Saturday, August 28, 2010

"You are entering a world of pain"

The Big Lebowski

Please excuse me if I am a bit fuzzy or incoherent in this post. I think I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which according to wikipedia, is defined as "a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma."

Oh yes, there was definite psychological trauma today.

It all began a week or more ago when I got an invitation via Facebook for an Autism Family Bowling Adventure.

Though I am well aware of the heightened noise levels at bowling alleys and the scuzzy shoes one is required to don, though I know there are many flashing lights and annoying little tunes emanating from the little arcade, and though I am cognizant that my kids are not the only members of the Pancake clan to have serious sensory issues, I readily accepted the invitation on behalf of my entire family. I really don't know what came over me.

Everything else is a big blur.

I vaguely remember Danny crying about having to wear shoes other than his own, and Danny whining about having to wait so long for his turn, and Danny sniffling because there was no pizza as I said there would be. And Charlotte, not to be outdone by her brother, joined in and cried because....well, I am not sure why. Maybe to show solidarity?

The rest is a hazy kaleidoscope of bowling balls stuck in the lane and nacho cheese spilled in my purse and overstimulated kids running all over the place.

They promised us adventure, and we got no less.
If by adventure you mean levels of stress and sensory stimuli the likes of which would likely stupefy a Navy Seal.

Finally, Bil snapped out of his shell shock and realized that we could leave whenever we wanted. We were not, in fact, prisoners of war, though I was *this close* to curling up under the plastic seats in the fetal position and begging for my Mama.

Without much fanfare, we recovered our shoes and went AWOL, hightailing it to the nearest Subway, where we mostly recovered.

I, however, am still twitching.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I just read an article about pursuing one's dreams as a mom. The author claims that taking the time to go after one's passions gives one more energy, more verve for life.

That's exactly what I need right now. More energy. More verve. More purpose. I feel adrift and definitely lacking in motivation. While I believe staying at home with my kids is a very important job, one that I alone can do better than anyone else, I still wish I could make more of an impact, more of a difference in the world. I wish I had more to do some days than just laundry, cooking and cleaning along with frequent games of Candyland.

So, I read this article with interest. Yes, I do need to add more zest to my life. I need to pursue those dreams that I have always held close. I need to make time for my interests, the things that get me totally energized and excited.

But here's the problem that these kinds of articles never really address: what if you don't entirely know what your dreams are? Or, what if the things you would most like to pursue are completely unreasonable for this season in your life?

One suggestion I have read is that you go back to childhood and think about the dreams you had then.

That has not proven to be very useful; my biggest dream was to score the role of Little Orphan Annie on Broadway. Never mind the fact that I couldn't act or sing to save my life. I memorized every lyric of every song on my cassette tape and acted out each scene with my sister and friend. Alas, I have never been called upon to sing, "It's a Hard Knock Life" or "Tomorrow" for any audiences, on or off-Broadway. And I doubt this is likely to happen any time soon, seeing as I am waaaaay beyond pre-teenhood.

Other more recent dreams are more likely pipe dreams; they are completely unattainable right now. I am very interested in Occupational Therapy and working with kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and autism, but the nearest school with an OT program is 3 hours away. I just don't see how that could be an option right now.

And I really, really miss teaching, but though I scour the Internet, I have not found any part-time openings at any nearby community colleges, and unfortunately, Bil has forbidden me from applying at the many correctional centers in the area. Why he thinks teaching at a jail is any more dangerous than in the Chicago inner-city high school I taught at is beyond me. The year before I started, the principal and another teacher's cars were shot in a gang battle. At least the jail has armed guards.

And as for hobbies, I feel like I need something new. I love to read, but that doesn't really make a difference in the world. And volunteering is limited, seeing as I still have two kids at home. I am able to take them on my Meals on Wheels route once a month, but it would be pretty impractical for them to accompany me were I to volunteer as a literacy tutor, for example.

So, what should I do? What do YOU do? What sorts of passions are you pursuing? Dreams you are making time for? Any advice for a clueless stay-at-home mom? I could sure use it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Balloon Fest

Charlotte's favorite balloon by far

Tommy checking out Catfish Pond
I think he was the most excited when the balloons were finally inflated. He kept pointing and mumbling excitedly.

Lemon Shake-up and Funnel Cake:

Admission to Balloon Fest and parking:

Two balloons for Charlotte (because she let go of the first one within 1.7 minutes of purchase):

A crazy gun for Danny that lights up and makes noise (because I am a total pushover):

The smile that lit up Danny's face as he ran around for nearly 2 hours with a group of boys that asked him to join them in their shoot em up/space alien/Star Wars games:

Here's Danny with his crazy gun

The great thing about this festival is that the balloons are blown up and assembled in the midst of all the fest goers. Everywhere you look there are hot air balloons.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oprah, Bumble Berries and Bras

I have a thing for magazines. I don't know if it is the allure of reading pure fluff or if it is that articles are so short and can often be finished in one sitting, but it's definitely a form of escapism for me. I rarely glean any important information from these magazines, but it's one of those guilty pleasures I indulge in once in a while.

When I opened this month's O Magazine I was unimpressed. This month's all about makeovers, and I am just not all that interested.

I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that a magazine by Oprah Winfrey would fail to inspire me. After all, the only things I have in common with the Queen of talk shows is prior residency in Chicago and a deep and abiding love for food.

Other than that, nothing. We got nothing. So, it shouldn't really be a shocker when I open O Magazine and the themes don't exactly resonate with me.

Still, I learned a lot by reading this magazine:
I have discovered that *gasp* I own none of Fall's essential wardrobe pieces. Also, the editors at O Magazine have a vastly different definition of the word "affordable" than do I. But the most important piece of information? Apparently, a properly fitting bra has the power to transform my life. Who knew?

Danny's first day of school was today. He got home at lunchtime and Charlotte was so happy to see him. I think she is having a tough adjustment to him not being home. She couldn't wait to pick him up this afternoon.

The kids played happily together for an hour or two.

The peace quickly dissolved, however, and fighting commenced, as usual. Charlotte's wailing was loud enough to wake the dead. The reason for Charlotte's misery was apparently, Danny had eaten all the Bumble Berries that she had planned on feeding to her kitten.


The fact that the Bumble Berries were entirely imaginary and that her kitten is a stuffed animal did nothing to quell Charlotte's agony or quiet her sobs. (In case you are wondering, Bumble Berries are all the rage in Care-A-Lot, the commune of Care Bears located on a very pastel colored cloud filled with rainbows and hearts and suns.)

I actually had to pretend to make Charlotte more Bumble Berries and let her kitten (whose name is Snickels, by the way) eat them out of my hand in order to pacify her. If Danny came anywhere near me or made a move to eat the berries, more lamentation would ensue.

If the editors at O were witness to my afternoon, I am sure they would conclude that I have much bigger problems than whether my handbag (Ha!) matches my shoes (double Ha!).

Clearly, I have bigger fish to fry than finding the newest, latest streamlined peacoat on the market. I'm thinking even they would admit that I might need something more than a well-fitting undergarment to change my life.

Which is why I am saving my money for a new Bumble Berry Machine. I am hoping to find one that can keep Snickels well-fed while also producing enough to leave Danny satisfied. Then peace will reign forevermore, right?

Fingers crossed that ebay has a used one.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obsessive? Who? Me?

If you have ever read my blog at all, you know my son, Danny, has Sensory Processing Disorder and high-functioning autism.

What you probably don't know is that we highly suspect that Charlotte (Danny's younger sister) also has SPD. A different form than Danny's, definitely, but sensory processing issues up the wazoo.

So, yeah. Great news, huh?

We'll know for sure after her eval in September, but Danny's OT agrees that it is highly likely that the girl has SPD.

So, obviously, SPD and autism and other special needs are typically in the forefront of my mind.

Always there, lurking.


Maybe even more often than that.

Sometimes I get really sick of it, of the obsessing, and so I try to distract myself. At times this works. Other times, not so much.

It seems pretty futile to me, because you know, these issues are part of our lives and probably always will be. So it makes sense that I think about it a lot, right?


OK, well maybe there is a limit. Perhaps there is a point when it goes too far, when it becomes a bit of an obsession. When someone, say me, for example, possibly needs an intervention. Someone to tell her to get a grip and let. it. go.

When perhaps, just maybe, it is conceivable that this person is quite possibly thinking about special needs issues too much.

You know, hypothetically speaking, of course.

And I suppose if that were to be the case, there might be some indications, some signs, like say, when this person starts not just diagnosing kids she knows, but actually moves on to characters in books.

Yeah, that would be crazy, wouldn't it?
Or would it?
Tell me you have not read Amelia Bedelia and just KNOWN that woman has Asperger's Syndrome.

And David? Oh, c'mon! He totally has ADHD and possibly SPD with maybe some poor impulse control thrown in for good measure.

Fancy Nancy? Well she does walk on her toes quite a bit.

And really, don't you think that Curious George is just a touch overactive, even for a monkey?

Max from Where the Wild Things Are? Oh, yeah, Oppositional Defiance Disorder all the way, people. All the way.

So, I don't know. You tell me. Do I have a problem?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

road tripping adventures

Last week, we made our customary pilgrimage to Chicago for Danny's therapy. Since the kids are accustomed to driving the three hours to Chicago, they are typically quite cooperative in the car. I used to pack all kinds of treats, books and toys to keep them occupied, but lately, I have become lax. I might throw a box of Triscuits in the car, along with a bottle of water, but it's basically up to the kids to entertain themselves.

Until this trip, it has never been a problem.

Charlotte happened to sleep quite late the morning of our departure, which I am guessing is what accounts for her unprecedented energy in the car. She rarely stopped talking the entire ride, and this girl has nothing even remotely resembling an inside voice. Danny had the box of Triscuits at one point and was dutifully sharing them with both Charlotte and Tommy when Charlotte started whining and crying. Charlotte insisted that Dan give her precisely 5 crackers, and her requests ("I want 5 crackers! FIVE! FIVE! FIVE! Gimme FIVE CRACKERS, DANNY!!!") got whinier and more strident until I felt like my ears were going to bleed.

I think she finally stopped screaming when Danny threw the box of crackers at her.

Like I said, the kids are typically pretty subdued in the car, and this is especially true of Danny. For some reason, though, this trip was different. Almost as soon as we left our town, Danny was asking me if we were in Chicago yet. Anytime we passed a building--even if only a farmhouse--he repeated his question: "Are we in Chicago now, mom?"

It got even worse when we passed anything that remotely passed for a town, no matter how small. Danny would squeal, "Yay! We're in Chicago now!" and he would moan when I contradicted him. How he could mistake Neoga with Chicago, I will never know.

I finally got the kids to settle down and listen to some music. We were getting pretty close to the city and only had another 35 minutes or so in the car left, when all of a sudden I was assailed by an ungodly stench. I couldn't figure out what it was, but it seemed to be emanating from the back seat.

As I tried valiantly to breathe through my mouth, I heard Charlotte say, "Danny, put your shoes back on! Your feet are sweaty!"

Remind me to never, ever allow Danny to wear Crocs without socks.

While in the city, I took the kids to the zoo. Despite a torrential downpour and very, very high temperatures and humidity, we soldiered on and saw every manner of mammal, fish and bird. At the end of our visit, I decided to splurge and take the kids on the zoo tram ride.

Not since choosing to wear shoulder pads in the 80s have I made such a grievous error in judgment.

Everyone was tired and cranky. It was already well past 1 pm, which is Tommy's normal nap time, and we were all muddy from the rain and puddles we the kids insisted on jumping in and splattering over all bystanders. My patience was worn thin, so I thought the tram ride would be a nice, peaceful break.

Tommy was not happy about the rule that every kid needed to sit in a seat or in a lap. He wanted to wander around and flirt with the cute 16-year-old Romanian girl sitting across from us. He bucked and flailed as I wrestled to keep him in his seat. It was exhausting.

The nice Romanian man and his daughter, who were impeccably dressed and groomed, smiled at us and commented on how dirty my children were. They also happened to notice that Tommy's diaper was hanging precariously low.

This is when Tommy decided to attempt to climb into the seat next to the beautiful daughter and throw up all over said seat. Luckily, none of the puke spattered her, and I even happened to have exactly two wet wipes in my purse and was able to clean it speedily. Still, I felt somehow responsible for my toddler's unpleasant bodily excretions.

It turned out I didn't have long to agonize about the vomit though, because Danny and Charlotte decided they both wanted to sit next to me, though only one seat was actually available. Whining and angry recriminations followed. I came *this close* to throwing my precious offspring to the hippos, as we passed the Amphibians.

We were stuck on this tram for about 45 minutes. The longest 45 minutes of my life. I thought 45 minute of Chemistry class in high school was long. Yeah, that was like the blink of an eye compared to the glacially slow passage of time on that tram. Oh, that tram!

Oblivious to my agony, the tour guide kept prattling on and on about all the wonders of the zoo. At each stop, she would remind us to keep our extremities inside the tram and would go on to inform us that no food or alcoholic beverages were allowed on the tram.

As I listened over and over again to the prohibition of alcohol, I couldn't help thinking that these zoo workers were mocking me. Though I no longer drink alcohol, if anything were to drive me to fall off the proverbial wagon, it would be wrestling an 18 month baby into a tram seat, while listening to the high pitched keening of my four-year-old daughter because her brother wouldn't sit next to her. This all in 90+ degree weather.

It took every ounce of willpower not to turn to the clean, good-looking and very civilized Romanian family and beg them to adopt and rescue me from this squalor that is my life.

Instead, I went back to my mom's house and passed out in her bed while Danny and Charlotte watched hours of cartoons and Tommy napped.

I'm sure my Mother of the Year Award is in the mail.