Oh, they're weird and they're wonderful...

10 Reasons I Am Weird {things on thursday}

1. I'm a little bit afraid of balloons. If I am in close proximity to balloons I am always a bit on edge. I don't know when it was, but as some point in my life, somebody snuck up behind me and popped a balloon behind my head. The noise startled me, of course, but it also blew out my eardrum, leaving me with a ringing, clogged-up feeling ear for the rest of the day. Ever since then, I just can't deal with balloons.

2. I don't like when my food touches on my plate. I have a few things that are allowed- for example, turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy can be on the same plate at Thanksgiving because they taste good when they mix and there are no strange texture issues. Salad must have its own plate, lest the dressing mix with other food items. Anything runny, such as pasta with sauce or a side dish like cole slaw, which could also potentially mix with other foodstuffs needs its own plate. You know those toddler dishes that have three or four separate compartments? If Crate and Barrel made a gown up version in a cute patterns I would buy that shit up like gangbusters!

3. I can't sleep with anything on my legs. No pajama pants, shorts, or even socks. I have restless legs when I sleep and the feeling of anything on my legs exacerbates that uneasy feeling. I am pretty much a tee-shirt/Old Navy tank top and undies type of sleeper, even when it's freezing.

4. After a shower, I need to be completely and totally dried off before I start getting dressed. I can't stand the feeling of being wet under my clothes (that's what she said!). In her book "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" (a favorite of mine!), Amy Rosenthal writes about how she is in an opposite camp, and likes to move on to getting dressed right from the shower, leaving her skin feeling damp under her clothes. I shudder a little bit every time I read that passage.

5. Speaking of books, it is important to me to take great care of mine. There is no dog ear-ing of pages, no using the dust cover flap as a book mark, and no use of a bookmark thicker then a piece of paper. In college, I had to buy all of my textbooks new because a highlighted, written in book is just. too. much. Also speaking to that, my college textbooks were in pristine condition when I completed a class. I don't even like to take books from the library because I don't like the soft, limp feeling of page that has been turned too many times. All of this adds up to the fact that I spend way too much money on books. It's a sickness.

6. Pete felt the need to make sure I write down the way I eat pretzels, which is to nibble the salt off first and then consume the rest of the pretzel. He also takes umbrage with the way I eat a PB &J, which is to rip off pieces of it and consume it bit by bit. For the record, that's the only sandwich I eat that way. Any other sandwich would fall apart if I did that.

7. I can't sing and chew gum at the same time- to be honest, I have a hard time speaking with gum in my mouth. I like to think it's a testament to the hard work and constant vigilance of my high school vocal music teacher!

8. I can not stand wearing shoes without socks, including Uggs (but not sandals and flip-flops, of course.). As a teen I had sweaty feet, which is an affliction that I have since outgrown, but old habits die hard. I have small feet, which makes it a challenge to find socks that fit well and don't bunch up/slide down my foot with my shoe on. I generally end up buying socks from the tween section, which means I have many, many pairs of socks with stripes, peace signs, sayings like "text me!" and bright patterns.

9. And while we're talking about feet...I hate them. PJ is rapidly approaching an age where his feet will turn from adorable to terrifying. There is a scene in Kill Bill- Volume Two in which Uma Thurman plucks out Daryl Hannah's eyeball, and then she throws it on the ground and squishes it with her toe!!!!!! (I actually hate eyeballs, too. Gross.) I was pretty much in the fetal position for the rest of the movie. And God forbid Pete touch me with one of his Calloused Toes of Death while we are in bed. Instant argument. I know it's a completely unreasonable dislike, but feet are gross and ugly and God would not have invented cute shoes if He wanted us to look at them.

10. This is a local quirk for sure, but I hate panzarottis. For those of you who aren't from this area or are healthy eaters and don't know, a panzarotti is a deep fried pizza pocket. Not be confused with a stromboli or calzone, which are baked, a panzarotti is deep fried to give the crust a very crisp outer layer and melty innards of cheese, sauce, and typical pizza toppings. The holy grail of panzarottis is a Tarantini Panzarotti, a staple of unhealthy eaters all over New Jersey and a very few, very select other states. My fellow New Jersey-ans eat up that stuff like its going out of style. Which it's not. At any rate, there is no reason in the world that I shouldn't love them, as they hold the Holy Trinity of nutritional standing for me- cheese, dough, and a deep fryer. But I hate them.

But you can't judge me 'till you walked a mile in my bowling shoes.

A few weeks ago, with the President's Day holiday looming, Pete and I talked about what we could do on our day off. It was a rare day off for everyone and we wanted to do something we don't do every day.

We finally settled on bowling. I had taken PJ once before and he had a great time so I was eager to revisit it. Lifting the ball is great heavy work for PJ, and having to take turns and cheer on others gives him a little discipline and works on his social skills. Plus, he loves to throw stuff and knock things down, so there's that. Bowling for the win!

We also had a birthday girl to fete! Our niece Riley (Pete's Goddaughter and kind of the reason PJ was born) was celebrating her 10th birthday, so we were lucky enough to bring her along for some bowling and cousin time with PJ.

Elite Tribal Pink Flame Womens Bowling Shoes
Click on the shoe to read more about this shoe!
The whole day was perfect timing, because I received the fun opportunity to try out bowling shoes from BowlingShoes.com. This site, offering convenient online shopping for all things bowling, is for real bowlers, and it's for the amateurs, too. As it turns out, it's even for the truly awful bowlers like myself. I was invited to choose an item from the site to try out. I was surprised at how much fun it was to peruse the shop, and finally settled on these stinking cute bowling shoes. With my inordinately tiny feet I am sometimes a little iffy about ordering shoes online, but these were a perfect fit, much to my relief and surprise. Super comfy and not too narrow, like the rental shoes can be. Plus, there's the whole only-my-feet-go-in-here factor, which is an automatic win. You all know how I feel about feet. {shudder} At any rate, BowlingShoes.com offered a complete novice like myself a great shopping experience. Now, if it turns out that they sell clear bowling balls with a rose in it, a la Ernie McCracken, I'm in! :-) As someone who is not an avid bowler, I was afraid I would find BowlingShoes.com overwhelming, but even a complete novice like myself had no problem shopping. With PJ enjoying bowling and my VERY OWN SHOES, we may hit the lanes more often!

We found a lane, ordered drinks (by the way, who invented wait service at bowling lanes? Standing ovation to whomever that was!) and got to bowling! Bowling alleys are so fancy now, we could program for the bumpers to pop up for Riley and PJ and then be retracted for Pete and I, leaving is free to score many, many gutter balls. None of us are stellar bowlers (the fact that two of us were four and ten, respectively) but we had a blast taking our shots and cheering each other on. I am always so touched and filled with gratitude when I see how gentle and patient Riley is with PJ, and always so happy to see PJ sharing experiences with his "big" cousins!

Getting pictures of a bouncy PJ is a pain! {blurry}

I love these two!

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to work with BowlingShoes.com to learn more about their site and products. I was provided the opportunity to try out an item from the BowlingShoes.com store for free in order to provide a review of my experience. All of the opinions expressed in this piece are my own honest experience. Please, always feel free to e-mail me with any questions! 

...and I'd like to say hello!

Five Things That 
Made Me Happy This Week!

1. OLYMPICS! Hopefully, I will be as happy this afternoon when the USA-Canada Semifinal game is done, hopefully with the USA heading to the gold medal game and Sidney Crosby slinking back off into the underworld where he belongs (Have I ever mentioned how much it grinds my gears how that little assberry scored the gold medal winning goal in the last Olympics? Because OMIGOD. It hurts my soul.). Despite the USA women's team losing a heart breaker to Canada yesterday, these Games have met all of the expectations of my sports-loving, human interest story-craving, patriotic-feeling heart. The Olympics are Must-See-TV in these parts!

2. PJ's Weirdness:

PJ has been tucked into bed. Mommy is about to enjoy the Olympics and Nighttime Coffee when PJ casually strolls back into the living room. 

Me: Um, buddy? Hi! Why are you out of bed?

PJ: I want a Pop-Tart! 

Me: How about, no? Go back to bed. 

3. Amazon's customer service! We finally decided to replace our nearly 10 year old laptop (I know, right) and Pete found exactly what he wanted on Amazon. When the laptop arrived, it was in a condition that led me to believe we had been sold a refurbished product instead of the new one it was billed as. There was no way to contact the 3rd party seller, of course. Amazon was able to quickly resolve the issue and offered us a partial refund of the tablet, which we decided to keep after a few phone conversation with the manufacturer. Never had a problem before, but Amazon handed this one well! 

4. I opened an envelope that I assumed was a bill and it turned out to be a check for $79 from a bank that I used over 10 years ago. BOOYAH! 

5. This, featuring my numbers 1 and 2 NBC News crushes:

Hotel, motel. I'd totally hang with Brian and Lester in either. What? Who said that?? 

Linking up! Please go visit sweet Joy and her lovely baby bump at The Sowell Life

What would you say?

Having a child with Autism means that often, your child will be a bit behind his or her peers in certain developmental skills. For PJ, the most noticeable difference is in his speech. He is well behind his peers, but is improving by leaps and bounds every day! We have been very, very blessed in the speech therapists that have worked with PJ, through Early Intervention, school, and CHOP. They have all worked beautifully with PJ and have helped us bring put the best in his expressive language skills.

Some days PJ's delays can be difficult, like when a stranger asks him his name or another child asks why he "talks like a baby". Most of the time, we don't even think about it. PJ is just PJ and most of the time, the things he does have to say are hilarious!

As his skills have developed, PJ has become better at taking a stab at labeling something, even if he's not exactly sure what the word is. He will use whatever context he can to let us know if he wants something or to share something he sees. This method results in a lot of "PJ-isms":

1. Entenmann's Little Bites Muffins- a snack favorite!

Little Bites Snickerdoodle
"Four cake"
(there are four muffins per pouch. duh.)

2. Any pairing of two teams playing this sport:

"Flyers hockey!"
(click on the picture to go to original source)

3. Poo. 

"Brown Donuts"
(You guys, I have no clue on this one. But that's what he calls it.)

4. Dunkin' Donuts chocolate Munchkins: 

"Black Donuts"
(not to be confused with "White Donuts", ie, powdered sugar.)

5. Any bar that is parallel to the ground and/or a ladder-like climbing apparatus:

"Monkey Bars"
(he refers to hanging from a bar by his hands as "flying"!)

6. The game "Stampede Run": 

"Running Cousins"
(Just as an aside, this is the dumbest, most addictive game ever.)

7. His Pull-Ups for overnight, despite the fact they are A. Target brand and B. "training pants":

up & up™ Boys' Training Pants - Big Pack (Select Size)
"Huggies Diaper"
(perhaps, the Boy watches too much TV...)

'Cause I am a champion...

So, here's something funny.

When PJ was born, I turned into the nervous mama I never thought I would be. I got panicky if other kids breathed too close to his teeny face. I hovered if someone else was holding him. I swore at other drivers who were endangering his life with their asshat-y driving while he was in the car with me.

Actually, that last thing was pretty much how I drove before I had PJ. But, I digress. What I am getting at is that the second the doctor placed PJ into my hands, I realized that any time he was not in them, he was at the mercy of the world.

Funny thing about that, because I have perfected the art of being a Psycho Overprotective Mama, and yet, when PJ is in their hands, there's not a worry in my soul.

This past Saturday PJ and his South Jersey Storm Twister teammates headed to Atlantic City to compete in the Battle on the Boards cheer and dance competition. We loaded PJ into the car, loaded coffee into me, and made the hour drive to the shore to see our best dude and his buddies hit the stage.

Ella getting made up! This kiddo is a hoot! Love. Her.
Epic Brands, who put on the event, held a contest earlier in the week. The team who got the most online votes would be the winners of a private dressing room! The Storm held their own, but ultimately came in third in the contest. The next day, Epic announced that due to problems with the voting (it's widely speculated that there was cheating) they were cancelling the contest and instead had made the decision to gift the room to the special needs teams competing. It was a very generous solution and one that the kids enjoyed so much! Our girls loved getting glam in their own private dressing room and our boys, PJ included, enjoyed batting the balloons around and eating the snacks!

There was a large area backstage for the teams to practice and warm up, and while we waited our turn, we watched some of the other teams. There were teams of teeny little girls bearing butt ruffles and teams of high-school age kids who defied gravity as they flew through the air. When our kids took to the practice floor, nobody batted an eye. They were just another team to give the side-eye to because they were competitors, and I loved it (although our kids did not really compete- they had their own division and, as it turned out, were the only special needs team in the competition).

Soon enough, it was time to go onstage! Poor PJ had a bit of a moment when Pete left to go sit in the audience and film the kids performance- he hates it when his Daddy leaves! It was hard to explain exactly where Pete was going, so we had a pissed-off  Boy on our hands for a few moments. Thankfully, he calmed down enough for me to hand him off to his amazing one-to-one coach, Jennifer, and the kids took the stage:

The poor kid had a bit of a boogie issue, courtesy of his mini-meltdown backstage, so he kept rubbing his nose (he also noticed the giant screen behind him towards the end of the routine and couldn't take his eyes off it!). That aside, the kids all did an amazing job, having incorporated some new stunts into the routine from our last performance. PJ, by far, executed the most with the least amount of assistance from Jen, which was so much fun to see! The team was able to perform a new routine and look amazing, while I did the same thing I always do- cheer wildly while sobbing.

Something I feel like I should mention: The response to our kids from the other teams and parents has, every time, been filled with genuine warmth, interest, and cheers. We've all seen the way cheerleaders and their families are portrayed, and I was on edge for the slightest hint of laughter or name calling. I haven't seen or heard one iota, and even if there's a ton of it going on behind our backs, that's their problem, not ours. The main impression is that our kids are cheered for as equals, and that means the world to them.

After the performance, we had some down time before the awards ceremony, so we hit the boardwalk in search of lunch. We ended up at The Continental (so. much. yum.) and then PJ enjoyed the "beach" at the mall. The windows on the top floor are lined with sandboxes, white beach chairs, and a great view of the ocean. Although he would have preferred the real thing, PJ enjoyed his beach time!

At the awards ceremony, the kids gathered with the rest of the morning competitors. The Twisters were considered an exhibition team, which meant that they were truly there to perform, not compete. That aside, the kids were given the award-winning treatment. They were called up to receive an award banner, have their picture taken, and they received a paid bid to a national-level competition, the US Finals. That last one floored me- the bids to these type of competitions are very, very expensive. The Twisters won't go to this particular competition because it is very far away, but the prize meant so, so much.

PJ is holding the banner for the paid bid to the US Finals! 

It was such a great day, and reminded me again of how lucky we are that we stumbled upon this activity and opportunity for PJ. It's not about seeing him perform, although that is amazing, and certainly not something I thought I would ever see when he was diagnosed with autism. Watching PJ light up onstage...there are no words for that part. Seeing him run to give his coach a hug, or smile up at one of his teammates, or attend to learning a new skill at practice; that's what we wanted when we took the crap shoot of signing him up for cheer.

Two! Four! Six! Eight!
Who do we appreciate?

a few more pictures from the day...

PJ looking up at Elise, one of his favorites! She always has PJ's back! 

PJ with Jen, his one to one coach. There will never be enough words
for my gratitude for her. And I gots lots of words. 

The wobble!!! My favorite part of the routine! 

Chilling at the awards ceremony! 

PJ kept looking at that screen and picturing Thomas episodes.

PJ kept saying "Whoaaaa, ocean!" with great reverence. 

He was so stinkin' happy to play on the "beach"!

This kid. This face. I need nothing else!