Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank you!!! And our impromptu dance club....

Wow, I have been seriously awed by the supportive words and encouragement I have received from you all. When I first started this blog, I figured it would be more like a journal. I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people who give me the pep talks and support I need. Thank you so much. And I agree with you all about the ASD diagnosis. After getting it off my chest and reading your wonderful comments, I feel so peaceful, so thank you!

On a lighter note, we had such a fun time in our little house last night. My kids' room was turned into an impromptu discotech and it was hysterical. It all started when my husband bought the latest Killers album "Day and Age" off of itunes. We are both Killers fans, mostly because we love their music, but also because my husband knows the drummer. They used to record music together back in Vegas before Ronnie joined the Killers and my husband gave up his dream of being a rock star in favor of going to college and becoming an engineer.

Anyway, I had listened to a bit of the new cd earlier in the day and Charlotte seriously rocked to it. I have over 5 minutes of footage of her shaking her booty and it is so cute; she has some pretty crazy moves. When Bil got home I wanted to show him her reaction, so we popped in the cd. It was like magic. The music completely took hold of the kids and they danced their little hearts out. For seriously 7 songs. They kept entreating me to join them, but I had to take many breaks--bouncing makes me need to pee and feels uncomfortable depending on how the baby is lying.

Anyway, I felt like I was back in the 80s at the mixers we had in high school, sans the big hair, leg warmers, and the odor of Draakar cologne. Charlotte was doing the pogo dance, where you hop up and down incessantly and Danny was slam dancing, only instead of slamming into people, he was thankfully throwing himself from the bed onto the floor. Every time a new track would start, Charlotte would yell, "Hooray! Another song!" Both the kids danced themselves into the ground and were wiped out by bedtime. The really exciting part? Danny did not get overstimulated at all. He was really excited, but danced completely appropriately, meaning he never crashed into someone or started screeching or anything.

It made me wish we could take the kids to the Killers concert we will be attending in January in Chicago. They would love it, though I would never subject their tiny ears to that sort of abuse. And yes, I will be 6 months pregnant at a rock concert. Actually, the last Killers concert we went to, I was pregnant with Charlotte, so maybe this is becoming a tradition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

parent teacher conference and people's advice/opinions

Last Friday was Parent/Teacher Conference with Danny's teacher and it went pretty well. There were no real surprises. I knew he was excelling in the academic areas; he has known his shapes, letters, and colors since before he ever started preschool. In fact, I just realized that Charlotte who will be three this week still hasn't mastered her letters and even some of her letters, but by this age, Danny had.

I knew that he does well with routines and has been following the rules. I was worried when he entered a regular class, with many more students than in his special ed. class, that he would be prone to overstimulation. Overstimulation for Danny often leads him to yell, push kids and run into others and become really crabby and hard to calm. Also, he tends to have difficulty focusing. So far, these behaviors are not manifesting themselves, at least not in the classroom. Home is another story, but I won't get into that here.

The one major concern Miss A. has is his social interactions. Apparently, at school Danny will initiate play with other kids only on the playground. In the class, he tends to do more parallel play and rarely initiates play with other kids, but if another kid initiates it, he does join in. I have noticed during playdates with one or two kids, he does sometimes initiate play, so I am wondering if he is just a bit shy/reserved/overwhelmed with all the kids in his class. Am I just making excuses? I don't know.

I did ask Miss A. if she thought he would improve in this area, since I can't seem to help myself from seeking reassurance from the "experts." She wouldn't offer it; instead she was noncommittal and said she couldn't make me any promises. I can see where she is coming from, but it also annoyed me. What exactly did she mean by that? I don't know, but since he seems to do well with small groups, I have decided not to worry about it. He has made such amazing strides in the last few years, it stands to reason that he will continue to do so. He has never regressed, but has just progressed at a different pace than the average kid.

I suspect my sister thinks Danny has autism, even though he has been tested for it and was found not to be on the spectrum. She has made a few remarks to me and others which leads me to believe that she disagrees with the diagnosis. A couple of people (always people who are virtual strangers to us and who have only seen Danny once, and who are not in any way qualified or even knowledgable on the subject) have remarked that they think he is autistic. It makes me wonder if I am missing something. Am I fooling myself into believing he isn't on the spectrum? The doctor we took him to came highly recommended and she really seemed to understand Danny. Could she have been wrong? Does it even matter? Even if he were found to have autism, his therapy and treatments would mostly remain the same, so does he need to be labeled?

I know I said just a minute ago that I wasn't going to worry about it and here I am worrying. Sorry about that. I just have so many questions and so much confusion. I worry that Danny isn't getting sufficient therapy even though his OT says he is doing great. We work really hard with him and he is making tremendous strides. We regularly get him to do exercises at home that he refuses to do for his OT, so something is working, right? Last night, I talked to my good friend from MyShore about my financial worries and she gave me some great advice about gaining perspective. That is probably what I need to do about Danny right now. I am just not sure how to gain that perspective. And I worry that if I am not vigilant, I will miss something critical. Does any of this make sense?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

When we first moved to the town we are living in, my mother gave us her old artificial Christmas tree. This was the tree that I grew up with, so it was old and pretty beat up and out of shape, but we were grateful to save the money on a new tree. So what that the branches were bent up, right? Plus, there was a lot of sentimental value in that old tree.

Our first Christmas here, we got down the tree and decorations and lights and were eagerly anticipating decorating our new home. Imagine our dismay when the top to the tree was nowhere to be found. Apparently, we had left it in my parents' attic in Chicago. There was no way to get the top in time for Christmas, so we improvised. I bent all the branches upwards to camouflage the missing top. The result? A really squat and short Christmas tree, but definitely one with character. See above picture.

This year, Danny has been begging me to decorate for Christmas since early October. I had planned on waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, since I feel like that is a sorely neglected holiday. But, today Danny was being so agreeable and I was looking for something to do with the kids while Bil was away all afternoon and evening for Church meetings. So, I thought, "What the heck?"

While Charlotte napped, Danny and I climbed the attic stairs numerous times and retrieved all my Christmas decorations. We had so much fun delving into the boxes and rediscovering all the treasures buried therein. I put out all my Christmas teapots and the stockings and smiled when I found the reindeer wall hanging that I sewed myself before I had kids. Danny played with the beads for the tree and tore apart much of the styrofoam that protected the breakables. We laughed and smiled.

Then, we realized that something important was missing. The Christmas tree. I found all my ornaments and doodads and lights, but no tree. Puzzled, I sat and thought and suddenly I had a hazy vision of me loading the tree into my car to take to Catholic Charities last year. I totally forgot that I had decided to get rid of the tree and buy a new one. It was practically falling apart, so I figured the time had come. Of course, I missed the sales last year, so I planned on buying one this year. The thing is, I had forgotten. Totally slipped my mind. I think I have a little problem with my memory and Christmas trees. Kind of weird, but I suppose it is better than having a penchant for forgetting really important things, like say, feeding my kids.

So, here we are with all our cool ornaments and no tree for Danny to decorate. Luckily, by this point, after all the lugging, dragging and unpacking of boxes, Danny was worn out. He laid on the couch and vegged and didn't seem that upset when we realized we would have to buy a new tree. It's always nice when he responds well to disappointments.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

potty training progress...or the lack thereof

So, it has been Potty Bootcamp at my house the last couple of weeks. Charlotte has spent a fair amount of time on the toilet and no luck yet. The other day, she watched an entire Kipper video, which lasted about an hour, all while sitting on the toilet. But she did not pee. That is, until about 10 minutes after getting off the toilet. She peed on the kitchen floor, and there was a lot of pee, so she had to be holding it.

In an attempt to turn this into a teachable moment, I said to Charlotte, "Do we pee on the kitchen floor?"

Char said, "No."

I said, "Charlotte, where do we go pee-pee?"

She said, brightly, "Under the chair."

Not much progress happening here. And yet another person told me yesterday, "Wow, I can't believe you are having such difficulty with potty training Charlotte. Girls are so easy to train usually."

Thanks. Thanks for that.


I had to give a talk in church last week on gratitude and I found the most wonderful quote. It's simple, but it really spoke to me. "Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them” (J. Reuben Clark). Rather than focusing on what blessings I would like to have (you know, skinny thighs, obedient children, enough money to buy Pop Tarts without thinking twice), I should cherish the ones I already do have, which are really too many to mention.

I have never been a completely positive person. On the other hand, I don't think I am totally negative either, though I suppose my last several posts might say something different about me. I don't buy into a Pollyanna mentality; some things that happen to us just defy a positive attitude. However, what I am noticing is that often what I am most negative about are things that are relatively trivial. So, my goal, at least for this month is to look at life more positively. To see the abundant blessings that I am in possession of, because as Thomas S. Monson said, “Think to thank. In these three words is the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness.”

We'll see how this goes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The whinefest of an overeducated, underappreciated char-woman

A while back, Elizabeth from Three Channels referred to herself as an overeducated char-woman and the term stuck with me. I liked it, because it was such an apt description of what I feel like most days. I went to college and studied English. After college, I worked in a legal publishing company and then decided to go to graduate school. While pursuing my Master's degree in Education, I taught English as a Second Language at a community college. After getting my degree I taught English at an inner-city, alternative high school, a university and a couple of community college. In all that time, I don't ever remember being called upon to clean up poop. Once, a high school student who was pregnant puked in my class after eating a breakfast of Red Hot Cheetos, but the dean came and cleaned it up.

I don't just feel like a char-woman because of the messes I regularly clean up, but also because sometimes I feel like I am completely sapped dry by the needs of my kids and others. Here's an example. At church, I am one of the women in charge of the children, so every Sunday, I spend most of my time with other people's kids, while trying to get my kids to behave at the same time. This Sunday was an exception. They were having a special program for the women, so the men substituted for us with the kids. I am a bit embarrassed at how excited I was at the prospect of hanging out with some women and no kids. I couldn't wait.

Then, comes Sunday and Danny was beside himself with crying when he found out I wasn't going to Primary with him. I stood in the hall for at least 30 minutes trying to coerce/bribe him into going with the other kids. I even offered him the option of coming with me and hanging with the women, but he wasn't biting. He just wanted to sit in the hall. With me. In his defense, I think he was a bit overstimulated. Church is the one place where he regularly has difficulty--it isn't really set up for kids like him, and the changes I have tried to institute have been met with some resistance.

Anyway, as I stood with him in the hallway, watching the minutes tick by, the precious minutes during which I could have been sitting with the other women, I actually started to cry. I know, I know, you will probably say my pregnancy hormones are to blame, but I was completely disappointed to miss this opportunity to be childless for an hour or so. And not just childless, but childless while having the pleasure of other adults' company and conversation. Bil finally did manage to convince Danny to go to nursery. He is too young for nursery, technically, but at that point I didn't care.

And now here I type while my two kids and their two friends laugh and play in the family room and my husband naps. And naps. And naps. I can't really complain; he was up really late last night working on a project to help me. But still. Here I am alone with kids. Again. I know this is a recurring theme with me and I shouldn't be so ungrateful. I should enjoy the time with my kids and not ---- OK, I just had to run into the family room and give all the kids a timeout for fighting and throwing toys all over my heretofore previously clean family room. So much for enjoyment.

I need to get out. I need to get out with some friends. I need to make more friends. I need a cleaning service, because I am so totally done with cleaning up endless messes and never having any of my work staying done for more than an hour. Sigh.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

thoughts on immigration

Last night Bil and I watched the movie The Visitor, which I recommend. The movie is about a man who has lost his wife and really isn't living his life anymore. He goes to New York for a conference and discovers that there is a couple living in his apartment there. He lives in Connecticut, but keeps an apartment in the city, and apparently some unknown man has been illegally renting out the man's apartment and collecting the money for himself. The couple are both illegal immigrants and have nowhere to go, so the man allows them to stay. The rest of the movie is about his relationship with them and also deals with immigration issues. I don't want to give the entire plot away; it is a really good movie.

What I like the most about it is that it sheds some light on illegal immigrants and their plight. With all the election hoopla, I received a lot of anti-immigration emails from family and friends, which I read with mixed feelings. I can see that it might be a good thing to have restrictions on immigration, but on the other hand, I sympathize with the people who come here looking for a better life. First off, my own grandfather came here illegally back in the 1940s from Austria. He got into some trouble in Europe (apparently, he was a bit of a hothead) and he fled to America. He lived here for a few years and then met my grandmother. After he married her, he left the States and reentered through Canada, this time legally because he was married. Those emails lambasting illegal immigrants would definitely have applied to my grandfather, and if he had never come here, would I even exist now?

Also, I taught English as a Second Language for over three years in Chicago and I got to know so many wonderful people who had come to the States, some legally and other illegally. While teaching these adults, they shared a lot of personal information with me. Some of them had advanced degrees in their countries, but were working here in factories or as maids. They didn't complain, though. They felt lucky to have even these menial jobs because they had so few opportunities to make a living in their countries. Most of the students worked 12 or more hours a day so that they could earn enough to send money home to their families. Many had spouses and children here, but still sent money home--it was very difficult for them to make ends meet. Also, they were exhausted; after working grueling hours, they then came to school to learn English. After spending a bit of time with their children, they had just enough time to maybe get 4 hours of sleep.

I will never forget these students of mine: Joel, Jose, Juan, Margarita, Maria, Gabriella, all of whom were so grateful for the opportunity to learn English and to live here. After meeting them, I can never look at immigration issues the same way again. I know I don't know all the political and socio-economic issues involved, but I do know that these students of mine came here because they were desperate. Desperate for a chance at doing more than just surviving. Desperate to help their families. Some of them, desperate to live somewhere where they would have freedom.

We are really lucky, those of us who live in countries where we have freedom and the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our families. But, what did we do differently than those students of mine? We just got lucky and it seems unfair to me that because they were born somewhere else, they don't get the chances we do.

The thing I liked most about this movis is it shows a more personal side to immigration. It is pretty one-sided; there is no question where the director stands on the issues, but I would still recommend the movie.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anybody have the Super Nanny's phone number?

I am wondering if I could hire her to potty train my kids. Yes, both kids. Apparently, one area of parenting in which I am seriously lacking is the potty training arena. Neither of my kids is totally potty training and I am going to have a newborn on my hands in about 4 months. Panic is setting in.

Danny has been partially potty trained for well over a year. The problem is, he will not poop on the toilet. I am embarrassed to admit this, but have I mentioned that the kid is 5 years old? Yes, 5! Please don't judge me on this. It is not for a lack of trying, nor is it due to poor discipline. At least I don't think so. He tries really, really hard to do it, but it never happens. Then, when he falls asleep or is relaxed, he goes in his pants.

We have tried just about everything and nothing works. I am convinced this is a sensory issue, so when I see Danny's occupational therapist this week, this issue will be on the top of my list. I know his teacher is concerned about his handwriting grip, but as far as I am concerned, I just want the kid to go number 2 on the toilet. I am so incredibly sick of cleaning his gross underwear.

So, due to lack of success with Danny, I decided to concentrate on potty training Charlotte, who after all, is almost 3 and is a girl, which according to everyone I have talked to, is supposed to make a difference. "Girls are so much easier to potty train," they exclaim. "Girls practically potty train themselves," they promise. Well, not this little girl. For the last 2 weeks we have sat on the toilet several times throughout the day, and I never, ever get the timing right. We talk about it, read books about it, but again, nothing is working.

Why is this so hard for me? I just don't get it. What am I doing wrong? It has to be something I am doing wrong, but I can't figure it out. And the thought of having to deal with three kids' poopy diapers/underwear is just about more than I can handle right now. Especially considering none of these kids are twins.

Yikes, what if I find out I am actually carrying twins right now? That would mean 4 kids' worth of excrement. I think I am going to hyperventilate. I need to get a grip.

Anyway, does anyone have any experience with this: resistance to pooping on the toilet? I would love to hear what you did about it. And how do I potty train Charlotte, who supposedly doesn't have SPD (though I do really think she has some sensory issues)?

Is anyone willing to come potty train my kids for me? I would be willing to pay. A lot. I'm not kidding.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

my blue funk

For some reason, this week I am in a bit of a blue funk. And chocolate is not even really helping, though that hasn't stopped me from trying.

I think it is a combination of things; I am a bit bored and lonely, and I got a really judgmental email from someone that both angered me and hurt my feelings. I had a really hard time knowing how I should respond to the email, since I am not at all typically good with confrontation. Often, I end up talking to everyone else, besides the person who has offended me. Then, I just stew and get more and more angry at that person, but never give them the opportunity to address the offense.

I wondered what I should do. I mean, I want to be kind to others, but at the same time, I don't think we are expected to let people talk disrespectfully to us, are we? I was torn. I didn't want to offend this woman, who I see regularly at church, but on the other hand, she is known for being extremely judgmental and sometimes offensive. So, do I have a responsibility to explain to her how her email made me feel, so she could perhaps be more careful in the future? I don't know.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that she made me so angry because she had judged me as a parent, which always makes me defensive. She was wrong about her judgments, though, and I knew it, so why was it bothering me so much? For some reason, other people's opinions of me have always been important, even when I don't like or agree with the person. Is that crazy or what? Lately, I think I have been overcoming this, though, because in this case, once I wrote a pretty mature and calm response to her email (OK, the first response I wrote was angry, but I didn't send it), I felt a lot better. I realized that I am doing the very best for my child and that this woman really doesn't even know the whole story. Also, I don't agree with her parenting theories or philosophies, so it shouldn't bother me that she disagrees with me. Obviously, she is going to disagree with me.

It just makes me wonder, why do I always second guess myself when it comes to my parenting? Why do I assume that others are right and I am wrong, in every situation, including those situations in which they are not at all knowledgeable? Why do I care if someone thinks I am a lousy parent? Why do I care when someone is disagrees with what I know is right for my kid or my family? Maybe I need to go back to therapy to keep working on these issues....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And the winners are....

We finally have our winners selected. Thanks to my husband for making the final decisions. Also, thanks to everyone who participated; you gave my husband and I some much needed entertainment in the evenings once we finally got the kids to bed. And it helped us appreciate our son's quirks a bit more. Bil said at one point, "Danny chews on everything, but at least he doesn't lick the inside of shoes.." Too true.

And a special thank you to anyone who posted about SPD in October or in any other way spread the word. It seems like a lot of information was shared this month, and that's a good thing. So, if the following people could be sure to send me their addresses, I will try to mail out the packages this week. My email address is

The grand prize winner is:
Her prize will include a Willbarger's brush, some theraputty and some girly stuff to pamper herself with.

The runners-up are:




Sorry to those of you who didn't win. It was really a tough decision. I was tempted to go and order more brushes so everyone could win, but I just don't have that kind of dough.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

political mudslinging

First off, I promise to post the winners of the giveaway soon. Sorry about the delay. My husband was not feeling well last night, and as I am having him make the final decision, it will have to wait until tonight.

Until then, I have something I want to vent about. First off, let me say that I am not all that thrilled with either presidential candidate. I have problems with both McCain and Obama and even Palin and Biden. There is not one single candidate in the Democratic or Republican Parties with whom I agree wholeheartedly.

That said, I am really annoyed with all the anti-Obama emails I keep getting. If these emails and websites focused on the issues and were truthful, I wouldn't have a problem with them. But, this couldn't be further from the truth. Obama is NOT a terrorist, or even a Muslim (though I do take issue with people equating terrorists and Muslims, as if they were the same thing). Why do people have to make up lies about the candidates? Can't we let their stances on the major issues speak for themselves and guide our choices?

These anti-Obama people must be getting pretty desperate, because my cousin just sent me yet another email that was ludicrous in its accusations. On one page of the slide show, they have Obama's name with a bunch of images, including an image of a peace sign (how that is insulting, I have no clue) and an image of a marijuana leaf (I am not sure what they are getting at with this one), along with a Union Yes sign (I didn't realize that unions were all evil now. Good thing I no longer belong to the teachers' union...).

The next page actually asserts that Obama (and the Democratic Party, in general) is to blame for the economic crisis we are now in. This is insulting to me. Do they really think I will believe that some Senator or even an entire party has control over the economy? I don't even think we could accurately put all the blame on the President's head, and he has way more power than some lowly Senator. Please. What bugs me about this is that the economic problems we are now facing have been years in the making, and many, many people have contributed to the problem. I don't think we can solely blame the government for this. In fact, I think we should look at what we as American citizens have done to contribute, or at least what we can do to help with the problem. I mean, would we really have this foreclosure crisis if people didn't take out mortgage loans that they really couldn't afford? Sure, the banks had no business giving out those loans, in my opinion, but it isn't as if they were forcing people to take them.

I am obviously not an economist or an expert on politics, but it is hard for me to believe that some politicians rigged the economy so that there would be a crisis just a month before the election, which is also what this website implies. Do they really think there is some conspiracy going on and that these Democrats are that smart that they know how to manipulate the economy to do exactly as they want? It doesn't make sense and I don't see how the Democrats will benefit. This crisis is affecting everyone, even other countries.

It should probably have raised a red flag that this website gives no sources for its outlandish claims (including a claim that if Obama wins, Islam will be the fastest growing religion in America. I wonder how Obama plans to do that.) It doesn't even say who is responsible for the website, another red flag.

Well, I will quit ranting and just say that it irks me that people would just blindly believe this garbage without even researching it. I have friends and family who believe this just because Obama scares them. It's fine if his stances on abortion or health care or the economy don't jibe with your beliefs. Then don't vote for him, but why do people have to make things up and drag his name through the mud? As I said before, why can't we stay focused on the issues? Aren't those important enough on which to base our decisions?