Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's all in the timing

This little doodad may save my life.

Well, maybe my sanity. Or at least my voice.

My sweet Abby has a real issue with time management. I'd actually say it goes deeper than that; I'm not sure she even has a clear concept of time, let alone trying to accomplish tasks within a certain amount of it.

I've been contemplating getting a "time timer" such as this for months, and finally ordered one from Amazon last week. It arrived in the mail today, and after establishing it was, in fact, working, even without the tick-tick-tick I expected, it turned my little lollygagger into a model of efficiency.

Never was her nighttime routine accomplished so quickly. She also was thrilled to use it to time her bedtime reading. I personally can't wait for her to use it tomorrow morning, to help her move through her routine without reminding, cajoling or prodding on my part.

The timing (ha!) of its arrival is excellent, too. The Triduum and Easter unfold within the next four days, and I'm going to be doing a lot of church singing. Far better to save my voice for that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brian's Easter insight

This is my one piece of Easter kitsch in the house. I bought it on a whim at the Christmas Tree Shop last year, and have it in the upstairs bathroom, which the kids use a lot.

Last night, Brian was looking at it, and told me he really liked this Easter decoration. I told him that I was glad, even though it's kind of a silly little thing. He looked at me, all earnest and serious, and said, "I wish it was Jesus, though."

(Jesus on the toilet. Oh, my.)

I told him that of course, Jesus is the reason we celebrate Easter, but that the lid of the toilet is kind of shaped like an egg, which made the hatching chick a better fit.

Pastel poultry in the bathroom is one thing; encountering the risen Lord there would be quite another.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Abby's social story for Earl's surgery

I wrote a social story to help Abby with Earl's upcoming surgery. Here it is.

On Monday, April 5, Daddy is going to have outpatient surgery. This means he will have a little surgery right in his doctor’s office.

His surgery is for a small spot of skin cancer. Daddy had a little sore on his chest, and when his doctor tested it, she found out it was skin cancer.

The best way to treat this kind of skin cancer is to have surgery to remove it. So that’s what Daddy is going to do.

On April 5, while I am at school, Mommy will drive Daddy to his doctor’s office for the surgery. She will stay with Daddy during the surgery and then drive him home when it’s all done.

I will go to the after-school program on that day. Brian will go to after-school, too. Mommy will pick Brian and me up from after-school once she brings Daddy home, probably around suppertime.

I won’t have my violin lesson that day, and that will be okay. I can go to after-school and have fun there.

Daddy’s surgery won’t hurt, but he will be sore afterwards for a few days. He will stay home from work and rest, to let his body heal faster. He might relax in bed, or watch TV, or read. He will have stitches so he will have to keep his body quiet for a few days. This is okay. It’s the best way for him to feel better faster.

Brian, Timmy and I will go to school that week just like we always do. Mommy will still teach. When Daddy is feeling better he will go back to work.

I can stay calm about Daddy’s little surgery. I know it’s the best thing for his doctor to do, and that he will feel better in a few days. I can handle it!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today's family column

We've relied on babysitters a lot over the past eight years. Maybe too much! Enjoy.

Friday, March 26, 2010


No sooner had I published that last post, when I got a severe case of buyer's remorse, and started looking online for eyeglasses again. I found another website that didn't have the same sunglass issues as the other one, cancelled my optical shop order, and ordered a pair of eyeglasses and a separate pair of sunglasses, which came to $307, total, delivered.

Now I'm feeling anxious about that, too -- what if it's a scam? what if I hate the glasses? -- but am determined to sit tight for a week or so, until they arrive.

If it's a scam, I'll get the BBB or Hank Phillippi Ryan or someone after them. If I hate the glasses, well, they have a 7 day, full-money-back return policy.

The Krazy Glue is holding, for now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

General health update and the continuing eyesight saga

Abby was complaining a little bit the other day about some minor aches and pains. When I asked her what was wrong, she sighed resignedly and said, "It's just what happens when you get older."

Now, I'm not sure where she heard this type of talk, as we don't typically engage in discussions on the topic, but I've been feeling the same way lately. Not in terms of aches and pains, but I had a physical the other day. No real surprises there. I'm generally healthy, with lower-than-average blood pressure and all the oxygen my blood can handle. Body mass index is too high, but I've known that for a while and am working on it.

The latest measurement, incidentally, is surface area. I feel like a newly-discovered planet or something.

Out of that physical, though, I have three upcoming specialty visits plus some blood work I have to get taken care of. Three! One is the obligatory, you're-40-years-old-now mammogram. Another is a GI doc for some low-key tummy troubles, but prompted by some family history. And the third is a dermatology visit, for a complete skin check, which I've never had.

Earl had a skin check a couple of weeks ago, and it's a good thing he did, because he has a small area of skin cancer on his chest. It's squamous-cell carcinoma, and everything I've read says it's very curable if caught early, which his was. He's scheduled to have outpatient surgery to remove it on April 5.

Cancer is a scary word, but Earl is pretty serene about it. After a few days of freaking out, I'm calmer now, too. We need to tell the kids, hopefully in a way that will prevent Abby from perseverating on it.

I also had the long-awaited eye doctor appointment yesterday. After pricing frames with my prescription online, I was disappointed to see that wasn't going to be all that economical, after all. The biggest problem (other than not being totally sure of the appropriate frame size) was that I also need prescription sunglasses, and those are outrageously priced. Furthermore, it didn't appear possible to take a set of regular frames and tint the lenses to sidestep the expensive sunglass frames. This is above and beyond the fact that a regular pair of glasses was going to be nearly $300 for my prescription (with very moderately priced frames.)

So, I trotted into the optical shop today, and was disappointed by how expensive glasses were there, too, even with a discount for my health insurance. The day was saved by choosing frames that come with a sunglass clip-on (a cool magnetic thing) so I wouldn't have to pay for another whole pair of prescription sunglasses.

$500 isn't bad if you say it fast, remember that it includes sunglasses, too, and figure they'll last for a few years, at least. I've had my current glasses (the ones held together by Krazy Glue) for eight years. If the new ones last for 5, that's $100/year, which is still less than LASIK (which I doubt I'd be a candidate for, anyway.) Also way cheaper than getting a seeing-eye dog and hiring a chauffeur, administrative assistant and chef.

A nagging little voice in my head is telling me I should have checked at BJ's to see how expensive glasses would have been there, but I'm ignoring it. I'm glad my new glasses have been ordered, and I should have them in about a week. Then I'll be able to see the optical shop charges on my credit-card bill more clearly.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm not a visionary

I am typing this, hunched over my laptop, squinting at the screen. My column a few weeks ago was about how my eyesight is getting worse and worse, yet I couldn't bring myself to visit the optometrist. Shortly after that column was published, I decided I was being childish about it, and needed to make the appointment, so I called and scheduled an eye exam for April 1st.

Wouldn't you know it, but my glasses broke on Friday. Earl and I were going out that night, to our Marriage Encounter monthly gathering, so I dug out an old pair of glasses, with a prescription that was written about 12 years ago.

I put them on and took them off all night, alternating between near-blind blurry vision, and just-a-little blurry vision with a low-key headache.

When we got home, my resourceful husband got out the Krazy Glue, glopped up the edge of the left lens with the stuff, and held the frame tight for about 15 minutes. I let the glasses rest overnight, and yesterday morning, I could wear them again. They weren't exactly like new, and my kids kept asking me what that goopy stuff was on my glasses, but they were on and my vision was back to the mostly-tolerable bad it's been for a few months.

Of course, this morning, I took my glasses off one-handed, which put just enough stress on the glue that the frames came apart again. This time, I was the resourceful Krazy-Gluer.

My glasses are on now, and I am fervently hoping that my optometrist can move my appointment up to this week, preferably tomorrow. Once I can get my eyes checked, and presumably a new prescription in hand, I'm going to try finding glasses online. Another couple at our Marriage Encounter gathering on Friday swears by it, saying that the glasses are of good quality and much more reasonably priced than at a typical optical shop. Of course, once my crazy lenses are all priced out, it may not be all that economical, but I can at least look.

If I can see, that is.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another success

Last night, after Abby had her snack, she walked into the kitchen. She told me to "stay out" of the kitchen, so, naturally, I wondered what she was up to.

After she was satisfied that my feet were on the dining-room side of the doorway, she proceeded to the refrigerator and got out a nearly-full gallon of milk. I had a feeling that an epic cleanup was going to figure largely in my future, but I stood still and watched.

She put the milk on the counter, reached up into the cupboard to get a cup and then proceeded to pour herself some milk. She recapped the jug, put it back in the fridge, and then picked up her cup and drank.

Now, in many households, this would be no big deal for an 8 1/2-year-old. In mine, it had never happened before. She decided she wanted a drink, did the mental and motor planning necessary to make it happen, and then executed the plan.

I was so proud of her, I got teary.

Abby has her challenges, and they run deep, but in the long run, she's going to be okay.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Honorable Mention!

I am so thrilled to have won Honorable Mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition! My entry, "Unlock my door, open my heart," was a winner in the global human interest category.

It is an honor to be recognized by the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. I grew up reading Erma Bombeck's column in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and always loved her humorous observations about everyday life. How exciting, to have my writing recognized by the organization dedicated to keeping her writing legacy alive through today's writers.

I'm just beside myself. Wow!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Timmy's surfin' artwork and family column

Here is Timmy's drawing of a surfer. He was inspired by The Beach Boys, and his fondness for the California Sound inspired my column this week. Here is the column, in case you missed it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome to normal?

Earl and I took the kids to see "Monsters vs. Aliens" at the high school tonight. We knew the boys would like it, but weren't sure about Abby, so we went in two vehicles.

As it turns out, we could have all piled into the van. Everyone enjoyed the movie, which was a little scary at times, but mostly just silly. All five of us got in and the kids had a treat at intermission for under $20. (I heroically resisted the peanut M&Ms, even when Brian decided he only wanted half of his little bag.)

The best part about the whole evening was that we fully anticipated having to bring Abby home early, either because she didn't like the movie, or, more likely, because she might have gone into sensory overload, between the visual input, the audio, and being in a big hall with a lot of people. None of that was a problem for her. The hall wasn't crowded at all, and she thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which, mercifully, wasn't too loud for me, either.

It was...dare I say it...a normal family outing.

I'm feeling so blessed that those are happening once in a while, now. We actually took all the kids out to dinner a few weeks ago, and it was fine, too. No meltdowns. No throwing up. No sympathetic or curious or uncomfortable looks from strangers.

Tonight, after the movie, Timmy was pretty cranky, as it was way past his bedtime by the time he got into bed. I think that's normal, too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nuestra hija, la lider

We spent much of this past week preparing for Abby's annual IEP meeting. This involves reflecting on her current social and academic performance levels and figuring out how to move her ahead in both those areas. It's a big job, and sometimes it can be a bit of a downer, thinking about all the ways in which Abby will need special help in order to be successful.

We had a welcome boost this week, however. Abby came home on Wednesday with a leadership award from her school for her work in Spanish class. Her Spanish teacher cited her for her vocabulary proficiency, and wrote on the certificate that she "leads by example."

Here's the happy linguist with her award. We're all very proud of her.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Trina Aitken feature

Here is my feature on local singer/songwriter Trina Aitken. It ran in today's Patriot Ledger.