Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holiday Blogtastic Shout Out!

I have been blogging for over three years now, and in that time, I have discovered many talented bloggers. Some have given me some great insight into raising kids with autism or SPD, along with validation . Some blogs have given me hope, while others have provided me with much needed humor.

Surprisingly, I have even made some friends through the blogs I read. I never anticipated that years ago when starting out.

Outnumbered Two to One was one of the first blogs I discovered. I religiously checked Mrs. Bear's site to see if there was a new post because I couldn't get enough of her writing. She is the type of writer who can make anything interesting, even things like Algebra 2, T-shirts, and garden gnomes. Every post I read made me laugh; I could relate to so many things she wrote about like kids who embarrass you in public, clutter, and writer's block.

Between her great sense of humor and her way with words--I mean, really, isn't this sentence wonderful: "Because clearly that cockroach had developed a taste for human flesh and my face meat was on the menu"--I had become a huge fan of Outnumbered Two to One. More than that, I was kind of envious.

So many times, after reading her posts, I thought, "I so wish I could write like Mrs. Bear. I love the way she puts things. Her imagery is fantastic."

She was a blogger I admired from afar with a touch of awe. Kind of like the popular kids in high school, the ones who were so talented/good-looking/athletic you didn't think you could ever have anything in common with them because they were so cool, and you were so not cool. Know what I mean?

No? Well, just humor me, here.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was wrong; we actually have quite a bit in common. Things like a mutual dislike for the Twilight series, our taste in books, our desire to become published writers, and our propensity to get writer's block often probably fueled by our insecurities as writers.

I also discovered that not only is Mrs. Bear super cool, she is waaaaay nicer than the girls in high school who mocked me. And apparently, though I am so not cool enough, we have developed a cyber friendship, one that I really appreciate.

I wish I lived anywhere near her, though she might not appreciate me dropping by her house every single day. Because I so would, if she weren't a 3-day drive away from me. Luckily, reading her blog feels like you're hanging at the beach with her.

So, go check out Mrs. Bear at Outnumbered Two to One. You won't regret it, and you can thank me later. And after you discover the beauty that is Mrs. Bear, click over here to see her other blog.


For more Blogtastic Shout Outs, check out Recommended Daily Dose, where Kate is organizing a bloggy Secret Santa, but instead of soap on a rope, bloggers are giving out praise.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saving your sanity during bad weather

I'm over at Hartley's today with a post about indoor activities to keep your kids busy during the winter. After having three snow days this week, this post couldn't have come at a better time. I know I wrote it, but I sure needed to be reminded of some activities I could do with the kids to help get their energy out, and to help me stay sane.

Methinks we might be having an indoor snowball fight and skating party today....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whole Family Entertainment isn't just a trick that only Pixar can pull off

Ten Eleven Reasons why We love “Original Friend” by Lunch Money

It probably comes as no surprise that Bil and I love the kids' band Lunch Money. We have been enjoying their music for well over a year after we discovered their CD "Dizzy," and we have been anticipating the release of their third album for about that long, too. So, here are some of the reasons the Pancake clan highly recommend this CD.

1. It sounds Gorgeous with capital G. I was all ready for their sound to be a glossier-sounding form of cuddle-core, but Tor Hyams’ production instantly had me wondering if I put the Wilco CD in by mistake.

The collaboration results in a tasteful (even luscious) sheen that casts light on the creation, rather than obscuring it by lathering effects and guitars on top like so much corn syrup—the album even boasts some instrumental passages that are reminiscent of some of my favorite late 60’s/early 70’s records, when synthesizers sounded fresh. A lot of what makes the predecessor “Dizzy” so great is that the songs are so energetic and witty, they really didn’t need much adornment, and the lyrics took center stage…and now 2--

Original Friend2. The words are faithfully, still really silly, witty and well-written. With Lunch Money’s already catchy songwriting, it’s a one-two punch. This is where singer/songwriter Molly Ledford stands out in the world of Kid’s Indie Rock (‘Kindie’ Rock)-- her word-smithery is on par with the late director Preston Sturges, who once said “I spritz dialogue like Seltzer water once I know where I'm going.” It doesn’t cost any extra to write memorable lyrics, so why not?

It’s a subtle practice, however, as Molly doesn’t just throw some big words out there to digest—she chooses her words and images thoughtfully, with humor and purpose, then leaves them lying around for you to discover over time, as your familiarity plunges you deeper into their meaning. When you find them, it’s like finding a forgotten Hershey’s Kiss in the cabinet or a dollar in your pants on laundry day.

It’s just a matter of time before you too will find the line “--snacks walk the plank in the vending machine” and smile knowingly.

3. Your kids will want you to play the record at least a hundred times, and it’s not just that you won’t mind, but sometimes you’ll be the instigator. Take it from two parents who know.

4. Like the title suggests, the record is all about friendship. From the goofy things that you did and the funny perceptions you had growing up, to the disagreement that you are ready to forget about since you can’t remember how it started—you’re just ready to get back to being friends. Friendships and fun are the currency of childhood, and this record is a celebration of them.

Original Friend5. One of the highlight songs “Come over to my Dollhouse” has fun with an old taboo…you boys who claim you don’t play with dolls should consider this when thumbing your collective noses at your sister’s My Little Pony or Strawberry shortcake…

GI-Joe? Transformers? He-Man? Spiderman? --All dolls.

Castle Greyskull? CyberTron? Death Star? --Dollhouses. Yep.

Don’t pout, now that we’ve got that out of the way, you and Chewbacca are invited to the barbecue at the Weeble Village. Bring your swimming suit, a light saber, and a side-dish!

6. Whoever had the idea to have other ‘Kindie’ Rock stars show up and lend guest vocals to the record, *that* was a really good move. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a family-friendly hip hop artist, brings a great rap flow to “Dollhouse” and gives it just the right party vibe it needs.

7. Like with a great Pixar movie, what’s better than being able to share the same entertainment preferences as your kids? My kids like Wilco, and Arcade Fire (sorta), and I like Lunch Money (lotsa). I far prefer that to being at aural odds with most of the doggerel that gets foisted on them in the name of family entertainment.

That’s why the tag “Indie Music for the Whole Family” makes a lot of sense.

8. Lunch Money has a message for kids and parents, between the lines, that refrains in the themes of their records and pretty much everything they do, and it’s this:

“Make your own fun, and it will make all the difference, whether you are a parent or a child.”

9. Contagious smiles. You know how you can hear someone smiling by the change in their voice over the telephone? Whatever it is that makes that sound unique, you can hear it all over the vocals on the record. But then you’d be smiling too, if your chosen profession was this much fun.

Original Friend

10. The artwork! The liner notes!

11. The Title Track to “Original Friend” is free for all to sample, like a yummy donut. You can find it here. Delicious!

Update 6/25:  The whole album can be streamed from Bandcamp!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

our reindeer games

Winter has finally arrived here in our town. Much to Danny's delight, and my relief, we got some snow today, and it wasn't a moment too soon. Danny has been adamantly insisting that since it is now winter, it should snow. Now. There was no convincing him that, though winter temps have definitely hit, snow is not always a given. And the lack of snow has caused some sour moods here, ones that I was frankly, getting just a little tired of.

The interesting thing is Danny is somewhat fickle when it comes to snow. It seems that, as for many of us, the idea of snow is much more enticing and enjoyable than the actual reality. Dan has been detailing all the winter fun he will have once it finally snows; snowball fights, snow angels, snowmen were all part of his winter wonderland plans. There was even some talk of skiing, though I am not entirely sure he knows what skiing is.

So, imagine his delight this morning when I opened Danny's blinds and directed him to gaze at the fluffy white stuff just barely covering our grass. Danny could barely drag himself from his window; we had to force him to come to the kitchen for breakfast.

After church, the weather seemed to get colder. It was very blustery and frigid--definitely not weather I wanted to brave, so Bil agreed to take the kids outside. Between finding snowsuits and both boots for each kid, it took quite a while to get dressed for play. After about 20 minutes of dressing, and then waiting for Bil to get dressed, the kids finally ventured outside to fulfill their hearts' desire.

I put some water on the stove to simmer for hot chocolate and sat down to enjoy a meal in peace. I anticipated having some time to read in quiet, when I heard frantic knocking at the door.

The kids played outside for all of 6 minutes before coming in, soaking my floor with slushy ice, and littering the living room and all surrounding rooms with gloves, hats, scarves, sodden socks and boots.


This year, in an attempt to help the kids understand the concept of giving, rather than just receiving, we decided to take them Christmas shopping. Danny chose to accompany me and we headed to Wal-mart to purchase gifts for Charlotte, Tommy and Bil. I knew that teaching Danny about giving would be more challenging than for Charlotte. She seems to understand that when giving a gift, you give something that the person wants, not what you want.

Danny, on the other hand, struggles with this just a bit. He has only just recently realized that Legos would not be the ideal gift for Charlotte, though he's still baffled by that concept. When I told him that not everyone loves Legos, he pondered for a minute, and then replied, "No, mom. You're wrong. Everyone loves Legos!"

I knew it would be tricky keeping Danny focused on our mission. After all, Wal-mart is a sensory land mine even for those not on the spectrum, and Danny's attention span can at times be extremely limited.

We found our way to the toy section and I directed Danny to the play-doh/moon sand aisle. Though I was allowing Danny to choose the gift, I decided to give him some options, some ideas that I knew Charlotte would love. I pointed out several packages with cool play-doh tools and multi-packs of the stuff. But Danny was in a daze. Within seconds of arriving in the toy section, Danny had zeroed in on the Lego clocks and a Lego head organizer that was down the aisle.

No amount of re-direction or prompting could get Danny to look at the play-doh for more than a dozen seconds. As if pulled by an invisible force, he kept returning to the Yoda Lego clock, repeating, "Wow, look at this clock! I wish I had a Lego clock! Why can't I buy me a present?" I can't be sure, but at one point, I think I saw drool glistening on his chin.

After what seemed like hours of this, I chose a gift myself and convinced Danny of its merits forced Danny to pick a gift.

I was sure Bil was bound to have an easier time with Charlotte the next day, but I was wrong. Though Charlotte was a bit more focused on the task at hand for a while, the allure of toys proved to be too great for her, as well.

First off, Charlotte was on a mission to find me the perfect gift. Well, at least her idea of the perfect gift.

She has recently developed a deep and abiding love for Pillow Pets. Much to her absolute delight, my mother gave her a lady bug Pillow Pet for her birthday a few weeks ago. Charlotte drags that cuddly pet with her everywhere and incessantly talks about how wonderful it is. She also asks any people within earshot if they would like their own pillow pet and which one is their favorite.

Well, I didn't think much of it at the time, but I told Charlotte I liked the panda pet the best. She has not forgotten, and discusses my love for the panda at all times. So, of course, while on her shopping excursion with dad, she insisted on buying me a panda Pillow Pet.

Thankfully, the last panda had been bought up, but Charlotte was heartbroken, sure that my Christmas hopes had been dashed.

Luckily, she got distracted by a Water art kit thingy that she just had to have, and I was soon forgotten. In fact, she also forgot all about getting a present for Danny, as she intoned, "I want the water art kit thingy! Please, please, please!"

We apparently have much work to do in teaching the concept of thinking of others when gift giving.

Before any of us ever went shopping, I spoke to the kids about keeping the gifts a secret. I knew this would probably prove to be very difficult for them, but we would hope for the best.

As it turns out, I am not entirely sure Danny remembers what present we actually bought for Charlotte, so fixated was he on the Lego head organizer and the Yoda clock. One way his lack of focus can be an advantage, I suppose.

Charlotte, on the other hand, was acutely aware of what she had chosen for Danny. Despite Bil's reminders to not tell anyone what they had bought, the very minute Charlotte entered the house, she exclaimed, "Danny, we bought you the Lego head!!!!"

Sensing my advantage, I probed her to get hints about my presents, but Bil had recovered (from laughter) and commanded Charlotte to keep quiet. The poor girl looked stricken as she glanced from one to the other of us, clearly conflicted about what she should do. She finally growled, "I'm not telling you!" and then beamed proudly at Bil.

The next day, however, she spilled the beans, with no prodding from me whatsoever. I have to say, it was a little anticlimactic. One of my favorite holiday pastimes is alternately trying to trick Bil into giving away a hint and wheedling and whining in an attempt to break him down. I knew Charlotte would prove a much easier opponent to break than Bil, but this was pathetic.

Thank goodness she possesses no knowledge of secrets of state or wartime strategies, or the U.S. would be sunk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SPD Awareness Calendar

Hope & Help
Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness
Calendar 2011

All of the proceeds are a fundraiser for two amazing charities – the SPD Foundation and Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (a WA state school that funded production of the calendar $5000, and serves children JUST LIKE OURS).

Click here for more information.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Twas the Night Before an SPD Christmas

I'm over at Hartley's today and it's a really cool post, if I do say so myself. Of course, Bil wrote a major portion of the poem and Hartley contributed a lot too. It was definitely a group effort, of which I was only a small part. Still, I'm proud of our little poem.

In fact, the SPD Foundation is actually going to share this poem on their blog later in the month!

So, go check out my husband's amazing talent for iambic pentameter! Just click here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Only December 1st, and already trauma over Santa

The last few days have been rocky. All the kids have been a touch on the crabby side, and Danny especially has been emotional. Yesterday afternoon, he cried no less than 5 times over really strange things like the fact that he didn't get to go grocery shopping with me today.

I have decided that this can all be chalked up to Thanksgiving aftershock. The kids are tired from being out of their routine for a long weekend of traveling and family parties, and they need to get back to normal.

I think because Danny is doing so well lately, I forget that he still needs his routines and some down time. Actually, all of us do, but I still seem to have difficulty remembering this.

Anyway, so the point of all that was to illustrate that Danny's been a bit out of sorts this week. Today was no exception. I was on the phone briefly when Charlotte came running into the room screaming. Not an event that is all that unusual around here, as Charlotte has a tendency to be a tad melodramatic at times, so I wasn't too concerned.

Until she showed me a blue bruise where Danny had bitten her.

Yes, he bit her!

I was shocked, appalled and not a little annoyed. What the heck is going on with these kids, anyway?

Danny was punished and we had a little talk about appropriate ways to express anger and frustration--a talk I should probably have given more heed to myself. We set about doing homework, eating dinner, and doing listening therapy.

Then I did something very unwise and cruel. I honestly do not know what possessed me. Can I somehow blame the penicillin shot the doctor gave me for strep this week?

[First, let me just say that I try to avoid holding Santa over the kids' heads in order to get them to behave. I have nothing against Santa. In fact, I have really great memories of him bringing me the Gymnastics Barbie set I wanted one year. What I don't feel comfortable with is using him to bribe motivate the kids to behave like civilized humans. I'd rather my kids develop a desire to behave well because it's the nice thing to do, not just out of fear of being denied Christmas gifts. Plus, let's face it, no matter how bad the kid is, does any parent ever really give coal?]

OK, so here's what happened. I was talking with Danny in the kitchen when he mentioned Santa. Which is when an evil spirit took possession of my tongue and I heard myself say the following: "Danny, how do you think Santa feels about you biting your sister?"

And you know what Danny did?

He cried. A full-on, brokenhearted cry. One that would make my mother cringe, as she has no tolerance for hearing one of her grandchildren cry. Or whimper. Or even sigh sadly.

Which is when I had to backpedal and tell him that Santa understands we make mistakes and that as long as Danny is sorry and tries to be better, it will be OK. I almost panicked and promised Danny the $100 Space Police Lego set he's been coveting just to silence the sobs wracking his body.

I felt like the worst mother on the planet.

So, why is it that my mother could give a mean guilt trip in her sleep, she was that good, but when I try, I end up feeling guiltier than my kid does?

On a side note, Danny did behave beautifully the rest of the night......