Category Archives: Parenting

Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.

 

 

 

Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Autism, Fun, Interesting, kids, Life, marriage, Memories, Parenting, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mad Dash

Every year at the end of the year, I feel this crazy mad-dash urge to get stuff done before the kids are out of school. It’s a little less this year than it has been in the past because, honestly, my kids are a bigger help this year than they have been before. I would love summer if not for the constant bickering. Hopefully, oldest child will find a job and that’ll cut down on some of the bickering if only because they can’t bicker if they aren’t in the same room! There is zero chance of me getting the first draft done in three days (but it won’t be a whole lot longer as my zero was really fleshed out for me) so I’m not going to beat myself up over that. I am going to take a few hours and watch all the things I can’t watch when the kids are home. The oldest doesn’t like anything scary and the youngest is 11 so there are limits.

I don’t know that I have goals for the kids but I do want to take everything out of the little’s room and put it back together, weeding out the stuff that he has no use for and won’t do anything with. Some time this summer we’ll do a yard sale, whether it’s during the big one the neighborhood does or on our own, either way. We’ll spend some time in the woods a few times a week, get in the water as often as possible, and hopefully, enjoy the summer or at least not be miserable. It’d be hard to be worse than last summer so … yeah.

In not summer things: I’m struggling a little this weekend especially because my zero drafts always went direct to my dad for a plot check before I moved on to the next phase of my writing. Bear Ridge isn’t the first book without him as Demonborn was written when he was really too sick and I’d only given him a copy of it a few weeks before he died. So Bear Ridge is the second book I’ve written without him and I’m having a bit of a sulk about that. Honestly, he was really my only cheerleader and there’s just a big hole there now. I didn’t have anyone to celebrate over lunch or breakfast when I typed The End on the zero draft nor will I when I turn in the book. So I’m having a bit of a sulk about that too.

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So proud, I’m about to burst

I need to be a little bit braggy right now. My oldest kid has always been a ham, relishing in the spotlight (he is definitely his granddaddy’s grandson!). From the first moment that it was an option, he’s been on the stage. Right now, it’s high school productions but he is always amazing at it. I know, I’m his mom, I have to say that but really, it’s true. He gets a little annoyed sometimes about always being the comic relief type characters (Roger in Grease, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, and now Willard in Footloose) but he keeps getting that role because he’s so damn good at it (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to get pantsed or thrown across the stage or use a plunger like a microphone).

Last night was the opening night for Footloose. I was a little confused how they’d take that particular movie and make it a musical but it actually really works well – fun script! My kid had the entire theater in stitches especially when his character is trying (and failing spectacularly) to dance. It doesn’t hurt that he’s built like Jack Skellington, all limber and lanky which can either be an awkward jumble or a high kick to beat all high kicks. His physicality is just amazing and he’s downright fearless. I want to be more like him when I grow up.

He can do the real drama too – he was Poe in an Evening With Poe, doing The Raven and absolutely floored me (and a lot of other people). I can’t wait to see what this kid is doing ten years from now. The best way I can explain him is he’s like Danny Kaye and Jeff Goldblum in one body and it really seems like he was just born knowing how to fall in the craziest way possible. At least now, he doesn’t hurt himself when he does it.

If my husband gets a good clip of tomorrow night’s performance, maybe I can talk the kid into letting me share it because he really is crazy awesome. I know I wasn’t the only one laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.

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I Peopled Again

Tekko 2018

Sort of. I didn’t meet any celebrities or get anything signed but the family and I went to Tekko over the weekend. Read about most of it over at The Geek Girl Project. We had a really great time. My anxiety was behaving itself and I think I only had one little minute of tension that I thought was going to bloom but the Litany came to the rescue and all was well again. My RA however was not so kind.

I was on my feet most of the day and, even with my cane (which actually got complimented a couple of times), I was really struggling by the end of the day. I say the end of the day but we were only there until about 3:30 or so. We were there for about 6 hours and I’m still paying for it today. Absolutely worth it!

The kids had a blast, I had a blast, I’m not sure about the husband but he must have been having at least an ok time as he went back the next day with the older child so the older child could go to some panels which we didn’t get to do on Saturday. Next year I want to try and see some panels, especially if they are similar in nature to this year’s panels. The one I’m most upset about missing though was an entire panel on cosplaying with chronic pain.

Part of this convention was a happy birthday to me sort of thing and I bought a few things with my birthday money – I probably don’t need any more art or a cute little dragon friend but birthdays aren’t just for things a mama needs. Plus, I think I found my new favorite artist. Listening to her talk about color choice and characterisation was interesting and awesome. Definitely a kindred mind where that sort of thing goes where visual art is concerned. If you get a chance, you should check her out – her Jareth was what I could not leave without: Kaysha Siemens. And I found the artist that did the mystical Nicodemus type rat my husband brought me home the last time they went! I need to get a few more frames and reorganize my wall now.

One thing I noticed that while I understood, it made me very sad, when I was looking at the cute little dragon creatures, the artist had a prepared speech about why they cost what they do, the time it takes to make them, etc. I should have said something then about not needing to explain that but just because I get it doesn’t mean the next person will. It’s just a shame people don’t value art and books the way they do their fancy over sugared coffees.

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Filed under Convention, Event, Geek, Parenting, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Just a smattering of days

That’s all I have left of quiet until August. I become accustomed to being by myself for the majority of days during the school year. I come to enjoy it – the freedom to get stuff done without the constant Mama Mama Mama. I adore my kids and, even better, I do actually like them. I’m just never really ready for the end of school. Tuesday shall be watch all the scary movies day because one child is too young and the other is too squicked out by scary.

We’ll have fun this summer. We’ll play in the pool, hatch and catch a ton of Pokemon, hopefully, try new foods, and (for me) lose some more weight. We’ll make things and build things and learn things. We’ll have a grand old time together – we very nearly always do. They already know I’ll be working – both with the freelance and with my books – so I’m not so worried about that. I’ll get stuff done but I am going to miss the quiet and the freedom I have during the school year.

I say quiet but I don’t actually mean quiet as there is always noise in my house as I cannot abide silence. But it’s noise that doesn’t require any action on my part – no responses required at all in fact – so it feels like quiet anyway.

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Sometimes People Suck

I wish I had not gone on Facebook instead of adding a few more words to Crow Queen. I wish I hadn’t been struck by my own stupid curiosity to see what made one of the writers I admire and respect so totally pissed off. Alas, I did. Now I’m going to share my pissed off, Jim Hines‘s pissed off, and some outside observer’s absolute idiocy. Because this woman who wrote this thing has NO CLUE about what she writes.

Actually, Hines sums it up better than I can. Read his response to a terrible woman who has no clue here. (and this way, I don’t have to link to the actual article! Bonus for me!)

I just want to add that I have children, one of whom is officially autistic and currently struggling to define what that is for himself. He comes home from school and tells me that autism isn’t an illness which tells me that someone at school is telling him that it is. He is working on finding stims that don’t scare the new puppy or make other kids stare. He is learning to speak and act neurotypical because he wants to. I’m of two minds on that – on one hand, he is awesome but on the other, like speaking French in Paris, speaking NT certainly will help him in life.

My situation is not terrible, in fact, my life is pretty freaking awesome. My kids are a large part of why that is. We learn to work around things, find different ways to get to the same place, and help my son navigate a world with people like this horrible woman in it. Maybe sometimes we have to take the longer or rockier path but who doesn’t sometimes?

I have been told, more than once, that my kid isn’t autistic enough for me to understand what other people go through. They’re sort of right, I guess. His autism presents in a manner that I can understand and even translate. I know how lucky we are for that. I also know that Carly Fleischmann found her own way. Naoki Higashida found his own way. Others find their own ways of communicating all the time. Different is not less. I think some people need to fall down off their very high rocking horse (because it isn’t a real horse when you aren’t actually personally involved in the situation).

Now I’m going to get back to the words I need to write today.

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Aging

I have no problem at all with my aging – in fact, I look forward to most of it – but I struggle a great deal with my kids getting older. In a few short hours, my baby will hit the double digits. I no longer have an elementary school aged child! My older child is learning to drive and my baby is headed for middle school. So why on earth do I not have gray hair yet?!? I have a few, yes, but not enough to do anything fun with!

Time is weird and I don’t like it. Time needs to slow down before I get whiplash! It doesn’t feel like that long ago that my baby came into this world, all 10 pounds 6 of him and now he’s about to be 10. If you listened to him though, you’d think he was about to be 30. He has his whole life plotted out – I really hope he meets a girl who agrees to go along with it – two kids, a farm (in the middle of a city), and a pretty wife. Apparently, they’re all going to stay with my husband and I while he builds their house. He never fails to amuse me.

I love my kids but I am increasingly ready for school to be back in session. I know my teacher friends aren’t quite there yet but my boys do so much better with each other when they aren’t together all the time. That is the one downside of having such a big age gap.

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Mother’s Day

my mom and me

My mom and me

Happy Mothers Day to all the mamas out there!

For me, today is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, motherhood is pretty much my favorite thing ever. Even at the worst of it, I wouldn’t trade it for all the coffee, all the money, and all the Doctors in a row. My boys aren’t my whole world but they make my whole world better. On the other hand, thinking of moms makes me miss my mom. A lot. She never got to meet my boys or impart her motherly wisdom or even just commiserate with me over teething, tantrums, or angsty teenagers. She never got to see me succeed at pretty much anything. She never got to know how awesome these two boys of mine are.

I do have older women in my life who I should probably consider to be maternal influences but I don’t. I can’t. It’s not the same. I haven’t called anyone mom since she died – not even a slip with a favorite teacher as happened in my very young years. My mom and I didn’t have a conventional mother/daughter relationship which was probably to our benefit as we got to be bffs too for a few years before she died. Most daughters don’t get to do that until they’re mothers themselves so, I should count myself lucky to have had that experience at all. I’m honestly glad we didn’t have the stress-filled, argumentative relationship so many teenage girls have with their mothers. We parted on good terms, even if it broke my heart. I was sixteen so, for me, there was no chance at all that someone could step in and try to fill that particular hole in my life. I don’t want it filled. It isn’t empty.

Me and my boys

Me and my boys (several years ago)

As far as my own kids go – they’re a lot of fun. Both of them are bright, funny, and talented. They’re even really well behaved (if occasionally full of teenagery attitude). I really lucked out in that department – I love my kids but even better, I really like them too. I know someday they’ll grow up, find spouses to settle down with, and discover the joy of parenting. I hope I can be around to see it. I always knew I was supposed to be a mom and I think it suits me pretty well.

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IEP Season

Every year about this time, parents of special ed or gifted kids start re-reading old IEPs, Googling measurable goals, and making lists of questions for the annual meeting about the modifications to their child’s education plan. I’ve been doing this for a very long time but I always get nervous anyway. So far, knock on wood, I’ve been very lucky and only had one cantankerous meeting that, because I was prepared wasn’t actually an issue at all in the end.

I’m at the advantage because there aren’t many services my son needs – some flexibility in the classroom when he needs to stand up or wiggle a bit, a safe place to decompress if he is having a really bad day, and a teacher who isn’t a “quiet hands” sort of teacher who redirects an obnoxious stim rather than scolding him for it. A lot of families I know need a whole lot more than that and it’s a fight for them in ways I’ve never had to deal with.

I’ve been dealing with IEPs for a long time, I even did a weekend seminar/class to be better able to deal with them not just for my own kids but for the families I’ve come across with my support group. I think when you know what you’re dealing with – the language, the pretty standard format, and very few deviations from the standard protocol, you’re able to go into that meeting with confidence. During the Wrightslaw seminar (if they are in your area and you deal with IEPs or 504s it’s worth the time and money to go – you will never regret it) they talk a lot about separating your emotions to be a better advocate for your child and I’ve never gotten better advice. If you leave your emotions at the door, it’s a lot easier to work with the give and take there has to be in a situation like this.

For me, this year was a bit more fraught than usual as we’re transitioning toward middle school and that’s an enormous change. There are so many new things to worry about and so many changes and I’ve heard so many horror stories that all begin in middle school. Fortunately, I have a great team and very little was changed from last year so we’ll just have to see how it goes. The best part of an IEP is that we can always change it if we need to. If what we have put together doesn’t work in practice, we can reconvene and try again. Hopefully we won’t have to but it’s nice to know we can. Now I can get back to my normal work writing stories and such now. Relief is the word of the day.

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Filed under Autism, education, Parenting

All the Acronyms

My life is full of acronyms: ASD, IEP, IDEA, SPD, and they’re all quite useful, if you know how to work within the system. Unfortunately not everyone does and the system makes it as difficult as possible to get anything done. I am constantly surprised by how easy I’ve had it. I’ve never had a contentious IEP meeting. We’ve had some teachers who weren’t suited to dealing with my kids but honestly, super easy go of things and I am so very grateful for that.

But apparently my situation is more unusual than it should be. I’ve heard horror stories at my support groups (online and real life) about schools that refuse to do what they’re supposed to do. My kids have it easy because I know the vernacular, the law, and how to talk to people and because I don’t work a standard job, I have the availability to be at meetings, to pester with phone calls, and touch base with email. It makes me wonder how many kids slip through the cracks because their parents do have jobs and can’t be on top of the school all the time or fight tooth and nail to get the evaluations and services their kids need.

The system should not be so difficult to navigate and the plan should not be so difficult to enforce as it can be. Yes, budgets must be taken into account and parents need to be reasonable too but not at the cost of the child’s education. We are losing some bright minds along the way by treating them like problem children or behavior issues rather than people and that’s got to stop. I don’t have any answers or solutions but it all makes me so sad to see.

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Filed under Autism, kids, Life, Parenting