Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was

Yesterday was the day I set aside to finally clean off my dining room table. For the past month (or more?) it has been a holding station for bills, receipts, and other papers that I haven’t made the time to put away. And it’s been my sewing station. I don’t do a lot of sewing, but lately have been trying to be creative with my machine. I’ve been making little crafty things and playing with the different stitches that my machine can do.  Meals have been in our kitchen, at the kitchen island, and that works fine lately since it has three stools, and we haven’t had all four of us eating at the same time. Due to my husband working late every night, and my daughter working three nights a week (and out doing other things some of the other four nights), it’s mostly been just my youngest and myself, so the kitchen island has been where we eat.

As I said, yesterday was my day to clean off the dining room table. I’d like to get back to having all of us sit and eat at the table at the same time. The first step is having the table available. So I started putting away the papers and the odds and ends that have ended up there, and then packed away the sewing machine and all it’s accessories (scissors, thread, fabrics, ribbons, etc.). But where to put the large bin that holds all these goodies? That’s my big issue. I don’t have much storage in this house, and when I put something down in the basement, not only do I forget about it, but it’s a pain to lug it back up the stairs when I need to use it. Usually the sewing bin lives in the front room (office? play room?) or in a corner of the dining room, but I’m tired of stepping around it and tired of it taking up space where it shouldn’t be.

Yesterday, after putting everything in the bin, and wondering if the basement was truly the best place for it, I remembered my oldest son’s room. The room that has an unused desk. A desk perfect for setting up a sewing machine. A room that hasn’t been used for ten months out of each year … for three years now. He’s been away at college for three years, from August to May of each year, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized his room with the desk would be the perfect place to keep my sewing machine. I wouldn’t even need to put it all away after doing a project. It could stay out — ready for my creative moments — until we expected him home for breaks and holidays.

I’m laughing at myself for taking three years to figure this out!

A good day

Today has been a good day. Not perfect, of course, but many good things have happened. Exciting things. And these good things have completely overshadowed the very few not so good things that seem to always be hanging around.

And there are brownies in the oven.

Yes, a very good day!

Taking Youngest to the dentist

Today it was very clear that Youngest has autism.

I know he’s on the spectrum. This isn’t news. It’s just that things have been going well now for consecutive days. Maybe 4 or 5 days IN A ROW. Oh sure, there have been little things here and there that remind me daily (WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT CHANGE THE BEDTIME ROUTINE), but now that our day to day schedule is back to regular (not one snow day yet this week!) the issues have quieted down. Last week and the week before that and the month before that seem like forever ago when we have a few days in a row of no issues.

But today, oh today…. We had to go to the dentist after school to put sealants on his molars. All of you with children such as Youngest are nodding your heads and saying, “Oh yes, the dentist … I completely understand” because going to the dentist is NOT EASY.

Two weeks ago we had his twice-yearly cleaning appointment, and I called the dental office ahead of time to tell them about Youngest being on the spectrum and how he has anxiety and how they need to be gentle and patient and EXPLAIN EVERYTHING AHEAD OF TIME. Sure, they’ve known Youngest since he was born, but I’ve never told them why he behaves the way he does. I didn’t think I needed to tell them. But after last year’s appointments which did not go well at all, I knew I had to do something. I used to think I could handle his behavior and explain it in real time. Each appointment was an adventure. Not the fun kind of adventure. The bad kind of adventure. Oh how funny and naive I was back then to think I could handle it without telling them.

So I told them, and you know what? This time they were awesome with him! The same woman that last year got all frustrated and annoyed with his fidgeting and his one million questions, well, this time she was so patient and helpful and not at all bothered by Youngest’s behavior. The appointment took a long time, because she did as I had asked, and explained everything to him in a calm easy manner, and he asked his million questions and she replied to each one slowly. I had no idea dental appointments could go so smoothly! So when they told me to bring him back in two weeks for sealants, I didn’t worry one bit.


Today a different woman called him back and as soon as we walked to the edge of the waiting room, he froze. He said “it’s okay … it’s going to be okay” over and over, as I had instructed him to when he’s upset, but his feet weren’t moving. They were like two solid concrete bricks on the floor. His torso continued forward as I was holding his hand and attempting to walk down the hallway, but his feet were planted firmly and had no intention of going anywhere. He crumpled to the floor, still holding my hand and almost pulling my pants down as he grabbed my leg with his other hand on his way down. This I know: I do not have the ability to move an 85 pound human down a hallway. Therefore, in front of the people in the waiting room, and the office staff, and then the patients in the four dental chairs (this office has an open plan design), as I was prodding him to follow the nice lady and that everything would be okay and to take deep breaths and to get up off the floor and to PLEASE MOVE YOUR FEET, it was clear that Youngest was not your typical 8 year old.

The appointment went downhill from there. Not because of the staff. It was clear this new woman had read the notes. She again explained everything, but since it was a different woman, and because the dentist was slightly behind schedule, and because who-knows-why-else, Youngest was worried and fidgety and upset and NOT HAPPY.

While waiting for the dentist to come put on the sealants we went over the plan at least three times. And then the nice grandfather-looking dentist came in. And then he started the procedure — after again explaining exactly what he was going to do. And then seconds after he began, Youngest promptly grabbed the dentist’s hands and the instruments out of his mouth. That kid is FAST. Oh, and he kicked and twisted and there might have been a scream.

Did I mention they wanted to put cotton balls in his mouth to help with the saliva? And that they told him this plan? Ha! We now know you don’t ever mention putting cotton balls in his mouth. That was not pretty.

So we finally finished and he was instructed to pick out one sticker and one toy from the prize box on our way out. This dentist is nice but man he’s got crappy prizes in the prize box. At the last appointment two weeks ago Youngest got the only decent item — a small rubber duckie. This time he spent a good few minutes deciding which sticker to get. He had two he very much wanted and kept going back and forth between them. Picking one up, putting the other down. Over and over. And then, once that was settled, it was on to the prizes. Another few minutes touching each item, as though holding them would help him decide. All of this was done within a few feet of two patients and near the hygienists as they went about their work. We would still be there if I hadn’t just insisted Youngest pick something. Anything. But he couldn’t. Not one prize was interesting or useful. Fine. Whatever. JUST PICK SOMETHING. But wait … I had the perfect solution! Two stickers! Take the two stickers and forget the prize box. Perfect! Um, well, not so great, because, as Youngest reminded me, “they said one sticker and one prize, not two stickers.” Youngest is a rule follower. There was no explaining to him why two stickers would be a good substitute for one sticker and one prize. I felt like I was convincing my 8 year old to commit a crime just by mentioning this option. What it comes down to is that Youngest must follow the rules.

Big sigh.

So then we came home. And as he went to his desk to do homework, I grabbed a bottle of wine, the wine opener, and I cried. I haven’t cried about Youngest in a long time. Visiting the dentist was much like taking him for a haircut. Or cutting his finger nails. Or attempting to give him a strep test or drawing blood. During these times there’s no hiding the fact that he’s on the spectrum. I stood there in my kitchen, holding the wine bottle and quietly crying, and wondering why I forget that this is who he is and this is what he does. Or, more specifically, why I didn’t remember.

I think this is what prompted the crying: Our normal is good. Things are going well. I was doing great handling when things didn’t go well (such as when we had the enormous amount of snow days … he’d get upset, cry, yell, fuss, and cut holes in his clothes). Overall, school is pretty good this year and the problems from last year are so far in the past I have to review my notes to remember exactly what went down.

But then the dental office fiasco. A very real example that Youngest has a different way of processing events. An example that no matter how well we prepare, things don’t always go smoothly. And during this dental visit I had a quick vision of Youngest as a teen. A much larger than 85 pound teen. What will I do when he’s bigger and anxious about getting his teeth worked on?

I also asked myself if I was crying because of the looks from others or the knowledge that we were making a scene? No. Not at all. I think it was just a surprise. Things can go all smooth and easy and normal (our normal) and then BOOM.

This behavior is normal, too. That’s the surprise. This experience at the dentist today is normal for Youngest.

And normal for me is to cry sometimes.

Just hand over the cookies and no one will get hurt

My neighbor’s youngest daughter (a preteen) thinks I’m the mean old lady next door. She sells Girl Scout cookies every year, and every year knows we buy multiple boxes of these cookies (my husband has a sweet tooth like no other and brings the cookies to his office for his afternoon snack, because grown men need afternoon cookie breaks at their office, right?), yet she hesitates ringing our doorbell to take our order. So each year her mom runs out of her house when she sees me in the driveway to ask if we would like Girl Scout cookies. And every year I say YES with a huge smile and I welcome the girl over to take our order. I make it clear that even though I have a “no soliciting” sign, Girl Scout cookies — and anything else she wants to sell for sports or school — I will gladly order from her. Yet every year the mom hesitates to send the daughter over and claims this daughter is afraid to ring our bell, “due to the sign.”

Fine. Whatever. I am aware of when Girl Scout cookie selling season is and during those weeks I spend a lot of time in my driveway getting in and out of my car in ultra slow motion, hoping the mom will see me and run outside all friendly like. (We’ve lived next to each other for about 20 years and have the “wave and smile and be friendly while doing yard work” kind of relationship. One time, years ago, we tried to socialize and we sat around a fire pit for a few hours without anything to say. It was an awkward evening that neither of us wants repeated.)

But now it’s Girl Scout cookie delivery time and my cookies have not yet appeared. Friends have gotten their cookies. Seems like all the other troops I know of in our area have delivered the cookies ordered from them, and are already setting up cookie selling booths in front of stores. I have passed by many such booths this past weekend, not purchasing any additional cookies because I know that when I return home my cookies should be delivered. But they haven’t been.

And then this evening as I was getting out of my car the neighbor mom was about to get into her car, and she yelled over, “Is it okay for my daughter to drop off your cookies today? She was afraid to ring the bell … due to the sign.” What the what? I ordered these cookies! I want these cookies! I told both the girl and the mom to ignore the stupid sign. In this case the sign means nothing, SINCE I’VE ALREADY ORDERED THE COOKIES and I’ve already explained for the past six years or so that she is to ignore the sign when selling cookies and other goods.

“Of course it’s okay for her to come over with MY COOKIES,” I kindly say to the mom, with a huge smile plastered on my face — the smile I reserve for my meetings with her. Then I’m told the daughter and my cookies will be over in 20 minutes. So I wait, patiently, with a blank check and a pen in hand. I delay my son’s shower, my dinner, and doing the laundry in order to not miss the doorbell nor to make her wait at the door one second longer than necessary (don’t want her spending any time reading that sign and getting nervous, or worse, running away). It’s been one hour and twenty minutes and she’s still not here. No girl. No cookies.

Maybe I shouldn’t purchase cookies from her, since she’s so afraid of my homemade “no soliciting” sign. Yes, the sign is blunt and effective at deterring the many annoying salespeople that used to come by daily, BUT I’VE TOLD HER IT DOESN’T APPLY TO HER OR GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!


Okay, good news: As I was typing this she finally came over and I have my cookies. It took her an hour and a half to get up the nerve to ring my bell!

It depends on how you look at it

I’m getting old. I am older. I’m middle age. I’m not young any more.

I know all this to be true, and if/when I do forget, my body reminds me.

When my 8 year old wants me to join him for a game on the floor, I realize that I am old. THE FLOOR! Ha! I am at the age and physical state when sitting on the floor takes consideration. Can I get down semi-gracefully? Will I be able to get back up? Is there anything nearby to hold onto while attempting to get back up? Will I hurt my knee – again – when getting back up, since I have to roll over onto my knees in order to stand up straight? 

I envy the young moms who can play with their children on the floor without thought or consideration to the process of such an event.

And my 18 year old regularly reminds me of how unflexible I am. (Unflexible isn’t a word, is it? I think it should be, because ‘inflexible’ just doesn’t seem to fit in this case.) The other night she did a few backbends and some yoga poses and my back hurt just thinking about putting my body into those same positions. I used to … there was a time when I could have. Years ago I could do the splits and kicks and rolls and I could touch my toes willingly.

Nowadays (see, I am old, because old people use the word ‘nowadays’), a few flights of stairs and I need to stop and take a few deep breaths, and the problems with my knees become very obvious, and all this makes me feel very old. Since my washer and dryer are two flights down from the bedrooms, I make this two-flights-down-and-two-flights-up trip often on a weekly basis, and am reminded each and every time how out of shape I truly am. (Yet wouldn’t all these flights of stairs — while carrying loads of laundry — help get me into shape? They don’t seem to.)

Yesterday I went shopping at a big box store. It was a Saturday night and I was shopping alone for toilet paper. It was a lovely evening and I was enjoying myself. That right there makes me feel old! Halfway through the store I found myself passing a few other shoppers in the wide aisles. These shoppers I was passing were older than myself and were walking much slower, and not because they were checking out the merchandise. I noticed one had trouble with her feet and was relying on the big red cart for balance. Another had a younger child (grandchild? niece? friend?) helping steady her. They weren’t much, much older than myself, but they were older.

And that’s when I realized that I can stand up straight and walk quickly … and I can go up and down two flights of stairs holding laundry baskets. And with enough consideration I can sit on the floor with my son to play a game (though the dining room table is also a great place for game playing, and the chairs are easier to get in and out of, so I shall still recommend that option every once in a while). I will never do a backbend again (and truth be told, I was never great at those in the first place, but my splits and kicks were most excellent). I may be older, and my body may be not as flexible or receptive to motion, but I’m not ready for a cane or a wheelchair or any of that any time soon.

So, yes, I’m older. And with that comes change to my body and what it can and can’t do. This I accept. And I understand I’m not incapable of basic everyday motion, I just need to do some things differently and with caution and concern. There may come a day when getting down on the floor will be impossible (if I am expected to get back up), but that day is not today.

I need to remember to look at what I can do and not concentrate or focus on what I can’t do.


Random thoughts and things:

  • Last week was one of those weeks when everything goes wrong and silly things happen that make you cry and then you end up laughing. In the span on 24 hours I cut my thumb on my left hand and a finger on my right hand. The thumb cut was from a wax paper container. For some reason the cutter strip on the box was industrial strength, even though wax paper can be cut easily. It sliced right into my thumb resulting in a lot of blood, a queasy stomach, and many bandages which made my thumb useless for a few days. The other cut was from something equally stupid and innocent looking, yet did a large amount of damage to my poor finger. So I had bandages on both hands and tried to get dressed. Do you know how hard it is button jeans without the use of one thumb and one finger on the opposite hand? Very hard. And these are the words that came out of my mouth while struggling to accomplish this everyday task, “Now I know why monkeys don’t wear jeans!” And then I realized that some monkeys could wear jeans if they wanted to, because they do have opposable thumbs, and they don’t use stupid wax paper, so they probably don’t have to worry about bandaging up their thumbs like I did last week.
  • Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m 99% sure my husband has yet to even think about getting me a card or gift. We aren’t big gift givers, mainly because he’s so bad at it, but Valentine’s Day has always been the exception. He knows I love chocolate almost as much as I love him (or is it the other way around?) and I can usually expect a bag of heart shaped chocolates every February 14th. But lately he’s been working 1000 hours per week and hasn’t had time to do any shopping or anything besides work and travel to and from work. After all these years of marriage (over 20) and his previous gift purchase failures (more than 20), I still am upset that I didn’t have a card or bag of chocolates greeting me when I woke this morning.
  • It seems my daughter has made her final decision as to where to attend college this fall. She surprised me in that her choice isn’t the one she’s been raving about for months. Instead it’s the one she originally had near the bottom of her list. Why the change? She did her research without me saying a word! I didn’t even know but there are websites where schools are rated by former and current students. She read through all the reviews of all the colleges she’s applied to and went back over the school websites and came to her new decision on her own. The fact that it’s the choice I would have made and the one I would have encouraged, well, I’m thrilled! I think she’ll thrive at this school. It has an excellent education program (she wants to be a teacher), it’s close enough to make me happy, far away enough for her to feel independent, and it won’t break the bank.
  • My youngest son — the one on the autism spectrum — has been breaking my heart lately. Might be due to the unexpected days off of school. When his routine is changed it bothers him. And we’ve had so many snow days. So many. His anxiety is heartbreaking, but more than that, it reminds me of me. I know anxiety well. The other day, as he was about to go to the school bus (on one of our actual days of school this week!) he said he was happy to go to school because he loves his school, his teacher, and his classmates, but he was worried. Why? Because what if I have a car accident while he’s at school and get very injured. He told me he’s always worrying about things like this. I’m constantly thinking these thoughts. I am a “what if” kind of person. And not with “what if I win the lottery” type thoughts, but “what if I have a heart attack while driving” thoughts. It makes me cry knowing his head is full of similar worries.
  • And today he cut his pajama pants. He hasn’t used scissors inappropriately in years. YEARS. But today he took the scissors and after cutting an art project, he make four large holes in his pants. Then he lied about why. Then he got upset that he lied. The worry, this behavior, the lies … I’m so sad knowing he’s not at a calm place right now.
  • I like snow. I like winter. I much prefer fall and winter to summer. About a thousand times more. Yesterday I shoveled because I like to shovel, and husband was working (see above about working 1000 hours per week). The moving of snow from one place to another makes me happy. To have a clear driveway makes me happy. I enjoyed every second of it. And then this morning I realized I couldn’t move my left arm. And my back hurts. And my leg is sore. And the other one too. But my driveway is clear!
  • My daughter is making cookies right now. Enough said.

Edited to add this picture of one of the cookies she made for me:

heart cookie Idena

Things that make me go hmmm…

(If you’re at least 30 you may recognize that title.  There was a song with a similar name back in 1991. And that song has been going through my head all morning while thinking about this post.)

I’ve been wondering if I will ever again think of something to write, and since I can’t think up any topics for a full post, decided to list here things that lately have made me go hmmm…

  • At my local drycleaners, there is a very prominent sign advertising that items brought in prior to 9am will be ready at 5pm that very day. Convenient, since my husband usually waits until he’s wearing one of his last clean shirts before telling me he needs the dirty ones dropped off. (Are you asking, Why doesn’t he do this himself? Well, he leaves for work before the drycleaners open and returns home after they close. Therefore this job is mine. The one we use if only two blocks away, so it’s easy enough to swing by. Anyhoo….) Because of this “in before 9am, out at 5pm” sign, wouldn’t you assume that if you drop off shirts after 9am, they’d be ready the next day at 5pm? I sure did. Yet every time I go in there and drop off shirts (and yes, even though it’s only two blocks away, somehow this errand gets pushed until mid-day rather than first thing, and that’s why I hardly ever get there before 9am, though I should maybe work on that) they tell me it will take two full days, therefore “in after 9am, ready at 5pm two days from now” is their preferred method of business. I just don’t understand, if I drop them off at say, 1pm Wednesday, they’ll be ready after 5pm on FRIDAY, but if I hold off and instead come in Thursday at 8:30am, they’ll have them ready after 5pm THURSDAY. But I don’t want to come in at 8:30am and therefore I tell them that I still want them at 5pm the next day, since, technically, they are in BEFORE 9am when dropped off at 1pm the day prior. You’d think by now — I’ve used this drycleaners for over two years — they’d see me coming and stop trying to convince me that their one day service takes two days.
  • There is nothing truer in life than this: One size does not fit all. Yet some clothing designers don’t know this. And on the topic of clothing, why of why does most clothing for larger women have flaps or embellishments on the back pockets of pants? For those of us at this larger than average size, the last thing I need is to accentuate what is already quite noticeable in the first place. Finding jeans that fit and that don’t scream “LOOK AT MY BIG OLD BEHIND” has proved impossible. And stripes… horizontal stripes. Why? In the stores I shop at, in the department that sells clothing in my size, most of the shirts and dresses have horizontal stripes. Umm, don’t the people who make clothing know that horizontal stripes aren’t helpful on larger bodies?
  • I am not a fan of the expression “boys will be boys.” I’ve heard it often lately and it kind of makes my blood boil. I find it’s a phrase that some people use to explain why their sons are unruly, disrespectful, and out-of-control. Yes, it’s also what some people say when their boy is exploring and climbing and loud, which many boys are. I get that. What I don’t like is to say that when a boy misbehaves, it’s because he’s a boy. Or that all boys act this way. That’s like saying “girls will be girls” and assuming this means all girls are demure, love the color pink, and always play with dolls. Not so. To be clear, I’m not against boys acting wild or crazy. I’m also not against little girls acting that way. Kids act like kids because they are kids. What I don’t like is that phrase used in place of “I’m so sorry my son just tossed the phone across the room to pretend it’s a grenade and in doing so scratched the table and broke the phone screen.” But when I mention this opinion to some friends who have only boys, they take it personally, as if I’m criticizing their boys.
  • Between being slightly ill (a virus that wiped out all my energy) and insomnia from menopause, and a husband who works 24 hours a day (or close to it) resulting in me being the only grown up in the house doing all the grown up duties, when husband finally was home last night just in time to bathe and tuck in our youngest, I took advantage of this and got into bed myself at 7:30. And I slept. It was heavenly. I was also wide awake from midnight until 3am, but that’s pretty normal. So anyway, this morning I came downstairs and it looked as if the kitchen had been treated as if it was a crime scene. Not one thing was out of place or dealt with since dinner. Pots and pans and dirty counters were all waiting for me, just as I left them. I wasn’t surprised, but I was angry. Why didn’t my husband help out and wash the pots and pans? Sigh. But then I realized there were no plates or cups or silverware in the sink … he had done something. The dishwasher had been loaded and run. Yahoo! Terrific! Big news! This excited feeling lasted only a few seconds, for when I opened the dishwasher to unload it, I found bowls upside down and other items loaded in such a way they could never get clean. So I had to rearrange and re-wash many of the items. I’m happy he tried to help, but I just don’t understand how in his 50+ years on this planet he’s never figured out how to — and how not to — load a dishwasher. He doesn’t do this on purpose (as someone suggested to me — thinking I’d tell him not to do it since he does it poorly). He just doesn’t get it. And no matter how many times I show him where certain bowls can go — and where they can’t go — he still puts them in the wrong place. Every.Single.Time. Sigh.
  • We’re currently near the end of months of major costly home repair. When all is said and done, I’m considering hiring a maid service for a one time thorough cleaning. The idea sounds wonderful — to have the whole house completely clean all in one day, and done by someone other than myself — but the more I think of it, the more I realize all I’d have to clean/organize/sort before they can come clean. This doesn’t sound right, yet I can’t see any way around it. If I don’t clean/organize/sort, they’ll either have to work around piles of papers and other things I am in the middle of dealing with, or move them, and who knows where they’d put them or if the piles would get combined or messed up (makes me stressed just thinking about this). I’ve heard of people cleaning before their cleaning service shows up, and I’ve always thought that odd. Now I know what they were talking about. And now I wonder if it’s worth having them come after all. Hmmm…