Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Ways to Engage Reid over Break

1. Take a bike ride

2. Go for an ice cream treat

3. Have talk time

4. Play flashlight tag

5. Play charades

6. Decorate the Christmas Tree

7. Do a Trampoline Show

8. Cook together - cookies, pancakes, roasted potatoes; let Reid choose

9. Play a board game

10. Watch his favorite program together then your favorite program together

I'll confess to not writing this myself. My mom did, anticipating her arrival in our home for Christmas. It means the world to me--and can lift me out of the deepest despair--that she puts her love for Reid into action. She values his role in family enough to invest the extra time, patience, and effort it takes to engage him in something other than tv viewing--the ultimate holiday cop out.

I can totally identify with the dread that came through in several comments to "Do Tell" a couple weeks ago. There is nothing restful about having to recreate the structure of his school day. If we slack off, we pay.

My mom also loves me and shows it with acts of service that relieve the burden of feeling like I have the kid "only a mother can love" at times. Especially times of increased expectations for hostessing and cooking and relaxing--all of which I enjoy--but have to measure against the pang in my gut that comes from neglecting my child's extensive needs and "program." Have you ever felt like a one-armed paper hanger...who's out of glue? I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm just saying he'll need help!

And because she's also an achiever, these came in a subsequent email:

11. Plan a Talent Show in which EVERYONE must participate.
12. Is the Country Club swim pool open? Hmmm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Reasons We Left the Midwest
(the second time, 1998)

10. we'd been to San Diego

9. freezing winters

8. humid summers

7. fresh food and wine

6. progressive thinking

5. outdoor recreational options year round

4. some job opportunities are just too good to refuse

3. happy, employed husbands make for happy, stay at home moms

2. mittens, hats, and snowpants present major sensory issues

1. no surf

I love Facebook! It thrills me to reconnect with high school friends and college sorority sisters and rekindle memories at odd times of day. This one's for you Laura Battles!

For those who don't know, Jim and I both grew up in the snow belt of the Midwest, Ohio; the beautiful, more-New England-than-New England, culturally sophisticated, East Coast suburbs of Cleveland, to be specific. I'm totally serious. If you've been to Chagrin Falls, you know what I mean. If you haven't, then you have no room to talk. You must see it yourself, preferably in fall foliage.

In any case, having been there done that, we decided over a champagne toast to move to New York City right after our honeymoon. It was grand. The primary motivation for that first departure from the heartland was adventure.

A couple rungs farther up the corporate ladder, we found ourselves driving cross country to wild and crazy California. I held a stereotypical expectation that was fuzzy and not altogether flattering. Nonetheless, what's not to like?

Fast Forward 7 years. With 2 year old twins, Jim said "yes" to another offer that was too-good-to-be-true. I was crooning, "Chicago, Chicago...it's my kinda town" for weeks anticipating the joy of bringing up our children with the same Midwestern values and four seasons that we'd known. We had an idyllic house with a wrap around porch, the best climbing tree on the block, exceptional neighbors and no fences! It was grand, in a totally different way.

But, corporate America is corporate America, and relocation packages were being handed out liberally. One frostbitten January night I was sewing curtains in the midnight oil. Jim came in the door and said as tenderly as ever, "You might not want to buy any more fabric." That October, a year to the day, we left the Midwest again for Silicon Valley.

This list reflects what we've come to love about California. It is an abridged version compared to what the Travel and Tourism Commission recently garnered from Jim.

Come visit. There is always room at our inn.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Trampoline Tricks

10. daffy

9. can can

8. pike

7. cannonball

6. emergency stop

5. cross crawl

4. running elmo

3. 480

2. dance dance revolution Kat style

1. deadman drop

Call it what you will: brainwork, proprioception, occupational threapy, sensory integration, pure fun! We are so glad we bought this used trampoline off Craig's list for a pittance. Having gone through 3 or 4 of the small personal ones, we now wonder how we lived without this large family-size one. (Well, I guess we're all growing in size.)

Currently, it is required before homework, before a video, before dinner, pretty much before anything. Something about the way Kat calls them, "knee drop: GO!" makes the tricks even more compelling. Novelty and routine in perfect balance, like peanut btter and chocolate in a Reese's.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Do Tell!

It's me again, wanting to know your innermost thoughts.

The holidays are upon us with all they entail. I thought it was genius to get our tree up while the in-laws were still here to help. Not sure they agreed but, it did set the stage for an evening of fireside charades and flute serenades. Everyone was supposed to put on 10 ornaments before they left the room. Let's just say, compliance was an issue.

Nonetheless, a record was set; we were decorated to the hilt before the calendar turned to December. Only the most observant neighbors will notice the odd strand of blinking lights on the balcony; only Allie knows how to regulate the highest string of tree lights so they do not strobe. I love that she turns them on every morning before I come down.

You first this Friday...

Is there something you dread about the holiday season?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

31-derful Options

Leaving the psychiatrist's office with a new game plan (or rather the same one that I will follow more closely this time), Reid and I were early arrivals at Allie's bus stop. I decided to spring for a cookie, cinnamon roll, and iced mocha at the neighborhood bakery there. On familiar turf with the rarity of time to spare, the cloud lifted.

A song lyric rang through my mind...it's gonna be alright....

"Reid, who sings that song? It's gonna be...," I asked the master dj. Quicker than a Shazam app, he spouted back, "Sara Groves! It's on Add to the Beauty," then proceeded to sing the rest of the album. Just like Toucan Sam, he always knows.

Hope springs eternal. As the good doc offered, "If this doesn't work, I have 31 others we can try." Hmmm...that brings to mind another foundational hymn to bear in mind:

Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness.
I dare not trust in (doctors or meds),
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

Sing it with me now

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Therapist at Work

I've mentioned that it's been a rough week. It's still raw, but if I wait to summarize it will lack the true grit that I highly esteem.

We're crawling out from under a train wreck of hormones, medication changes, and burgeoning angst. It came to a head last Monday afternoon; Day 8 of what we will now call "the wrong medicine" blew up in all of our faces. Poor Reid landed off the bus in a sobbing pile on our living room loveseat. My heart broke as all he could choke out was, "mommy...i missed the bus...."

That was only the start of the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. I could tell the whole eight hours must have been coursing through his mind. What just happened?...How did i get here?...What have I done?...I am so glad to be home... I can't do this anymore...all coming out in rare tears from this indefatiguable, exuberant boy with stamina, courage and joy that knows know bounds. He couldn't win over the chemical warfare in his already out of sync body.

I knew most of what had transpired, thanks to a call from school--uncharacteristic aggression, a restraint, a frustrated bus aide yelling reprimands in a German accent--but of course I wasn't there. Push had come to shove at a school where they don't dance around lines in the sand once they're drawn. I'd only witnessed the beginning at 7:07 that morning:

A substitute driver stuck strictly to his time chart and drove away from our open garage door. In my pajamas and Kat's Beetle (mine in the shop), we chased him down to the next pick up in Del Mar. I can't say for sure if he saw my frizzy bedhead as I stood waving frantically in my bright orange paisley flannel bottoms, no bra and a t-shirt, but I felt hard to miss. He drove off AGAIN as Reid zipped up his backpack with one foot on the running board.

Appalled, I joked through the surging adrenaline, "OMG! I can't believe this guy. The nerve. HA! We are gonna catch that bus!" In good spirits taking it in stride, Reid said, "Mom at Austin's house I am going to get out the fast way! My backpack is ready. I'm right on target." At the off ramp of the 56 in Carmel Valley now (still closer than driving to school which is 30 minutes away), I pulled up next to the bus and motioned in an angry charade that he better wait this time. The guy was close to comatose which gave me that sickening feeling of negligence that I even put my kid in his charge. How did we get here?

Back in the brokenhearted moment I cried with Reid, "Oh baby, it's not our fault. It's the wrong medicine. We know that now. I am SO sorry. No more of it. You can stay home tomorrow. We will figure this out." I am so sorry, so very sorry. How can I make it right. The tears are still right here. How can I spare him this? Confusion. Remorse. Out of control. Haywire.

By 4:30 as I glanced out the back window from my piano lesson to see him throwing sand at the hedge, it seemed like improvement. A minor offense at this point and maybe an effective way to vent the stress of the day. I called to him as usual, "your turn with Angela now, Reid."

No reply. Did I see him come in? Check upstairs. Oscar's can? One more loop. "Jim, Reid's gone." In quick reply, all five of us--Kat, Allie, and Angela in heels, fanned out calling "Reid, say 'here i am' Reeeid!

Allie and Kat to the neighbors who have Apple TV. Not there.

Jim up the street on a bike to ones who own Sound of Music.

Finally over the back fence we heard him answer my plea, "here i am" A second reply several minutes later enabled Jim to zero in on him in the cul de sac
below our back enbankment.

Long story short, we urged his distraught body home having averted any trespassing violation. He was crying again in his lower bunk, aware that dad was angry. Now poor Angela, the music therapist cum piano teacher cum friend of the family cum fellow sojourner in the way, would have to pick up the pieces and salvage the remainder of their session. (Had she been a stickler for time, it would have been over.)

She had already earned her keep with Allie in the foyer empathizing over sibling memories of her brother with Angelman syndrome. She has been there! And is there for each of us in unique ways. She's comfortable enough in our house and was going to have better luck at this point than any of us. So, without words, she went into his room to work her therapeutic magic. The rest of us just listened and learned through the walls.

"Reid, Kingsmen is tonight. the band needs you. you're such an important part of the band. we need to practice that new song. do you think i could sing you part of it to you?" She began to sing the Beatles song they're preparing, leaving out key words which he filled in. Then suggesting that maybe it would sound better with the piano downstairs, they rallied to the bench. Order restored for the time being.

Crouched in the living room praying in a private language for peace, wisdom, some end to this... I realized they'd switched gears and were singing Sara Groves' "He's Always Been Faithful."

He has always been faithful. As I tuned in, I realized we were both getting the therapy. Angela has an intuitive way of picking songs that scratch the itch and allow the Spirit to move through the music without agenda but with definite purpose.

Last week, she'd blessed me in a different way with a VIP ticket to the American Music Therapy Association conference. It was a thrill to be close enough to touch Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, The Soloist, hear him perform, and meet his sister the next morning. Steve Lopez spoke on the panel also (more to come on this experience). He recapped Mr. Ayer's progress since the time that the book and movie came out saying that he is still not on any medicine that would fix it or clear it all away. Lopez has learned to think in terms of recovery rather than cure. Recovery defined as learning about the condition and functioning with purpose.

Then the profound clincher that compelled me to borrow a pencil from my neighbor, "I like to think that the music is the medicine. The Walt Disney Hall is the hospital. And the musicians are the doctors."

Amen brother! That has been my experience too.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 1We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25

Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
1 Samuel 16:22-23

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Top 10 Tuesday

Kat's Top 10 Cooking Tips

10. Drizzle toasted sesame oil as a finishing oil over cooked vegetables

9. Crunchy stuff breakfast bowl: granola, yogurt, peanut butter, chopped fruit, a glob of each

8. Chopped shallots with tomatoes, lemon and herbs make a healthy homemade dressing sans oil

7. Pouch cook chicken or fish (no clean up, no oil, all-in-one succulent meal)

5. Anything goes in a salad

4. Sangria for the beach (load chopped fruit into a cheap boxed wine the night before and go!)

3. When in doubt, brine it

2. Read Laura Hall's blog: The Good Life

You've already heard how invaluable my niece, Kathryn, has made herself since moving in. She brined and cooked our best-ever Thanksgiving turkey so I may just let her repeat that recipe for Christmas. Wanting to share the wealth with you here.

"Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.
Proverbs 9:4-6

Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
Leviticus 2:12-14