Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Just Another Day in Paradise

If there's one thing you can count on living in Western Washington, it's the rain. We did have a white Christmas, which is rare, but since then the rain has washed all the snow away. It makes me sad. The kids can go outside and play in the sun, the cold or the snow, but not the rain. So cabin fever is starting to set in. I don't help this matter much because if left on my own, I would never leave the house. That's not really acceptable when you have 3 kids.

In a short lived burst of energy and determination, I decided to set my alarm so that I could actually get up in the morning and get something accomplished. Ha ha ha! I am so funny. So yesterday as I lay in bed listening to the radio since I couldn't remember how to turn it off, I heard the DJ announce that you could get into the Pacific Science Center for only 94 cents. Perfect! It normally costs $11 to get in and we don't get to go very often because of that. So I told the kids to hurry up and get ready and we were going. Yeah, easier said than done. I also had the brilliant idea of inviting other kids to join us. That entailed many phone calls and arrangements. To make a long story short (if I'm even capable of that), we arrived in Seattle 3 hours later.

Most of the kids' friends are out of town for the holidays and my niece and nephew couldn't come with us so it was the 4 of us and a little 4 year-old boy named David. The Pacific Science Center is so much fun. It's right next the Space Needle which is the center of lots of fun and activity in Seattle. I've now been there probably 4 or 5 times, usually on kids' field trips with school. There is never enough time to see and do everything. In all the times I've been there, I've still never seen it all.

We spent about 4 1/2 hours out there and had lots of fun. The kids were all very good and I didn't lose anybody! We saw the animatronic dinosaurs, all the nasty insects, the naked mole rats and reptiles. We even stopped and watched the planetarium show. It's really cool. You go into a room with a big domed ceiling and they turn off the lights so that you can look up and see all the stars projected above.

They have a great butterfly house there that I always make the kids go to. You would think that kids would love to see real live butterflies but then again, we're talking about my children. It's about 85 degrees in there and butterflies are flying everywhere. You have to watch where you step and sometimes they even land on you. I could stay in there for hours. But my kids jumped every time one came anywhere near them. They were constantly asking, "Are there any butterflies on me?" Not out of hope and excitement, they were just really scared that one of the butterflies might actually touch them. Ewww! They were always ducking down and sideways, wrinkling their noses at the thought. But like most things, it was really just the boys doing this. Sassy wasn't nearly as freaked out. To make it even better, I went through almost a whole roll of film in there (yes some people still use film) just to find out that I had it loaded wrong and I made them all walk through it again so I could get pictures! Hee hee.

Part of what's cool about going there is that it's fun AND educational. I've been sneaking this past my kids for all this time but Bubba finally started catching on. There's one section that has all these displays that light up and make noise and have lots of buttons and levers to push, again-all educational. Bubba was waiting for his turn on one and I suggested that while he was waiting he could try another one. Whenever you pushed one of the buttons, it would like up one of the systems of the body-the nervous system, the skeletal system, etc. He got mad after trying it out and yelled at me,"But then I'm learning something!" He said it with such disgust. I guess the cat's out of the bag.

In spite of that, we all had a great time and the kids were all really good. Even David, bless his heart, who skipped his nap so he could go. But driving home from Seattle at night, in rush hour traffic, exhaustion started to hit me. I didn't have a problem driving, but I could feel my lack of sleep catching up with me. When we got home, I let the kids play on the Wii and I tried my best to stay awake until bedtime. Apparently though, my muddled brain forgot to set the last timer for the kids and they ended up playing until after bedtime.

With Hubby gone, I haven't been sleeping and it had caught up with me. I knew that if I went to bed by myself, I would just end up reading all night again and I'd be even worse off. So I had this great idea to let the kids climb into bed with me. That would actually be fun! Yeah, my brain is definitely fried. First of all, the four of us in a queen size bed is an awfully tight fit. Second, Howdy and Sassy were so excited that they didn't fall asleep until after 10pm. I'm not exactly sure what time I finally fell asleep but it didn't last long. Howdy and Sassy have a tendency to talk or shout in their sleep. Two of my children, I won't name names as to save them from humiliation, apparently spend all night passing gas. Howdy woke up crying from a nightmare, which also woke up Sassy. She went right back to sleep but it took awhile to console him. I woke up at one point wishing I could have taken a picture. I was on my side almost hanging off the edge of the bed. Howdy had snuggled as close to me as possible and thrown his arm over my neck. Bubba was hanging off the other side of the bed. Sassyy was in between the boys but at the other end of the bed. And both the dogs were sprawled out among us. Needless to say, I woke up this morning completely exhausted and looking forward to a nap.

Monday, December 29, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

My Heart is in Texas

(Before you begin, I should warn you that I'm feeling especially long-winded!)
Hubby is in Texas right now visiting his family. It was kind of a last-minute decision. We had a free ticket voucher from being bumped off another flight earlier this year and Hubby was thinking about seeing his family. His mom has been really sick for the last couple of years, she has COPD. She was a chronic smoker and her lungs are pretty much hardening up and not working. We spent 3 weeks with his family last Christmas and we knew we couldn't all go this time. Things worked out though and now he is there, spending 10 days visiting with his brothers, sister, family and friends. It's a long time for him to be gone, but I can would never say no to a chance of him getting to see everyone.

But that leaves me here, missing him. I don't sleep when he's gone. Last night (this morning?) I went to sleep at 4:30am. I haven't been to bed before 1:30am since he left on Christmas day. It just doesn't seem right without him here. There are a lot of nights that I go to sleep before him, but he's usually in the same room on the computer. When he's gone, I just sit in bed and read until I can't focus my eyes anymore and then I fall asleep. My kids, however, don't have the same problem and are more than happy to help me wake up in the morning. So I turn on "auto pilot" and start the day.

Because he is all I can think about, this entry is about my husband. I must forwarn you that we are one of those sappy, corny, mushy couples that make you want to be sick. I love every minute of it.

I have a passion for marriage relationships. To me, there is nothing sadder than to see someone in an unhappy marriage. Your spouse is supposed to be your best friend and will be there with you until you die. Who would want to spend a lifetime with someone they aren't happy with?
But, I'll be good to you and not get on my soapbox about marriage today.

When you're growing up, you get this image of what marriage will be like. You think you know what your husband will look like, what your relationship will be, how your life is going to go. Never in my wildest dreams did I come close. I don't necessarily believe that there is just one person on earth that I could've married and been happy with. However, I believe without a doubt that God chose the two of us to be together. I always thought I would like being married, but I never dreamed that I would be with someone who was so perfect for me.

CJ and I have been married for 13 1/2 years. It's gone by so fast. We have 3 children, a house, 2 dogs and CJ runs his own business. We're very busy with life in general. But even so, I sometimes feel like we're still newlyweds. I still look at him in awe at the fact that I get to wake up everyday with him. I look forward to spending time with him, even if it's just sitting next to him on the couch while we both work on separate projects.

He is my absolute best friend. If everyone else on earth disappeared, he is the one person I would want to be with. He spurs me on to be a better person. He encourages me to learn more, do more. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still lazy and a procrastinator, but he makes me want to get past that. He is constantly teaching me new things and I love to hear his point of view.

We are not the same people that we were when we got married. I'm quite a bit...curvier for one. CJ is as well and is now losing his hair. (He's probably going to kill me for putting that in there.) He likes to joke that he's "twice the man" I married. But I still look at him and find him very sexy. (Yes, I'm going to get even more personal, watch out.)

You know all those corny movie lines from chick flicks? You know, the best lines in the movie that bring two people together that you only hear in the movies because nobody in real life actually talks that way? Lines like:
"You complete me."
"You make me want to be a better man."
"I wanted it to be you so badly."
I know what all those lines mean. I believe that God created the two of us to complement each other. He made us to complete each other. And yes, I am aware that I sound like a moony teenage girl that makes you want to gag. But looking at my husband and my family, I am always constantly aware of the power of God and that everything is in His control. There is no way that we would fit together like we do unless it was designed by Him.

CJ tolerates me when I'm sure no one else would. He laughs at me pathetic jokes and plays along with my games. And he makes me laugh. If you know him, you know his particular brand of humor. Surprise, surprise, I find him hysterical! He always makes me laugh. He's helped me to become more of an optimist as opposed to a staunch pessimist. I don't consider myself a beautiful woman (at least not by the world's standards) but he makes me feel that way. And somehow, he's even made me better at math.

A few years ago, (I'm about to get very personal here so feel free to skip this part) I was always tired and run down. My kids were younger and required so much more of me physically, Logan was not as well-behaved, and I was taking medication that caused chronic fatigue. The last thing I thought about was keeping my husband happy. I enjoy sex but as far as I was concerned, it was just one more thing on my to-do list, one that was easy to bump to the bottom of the list. In the back of my head was always the thought that if I wasn't taking care of CJ, he might find someone who would. So, I did only what I had to do to keep that from happening. But then we went away for a vacation. It was the whole family but I got to spend all day every day with him. We had fun and just relaxed (well, except for the week everyone had the stomach flu). I remembered that I was actually attracted to this man. He still gives me butterflies in my tummy when he kisses me. He can give me a look from across the room that makes me melt. He makes me WANT to have sex. I know that sounds dumb, but I had said on many occasions that it was only for him and if I never had sex again, I would be just fine. I think I had just been putting everything else in my life higher on the priority list than I was putting him. 'Cause he wasn't going anywhere, right? Well, I was reminded that he was more important and that it's not just about keeping him from straying. That has been turned around and I have to admit that he now has more "headaches" than I do.

Things are not always rosy and perfect with us. I tend to have a short fuse with him when I'm stressed and trust me, you do NOT want me to go off my meds. But even if we get frustrated and I raise my voice (he, of course, is too laid back to ever get that worked up about anything), I still know that everything is fine. If I need something, I tell him and vice versa. I learned a long time ago that the saying about "if he loved me he would just know" doesn't cut it. 'Cause men are blind and just don't get it. It needs to be spelled out for them very neon...every day.

I get sad when I see married couples who don't seem to have this same connection. How is it that we are so blessed? Why isn't every marriage this way? When the kids are gone and it's just the two of you left, what will your life be like?

I love my husband. I enjoy my husband. (Now, he may not enjoy me so much after he sees this, but I'll deal with that.) And I'm counting down the days until he comes home. Love you honey!
Sunday, December 21, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom


We have snow. Actual snow. It's several inches deep and has stuck for a few days now. That may not seem like a big deal to those who are used to living in it but it's a bit unusual for WA. You see, we get snow. But it never sticks around for long. We can always count on the rain to wash it all away. But it's been here for a week now and it's enough that church was canceled this morning over concern about road conditions.

I love the snow. I love to watch it through the window or walk through it outside. It just makes everything seem so beautiful and clean. In the middle of a sometimes dreary winter, God gives us this magnificent gift. Even the bare trees and dormant gardens are given a new winter coat. Everything gets spruced up and shows off it's beauty. I don't even mind the cold. As I get older, I'm finding I'd rather be in the snow than in the rain.

The best thing about this weather? My kids have been begging everyday to be able to go out and play in it! This is HUGE! My kids do not play outside voluntarily. During the summer we spend alot of time outdoors at parks and beaches and hiking. But I have to make them go. Once they are there, they have a great time. But it's not as if they wake up each day asking when they can go and play in the sun. Now for the last week they have been outside almost everyday. This has got to be some kind of record. I can't keep up with all the laundry and shoe drying that is needed. They get up, eat, do their chores and then they spend the next 30 minutes asking, "Can we go out now? Are the clothes dry? How much longer will it be? Now? Now? NOW?" Who are these children?

I just saw on the forecast that it's supposed to rain on Wed, Thur and Fri. I'm so disappointed. At least we live close to Mt. Rainier so we can always play there in the snow. I'm going to miss watching through the window while they use our driveway as a sledding track and wear themselves out. And those rosy red cheeks are so cute. When it's almost time for them to come in, I throw clean clothes in the dryer so they can change right into toasty warm clothes. They're a little sluggish after all that exercise so they usually stick with a quiet activity like reading or playing with Legos. I can't remember the last time my house was so peaceful! Why does winter ever have to end?!
Saturday, December 20, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

I've tried to be good this year. I've been watching what I eat (and it all looked pretty good), keeping the house clean (when we're having company), and playing with my children (I love the "quiet game"). I make sure to do the laundry after everyone's run out of underwear and the children are always bathed after they start to stink. I catch the dust bunnies when they escape from under the furniture, help the kids find their clean clothes from the laundry baskets and keep our videos rewound so the kids can entertain themselves easier. Not only do I keep up with all of this around the house, but I'm involved in philanthropic endeavors as well. I financially support the local thrift stores and dollar stores. I single-handedly keep my neighborhood Papa Murphy's and McDonald's thriving. In light of all this, I'm hoping that you might bring me something off my Christmas list this year. Here's what I would like:

A dishwasher specifically for pots and pans. I know that there are good lessons to be learned in working hard but I think I know them already and my time would be put to better use if I didn't have to wash them myself.

A toilet that catches all moisture that comes even close to it. Since my boys seem to have difficulty hitting the right target, this would make my bathroom so much more pleasant to walk into.

A camera that will hold the batteries in without using tape. And while you're at it, maybe you could get me one of those that you can look at the screen to shoot instead of looking through the tiny viewfinder. It's just that I'm getting older and my eyes would appreciate not having to strain to look at a half inch picture of something.

I would like a car that doesn't have vinyl seats. I appreciate that's it's easier to clean, but we are freezing off important bodies parts in the winter and frying those same parts in the summer.

I would also like to have a few extra ears. I know that 2 really should be enough and I don't mean to sound greedy. It's just that when I have all 3 kids hollering to be heard by me, having 3 different conversations while I'm trying to watch TV, it's very hard to concentrate. If I had more ears, I could listen to all of them and not miss anything on TV.

Finally, I would like a house that has no more "projects" to finish. I would like a bathroom with a working sink, a kitchen with cabinet doors and a full countertop, windows that aren't broken, rooms with plenty of light, and carpets that aren't stained.

I realize that I'm asking for a lot. But hopefully you could find it in your heart to get me at least one of the things on my list (I'm leaning toward the toilet thing). I will do my best to continue to be good. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Merry Christmas,
Sheri (you know which one)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Coal for Christmas

My children wholeheartedly believe in Santa Claus. I realize my oldest is almost 10, but when it comes to this particular question, I live by the "don't ask, don't tell" philosophy. They know that Santa brings toys to the good kids and they've heard about the coal for bad kids. However, I've never held this over their heads or threatened them with it. You know the "Santa's watching so you'd better behave or you'll get coal" trick? Yeah, it hasn't come up in my house. We have enough to deal with without adding that stress.

Last week we attended a Christmas party at the therapy center where Bubba goes for speech. And who did we get to stand in line to see? Santa himself. They were very excited to be able to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Bubba was funny. He just kept saying, "But I have so much to tell him!" (Of course he wouldn't share any of it with me.) When we got up to the front of the line, Bubba started getting really agitated. He turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "But I think I'm gonna be on his naughty list!" He was so worried, it broke my heart. He did manage to sit on Santa's lap and I didn't really give it another thought.

The next evening, however, Bubba came downstairs and told me that Howdy was really upset because HE thought he would be on Santa's naughty list. All I could think of was, "What have I done to my kids that makes them think they're so rotten?"

So I called up to Howdy from the bottom of the stairs (I'm too lazy to walk all the way up there myself). He looked over the railing at me with big tears in his eyes. So I went and sat with him in his room for awhile. First, I told him that he was a very good kid. No one is good 100% of the time, but as long as you're trying, that's all that matters. Then I shared a secret with him. I told him no kid has ever got coal from Santa. I told him it was just something us parents made up to get kids to behave themselves. I don't know if he believed me or not but he calmed down.

Here's my dilemma. When do I tell him the truth? Hubby wants to tell him now. He's worried about Howdy getting teased by other kids because he still believes. I figure as long as he believes, let him.

And this definitely won't be the Christmas to try to convince him that Santa doesn't exist. I don't think he would believe me. You see, this year we're buying the kids a Wii system. Up until just recently I've been very anti-video game and the kids know it. And as far as they've heard, we do not have enough money for one. So this is what they have all asked Santa for. Their lists were very short, basically the Wii and games to go with it. So when they wake up on Christmas morning and find that Wii under the tree, I think they just might keep believing in Santa a little longer.


Not that you were wondering, but I had a great time with my sisters. On Friday night we played cards all night, ate lots of junk food, and went to bed around 4am. I had to be up at 8am to get back to my kids and their schedules but we did it all again on Saturday night. We danced until 1am, then we dragged our tired, hurting bodies to Shari's. After that we headed back for more cards and "quality time". I had the best time. My favorite part of the whole thing is the laughing. We laugh so hard that my cheeks and jaw hurt, my stomach muscles ache and I nearly wet my pants. And I couldn't tell you one thing that was said that was so funny. It doesn't even matter because it was funny at the time. So, I porked out on cake and candy, went without much sleep for 2 days, and downed plenty of Advil to calm my aging muscles. I can't wait to do it again!
Friday, November 28, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

A Card Carrying Member

My sisters and I are going out dancing next weekend. It's an unspoken rule that whenever my oldest sister is in town, we have to go out dancing. As my younger sister and I were discussing this she said to me, "I want you to let loose while we're out. Just go wild and have fun." I found this amusing. You see, I always do let loose and have a great time. I don't drink and so I'm the designated driver. And there isn't anything I say or do that I would be embarrassed for anyone else to know about. But it hammered home a truth that has divided me and my sisters since the day I was born.

I am a nerd. (If you grew up with me at all, this is not a revelation.) But I'm not the techie, computer geek type that now seems to be the "cool" kind of nerd. I am a nerd in the purest, most picked on sense of the word. I was always the teacher's pet growing up. I got straight A's up through high school and graduated with honors. I was never fashionable and always seemed to have a bad perm.

I always asked for extra work and was the first to sign up for summer reading programs. I love to read. I can't tell you how many times my sisters came into my room while I was reading, begging me to do "something fun". Hello?! Can't you see I'm having fun already?

You know those people that you went to school with that always seemed older and put together and just plain cool? I was the opposite of that. I never even seemed my own age, much less older. Not a year went by that I was not teased, picked on, ridiculed endlessly.

I was always the goody-two shoes of the family. I was the tattle-tell, the party pooper. Both my sisters had problems in school and seemed to get in trouble. I could never understand why anyone would want to do something that would make their parents upset with them. This is not to say that I never did anything bad. I've had my moments of rebellion and stupidity. And there were plenty of times that I would try anything to fit in with my sisters or people at school. It never worked.

It's not just reading that I enjoy. I could pass away hours happily organizing something, anything. It's makes me happy to see something in it's place. (Just don't ask me to clean said place.) Last year my husband finally bought me a gift I've been asking for for years. He bought me a label maker. He's so good to me. He's in construction and sometimes he'll bring home catalogs of organizing units and pieces for your kitchen. That's hours of entertainment right there. I drool over the pages in my scrapbook magazine of perfectly organized craft rooms and scrapbook corners. I love to look at the closet organizers at Home Depot. A fun evening out for me would be to walk around the Container Store. (At least I'm a cheap date!)

I also have a thing for spelling. If I see something misspelled, it stands out like a flashing neon light and I can't get past it. If it's something coming from a friend or something personal, it's not such a big deal. But if it's on something professional? Oh, that irritates me to no end. Don't they pay someone to check these things? Can they not hit the spellcheck button? How are you supposed to appear professional if you can't even spell it?

I don't drink, smoke or cuss. I've tried all at one time or another and enjoyed none. Mixed drinks always taste better without the alcohol. I love the smell of wine, but it smells better than it tastes. Cigarettes are just NASTY! Cussing stuck around longer than anything else but even that didn't last. It just doesn't seem to fit. And this one always amuses me because I think there is a blue streak in my genes. The women in my family can swear in a way that would make a sailor blush. I do have to admit that I did have one favorite word that I used all the time. I always said "crap". Which, when you think about it, is still a gross word. But I always figured it was nothing compared to what you might be hearing everywhere else. Until I had kids. Once I had kids, I started thinking about these words coming out of the mouths of my little children. Suddenly, it sounded a whole lot worse to me. I had to train myself not to say it. First, I had to stop saying it. Then, I had to stop thinking it. And then I had to come up with something else that would be appropriate. I came up with the most ridiculous thing I could think of and started using it instead. My "go-to" word has now become "heavens to Betsy." I'm not sure exactly how but it works. It's hard to stay upset about anything after saying that.

I didn't enjoy the same things that my sisters did growing up and so I've always been the big nerd, the snob. Imagine the excitement for my sisters when their stuffy, prudish sister started going to church. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. It wasn't until my junior and senior year in high school, when I mostly hung around with kids in the youth group, that I started to accept (and dare I say embrace) my nerdiness. Did I still want to fit in? Absolutely. But I became a lot more comfortable with being an outsider. And I don't care who knows it. I'll be the first person to volunteer to do something completely humiliating...and have a great time doing it. I have been teased and picked on since preschool. I figure people are going to think whatever they want to about me. I might as well enjoy myself.

So this is me. A full-fledged, card-carrying member of the Nerd Herd. Label maker in one hand, a good book in the other, calling out to other geeks-in-hiding. Embrace your nerdiness! (Just leave out the pocket protectors.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

All About the Kids...For Once

I thought I would take a break from talking about me for once and spend some time on my kids. OK, you don't have to cheer so loud. I do realize that life is not all about me...sometimes.

I was driving Bubba to speech/playgroup last night and he was fascinated with the moon. It was a full moon but it was slightly veiled through the clouds. It was an incredible sight. Even as we were driving he had to keep watching it. Then he asked me a great question. He said, "Mommy, do you think there's anything undiscovered on the moon?" Those were his exact words. I love that question. After Bubba lost his first words, he never said anything until after he turned 4. Now he's 8 and asked me that. I'm just amazed at his brain and the things that come out of it.

All 3 of the kids are taking piano lessons now. Howdy is doing it somewhat reluctantly. He'd rather do guitar lessons. I told him he has to give me a year of piano first. It seems to come more naturally to Bubba and Sassy than it does to Howdy. This makes sense if you know them. Bubba and Sassy are more analytical. They love math and numbers and patterns. Howdy is my artistic, creative one who struggles with math and the concrete side of things. I sit in the room while they have their lessons. Their teacher does this exercise with them that I love to hear. It's my favorite part. She gives them certain keys on the piano to play and then they are to accompany her while she plays a particular piece of music. They get to play their keys however they want. For the most part, when Bubba and Sassy do this, it actually sounds good. It fits. They do their best to follow the rhythm and stay on beat. However, when Howdy plays, it usually makes my hair stand on end. It's just not obvious to him where the notes should fit into the music. I'm not too worried because they are just starting. And they don't get to practice a whole lot at home since we don't have our own piano or keyboard. But when I was watching Howdy last week something looked different. He looked very natural at the piano. And he looked like he was trying very hard and enjoying himself. I'm not sure why but I was very proud of him as he sat there on that bench.

Bubba picks up on music pretty quickly, as I suspected he would. He can look at a new piece and figure it out without too much help. But he tends to be impatient. He thinks he knows everything there is to know and doesn't always have the patience to listen to instructions. We just have to take our time with him and have patience ourselves. I'm so used to always having to repeat and go over things that I forget there are some things he's way ahead of me on.

Sassy is my prodigy. OK, so she's not technically a prodigy. But I've secretly thought her a genius since she was about 2. At 5, she's reading chapter books, playing solitaire, doing first grade addition, memorizing worship songs from church and showing the boys how to do the laundry. I remember when Bubba was in preschool, I asked one of his teachers if there was a way to get Sassy's intelligence tested to see if she was beyond her age level and he kindly brought me back to reality. He told me that she probably just seemed so smart because I was comparing her to Bubba at that age. Well, he had a point. I can't remember what Howdy did at that age (that's why I write things down) and I know Bubba wasn't doing any of those things when he was that young. But I do know that she is slightly above her age level. (Does that sound unbiased enough?) When you look at how she's grown up though, it's easy to see why. She has 2 older brothers for one thing. If you're going to be the youngest and the only girl, you'd better catch on quick or you'll be left behind. Plus, Sassy's always been the one who's been with Bubba while he was in speech or being quizzed with flashcards or learning his letters. When we found out that Bubba was learning his words by memorizing them, we went through the house and labeled everything. We've read to the kids almost every night before bed since they were born. She has grown up surrounded by words. Bubba's area of expertise is math, anything with numbers. During the summer, he actually asks me if he can do math worksheets. If Bubba is doing math, Sassy wants to do math. So she's had a pretty good jumpstart on a lot of things. But since I'm her mother, would it still be alright if I quietly think of her as a genius?

A Glimpse of Daylight

I'm finally taking a moment to breathe. I'm peeking out of my cave long enough to glimpse the sunlight (ok, so it's actually overcast but at this point, I'm not picky). November is crazy for us. This year is even more so. We usually do craft shows every weekend in November. This means that I put off working on everything until September or October, then I spend every waking moment down in my basement until I'm so tired I can't see straight. Sometimes I work out at the shows with CJ and sometimes we hire someone else, but I always have to be there to help set up and breakdown.

This keeps us busy enough. Everyone at church knows not to expect to see us at all during November. But since I'm never content with my life only a little busy, we made it even more hectic this year. I'm homeschooling this year and the kids are taking piano lessons. Plus, we added new shows. Take a look at what our Oct/Nov/Dec schedule looks like.

Monday 6:30-7:30 Logan has Speech/playgroup
Tuesday 3:30-5pm piano lessons for all 3 kids
Thursday 2:30-3:30 Speech for Logan
Friday 9:30-2:30 Co-op for all of us
Oct 21st set up for a show at the Tacoma Dome
Oct 22nd-26th work the show
Oct 26th breakdown
Oct 31st set up for a show in Poulsbo
Nov 1st & 2nd work the show, breakdown Sun.
Nov 7th set up at Spanaway Lake High School
Nov 8th & 9th work the show, breakdown on Sun.
weekend of Nov 14th--NO SHOW! (It was an odd 5 weekend month this year)
Nov 21st set up at PLU
Nov 22nd work the show, breakdown that eve.
Nov 26th set up for a show in Portland, OR
Nov 27th Thanksgiving
Nov 28th I set up for a show at Peninsula High School while CJ works the show in Portland all weekend
Nov 29th & 30th work the Peninsula show, breakdown on Sun.
Dec 5th-7th Hubby works the Portland show (it's a 2 weekend show)
Dec 7th breakdown and come home

This is our schedule minus the physicals and Halloween activities that the kids had scheduled, without the scrapbook convention that I go to every year, not including support group for Howdy and Sassy, and without the day-to-day things like schooling and running errands and attempting to keep up with the house. And also not taking into consideration my work time to make sure we have enough product at each show. Everything we sell, I make by hand.

In the midst of this I have to keep the kids' schedule as normal as possible or their behavior will fall apart. I haven't done a great job of it so far and I could see that I was losing Bubba last week. But I think we're getting back on track.

Our goal every year is to start spreading out our shows throughout the year, maybe one a month. I will treat this as a part-time job and plan work hours/days and then I'm not cramming it all into 1 or 2 months of craziness. But by the time we get to December, I'm so burned out that I can't even get myself to go into my craft room for 6 months at least!

But there are benefits to all this madness. First of all, I get to be creative and make things. And I love to go to a show and hear everyone say, "Oh, these are SO cute! You are so creative!" I eat it up. Second, I like knowing that I'm contributing to our finances. These shows pay for Christmas and usually a trip to TX to see all of Hubby's family.

So it's beyond crazy for awhile, but then I have a few months to forget about it before I have to start it all over again.
Thursday, October 16, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

My Name is Sheri....and I am a Movie Slut

Before you get all offended and up in arms about that title, let me explain what it means. I love movies. I love to watch them, read about them, see how they made them. I am the queen of useless movie trivia. You name a movie and I can tell you who was in it, the story line, how it did at the box office and sometimes who directed or even produced it. I went into "The Sixth Sense" knowing the big secret at the end, and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. But out of 100 movies that I could tell you about I've probably only seen about 4. I prefer to see a movie in the theater but since I am not willing to take out a second mortgage to pay for it, I don't get out much. I don't have movie channels on my cable either so my movies, for the most part, come from Netflix (a great concept).

Back to the title. I will watch almost any movie. I don't like sci-fi or horror, although there are a few exceptions, but I will watch pretty much everything else. I don't need a lesson on the trash that's being allowed to filter into my brain. Trust me when I tell you that I have my own issues in dealing with that. But the fact that I have no discerning taste when it comes to movies prompted a dear friend of mine to give me the title of "Movie Slut". Although slightly offensive, it seems to fit. I love to see a good story, good acting or sometimes just good entertainment.

I must confess something to you. I have not seen most of the movies that would be considered "classic" or that would be on anyone's top 100 list. If I had no children or husband, I'm convinced I would probably be watching movies every day and have no life at all. I try to be kind to my husband and not watch every chick flick I can get my hands on. And I am very discerning in what I will allow my children to see. I won't watch any movies while they are home because I don't want them hearing or seeing something they aren't ready for. Plus, I never have time for a movie.

Something has happened to my taste in movies as I've gotten older. It seems the lower the IQ of the movie, the funnier I will find it. It started about 10 years ago with the original Austin Powers. I laughed hysterically through the whole thing. But I didn't like the 2nd and didn't see the 3rd. I'm okay with pointless humor, just not so much bathroom humor. I also loved "Dodgeball". Actually the best part of that is the DVD extras. I could sit and watch Justin Long get hit with a ball for hours. (Hey, don't judge me!) I will confess one more to you at the risk of being ostracized forever. I laughed throughout most of "Talledega Nights". I know, I know. I seem like an intelligent person but inside I'm just...well, a movie slut.

Some of the movies that you would find on my top 100 list? Let me share them with you, in no particular order:
Gladiator (hello, Russell Crowe!)
Secondhand Lions
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
August Rush
Ever After
Pride & Prejudice
Schindler's List
13 Going on 30
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Return to Me
Never Been Kissed
The Joy Luck Club
What About Bob?

As you can see, I have a very broad taste in movies. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I may be the only one to admit it. I think I have a genetic defect that wants me to find something good in everything. I just watched "The 40-year-old Virgin" recently. It's a very crude, R-rated comedy about...what else? But there is a part of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!) that was so sweet. The main character just confessed to his girlfriend that he had been avoiding sex with her because he was a virgin. He said to her, "All this time I thought I was weird. But now I realize that it never happened because I was just waiting for you." Awwwww! Honestly, I cried when he said that. (Ask my husband.) How sweet and romantic was that? And then they waited until after they were married to...well, you know.

Yes, I know it's only a movie, it's not real. But in our world today, it brings me joy to hear things that are sweet and tender and give hope. Even if it's fiction.


don't tell my kids but i'm hiding. i took my tea and my breakfast and i'm entrenched in front of the computer. it's not a very secret hiding spot so i'm sure i will be found out any moment. that's why i'm whispering. they're still eating breakfast and doing their chores. i think they're trying to hide from me as well so i won't make them start on their schoolwork.

the shades are open at the window next to me and everything outside is wet. i love the fall. i just want to curl up in a blanket and watch the leaves and the rain and sip tea or cocoa. it energizes me. well, not so much at the moment! but that's what i would prefer to be doing right now.

this time of the year is so busy for me. i have 4 craft shows in november and i usually spend at least 2 months before that trying to get ready for the shows. for most of them, it's set up on friday, work saturday and sunday and then take down on sunday evening. but i'm also homeschooling during all this. i have to try to keep the kids on the same schedule as much as possible or we'll be dealing with serious behavior problems. one of these days i might go into detail about what happened last year around this time but i don't have the energy right now. it was too stressful.

freeze! i hear footsteps outside my door......don't make a sound......whew! we're safe for now. that was too close. i need to sign off before my post is invaded. sometimes it's rough here in the trenches. there's never enough contact with the outside world. if you get this message, be assured that i'm hanging on. my mission is thus far a success. the children are behaving and learning and growing. they are------

i've been found out! i'm outnumbered! retreat! save yourself! i'll do my best to survive......don't forget about me.....tell----..........
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Lost and Found

All year long my children have been looking forward to a special event--the Lego Convention (yes, there really is such a thing). Howdy is fanatical about Legos and the other 2 just think they're fun but we all enjoy going. It's held in Seattle and people come from all over the country to show off their Lego sculptures. They have a Space Needle that is taller than me, an Eiffel Tower, a 10+ foot Titanic. It's fun to see what they can come up with.

Hubby had a friend's birthday party to go to but I headed out with the kids and their friend, G. It was very hot, very crowded and people kept pushing and shoving but we still had a great time. When it was almost time to go, we decided to head back to one of the tables so that G could buy one more figure. Bubba kept trying to read his new Lego magazine while we were walking and I had to keep steering him back on course since he wasn't paying attention. I let the kids know the plan--one more stop and then home--and we set off for the table not too far from where we were at.

We got there and I helped G elbow his way to the front. I then made sure my kids were stashed in a nearby corner so I could watch everyone at once. Only Bubba wasn't with us. I looked around but didn't see him. Knowing he had to be standing in front of some display that we passed, completely oblivious to the fact that we left him, I sent G back to grab him. But G couldn't find him. I parked G with the other 2 with explicit instructions "NOT TO MOVE FROM THAT SPOT!" while I went to hunt down Bubba. I was a little frustrated that I hadn't made sure he was walking with me where I could've kept an eye on him but I was not worried. I know this kid. I just knew I was going to find him drooling over some new Lego set on display. So I walked back the way we came, searching through the crowd for my son. I even started calling his name. I still wasn't worried, I just figured some adult was probably blocking him from my view. When he didn't answer I started to get a little more frustrated. So I stopped where I was and shouted, "I have a lost child!" That got everyone's attention. Heads whipped around and I gave a description of what he was wearing and what he looked like. (I never thought I would be able to recall what my child was wearing if I needed to give out a description like that so I was pretty proud of myself for knowing exactly what he had on.)

While I stood there waiting for my little brown-headed boy to pop out of the crowd, some nice gentleman asked me if I had told the security officers at the door. I told him no, that I hadn't told anyone before this moment. He said, "Why don't we go to security and let them know what's going on?"

I need to stop here for a moment. As I'm writing this, it seems like the most obvious thing that I should've done. But I was actually irritated with this man. I didn't have time to talk to security! I had to stay right there and wait for Bubba to appear. If I left that spot, how would he find me? And what if the other kids got worried? They wouldn't know where I was either. But I reasoned with myself that there were lots of adults looking around for him now and it was probably a good idea after all to let security know there was a lost child.

As I was walking toward the entrance with this man and his wife, something occurred to me. If something had happened to Bubba, I had just wasted all that time being so determined that he wasn't anywhere else. He could've been carried off while I stood there waiting for him to answer me already. (In reality, I had only been looking for him for about 5 minutes but it had felt like an hour.) That's when panic set in. I started sobbing. I couldn't see, I couldn't talk, I was hysterical. It hit me that my son was lost. I had no idea where he was or who he was with. I can't even think about it without crying.

The nice couple helped get me to the front door where I think I gave a description of him. I wasn't there long when someone said, "I think we found him." Then a lady who was working there came through the front door with Bubba. I started bawling all over again. I squeezed him up and alternated between kissing him all over and yelling at him to NEVER leave the building if he can't find me. Of course, my hysterics freaked him out and he started crying. But he was found, that's all that mattered.

Later, when we were leaving, Bubba pointed to the stairs that lead to street level and more buildings and told me that he had gone up there looking for me! Between the very busy street and Seattle Center he could've been hit by a car or snatched up and I never would've known it. I am so thankful to God that he was okay. The lady who found him had looked outside and heard him calling for me, that's how she even knew he was out there. Whoever she is, I'm so thankful for her as well.

Needless to say, I cried off and on about it the rest of the day. First, I had to tell my friends when I went to homegroup what had happened. Then Hubby came to homegroup later and I had to tell him. Yeah, I cried all night. I know I'm not the first person to lose child. To be honest, that's not even the first time I've lost Bubba. (I don't do it on purpose!) But all I could think of was "what kind of mother am I?" I guess all I can ask for is that it won't leave any permanent damage on his psyche. I really hate to give him anything else to unload at therapy!
Friday, October 3, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Smashed Potatoes

One of the things that you typically encounter with sensory issues is eating problems. Certain foods have too strong a smell or don't look right or the texture is not tolerable. For whatever the particular issue, you have a whole new set of hoops to jump through just so that your child will thrive.

As I have readily admitted, I am quite possibly the world's pickiest adult. (Hubby's not too far behind me.) And as much as I have fun with the fact that everyone blames my children's eating habits on me and my example (often, I am even the first one to say it), I feel that I must take a moment to set the record straight. It's true that the list of foods I like is much shorter than the list of foods I don't like. However, that is because I've actually tried most of those other foods! I do try foods, I just don't like them. But I can't even get my kids to try anything new.

OK, so that's only partly true. I've never had a problem with Sassy (God bless her), and Howdy has really started to expand his menu and try new things. So that leaves (who else?) Bubba.
I told you that I'm making my kids eat whatever I've made for dinner or they don't eat. There are plenty of nights that Bubba just won't eat. And he's okay with that. But we're attempting to get him used to at least trying something. They say you may have to present a new food to a child a minimum of 10 times before they will eat it. For kids who have more severe problems, you actually have to start with them tolerating being in the same room as certain foods. Luckily it's not that bad here.

One of the things I have never been able to get Bubba to eat is mashed potatoes. I'm convinced it's just a texture thing. He also won't eat scrambled eggs, rice, pudding, Jell-O or applesauce. But I LOVE mashed potatoes so we have them alot. One night at dinner I did force him to eat one tiny bite. After much screaming and crying he finally took a small bite. He made horrible, gagging faces while it was in his mouth. Instead of being able to swallow it down quickly, he threw up all over his dinner plate. I gave up on mashed potatoes.

But it's come up again and this time I have the help of a professional. In Bubba's weekly "playgroup" (that's code for speech with another Autistic boy), the therapist has started working with the boys on getting past some of these food/texture issues. We are starting with...mashed potatoes. Or, as Bubba calls them, "smashed potatoes". So we went to playgroup and the boys got to make their own instant potatoes. Then what they do is go little by little to work up to taking a bite.

Here's how it goes. First, they have to touch the potatoes to their tongue. That's it. No tasting, eating or swallowing involved. For each time that they do it, they cross off a box on their chart. When they do it 4 times, they are rewarded with a small piece of chocolate. Then they have to lick it. Next, they actually have to leave a little piece of it on their tongues and swallow it. After that, they have to take a bite and swallow it. Bubba struggled with it a bit and made those faces again during his "bite", but he did it. It was very exciting to see him eat something that he's always had such a problem with. We are very proud of him.

Bubba is still not sold on smashed potatoes. We will have to keep working on this food, and eventually it will get replaced with another one. It's very tedious, frustrating and time-consuming. However, it's worth it if it makes eating and dinner time any better.

I want you to remember something when you're around any Autistic children. If you get frustrated at their behavior or wonder why no one's "worked with them" to stop a bad habit, they've probably been working on it for months, if not years. It is a very sloooow process. And for every behavior you seem to get control of, another new one will take it's place. It's so rewarding to see my son be able to turn around some of those "uncontrollable" behaviors. But there's never time to celebrate long before a new challenge demands that time, patience and microscopic baby steps.

Tell me again why I'm so tired all the time?

Saturday, September 27, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

It's Finally Fall

I had a moment of absolute peace the other day. These are rare and I treasured it while it lasted. It was grey and overcast outside, just the way it always is this time of year. Howdy was working on rewriting a story, Sassy was listening to a phonics book on CD with her headphones on and Logan was upstairs writing his own story. I had finally summoned up enough courage and energy to tackle the mountain of pots and pans that were threatening to take over my kitchen. When I was almost done, I turned off the sink for a moment. That's when it happened. With the sink turned off, I heard absolute silence. Everyone was busy with their own task and no one was making a sound. There were no firetrucks or motorcycles roaring by, no dogs barking, no phone ringing. I just stood there at the sink, closed my eyes and soaked it all in. It was an amazing 7 seconds.
Saturday, September 20, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

The Real Me

I was talking to my husband last night and this blog came into conversation. When I first started this, I told no one. A few people know now, but they still have no idea what the address is or what I blog about. I can't really explain why. For me, this is a private journal. Then why am I doing this online you might ask? Because I always thought that one day I might be brave enough to share my thoughts with someone else. I love to read about how other people deal with life's issues. I'm always encouraged when I see that I'm not the only one struggling out here. I guess I'm hoping that one day, I might be able to encourage someone else.
This blog is not about current events or pop culture. I'm not a great comedian or great writer. I think I've been hesitant to share this with anyone because I'm afraid of what others might think. I want to connect with other people, but what if no one wants to hear what I have to say? Does everyone deal with this?
Hubby asked me, "What's the point of blogging if no one will read it?" And he has a very good point. After all, I could just write everything down in a real journal just for myself. But it keeps rolling through my head. One of the purposes of writing was supposed to be so that our family could stay caught up with us. It seems to be so much easier to read a blog or an email than to actually pick up the phone (for myself included). But instead of this blog being all about how our family is doing, it's turned into my sounding board and confessional. Who would be interested in that? Don't I gripe enough to everyone already?
But I decided to take a leap of faith and put this out there. When I started this, I didn't use anyone's real names. I chose the name Sally Slacker because that's just me. I feel like I slack off in most things. I'm kind of lazy in general. I chose Sally for several reasons. It's a tribute to my grandmother, it's a little plain like me, and it sounded good with slacker. I never used my kids' real names either. I figured they would already have plenty to tell their therapists when they're older, why add more fuel to the fire? But I've gone back and put everyone's real names in, including my own. I will let everyone know I'm blogging and go from there. If you know me at all, you know I'm long-winded. It's no different on my blog. I don't use shorthand. It would drive me crazy to see everything spelled wrong just for the sake of brevity. These are just the rantings of someone who is living life in the trenches.

***See future blog on Trees Are Wood--names have been changed again!***

Long Overdue

How do you explain to your 8-yr old son that he has Autism? How do you explain to his siblings that you can't always treat their brother the same way, that things aren't always fair for them? This has been my recent dilemma.
My children all know that Bubba is different. I've explained to them several times that his brain works differently than other people's and that's why he does some of the things that he does, like throwing fits and not speaking well and wanting to only play by himself. They know he doesn't always understand everything the way that they do. I wanted to acknowledge that Bubba had some issues without giving him a label. I didn't want him to grow up being known as "that Autistic kid". But in trying to make life as "normal" as possible for Bubba, it seems that I've made it more difficult for everyone instead.
Let me start at the beginning. When Howdy, my "normal" one, was about 2 yrs old, we started noticing him doing funny things. He couldn't stand for cupboard doors or drawers to be open. His favorite thing to do with his cars was to line them all up like a train. He would leave them like that for days and we couldn't disturb them. He hated to get dirty. He refused to walk through the sunlight shining through the skylight at the mall. When you see your kid doing odd things, you can come up with 20 different reasons why but none of them is a disability or illness. It's not denial, it's just that it never occurs to you that there might be something wrong. The tipping point for me came when he threw a fit at the mall one day. We were walking into Target and the entryway tile didn't match the tile in the rest of the store. It was the same color but a different pattern. He threw himself down on the floor kicking and screaming and refused to walk any farther. I had to carry him out of the store while he was doing this and he didn't stop until we were completely out of sight of the store. Even then, I didn't think there was really anything wrong with him. I honestly thought he had just picked up on my perfectionism and neuroses. So we launched a campaign to make his life messy and disorganized. And it worked! No more weird issues.
Flash forward a little to Bubba at 1 1/2. Over a period of a couple of months we started noticing some odd things. He lost the words that he knew, he stopped making eye contact, he seemed to not hear us sometimes, he started screaming alot and throwing major temper tantrums, he was lagging behind other kids developmentally. After many tests and consultations, he was diagnosed with Autism just before his 2nd birthday. And so begins years of therapy, at home and with the doctors. Hours upon hours upon hours spent trying to help Logan learn to communicate, to sleep, to function. Hours spent dealing with tantrums, a run-away child, and sensory issues. And while we try not to let it rule our life, it is a central part of our everyday living.
In the middle of all this, we also had another child, Sassy. We've never sat our children down and said, "By the way, Bubba has something called Autism." We have, as I said, explained to them (including Bubba) whenever it seemed necessary that he is different from other kids. We explained it as his brain working differently than most people's. It didn't seem to be too big of an issue. Yes, they would get frustrated or mad at him sometimes, but they just seemed to accept Bubba's behavior as just who he is and that was that. Or so I thought.
Remember that Howdy had had some of his own issues? Well, when he was in Kindergarten, I started to realize he also had some sensory issues. If I hadn't gone through all that I had the last few years with Bubba, I never would have recognized it. All this time my focus had been on Bubba's obvious issues so I didn't notice that Howdy had some things going on as well. We had to make some adjustments for him at school and everything seemed just fine.
The truth, however, was that things weren't fine. Bubba's problems were so in-your-face-obvious that I had no choice but to notice and deal with them. Howdy's were more subtle and therefore didn't warrant any intervention. But something happened the other day that made me realize where I've fallen short and dropped the ball when it comes to Howdy.
While Hubby and I were at the fair, the kids were home with a babysitter. Apparently some things happened that caused my 2 boys to come to blows with each other. Actually what happened was that Howdy snapped and started beating up Bubba. All the while shouting, "That's it! I've had it! I can't take it anymore!" All of his frustration and anger with his brother finally boiled over and he lost control. Grown-ups intervened and separated them before anyone was seriously hurt physically, but all involved were crying and upset.
I wanted to cry when I found out. I felt like someone had hit me in the chest. And the first thought is, "What have I been doing wrong? Where did I fail Howdy? Obviously he was needing something that I didn't give him. What do I do now?" It's so easy to go back and see what I should have been doing, the signs I was missing. Hindsight really is 20/20.
I've always known there are support groups for kids who have siblings with disabilities but I figured Howdy dealt just fine with his brother so he didn't need that. And Howdy didn't have the obvious problems that Bubba did so I expected alot more from him. I sometimes found it sweet in a big brother kind of way that Howdy would try to placate Bubba and redirect him when he seemed on the verge of another fit. It never occured to me that maybe he felt that he had to be responsible and help us out. I was now left wondering if the only reason that Howdy was able to get along with Bubba most of the time was that he had his own class at school and therefore had hours most days that he didn't have to deal with his brother.
While I wasn't exactly sure what to do at this point, I knew that at the very least I needed to sit down and talk one-on-one with my kids and find out what was going on. I went to the library and found a great book that describes Autism to kids in language they would understand. I sat down first with Howdy and read it to him. I explained to him what Bubba had been like when he was younger and how far he had come. I tried to explain what life was like for someone who was dealing with Autism. I also told him about his own issues and apologized that I sometimes forget about them. He cried several times while we were talking. I hadn't realized how much he had kept bottled up inside. He never felt like he could say anything because he didn't want to get in trouble. He tearfully, timidly admitted to me that sometimes he wishes he didn't have Bubba for a brother. That broke my heart in so many ways. I shared with him that I've cried many times over Bubba and always wish he didn't have Autism. I also let him know that he can always tell me anything. If he's having a day that he wishes he could just drop-kick his brother into next week, then he is to come to me and tell me and he will never get into trouble for how he's feeling. The point is to talk about it and not let it blow up. We sat and talked for and hour and a half. It drained me emotionally and physically. There's nothing worse in the world than feeling like you've caused your child anguish. He's been burying all his feelings for years. Why did it never occur to me that he might have trouble dealing with this just as his dad and I had? But it's better now that he knows he can come to us and I know to be more sensitive to his needs. I'm also looking for someone professional that he can have access to to talk about any of this.
Sassy was so nonchalant about the whole thing. Her attitude was kind of, "OK, whatever, can I go play?" Of course, she is only 5 and she's always had her oldest brother protecting her.
Bubba was hysterical. When I read the book to him, he actually got really excited. He said, "I'm gonna be the top, #1 Autism!" He told me the Autism is why he's a good mind reader(!). Then he kept trying to finish all my sentences because he was "reading my mind." It actually got really annoying. I love his attitude. It's like he has superpowers or something. Now he wants to tell everyone about it. If anyone will listen long enough, he'll tell them that when he was 1 1/2 he "got the Autism". He's funny.
I don't know how other families deal with this. I'm really not in contact with other families with Autism so I haven't heard. But I just have to keep telling myself "better late than never." I can't go back and change anything but I pray that what I've done recently and what I do from now on will make a difference.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Is There a Cure for This?

I have 3 children, ages 9, 7 and 5. My 7 year old is high functioning Autistic. This year I'm going to homeschool all of them. Life is usually a little hectic for us and I'm always sleep deprived. I'm hoping that when they all move out of the house I may be able to catch up on my sleep.
However, in spite of all this, I want to have more children. I want to have a house and car full of kids. I went through baby fever last year and my husband and I were looking into having his vasectomy reversed. For several reasons we decided this was not the best route to go.
Then I got what seemed like the perfect opportunity. A friend of a friend was looking for full-time childcare for her 6 month old baby and I accepted. I thought this would be a way to get my baby fix and then all would be well. I loved this little girl. She was just the sweetest baby. But she did remind me that I really didn't enjoy the sleepless nights and bottle feeding that comes with a new baby. So that really helped with the baby fever.
But I still want more kids. My husband and I both wanted alot of kids when we got married. But after Bubba was diagnosed with Autism we had a change of heart. It wasn't necessarily the diagnosis but what we were dealing with as far as his behavior, etc. My 3rd baby was a surprise. Honestly, I cried when I found out I was pregnant. I didn't think I could handle another baby on top of what had already been dealt out to us. But flash forward 5 years and things look alot different than I imagined. Bubba has come so far. Our family is so much more manageable than I expected it to be at this point. I look forward to summer vacation so that we can spend more time with the kids. I love listening to them and watching their dynamics. I'm ready to add to that. I want to have more kids around to love.
My husband is all for having more kids but his timeline is different than mine. He wants to wait until we've moved and our income is steady and we're following a budget and we're all "settled". You know, sensible guy stuff. And I completely understand his POV. But we've been thinking about adopting, which is a lengthy process. I don't want to be adding to our family when I'm 40. Nothing against being 40, it's just that it's 7 years away. My thoughts are 'let's get things started now and all will fall into place at the right time.' It's the same argument when you first decide to start having kids. If we had waited until we were settled, we still wouldn't have any kids 13 years later. Right now I stay at home to raise the kids. I am involved in their lives. I play with them, teach them, encourage them, guide them. What determines whether or not we're ready for more?
Ideally, I would like to have a little girl right around Sassy's age or a little younger. But I am open to adopting a boy, siblings or even a special needs child. At least we would know ahead of time a little of what we'd be getting into. I don't think I have some romanticized view of what to expect. I know that since we'd be looking for a child who has already been in the system for a few years that there will be, at the very least, emotional problems and possibly mental or physical problems as well. But I honestly believe I'm ready to take it on. I want to add to our family and there are thousands of children who are desperate to have a home. How can you argue with that?
Saturday, August 23, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

Living With Autism

It's already been an interesting morning. The kids started out this morning watching cartoons. The last show they watched ended with the bad guys getting away with some crystal while the good guys let them go. This was more than Bubba could handle. He's my Autistic one. He was so upset by this. He actually started to cry because now the bad guys were going to rule the world. Yes, he understands that it's just a show and not real. But this really went against what he thought was right and he was so traumatized. It took probably 20 minutes for me to find something that finally got him distracted enough to calm down. IT'S JUST A TV SHOW!!! But this is the sort of thing that goes on daily in our house.
Today was probably a little worse because we've had a lot of down time lately, lots of unscheduled free time and not enough scheduled activities. That makes meltdowns come on a lot easier and with more frequency.
Bubba wasn't born with Autism. He developed just fine, right at age level until around 15 months. I can't pinpoint a certain day or moment when things changed. It was a very subtle, gradual thing. It just slowly crept up on us. One day I started noticing that he didn't talk as much as he used to. He didn't have a lot of words at this point, but he could say "mama", "dada" and ask for more food at least.
We moved to TX in January of 2002. I had to leave him with a friend of mine one day and while I was gone he cried the whole time. When I went to pick him up, he reached out for me and said, "Mama, mama". I will never forget this. I remember being so excited because I couldn't remember the last time he had said that. Now, it wasn't like I had been worrying about why my son wasn't talking. It's just at that very moment I realized he hadn't been saying it.
The hard thing about seeing delays in your child is that your first thought is never that there might be a problem. You can always find a reason for everything. It's not denial and justification to avoid the truth. When you look at your child, your sweet, beautiful, perfect child, it just never occurs to you that there could be anything wrong. When he wasn't talking or pointing, we figured it was because we all jumped anytime he so much as grunted. He also had a big brother to do everything for him. When he couldn't figure out how to use a spoon, I chalked it up to him never being allowed to use one. When he would sit and line up cars for hours and just watch the wheels turn, I thought he had a great attention span. When he was behind all the other kids in bible class and didn't even try to imitate the teacher, we just assumed it was because he hadn't spent much time in bible class in WA before we moved. What finally tipped the scales for us was what we thought was a hearing problem.
You have to understand, my son is now almost 8. At the time, public knowledge about Autism hadn't exploded yet. The extent of most people's knowledge about Autism was limited to "Rain Man" and some movie with Bruce Willis. The Autistic people in these movies were either non-verbal or used "echolalia"-they just regurgitated alot of what they heard, especially from TV or movies. They were very anti-social, and not affectionate. This definitely did not fit Bubba. He loved to be held and snuggled and to give kisses. His motor skills were great; he loved to run and play and wrestle. At this point, Autism was not a word that was in my vocabulary.
Back to his supposed "hearing" problem. We never thought he was deaf. We knew he could understand some things. But you could yell right into in his ear and he wouldn't even flinch. Or you could whisper his name from across the room and he'd look at you. There was no rhyme or reason. We knew things were definitely going in but we weren't sure if anything was coming out. Luckily, just about every female in TX is a teacher and when I was speaking to a friend about Bubba, she mentioned that I could have him tested for free through the school district. So we set up a hearing test. Everything turned out to be fine. So the next step was to have a team of therapists come to our house to evaluate him. Before they left our house that afternoon they told me that even though no doctor would give an official diagnosis until Bubba was 3 (a practice that has thankfully changed), they believed him to be on the Autism spectrum.
I'm not sure I can put into words what all goes through your mind when you hear that. There was some disbelief. After all, my son didn't fit that profile that I had in my head. Relief because if you can identify what you're dealing with then maybe you can do something about it. What I didn't fully accept was sadness, or "mourning" as I call it (that came later). It was just acceptance and "now what?"
I didn't fully explain what all we were dealing with at this point. It wasn't just that he was speech delayed and we thought he was hearing impaired. I couldn't really take him anywhere or leave him with anyone. He would throw these screaming temper tantrums and he would spend an hour hitting his head on the ceramic tile in our entry way. You couldn't console him. He had no ability to communicate. He couldn't talk, he didn't point and he knew hardly any sign language. If he was wanting something, it was an absolute guess as to what it could be. At least with a new baby, you eventually learn their different cries and what they each mean. With Bubba, it was a constant scream.
Alot of Autistic children tend to be hypersensitive to things-noise, touch, textures, light. But Bubba was actually the opposite; he was hyposensitive. He needed lots of deep pressure hugs, didn't care if sand was in his eyes, mouth or diaper. He never seemed to feel pain. I remember walking to our car one day and when I put him in his carseat, his knee was all bloody. Apparently he had fallen on the sidewalk and never even fussed. There was no concept of danger. He didn't comprehend that he couldn't just walk off the end of the bed or a stool or the sidewalk.
He was also a runner. He would take off running and the only way to get him back was to chase him down. He would not come back to you if you called him. This would have been hard enough but I also had his brother who is only 20 months older. Baby locks and those doorknob covers never even slowed him down.
Somewhere along the line, he also stopped sleeping. His body didn't have a natural cycle that we take for granted. You know, it's getting late and your body starts to get tired and it tells you it's time to go to bed. He didn't have that. It would take hours of wrestling with him before he would finally fall asleep from exhaustion. And if something were to wake him up at say 3:00 in the morning, he was up for the rest of the day. And if he was up, Mommy had to be up.
There were so many days that I went to bed crying. Sometimes it seemed the only thing that kept me going would be one hug from Bubba or one of his gross, slobbery kisses.
Over the years, I've had many discussions with God about this. "Why Bubba? Why me? What were you thinking?!" I'm always amused by the comments from other people. I'm sure they mean it or are at least trying to comfort me. But someone always says, "God only gives a child like this to someone special." No offense to all you sincere people who have said this but it makes me want to laugh. There is nothing about me that makes me anymore capable of handling this than you. The only reason I'm able to deal with everything that Bubba can throw at me is that he is MY son. If he was yours, you'd find a way to deal with it, too. You wouldn't have a choice. You love your children. If Bubba was yours, you'd find a way to deal with the biting, kicking, screaming fits, sleepless nights, comments and stares from others, the frustration and feelings of helplessness, depression, guilt, sadness. You, too, would read everything you can find about Autism until you find yourself educating your pediatrician. You would give up social events for a few years until you knew that you could be gone for more than an hour without a babysitter calling you to come back home. Whatever it took, you would do it.

I don't believe that God chose me to be Bubba's mother because I was some great person who could handle all this gracefully or even better than others. However, I do believe that in dealing with his Autism, I am becoming a better person and a better mother. I have more patience than I would have ever thought possible. Every accomplishment is cause for celebration. I am alot more aware of the little things that go on because, for a long time, the little things were all I had. If I hadn't gone through all this with Bubba, I wouldn't have recognized similar sensory issues in his brother, Howdy.
When you speak to someone who is dealing with a disability or even some kind of tragedy what you hear so many times is, "It's not the way I planned it, but now I wouldn't have it any other way." It's true that it's not the way I would've planned it. But I have to tell you, in all honesty, I would have it another way. I know that God is accomplishing great things through us and our journey and our dealings with other people because of Bubba's Autism. But if I had a choice, even now when he's almost 8 and doing unbelievably well and better than our highest hopes, I would still choose not to deal with Autism. I've never heard anyone say that and I've only ever told my husband. I often wonder if there are other moms who feel the same way. I feel no guilt in saying it, it's the truth. Instead of being praised for "rising to this challenge" that God has given me or being thought of as someone "especially chosen" for this task, I would prefer to be the mother of a "typical" kid. But God has other plans for me and I believe He chooses better than I ever could. I often send up a prayer of bewilderment at His decisions but it is His decision nonetheless. I love my son and will spend my life making sure he grows up to be everything that God wants him to be.
Friday, August 8, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

A Life Less Ordinary

Last night I spent several hours with someone that I consider very wise. And I don't mean the grizzled old man idea of wise. This is a woman who always seems to have such insight into things. She is very knowledgeable about so many different topics. She has a way of getting down to what really matters in the eternal scheme of things. I, on the other hand, seem to be very shallow. Whether it's reading the Bible or other books, watching movies, discussing politics or any other subject, I'm quite content with what is on the surface. It's not that I'm avoiding the deeper meaning, it's just that it never occurs to me that there might be one.
How do I train my mind to look beyond the surface? How do I learn to approach things in a way that they're not just for the entertainment value? I'm not saying everything I do or say or read has to have some lesson or meaning. But if I'm going to fill my head with all this stuff anyway, shouldn't I make sure that it's something that I can draw from later? I don't have a problem with books or movies whose primary goal is just to entertain--brain candy, if you will. But it's not enough to sustain. If my purpose is to love and honor God and strive to be like Jesus, then I should always be on the lookout for those little nuggets of insight that He shares with us. He can use anything in life to teach us and guide us and I want to make sure I don't miss it.
Saturday, August 2, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

My Latest Revelation

My favorite show is Jon & Kate plus 8 on TLC. This is a show about a couple who had a set of twin girls (in-vitro) and then decided to have one more. Instead of one they ended up with 6 more. I'm always in awe of how well they run their house. I realize that they have help with things but with that many kids, it's very well managed. I just think, "If they can do it with 8 kids, surely I can do it with 3." So I became inspired to take back control of my house (with varying degrees of success).
We are a family of picky eaters. Most people would say my husband is pretty picky. I'm way pickier than he is but our kids have us beat. I hate dinner to begin with and I got tired of fighting with them over food so I've been cooking 2 meals for dinner for years. Then I got smart (ha, ha). I told them that if they didn't like what we were having then they could make their own food. That sounds great but what happens when they're eating someplace else and they don't have that option? So I realized that I had to draw the line. I made up a blank 5 week calendar and filled it in with a dinner menu for each night. Mondays are breakfast--either pancakes or french toast (something all 5 of us will actually eat). Wednesdays are either spaghetti or tomato soup, Thursdays are chicken of some sort. The rest of the days I just filled in with things I know I can cook. I left Fridays open--that's "make whatever you want" night. And we do. The younger 2 sometimes need some help but at 5 and 7 years old they are learning to cook for themselves. I put the menu up on the fridge where everyone can see it. Now the kids come in and look each day to find out what we're having for dinner. Sometimes they cheer, other times they moan and groan. I just tell them, "Sorry. That's what's on the menu so that's what we have to have." They still may not like it, but they aren't getting mad at me. When it comes time to sit at the table, we have a couple of rules.

1. You have to eat at least one bite of everything on your plate to have seconds of the "good stuff" or to have dessert.
2. You may choose to not eat your dinner, but you will get no other food until breakfast.
3. If you choose not to eat, you still have to sit at the table with us while we eat.

I try to always have some kind of bread or fruit or something that I know they like on their plates so they have something they can eat. It's amazing how much this has cut down on the yelling and nagging and arguing. They have also been learning "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." This is what you've got, deal with it.
I've also added to their chores. We have a weekly chore chart that rotates. Each week my children are in charge of collecting up all the dirty laundry from their baskets and bedrooms and sorting it into the laundry baskets downstairs, feeding and watering the dogs and putting away the massive pile of books that collect in their rooms. I also have one of them as my laundry assistant to help me keep the loads going, fold laundry and put away linens and things. Someone else is my meal assistant and is there to help me get meals together. Someone else is my assistant with dishes and unloads the dishwasher or helps me wash the pots and pans. I'm not the only one who lives here, why should I have to clean up after everyone else? They are rewarded for all the work they do around the house and for the most part they do it without complaint. Except, of course, for Bubba who has to complain about everything.
In taking back control of my house, I also decided to try homeschooling again. That doesn't sound right. I've committed to homeschooling my 3 kids. I'm convinced that this is the best way to teach my children and be able to instill values in them that they won't learn at a "real" school. The problem I've always had is I just don't think I'm cut out for it. I may not be, but I know it's the best thing to do so I will find a way to do it successfully. I've been putting us on a schedule and planning activities for the kids. I've started now because I need that schedule to be a part of our every day living. I definitely leave room for flexibility in there but as long as it's posted, who can argue with the schedule?
I realized the only thing stopping me from running a "tighter ship" as I like to call it, was me. All I had to do to get these things going was to get my lazy butt up and do it. I know it sounds pretty obvious but it was seriously like a light bulb came on in my brain. If I can find the time to sit and read a couple of books a week, or spend 5 days doing a scrapbook, I can find a way to take care of my house and my family. I feel like God has been whispering in my ear. It's just a matter of getting my focus and my priorities straight. Other things can wait. My job right now is to nurture my children, to give them a stable home with good meals and a supportive family. My job is to create a haven for them where they are able to learn and grow and be themselves. I need to be here to mold them and guide them. That is not a job that I want to hand off to anyone else.

Confession...I'm Getting Old

I am a 30-something mother of 3 and yet I found myself standing in line at 11:30pm last night waiting for....a book. But this is not just any book. This is the final book in one of the best book series I've ever read. Seriously. I was waiting for "Breaking Dawn", the last of the books in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. If you've read the series, you understand. I discovered the books over Christmas break and couldn't put them down. When I got to the end of the 3rd book, I was so sad to leave the characters that I had to read them all over again. So when book #4 went on sale last night, I had to have it. My mom went early and reserved one for me and then at 11pm last night, I left to go stand in line with my sister. I was so excited I couldn't stand it. I HAD to know if Edward and Bella stay together. As soon as I got my copy I went right to the back page to find out. (Yes, I do that with every book.)
But as I was standing in line, I started to feel really old. Normally I don't feel that way. Most days I look around and wonder, "How did I become old enough to have 3 kids and a mortgage? How can I be old enough to be married to someone who just turned 40?" But last night was different. There were plenty of other sane adults like me. But there was also a high number of very shrilly, young ladies who, honestly, just got on my nerves. They were the ones who were wearing hand-drawn t-shirts expressing their love for Edward and screaming every chance they got. A couple of them even stole the posters right out of the bookstore. You know what went through my head? "Was I really this obnoxious when I was a teenager?" Regrettably, I'm sure the answer to that would be "yes". At least it would be if you asked my mother. So I believe that makes me officially old. How sad for me. I think I've now become a grown-up.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

It's Definitely Never Dull

Had an interesting conversation with Howdy the other day. We have a dog who is not fixed and has been trying to take advantage of our other male dog. My son knows this as "trying to make babies". We've had this discussion already and I thought I had explained all the mechanics clearly. (It's amazing how much you can learn from having pets!) Apparently he either tuned me out or just didn't get it because he was asking questions again. Let me take a moment to share my philosophy on this subject. I've always felt the best thing to do was to be completely honest with my kids when they ask me something (well, age-appropriate honesty). I would much rather they get their answers from me than from the kids at school who probably have no idea what they are talking about. Plus, I figure if I'm open and honest now and don't freak out when I get those oh-so-embarrassing questions then maybe, when they're older, they'll feel like they can come to me with stuff. We'll see how that turns out.
Due to comments that my son was making about our 2 dogs attempting to make babies, I realized that my son needed to hear the facts of life again. With my wide-eyed husband tucked into the far corner of the couch I explained to my son the mechanics of sex and hard-ons and even wet dreams. I figure, he's 9. He will need to know about all this before it happens so he doesn't freak out and think something's wrong with him. It was not the conversation that had played out in my head. It's difficult to act nonchalant when discussing ejaculation with your first-born baby. Sometimes I wonder why in the world I wanted a house full of boys.
Thursday, June 12, 2008 | By: Slacker Mom

When I grow up...

At the moment, I'm sitting at my computer with 3 children playing on the bed behind me. I know that I really don't have the time to be writing this, but I'm making an attempt to "tune out". I know...very responsible.
I'm not actually expecting anyone to read this, other than a handful of family or friends. But I feel like I need an outlet and this happens to be it. I've decided that if no one is really going to read this, than I can be absolutely honest, right?
I imagine I'm not alone in this, but I'm constantly struggling with finding my purpose. I believe in God and I pray that I will do what it is that He wants me to do. But I don't find myself to be someone of much insight and so I struggle daily with questions like, "Am I doing the right thing?"..."Am I making the most out of what's been given to me?"..."If I died today, have I lived a full life?" In trying to answer these questions, it only brings about more questions. I often wonder if I should have finished college, should I be working outside the home, should I be homeschooling the kids, should I be trying harder to be like Martha Stewart(without the jail time)?
As mothers, I don't think we ever feel like we could do enough for our kids. I sometimes think all I can see is where I'm "failing". I love my kids, I play with them, read to them, take care of them, encourage them. But there's always more I could do. Having an Autistic child doesn't help. Because the answer to that is yes, there is always more I could do. I don't respond well when someone tries to make me feel guilty about something. I know that I can guilt myself enough without having anyone else's help, thank you very much. In an attempt to ease all my guilt I find that I spread myself too thin. I figure if I'm not a very good housewife then there'd better be a good reason for it. So I have a small craft business, and I work on a lot of projects and events at church, and I babysit 2 kids(down to just 1 now). I couldn't possibly be great at housekeeping because I'm too involved with "important" stuff.
Why can't it just be enough to be taking care of my family?

Yet Another Project

I've just decided to start a blog because with 3 of my own children plus 1 that I babysit everyday, a part-time business, church involvements, the running of a household, as well as my husband and 2 dogs, I apparently didn't have enough to do. I'm always on the lookout for something to fill in the few free minutes I may find every day. This just happens to be my lastest great idea.
I should probably start by telling you a little about me. Then you can decide if you really want to spend your precious few minutes reading whatever ramblings I may have come up with this day. I have been very happily married for almost 13 years. I have 3 children. Howdy is 9 and he's my creative, sensitive first-born who always makes me think of Howdy Doody with his cute little freckles. Next is Bubba, he's 7 and has a diagnosis of high-functioning autism. He's the most affectionate of my 3-actually he goes a little overboard at times. Then comes my princess, Sassy. She's 5 going on 13. I always call her my "sassy chick". My dear, darling husband, is in construction and works to support all of us so that I can stay home and "take care" of everything at home. I use the quotations because I'm not exactly a candidate for Mom of the Year.
I LOVE being able to stay home with my kids. However, I do NOT love the mundane things that come along with that(does anyone? Don't answer that, I don't need the guilt). I hate to cook. No, let me rephrase that...I HATE to cook dinner. I love to bake cookies and desserts but can't stand cooking dinner. Lots of reasons...number one(and this applies to almost everything about me) I'm lazy! Plus, I'm a VERY picky eater but my children are even worse. So, I'm a short-order cook. I don't enjoy cooking and I really don't enjoy cleaning up.
I find that there are some chores that I don't mind doing but I never enjoy doing all of it. Like, I don't mind loading the dishwasher but hate to unload it. I like doing the laundry and folding it but hate to put any of it away or hang it up. Even if I could afford a housekeeper I don't think I would do it because I know she wouldn't do it right!
Oh yeah...something else about me. I'm a little anal retentive and highly neurotic. I'm also a perfectionist and with that comes being a procrastinator. (Because if you can't do something perfect, then why start it?) And a pack rat. So I have a house that is filled to the seams with stuff that I've collected but have put off doing anything with and haven't got around to putting away. Such is the life of a housewife! Isn't it grand?