he was glad to use his newfound skills in the condo pool.

We also traveled up to Louisville and Chattanooga in the spring to visit friends and see all the fun things. Over that long weekend we hit up the Louisville Zoo, a fancy playground park, the Tennessee Aquarium, and a healthy sprinkling of fantastic restaurants. Sam’s favorite part was when he got to see the big snake.

That was probably my least favorite part.

Since we got past Christmas Sam has been very eager to know how many days until his birthday. Soon after the New Year, the questions began: “How many days until my birthday?” Trying to accomplish date calculations before your coffee has kicked in can be a little too slow for Mr. Gotta-Know-Now. Around this time we purchased an Amazon Echo, which is like a little speaker that responds to voice commands and answers questions. What a lifesaver! Sam quickly learned to ask Alexa instead, “Alexa, how many days until June 2nd?” and she would just spout off the answer. This became Sam’s morning routine; it was the first thing he said every day. Now that his birthday has finally come and gone he asks, “Alexa, how many days until Halloween?”

That six months of birthday anticipation finally paid off last Saturday when we held his seventh birthday party. The theme was Godzilla — come on, of course it was — and Sam had a grand ol’ time. He even dressed up for the occasion!

So, now we’re at seven, and life rolls on. He’s started second grade, which he is fine with as long as it’s mixed in with a lot of pool time and Minecraft sessions. He is juuuuuust under 48 inches in height, and I suspect by this time next year he will have finally surpassed Lydia in that department.

We shall do school.

We will go back to the beach.

We will probably have another Godzilla-centric Christmas.

We will lose more teeth.

We will keep being Sam. Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop that.

April 25, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on changing of the guard

changing of the guard

I don’t think our family means to do this, but we tend to buy cars in clusters. In the space of about four weeks in 2004, my brother-in-law got a new Vibe, my parents got the Saturn L300, my in-laws got a Honda CR-V, and we got our Elliott. I swear none of this was coordinated.

Again in April of 2015, we got our Volt, my in-laws got a Ford Fusion, and my brother-in-law got his Mini Cooper. Once again, this was not planned. I even wrote about our sudden need to replace our Saturn L300 — which was the very same L300 that my parents had bought in 2004.

So. I should’ve known.

Now, I will point out that this is not as sudden as it seems! There are no mechanical crises, no fender benders, no weird electrical bucking like a horse. About six months ago, Steven mused to me, “Maybe we should think about getting you a new car,” to which I immediately replied, “No.” Elliott is mine. My Elliott! Don’t say it too loud, he will hear you! Geez.

And so every once in a while, it would come up in conversation. I would always be against it (My Elliott!), but I began to think, “You know . . . someday . . . it’s going to have to happen.” Then I would look at all the cars driving around me and I only saw a sea of ugly. They don’t make Elements anymore; there’s just nothing like them.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

The first interesting car, to me at least, showed up in the form of a Chevy Bolt. It’s very similar to Steven’s Volt, except it is all electric. It’s a neat looking car, it’s different, and it uses no gas at all! Unfortunately, the Bolt is brand-spanking new, and Alabama will not be graced with one until about September.

But I thought about a new car. And I kept thinking about it, just in the back of my mind. Thinking. Reading reviews. Watching videos. Assessing the terrain.

Then a few weeks ago my mother-in-law texts me, “Hey, can we swing by? We got a new car!”

Uh oh.

And so they did; a snazzy new Ford Edge with some neat bells and whistles. It’s a very fun ride. Ford has come a long way since the Contour, bless their hearts.

So last week, just for grins and giggles, the four of us test drove a few different cars. Just to see what’s out there. Just to get a feel. Just looking.

Just looking.

Then on Saturday, we signed.

And Monday, we brought him home. But this post isn’t about him.

So Elliott, who was washed, clayed, compounded, and polished to within an inch of his life on Sunday, is resting comfortably in an undisclosed location, ready to put himself on the market.

And so we come to the worst part of this ordeal. Oh my god. I have to say goodbye to Elliott. He has been my car for a third of my life! My marriage is only six months older than him. I knew I wanted him the moment I saw him, we scrimped and saved to get him, and I have loved every moment driving him.

I remember riding home in Elliott’s passenger seat in late evening on a warm summer. It had stormed earlier, the roads were wet, the air was humid and fragrant, and for some reason the hospital saw fit to let us take home a six pound baby, sleeping comfortably in the rear seat.

On a warm May day I stood next to Elliott outside my office, on the phone with Cathy, my voice cracking as we both began to realize our mother wasn’t going to make it through the weekend.

In our driveway in Auburn I mentioned to Steven and Ken that I kept smelling a funny smell in Elliott. Steven said I always smell weird things but it’s nothing to be concerned about. Ken looked under my seat and found a very ripe tomato that had rolled out of a grocery bag.

We drove to the beach. We drove to Chicago. We drove to Louisville. We drove to Atlanta. We drove to Rockyhead.

We hauled an entire dresser from my grandmother’s house. We’ve transported plants, mulch, and sod many times. We fetched drywall and celing rails for the basement. Renton, Hermione, Watson, and Crunchy have all taken a ride, though Renton was the only one that didn’t mind.

We have always called him by his name. Daddy’s car is just Daddy’s car, but Mommy’s car is Elliott.

After the composer.

April 17, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on i have a kaiju problem

i have a kaiju problem

I’m not sure if Sam just lucked out by having naturally nerdy parents, or if he gets obsessed with nerdy things because of his nerdy parents. Either way, he is one lucky dude. His preoccupations become the entire family’s preoccupations — I hunt for toys and books for him, Steven finds movie soundtracks and pertinent facts, and even Lydia acquiesces to play-acting whatever Sam is currently enthralled with. We all obsess together. It’s one of those weird ways that autism influences the family dynamic.

Sam’s long-standing interest is Godzilla. A few weeks before his 4th birthday there was a traumatic event involving an ear infection and a doctor that wanted to look in his ears, so I offered to get him a helium balloon afterwards to make amends.

As Sam looked over his choices, he pointed to one and asked, “What’s that?”

“That’s Godzilla.”

“Oh. What is that?”

“Um, he’s like a big lizard that breathes blue fire.”

“Okay. I want that one.”

And just like that, an obsession was born.

Two years and some 20 Godzilla figurines, four Godzilla books, three Godzilla shirts, and an inflatable Godzilla costume later, we are a fully-immersed Godzilla family. Sam and I spent this morning looking up the latest Godzilla movie info and Godzilla size comparison pictures. Did you know they’re making a sequel to the 2014 Godzilla, which will be out in 2019? Well, now you do! Did you know there will be a movie coming out in 2020 where Godzilla will fight King Kong? Well, now you do! Did you know the Shin Godzilla movie won for Best Picture in Japan last year? Well . . . now you do!

I find myself scanning eBay every once in a while for elusive Godzilla toys, bidding on figures, buying them, hiding them in my closet for the next Christmas or birthday. Today I found out there is a Godzilla-themed hotel in Tokyo. And you know, it’s not a bad price to stay there! The expensive part is the plane ticket. Then I’m looking that up, and it’s not much more than going to London. So what if . . .?

No. No. No way, that would be nuts. Can you imagine Sam in Tokyo? Can you imagine me trying to corral Sam in Tokyo?

Maybe when he’s a teenager.

There are Godzilla comic books, a Godzilla subreddit, Godzilla shoes, Godzilla memes . . .

Godzilla memes are best memes.

And now I’ve realized I’m also obsessed with Godzilla. But I don’t even like Godzilla! I don’t care how long he’s been around (since 1954), how tall Shin Godzilla is (118.5 meters tall), or if he has gills (don’t ask; it’s controversial). I don’t activate my geek powers because I like Godzilla, I do it because I have this sweet, caring, obsessive little ball of anxiety named Sam.

And Sam loves Godzilla.

March 19, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on *thunk thunk*

*thunk thunk*

Steven started up the clothes dryer, which immediately began to make an ominous *thunk, thunk* noise. 

“Whoa, whose clothes are those?” I asked. 

“The girl’s,” he replied. 

“Ooh, better check for lip gloss! It’s either that or a rock.”

After a few minutes of rummaging, Steven emerged from the laundry room, victorious. “Ah ha!”

“What was it?”

“A rock!”

March 17, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on not helping

not helping

After a long day of teaching, running errands, and fighting traffic I am glad to be home this evening. Sam warmly greets me with a verbal waterfall filled with tales of Minecraft, playing outside for hours and hours and hours, what he had for lunch, and how much he missed me.

“. . . and me and Lydia were playing outside, and we played with Rachel! And guess what, Mom! Rachel is going to a space camp! She gets to go into SPACE!!!” Sam is very excited about all this, and I can tell he’s setting me up to ask if he can go into space, too.

“Well Baby, she’s not actually going to go into space,” I try to explain. “You pretend to go.”

“Nope! She said! She told me! She said she’s going to go to SPACE!” he insists.

“I promise you, Baby, you don’t really go into space. Daddy went to Space Camp when he was a kid; ask him.” I holler at Steven for assistance, “Steven, come tell your son about Space Camp!”

“It’s so awesome!” Steven yells back, “You get to go into SPACE!!!”

February 26, 2017
by Carrie
Comments Off on kitchen complaints, episode seven

kitchen complaints, episode seven

Tonight we were scrounging for something to cook, so we ended up having breakfast for dinner. We scored major Parent Brownie Points with this move.

Sam, while eating pankcakes: “I’m the luckiest kid in the universe!”

Lydia, doubtfully: “Why?”

Sam: “I had a regular dinner and a breakfast dinner!*”

Lydia: “Well, I had breakfast and a bowl of cereal.”

Me: “It’s not a competition, guys.”

Sam: “Yeah. And I won!”

Steven: “You heard your mother. Besides, I would win anyway.”

Sam: “Dad! It’s not a competition!”

*At first, Sam didn’t want breakfast, so he had a hot dog. Then the call of a pankcake pulled him over to the dark side.

December 26, 2016
by Carrie
Comments Off on post-christmas eve update

post-christmas eve update

In all the chaos, I forgot to post a Christmas Eve update. Ah well. Some years are like that. 

Here we go:

Times the cat has eaten the tree and barfed: 0!

Times the cat has picked a fight and had to be taken to the vet: 2

How many cookies Mommy has made: 245. That is not a made-up number. 

How many ornaments the kids have broken: 2

How many Godzilla ornaments are on the tree: 2


December 12, 2016
by Carrie
Comments Off on an early Christmas present

an early Christmas present

It’s a lovely, dreary day today. I’m not being sarcastic, either. I am so glad for the dreariness and rain that we’ve had over the last few weeks. All forms of grey skies are welcome after a drought.

Now that we’re in December, we’re taking a month off of school. With so much going on during this time of year, it’s nice to take a mental break. The kids have filled their time with riding bikes, building worlds with LEGOs, and generally getting on each others’ nerves.

For the past hour, Lydia has been sitting by the tree with her nose in a book. She’s reading, you guys. Reading! A book! No pictures, just words! Y’all know how long she has struggled with reading. Watching her be interested in a book of her own accord is quite a sight to behold.

She is sitting there, completely absorbed, without any awareness of how much she is blowing my mind.