Friday, December 30, 2011


Nerf eater?
The ski resorts must be hatin' it right now, but I'm pretty happy.  It's in the 50's right now, here in Salt Lake.  It's not particularly sunny, but I'll take the warmth.

As I scoop dog poop, random thoughts pop in my head:
It's warm! Nice.
It's warm enough that Ben can ride his trike back here.
Ugh, all the dog poop is thawed.
Hmmm, one o these pups seems to have eaten something from the Nerf food group. 
I hope I got it all...I hate cleaning poo off of shoes. 
Hmm, what shoes will Ben wear to school tomorrow? 
Better make sure those are pooless. 
School starts tomorrow!!!

5 minutes later, Ben falls off his trike and gets a bloody nose.  He winds up falling asleep across my lap, so I take advantage of it to write this post.  Sadly, I can't think of much to say, but my random thoughts reminded me of this Zen koan, that we first came across in "Zen Shorts ":
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

I liked that tale before I ever met Ben.  I like it even more now.  Koans can be interpreted a lot of ways.  This one to me helps me think, 'You're not going to fix autism, not today anyway.  So do what you can to make your family happy, and keep getting up in the morning."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday party happiness

Party time.

Lovely Wife has invited some people over for cocktails.  She's put a lot of work into preparing for this.  Bro-in-law and his wife are here, Mom- and Dad-in-law are about, all are helpful and in holiday spirits.

Ben's had a rough couple of days.  Right on the tail end of a round of amoxycillin for a sinus infection, he spent a morning throwing up -- the nurse says it's probably stomach flu.  That was followed by the gross thing you parents know usually happens next (it's still going on).  Given that, he's in a pretty good mood.

The house renovation has been tough for him too, losing his major play-place and being subjected to  random, loud construction noises.  He also misses school, and periodically says his schoolmates' names questioningly.  He loves his Nanna and Pappa, Auntie S, and Uncle J, but it still stresses him in some way I don't understand to have anyone in the house, no matter how loving.  

The floors are finished, but the bathroom/laundryroom construction is in full swing.  We won't be using the bottom half of the house.  Normally, that's where kids go to hide when the grown-ups have a party.

Everything's ready, everybody's scrubbed.  The house that we do have is spic and span.  When the first guests arrive, Ben starts gets clingy.  When more folks show up, it quickly becomes too much.

We try to find happy places in the house, but cannot.  Voices and footsteps are too loud everywhere.  Ben starts saying, "Go walkabout!" repeatedly, so we do.

It's dark outside and clear, but not too cold.  We bundle up, and head across the street to the church parking lot.  There's a light dusting of snow, and Ben scuffs his feet through it.  We talk about tracks and have a good time, walking backwards and what-not.

Ben has a Matchbox car with him and finds some ramps to roll it down, but the snow gets in the way.  Maybe Matchbox makes a snowplow.  Note to self.

I ask him if he'd like a song, and he says yes.  I start singing a refrain from "Danny Boy", probably a little too loud, but there's a nice echo.  I used to sing lots of different songs to Bubba, but my repertoire got pretty limited with Ben.

Tonight, he asks for more "Danny Boy", and it warms me.  Ben chases snowflakes across the parking lot, and I sing "Heartbreak Hotel" in my best Elvis and that crawdad song.  He slides adroitly backwards down a ramp, and I sing "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz".

I can see the lights from my house across the parking lot, and can imagine the conversations.  I wish there were two of me -- one to be with my spouse and be a grown-up cocktail party-goer, and one to be with Ben in this moment.  Barring that, I pick this...Ben and I are having a great time.

Eventually, I run out of songs and he gets a little cold.  We decide to go back to the party.  The grown-ups are talking loudly and with much animation, so we retreat to the basement.  After a bit of fun with the dogs, Ben puts his PJs on, goes to bed, and I rejoin the world of adults.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

afk for a while

Antibiotic poops suck!
It's Thursday night.  The dishes are done.  It's been a week since I posted a blog entry, and I've been jonesin', but haven't had the opportunity.  I have to go back to my "todo" list to remember what's been happening.

Ok, I don't want to bore you with details, but here are some highlights:


It's my Lovely Wife's company holiday party, and it's an important one.  I've bought a tux (at 75% off, thanks Jos. A. Bank), and finally feel like I'm dressed appropriately for these engagements.  "H" shows up to watch the boys...she's an awesome babysitter, and gets some smiles out of the Benjamin before we go.  He's whinging, but you can tell that he likes her, and will settle down once we leave.  We get to the event early, and have a drink with one of the attorneys in from out of town.

He tells one of my favorite jokes:

Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac?
He lays awake at night, wondering if there really is a Dog.

I fed him a follow-up:

So, a dyslexic walks into a bra...

Is it ok for an ASD parent to do dyslexic jokes?  Maybe not...feel free to commnet, dylsexics.

Anyway, the event goes fine.  I'm touched by the firm's camaraderie, and impressed by the service that these folks do.

styrofoam is fun to break into little pieces

I buy Lovely Wife a mini-fridge for her bar as a Christmas present.  She's a cocktail aficionado, and this will give her a place to store her lovingly prepared syrups and mixers without clogging up my fridge.  OK, that's kind of a selfish gift, but she'll like it.  Turns out that things aren't so simple...this thing needs a real grounded socket, and our 1950's house doesn't have one any place practical.  I ping bro-in-law, and he diplomatically suggests that he do the electrical work for it, rather than me.  I take him up on it.  I kind of get electrical stuff, but fear burning the house down.  This is yet another thing that will distract him from getting the rest of his work done.  As it turns out, the socket that we replace is tied into a switch.  Now, instead of flipping off a switch to turn off all the lamps in the living room, we'll need to turn them off individually, or else the mini-fridge will go off too.  Doh!


This is Bubba's 10th birthday.  Mildly hectic.  He wants to have it at Nickelmania, a retro arcade.  I arranged for a sitter for Ben weeks ago, but she cancels, realizing that she has to meet her bishop for her upcoming wedding.  Forgiven...having a wedding around xmas would drive me crazy.  All other sitters are out o town, so Lovely Wife steps up.

The birthday party goes well.  There's a little craziness, but I'm not free to share that.  I can tell you this though..Gauntlet still rocks.  At the start, all the kids wanted to do was get "tickets" -- play the arcade games that aren't really games, but let you gamble for tickets.  The tickets would buy you cheap toys that you probably could have gotten for less money by just buying them for $$.  I pulled Bubba aside and got him to play Gauntlet with me.  It was great!  We got through the first two levels and I got a little daring...I asked another kid to play with us.  For a minute, I thought he was really bad at it, and then it turned out that his joystick wouldn't go to the right.  Our game was screwed.  We could have waited for health counters to tick down, but we didn't have the time. *sigh*


blargh, it has 3 legs, too!
OH NO!  Ben is sick.  He spends the morning throwing up.  He's in the midst of antibiotics, so that rules out a few things.  There's some "stomach flu" going around, so maybe that's it.  Lovely Wife takes care of him, while I replace the toilet off our room with the one from the basement (newer).  I run into problems (rusty toilet bolts), but we resist calling a plumber and wait for bro-in-law to arise.  When Bro-in-law arises, he walks me through things and progress is made, with only one parts run needed.

By the end of the day, we've been through the "tablespoon of gatorade every fifteen minutes" regimen, and are up to two working toilets, and aesthetically pleasing ones at that.  Sis-in-law arrives sometime during the night.

I awaken at 4:00 a.m..  Someone has used the bathroom, but I don't hear them flush.  Of course, I have turned off the water supply, so they would have to go to extra measures to do so.  I lay in bed, listening for them to flush.  It doesn't happen, and I drift back to sleep, dreaming about the opening scene from Lethal Weapon 2.  In my dream, there's no explosive wired to the toilet, there's just someone sitting there, waiting for me to bring them toilet paper.  Hmmm.


OK, here we are, back to Thursday.  More progress has been made.  We have a few outside xmas lights for the first time ever (nothing on the roof..I'm not crazy).  The floors are almost done.  The house is fairly tidy (now).  We're almost ready to have a few folks over tomorrow night.

No holiday cards this year...sorry.  Maybe we'll do new year's cards or something.

Best thing:

Ben has started saying "Momma look!".  He's been doing stuff and trying to show it off to people...he hasn't really done that before.  I'll take it...even when he calls me "Momma".

Alright, it's 11:45...I'll go put some stuff in the dryer.

Cheers y'all.

Household tips:

If you have a clogged drain, get a pipe snake.  It should cost about $15.  You can clear out all kinds of nasty stuff without calling a plumber.

If you have a clogged toilet, get a toilet snake.  It's very similar, but has some protection so you won't scratch the porcelain.  Trust me, it's worth it. 

If you do, somehow, use a pipe snake instead of a toilet snake and scratch your porcelain just  before you have people over to your house, there is something called "appliance paint" or "appliance epoxy" that you can use to make your toilet look much better.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter break has begun!

me, in the early 90's
In grad school, I lived in lots of places.  My favorite was a little house with Chris and John and Cisco and Pancho and those cats whose names I forget.  We played lots of RPGs and learned to rock climb together.

One day we were sitting on the couch watching CHiPs, and Chris started laughing uproariously at every little hijink that Ponch and Jon played.  After 20 minutes of this, one of us said, "Er, Chris, this show's not that funny..."  Chris, in a deadpan voice said, "This show is much better if you laugh while watching it, even if it's not funny.  Try it."  Chris is good at getting people to do stuff, and we did it.  It kind of worked...we all had a good time that day.  I must say it was one of the most pleasurable CHiPs viewings I've had.

cisco, best dog evar
On a side note, Chris's other theories included that if you didn't keep saying unpredictable, interesting things, you could be replaced (with no moral implications) by a robot, and also that it would be a good idea to build self-replicating robots based on mobile homes and junk cars.  He later got a PhD and is now head of a successful tech company.  If you look out your window one day and see a mobile home stalking down your street, you'd better start thinking of something unpredictable and interesting to say.

What's my point?  I just wanted y'all to know my plan for the holidays.  We've got a house that's literally torn apart.  We're gonna have house guests.  We're gonna have a party.  In-laws are coming!  (love them) We're gonna have Bubba's 10th birthday party.  And we're gonna have it again, so that Ben can enjoy.  We're gonna have kids off from school for 2 weeks.  We don't have a cake yet, and we haven't bought all our xmas presents, and we haven't done diddly about holiday cards.  Ok, that's not a plan, that's just all the stuff that's going down.

Here's the plan:  Laugh.  Every time there's a choice, I'm gonna choose laughing.  You just watch, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this.  It doesn't matter if things aren't perfect.  Anybody who gets a little whiny is going to get picked up and hugged and twirled around (here's hoping Uncle J doesn't need that, 'cause he's bigger than me). 

Don't get me wrong...Ben and I will be doing our walkabouts, and we'll be doing every damned thing that we need to do (and I do mean need).  I guess I'm going to pretend that I'm medicated or something. 

Happy holidays to all of y'all.  I'll post if I can.  If I can't, it's because I'm busy laughing.  Maniacally.

Tip o the day:

There are often two ways to go.  When things get weird, you can react like you are conditioned to, or you can go sideways...blow a zerbit or make a funny noise.  I don't know what's best...but sometimes you need to hear giggles instead of screams.  Think twice...maybe you can get a giggle.

Monday, December 12, 2011

TGIM...oh noes!

Construction zone (J)
So...Mondays are big for me. I'm not going to go into why, but I'll just say, it's pretty peaceful around here while the kids are in school and Lovely Wife is at work. There might have been lots of cooking over the weekend, and not a lot of dish washing, for instance.  Today started out with fairly normal chaos.   It worked, and kids were delivered to school.

Ahhh, everything is peaceful.    I respond to e-mails, shop for christmas presents, read other people's blogs.  I search online for how to make the annoying message on my car dashboard go away (thank you Yahoo Answers).  I go upstairs to take a shower and while the water is heating up, my phone rings.  I turn the water off, it's Lovely Wife. "The school called me because they couldn't reach you." Crap.  Apparently, having my phone in my pocket while sitting in the kitchen puts me in a dead zone.   "Ben is coughing and sneezing at school, and you need to go pick him up."

Jump in the car, head off to school. Sign in, and hurry through the halls. Ben is soooo excited to see me.  He climbs all over me as the teacher tries to explain the morning. We find his lunch and his coat and head on out.    I've no doubt that he was spreading germs all over, but for the rest of the day, Ben isn't coughing or sneezing at all.   It's a little annoying...all under the level that I'd take him to a doctor.

walkabout danger: rolling thing that's heavy
I'd like to go to the grocery store now, but Ben is saying "apple juice" and "curious george" and I don't seem to have my shopping list with me anyway.  We pull into our driveway and I fix the annoying message from the car that tells me "Change your oil NOW".   I did that a month ago, but Jiffy Lube didn't reset the car's computer. Ah, feeling of accomplishment.

The day has now changed for me.  My todo list is stripped to include only things that have to be done. We have to go to the grocery store because I can't make Ben's GFCF lunch without it (I'm being hopeful that he stays in school this week).  We have to go to a laundromat because Lovely Wife is going on a business trip tomorrow and our laundry room has been demolished.   I really need to reply to a couple of e-mails too. I send my e-mails and then scurry around checking supplies so I can make a grocery list.

What with Lovely Wife out of town tomorrow, Brother-in-Law (J) and the boys and I are going to have a ManFest for the next few days. We need things to deep-fry and toilet paper. We'll do leftovers tonight, but I should cook some green beans to go with it. We need juice boxes and GF pretzels and rice bars. Better get some broccoli and brussel sprouts, even if we are having a manfest.

Grocery list is complete, laundry is loaded, dry-cleaning is bagged, Curious George is over. Shoes on, jacket on, *ding-dong* the floor guy is here.  He's early, J is supposed to meet him here in half an hour.  He seems like a nice guy. Ben says hello, but is perplexed by the offer of a handshake.  The guy recovers quickly and turns it into a high five, which Ben does with enthusiasm.  Ben latches onto me while I show the floor guy what we want estimated.  The longer we talk, the more Ben wants to go and wants me to come with him.  He has a partial meltdown, but I think I told the floor guy everything.  He takes his measurements and leaves.

walkabout danger: freaking rose bushes
We hop in the car.   It's no longer complaining about its oil, but starts bonging at me that our laundry basket should be wearing a seatbelt.   The bonging becomes frantic but eventually shuts off. We stop at the drycleaner and drop off a bag.  Dry-cleaning Lady knows us and remarks on how big Ben is getting. We drive to the laundromat and the bonging begins again.

I get a Kojak spot out front, take the laundry in, and go back out to get Ben. He wants to go walkabout, but I get him to come inside with a car. The manager is very chatty and has an old black Lab she introduces to Ben.  He does well with it, and manager-lady gives him a candy cane. Ben is quite stoked about this and crunches merrily away. I get the laundry started, retrieve Ben's car from a washing machine, and off we go. We have about half an hour to kill.

The neighborhood feels different today. We usually come here on weekends to play on the school playgrounds. We avoid the school today, since it will be full of kids. We say hello to the lady at the artsy store and an older gent in the red hat moving his trash cans around. Ben is staring at him, like he expects more than a hello.

walkabout danger: wasp nest
Ben tries to go into someone's back yard, then onto a porch. "This isn't our house, buddy, let's keep moving." He finds an awesome curved wall to walk on, and we go back and forth on it until it's time to go back.

In the 'mat, Ben runs to a high speed washer and tries to yarg the door open. I stop him in time. Now he wants candy.  Fortunately, I have a pocketful of reasonably healthy stuff that Lovely Wife picked up the other day. We get our laundry in a dryer and set it for an hour. Time for the grocery store - GO!

Ben wants to go walk about again, but concedes with only a small fight. We make it in and out, then zip back to the house to put perishables away, then head back to the 'mat. Everything's dry, we stow it and I check the time. We have 30 minutes to kill before it's time to pick up Bubba. I get a text from a friend (A) - she wants to pick up Bubba from school and take him to their house for a playdate. Serendipity! Ben and I head home to play with doggies and do dishes.

 Tuesday Update:

We wake up at 5:30 to get Mommy off to her plane. All is quiet in Ben's room. I wake him up at 7:15. He's cute as can be. Sadly, he starts coughing a bit as he gets vertical. Is it just a cold? There's no fever. It could be the inversion, or all the dust from construction.

stop licking the xmas lights!
A quick breakfast, and we scurry off to school. Drop-off is a little awkward. The teacher seems surprised that we didn't visit the doctor yesterday.  I suspect I have unknowingly violated a school protocol.  I drop off Bubba and head home. The plumber shows up and shuts off the water. So much for a shower.

I head to the library and pick up a book that A recommended, go to the bank, make a deposit and get money for construction supplies.   I meet up with J and pass him the wad o cash. I head to Tutoring Toy to find xmas presents for Ben.  My phone's Lovely Wife, calling from Seattle.

The school called hours ago, while she was in the air.  I have to pick up Ben again because he's coughing.  His teacher is recovering from surgery and is worried about catching something (rightfully so).  I call the school and ask to be connected to Ben's room. A fax machine picks up.   I reach the school and stop by the front desk. They have my contact number as a mix of my wife's and mine. We straighten that out and I head to the classroom.

They're at lunch.   I grab Ben's stuff and head to the cafeteria.  After some apologies, we're out and back in the car.  We need a doctor's note before Ben can go back to school.  I call the doctor's office and get an appointment for 20 minutes later (yay).

I have a lot of faith in our doctor.  He is smart and low-key.   I think he's from Maine.  He does charity doctoring in Africa.  He checks Ben out and says that there's a good chance it's the inversion or construction dust, but there's a chance it's a sinus infection.  The fact that Ben has had a couple of nosebleeds lately points that way. We get a prescription for an antibiotic and a note for school. We get on the road and get the prescription filled (and a sucker).

The rest of the day is surprisingly fun, especially considering the water is turned off. We go on walkabout with falling snow and have an exciting time.  ManFest will begin soon.

Question of the day:

I'd really like to have a spirally ramp that's sturdy and can handle Matchbox cars.  We have this one, but it only works with cars that are a little smaller than Matchbox.  That's quite annoying, since Ben has lost all the cars that go with it and I don't know where to buy more.  I'm willing to build something.  Anyone got tips for me?

Friday, December 9, 2011


Ben's in school Monday through Thursday.  Today is Friday...Bubba's in school, and Mom's at work, so it's just Ben and me.  This Friday, we had people show up to work on our house at 8:00 a.m. and Ben and I had to find something to do.  It was 25 degrees out.

We start off with McDonalds.  I have a sausage biscuit and Ben has a hashbrown thingy.  Not good, I know, but it makes for a happy daddy.  We take a roundabout route to Red Butte Gardens, and go for a walkabout with the pink toy stroller.  We get onto the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and just roam around.  We say "hi" to several hikers and dogs, and randomly wind our way down into the research park.  We dodge cars and get to see a dump truck testing its dumper and a garbage truck and a cement mixer.  Ben rides his stroller down the driveway of a software development company.  In some not-too-different alternate reality, I'm inside that building on a Friday, thinking about deadlines or estimates or bugs.

We head home to check out the house and find the workers gone, having done a good job.  Snack time and time for Curious George.  Snack time turns into a bigger deal, and winds up being lunchish.  I figure he's in pretty good shape and we'll be ok for our two errands today.  We head off to REI for #1, buying a new winter coat for Ben.  He wears mostly hand-me-downs, but he has a decent wardrobe.  Sadly, he just screwed up the zipper on his best winter coat.

He is not in the mood for shopping when we get there.  He wants to roam the store, and bicycles and climbing walls are much more interesting than clothes.  I talk him halfway across the store, but we stall out.  He asks me to put him in a cart.  That would mean going all the way back to the entrance.  I decide to risk it and urge him forward to the kid's clothes.  We make it there, and I try to get him interested.  I get one jacket on him, and it's not a bad fit.  He immediately starts saying "Take off!" and as I do, he hightails it for the luggage section of the store.  I glance at the jacket's price tag...$99.  I'd not have paid that anyway.  We're surrounded by things that are half off, but they're intertwined with full-price stuff.  It's hard to figure out what's a good deal and what's not.  I can't think about it anyway, because Ben has made a mess of the luggage and is heading towards the cookware.  That could be tragic.

I swoop in and pick Ben up, trying my best to calm him.  It doesn't go well.  We leave the store quickly, and get in the car.  He's ticked off and screaming "Bite.  Bite!" at me.  He wants to sink his teeth into my forearm and get his anger out.  He wants to feel deep pressure in his jaws.  I stick a chewy toy in his cupholder and drive.

Deep breath.  We head onto chore number 2.  Spoons and Spice has graciously agreed to donate a martini shaker to the "James Bond" basket I'm putting together for the school's charity auction.  We get out, and Ben needs to be carried.  He's wound up.  I carry him in and somehow end up behind the cash register before I realize it.  There's a line of customers trying to check out and get their spoony and spicy needs met.  A clerk says, "May I help you with something?"(translation: "Should I call 911?").  Ben is thrashing in my arms while we are surrounded by lots of breakable things.

I say, "Nick Granato said we could pick up a martini shaker here...".  The clerk says, "Nick will be right out", and goes back to her customers.  A self-assured young man comes out and introduces himself as Nick.  I lamely hold out our school's donation letter, and he makes me feel welcome, "Great!  That's just what we need."  He passes me the shaker and we bolt from the store.

Ben is yelling "walkabout" at me, and has tears running down his cheeks.  He's not a big crier, so I'm pretty sure he needs it.  We head towards home, and I think about where to go.  That park in Sugarhouse, Fairmont, is right on the way.  Ben has calmed down as we pull up.  He is bad with his "s" sounds, but I realize that he wants me to get his stroller out of the back.  We do, and head into the park.

He's drawn to the play structure.  It's not the best for him, but has a couple of slides (yay).  The downside is that it has several ladder-like things that are beyond his ability, but not his desire.  There are also a batch of kids there, playing and having a good time.  He ditches his stroller and heads to the structure.

Ben usually ignores other kids, but this time, he latches onto two young girls.  They are probably 11 or 12, and have a younger brother (3 YO?) they are entertaining.  Ben jumps right in with their games.  I'm a little anxious, because he's been so up and down today, but I'm also psyched, because he's interacting with other kids and is happier than he's been all day.  The girls are laughing and Ben is too.  Their brother seems a little jealous, but I don't think he's going to start pushing Ben away (that's happened before).

Meanwhile, an 18 MO has latched onto Ben's stroller and started holding it possessively.  Two moms are standing next to her and chatting.  Ben hasn't noticed.

The girls run off, and I get Ben onto the swing.  We do some seriously good swinging, but Ben is now watching the little girl with his stroller.  About 10 minutes later, he wants to get down and get his stroller back.  He articulates it, and actually says, "want stroller back," which is very good for him.  I say to the moms, "Hey...he's going to need that back." "Oh, that's his?" "Yes, it's his favorite toy."  They pause in their conversation and sweet talk the girl out of it.  She's not happy, but gives up quickly.  We rattle off toward the skate park.

I have a small pity moment.  With my typical kid, we had playdates all the time.  I had a small set of moms that I saw 2 or 3 times a week.  I'm a dude, but they accepted me and made me feel part of the clan.  We vented about our spouses, medical issues, movies, crap (literally), and plans for the future.  We hung out in libraries, parks,  museums, and the zoo.  We could continue a playdate by taking the kids to lunch.

When Ben came along, it was pretty different, pretty soon.  To start with, we didn't have any friends with kids the same age.  I tried a couple of times to get playdates started.   It was different though...Ben wouldn't play with other kids.  He didn't want to be on the playground.  He wanted to roam the park.

Watching those two women brought it home to me.  In the hour that we were there, they had been talking the whole time.  They were having a grown-up conversation while I was spotting Ben on the ladder and orbiting the play-set.  When Ben came along to retrieve his stroller, it took them maybe less than a minute to mollify the little girl.  Since I left the house that morning, I'd barely talked to anyone but Ben.  I do try to engage him as much as I can, sometimes narrating what he's doing and trying to get him to respond to questions.

Anyway, so much for my pity moment.  I've forgotten errand #3...we're out of dog food.  I convince Ben that we should go to the store now ("you want yogurt for breakfast, right?").  We exit the park and make our way to the grocery.  In and out, we're fast.  We stop by home and unload.  Ben wants to watch Curious George and eat yogurt.   We have 20 minutes before we have to pick up Bubba...that's enough time..

Tip o the day:

If you're trying to put together baskets for charity auctions, check out this thread.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Change can be hard to deal with for anyone, but for ASD kids it can be really hard.

Hank and Tucker
We are making some big changes to our house.  Two of the three bathrooms have become inoperable, and if we ever hope to move, we have to fix that.  The problem is that the house was built in the fifties and all the bathroom plumbing is behind tile.  That plumbing has started springing leaks, blossoming out into the walls and dripping down into the garage.  If we want to fix it, we have to tear out the tile, which  means serious business.  We've decided to redo the downstairs bathroom, moving a wall and making it much less claustrophobic. 

My brother-in-law (J) who has been doing tilework for 15 years, has redone many bathrooms, and is almost done flipping a house out in California, has graciously agreed to come and work on our house.  He and his two dogs are staying with us.  I'm totally psyched!  Bubba loves his uncle, and we do too.  The dogs are great...both border collies.  Zeek is 16, and getting on in years.  He's the smartest dog I've ever met.  Hank is one year old and just the thing to keep our Labrador in line.

The downstairs of our house has just become a construction zone.  There's a tile saw, drill bits, and all manner of pointy things. There's dust everywhere and we will be parking our cars on the street for a while.

The smartest dog I know
I'm a little worried, because we're losing the downstairs play area (it's also the guest room), and to some extent, the back yard (can't leave Ben unattended with the dogs).  On a typical (ha) day, Ben and I spend early mornings downstairs and late afternoons in the backyard.

We still have our walkabouts though.  Too bad it's ridiculously cold, and Ben refuses to wear gloves or a hat.

How is this going to work out?  I don't know.  It's going to stress Ben, for sure.  On the bright side, he's really happy to have these dogs around.  Zeek, for all his cranky-old-dog attitude, seems to get that Ben is not to be messed with  Hank was tested to be a therapy dog for the elderly and passed with flying colors.  J growls now and again, but I don't think he's going to bite.  Ben gave him a big hug tonight before bed time.

Bubba is way psyched to spend time with his uncle.  This may be a life-changing period of time for him (no pressure, J).  He's turning 10 this month, high time for some serious Uncle Influence.
At the end of all this (if things go well) is going to be the holidays.   My in-laws are coming to visit (love them!), and we're going to have an awesome Christmas.

It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's going to be worth it.

Wish us luck.

Quote o the day:

"It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go."  -Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Things could be be worse...

ye olde rack
Back in the 90's, when I was a carefree grad student, I took up rock climbing.  Salt Lake is a ridiculously good place for that.  In the winter, I would go to a climbing gym.

I'm more of a top-roper than a lead climber.  If you don't know that that means, take it to be that I'm into the joy of climbing without falling long distances.

One winter's day, I went to the gym with my climbing buddy at the time.  I decided to lead a climb that was rated 5.9, easy enough for me to top-rope, but a little tough for me to lead.

When you lead a climb, you bring the rope up with you and clip it into carabiners above your head.  At the moment when you are about to clip, your fall will be at it's maximum -- twice the distance from the last place you clipped in.

I was just about to make my third clip when my grip failed.  I lost my balance and my feet slipped off the wee little friction holds they were on.  I dropped straight down, falling about 10 feet.  No big deal, usually, and my partner caught me just fine.  The problem was that I had let the rope trail around my right leg instead of keeping it clear.  When my 200 pounds came to a halt, the stretchy climbing rope cinched up around my leg, removing a 10 mm wide strip of skin all the way around.

I was left dangling upside down from my leg instead of my comfy harness.  My climbing partner quickly lowered me to the floor.  My leg was throbbing and oozing blood.  It looked kinda gross.  The staff at the gym was giving me the eye...I'm pretty sure they were about to staple the waiver I'd signed to my shirt.

At home, I squirted some antiseptic on it, then some ointment, and then taped on a maxipad (it was the only thing big enough in my cabinet).  A couple of days later, it was looking nastier -- filled with white goo.  I headed to the campus clinic, and got in to see a nurse practitioner pretty quickly.  She looked at my leg a little grimly, said "This is gonna hurt a bit," and brought out a scrub brush.  She abraded the wound with a scouring pad, removing all the white gunk.  It did hurt quite a bit, I must say.

My leg wrapped in a bandage, throbbing madly, I drove home.  Stopping at a 7-11 for supplies, I levered myself out of the Jeep and hobbled dramatically to the door...which was held open for me by a one-legged man.

He was in his 20's and was missing his right leg above the knee.  He was adroitly holding the door open with his crutch.  He had a wry grin on his face, but didn't say a word.  I blushed and thanked him and walked in with less of a limp.

That's it - that's the story.  It's not much, but I think about it now and again.  It's hard being where we're at on the spectrum, but things could be much, much worse.  In the early intervention program, we met some families going through really hard times and doing it with grace and good spirits.  All of you out there, dealing with this stuff without cracking up, are my heroes.  Thank you.

Quote o the day:

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.  -Bertrand Russell

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the road again...

So far, we've flown to Tennessee and had a lovely, but exhausting time with my folks and sister.  Now it's time to drive back to Salt Lake in the vehicle that my folks have carefully prepped for us.  Mom has set us up with lots of snacks and we're ready to hit the road.  We load up, give hugs and kisses goodbye, and drive off, giving the same horn salute that Pa used to give Granpa after a visit.

I'm pretty optimistic about this trip.  Unlike confinement on an airplane, Ben doesn't seem to mind being in the car.  There's motion, road noise, lots of stuff to see, and snacks.  We have to stop every couple of hours and get out to run around, but that's a good idea for me, too.  I think Bubba was actually harder to entertain on car trips back then.  Now, he reads or plays his DS or listens to the ipod.  When everybody's calm and entertained, I get to think about whatever I like.  For this trip, I've got The Hunger Games as an audiobook.  Bubba and I wound up really liking it.

We're heading through St. Louis, over to Kansas City where we'll stop and visit some friends who recently moved there from Salt Lake.  I'm planning to stay in a hotel, since I think that's my best shot at getting Ben to sleep and not ruining our friends' rest.  We'll try to get all the way to Denver the next day and visit with some more friends.  Another day's drive should get us to Salt Lake, but we'll just have to see how it goes.

From my folks' place to St. Louis is easy for me.  I worked in St. Louis for 5 years after college, first for MacDonnell-Douglas and then for a software developer that was bought out by an L.A. firm.  As we approach the city, I shut off The Hunger Games and bombard Bubba with stories about my time there.  Going through East St. Louis, I tell him about how the city went broke and they had to sell the city hall.  He's impressed by the Arch, and listens patiently to me talking about riverboats and how this was a jumping off point for people heading west.  We stop for lunch on the other side of the Missouri River and let Ben roam around a little while I call our friends.

We love these people.  They are both scientists.  He's an outgoing, charming guy from Venezuela - I'll call him "A".  She's German and is quiet and thoughtful, with an engaging grin -- I'll call her "T".  Their two kids are really wonderful too.  We got to know them pretty well on that trip to Costa Rica I mentioned before.  They are the only folks who call Ben "Benny,"  and they are very good at making him smile (and me too).  They've invited us to stay with them, but I know that their kids have just started school and that odds are good we would be pretty disruptive.  "A" points me to a hotel that's not far from their house.

Refreshed, we zip across Missouri, and reach Kansas city in late afternoon.  The iphone leads us to our hotel.  It's pretty posh, but I'm ok with that for now.  Checking in takes a little longer than I'd like -- I can tell Ben needs to expend some energy before he melts down.  I bull our bags up to the room and we all three kind of unravel.  The kids are hungry, so we get some room service.  An hour later, we are somewhat recharged and go off to see our friends.

I want to run through the plants!
"A" greets us, and makes me a gin and tonic (yay).  He's as entertaining as ever -- I think I'd be a good straight man for him, should he ever take up comedy.   Ben roams their yard, exploring nooks and crannies.  I follow him, and Bubba loiters.  "T" shows up with their kids soon, and Bubba happily engages with them (yay).

We stay for an hour or so, and it's very pleasant.  Ben is on pretty good behavior, but it is still hard to carry on a conversation.  I'm wishing my wife were here.  As we head out to the car, "T" gives us some fresh fruit for our trip (it came in handy, too).  We manage to leave Ben's sandals behind, but otherwise have no problems.  Or so I think...

The rest of the night is reasonably uneventful.  We skip the bath (mistake), and get Ben to sleep.  Bubba watches some cartoons and I played World of Warcraft before we turn in.  Ben wakes us up at 4:00 a.m. -- no surprise there.  This time, though, we just hop in the car and get going.

I gas up and buy an energy drink and some sausage biscuits (banana for Ben), and we start across Kansas.  We're about halfway across when Ben starts getting cranky.  Hmmm, maybe he needs to poop.  We stop at a rest stop and get out.  I move bags out of the back and set up a diaper changing station.  I grab Ben and start to change him.  Uh oh.  HIVES!

Right now, they're just on his belly and legs, but they're pretty impressive.  I use baby wipes on him, and change his clothes.  He's in a better mood now, and wants to run around the rest stop.  We do that for a while, but eventually have to get back in the car.  As we drive, I think about all the possible causes.  I'm guessing it was the plants at our friends' house.  Ben probably rubbed up against everything in their yard.  It could also be my mom's fabric softener.  We don't use that at home and I've heard of kids having reactions to it.

I call our pediatrician's office and talk to the nurse practitioner.  She's always reassuring.  She suggests Benadryl and calamine lotion.   We stop at a truck stop in western Kansas, and I check on Ben.  The hives have spread to his face, neck, and arms and he's not happy about it.  We walk around the truck stop, looking at trucks.  I call our friends in Denver to warn them that things are not going as planned.  "M" is very good to talk to -- he suggests I find a Walmart and tells me of a motel for when we get to town.

I get Ben and Bubba back in the car and pull over to the pumps.  I go in to see what I can find while the car is filling up.  They don't have anything that would help.  The lady behind the counter says, "How's it going?"  I'm looking a little stressed, and say, "Well, I'm on a long car trip with my autistic kid and he seems to have some pretty bad hives.  Where's the nearest pharmacy?"  "Oh dear.  There's a Walmart in Colby, right up the road."  Phew!  I know people yell about the proliferation of Walmart, but I am very glad for it today.  We stock up on juice boxes, calamine, benadryl, and some other things and get back on the road.

We make it into Denver and find our motel.  It's just what the doctor ordered.  I give Ben a quick bath (probably too late now, but who knows) and put more calamine on him.  Bubba settles in for some cartoons while I go walkabout with Ben and call our friends.  We make plans and I go back to retrieve Bubba.  "M" and "C" meet us at one of their favorite Mexican restaurants.  The waitress knows them and obviously likes them, because she gives us a great table and has some margaritas to us in no time.

It's great to see these guys.  I met them through mutual friends playing World of Warcraft, and for a long time pictured them as Night Elves.  When we finally met them in person, it was odd to hear their voices coming from normal humans.

Uh oh, Ben's not happy.  The restaurant is too much for him.  Ben and I go walkabout to calm down, and stay out until "M" texts me that the food is there.  We get back, but Ben won't really eat anything.  Bubba has been enjoying "M" and "C" and his virgin 'rita.  The food is really good.  We don't stay too long, but it's really good to see those guys.  Back to the motel.

One more night.  No surprises.  4:00 a.m.  Up and at'em.  Bubba is surprisingly uncranky about this.  We listen to more Hunger Games, avoid a drunk driver, see some deer, go slow in construction zones, and make it to Wyoming as the sun is coming up.  I want to call Lovely Wife, but I'm pretty sure she's not awake yet.

Wyoming is nice.  I have pleasant memories about my first trip through here as an adult.  I'm excited to get home and decompress.  I talk to Bubba about the terrain, and the pony express.  We stop to gas up and put on more lotion.  We chat with Momma and pick up some Fat Tire before we cross the border.

Home!  Home!  Mommy's here!  Yay!  Zzzzzzzzz.

Thanks, Granma Granpa!

Ben looked pretty appalling by the time we got home...hives, pinky nail all swollen up.  A few days later, I got his hair cut and the hives were gone.  We were all set for the first day of school.  Oops!  He whacked his head on a table at Five Guys and had to get stitches at the ER.  sigh.

Book o the day:

We go to the emergency room way too much.  I found this book reassuring.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Daniel Boone was a man...

almost home
To pick up where I left sister and I had a nice drive to our home town.  We get along well, now that we're adults.  She's pretty awesome, actually, and always has been.  I'm just ready to appreciate it now.

My folks live outside of a small town by about 4 miles.  We wind through the familiar roads and turn into the woods.  It's about a quarter mile of gravel to my folks' place.  We arrive near midnight local time.

My folks greet us with open arms.  They are so happy to see us.  Ben is trying to crawl into my clothes.  He's tired and overwrought.  On the bright side, he doesn't seem to notice that his pinky is ballooning up from the accident on the plane.  Sensory processing disorder does have some benefits.

We begin what will be the standard for the next few nights.  I get Ben ready for bed, read to him, sing, bounce him, and eventually just hold him until he falls asleep on top of me.  It takes about an hour, even with the melatonin. I'm tired, but can't fall asleep myself, so I slip on earbuds and listen to a podcast until I do. He wakes up a couple of times during the night, but I get him back to sleep.

We get up at something like 4:00 and have some breakfast, then head to the basement to explore.  There's a treadmill and wagon and lots of old toys.  My mom never throws anything away and Bubba really likes playing with my old toy guns -- they don't make'em like that anymore.

crawdad huntin'
We spend our days going walkabout on the farm and playing in the creek.  This is the place we moved to when I was five.  My first memory of it was my dad talking to the man he would buy it from while they stood looking at the creek.  I laid down on my belly and started drinking straight from the stream.  I got in a few good slurps before Dad grabbed me and said, "What are you doing?!"  I thought it was pretty obvious what I was doing, but I said, "I'm being Daniel Boone."  Dad explained to me that cows pooped in the creek right upstream and drinking it was not such a good idea.

These days I think more about fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and all that stuff.  We know autism has both genetic and environmental factors.  What if it's the garbage in our food?  I buy some organic food, but not all.  What if I had gone all the way organic?  Maybe our lives would be different now.

It doesn't help my mood as I write this that I just watched The Corporation on Netflix.  The part about bovine growth hormone in milk and Fox's coverage was infuriating.  I grew up with heroic reporters breaking Watergate and bringing down a corrupt president.  Could that happen today?

Anyway, both boys have a very good time, and Auntie plays with us, helping Bubba catch crawdads.  He's having a blast.  A neighbor comes by and gives him a ride on an ATV and lets him hold a tricked out .22 rifle.  He comes back with a grin so wide it looks like the top of his head will fall off.

you could hear this for miles.
This was a great place to grow up.  I spent every summer day roaming up and down the creek, exploring and pretending.  I had a BB gun and knew how to use it.  Mom would ring a big dinner bell when she wanted me to come home.  I'd love for my older son to experience that kind of freedom.  I admire the free-range kids mom, but am not quite there yet.  I've lived in urban environments for almost 30 years, but don't really get how kids have fun here in a good way.  Bubba has playdates, but I try to steer them towards wii, legos, and playing in the back yard.  Of course, I'm usually watching Ben during these events.

It's really hard to imagine Ben having that kind of freedom.  ASD kids can be wanderers.  We do our "walkabout" the neighborhood most every day, and I can tell that he would be just as happy whether I was there or not.  He's recently learned to open the front door.  It's obvious that we have to get a double-keyed lock installed on the front door, or there's going to be mayhem.

It was a short visit, but good to see the folks.  Ben starts at his new school next week and we have a little over 1600 miles to drive.  Next time, I'll tell y'all about our exciting road trip back, after 3 nights of little sleep.

Haiku for you:

 "Go get newspaper."
"It's really cold out there, son."
"I want see moon now."

eastbound and down

Our "support network" is a little different, I think, than many families.  I'm a transplant to Utah.  I came out here back in 1991, having accepted admission to grad school without ever having visited the state.  That's a story in itself, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with this place.  My kinfolk are mostly back in Tennessee.  My niece moved here last year and that has been awesome.

My wife grew up here.  We lived in North Carolina for a while, but both were thrilled to move back here when she got out of law school.  Her family all moved away about the time we returned (just a coincidence).  Many of her friends left Utah to explore the world, but a few have come back and we're very thankful for them.

Even though we don't get to see my folks that often, they are tremendously important to us.  They help every way they can.  For instance, a year or so ago, my dad said they weren't that happy with their current vehicle and if I was interested, I could have it.  I said I'd think about it (the last vehicle they gave us was still going strong), and put it out of my head for a while.  After a while, little things started going wrong with our car that were minor, but very expensive to fix -- like when the power seat was stuck in a forward position (I'm 6'3" and that sucked) -- $800 fix.

Back in August, I called them up and said, "Hey, is that offer to pass on your car to us still good?"   There was a bit of a pause, but Ma and Pa didn't hesitate much.  I suspect some of it was them thinking "we'll need to put new tires on it first", 'cause they're those kind of folks.  With that, a plan was born for me to fly out with the boys just before school started and drive back with the Highlander.

Traveling with Ben is always an adventure.  This time, I decided on the direct flight to Nashville.  The upside was that we had a short overall travel time and fewer takeoffs and landings.  Ben isn't scared one bit of flying.  He kind of likes it, I think.  What he HATES is what happens when the seatbelt light comes on.  He's fine with his car seat in the car, but put him on a plane and tell him he has to sit still with a seatbelt on, and he freaks.   Not all the time, but enough that we went for the direct flight.

The downside of the direct flight was that there was only one, leaving around 5:00.  Schedules can be pretty important to ASD kids.  If Ben needs to be flexible, morning is the best time.  He gets more fragile as the day goes on.  By 3:00, I'm monitoring him to see if he needs to nap (which means bouncing him across my knees).  There's snacking to be done, and often a walkabout is called for.  A 5:00 flight means getting to the airport by 4:00 (thank Zeus for the family line at security).  Salt Lake is small enough that from our house east of downtown, we can get to the airport (west of downtown) within 20 minutes.  Given that we needed to put a car seat in the cab, I called Yellow Cab a day in advance to pick us up at 3:30.

The big day came.  We'd talked about our plans in advance.  Our bags were packed, everything was copacetic.  We watched out the window for the cab.  And watched.  Until 3:45.  The cab company called...they were on their way.  yay.  They did show up, we hurried.  No freakouts.  Ben sometimes retreats when things are weird.  That's useful at the time,  but it's just a build-up for later.   We rush through the airport, security is easy.  We get to the gate...hey, we don't have seat assignments, can you help us?  Delta is pretty awesome, and we get situated.  Ah, Ben is poopy.  Fix it.  Time to board...NOW!

a couple of days later
Yay!  We're on the plane.  We're right behind first class.  We're in an emergency row, but the flight crew is being cool about it.  Ben starts yarging on the divider between us and first class (this was before the Occupy movement), but is generally happy.  There's only a small delay, and I buckle him in for take-off, distracting him with snacks.  The seat belt is horrible for him.  He sooo wants to move.  Eventually, we get to a place where he can get his tray table out.  It's one of those "fold up in the armrest" ones.  You know...dangerous and loud.  He spends the next couple of hours ricocheting around his 5 cubic feet and manipulating the tray table.  All in all, it's not the worst flight I've been on with him, but I'm pretty sure the first class passengers right in front of us were having a hard time enjoying their wine and warm facecloths.

It's time to land...the seat belt light comes on.  Ok, get ready for some hollering.  It's bad, he doesn't like it.  We do it anyway.  No, don't play with your tray table.  WHAM.  uh oh.  Ben has caught his pinky in the tray table.  This is not good.  The last half hour of our flight is accompanied by wails of pain.

We stagger off the plane and collect our bags.  Fortunately, Bubba is an awesome kid who is easily bribed.  He (who would love to ride the baggage carousel like his dear old Pa once did) keeps Ben out of trouble while I collect bags.  We head out and meet up with my sister.  After car seat wrestling match, we're on the road.

crikeys, i'm tired.  i'm gonna be a newbie blogger and hit publish.  more to come.

Tip o the day:

If you're a stay-at-home parent, podcasts are an awesome way to hear grown-up conversation and still get things like housework done.  The Morning Stream has helped me get through many days.   I just started listening to this one about special needs.

Bonus tip o the day:

We've had good and bad plane trips.  The best one I remember was one where I spent the whole trip engaged with Ben.  I stayed in contact with him the whole time, and had a vibrating toy that I kept zapping him with.  I think it was a Bumble Ball .  It was exhausting, but there were no meltdowns...he was in such a good mood that he even tolerated the seat belt.