Hold On

It is not easy being a parent of special needs kids. Believe me. Divorce rates among parents of kids on the autism spectrum is ridiculous. I don't want to be a statistic. I love my wife too much for that. And I love my kids.

The words to the song below are ones that have been spoken before between Bekah and I many times in the past few years. Keep holding on. It will be alright.

For those of you with kids like mine, you're not alone. I'm on your side. The best thing you can do for your spouse is to be there through whatever.


Vote Zombies!

Last night, we had some interesting dinner conversation, including (but not limited to) a misstated Monty Python quote. But the strangest - and perhaps most truthful - exchange started with my wife's older sister.

My sister-in-law started by describing a frequent customer that came into her store wearing a t-shirt extolling the virtues of reelecting FDR. The shirt said something along the lines of "Vote for Roosevelt, we need him again."

Of course, he's long dead, a fact that spawned a conversation between my sister and this customer.

The t-shirt made no distinction if we should be campaigning for Teddy or Franklin, so Miriam started with the natural question.

Which one?
What's the point of the shirt?
The man explained that President Roosevelt was the one that got us out of the Great Depression and we needed a leader like him once again.
So we'd have a zombie for president?
The man chuckled.

The conversation ended when Miriam offered meager support: "If you raise him, I'll vote for him.

She finished telling us the story of this encounter. The discussion that followed was (in my mind) classic.

First, would a zombie FDR have a shot in the 2012 election? Possibly, with one observation that he would be a better candidate than anyone currently running in the Republican primary. Then we came to the conclusion that zombie FDR wouldn't stand a chance in Idaho because Roosevelt was a Democrat. But, if he changed parties?

I made the suggestion that all a zombie would need to do to win an election in Idaho is to have the letter R follow his name.

My father-in-law replied, "I think we all ready have zombies that won an election in Idaho."

Wait, zombies in our statehouse? Is that possible? Phil Hart. John Goedde. Steve Vick. Vito Barbieri. Lawerence Denney. I stand corrected. Idaho is ruled by zombies.

Should I buy my pair now and be prepared?

What to do?

My parental units are arriving on Saturday. They'll be here for five days. This presents a unique challenge.

My wife, three kids, and I live in 1000 square feet. We need something to do to break free from the confinements of home and prevent overcrowding and cabin fever.

Should be easy right? Coeur d'Alene is a fantastic place to live and a beautiful place to visit.

But all the cool events that roll through town every summer has passed. Car d'Lane was in June. Julyamsh was last month. Both Art on the Green and The Wooden Boat Show wrapped up earlier this month. All that's left is the North Idaho Fair and we're planning on taking my folks there Saturday night after we pick them up from the airport.

Here's my quandary: What should we do for the rest of their stay?


This song wrecks me

About 4:50 Thursday morning, my Dad called.

"Did I wake you up?"

Of course he did, but he wouldn't do so without reason. He was calling from the ER; doctors found a tumor in my bother's neck.

There isn't a good way to take news like that.

I managed to go to work, but I could barely function. My body was in my cubicle but my mind was absent. I went home early, at least there I could exist without cognitive effort. Bekah gave me the freedom to sit and sort through my thoughts.

Every now and then, I hear the right song at the right moment that speaks the right words. It's the kind of song that voices emotions that I couldn't describe on my own. I found that song Thursday afternoon.

I got home, sat down at my computer, and started reading through other people's blogs. And this song was posted on Stuff Christian's Like. I listened to it and just completely lost it. In the four days since, I've watched this video a dozen times. If you want to know how I feel about what my brother is going through, this song says it better than I ever could.

(ps, if you have a hard time making sense of the lyrics - you can read them HERE)


Living with aspergers: The good and the awkward

The amount of words flowing from our son's mouth should have been a clue that there was something atypical about him.

Research in language development in young children show that girls (usually) use more words than sounds because they thrive on communication. Those same studies show that boys (at the same age) tend to make more imitative noises - growling, motor sounds, vrooms, animal calls, etc. It's not that girls are not capable of making noise, or that boys don't know how to talk; under normal circumstances, the genders tend to gravitate toward specific types of vocalizations.

Christian defied the stereotype. He was the exception to the rule. He quickly picked up a healthy vocabulary. As new parents, we taught him words like thuggin' and gluttony. When he was three, he was trying to sing the chorus to Under the Bridge. Once he learned to talk, he never shut up. Now that he's heading into the first grade, he still won't stop talking. Unless he's asleep.*

His verbose habits were apparent on his first day of preschool when he told his teacher that the water he drank went down his esophagus and into his stomach. She noted that they woudn't need to spend anytime developing his vocabulary.

But just because he excels at talking, doesn't mean that he is adept at conversation. Interpersonal communication is one of the many challenges that kids with aspergers face. Conversation with an aspie affected child are frequently one sided and can be strenuous. Often, these kids latch on to a special interest subject and are compelled to work that topic into any and every discussion. At the moment, Christian's special interest is art projects and Mario Brothers (also, art projects about Mario). If he has something that he is excited to tell you or show you, I can guarantee it will be about his video game or a picture he drew.

Attempts to change the subject are possible, but only with significant effort.

Because of Christian's asperger tendencies, conversations revolve around him. And (thanks to his extensive vocabulary and boundless need to speak) he rarely pauses long enough to allow typical back and forth dialog. I'm surprised that kid is able to breathe while he talks.

But we're working on that.

While most people that know anything about child development (or child psychology) would discourage exposure to television (or at least recommend limited use), for aspie kids it's a helpful tool.

They don't pick up conversational skills as easily as neurotypical children. Aspie kids learn differently so parents need different tools. TV can be one of those tools. TV and movies help these kids learn proper conversation through mimicry that can't be absorbed through the observation of family or peers. Of this practice, the author of one book about raising kids with aspergers wrote it "should be used to facilitate social interactions." **

Parents of kids on the autism spectrum call this "scripting." Kids recite lines from media and incorporate them into conversation. This skill is part of why kids with aspergers can turn out to be great storytellers, writers, or actors. They have amazing creative minds and can shine once they learn to apply their own imaginations to the scripts they learn from TV.

As helpful as this can be, it has it's downsides.

Christian recently scripted the entire Life Alert commercial to Bekah. He asked her the hypothetical question: "Mom, what if one day, you were cleaning the bathroom, and you slipped and fell in the bathtub and you couldn't get up. What would you do? That's why you need Life Alert." He proceeded to list off the benefits of the service with genuine concern that Bekah might be hurt and immobile in the bathroom and would have to wait for 8 hours until a neighbor finds her.

Irrational to you or I, but in his mind it made perfect sense.

Scripting can also be entertaining.

I treated the kids out to Burger King last night. I know, they're a part the evil and vile fast food machine that is the downfall of modern society. You don't need to lecture me. But they had air conditioning and a playground on which the kids expelled every ounce of energy possible.

The TV was on in the play area and the kids were paying more attention to the shiny moving images than they were to their chicken sandwiches. The TV was tuned to Cartoon Network, but was playing a show geared toward older children so I asked one of the employees if the TV could be turned off. She obliged and disappeared into the staff area at the front of the store. A few moments later, she paused the TV signal and a Dish Network logo started floating across the screen.

"It's Dish," Christian said.
"Huh?" asked his sister.
"They have Dish Network here," he said. I nodded that he was correct.
He continued, "Dish Network doesn't have very many HD channels." We don't have HDTV at home, so I'm not sure why this matters. But his reasoning sounded familiar to me - lifted straight from a DirecTV commercial.
But he still wasn't done. "I don't like Dish Network. I like Diwec TV." (He still has trouble pronouncing his R's.)

From there he provided a worthy DirecTV sales pitch as good as any TV advertisement. Note to DirecTV, he's available for hire... as long as you have a Wii with Super Mario Bros to keep him entertained between takes.

* edit: He has been known to mumble a few words in his sleep. He also laughs in his sleep, which is just a bit creepier than talking.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Go see this movie.

In case you missed it, here is my review. (my blog - no spoilers)
And if you are interested, here are some of the Easter eggs hidden in the new Planet of the Apes movie. (IFC article - several spoilers)

And really, I mean it. Go watch this movie.


There is always a story

If you pay attention to my twitter feed, you may have noticed the following tweet: Old man in line in front of me @ super1 is buying four 4packs of Widmer Bros IPA & 4 big jugs of burgandy wine. Coolest old man ever.

There has to be more to it than that, right?

There is.

When I go to the grocery store, I am a man on a mission. In and out as quickly as possible. I had a two item list - brown gravy mix and potatoes - simple, quick, and easy. Except I wasn't paying attention to anything that might be lurking around the corner of the medicine isle.

That is where an old man almost ran me over with his shopping cart. He chuckled with a warmth that only comes with age and excused himself. I didn't mind as it was partially my fault - I should have been more observant.

"No worries," I said.

He smiled and nodded in acquiescence then shuffled his way to the front of the store. Him manner and dress was the elderly stereotype: arched convex back, shoulders hunched forwards, jowls sagging beyond his chin, wispy silver hair, plaid button down shirt tucked into faded denim, and orthopedic shoes.

But it wasn't his appearance that caught me off guard - it was the contents of his cart. Four bottles of jug wine (roughly four liters each) and four packs of IPA - four bottles in each pack. There may have been other items in with the wine and beer, but they escaped my observation - overshadowed by the epic amounts of alcohol in the old man's shopping cart.

Here is the train of thought that danced through my head from there until I reached the produce isle:

Whoa, that's a lot of booze.
I didn't know old folks could drink that much.
I can't even drink that much.
He is going to be lit up tonight.
It would be hilarious to see him drunk.
I'd bet he's a happy drunk. There's two types of drunks in the world, happy drunks and mean drunks. Mean drunks don't typically last into old age, so he's gotta be a happy drunk.
Is his doctor OK with that much alcohol consumption?
Dang, that is a lot of booze.

My groceries were quickly procured; I made my way to the check out lines and ended up in line behind the old man. As the cashier scanned his beer and took his payment, I pulled out my phone and entered the tweet.

Coolest old man ever. I could have said 'most adorable old man ever,' but that might have gone over Twitter's 140 character limit.

This is a change in me. A previous version of myself would have been quick to judge the man as a lush. I would have condemned him as an irresponsible drunkard. But there was something different this time. I couldn't be critical of him.

Maybe I'm just getting older. Or more forgiving. Or better at showing grace.

Whatever it is that is changing the way I view others, this old guy was cool. There was a contagious smile on his face that couldn't be ignored. He radiated with joy. He paid the cashier, collected his things and turned in a slow gait to the exit and out into the parking lot. I was in awe of, and slightly amused by the amount of alcohol he was carrying out of the store.

Once he was gone, the bagger let out a nervous giggle said, "A guy that age shouldn't drink that much."

She spoke what the younger me would have said. The cashier knew better, she had seen him several times before.

"Most of it is for his wife, I think," she said. "He gets the same thing every time, four bottles of burgundy and four packs of beer."

She had one final observation, "She comes in with him every now and then. They're a cute couple."

That last line sums it up. They're a cute couple. That's what I hope people say of my wife and I 30 years from now. They're a cute couple.

And aside from the copious quantities of alcohol, that's the kind of man I want to be when I grow up. Joyful. Smiling. Radiant. Adorable. If only we could all age so gracefully.


Leavenworth, pictorial review

For those with short term memories and/or are easily distracted by shiny objects, allow me to fill you in. Bekah and I escaped last weekend. To Leavenworth. Our first real kid-free vacation since ... well, ever.

We didn't do everything planned, but we had an amazing time. After the first night, by the time we had finished our waffles, Bekah and I were fans of staying at a bed & breakfast. And by mid day, we decided we should do our best to make the trip an annual event.

Beside the point. While we were there, we took a lot of pictures. Here are five of my favorites.

There should be no question why this is one of my favorites. None.

Perspective is everything. As we were horseback riding on a hot summer day, I was thankful for this perspective.

We visited two wineries and two tasting rooms. Icicle Ridge, Cascadia, Eagle Creek, and Kestrel. Icicle Ridge was a bummer, because that's the one I was most looking forward to seeing. It was the most scenic, but a rather dull tasting experience. Eagle Creek was decent. Kestrel was entertaining. But by far, Cascadia was my favorte. For the wine lovers out there, I can not urge you enough to support this business. Delicious wine and a fantastic host.

I took several pictures of flowers. There are decorative pots hanging from businesses all over Leavenworth. But for wild growth? Daisies are everywhere.

My wife has a beautiful smile. And I saw a lot of that smile for the three days we were away. With a private horseback ride, quite (and mostly private) dinner at a secluded lodge, massages, and nothing but peace and relaxation for the first 24 hours we were there, every smile was earned. And with all we've been through in the past eight years, those smiles were well deserved.

You can see more from our trip HERE, on facebook.