Monday, January 31, 2011

PBS, how could you?

For the past four weeks I have committed myself to this Masterpiece Classic series on PBS.  I regularly enjoy Masterpiece.  I am a big Agatha Christie fan, so everything stops for Masterpiece Mystery.  (Also that hunky Inspector Lynley, but they don't make those any more.  I have to read the actual books.  Imagine!) 

Downton Abbey was a good series, I more than willingly threw D into his bed, left Colin for Big Daddy, found my jammies and shut the door this month so that I would not be disturbed.  Elizabeth McGovern was in it and how great was that?

Last night was going to be the last night.  I was all snuggled in watching away when suddenly I realized I had been watching for a long time and things didn't seem to be wrapping up.  Hmmmm.  Maybe the episode was going to be extra long.

But . . . NO!  Suddenly everything stopped and a blank screen came on that said, The next series of Downton Abbey is in production right now.

Um.  WHAT?!  Wait!  I am not watching Lost on ABC.  I am watching Masterpiece Classic on PBS.  I did not start watching this to have it end in a cliffhanger I will have to wait a year to see.  Not next week.  Not until after the Superbowl.  Not over the summer.  A year.  A year!  It will be a year.

WHAT?!  PBS, how could you?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Writer's Block Friday

Blah, Blah, Blah . . .

1. I don't think Sarah and I are home from Pretend Hawaii yet.  I'll let you know.

2. BONUS!  My mother gave me a book called "Poems Children Love."  It's from Grandma Malmberg's teaching files.  We haven't had a poem from her scrapbooks in some time because I'd used all the good ones.  I'm looking forward to mining a few gems from here.

3. I have a cold, PLUS I am cold.

4. Preschooler D is not potty trained yet.  I'll let you know.

5.  I am strung out on Dayquil because I have a cold.  Did I say that already . . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Autism Unplugged 2

Once Colin was identified as being on the autism spectrum, Early Childhood Special Education went to work.  He had speech therapy, occupational therapy, play therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy . . . He still does.

We just kept on in the same way we always had. It turns out, we had made a lot of adjustments for him already.  We had a marker board so we could draw pictures of what we were going to do that day.  We tried to keep as regular a schedule as we could.

I read a lot about autism and got freaked out and stopped reading.  I'm just telling you the truth.  I didn't want to hear statistics or typical situations.  I believe education is very important, but I reached a point where I just couldn't read any more.

You need to understand this -- kids with autism, like snowflakes or marbles or whatever metaphor you like, are all different.  They have certain commonalities which identify them, but they react in different ways to different degrees.  They call it a spectrum.  There are the kids who can't talk or walk or respond on one end and there are the very high functioning "quirky" kids with Asperger's on the other end.  The rest, like Colin, fall in between.  Colin does not classify as Asperger's because he does not have the repetitive or obsessive behavior associated with it, but he is very high functioning -- which is just a ridiculous phrase if you ask me.  Like every human being going through life, Colin has made amazing progress in some areas and not so much in others.

This is what I want to say to you.  This, more than anything, is what I want you to understand.  Don't ever assume that a kid with autism is stupid or incapable or -- dare I say it -- slow.

Colin does grade level work and is an A and B student.
He has to be pulled out of the classroom for half a day to do this because in the classroom he is too distracted by noises, lights, and what other people are doing to pay attention.

Colin will race down the hill on his sled.
He WILL NOT put his face in the water.  Neither will my mother.

Colin is very literal.  He has to study idioms and memorize what the mean.  He has a terrible imagination.  He has a difficult time lying (which I find to be sort of helpful).

Social situations are hard for him to understand.  Facial clues are hard.  Body language is hard.  He has to work at it and it is exhausting for him.  He hates to talk.  He hates to make conversation.  He will say as little as possible and bolt to the other side of the room.  He will very softly repeat what has just been said.  We are told he is listening to it again to hear how it sounded and check his work.

Yet he still wants to be included.

Also his mother may have been overprotective.

Don't assume Colin won't want to do something until you ask him -- as two dear friends did this weekend.
Don't, as one woman did, call Colin learning disabled.
Don't look shocked and surprised when Colin is able to do what the other kids can -- only I am allowed to do that, but you may congratulate him when he overcomes something that has previously stumped him.

Don't, as one teacher did, tell me Colin will never function as an independent adult.
Because, lady, you don't know jack about what God and Colin are capable of.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Poem for Tuesday

I don't think this really needs an explanation if you've been paying attention.

Blue Hawaii
words & music by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger

Night and you
And blue Hawaii
The night is heavenly
And you are heaven to me
Lovely you
And blue Hawaii
With all this loveliness
There should be love

Come with me
While the moon is on the sea,
The night is young
And so are we, so are we
Dreams come true
In blue Hawaii
And mine could all come true
This magic night of nights with you

Monday, January 24, 2011

Autism Unplugged

I want to write a little bit about autism today because I've had a couple of questions this week and a surprised look from someone when Colin did what any kid his age should have been able to do.

Autism used to be a scary, scary word to me.  I used to think of kids who could not talk or move or respond.  Then when I was pregnant the image became kids who would not touch or hug.  Honestly it was the one thing of which I was most afraid.  Birth defects or childhood illness did not phase me -- but if my child could not respond to love or affection . . . I wasn't sue I could handle that.

I thought Colin was the most brilliant baby in the world.  Before two he could identify all kinds of shapes including hexagon and octagon.  He read very early.  He loved to repeat the words in books.  He wasn't a particularly huggy, love-y kid -- but they aren't always.

He was about three when I started to notice that he didn't seem to be keeping up with the other kids any more.  His language was strange.  He spoke in phrases he knew from TV or that had been repeated to him.  When he was upset he would cry out, "Ernie! Ernie!"  I didn't understand until one day when we were watching Sesame Street Bert became (typically) frustrated with Ernie (for playing his bugle in the middle of the night or whatever Ernie tends to do) and Bert shouted out, "Ernie!  Ernie!" Then it clicked.

We went to a preschool screening and Colin did everything asked of him.  He could stand on one leg.  He could put the puzzle together.  He could whisper the shapes and the colors, but he failed the speech portion of the screening.  I don't remember what he was supposed to do.  Have a little conversation with her?  She asked if we would like to see the early childhood specialist and we did.

She asked me a million questions.  Did he need routine?  Yes.  Did he like to spin things?  Yes.  Did he still still walk on his toes a lot?  Yes.  She sat on my couch and said, "I'm not really supposed to say this right away, but Colin displays the markers for autism."

I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, "I know."

Because I did.

This was harder to remember than I thought it should be.  Let's talk more about this on Wednesday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Denial: Hawaiian Style

Today I have gone into deeper denial of the cold by going on Virtual Vacation to Hawaii with Cyberspace Sarah.  It's not as good as actually going there, but it's not bad.  No jet lag.

While Cyber and I drive our rented jeep around Oahu, why don't you trip on over to our dear blog-friend cmarie.  She is actually in Hawaii and you need to check out the groovy camping situation she and her husband set up for themselves every winter.  In the words of my close personal friend Ina Garten (no, not really), "How bad is that?"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Great State of Denial

It's -4 right now (RealFeel -24) and going down.  The wind chill is picking up.  This is Minnesota and I find myself . . . slipping . . . into . . . denial . . .

Whooo-eee, everybody!!  What a gorgeous day!!  Thank goodness we have nothing to do but ride around on the pontoon.  (Um, I think, you should probably not sit in the front, though.)  Did you put enough icy things in the cooler with the egg salad?  If it were winter, we'd just stick it on the porch and not worry about it! Hahahahahah!! Thank goodness it's not!  Let's motor over to Molly's and see if she's got the flag flying for cocktail hour.  If it were winter, she'd be toasty warm in Arizona, but it's summer!! And we're all happy together here on the pontoon!!! Ahhhhhhh!!! Sunscreen?  You're looking a little pink. Ohhhh!!  Maybe we should go to Starbuck to the Dairy Queen before we go over to Mol's.  I could really go for a dilly bar after that questionably warm egg salad.  If it were winter, the DQ wouldn't even be open!! Hahahahahahaha!! What a long and tiresome season winter is!!!! Thank goodness it's summer now!


Ah . . . . Oh, dear.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Poem for Tuesday

I let Preschooler D eat jelly beans all the way home from his haircut today.  20 minutes.  20 minutes of jelly beans.


The Candy Man
music and lyrics Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley

Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with choc'late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie
The Candy Man, the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

The Candy Man makes everything he bakes satisfying and delicious
Now you talk about your childhood wishes, you can even eat the dishes

Oh, who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

The Candy Man makes everything he bakes satisfying and delicious
Talk about your childhood wishes, you can even eat the dishes

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream
The Candy Man, the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good
Yes, the Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

Monday, January 17, 2011


I was bending down to let the dog outside when he jumped up and his hard little head hit the bridge of my nose.  I thought it was broken.  I thought blood was going to come gushing out.

It didn't.  But it hurt. Like. Heck.

I chose that moment to yell at Colin for not trying hard enough to engage in conversation with the guys at church who were trying hard to make conversation with him.

"Colin, you have to try!  Colin, I know you don't like it, but this is the way it works! Colin!  Are you listening to me?!"

And I started to cry a big, nasty, ugly cry of frustration and literal pain.


"Mom?  I'm sorry."

"Mom? I didn't mean to make you cry."

I couldn't stop crying, but I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that one of us needed to pull herself together and be the parent.  After blowing my nose and hugging Colin much harder than he would have liked, I helped him clip his fingernails.  While we worked, Colin was quiet.

After a while he said, "Mom, do you wish I was normal?"

Normal.  What the heck is "normal," kid?  Who's "normal" anyway?  Nothing in my life has ever seemed to be "normal."  Three doctors said your dad and I would not have children, but without one fertility treatment, there you are.  Is that normal?  Is it normal for you to have adult siblings and a toddler brother?  But who loves you more in this world than those three?  Is it normal for a 12-year-old boy to play the piano in such a way that makes grown women cry?  In a way that even the jaded husband of your piano teacher leaves his hearing aides in when you come to play?  Is it normal for you to be the only kid in your Awana group to be working for the top award at your level? Do I wish you were less thoughtful?  Do I wish you worked less hard?  Do I wish you didn't see the world in your own special way?  Do I wish I didn't know in my very heart of hearts that God has something amazing planned for you?

"Colin," I said.  "You are perfectly normal to me."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's My Opinion

I just finished a survey which asked me if I believed negative political rhetoric was to blame for the shootings in Arizona.  Yesterday I was asked to sign a petition against a politician for violent advertising.

Do I believe we could be a little more civilized in our political conversations in America? Yes, of course we could.  We should watch more Questions for the Prime Minister on C-SPAN.  Over in Great Britain they do a lovely job of civility.  "What my most distinguished and honorable colleague from the other side of the aisle does not realize, is that he has his head up his butt."  All said in those charming accents.  Very polite.

Do I believe tense political rhetoric was the cause of shooting in Arizona?  No.  A crazy person (who did not realize he was crazy) with a gun was the cause of the shootings.

Did he get all pumped up over politics?  Yes.  But he was a crazy person.  If it had not been that, it would have been something or someone else.

Let's understand mental health better in this country before we get all excited about the First Amendment.

And now I descend from my soap box.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zamar, my hero

The most fantastic thing happened to me Monday night.  When your life is filled with endless piles of laundry and dishes, when your last outing was to return an old video to the library, when getting "dressed up" means your good jeans -- well, it doesn't take much, does it?

Brent and I had gone to hear Cody James perform.  Cody's a cool guy with a neat testimony, a big prison ministry and -- truth be told -- a sort of strangely Bret Michaels type vibe.  I don't know what to tell you. Of course, I'm the one who thought I saw Idina Menzel at church this week.

Anyway . . . we needed to talk with him because he'll be playing at Cataclysm Catalyst this week and as Brent is the music guy, we needed to know how to prepare.  Cody was nice as could be and very accommodating to our brand new church limitations.  "Well!" he said.  "Let's figure out something right now!  What do you guys play?"

He looked at me warily -- I would say with air of predictability in his eye and said, "Let me guess.  Piano, right?"

Ha-Ha!  Oh, friends and loved ones! Those precious seconds! It was such a beautiful thing to anticipate his reaction.

"Ah, no.  Bass actually."

Now you and I both know I am just a bass student, but that did not take one thing away from this moment.  He literally fell back and started laughing. "OH! I totally missed that one.  I did not see that! That's great!"

Maybe I should be a little insulted.  Maybe I should be worried that I look more like middle-class-piano-playing-mommy than super-bass-chick-rocker-mama.  Oh, but I'm not!  No, beneath this practical L.L. Bean parka and wool socks lies a Woman of Mystery fully capable of surprising Nashville-type, formerly incarcerated musicians.

Take that!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Poem for Tuesday

I'm cold.

The Snow Man

Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My "Wicked" Church Service

So it was the second week of regular church services at Catacomb Catalyst Covenant yesterday.  We'd gotten up early to get there in time to set up.  I'd only had one coffee.  I'd run interference on a couple of meltdowns and had one of my own.  I was sitting at the back running the  -- it's not Powerpoint but something like that -- when we had a time of prayer. When we finished praying, I looked up and the most lovely woman passed by me in a long red coat, and I thought to myself, "That is Idina Menzel, the Broadway actress." (Or do you know her from Glee?  I don't watch.  I don't know what to tell you.)

And I had to have a little conversation with myself that went something like this:
"Lisa, I'm not going to tell you it's impossible that Idina Menzel has made her way to Catacomb Catalyst this morning, but it is highly unlikely."

I saw my friend Les walking somewhere with her and after the service was over, I had another little conversation with myself that went like this:
"Lisa, on the off chance that Les knows Idina Menzel and she has come to Catacomb Catalyst today, gosh darn it, you ought to go meet her."
I went and found my friend (and wife of Les) Sue and asked her who the woman was. This turned into a comedy of errors as Sue wanted to know where I though Les had been with this woman.

As you have probably guessed by now, it was not Idina, and I didn't even get to meet Mystery Woman because she'd left by the time I got doing my little Catacomb Catalyst jobs. Maybe if I got another look at her I would have this little conversation with myself:

"Lisa, this woman looks nothing like Idina Menzel."

But you can never be too sure in this life.  Stranger things have happened, so I think a person should always check it out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Writer's Block Friday

Blah, Blah, Blah . . .

* (From Preschooler D) jhtruxxzxxcvbnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmkiu6y

* In case you haven't seen it over there in the upper right corner, I've started a photo project.  It's supposed to be a picture a day for a whole year, but we shall see.  As you know I am not good at craft projects and this one lasts a whole year.  Let's just take it one day at a time.

* School's getting out early today.  The wind is blowing pretty hard.  I've got my eye on a house out in the country.  I mean "go 4 miles past a tiny nearby town, turn down a gravel road, turn on another gravel road, turn on yet another gravel road and you are there" out in the country.  It's weather like this that makes me remember why I live in town.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"I'm 12."

Preschooler D didn't really want to have anything to so with his birthday this year. I was concerned about the fact that we had made such a fuss about "You're going to be old enough to use the potty when you're four."  We went to ECFE and Miss Cathy asked him how old he was.  No answer.  "Are you 16 today?" she persisted.

"I'm 12."

Huh.  Now, I don't think I can handle two 12-year-olds at once, so I quietly whispered to him, "You don't have to use the potty today if you're not ready.  It's okay to be four."  He gave me a big hug, but he still didn't want Miss Cathy to sing or wear the birthday crown or open presents.

Now that I think of it, though, he didn't really want much to do with his birthday last year either, and we were at Disney World where they make a really big fuss over your birthday.  I think he hid in my shoulder when Goofy came out to present him with his birthday cupcake.

Not everyone loves birthdays.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Poem for Tuesday

It's Preschooler D's birthday today.  He is four.  I imagine something about snails and puppy dog tails would be appropriate, but I have chosen something by Little Stevie Wonder.

You are the Sunshine of My Life
Stevie Wonder

You are the sunshine of my life
That's why I'll always be around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you'll stay in my heart

I feel like this is the beginning,
Though I've loved you for a million years,
And if I thought our love was ending,
I'd find myself drowning in my own tears

You are the sunshine of my life,
That's why I'll always stay around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you'll stay in my heart

You must have known that I was lonely,
Because you came to my rescue,
And I know that this must be heaven,
How could so much love be inside of you?

You are the sunshine of my life, yeah,
That's why I'll always stay around,
You are the apple of my eye,
Forever you'll stay in my heart

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's Just a Jigsaw

No, we did not go to see Cyberspace Sarah which was a major disappointment because, in addition to not getting to see my sister and her family this holiday, it was my second weather related fun-thing cancellation this month.  What a drag.  It was freezing rain, though.  There's not much you can do against freezing rain.  Freezing rain which then became snow.  It was just a big driving mess and we didn't go.

We went to Target to spend Colin's Christmas gift cards.  He decided he would save them.  I decided I would do a jigsaw puzzle.  I haven't completed a jigsaw puzzle probably since I was a small child helping Grandpa.  I chose one from the clearance aisle that I thought was a 500 piece puzzle of a four season picture.  I got it home, opened the box, opened the four bags inside (Who sees where this story is about to go wrong?), and dumped all the pieces into the box.

Jeepers, it seemed like a lot of pieces.

Huh.  What a lot of edge pieces.

Wait.  Brent found a fifth corner. That's . . . not . . . right . . .

And that's when I realized that I had just dumped the pieces of four 500 piece puzzles into one box.  I almost started to cry.

No!  This situation was not worth tears.  I would simply go to my parents' house and get a puzzle there.  I scraped a small square of ice away from my windshield and took the route there with the least amount of hills.  Only they weren't home and I couldn't find a puzzle.  Mother figures once she's done it, why save it.  I see this.

Okay, Plan B.  I would go to my in-laws.  My mother-in-law would have one.  I skated across town to her house, picked up three puzzles and skated home.

My mother-in-law gave me three of the hardest 500 piece puzzles I had ever seen.  (Not true.  I once saw a round puzzle that was all red.)  They were all watercolors of dark trees and low lit cottages. No, no, no!  This isn't what I wanted.  I just wanted to do a little puzzle of bunnies.

You know. Like the one . . . I keep moving around in the -- huh -- basement.  Shoot.  There was one in the basement all the time.

I need to clean the basement.