9th Birthday Pictures

The Doll

The boy was very excited about his new doll.  He held her sweetly and seemed proud to pose with her.

These two pix are my favorites:

It pretty much went downhill from there.

The Cake

The boy chose a Happy New Year theme.  He liked the clock and all the colors.

It has only taken me nine years to figure out exactly what kind of cake to order:

1/4 sheet of chocolate AND
a 1/4 sheet of white,
both with white buttercream filling,
frosted & decorated together as a single cake.

It’s not as pretty later in the day, but both halves taste really good.

The final improvement over last year’s version was the omission of the fruity filling.  The sliced strawberries do that sliced strawberry thing and look kinda scary the next morning.  Blech.  😕  They had to go this time.

This year, his name was even spelled correctly.  Thank you, Vons bakery manager lady!

There’s a ton of it left in the kitchen.  Wanna come by and have a slice?

The Helium Balloons

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to me that we didn’t get a single photo of the helium balloons.  😦  I thought they were magical.

Our front room has a 24-foot ceiling.  Sounds grand, but it’s really more problematic than anything else.

Every year, the balloons head up there and are impossible to get down when the kids want to play with them.  I’ve never really liked tying the balloons to chairs or anchoring them with toys or weights, so this year I paid extra to have twenty-foot ribbons.

The balloons floated skyward as usual, but the long ribbons (two dozen of them) dangled down and made a little rainbow ribbon forest that we could walk through.  It was very festive and I am determined to do it every year from now on.

The floral department was NOT pleased with my request.  Right from the start, I even offered to pay more and they still gave me crap.  Then they called me at home to give me more crap.  World ribbon shortage or something.  Annoying.  Small minded.  Not service oriented.  Whatever.

It’s funny to me that the skills I’ve built advocating for my kid spill over to stuff like this.  Heh heh.

The Other Balloons

The husband blew up a zillion extra balloons to leave outside the boy’s door the night before the party.  This is what he woke up to:

The front door was like a vacuum.  Every time we opened it for a new guest, the balloons were sucked out at lightening speed.   The scramble to retrieve them was funny, but rather unsuccessful.  Many met their ends on the porch or lawn.  It was kind of a nice icebreaker for our friends and family though!  😀

Miscellaneous Other Birthday Photos

Happy Birthday Party, Little Boy!!


Dumbest thing I did at the party?

Putting the pizza boxes on top of the piano.

The “protective” towels made it worse.

Jenifer, don’t look.  😦

Anybody know a good piano restoration service?  😐


Rainbow, Coronado, Dr. Seuss, Llama & a Geyser

It rained a lot last week.  I had to drive in it a couple of times.  This was the gift for my efforts:

Monday before last, I took the little boy to Coronado.

We went to our favorite park and then walked along the bay to the Coronado Cupcakery.

The plain white cupcake was just as good as I remember, but our to-die-for selection this time was a chocolately blob of goodness with a cheesecake layer on top.  And chocolate chips mixed in.  Oh my.

You’ll have to get your own.  I’m not sharing.  🙂

The boy had some fun, but he ran out of steam pretty fast.  It was late in the afternoon and he wasn’t really his best.

I tried to climb up the side of an old wooden play structure.   I didn’t make it.  😳  I lost my footing, scraped my palm and came home with a fat black bruise on my shin.  Fun.

It was a cold, clear, and beautiful day.  The bruise was a small price to pay for that view.

Yesterday, the school held a chalk festival to put some steam behind literacy week.  Each classroom was given an illustration from a Dr. Seuss book and tasked with recreating it on the sidewalk.

The kids all worked really hard and clearly had a great time participating.  Our class did a page from The Cat In The Hat.  The little boy helped to color in Thing 1 and Thing 2.  😀

Oh, and speaking of Dr. Seuss and kids and literacy and all that, the little boy read two books to me this week.  Two!

He read Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  He read them out loud, with very little assistance.

This is huge.  HUGE.

My son doesn’t like to read books to me.  He generally becomes annoyed if I try to read them to him.

This time, he selected the books and he wanted to read.  WANTED.  TO.  READ.

Be still, my book collecting heart.  ♥ 🙂

This morning, we saw a geyser on the way to school.

Someone drove her minivan over a hydrant.  😦

The water pressure was kind of shocking – forty feet in the air.  You could see the top half of the geyser way above the buildings.

It spewed for over twenty minutes.  All that precious water just flowed into the street.  Sad.  Chaotic.

The traffic was a little dicey at the usually empty intersection.  The little boy didn’t seem to notice the red lights.  Hmmm, maybe I can arrange for a geyser every morning.

On Monday, I drove Mom and Lou out to Simpsons Nursery.  Lou is a llama whisperer.   He got some great pictures.




We also picked up a couple of Yellow Jasmine vines.  They are really fragrant.

Can’t wait to plant them.  😀

That kind of sums up the last ten days or so…

That, and a bit of marital strife, a couple of tantrums, a tad of depression, a crock pot full of delicious potato soup (thank you, Traci!) and some 80’s music.

Yeah, that about covers it.  😀

What did YOU do this week?


Hearts and Farts

The husband and I met at Coco’s for a little Valentine’s lunch together yesterday.  It was very pleasant until someone in the booth behind us ripped a stinker during our dessert.  Chocolate cake just isn’t the same when you’ve been frosted by a stranger’s gut bomb.  Sorry, but it’s true.  Happy heart day to us.

A few hours later, I blew up some balloons for the little boy.  There was one big one in the bag that looked like a mouse.  The last one like that had popped while I was blowing.  That happened with this one too, except that this time it exploded into my eye.  I felt it hit – blammo!

Seriously, I thought for just a few seconds that I had lost my eye.  I screamed.  LOUD.  And cussed.  A LOT.

The pain was unbelievable and the shock of it was overwhelming.  I started sobbing immediately, which didn’t help, but it scared me.  It really did.  I think it scared the little boy too.

I went to the opthalmologist this morning and learned that the lid is swollen and the eye is scuffed, but neither are irreparably damaged.  I now have drops to put in the eye three times a day for the rest of the week, but apparently I’ll live, still with two eyes.

The unfortunate part of this incident, if you get past the pain, fear, shock and incapacitation part I mean, is the fact that it has ruined my sinuses.  I am swollen-eyed, sniffling and sneezing too.  Great.

In other news, the little boy wouldn’t go to school today.  His meltdown defeated me.

I really needed him to go this morning.  I wanted to come back from the doctor and rest my eyes for a few hours, but that wasn’t meant to be.

In my misery, I broke every rule for stay-home days.  They’re supposed to be boring, you know?

But I took the child to get pancakes with grandma and grandpa.

Then, I took him to the doctor with me.  (That’s code for adventure, because it involved a parking garage, an elevator and big weird opthalmology machines with little lights and giant shiny parts.)

And as we drove out of Hillcrest, I impulsively asked the child if he wanted to go to the Zoo.  The Zoo!?

What was I thinking?  With my eye like this?  On a stay-home-from-school day?!

He said “yes” and so we went.  We saw snakes and bears and birds.

After the Zoo, I got him Burger King food.  Strike three.

No, four!  Pancakes, eye doctor, Zoo, Burger King…

Yep, four.

Holy Guacamole!  I forgot Walmart.  I took the boy to Walmart too.  He picked out Pocky.

All of my mom rules are lying on the floor, shattered to pieces.  Small wonder he doesn’t want to go to school, right?

Oh well.

When I’m 105, will I look back and wish I’d stayed on the couch all day?

Or will I remember this:

Happy Tuesday!!

P.S.  I got the boy one of those expensive mylar helium balloons for Valentine’s Day.  It wriggled away from its ribbon (with the little boy’s help, I suspect 🙂 ) and immediately floated up to the top of our very tall front room.  Fart!  We can’t get it with the ladder or the broom.

P.P.S  Did you see the beginning of American Idol this week?  😀

Happy hearts and farts to you too!

Heh heh.



Bad Morning

I just told my kid to shut up.

Parenting fail.

I think I’m in shock.

There was a tantrum brewing.

But I needed to eat.  I still need to eat.

We’ve had a very bad morning and I actually told my autistic, precious, frustrated son to “just shut up.”

I said that to my best friend once too.

The look on her pretty face is burned in my memory.  She was disappointed, utterly defeated by the challenge of communicating with me.

I haven’t seen her face in eight years, but I remember how it looked that day.

She would probably be angry with me now if she knew how easily I summoned that specific image of her to shame myself.

She wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.

She would have wanted me to get over it, forgive myself, be calmer and kinder – to myself, to the boy, to her memory.

So yeah, feeling like a pretty crappy mom person right now.

The little boy said “noooo shut up.”

He knew what I meant.

I am mortified.

Will he repeat that at school?  In the store?  At Grandma’s?

Will everyone know I told my son to “shut up?”

I’m typing it here.

It doesn’t matter who else knows, because I know.

I am an ogre in this moment.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre ruins a pound of positive parenting.

I feel stupid, obvious and far too large in my motherhood this morning, like a bull in a china shop.

I should eat.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre taints the taste of breakfast too.

Reality check…

my son is autistic.

He is a challenging little boy.

When he sets his mind to something, there is no veering off to the left.  Or to the right.

All surrounding souls must be singularly focused on the boy’s immediate goal, or all hell breaks loose.

I know this.  I do.

And the little boy is in the habit of making demands.

And the grown-ups are in the habit of complying whenever possible, practical, and sensible.

Life is more peaceful that way.

But sometimes, like this morning, the demands are too much, too desperate, and too rigid.

So I can’t comply.  Not completely.  Not immediately.

I have to assert my free will, so I know I still have it.

I have to confirm that I am still a grown-up, capable, on some level, of determining my own fate.

For the sake of my sanity, I did this stupid thing and now the analysis of it will rob me of the sanity I was trying to protect.

It sounds so dumb.

And no matter how hard this is for me, it’s harder for him.

But my sweet little boy is now upstairs, laughing, and I am here dissecting myself to tiny bits.

How is it that he recovers so much more quickly from the ogre sighting?

Is it easier to face the ogre than to be the ogre?

It must be.

Thank God my mom is babysitting today.

I need a break.

I wish I could leave my ogre somewhere for a while too.


Happy Sunday.

P.S.  Husband has somehow talked me into seeing TRON: Legacy today.  I have low expectations.  Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.  And I can get through two hours of just about anything with the promise of Filippi’s afterward.  I love you, Filippi’s.  🙂  It has been too long.  Far too long.



My son’s school is a few miles from our house, on the outskirts of an undeveloped chunk of land.

When I drive away from there in the morning, I am frequently the only vehicle in the area.

Today, there was another car.  And it was black and white.

I know I put my foot on the brake when I turned right at the corner, but the cop said I never came to a full stop.

Probably true, but you know my car issues with the boy.  I’m conditioned to keep moving.

And on a basically deserted street, surrounded by open fields and unfinished roads?

Yeah, I’m probably going to take the corner, if no one protests.

When I was pulled over, I had my headset on and was talking to my friend’s husband on the phone.

Oddly enough, he was telling me about his own strange experience on the road today.

I had to cut him short.

Note to Joel:  I still need the end of that story.

The worst part about this was the embarrassment of trying to find my paperwork in the cavernous pit I call a purse.

I apologized for that about seven times.  I don’t think the cop was too impressed with me.

Note to self:  clean out the freaking purse.  And the car too, for that matter.  I felt those police eyes on the half eaten HoHos in my son’s drink holder.

He gave me the ticket and walked back to his cruiser.

I sat and contemplated whether or not I had my thoughts collected enough to drive off without further incident.

I did and I left.

I called my friend and gave her the details her husband didn’t have.

She was just as mortified as I when I told her about the fine, a whopping $450 dollars.  Right before Christmas.  Ugh.

Note to everyone: don’t roll through right turns in California unless you’re sure the light is green, because you can’t afford it.

After we hung up, I got a little teary and started down the self-loathing-I’m-such-a-loser spiral.

I haven’t been pulled over in maybe ten years.  (Not legitimately anyway, but that’s another annoying story.)

Husband wouldn’t answer his work number for a few more minutes, so I called another friend and tried to reach my brother too.

Neither were available to hear my woes.

Left with no vent, I pulled myself back from the whole thing a bit and tried to figure out what about it made me feel so stupid.

I concluded it was the state of my purse and car much more than my failure to stop at the light.

Maybe that’s a self-indulgent concern, but it’s the truth.

I was embarrassed by my portable chaos, in much the same way I am embarrassed for anyone to see the daily state of my home.

I’ll be tidying up for the holidays, of course, but now I’ve got $450 reasons to change my habits for good.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that one of my son’s vocabulary words this week is “slob?”

Don’t answer that.

Now, get a load of Jack.

Day Ten 2010 Pumpkin Demise

Happy Wednesday!


4:00 a.m.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. a few days ago and thought I was going to die.

I have this issue with my left arm.   When I sleep in the wrong position, it goes numb.

I’ve already talked to my doctor about it and there are things that I can do to avoid pinching the nerve – lose some weight, wear a better bra during the day, use a different pillow at night, etc.

I did the easy ones and I’m working on the others.

The problem is, when I wake from this at 4 o’clock, I always think I’m having a heart attack.

Eventually, I do convince my head that I’m not actually dying, but my heart isn’t always as sure.

In those wee quiet hours, when my family is asleep and the house is dark, I always imagine the worst.

I hate it.  I hate that my a.m. brain goes to the darkest corners of my life to borrow bad fuel for my panic attack fire.

I think of the deaths of my friend and my father.  I remember my failures as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, even as a student.

I remember errors I made in my high school and college classes, stupid things I did to thwart my own education, and stuff I didn’t figure out until it was way too humiliatingly late.

I was late to the game a lot.  Late.  To the game.  A lot.

And at 4:00 a.m., I cry because of it.

Occasionally, my husband stirs and distracts me for a brief moment with some night terror of his own.  I guess that’s the hour when bad dreams hit our house.

Last night, I recalled (and was humiliated anew) by an incident from my 12th grade drama class.

It’s too ridiculous to explain in detail.  The short version is that the teacher asked me to summarize a play she had assigned a few days before.

She wanted me to start the discussion in class that day.

Unfortunately, I never read the play, so needless to say, I didn’t do very well with the summary.

To mask my stuidity, I even foolishly dared to tell of a scene from the book to enliven my description, only the scene I recalled was from the movie and wasn’t even in the book.

Epic fail.

There was such disappointment in my drama teacher’s face.  I think she really liked me until that moment.

Twenty-five years have passed, and it still embarrasses me to think of it.

At 4:00 a.m., it makes me panic.

And in college – oh brother – what an idiot I was.

I took Astronomy at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.  Bad move.  Not my favorite subject.  Not my favorite time of the day.  Lethal combo.

I fell asleep almost every time I went.

My friends took the class with me and helped me to stay awake now and then, but mostly I missed everything.

When it came time to take the final, I was totally stumped.

Rather than kill myself trying to come up with answers I knew weren’t in my head, I wrote a note to the teacher on my exam paper.

I apologized for failing the test, mentioned that I was a theater major and said I hoped he would come to a play sometime.

I strolled to the front of the class, got behind a few other students and added my unfinished test to the pile.

Since there were other kids behind me, I assumed my test would sink below some others so I could skulk out of the room without incident.


The instructor read my note before I’d gotten ten feet from him.  Then he said my name.  I turned to see a look of totally exasperated disappointment.  He shook his head at me.

Humiliation.  Red hot cheeks.  Couldn’t get away fast enough.  What was I thinking?!

At 4:00 a.m., that teacher’s face appears right in front of mine and makes me panic.  PANIC.

It sucks.

I hate for people to know how dumb I am.

And by “people,” I mean me.

I hate to know how dumb I am.

I hate to know it at 4:00 a.m. because it makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack.


Don’t know what else to say.

Happy Thursday.

P.S.  Oh, and by the way, if you absolutely MUST know, the play was Anna and the King of Siam.

P.P.S. Today, I look like my mom.  (Ignore the red eyes.)

And my dad.

And myself too.


#13 – Things I sorta already knew…

but learned again this month:

  1. If you don’t have giant bandaids, you can use a bandana to tie a kotex to your husband’s hand when he burns his skin late at night and wants to protect it while he sleeps.
  2. If you need a new patio table, one will magically appear at your front door.  Behind it, you will find giant birthday cupcakes (see pic) and a card from a visiting (and quite spectacular) friend.  Thank you, Christine!
  3. If you accidentally toss a heap of lantana clippings into the blue bin instead of the green bin, you will be really upset with yourself when you also pour a container full of broken bottles, dented cans and wet cardboard in on top of them.  Dumb.  Dirty.  Tedious and icky to correct.
  4. If you don’t write something on your blog at least five days a week, you will forget how and your drafts will threaten to outnumber your published pieces.
  5. If you really need a break from the house and long to indulge in a little guilt-free impulse shopping, a friend will suddenly appear with an Anthropologie gift card for your birthday.  Thank you, SarahHUHlita!
  6. Everyone should have three moms.  😀 😀 😀
  7. If you sign up for every restaurant e-club out there, you will get a lot of free meals around your birthday.
  8. The little boy does better with pictures.  For everything.
  9. You can’t finish your list unless you take a cheerios break when you get to number nine.
  10. Sitting in commute traffic sucks even more for a low blood sugar autistic seven-year-old than it does for me.  “No zero.  No zero.  Yes sixty.”
  11. Oil covered wildlife is sad and wrong and makes me teary.  (Don’t look, mom.)
  12. I want to see Toy Story 3 more than my child does.
  13. If you are patient enough, you will realize that the odd looking tomato in the corner is actually a yellow heirloom variety and not a red one gone wrong.
  14. If you are smart enough, you will take your salt shaker into the yard, eat the yellow tomato right from the vine, and feel more privileged than any diner who ever lived.
  15. Support for Obama will wax and wane, but I will always believe that he is a good man who is trying very hard to do what’s best.
  16. If you keep forgetting to take your child for a haircut, the hair will not stop growing to wait for you.
  17. You don’t have to pile into the car to entertain your kid.  Sometimes, riding a scooter to the park around the corner is the best thing ever.  Really, ever.


Quickie before the weekend

The moms are in town – husband’s and mine – so probably not a lot of chance to write in the next few days.

There will likely be a trip (or two) to See’s Candies.

Husband’s brother and family will join us for Sunday lunch.

Cupcakes will probably happen.  And brie might appear.

Thought I’d scribble off a quick post this afternoon before I try to whip the house in shape.

Can’t let all these people who love us know that we’re actually filthy dirty pigs.  Ha!

The IEP meeting is over.

Woohoo!  😀

I stand by my assertion that it is as much a privilege as it is drudgery, but I had to fight to keep that in mind considering the unreliable cycling of the A/C today.

Eight bodies, small room, only so much oxygen, you know?

Everyone was very prepared and got right down to business.  I was impressed.  IEP’s don’t always go that way.

Last year’s meeting was an exercise in social torture for everyone involved!  😦

We were directed by the district to decide as a team during the meeting whether or not to move my son back to his old school.

Everyone went through the paces of goal setting, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but no one ever mentioned that elephant in the room.

I finally had to say it.  To the entire group.  Including to the teacher we didn’t like.

She got very quiet and later told me she was extremely upset that we wanted to pull him from her class.

To this day, I regret not making that decision more quietly and informing her alone.  Should have gone with my gut.

Of course, if I’d done that, he’d never have been in her class in the first place.

That meeting must have sucked for her.

But, the bottom line is that her classroom sucked for my son.  He was more at risk there than he has been anywhere.

I took him home right after that IEP meeting, in the middle of the school day, and I never made him go back.

Today’s meeting was much better.  🙂  Everyone had the same things in mind.

Each member of the team wrote a couple of great goals and addressed all of my concerns.

My comments and questions were received well and incorporated immediately.

It really couldn’t have gone any better this time.  😀

The big let down for all parents this year is the impending death of the district autism team.

Last night I attended a very heated meeting about phasing them out.  Suffice it to say, there were some extremely upset parents in attendance.

I’m not thrilled about it myself, but what can you do?  There simply is not enough money in the budget to buy everything we want for our kids.  That’s just a cold, hard reality.

The autism team was painted way too thin anyway.  The district’s autistic community has grown over 300% in the last ten years.  Something had to change.

I’m not even sure that doubling the team size would have helped and there definitely wasn’t money for that.

It’s truly a shame that these highly skilled individuals will not be available to provide social services and behavioral interventions like they have in the past.  They were very instrumental in addressing my son’s behavior issues in Kindergarten.  I will be forever grateful.

I am sad that we won’t have the group to fall back on should he experience another tumultuous time in his schooling.  The plan is to milk their skills in the next several months and upload them to every other teacher and staff member in the district.  Many of the parents see this as a ridiculous gesture to buy our silence, but I actually think this cross-training is way over due and extremely important.

My kid’s social skill and behavioral needs will still be addressed.  We certainly didn’t omit any goals in those areas from his IEP, but the responsibility for implementing them will fall on the teacher for the most part.  That’s tough.  Teachers already do so much.

My son will still have a one-to-one aide for all times of the day when he is transitioning from one task to another, using the restroom, going to lunch and recess, etc.  He will have the aide for worktable activities too, but he will be sharing her with one to two other students at that time.  That’s what is currently in place now and it seems to work.

At my request, we also added language to the IEP to ensure that my son will never be allowed to leave the classroom without adult supervision.  Certainly, this is a commitment the school makes very naturally right now.  He is still just a baby really, but as he gets older and appears more independent and mature, we can see the need to have that commitment in writing.

Whew!  Didn’t mean to bore you with the nitty gritty.  If you’ve read this far, you deserve something fun to end your day.

Go here to visit one of my favorite bloggers for a little chuckle-chortle.

Thanks for listening!

Here’s my latest effort to get a candid shot of my son:

Have a great weekend!


A belated apology

Thirteen years ago, my big brother and his wife were expecting a baby.

One day, I made a careless comment to them and I have regretted it ever since.

I joked about how brainy the two of them were and I suggested that their child would probably be an idiot savant.

I meant it as a sort of compliment I guess, but it didn’t come out that way and as I type it now, it seems even worse.

Neither of them said much in response, but instinct told me I had offended them with my ill planned, poorly chosen words.

More than a decade has passed and now I am raising an autistic child.

I sort of think God signed me up for the ultimate in peer sensitivity training.

The term “idiot savant” has become offensive to me, but it spins around in my head because of that comment I made.

My son’s I.Q. is lower than average, but I don’t believe it accurately reflects his capacity for learning.

He’s a bright seven-year-old who attacks a page of math problems with ease.

He’s creative and resourceful and he plays actual songs on the giant outdoor xylophone at the local park.

The other kids mostly just swing the big mallet to bonk the bars with no rhythm whatsoever.

Is my son a savant?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  Time may tell us for sure.  He is very good at a lot of different stuff, but I don’t see a virtuoso in anything (yet).

Is my son an idiot?  No, absolutely not.  That, I can say with unwavering conviction, backed by healthy skepticism of “standardized” testing.

My son is a bright little boy with amazing potential, but he doesn’t do well on those tests.  (I don’t either for that matter.)

I don’t believe the term “idiot” is even widely used anymore, but there are dozens of other unpleasant terms used to describe kids like my son, kids our society doesn’t fully understand.

The fact of the matter is, we’re hellbent on labels and categories.  Our fear of the unknown is palpable and crippling, so we have devised a bunch of subjective measures to help sift us into little boxes.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

My nephew is an amazing, bright, intellectually gifted kid and he has none of the neurological challenges that face my own little boy.  I love them both with all my heart.

Maybe I just needed to say that today.  And I needed to tell my nephew’s parents that I’m sorry for my comment.  I really am.

I’ve been thinking about it for thirteen years and don’t know why I didn’t bring it up before.

I hope you both can forgive me.