'Twas the Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas, our duties were few. 
Just Pete and just PJ and just me, the Jew. 
The presents, now unwrapped, were strewn 'bout the place.

PJ played with contentment, a smile on his face. 
A day as relaxed as the robe I was wearing-
'Till the Eagles came on and Pete started swearing. 
There was coffee to sip, Christmas candy to nosh
And after our baking, dishes to wash. 
After all of the jolly, after Santa had come, 
After presents were given out to everyone
We all sat around and that was just fine. 
The presents, some coffee, this family of mine. 
In between restful moments PJ needed help
As he gleefully pulled his new toys off the shelf
"Play with trains! Build Lego's!" he commanded sans care
Resplendent in his new Super Mario Bros underwear. 
Our Day After Christmas turned out pretty swell.
'Twas a day to relax and to reflect as well. 
To think of the moments from Christmas that shone
All the people I loved gathered inside one home. 
The moments I laughed at, the times that I smiled. 
(My full plate of food that I quickly defiled)
Watching my son and his cousin play catch.

Giving out cookies, batch after batch. 
A morning mimosa, a bagel and lox.
Opening up brand-new jammies and socks. 
The cousin Pollyanna saw the kids being Elf-y

And the family turned in for a Christmas Day selfie. 

The 12 Days of Christmas we all gathered to sing,
All shouts when we got to the "Five Golden Rings!"

The hugs and the smiles and the thank-you's and cheer

The men smoking cigars and drinking some beer. 
Everyone chatting 'bout various topics
While outside, it kind of felt like the tropics. 
The spirit was strong despite the weird weather. 
We may have been hot, but we were all together! 
The Eagles are still losing, Pete continues to curse. 
But still, all in all, it sure could be worse. 
Now I'm off to bed, but 'for I'm out of sight:
Merry Day After to all, and to all a good night. 

Some more pictures from our Christmas Day: 

"Like the scripture said
'Everyone shall sit under their own vine
and fig tree.
And no one shall make them afraid..."

But what kind of heart doesn't look back?

{things on thursday}

...I used to attend a writing group, hosted at the beautiful home of a sweet woman named Debbie. We would sit at a table in her sun room, overlooking a creek and a lovely bit of treed land. Her coaching and encouragement and friendship inspired my writing, and gave it life at a time when I was having a hard time begin inspired. When my sister had her mastectomy, Debbie brought Marla and Steve a delicious meal. Writers group was something I looked forward to monthly. Today, Debbie lost her newly-married, 30 year old son, Eli. A NJ State Trooper, he was responding to a call when his car veered off the road in the downpours we had all day today. I am thinking of Debbie and her kindness, of how she spoke of raising her boys with love and bemusement, of how gracious she was with her home and heart and I am heartbroken for her. Losing your baby is the most horrific things I can imagine, and it's punctuated by this season that is supposed to be so joyful. I deal in words all the time and I just have none, but to ask you to send up some prayer and love for Debbie, her husband, and sons.

...This week, on the whole, hasn't been a winner. Last weekend was a perfect one, so I had hoped that we could carry some of that spirit over, but Monday came and the magic went poof. On Tuesday, we found out that PJ's ABA therapist quit. In fact, she called out that day- her supervisor and PJ's lead therapist was the one to tell us. After our excruciating experience with our last provider, this was not welcome news. My number one requirement was a dedicated therapist, so we could avoid a revolving door of people providing care for PJ. Thankfully, PJ's lead therapist will take over his care, with just a few minor changes, until another therapist is found. I am angry at the disruption and furious that the therapist took the job knowing she would be leaving within a few months. But, what's done is done and, in all honesty, there was going to be an interruption in PJ's care when we change insurance carriers at the first of the year. It's just sucky.

...On a lighter note, I took a class at the gym today that was so hard, I thought I would have brain damage when I was done. It was called "Body Blast Express" but it should have been called "Kiss Your Kids Goodbye and Say Hello To Your Percocet Addiction" because Oh. Mah. Gawd. I should have known when I walked in and the instructor asked us to get a step, a resistance band, a mat, and hand weights for a one hour class that I was in for a world of hurt. And I say this without a shred of self-deprivation or joking- I was, by far, the fattest in the class. It looked for all the world like someone sent a drunk woman having a heart attack into the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The class was far, far above my skill set and I am shocked that I made it out with no further injury, save my rapidly stiffening body. My boobs hurt, guys. My boobs, and I know I can blame that on those mother f*****g planks we did. Needless to say, I will not be attending that class again any time soon.

It's just another ordinary miracle...

{stream of consciousness}

I have sat down at the computer so may times in the past few weeks, ready to pour out all of the things that have been in my heart and on my mind. It happens to me a lot- I become like a clogged pipe, with lots to move through and no way to do it. A good friend of mine is a screenwriter, and he once told me that they key to beating writers block is to just sit down and type. Just write and write and write and, much like Drano down the kitchen sink, things will start to drain again.

On Thanksgiving Day, my one and only baby turned six. Six is a big deal. Six is a two hand age. It's 2,190 days that somehow went by in the blink of an eye and in a lifetime. PJ is still quite a bit like that puff of air they handed me at 4:17 in the morning in 2009. He is still blonde, still all arms and legs, and still has the tiniest butt I have ever seen (Truly. It's ridiculous and I don't know how he sits and he gets it from his father). He is still stubborn (Lord help me.) and is still loud. And he still means more to me than I ever thought was possible. I have checked to make sure he is still breathing 2,190 nights in a row. Since that very night he was born, that hasn't changed.

But six years is still a nice bit of road, and there has been and growth and happiness and heartbreak already. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, and with luck, there will be more chunks of six years to walk ahead of us. Raising this human has been the greatest privilege of my life, and I am thankful every day for PJ and everything that comes with him. I'm thankful when it's easy and thankful when it's hard.

I wanted to sit down and celebrate this precious life, put down all of the things I was feeling about my sweet son, but then the world turned dark. It somehow seemed like flouting my blessings to sit and write about everything I was happy about (to all six people who read this blog, but you know what I mean). I would sit down at the computer to write about joy and just. could. not. write.

When terrible things happen, I think every mother wonders how they will try to help their child make sense of things. As I watched Paris explode in bullets and parents standing outside of a building in San Bernadino, wondering if their babies would come out, I was slightly thankful for the buffer of Autism. PJ can't fully express his thoughts and feelings about his surroundings yet. He's not asking questions about why these things happen and I am thankful for that. I am thankful because I would not know what to tell him.

Six years ago, I was in the hospital with my newborn son. It was just us- everyone else had gone home to try and salvage the Thanksgiving meal we had so rudely interrupted. I decided to forgo the turkey and, instead, had tortellini's, eyeing this baby as I ate. I felt like I had no idea what to do, where to go, how to make sure that PJ had the best life possible. I can't change the world for PJ, as much as I would like to sometimes. And, as Anne said, "...in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." In six years, I have seen the world be the best it can be and the worst it can be. I myself have been the best I can be and the worst I can be. Parenthood, in general, brings that out in a person. And I have seen my son blossom in ways I never imagined at 4:17am when I held him on the outside for the first time.

Yes. In six years, we have seen terrible things happen. But, in six years, I watched my baby take his first steps. I heard him say his first two-syllable word, the one was waited so very long for (rainbow!). I've watched him perform in front of hundreds of people, surf the waves like a champion, and attend his first "school friend" birthday party. There has been heartache, but there have also been thousands of tiny miracles, millions of seconds that took my breath away. There is just as much room- if not more- for the little miracles as there is for the heartache, and if PJ ever asks me why bad things happen, I think I will remind him of that. And I'll also remind him that a world with him in it is a world worth living in. A world with my sweet, funny, outrageous, brave, smart, loving six year old.


She blinded me with science!

When I think about being a parent, I can come up with a lot of way to describe my particular parenting skills. Hot mess generally comes to mind, but on a good day I remember that I am trying. Trying is good, right? Parenting can be hit or miss- it's not like I have this crap down to a science!

Thankfully, there's someone out there who gets it! I mean, all mothers get it, but since these mothers happen to be published, it gives us some credibility when there's an explanation in print for why it seems to take eleventy-thousand years to complete a game of Candy Land, or why you are ready to sit shivah for McDonald's cheeseburgers because pregnancy nausea rendered them dead to you. How getting to shower is a privileged, not a right, and that when your child is at group play, it will be obvious that he or she is a genius. And the poop. So much poop.

So what is this mystical book of parental understanding and painfully honest truth-telling? Who has penned this treatise of child-rearing?

Meet Norine Dworkin-McDanial and Jessica Zeigler, the mama-brains behind Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations. Driven by their own experiences as new mothers, Norine would scribble down her thoughts while Jessica would add the illustrations and presto! An idea, much like their sweet babies, was born!

Since its release, Science of Parenthood has been flying off the shelves! The reviews have been amazing and the readers are eating it up! Not surprisingly, parents can relate to a book that is full of real, honest thoughts on raising children. You can find Science of Parenthood on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BooksAMillion, and wherever books are sold! Science of Parenthood is also available for the Nook or Kindle e-readers!

If you want more of the Science of Parenthood experience, join Norine and Jessica as they make their way across the country on the Science of Parenthood Book Tour!

And now, the best part!

You can enter to win an Amazon Gift Card to order your very own copy of Science of Parenthood! The book is currently sold out, but you can be the first to order a copy whent hey are back in stock thanks to a sweet little Amazon Gift Card! And pick yourself up a little extra something as well!

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All in all, it's just another day now...

{these days}

...These days, I am obsessed- OBSESSED- with the musical Hamilton. I will be close to menopause before tickets are available, as it is currently sold out through most of 2016. But, in the meantime, the soundtrack has been on in a near-constant loop. It's such a blindingly brilliant piece of work- the writing, the music, and the story telling. I am not a history buff by any means and find myself riveted by this story of an immigrant who became one of the founding fathers of our country. I can not encourage you enough to listen to the cast album and learn this incredible story. The writing makes me feel like I should walk away from my keyboard and never look back- it's equal parts inspiring and frustrating. You will not be mad at me if you take my advice on this.

...These days, we are getting a break from the non-stop activity of the first two months of school. Both soccer and hockey have ended, leaving us with therapy three days a week and cheer for one. Over-scheduling ourselves to such an extent was not my best move. More often than not, PJ was overwrought and unable to control his body. Hockey, for example, was a hot mess. Now, we have a free week night and open weekends for a bit and I am going to enjoy the peace.

...These days, I keep looking forward to crisp, cold weather, only to be thwarted by Mother Nature and her mid 70's muggy nonsense. I love each season, but loathe the transitional period between. Is consistent Uggs and sweatshirt weather too much to ask? No. It is not.

This baby is going to be six. What the hell???????
...These days, I am wracking my brain trying to make a decision on what to do for PJ's birthday party. The timing issue has reached critical mass, so I need to get moving.

...These days, keeping up with housework is an impossible task. The only thing that keeps this place from descending into full chaos is the fact that we have therapists in this house at least two days a week! That means that about 40 minutes before someone is set to arrive, I fly around the apartment like a psycho trying to make up for a full day of ignoring messes. Keeping house is one of the very many ways that I fail at adulting. Killing bugs, wearing makeup, controlling my smart mouth and the fact that I think Boone's Wine is good are some of the other ways.

...These days, I think about how far PJ has come since we started therapy with a new agency in the spring. He is still prone to behavior issues, but we are slowly chipping away at them as his verbal skills continue to grow. He learned my phone number in one day. If God forbid a million times over that he ever get away from me, he can tell someone helping him how to reach me. Today, we were walking to the car after school and he greeted a classmate with no prompting whatsoever. A week or two ago, he played with friends after school, laughing and running with his peers as I blinked back tears. It's tiny steps, tiny steps, tiny steps, always. The finish line seems so far away sometimes (not that you ever really hit a finish line when you're a parent, right? These beings are just always our babies.) but we kind of shuffle along as best we can. It's the little moments, good and bad, that really propel us along and these particular ones happened to be sweet.

'Cause this is Thriller...


...Halloween was this past weekend, and PJ picked his own costume for the first time. He decided on Spider-man, so when his therapy session was cancelled for Tuesday, I decided to take him shopping to get his costume. Rookie mistake. The store was way too much for PJ- noisy, with loud music, blinking lights, and too many things to look at. We were able to make it to the register to pay for his costume but didn't get out before he threw a small display of pens that look like needles. I had to make him pick up every single pen. He did so, and I could see him trying to get some control by the expression on his face. But, next time, it's all Amazon, baby! Rookie mistake.

...speaking of the Spider-man costume, Pete was annoyed because it had a chest full of fake pectoral muscles. It is not authentic enough for him. Pete feels that a true representation of Spider-man would have a slight build. He got all offended when I reminded him that there is no authentic representation of Spider-man because he is a comic book character. I was rolling my eyes so hard that I am surprised they didn't fall out of my head. This is my life, folks.

...The day before Halloween was school picture day which meant that, the day before, I had to take PJ to get a haircut. Haircuts are...not fun. PJ loses his mind every time and even though I could never understand exactly what upset him, I knew that the noise and the feeling was just too much for him. But finally, at his last haircut, a breakthrough: he used his words to tell me "no neck." He hates the feeling of having the back of his head touched. So, this was not good news for a non-mullet look, but great news for someone who wants to see PJ empowered to use his words and address his needs. We practiced what he would tell Miss Jess, his hairdresser (and kind of a tattooed saint, along with her partner, Amy). "Miss Jess, just cut the front and the sides. No neck." He sobbed while he said it, but he did, and we listened. Thankfully, his last haircut was a good one, so he hasn't gone Billy Ray Cyrus just yet.  Still, it is KILLING me to see his hair not cleaned up in back! But PJ expressed his needs and I needed to let my need for a clean haircut go.

...Halloween ended up being a great day! We started the morning with soccer (PJ's buddies brought him Halloween treats!) and then came home to rest up a bit before we hit the streets. We met up with cousin Robbie, who was very convincing as a soldier (complete with camouflage). The boys had a great time knocking on doors and running around. After that, PJ and I headed to Marla's neighborhood for Round Two. Her neighborhood goes all out, turning Halloween into a giant block party that includes "treats" for the adults as well! It was exciting for me because it was PJ's first time Trick-or-Treating at night (I know, I get excited about bizarre milestones!). We wrapped up the night sitting by a fire outside as neighbors buzzed about. PJ fell asleep on the way home, still clutching the glow stick he very sweetly talked someone into giving him.

...Halloween is a tightrope when you have a child with special needs. For PJ, there is a high risk of sensory overload and an Epic System Meltdown. His school Halloween events were just the trigger, and it made me sad to see that he just could not enjoy the fun- his body was just too uncooperative. Parents of children with allergies, with physical impairments, with developmental disabilities; it can be a victory just to get your child into the costume, much less around the neighborhood.I found that I had to modify what I thought would be fun into what would be fun for PJ as he is. I have a feeling I'll need to make those adjustments for the rest of our lives, but it's all good as long as he's happy.

...a few more pictures from our Halloween!

Our day started with soccer and it looked like this. Gorgeous. 

Large pectoral muscles. 

LOL, I just noticed the Robbie photobomb! 

I love everything about this picture- I love the glowy light and the curve of the sidewalk and how PJ looks like such a big boy. 

The light in his hair. Swoon. I just wish he had picked more peanut butter cups. 

Baby bend over, let me see you do that yoga...

In an occurrence that becoming increasingly common, I went way out of my comfort zone today. Today, discomfort looked a lot like Downward-facing Dog.

Marla has been having increasingly serious issues with her bone density, particularly with her hips. She needs to exercise, but her delicate body can only handle so much. I need to exercise, too, even though my body is dense and indelicate. One of us is a fat-ass and one of us is a brittle-ass and, either way, our asses needed to move. We need to be careful when we move. So...what?

And one day, it came to me. It came to me, and it was horrific because, suddenly, I knew the truth.

We needed to do yoga.

I have tried yoga a few times before and I hated it. I am not good at being peaceful and relaxed unless I am laying on a massage table. It is impossible for me to clear my mind. When I am in a quiet room, my first inclination is to start giggling. And I am not a touchy-feely-mother earth loves us kind of person. When the sun comes out, I don't offer it salutations; I use my coffee mug to shield my eyes from it while I frantically gulp. But I kept going back to fat and brittle and resigned myself to yoga.

I don't even own yoga clothes, so when we stepped into the room I was decked out in running gear (side note: I haven't gone running in a very, very long time). I eyed the piles of yoga stuff- mats, strappy things, block things and...wait. Blankets??? Maybe this wouldn't be so bad! I was just about to snag one in the hopes that maybe someone would just turn off the lights and let me nap when I noticed that nobody else had one.

I glanced around the room for the instructor and noted a cute guy at the front of the room. He had a beard (of course he had a beard) and was wearing baggy pants and a shirt. I was thinking that he was actually cute when he turned and I saw it.

A man bun.

That left me kind of alarmed, like I was in for some serious tree-hugging shit. But I had laid out my mat and blocky things and taken off my shoes (but kept my socks on) so there was no turning back. The class began, and the exercise in and of itself was okay. The class was for beginners so I was able to keep up well. But I had terrible acid reflux every time I had to bend down too far (fat girl problems) and I almost burst out laughing when Man Bun McCrunchy stopped to adjust the stance of a classmate and murmured "There....how's that feel?"


But that brief stifling of giggles aside, the class was going well. I was cold because I wasn't really working up a sweat, but my body felt pretty good. I was getting a good stretch in my legs and hips and even though my boobs are a little too big for yoga to be 100% comfortable, I was feeling good. We were on our mats in some kind of lay-out-on-the-floor pose when the woman next to me, somehow, touched my hand with her DAMNED FOOT AND OH MY GOD WHAT IN THE HELL and then everything went into Complete System Meltdown.

Remember earlier when I said I kept my socks on? That was partly because the room was cold but mainly because I hate feet. I hate feet. I don't like pedicures, I can't even deal with a foot rub. And above all else, I really just can not deal with other peoples feet. It's bad enough if Pete's toes creep over to my side of the bed and graze me in the middle of the night. Stranger feet?


So, I had Foot Contact and my poor little brain basically melted. Thankfully, there was only about ten minutes left in the class because I had completely lost my chill. Everything Man Bun said went in my ear and turned into some sort of innuendo an eight year old would come up with and I had to bite my lip to keep the laughter in. I was also keeping my limbs as close to my body as possible to avoid any further contact with my classmates, making it hard to "unfold and stand on the mountain" or whatever the instructor was talking about.

Clearly, yoga is not 100% for me. My body felt good after, even if my mind fell apart but that is, I'm pretty sure, the exact opposite of what yoga is supposed to do for you. Still, I'm going back to Man Bun's class next week and this time, I'll put lots of space between myself and the person next to me.

...and I am sorry but I am not a maiden fair.

It was a warm, early September evening. Muggy, the kind that lends itself to my natural curls and also to frizz. It was one of the many times that I wore my skin awkwardly. One would think that, at almost 40, I would be past that awkward-feeling stage but, on this this night, I felt sweaty and dull and not lovely.

But we were going out- my own little family along with the large extended one I inherited when I married my husband- to celebrate the 70th birthday of my father-in-law. There were many children in tow, PJ included, so our chosen destination was hardly the Ritz. Still, it was nice enough that I had to skip my typical uniform of jean, flip-flops, and a tank top.

My little Prince.
Age and motherhood both have left me with a body that I am still not used to. Extra weight sits on my small bones in a manner that is not kind. I remember having to struggle to stay above one hundred pounds. Now, I am nearly forty pounds overweight. I forget sometimes that I am not the lithe creature of my 20’s. Generally, that moment comes when I need to get dressed. Clothes didn’t matter to me, even as a young person with a great figure. Now that I am in a body that is difficult to dress, it matters a little bit more.

I tell myself that there are more important things on my plate. I am the mother of a child with Autism. It takes so much energy sometimes just to stay afloat, even though raising him is a joy, an honor, my life work. The idea that I might hold some beauty seems silly. Who is even looking?

I opened my closet to get dressed and found a dress I had not worn before. It is something that happens to me often- I purchase something only to get it home and lose faith. I have a penchant for maxi dresses despite my short stature, but this one was a bit dressier, a bit more structured. It hung softly on its hanger, a coral glow among the other brightly colored rejects that joined it. I slipped it over my head and adjusted. The long skirt floated to the tops of my feet and the halter tied in a ribbon about my neck. I stood in front of the mirror, all coral and floated skirt, and gave myself the stink eye. The dress didn’t cling too conspicuously, and it wasn’t filled out to its breaking point. There was nothing outwardly wrong and yet I could plainly see that it did not look good. It was not flattering.

I sighed and walked into the living room, where PJ was sitting on the couch watching a movie. He glanced up at me as I walked in. I can’t always hold his attention very long, so his short glance was not out of the ordinary.

“Mommy’s a princess!” he declared brightly.

PJ had never made such a statement. His observations tend to run toward the more concrete (“Mommy is wearing a shirt!”). I felt my heart stop as I sat down next to him. “A princess, eh?” I asked, but his attention was already turned back to Wreck It, Ralph. I snuggled next to him and fingered the hem of the dress. My rational self knew it didn’t look good, but my son had told me, for the first time ever and in his own way, that he thought it was pretty.

I got him dressed and intended to change after, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to take off that wretched garment and flee to the safety of my jeans and a nice tank top. Instead, I slipped on a pair of silver sandals. I walked into the restaurant with my sons hand in mine. I let myself enjoy the feel of the soft skirt against my legs and carry the glow of the coral fabric. I basked in motherly pride at how well-behaved my son was and wore it like makeup. I kept my stomach pulled in, my shoulders relaxed, and my back straight. My usual insecurities didn’t matter that night. I didn’t let them weigh me down but, rather, bore the sparkle of my sons words like a tiara, just like any princess would. 

How the Viva® Vantage® 7-Day Switch Up Changed My Cleaning Game!

Tracking Pixel Tracking Pixel

This is a sponsored post, written by me, on behalf of Viva ® Vantage ®.

Paper towels are definitely a thing in our household. I have often thought about going paper-free, but the fact is, I have a five year old son and a 16 year old cat and there are some things that need to be thrown away after they are wiped up. *ahemcatbarf*

So, paper towels. If they are going to work in my household, there are a few requirements. They need to be strong, so when I use my foot to wipe something up (*ahemcatbarf*) they don't fall apart. They need to have scrubbing power for the same reasons. It needs to be absorbent, so it can handle the clean up of eleventy-billion spills every day, and it needs to be soft when I need to use one as a tissue.

Allergy problems.

We were using a store brand of paper towels and they worked okay. Not terrible, but nothing to write home about. Then, like magic, an invite appeared in my in-box from the fun folks at Viva ® Vantage ® Paper Towels! "Come meet some bloggers, learn more about the Viva® Brand, and try our Viva® Vantage® Paper Towels," they said! And, of course, I said "yes!" No brainer.

Off I went, with all of the messes my family can make dancing in my head, wondering if Viva® Vantage® would pass the test.Viva ® Vantage ® Paper Towels had just been named the 2015 Product of the Year and, as someone who holds awards shows with high regard, this meant something to me.

I had prepared myself for the same old paper towels, but I was pleasantly surprised! Different stations were set up to allow me to put Viva ® Vantage® through its paces- washing AND drying glasses, scrubbing dirty mushrooms until they shone, and wiping up a spill when I knocked into my water glass (That last one wasn't a station, that's just my life). No disappointments- Viva ® Vantage® powered through! Dirty mushrooms were scrubbed clean thanks to the super-strong V-Flex Weave, glasses were washed and dried to a fingerprint-free shine with its sponge-like absorbency, and my spill was sucked up with no problem. Nobody noticed my clumsiness and our hosts counters were in no danger of being scratched up with a rough paper towel.

With those early party successes in the bag, I considered taking the Viva ® Vantage ® 7-Day Switch Up. It made sense. I had been using paper towels that were...okay. Why not see if I could switch things up and make my life of mopping spills, cleaning splatters, and scooping cat barf a little easier?

I started my Switch Up off that very night and used a Viva ® Vantage® towel to remove my makeup. I don't think the fine folks at the mall makeup counters would have approved, but our bathroom was in the middle of a huge remodel and my makeup remover was alllllllllll the way at the back of the bathroom behind piles of tools. So I eyed the Viva ® Vantage® towel, wondering if I was going to regret my decision. But, a damp Viva® Towel later (no soap, even!) I had clean skin that didn't feel like I had passed a steel wool pad over it!

Oh, yes. Viva ® Vantage ® and I were going to get along just fine.

Why we need Viva in our lives...
The 7-Day Switch Up was on, and over the week that followed, I put Viva ® Vantage® towel through its paces. I used them to rinse, clean and dry grapes for my sons lunches. The towels are so strong, I could use them as a colander! I mopped up spills, scrubbed paint off of my kitchen table, and wiped up layers of dust and grime generated by our bathroom reno. Sauce splatters on the range, dry erase marker on our kitchen white board, and the inevitable cat barf- the messes were powerless to the fantastic scrubbing power of the Viva ® Vantage ®! Their stretchy-strength means that I can rinse and reuse the same Viva® Towel, saving money and waste. And for someone who hates to scrub, the Viva ® Vantage® took our usual scrubbing game to a whole new level. It was just. so. easy!

So, we're Viva ® people now! Yup. It didn't even take the full seven days of the 7-Day Switch Up to know that Viva ® Vantage® was a great fit for my messy little family!

Now it's your turn to be a Viva ® Vantage ® family! 

Visit Viva ® Vantage ® and get your coupon so you can get started on your own 7-Day Switch Up! Shake things up by switching out your ordinary products for Viva ® Vantage®! Spend some time using Viva ® Vantage® to clean all the things, and then stop back to tell the fine folks at Viva ® about your experience for your chance to WIN a $100 gift card!

This was a sponsored post, written by me and detailing my experience with the 7-Day Switch Up, on behalf of Viva ® Vantage ®

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars....

I am over at Mom Babble today, talking about finding magic when you have a child with special needs! You don't need magic wands or vehicular produce (although how awesome would THAT be?). You just need to believe. Do me a solid and stop by Mom Babble to check it out! 

Saturday mornings mean soccer. Now that fall is
upon us, Saturday means cleats and soccer balls and the amazing support and love PJ gets from his soccer buddies, Anthony and Nick. This particular Saturday, PJ insisted on accessorizing with a vaguely Freddie Krueger-ish hat he found in my in-laws basement. As one does. It was cool and cloudy and slightly Pope-y, and PJ had a great time.

After soccer, we headed a few minutes away from the field to the Air Victory Museum, a small airplane museum in Lumberton. We met my in-laws and the younger boy cousins there, and the kids took in all of the planes and aircraft memorabilia crammed into the space. Everywhere you looked hung some small piece of aviation history, and the boys were drinking it in.

After a bit, though, the museum started to overwhelm PJ. There were a lot of things that he couldn't touch, and yet so many things to see. He held up well but as the visit started to come to a close his frustration started to mount. As Pete walked him out of an exhibit, he flopped to the ground, rolling away and kicking at Pete.

Pete's dad wanted the kids to pick out a toy plane as a souvenir, but by then, PJ was past the point of being able to make a decision. I tried to calm him, but he was angry. I caught a head-butt to the cheek just as a package containing an airplane kit appeared between our heads. It was held there by the elderly gentleman who ran the front desk of the museum.

"Hey, buddy," he said. "If you're a good boy you can have this."

Dude. I felt the last of my patience drain out of my ear. The kid was slapping me across the face. It was like putting your hand inside a beehive and let me not even get started on giving a toy to a child who is behaving that way. Of course, I knew where his behavior was coming from (a good, old-fashioned case of fatigue and hunger, exacerbated by Autism) but to anyone else, it looked like a bratty kid having a fit in the souvenir section. Whyyyyyyyyyy would you butt in and hand this child a toy right now?

Thankfully, I managed to gather some semblance of grace, and switched gears.

"PJ, our friend said that you can have this plane if you are ready to show me your best behavior. Are you ready?" I asked. He agreed, and the tantrum seemed to melt away. He thanked his benefactor and we went outside to open his new package and check out the large military helicopter on display.

The boys ran to see the helicopter and I thought about what had just went down. Not so much the tantrum- it was not the first or last time PJ would lose his mind in public. I couldn't stop thinking about how a stranger was willing to jump right into the fray, and an elderly stranger at that. Autism can be a difficult thing to understand when you know what is happening. If you're a bystander who happens upon a kid losing his shit, it looks like a kid losing his shit. Older people, in particular, can have a hard time understanding Autism because it just wasn't a thing for them the way it is now. He could very well have yelled at PJ. He could have asked us to leave. He could have made of of those judgey "Can't you control your kid?" statements. He could have ignored us and avoided eye contact, which is the response I get from 95.3876% of people.

Instead, he saw me struggling, saw an unhappy child, and tried to help. It didn't matter that PJ didn't deserve a toy just then, and it didn't matter that if his meltdown got worse it could have put all of the tiny planes on the shelves in peril. He came over with a green plane in a paper package and said "Here. This is what I've got. If it helps, it's yours."

It made me think of one of my favorite internet finds- a TED talk by Ash Beckham. I have mentioned it on this blog several times- it's something that I come back to often. The message from the top has to do with coming out of the closet, which is something I personally can't relate to. But the sub message is that it takes a lot of bravery to have a conversation you are scared to have. She gives an example of an awkward conversation with family friends, who desperately wanted to show their support after she came out. The interaction, on the whole, was a hot mess of sweetly misfired attempts to show that they still loved her. She admitted that it could have irritated her, but instead, she realized that it may have been just as hard for these folks to start the conversation in the first place. She could take it for what it was- a show of support, no matter how weird.

It occurred to me that just before the gentleman thrust the plane between our faces, he may have wondered if it was the right thing to do, if the crazed child was going to destroy his gift shop, or if I might yell at him. But he decided that above all, he wanted to fix the situation. So, plane. And in the end, I was so grateful that he made the decision to connect rather than ignore.

Thankfully, we made it through he rest of the visit without incident. The boys got to check out the inside of a helicopter and have lunch together. PJ wore that weird Freddy Krueger hat the whole time. Our day wasn't ruined by a moment that could have tipped over into disaster.

I'm going off the rails on the crazy train.

Motherhood is one of those things that has an ebb and flow. There are days when I feel like a rushing river, crystal clear and moving with a purposeful force. There are also days when I feel like low tide- so far from the beach that it seems like I will never reach the edge again (not to mention the smell. Low tide. Gross.).

What I'm getting at is that this week was straight up low tide. I felt a million miles from where I wanted to be almost 90 percent of the time. We were moving- it was school, therapy, sports, doctors appointments, errands, volunteering, back-to-school night, on and on and on. In my old life, being busy was what propelled me. I liked the feeling of having a full plate and being able to keep it spinning. I thrived on multi-tasking and gloried in my ability to keep things together. This week, I felt sluggish and confused most of the time. The culmination was losing my temper this afternoon when PJ was having trouble controlling his body. He was swirling around the room like a tornado on crack and when he's at that level of disorganization, I often become his punching bag. Well, perhaps not punches, but there is much pulling of hair, kicking of feet, and slapping of hands.There is almost always an elbow to the boob. Spoiler alert: Autism isn't always pretty, folks. Eventually, my loss of temper looked a lot like a crazy lady raising her voice while her face was very. very close to her sons.


PJ was so crazed that he didn't take it personally at all, thank goodness. But I felt out of control and disappointed in myself for losing it. He plopped into my lap and pulled my arms around him. With his head snuggled under my chin, I burst in tears. This prompted a flood of head pats and a stream of "Mommy, it's ok-aaaaaaaay, it's ok-aaaaaaaaaay, it's ok-aaaaaaaaaay," from my son. The whole thing felt like something I would shake my head at if I was watching from the outside. It was a hot mess and I was ashamed of myself.

I would like to say we rebounded and that the rest of the night was lovely. Really, we simply made it to bedtime without any further incident. I guess I can consider that a success in comparison to the rest of the day. I tucked PJ in and it seemed that he still liked me, so I guess it was a wash.

In what will, hopefully, be a long life of days there are bound to be a few duds. Hell, I don't even think that I would want a short life to be all 10's. How on earth do you learn anything if things are perfect all the time? I try to remember that the crap days are meaningful, too, but, jeeze. Watching my baby struggle makes it even worse. But, he's asleep in bed, wiping the slate clean, and I will follow suit shortly.

Wishing all of you a week full of 10's! Bring on the Pope!

Let's get dirty...

Hey guys! I'm over at Reedman Toll Auto World today, talking about some great places to take a road trip to! Pile into the car and check out the Elmwood Park Zoo! Just click HERE to check it out!

When PJ was an infant, I was a crazed psycho helicopter mama a little over-protective. PJ was my first, my only, my brand-new little piece of joy and it felt like that much joy must be a breakable thing.

Because of that, I flinched any time someone breathed too close to him, or when he shoved things that were decidedly NOT edible into his mouth. Gross. I feared scrapes on his pale baby skin and anything that might dull the bright blond cloud of his hair. I felt the need to protect him from every little germ or fleck of dirt. 

Fast forward a few years, and am in a place that has let me learn some lessons. I can relax a little bit and enjoy motherhood as PJ’s mom, versus my original methods acting as a general in a battle of germ warfare. This means that if the situation warrants it, PJ can get as dirty as he wants, and his propensity for filth is astounding- PJ could get dirty in a bridal salon. But the germs haven't killed him yet, and it makes letting go a little easier. PJ can jump in the occasional puddle, and he can surf the occasional wave. He can dig his fingers into a mud pie, or he can splay his fingers in to a high vee on stage with his cheer leading team. It seems like the dirtier PJ get, the more opportunities for growth appear, and I can only assume it's because as his mom, I finally just shrugged and said "Pffft. Get dirty. Whatever." 

A few weeks ago, PJ and a classmate had a late summer play date. We met at the playground and watched the kids swing and run and soak in the lovely morning. They circled a puddle much the same way the Earth circles the sun- powerless to its gravitational pull. Finally, the mamas said "Pffft. Get dirty. Whatever." Magic words as my sweet boy and his beautiful friend made imaginary potions, giggling and smiling. 

Of course, I fear that our “let the dirt in” attitude could be a challenge come puberty, and I feel like I should apologize in advance to his future life partners about any off roading, surfing, ditch digging, gardening, mud runs, insert dirty activity here that he might have an interest in. I am deeply sorry for the laundry this will cause. But maybe, just maybe, if PJ has babies of his own someday, they will learn the same lessons, and he will remember when I was learning mine.  Letting the dirt in means letting joy out, and it can be worth the risks. Right now it’s my job to be brave enough to let go. Later it will be PJ’s job, and I hope to set the right example.

PJ and a sweet school buddy enjoying a mud puddle during one of the last days of summer vacation.