Saturday, April 26, 2014

PSA: There's Nothing "Wrong" With Our Children

I just got back from a child's birthday party. I've recently adopted the term "knackered" from British slang, not because I'm a wannabe Brit (I'm a total wannabe Brit), but because it better describes the state one is left in after certain parental obligations. It means "tired", but I prefer it because it has a certain onomatopoeic value that sounds more than just normal tired. It sounds like, beat-up, sore, dirty, and stained with frosting tired. That's me. Right now.

That's also Liam and Finn right now. Consequently they're both asleep so I can sit and blog about something that I think is important. That thing is: What do you do when you hear someone's child is in "special ed"?

The mother of the child who just had the birthday party and I were bonding because we both have boys diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I'm starting to notice that every parent with an ASD diagnosed kid kind of rolls their eyes at the whole thing. We appreciate that it gets them the help they need, so the experts can call it whatever the hell they want, but ultimately the label is pretty much meaningless. Anyway, we were bonding because a lot of you well meaning folks don't know how to react when we answer your question "what school does your child go to?" This mom put it perfectly, "It's like you have to talk them down off the ledge. Like you just told them your child has cancer."

So here's what you do: When you hear someone's child is in special ed, stay calm, don't make that face, and try not to tell us how sorry you are. I know it's hard. Sure there was a moment when we first heard about it that it all seemed tragic, but we're well past that now. If you want to be cool, treat the news of our child's special education like you would treat the news that a friend of yours is going to start riding their bike to work everyday. It's a little more challenging and might take more time, but it's rewarding and kind of fun. 

That's a crappy analogy. I'm knackered. 

I guess my point is, see it how we see it. There's nothing wrong with our kids. They're not sick. Their path is just a bit unorthodox. They're going to get where every other kid will get but it might take more time and be slightly wackier a process. That's all.

I think the safest default is to share your own experience. A quick little "everyone develops differently" anecdote is always relatable. We all know someone, or may even be that someone, who wasn't a superstar academically or socially when they were younger. "Hey, my brother Percy couldn't say his 'r's until he was thirteen and got into trouble every time he introduced himself. Now he's the CEO of Roederer." It's nice to be reminded that peaking early is never a good thing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Lady of the Land

Okay, I know I've been going on about houses too much lately. I SWEAR this is the last house related blog. It's just been quite a ride what with the selling of one house, the year in Greyhouse, and now the luck of scoring the new house (which, by the way, Liam has officially named 'House'. Not his best work). I planned to leave the subject alone but I just CANNOT help but share the unbridled JOY I'm feeling having been newly blessed with what is easily, unequivocally, the world's greatest landlady. Why must the process of beatification and canonization wait until five years after death?! I'm emailing Pope Francis. I'm sure he'll make an exception in this case.

We knew the house was a bit janky. It's an old house that was built some time before the 90 degree angle was invented, which is okay. We also knew that the person in charge of the house's upkeep had interesting ideas when it came to pinching pennies. Apparently spackle is cheaper than a doorstop since most of the doors have a nice doorknob sized dent in the wall behind it. And I see the logic behind leaving an even film of grime on the ceiling throughout the entire house, because once you start cleaning, where do you stop? But Jodee took issue with the steel framed windows that were designed by retired French Revolution executioners, so she sent the landlady an email

"...most of the windows in the house aren't usable. They don't stay open and they slam shut with enough force to chop a kid's finger off or kill a cat."

The response was swift.

"I don't think we're going to get windows fixed by the owner, but I'll ask for you."

What a saint. Additionally she provided us with the tools to help ourselves.

"You should get a wooden dowel at the hardware store and measure, then stick it under the window to keep it open."

Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish without fingers or a pet cat, and he'll save 30 bucks and a trip to the hardware store.

There was a P.S. to her email that I enjoyed as well.

"...BTW, got your emergency call about getting locked out of the house and then the follow up that you got in. Locking yourself out, how that works, is if you can't get us right away, or we're not available, you'll need to call a locksmith."

My god, I think she's onto something!

Hey, all the smoke detectors are broken. 

Well, how that works, is if there's a fire, call the fire department

I need to write all this stuff down. It is GOLDEN. What if the roof collapses and crushes the children? What sized dowel will we need for that?!

I'm holding off on the kids' piano lessons.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In With the New House

Today is the last day of the "40 Days of Writing" project. It is also the first day I'm completely out of Greyhouse and into...what are we calling this place? Yet to be determined. So far Liam has just called it "house", but he's got to come up with something better than that. My vote is "Chateau Chaton".

We're home!

I've done a lot of moves over the years, but none quite like this. This time the Universe lent a hand. Too bad the Universe didn't have a truck.

The big way in which the unseen forces of the Universe were clearly working their magic was the miracle of just getting this house. A couple of months back, when Jodee and I began toying with the idea of cohabitation, we put out some feelers (started checking Craigslist). Everyone talks about the abysmal renter's market in our area but we weren't too particular and found a number of potential candidates. None were ideal. Most were too expensive, and those that were reasonable were way too far from town. Like Windsor far! I know, right?! Eww. But we applied for them. We wrote cover letters, donned our Sunday bests for walk throughs, used enticing self-descriptors like "painstakingly tidy" "treat the place like it's our own" and "looking for a place to settle down", and even went so far as to downplay the existence of my own kids (sorry boys, means to an end). Regardless we were rejected by each one flat out. It was depressing.

Then, the Universe came in, snapped it's fingers and exclaimed "Bitch! I told you don't sweat this shit!" (in my mind the Universe is super sassy). Right when we wanted to throw in the towel we found our gem. It is four short blocks from downtown, 100 YARDS from the Giorgi Park, and literally a stones throw from a number of close friends' houses. It's true, I checked and now my arm is sore, my friends are pissed, and I'm all out of stones.

Oh! AND it's CHEAPER than everything else we'd looked at. That means that every rejection we got was a dodged bullet. Thank you UNIVERSE, you sassy, punking, sadistic bitch! I love you!!

But the Universe didn't stop there, oh no. Weird things have been continuing to happen. Minor things, but spooky great. For example, I tried to sell my couch on Craigslist but not surprisingly there was zero interest in an 8-year-old wonky sofa stained with formula and toddler crust. I scheduled to have it picked up by the Salivation Army, but those drying out sad sacks didn't bother to call or show for the three hour window they'd given me. I was livid. But lo, the very next morning my forgotten Craigslist ad gets some action. Jodee wakes me up to tell me that the local theater wants it for their upcoming production of "Noises Off". Cash the next day plus two free tickets to see my baby in the show. Boom.

Crazy right? Wait there's more!

Yesterday I was setting up speakers and heard some objects rattling around inside my sub-woofer. The thing has a hole in the side that apparently leads to a parallel universe in which I spotted three hot wheels, a cordless phone (???), and the remote control I'd given up searching for a week earlier. Stop it Universe, you're freaking me out! After watching me spend a good hour of precious moving time with a coat hanger and a flashlight, cursing at my remote that was so close and yet so far away, Liam walked over and did this.

 Kind of a dick move on his part, but I was grateful nonetheless.

"Grateful" explains my mood best. Or maybe "completely and totally mentally and physically exhausted". Yeah, that too. I want to wax poetic about this stage of my life, but mentally and physically I'm spent. This is all I've got for now, but after a nap and a trip to the chiropractor I'll be back to blogging full time and exploring the greater meaning of life, love, and parenting. I have a feeling there's going to be plenty of material from here on out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Aspiring Writer

Since Evie mastered the skill of writing, she likes to write a lot. Lists, reminders, notes, Valentines, cards, letters - you name it, she’ll write it. This has been lovely because sometimes she uses this as a tool to communicate in lieu of actual words. I especially appreciate this in the mornings when, instead of being woken up to hear the minute details of her demands for the morning, I wake up to scraps of paper on my face:

Another thing that has come out of Evie's newfound love for writing has been her willingness to reflect. When she's upset, she will sometimes disappear for a few minutes and then come back with notes explaining what was bothering her. This series shows that she felt her brother was being mean to her after building her a fort, which upset her, causing her to be mean back. For one second.

So you start acting mean to me and you just built me a fort...
I am sosososososososososo sory that I was mean that one sekant I love you.

Sometimes she offers friendly reminders to us as well, in written form. When her brother recently promised to teach her something, he seems to have been lagging (in her opinion). Apparently, the first note worked, so she was inspired to offer a follow-up to show her appreciation.  

Her brother and I aren't the only ones to benefit from Evie's writing. Hours are spent making cards and posters, stapling self-made 'books' and zines, and creating to-do lists. Overall, it has become a very useful tool. 

The other day Paulie was on the phone with the internet company - again - and was frustrated. Evie came up to him and tried whispering something, but he couldn't understand her and pointed to the phone with a 'sorry' shrug of apology. A few minutes later, she tried again. He assumed she wanted a snack, so he ruffled her hair and whispered "just a minute, kiddo." She walked away again.

Finally she came back, with this:

How sweet is that?! Paulie was so touched by her kindness that when he finally hung up the phone after a mind-boggling internet-connection-related phone call and found the next note she'd written for him, all he could do was laugh...

...and make her a snack.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Car Bites the Dust

I recently posted the following foolproof ad on Craigslist, then sat back to watch in joy as offers came pouring in. I found myself so clever that I truly expected people to clamber over each other in increasingly creative battles of wit and skill in order to obtain my vehicle.

Beautiful 1992 525i BMW Touring Sedan (that's a fancy European way of saying 'Station Wagon'). Perfect white shiny exterior, easy to see on the roads without screaming "pull me over!" like other, redder cars might. Leather beige interior, a huge, open air sunroof, power everything! Requires a sense of humor. 

Here are some key reasons as to why you should buy this car:

* Do you have a teenager who is about to enter the driving world? Worried about their safety as they navigate the mean streets? This car is perfect for them!! Not only does it have oodles of airbags and seatbelts, it is a rock-solid tank of a machine and won't crumple at the slightest 'oops I didn't check all of my mirrors' incident. Plus it has a few quirks that won't let them get too cocky with their friends just because they now drive a BMW. Once they are adults and realize what a great 'let me tell you about my first car' story you've given them, your kids will thank you!

* Have you been letting your car do all the work when it comes to proper posture? Stop being so lazy! This Beemer's all-electric seats will not sit straight, and the harder you try to make them that way, the twistier they get - thus forcing you to do the important core muscle work yourself. Your back will thank you!

* Do you dream of driving around in the tropics? Look no further! Due to the fact that the rear driver's side window doesn't close all the way, it sometimes rains inside the car, thus creating a spa-like steam room inside the vehicle when the sun comes back out! Your pores will thank you!

* Tired of being distracted by pesky music while you drive? This is the car for you! The stereo, which includes AM/FM Radio, a tape deck, and a 5 disc CD changer, decided one day to stop functioning, ha...ha...haaaaa! Which is actually GREAT, because now as you drive you can focus on your thoughts, dreams, feelings, and the actions of other, dancing-in-their-seats, singing-at-the-tops-of-their-lungs, not-paying-attention drivers. Your overworked brain will thank you! (Quick note: if you happen to get the stereo working again I'd really like my mix-tape back, thanks!)

I want my mix tape back!!!

"Hey," you're thinking. "If this car is so amazing - and clearly it is! - why in the heck are you getting rid of it?"

Well, that's a fair question, and I'll answer it honestly: the car leaks oil like a mofo. I, being a certified tree-hugger with no mechanical skills whatsoever, cannot justify driving the car around when I can't give it the attention it deserves. HOWEVER, this is where you - car mechanic who specializes in European cars - come in. I've had the engine looked at by the very trustworthy and highly-reviewed guys over at Capricorn motors in Healdsburg, California, and they think they know what's up with the car. It's not a big deal, but the labor involved is a pain so they quoted me $500ish to fix it...but that includes changing out belts and stuff while they're in there, so it's kind of a great deal. If you have $500. Which I don't.

So I'm thinking this: YOU know how to fix cars, right? You want an awesome, solid, reliable car...RIGHT?! So buy this car! Fix it up a bit, and BAM!! With only 178,500ish miles, this will be a car you can rely on for years!

So yeah, needless to say, I got some immediate interest. How could I NOT? Sure, as usual Paulie assumed that everyone emailing me were just creepers trying to get laid, but I assured him they were genuinely interested.

They weren't. Once I mentioned the male presence in my household as being available to show the car, these would-be BMW owners split. That, or they took it upon themselves to send me close-up videos of themselves jacking off. Not awesome.

Then I got an email from a kid who didn't really have much in the way of 'money', but had some incentive to offer me instead:

You would be giving me the opportunity to be independent to pursue recreational and job activities. 
In time, I would invest in getting your car road worthy and repair the leaks and other things to ensure it would continue a long productive life on the road. 
The car would explore beautiful places like the California coast, Yosemite, Tahoe and mt. Shasta.
You would gain some serious good karma which I would pay forward. 

Did that kid say "good Karma?" SOLD!!

Actually, not. I couldn't sell him the car because my newly-acquired good karma would have been shot the first time he tried to drive that thing to Mount Shasta and failed miserably in an overheating pile on the side of the road.

The quest continues. And of course by 'quest' I mean that I'm probably going to donate the car to charity. I was hoping to recover some of the thousands of dollars I've put into it since becoming it's proud owner, but more than anything, I just really want it to stop dumping oil into my driveway.

I sure will miss the nice compliments I get from the ad, though. 

The 'Happy Ending' emails, not so much.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goodbye Greyhouse

Parents know how it is. There are moments that bookmark the story of our childrens' lives. There are big ones that we use for points of reference, like births of siblings (i.e. when was that picture taken of Liam taking a dump in Mexico? Ah yes, the Christmas before Finn was born). Then there are minor ones that stick with us. I had one of those minor moments yesterday and I didn't want to forget it. Thank God Apple for the ubiquity of cameras.

That's Finn and Liam sitting on our curb, waiting for the school bus to pick Liam up from Greyhouse one last time. It's been less than a year since the boys and I moved into the crummy little grey apartment building that I constantly complain about. Well now we're finally moving out and, of course, I'm gonna miss it.