Monday, August 28, 2006

Please Hold; Regularly Scheduled Blogging Will Resume Shortly

I know, I promised updates on 1) Abby, and 2) The Big Chicken Dinner.

UPDATE #1: Abby's doing fine, though still wearing the splint. She has a nasty, horrible bruise on her left thumb knuckle, and she lost so much skin that my knees buckle a little bit every time I change the bandage.

UPDATE #2a: We did go back out for Take 2 on the dinner a few nights after our ER adventure, but I never got around to writing about it because we've been packing, traveling, traveling more; now unpacking, doing laundry, ridding the house of two weeks worth of flying cat fur, restocking the bare cupboards with $326 worth of groceries, and getting the kids ready for their first day of school, which is the day after tomorrow!

UPDATE #2b: There were, in fact, oodles of noodles. They were good. Abby reports that "fried chicken rocks."

*looks forward to getting back into the regular routine and having more time to write, which should happen probably sometime around Halloween Christmas never*

*looks forward to continued shirkage of responsibilities and writing anyway*

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's Just Not A Vacation Until Someone Slams A Thumb In the Car Door

We made an innocent attempt to let the kids experience a family-style, southern-fried chicken dinner at a place that has not changed its menu or decor in 50 years.

Going to The Damsite Inn is a little like visiting Gramma's house for me, as I have fond memories of eating there as a kid. My kids were totally impressed when I told them that I had worked there between my freshman and sophomore years in college. I noted last night - with horror - that the waitresses still have to wear the same shapeless, awful, black polyester jumpers that were required in 1984. In spite of that distasteful memory, the place is family-friendly and I didn't feel like cooking last night. Life's too short not to dip into giant vats of grease now and again.

After an hour or so of struggling with the kids to comb their matted vacation hair and find clean clothes, we set off in search of mashed potatoes and buttermilk biscuits. We parked and started walking toward the restaurant, but then heard one of those sound combos that every parent dreads: car door "slam" followed by "AIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!"

We went inside long enough to collect an ice pack and to determine that Abby's pain was not going away, then set off to tour the local emergency room.

We were lucky. It was not busy by ER standards, and Abby managed to make it through triage, x-ray, assessment and bandaging in less than two hours. She was a great sport, posing for pictures between nurse and doctor appearances. She enjoyed the spotlight, despite her pain. She told the doctor the entire history of our summer vacation, beginning with our flight details, when asked, "So, what happened?"

Sam and Hannah were thrilled to watch Sponge Bob on the waiting room TV, and enjoyed some additional excitement as two sheriff's deputies walked in with a handcuffed prisoner in an orange jumpsuit. He also seemed to enjoy Sponge Bob.

Abby's thumb is not broken, but she is sporting a cool splint and calling her friends to tell them about her adventure. She has promised never to close another car door while gripping it by the edge. (Did I really never teach her that? Darwin Award for Mom.)

We had Happy Meals for dinner, complete with moody ambiance courtesy of the rental car's maplights and Radio Disney. Chicken Dinner Attempt #2 is scheduled for Friday.

We'll bring our own ice packs.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Open Query Regarding the Male Brain

Why is it that when a second floor shower leaks water onto a first floor dining room table, all the men in the house, none of whom are plumbers, scurry downstairs to the basement to diagnose the problem?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sublime Grandmother Moment

My mom loves life when her grandchildren come to visit. She fills a "grab bag" with little gifts that she collects throughout the year, and the kids get to choose something each night while we're here. They never tire of this tradition. They love their tiny stuffed animals, toy cars, wind-up fishing games, unusual rocks, and kazoos. Nonny always finds cool and interesting stuff.

There is nothing more entertaining than the sight of my mom sternly lecturing the kids about the inappropriateness of bathroom humor at the dinner table. She does this without any hint of irony, as they giggle uncontrollably over the repeated, loud "pppbbbbblllllltttt" sounds exploding from the Whoopee Cushions that she bought them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Biology Experiment

Can a vacationing 10 year-old boy survive for five consecutive days eating nothing but single-serving boxes of sugary cereal, such as Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops and Apple Jacks?

Yes. Yes he can.

UPDATE: Sam has demolished the 30-Pack, with sibling backup. But in an unexpected demonstration of his commitment to The Program, he has moved on, without complaint, to his grandparents' big box of Fiber One.

Monday, August 14, 2006

We Interrupt This Vacation

... for a long overdue review of last Thursday's Festival of Talent.

I’m afraid I’ve missed the moment on timely reporting of this event, but due to popular demand, I’m gonna write it anyway.

The 2006 Summer Oasis Festival of Talent lived up to its billing and then some. The music was musical, the magic tricks magical; comedy sketches were funny (sometimes unintentionally so) and Sam made sure that the show was exceptionally gassy.

It was clear by the time the second act hit the stage that this show was going to go far beyond its scheduled hour. Sam was listed ninth of 34 participants, so I counted myself among the luckier parents and enjoyed the first eight performances, including Dan’s guitar solo, Robin’s dance routine, Tyler’s comedy sketch and Robert’s performance of The Amazing Ring of Loops. When George took the stage and began his card trick, Sam peeked out from behind the curtain. He was next, did not appear to be nervous at all, and was obviously enjoying the show, so I relaxed. George reached the end of his card trick without achieving the intended amazing and mystical result, but was quietly yanked from the stage when he declared a “redo.”

The emcees didn’t get to finish announcing “And now, Sam will burp his ABC’s” before Sam approached the microphone and started in, with gusto. Slowly, he belched, carefully enunciating each disgusting letter. “W” was particularly impressive, both in length of utterance and depth of emission. He was not deterred at any point during his alphabet by the giggles and applause emanating from the audience. He made it all the way through, one letter at a time, like a seasoned performer confidently singing his signature ballad.

It. Was. Hilarious. I laughed so hard, I cried. Could barely breathe.

When Sam reached “Z,” the crowd went wild. Loud cheers and applause all around, and a standing ovation and “WOO HOO!!!” from his proud mother.

He stole the show, and he knew it.

After a few minutes basking in the glory of his moment, he sauntered offstage and back to the parents’ section to check in with me for the required post-performance high-five and maternal congratulations. He smirked, held his hand out, and deadpanned, “Mom. Pencil and paper.” When I explained to him that I wasn’t sure what he needed, he said, “Um, you might want my autograph.”

I couldn’t hand the pen over fast enough. He autographed my program. I will cherish it forever.

We left 90 minutes into the one hour show, in search of celebratory frozen treats. We missed Corey’s interpretation of Boulevard of Broken Dreams on the trumpet, one of twelve acts still awaiting time in the spotlight.

Sam reports that his post-show ice cream cone was awesome.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

We Are There Yet

I'm pleased to report that we have successfully accomplished the goal of arriving safely at Mom and Dad's place, after Friday's flight from Boston to Detroit, and Saturday's four hour drive from Ann Arbor to the lake in the northern woods.

For anyone planning to travel by air in the near future, I'm happy to report (and simultaneously, mildly alarmed) that airport security, even in Boston, was a breeze. Of course, anyone who has traveled with kids knows that even if x-ray inspections and strip searches don't muck up the travels, there are bound to be other challenges.

Friday, Flight Day

Airport Security: easy

Flight: on time

Number of return trips to rental car counter to obtain correct paperwork required for departure from rental car lot: 3

Amount of time elapsed between touchdown on runway and actual departure from airport, due to mind-numbing incompetence of employees of a reasonably priced but unbelievably laid-back car rental company that rhymes with "holler": 2 hours

Saturday, Day of the Dreaded Car Trip

Elapsed time between departure from my brother's house and Hannah's first "are we there yet?": 16 minutes

Total number (give or take five) of "are we there yets?": 37

Total Number of closed fist punches between occupants of the backseat: I don't know, I have learned to crank up the radio and face forward.

Number of caffeinated beverages consumed/required: Consumed: 8. Required: there is not enough caffeine in the world.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Late Summer Travels

We're going to Michigan tomorrow, to join Mom and Dad at the lake, and the kids are busily stuffing their backpacks with Barbies and Legos and colored pencils and Cheezits. All the essentials.

Flight is at noon. So with traffic, collapsing support beams in the tunnel, parking, airport security, kids, excessive toothpaste and hair gel in luggage...

*is hopeful that someday, vacation will be relaxing*

departure time is 8:15 AM.

I will report back with an "Are we there yet?" count.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Sam and I took a mother/son break today and went kayaking in our little town lake. I was highly conscious of the water snake population as I paddled through the lily pads. I figured if I just looked up and pretended that I had never seen a snake in Lake Winthrop, there was a slightly reduced chance that I would make an embarrassing girly scene including shrieking and flipping my boat, should a slithery reptile pop his head up out of the water and attack me.

Most commonly heard exclamation that came from behind me: "Mom! Wait up!"

No, I didn't see any snakes. I didn't say there weren't any. But, ya know. I was looking at the sky and trees and stuff.

Entertainment Announcement

Sam will be attending his last day of camp tomorrow. Kids and counselors are busy planning and preparing for a Camp Talent Show, to take place at 1:00 PM. Campers will sing, dance, rap, cartwheel, recite poetry, and presumably exhibit hard-earned summer camp skills such as profuse sweating and rapid-fire balloon tossing.

Sam will burp his ABC's.

Detailed review to follow.

UPDATE: I know, I know! I'm sorry! The review is late! But for now I'll just say that The Festival of Talent was spectacular. I promise I'll write a review worthy of its alphabetical gassiness.

UPDATED UPDATE: Please see the entry dated Tuesday, August 15, 2006 for the promised FoT review.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Best Summer Drink Ever


How is it possible that I never knew about these before?

3 oz. rum (not that I measure)
Juice of 1 lime
1 T sugar
Mint leaves (maybe 15)
A straw
Rubber bands (optional)

1) Use a fork (or a sharp knife or your teeth or a hammer) to mash up the mint leaves and release their minty goodness.

2) Throw mint into a tall glass along with the lime juice, sugar, and rum. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

3) Add ice, top off with seltzer.

4) Sluuuuurp (see, you need the straw) and smile until it's gone.

5) Pout and wonder why the mojitos are always gone.

6) Repeat.

Death and the Afterlife According to Sam, Abby and Hannah

So, we're driving home from the the lake, and instead of asking for an ice cream cone or complaining that her brother is pulling on her seatbelt, Abby lobs up this little beauty:

"Mom, do you believe in the afterlife?"

I blame the left turn I'm making for the delay in my response before asking, "Abby, where did you hear that word?"

Abby: My friend Marisa. So. Do you?

Me: Well, yes, actually. I visit with my grandparents sometimes while I'm sleeping.

Sam [deadpan]: I thought they were dead.

Me: Yes, Sam, they are. Nonny's mom died in 1983, then Poppy's dad died in 1986. Then Nonny's dad in 1987, and Poppy's mom stayed with us the longest. She died in 1992.

Sam [who still hasn't looked up from his Lego "Krusty Krab" restaurant]: So, then you were "fresh out"?

Me: Yep, fresh out. I always wished for one extra day with them so they could meet you guys. Dad was really lucky to have his Nana around until just last year.

Hannah: I miss Nana.

Abby: She's flying above us right now, Hannah!

Sam: Like in an airplane?

Abby: [exasperated, as only a 9 year-old sister can be]: No, Sam, you can't see her. She's invisible.

Sam [noticeably less monotone]: She's flying and she's invisible?

Hannah: Mommy, can we get ice cream?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

They're Not Broken

I woke up this morning to find that Jeff Meyerson had left a comment on an old blog entry (Sam's Secrets Revealed, May 4, 2006.) I started to reply to it in the comments section, but when I couldn't stop writing I decided to post it here.

Thanks, Jeff. As much as I love to dive into the information about autism that comes from books and docs and therapists, the best support and ideas invariably come from other parents and family members in this same predictably wobbly boat. We keep each other sane.

Jeff Meyerson said...

K - that is great (and thanks for letting us in on your blog).

There are a lot of similarities (and a few differences) between Sam & my 6 year old nephew, C.J.

When a 5 year old names the entire list of dinosaurs in an A-Z book from memory, some of them 15-20 letters long that you would have trouble pronouncing, you can't help but take notice.

He's also into: computers and computer games, counting in many foreign languages, trains, natural sciences (my sister has to keep getting him non fiction books from the library) and, it seems, something new every day.

And he's much better at relating to others than even a year ago.


I love these little guys.

It's amazing how kids with autism often have such similar interests and tendencies, but then there is also the saying that if you've met one child with autism, then you've met... one child with autism. They each have their own distinctive quirks and strengths and challenges, and these differences are often what confuse some of the -- hm, how shall I say this? -- less than ideal teachers. You know, the ones who say things like, "Oh, his problems are behavioral! He can't be autistic; he just made eye contact/told a joke/wrote a sentence." Many people still think of autism in the Kanner's Syndrome context only; non-verbal and rocking alone in a corner.

Ahem. Spectrum Disorder, people.

So many labels - Asperger's Syndrome, Non-Verbal Learning Disability, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specifed (PDD-NOS - say that three times fast), Kanner's Syndrome, Classic Autism.

If a child is evaluated by ten different professionals, he is likely to get ten different diagnoses. Internationally respected autism expert Tony Attwood (my hero) is in favor of doing away with all the labels and replacing them with one: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD.) The labels are confusing and misleading, and interpreted differently by different people. In a seminar he led several years ago, he spoke of all the different names all used to describe the same syndrome and the confusion that often results from this. He rattled them off and said "Many people ask me to define the differences between all these terms." Then, very dramatically, he said "and today you will learn... that the difference is..." (drumroll...) "the way they are spelled."

All the same thing. Just different levels of severity and functioning.

Jeff, Sam has also gone through most of the non-fiction books in the school library (many of them more than once) but he finally discovered fiction this year (4th grade) when he was introduced to the "Amber Brown" series. He made great strides in reading comprehension this year, thanks to a wonderful teacher and lots of patience from his first-rate 1:1 aide and all of his therapists. These guys do make progress, just at their own pace.

Sam has cycled through many areas of extreme special interest, including:

1) Trains (which, I'm sure, will forever be his first love. He got to drive(!) The Monorail at Disney World a couple of years ago. I'll never forget the look on his face. He was in his Happy Place.)

2) Shipwrecks (oh man, you wouldn't believe how many incredibly detailed Titanic pictures I have scattered around the house)

3) Tornadoes ("Mom, can we move to Tornado Alley?")

4) Computers (would stay on it all day if I didn't drag him away. Apple. Doesn't. Fall. Far.)

5) Rollercoasters (he has designed very elaborate and sophisticated rides on his computer)

6) Maps (he can tell me, in detail, exactly how to drive from Massachusetts to Michigan including highway names, landmarks, and time required to get from Point A to Point B)

7) Baseball (he's totally distracted while out in the field, but can slam the cover off the ball)

8) Drawing (his renditions of the SpongeBob characters are downright professional)

9) Weather (his school has a weather station and next year he'll get to work there if he wants to)

People with ASD are more successful in life if they can channel one or more of their interests into a career. This seems obvious, but often, they are steered away from these interests because they are so intensely obsessive about them, to the exclusion of other things. We have had great success when Sam's teachers have incorporated his preferred topics into his school day, either using special activities as a reward for getting his regular work done, or by allowing him to incorporate one of his interests into an assigned project, such as a social studies project or book report.

For example, his 4th grade teacher worked out a system where Sam was allowed to teach an art lesson every Friday. His classmates loved watching him demonstrate his cartoon-drawing skills, he got a huge self-esteem and social skills boost, and it provided much needed motivation to get his regular work done throughout the week. The year prior to that, he had a teacher who was very annoyed by this distraction, and took away his drawings with a huff and a stern look without trying to channel this strong skill into an effective learning system. That was a very bad year.

These little guys have so much potential. If they are surrounded by adults who understand that an octagonal peg will never fit into a triangular hole, they can achieve amazing things.

Sam's courage inspires me. He faces sensory, social, language, and cognitive challenges every day while doing things that the rest of us can do on autopilot. When he is in situations where the grownups in charge understand that they need to support him instead of fix him, he flourishes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Things I Should Probably Be Worried About

... and yet, make me proud.

1) This morning, while we all scurried about the kitchen to get the girls ready for camp, Abby took an entire coconut and placed it under her shirt, declaring, "Look Mom, I have a big, hard boob!" I see luaus in her future.

2) Hannah giggled with anticipation over today's Big Camp Event - the Friday shaving cream fight. "It's gonna be so much fun! But I wish it was whipped cream so we could lick it off of each other." ISIANMTU.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hannah Loves Summer Camp

And she tells me that her favorite part, besides the shaving cream fights, is shooting "bones and arrows."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pushing Beyond My Comfort Zone

... is something I try to do on a regular basis.

I have always been curious about getting a tattoo, and knew that I wanted to, but thought I was too much of a chicken to ever go through with it. So I figured it was time.

My older brother and I have had a Superman "thing" for years. We each have several medical conditions that defy explanation and cause the docs to make funny faces and scratch their heads, so we laugh about it and call ourselves Kryptonian. My most recent blood test confirmed that my bizarre -- and evidently, benign -- blood condition* was probably caused by a rare genetic mutation. I smiled and thanked my hematologist for medically confirming my status as a mutant being. It explains a lot, really.

Other outrageously happy associations with this symbol have emerged along the way -- linking it with my strength and health and good luck -- so it was clear to me that it was time to make it official.

* Essential Thrombocythemia -- I have enough platelets to stop the bleeding of four adults. Go ahead, laugh. It's funny.