Sweet Vindication

So, back before Season 5 of “Game of Thrones” began (and, we’re talking months and even years before) the Westeros fanbase indulged in a potent delusion for a while. George R.R. Martin was the leader of this particular mass hallucination, publically stating that the television versions of his fourth and fifth books could be stretched out for YEARS. Yes, people really believed that this was possible: that Benioff and Weiss would make tv viewers sit through years of Daenerys dicking around in Meereen, Tyrion mumbling about “where whores go”, and Jon Snow repeatedly thinking about how he knows nothing.

Not to mention that the show would have had to become a cooking show, as the books dwell lovingly on every piece of fowl, bread, and sweetmeat that George could imagine.

I have read all the books, and I knew that it was pretty much impossible for any successful show to sit on its heels until GRRM finished the books. (Oh, sure, we all HOPED that the books would get done, but I’ve been waiting for this series to be written for decades now.) Long point-of-view chapters work great for letting one’s characters obsess over their personal hobbyhorses. The books let us slowly watch Arya learn her trade with the Faceless Men, for example. We got to see Jaime slowly develop a spine in the Riverlands. But, let’s be honest, a lot of the characters spent a long time wandering around doing nothing for most of “A Feast For Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons.”

Dramatic tension, it wasn’t.

So it’s been a bittersweet sort of victory to see the television version of it all just blazing through the source material. I’m not fond of some of the changes the producers have made, but we knew changes were coming. The best part is seeing things HAPPEN instead of aimless wandering while GRRM attempted to solve “the Meereenese knot.”

So, my theory has been vindicated: we will not see books 4 and 5 split into two or three seasons. Looking back at those delusional forum posts and comment threads (at places like A Forum of Ice and Fire and Tower of the Hand) is oddly cheering for me. While I don’t want to actually SAY “Nanny nanny boo boo,” I do feel happy that I escaped the collective delusion. The conspiracy theories in fandom are thick and intoxicating; it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies and forget to see the bigger picture.

The only sad part is that the television show hacks off so many plot threads that one begins to wonder if the books were just jerking our chain the entire time. Why, indeed, did we spend so many hours following these characters on their rambles if their story arcs could be so easily discarded? Were the only important people in Westeros really just those beloved three characters?

It’s depressing to contemplate that I had to suffer through all the Samwell Tarly sex scenes for nothing.

Urgh, the ARD

So, yeah, Friday was way too busy to even begin to deal with posting something. I’ve got lots of things I want to write about, but going through even a brief ARD meeting is a soul-draining experience. Follow that up with dropping several hundred dollars at the grocery store and you’re looking at one tired Momma.

The ARD accomplished what it needed to, though– Miss Autism will get the incredibly scanty summer session that our school district offers. I mean, two hours a day? It’s barely worth the struggle to get her dressed in the morning. But she likes having something to look forward to, and we like two hours with her busy and out of our hair. Better than nothing anyway.

She had a rough afternoon, deciding that the pineapple ice cream topping had to be dumped down the sink and that her pretty Tinkerbell trash can had to be destroyed. Why? Who knows. She’s had that trash can in her room for over a year, but apparently it needed to be wrecked after her brother touched it. Now I have to get her a new trash can (which doesn’t please me) and also go about the business of painting her bedroom. Maybe I should start that this weekend. Hubs put texture on her walls on the areas he had to repair after she pried her shelves off the wall with a fork. So it’s ready to paint. It just means painting, which isn’t too fun even when you’re not coming down with a cold.

Sinus headaches, ahoy!

I really need a full time staff around here. Anyone know a billionaire who wants to gift a few million to a deserving mom?

Cracking down for the mouse

100_2017So, I have to admit it– me and my kids are Disney fanatics. My husband, not so much, but he’s been patient with me over the decades and allowed me to spend most of our disposable income over the years on Disney trips, dvds, and more frozen lemonade from the Fantasyland stand than any woman should ever eat in a lifetime. He even took me to Walt Disney World for a week for our honeymoon. (Okay, I planned that entire trip. He just wrote the check. But he did it cheerfully!) 😉

The problem we’re having is that we haven’t been back to WDW since 2010. FIVE YEARS. Yes, that’s a problem for us. We haven’t even been able to see the new Fantasyland expansion! In a world with such terrible poverty, I know, there are better things to worry about, but, hey, we deserve a vacation every once in a while, don’t we? The Tank and the Ninja don’t remember our last visit, since the Tank was 1 and the Ninja was 3 when we went. The Adorable Baby, of course, won’t remember it even if we go, but he’s still a non-voting tribe member so he gets dragged along wherever we decide to go. And we want to go very very badly, indeed.

So badly that, today, my two young sons told me they would give up fast food, takeout, and soda pops if it meant we could save up enough money for a Disney trip. Our adult son and daughter have agreed to each pay a 1/8th share in the total cost of the fuel and tickets and campground fees. (I guess I’m on my own for souvenirs, though.) Our teenaged son, whose band voted to go to London instead of WDW for their big high school trip (and who can’t afford London, no way) is stoked. And Miss Autism is the biggest fan of Walt Disney World in the entire world, excepting only maybe other autistic people. Autties are serious about the Mouse, man. It’s their Happiest Place on Earth, almost always.

My big plan, then, is to slash and hack away at our strained budget to find enough wiggle room to start stashing away some cash for a Disney trip. It won’t be easy– with 8 people at home, cutting your grocery budget is always a perilous task. I’ve gone too far before and ended up with open rebellion when there wasn’t enough in the pantry. There’s a fine line between “meal planning” and “not having ANY SNACKS, MOM!” I have to stay on the good side of that line, where kids have food to eat and I still have money in the bank.

Thankfully, the Adorable Baby isn’t drinking formula anymore. That’s a big savings right there. The summer is upon us, though, with the resulting “hungry adult sized people home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” problem as well. Luckily, our garden is starting to produce some vegetables, and summer is a great time for salads and sandwiches to be the stars of the menu. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when everyone is accustomed to eating lots of takeout and drinking lots of soda pop, so cutting those two things out of the budget will (despite their pleas for Disney) lead to a lot of whining.

So, in addition to the already mind-boggling responsibilities that I’m taking on this summer, I need to get serious about grocery budgeting and menu planning and (gasp) I will probably have to COOK for my children again. After 25 years of being the main chef, I’m pretty burnt out on the whole cooking gig. But, I must admit, I am much better at it than any of my assistants. It’s kind of like those superhero movies where everyone else does a terrible job and the mayor finally comes and begs the superhero to help and the superhero is like “Really, none of you people can do this? Ugh, I guess it has to be me.” That’s how I feel about cooking.

So, anyway, back to the drawing board. I know I have a menu plan around here somewhere that lists all the kids’ favorite meals. I don’t enjoy the menu planning process, but there is a certain elegance in calculating everything down to the last half of the bell pepper, so to speak. Wish me luck.

Fortune Cookies

So we went to Panda Express on Sunday, because my sons are seriously addicted to their chow mein and orange chicken. Okay, I’ve been known to knock back a plate of it, myself, but my affection has lessened over the years. They’re still mad for the stuff, so every once in a while I have to drop $40 on takeout Chinese food. And, of course, we got fortune cookies, which are totally not forbidden occult devices as long as you know they’re a gimmick and a game and thoroughly make fun of it while you read them, which we basically do.

My fortune was some balderdash about finding peace. Which, yes, has been a big focus of my life over the past few months. But things have been happening lately that have been disturbing my peace in a very serious way. I’m talking about Miss Autism’s rather sudden behavioral decline and the difficulties we’re having in coping with it.

We’ve gotten along fairly well with the whole “living with autism” thing for almost twenty years. We have never lived with a strict schedule, because we’re just not that type of family, and we’ve refused to fall in with most of the fashions in autism treatment. So that meant we didn’t go with vitamin megadoses or heavy metal chelation or that digestive supplement everyone was so convinced would be a miracle cure back in ’99. We didn’t turn our house into an Applied Behavior Analysis haven with 24 hour a day behavior modeling and we basically forced Miss Autism to deal with life in a fairly normal household. She has always had her own little retreats, of course, and we’ve made a lot of concessions to her behaviors, but she still has to live like a normal person.

We did this to avoid the whole “one minute to Wapner” kind of meltdowns that happen when strictly scheduled things become vital to an autistic person’s life. We couldn’t completely avoid them, of course– school is Miss Autism’s big deal, and if the bus is late or it’s a holiday (or, heaven forfend, the summer break), she usually just goes to pieces. But she’s expected to go along with unscheduled trips and dinner that may or may not get served at 6pm and no PECS visual cues on everything to tell you what to expect next. And she’s mostly done well. She’s not completely inflexible and ruled by the clock, even if her behavior leaves a lot of other things to be desired.

But lately, her behavior has become a danger to herself and we’re constantly working to keep her safe. And her destructive tendencies are getting much much worse. Things disappear constantly as she throws them away, throws them over the fence, or just somehow gets rid of them when no one is looking. Some things, she eats– and that doesn’t just mean food items. Toys and headphones and small items of all sorts have found their way down her gullet, and I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember waiting in a hospital room with her, waiting for a scan or an x-ray to see what, and where, the items were.

I’m wearing down. And I know my blog is “endurance mom” but everyone has a breaking point. Mine’s close. I am trying to find a balance between her needs and those of the family. It’s not easy, and it may not be possible for her to live at home forever. In the short term, it will probably mean medications and tradeoffs we’ll have to make with our own time and attention. In the long term, it will probably mean some sort of assisted living situation.

This catches us at a bad time, however– we’re not in the area we plan to live in permanently. We’re even considering moving out of state in the next couple of years to be closer to family and in a less hostile climate. We definitely can’t go through the stress and strain of finding the right living situation for her only to move out of state and start all over again. But we can’t go on like this forever. It’s a rough situation and we’re all struggling with it. There isn’t an easy solution.

My fortune cookie says that peace is a valuable thing to seek. And I know that it is . . . but inner peace only comes when you’ve learned to accept things as they are. It’s a bitter pill to swallow that I may not be capable of keeping my daughter at home with me forever. It’s going to take me some time to process that one, so inner peace . . . yeah, that’s going to take some time. Sigh.

Oi, what a week

So, right after I told the world that I wanted to sleep more at night, my Adorable Baby’s simmering spring cold turned into a raging ear infection and I didn’t sleep at all for a couple days.

Definitely not the way I wanted things to go. He’s still feverish and not his jolly self, I’m still sleep deprived and headachey. BUT . . . well, he’s on antibiotics and I’m trying to nap whenever I can. These problems will be resolved.

I was thinking about changing up the blogging thing with actual days for blogging on certain topics. I’m not 100% certain about it, but I think a little more discipline would be a good thing. Anyway, not a long blog post today because “sick baby” . . . sort of an excuse you have to have lived through to really understand. Yes, I may be at my computer, and No, I don’t have the mental energy to do anything but watch mindless movies on Netflix. Right now, it’s “Carlos” with some rather delectable Venezuelan man in the role of Carlos the Jackal (an infamous terrorist to anyone who read Cold War- era thrillers.)

Brain . . . shutting . . . down. Tired. More when the baby isn’t crying for hours on end and clinging to me like a vervet monkey.

To sleep, hopefully without many dreams

As I’ve mentioned before, I am one of the ultimate night owls. I don’t like to sleep at night. I find it physically and psychologically painful to sleep early. BUT . . . (you knew a but was coming, right?) . . . I am not getting enough done lately. Today was probably the first time in a week that I’ve actually cooked something for dinner, my reading is way behind, and let’s just not think too hard on the state of the laundry pile. It may be easier to just buy everyone new clothes.

So my big project for the next few weeks is to reset my sleep cycle and maybe, just maybe, get enough sleep at night that I’m not dragging all day. I just can’t function well on 4 or less hours of sleep.

This is especially important because I’ve got a lot of doctor’s appointments and such scheduled for early summer. We have 6 kids at home and they all need eye exams, dental checkups, annual physicals, and goodness knows what else along the way. The Ninja needs a tooth pulled, my oldest daughter the Bear needs her wisdom teeth extracted, and the baby is going to need ongoing eye exams to see if his crossed eyes and horrible vision are improving. And they all depend on ME getting it done. Heck, even the 27 year old had me drive him to get his wisdom teeth extracted. He’s still wondering if he really flirted with the dental technician. And only me and the dental technician know for sure! 😉

Anyway, I need to get all this stuff done before the end of the summer. If you wait until August to try to get a kid a physical, forget it. So I need to get enough sleep that the idea of dragging the kids through town isn’t quite so appalling. It takes a lot of mental energy to take two hyperactive boys, one autistic young woman who is a runner, a grumbly teenager, and a baby anywhere. I took them shopping for their older sister’s birthday presents last weekend. Whew. It’s a wonder I am still sane.

Ish.

I just hope that more sleep doesn’t necessarily mean more dreams. My brain has been sending me nightmares lately, and I’m not enjoying them. Remember all that 70’s cultural nonsense about “dreaming in color” and lucid dreaming and all that? I remember overhearing stuff about it when I was a kid and wondering if it really was important if you dreamed in color. Because I don’t only dream in color, I dream in Technicolor with a virtual reality headset.

Yeah, my dreams are so realistic that I am continually waking up only to spend the rest of the day trying to convince myself that the dream wasn’t real. My husband has suffered through some bad days where I had dreamed he did something awful . . . and then was grumpy with him for the next few days. Sure, I knew logically that he hadn’t ACTUALLY pushed me off a cliff or kissed some other woman or left the baby in the car in the heat, but my emotional side of my brain was pretty resistant to the notion that I’d just dreamed it.

So I’m fairly tired of that kind of thing by now. While I’ve had some dreams turn into interesting story ideas, mostly they’re nightmares about losing my kids or being hunted by some monster. Heart-pounding waking-up-crying stuff. Tiresome. And my brain doesn’t CARE that I’m only falling asleep at 6am and can only hope for a couple hours of sleep at best, it’s determined to get its dreamtime in. Silly brain.

Anyway, that’s the goal. Sleep more. Dream less terrible things. Get everything on my mommy to-do list checked off.

Gosh, I am SO GOOD at making resolutions. Wish I could keep them more often. 🙂

School days

So, we’ve been ramping school back up over the past few weeks. We took December off, because of Advent and Christmas, and somehow things never really got back on track. Oh, sure, schoolwork got done, but never anything too strenuous or sustained. It was perfectly fine “unschooling” in that the kids learned a lot of stuff, but it wasn’t exactly the type of schooling I like to do. So, a reboot.

Now, most people are probably just winding school down because, you know, summer is a’comin’ in and they have all these great summery games planned. Which is great . . . if you don’t live in the Southwest. Since we, here at the cusp of the great Texican desert, live in a climate that punishes any sort of daytime exertions between the months of March and October, we tend to do a lot more homeschooling when the weather is brutally hot and we’re stuck indoors.

So we’re back to work in the Charlotte Mason style– lots of reading, lots of “telling back” what we just read, short lessons, and lots of time for nature study and exercise. The Tank just turned 6, so he’s officially doing schoolwork for the first time. Before this, it was a “take it or leave it” sort of unstructured thing– I’d toss him a worksheet or some scissors and glue and leave him to it. Now he’s working through the kindergarten stuff that’s left over from the Ninja’s kinder year. My basic goal is to get him through the kinder material by the time summer is over so that he can start doing some 1st grade stuff in the fall. But I’m flexible. We’ll go at his pace and see how it goes.

The Ninja has been finishing up his second grade stuff, which didn’t progress as neatly as I would have liked this year. Since he’s wandered off the curriculum (we’re using Mater Amabilis’ 2nd grade equivalent) things got a little confused. We didn’t study the history that I had intended for us to study, we somehow just skipped most of the settling of the nation and went straight for the juicy wars and rebellions and drama. So we’re spending this week, in honor of Memorial Day, reading a bunch of stuff about the Revolutionary War. Hopefully, we’ll loop back to the Pilgrims and stuff, but it’s not a pressing issue. Obviously, a Catholic family isn’t going to be very gung-ho about studying Pilgrims.

It feels good to be back in the thick of things. It’s a bit difficult with the Adorable Baby being all adorable and needy and whatnot. He’s discovered a taste for crayons, of all things, and kindergarten work uses a LOT of crayons. So we’re constantly rescuing crayons, papers, counting bears, and anything else that he can possibly put in his mouth. He also likes to grab books and make a big show of turning pages. So I’m here, heart in mouth, sure he’s about to shred a page out of a library book . . . whew. I rescue a lot of books over the course of a day.

Probably the most difficult part of our schooling is the competition that ALWAYS comes into play between the boys. If the Tank is working on his phonics, the Ninja is mocking him for not being able to read. If the Ninja is taking forever to finish his math page, the Tank is mocking him for being slow slow SLOOOOOWWWWW. And then there are the fistfights, wrestling matches, refusals to listen to me because they have to HAVE TO get back at their brother for some awful thing he did, and general chaos that comes from having two very hyperactive little boys in the same house.

But, hey, it’s great. We’re studying birds right now, so we’re liable to pull the truck off the road whenever we spot something and spend time just . ..  watching the birds be birds. We’ve watched plovers and barn swallows, red-winged blackbirds and mockingbirds, and spotted several hawks. Grackles and sparrows without number, and more vultures than you can count (mostly at the zoo, where they’ve decided to roost year-round.) It’s fun and educational and I love it.

The intense unexpected rain we’ve had this year has put a temporary stop to our star-gazing– if it isn’t raining or cloudy (which it mostly has been), the mosquitoes are deadly and horrible. So bird-watching makes a less mosquitoey experience all-around.

I love my kids. And I love having them home, learning with me. I never have understood why people like sending their perfectly normal kids to school all day. Sure, my handicapped daughter’s school hours are a blessing . . . summers are awful when she can’t go to school. She loves that whole routine. But my “normal” kids? Man, they’re too fun to send away all day.

Here’s to a summer of learning, right?

Busy days and bad backs

RIMG0595

So, there’s the obligatory photo of my African violets. I couldn’t get a picture with the sink and surrounding walls, too, because the sink was full of dirty dishes and the walls are still painted an unappealing orange. But you get the idea– pretty flowers, blue curtains, blue pots. AND . . . (drumroll) . . . I finally sunk the money into new curtains for the living room!

Target had curtains on sale plus a Cartwheel discount of 20% off, which put them just barely within reach. So now I have pretty blue and white flowered curtains in my living room to replace the truly awful plain brown ones that I threw up in desperation one summer simply because they promised to block the sun. Those windows face southeast and get the brunt of the sun every day. I’ve been considering putting up some trellis and planting vines over them, but I’m wary of giving bugs yet another entry into the house. So, for now, we’re probably going to rig up some outdoor shades over the windows instead. Somehow. The inside looks nice, though.

Anyway, Friday was the baby’s birthday party so, naturally, I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. And I’m still busy today since my oldest daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. Time to go shopping again.

Have a good weekend!

Late, late, for a very important date (Quick Lit)

So, my friend Terry posted a quick review of the things she’s been reading lately, part of a blog roundup through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I figured I should do a fast update since Wednesday here was SO crazy and I missed posting entirely. My reading lately has been sporadic at best, but this is what I’ve been working through.

Spain Spain, A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali

Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali take a road trip through Spain with a couple of also-rans (who get short shrift throughout) but the food looks great and the gorgeous scenery makes one almost wish to have been there. Except for the part where one would probably have strangled Ms. Paltrow just around the part where she says . . . well, anything, really. The pictures are great, though.

serpents The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

Wow, this book has so much lazy worldbuilding in it that I’m having a hard time getting through it. I have enough complaints about this type of stuff to write an article– and probably will, instead of complaining here. But, yeah, amusing enough, if you can get past the sometimes half-hearted approach to actually thinking through the entire socio-political structure of a fantasy world. I mean, I’m reading it. I’m not entirely unhappy. I’m just not impressed.

decluttering 200 Tips for De-Cluttering

Oh my gosh, this book is a monster. It must weigh five pounds. I haven’t been able to figure out yet if it’s supposed to actually have tips in it or if some publisher just went wildly off-base in the photography department, slapped a huge pile of photos together, and called it a home organization book. I suspect the latter. Really *neat* photos, some of them, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re looking for meaningful ways to part with Aunt Alice’s crockery collection without dying of guilt, this is not the book for you.

flehs Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

More people should read Carol Berg’s fantasy. Yes, yes, it has a lot of the same pitfalls as most fantasy and there’s a lot of angst, but she’s a good writer  and her characters actually have reason to be angsty beyond the usual Bildungsroman tropes. The art on this book is terrible but I really enjoyed it. Plus, it’s cheap. What more reason do you need to read it?

Another post tomorrow, one hopes. Yesterday was a dreary sort of day with too much chaos to even think. Miss Autism discovered how to open windows to escape the house, since we’d locked the doors. So we’re back on lockdown, alarms all on, cameras, locks, you name it. This is getting really old and it sort of makes one wish to just curl up in bed with a heating pad and ignore the dreary day. Today, of course, all that rain combined with 85 degree heat to make it unbearable outside, so we’re all hiding and drinking soda pop and ignoring the swampy outdoors. The mosquitoes don’t bear thinking about, either.

In other words, we’re livin’ in de Nile. In more ways than one! Gah, it’s a swamp out there. I expect crocodiles have taken up in the lettuce patch.

Back to my books in the nice air conditioning.

Good things

RIMG0555So today has been pretty crappy . . . I’m trying to focus on a few good things to take me out of the negative redirect loop that my brain is playing and escape into something approximating a good mood. This little glittery thing, for example, is the silver charm bracelet that my oldest daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. Nice, yeah? It has a bunny on it, and bunnies are awesome. Well, at least I think so.

Anyway, I didn’t actually get my African violet in March. I never seemed to get to the store with the appropriate amount of energy and/or cash in hand. Last week, however, I was able to get over to Lowes with enough cash to buy three different African violets in different colors and petal types. Then I scored three pretty blue pots at the Dollar Tree that match my kitchen curtains. So my kitchen window is now pretty and cheerful. The paint still needs to be freshened up (hence no pictures) but it’s nice.

Things are not all bad . . . it’s just that my autistic daughter’s behavior has worsened dramatically this spring. Trying to be cheerful in the face of it is difficult. I can’t just escape from the reality, not when the reality is that we may have to look into very dramatic solutions to her problems. It would be nice to look at paint chips and ignore the fact that, before we paint, we have to do extensive repairs to the wallboard and plasterwork because she’s intentionally damaged them. It’s fun to pick out paint colors, really, but not so much to have to replace half a dozen corners have that been torn out and patch fist-sized holes.

But this was about good things . . . so what else is good? Hmm. The baby turns one this week. That’s amazing. He’s so adorable and fun that it’s really made me feel like I’m not a total failure at this mom thing. He talks! Actual words stringing together in actual baby sentences! It’s been 21 years since I had a 1 year old who could actually talk. In between, I had an autistic daughter and 3 boys with speech delays. To hear a baby talking is just freaking wonderful. I mean, except when he’s demanding his own way yet again. He’s got the terrible two thing already looming . . . gonna be super spoiled.

The garden is already producing food, so that’s great. We’ve got lettuce, cucumbers, more chard than anyone could eat, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and turnips. The beans will be coming on soon. Fresh lettuce tastes really good, so much better than ye olde iceberg. It’s been an exceptionally rainy and cool spring, so our garden actually is growing like they do in those cooler and rainier states. After ten years of soul-destroying drought, we can use the break from desertification. Maybe we’ll actually get some production from those more delicate varieties that usually wither and die by June.

Anyway, that’s it for good things tonight. I think a hot bath and a good book are in order. Or maybe a good tv show . . . we’re only two weeks behind on Game of Thrones right now. We might actually catch up this week, as my older daughter has a couple of days off work. It’s hard to find time to watch Westerosi violence and nudity with little kids running around. We have to sneak it in when they’re not looking.

To a better week, right? Salut.