Saturday, January 31, 2009

Amigurumi Monkey

I've finished my second crocheted animal--I've learned this is called "Amigarumi" and is big in Japan. My guy is based on a pattern from a library book by Elisabeth A. Doherty. She also has an ETSY site. Her version of the monkey is very colorful, and has different legs. I wanted a more realistic monkey, so I modified her pattern. My monkey is about 14 " long, and about 8 inches tall when he is sitting. For my next project, I'm planning a smaller, less complicated bear or rabbit. I'm pretty hooked on this craft--no pun intended!

Oh, and remember my first effort? The mouse? I left him on the kitchen shelf. Either Alex gave him to the cats or the cats climbed up on the counter and got him down. Alex says he didn't take the mouse down, so??? Since these are made of wool, the mouse was pretty fuzzed up after playing with the cats for a few hours, so I rubbed him in catnip, and gave him back to the cats.

I've promised Alex the next project. (I'm keeping Monkey for myself!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Snow Day

Why? I'm not sure -- I think maybe all the side streets aren't plowed enough for the busses to get through.

I don't have class today, so I can stay home with boys. Note that a few days ago I blogged about finishing all my January projects. The last project was finished a bit early, leaving me free today. If I had NOT finished early, I'd be in a panic about how to finish and be with boys today. Seems pretty lucky that I was motivated to finish early.

This is the kind of thing where I can credit God. Some call it fate, or karma, or as I did in previous paragraph, luck. I can see or feel God's hand in this kind of little thing. Why don't I see it--or trust it--in the big things? I fuss and fuss and fuss over the problems our kids have. I worry so that Alex will get into serious trouble as a teenager. I worry about Joseph's behavior. Will this spike in non-compliance we have seen as he has grown too large for me to pick up easily continue into HIS teen years? If so, what on earth will we do?

So, again I ask, why if I can credit God with taking care of the little stuff, like a second snow day, do I NOT trust God with the big stuff? Like our boys' futures?

That will keep me thinking today...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

After a post yesterday about finding a bit of extra time, the whole family was given a SNOW DAY. We are cozy and warm, watching great big flakes of snow fall after a night of freezing rain. I've not been out of my PJs. The amazing thing is not that the boys are home from school--it is that Mom is home from school-and Dad closed the business for the day! I can't say we are doing anything as a family, just yet. I'm at the computer, Dave is reading the paper (probably doing the crossword) and the boys are watching, what else, TV. We are all happy. We will go out later to play in the snow. For now--everyone gets to relax--each in our own way.

I could turn this into a post about TV. I've done a real 180 on TV this winter. Both our kids struggle in school. Joseph in big, obvious ways. Alex in big ways, too, just not as obviously as Joseph. I limited the TV time until this winter when I finally relented and put a TV in the basement where they can go and watch pretty much whenever they want. Joseph is glued. Alex watches and then goes and plays with toys. Is there harm in this? Yes. Probably. Maybe. But, guess what? Joseph has been watching the same preschool programs on TV forever--and now answers the questions they ask. They try to get preschool kids to interact with the TV in the best of the educational stuff on TV for kids. And, now, 9 or10 years too late, Joseph does. Not always, but sometimes. He has seen every episode of Blues Clues at least 100 times. I'm sure I've heard every episode of Blues Clues at least 75 times... So, maybe he is a child that really needs so much repetition--repetition that threatens all our sanity--that 10 years of preschool TV is actually good for him. Maybe I'm trying to justify making life easier for me. If he is watching TV I don't have to entertain him, or clean up after him when he makes a mess because I wasn't entertaining him.

Does the TV hurt Alex? Maybe--but frankly--TV is the least of my worries with Alex...

So for now--I'm typing--Dave is napping (not doing a crossword puzzle) Alex is playing, and Joseph is watching the game show channel with some "Little Einsteins" and ESPN Pool mixed in. (No one can actually watch TV with Joseph. He typically bounces between three or more shows in such a way that gives the rest of us a headache...) Is is stimming? Yes. Is it all bad? No. One other positive is that it gives me something to reward him with when he behaves. The other day he was told that if he behaved when we went to the store and went to pick up Alex he would be rewarded with TV time. He didn't. He lost his TV time. (I can lock the door to the basement, and thus monitor the TV.) That got his attention. A few more evenings without TV and he may listen at the store when I need him to listen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three deadlines done

I've had three extra projects for work in the month of January. A deadline on Jan. 9, a deadline on Jan 23, and a deadline on Jan 30. Each took about 2 or 3 full days to complete. Ah. The last is done. I emailed the finished product just a few minutes ago. Now, I have no special projects--just the routine work of my normal teaching. If you figure I kept up with that routine work, while I spent about 8 full days doing other stuff in January, you will come to the same conclusion as I have. During February, I will have a bit of time to spend of fun projects. I worked extra during January, so I'll be able to do some fun stuff, just for me and the house and the family during February. Ah, one of the things I love about the academic life. When the scheduling works out, you can score some unstructured time.

What is on my list?

For ME!!!

1. Knitting and crocheting miniature animals using inspiration and patterns I've found on etsy.
2. Organizing the sewing room/guest room.
3. Cleaning!!!

For the FAMILY

1. Keeping on top of Joseph's therapy stuff.
2. Working with Alex more at home on reading and other school stuff.
3. Cooking decent meals.

For the HOUSE

1. Cleaning See ME 3.
2. Organizing the sewing room/guest room. See ME 2.
3. Making curtains for our bedroom, and maybe for the boys' room. Alex has cut the strings on the pleated shades, so we can't lower them any more. Hence, no way to get privacy. We don't need it. There is no one out there looking in, but... It would be nice to close shade or curtains on a cold night.


1. Start on a stack of reading... A big stack of reading... maybe this will happen in March. Maybe I'll give myself the rest of the month of February to do the things outlined above...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I changed the colors of the blog a week or so ago, and put a winter photo up. I like to keep it seasonal and fresh... But the color scheme and the photo never worked. Now I know what I was waiting for! The photo of Aretha just seems to make this color scheme come alive. I promise you won't see The Hat for months and months, but for now, it is perfect.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Hat

Jerry beat me to it... I wanted to say that Aretha Franklin's hat (and singing) were the highlight of the inauguration festivities, but he says it all here. Complete with photo!!!

A lot of help

We are getting some extra help with advice from Joseph's behavior therapist. She has good ideas about how to keep him engaged in the store by reading a shopping list, sorting coupons, etc. and giving rewards for good behavior every minute or so, or every aisle, giving rewards in the car for each time he gets in and doesn't try to push the buttons, etc.

As she was outlining all the steps to take, and how to set up the situation outlining my expectations for good behavior and explaining what the reward system will be, and how I'm supposed to write signs to put in the car that say "don't touch," I thought to myself--"Self, this will probably work." Now, if I can just get ME to cooperate? Who is going to give me a reward each time I follow through? Each time I have the foresight to set up the expectations and rewards... Oh--I guess JOSEPH will. By not screaming in my ear during the whole trip.

It is a win for everyone! (Well, not an easy win, but a win. What I really want is an easy win. There aren't many of those out there, are there?)

Got to go warm up leftovers!

Friday, January 16, 2009


We went sledding this afternoon. It was a balmy +10 or so. But the good news was the cold meant the really wonderful sledding hill about a mile away was not packed with people and the parking lot was not packed with cars. I went down the hill 4 or 5 times. Once with Alex, twice with Joseph, and a few times on my own. Boy do I feel it. The snow was packed and hard, so every bump jolted my aging joints and I wiped out just about every trip down. It was cold but there were kids there without hats on. I think they were dressed warmly enough so that after climbing the hill over and over and over they didn't feel the cold. I was fine unless I stood still at the top of the hill for too long. Boys were in snow pants, boots, etc. They were fine.

Alex enjoyed for awhile, but he was concerned about running into other kids, and finally lost his temper because he couldn't control the direction his sled took. And he couldn't control it spinning and giving him a backwards or sideways ride. No amount of talking or explaining was going to make it okay.

Joseph tolerated the 3 or 4 runs he took. He even nodded his head yes that he wanted to go down the hill by himself the last time. But he laid on the ground at the bottom of the hill for a good five minutes after each run. Only then would he climb the hill. After his last run he headed to the car by himself. When he realized no one was following he reluctantly turned around to come to me.

The best part? Having enough trust that Joseph would eventually come up the hill by himself so that I didn't panic and fuss over him. It is nice when I can finally just let them be. I didn't even worry too much about Alex getting mad over something nobody can control.

During this cold snap we have had the wood stove going all day, unless I've been at work. That keeps the house VERY toasty and the furnace doesn't run nearly as much. It is very satisfying to burn wood from dead or dying trees on our property that I cut down, and split. Some of the wood is from trees that the pros cut down, but I split it all! I worry a bit about the pollution from the wood fire. However, our electricity comes from coal, so there is a lot of pollution there also. Does anyone know how much worse wood is than coal on the environment? Especially wood that has no transportation costs or impact? Sounds like a science project to me!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Absent minded professor or special needs mom???

I have many excuses--but they all sound a bit like "my dog ate my homework."

I looked down today, while picking up Alex after school, and realized I had on one black shoe and one brown shoe. Not one black sock and one brown sock. Two different shoes. Different cuts. Similar, but still distinct in shape and style as well as color.

Thankfully I didn't go to campus today. I had been to the grocery store, and hopefully anyone that noticed just thought I looked like a nice, eccentric middle-aged woman. Hopefully they didn't think-- "poor thing--she must be from the group home. I wonder where her keeper is?"

Makes me think I have real potential to become the "absent minded professor." I'd like to blame it on Joseph and Alex. A mom with special kids has her own set of special needs... but I don't really think Alex and Joseph were on my mind as I pulled on comfy clothes to work at home today.

I thought of Sarah's blog from a year or so ago asking if her readers ever wear socks inside out... Oh, my. Inside out socks sounds like high style to me!

I fell on Tuesday. Wiped out on the sidewalk in front of the craft store. Flat on my face. Luckily I have just bruises to show for it. I got up as quickly as I could... In my mind all I could hear was a loudspeaker calling "Clean up on Aisle Three."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Photos from a pro of two CUTE boys

We went to a local big box retail photo shop and had "professional" photos made. They let you download copies from web site. Not good enough to print, but good enough to share. Not perfect, but , two CUTE boys.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A reader told me she had left a comment that never appeared on the blog. Is anyone else having that trouble. I changed the settings to allow comments without reading the encrypted word--that may or may not help.

So, please leave a comment, just to try it out. If your comment doesn't appear, and you have my email, drop me a line, please!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I made a mouse

Okay, so I woke up today--not feeling much better than yesterday--and declared that I would do the bare necessities for work today, and do something fun for myself. So. I made a mouse. I've discovered the ETSY website, and found many cute things there. I don't want to buy anything, I just want to make my own. My favorites, so far, have been knit or crochet animals and toys. So, I went to the library today to get the book for my book club next Monday (I guess I'd better start reading) and checked out four books with knit and crochet animals. I made the smallest animal for which I could find a pattern--this cute little mouse! I'm pretty proud of it. (He is about 3 or 4 inches long, with a 5 or 6 inch tail...) I think I'll try a bigger animal next!!! There are cute monkey and bear patterns out there... Hmmm... What would Alex and Joseph like? This one looks like I should just rub catnip all over it and let the kitties have it. But it is too cute! So I'm keeping him. He is sitting on my desk.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Joseph having a rough patch

This is a venting post.

Joseph's been having a rough patch. He just refuses to do what we ask. It has taken a turn for the worse in the past few months. Only change I can see is that we are letting him have more TV time at home.

I have trouble with him in the store. He lays on the floor and makes Joseph noises. (For those of you that don't know Joseph, it is kind of a loud chirp--not words, not crying, but clearly complaining and he gets the message across that he is mad...)

He likes the bluetooth connection in my new car. So he wants to push the buttons and call someone. If I don't let him, he complains. He wants the cart to move constantly in the store. If I stop to actually shop, he complains. He wants all the seat belts just the right way in the back seat. If Alex moves one, he complains.

The behavior specialist wants me to negotiate a reward for good behavior before we get in the car and before we go in the store. If he misbehaves, no reward and I should ignore the bad behavior. Either pick him up off the floor, or stand in the store with my back to him while he lays on the floor and fusses. She tells me to print little cards to hand to the strangers that look at us as they walk by explaining that he is autistic and that we are working with him under the supervision of a psychologist and to go to Autism if they have questions... Picking him up, matter-of-fact and moving on is really my only option. However, 65 lbs of squirming boy is not always the best for my back.

All of that is fine in theory, but in practice, nearly impossible.

The sound of Joseph complaining isn't that bad, but as a constant companion in the car or the store, or for that matter the house, it gets old. Hence, the TV at home. I started letting him watch so that he would be happy at home--and not constantly complaining, fussing, picking fights with Alex, or climbing on top of the tallest furniture in the house...

Anyway. I'm getting desperate enough that reading Jerry's post today about the dairy free--gluten free diet and his son made me think we should try it again. I know we gave it a good try. I know how hard it is to follow the diet and how easy it was to convince ourselves that it was helping him. But, then, we took him off of it and saw no change... I don't want to try another medication. I don't think this is a medication issue. I think this is all behavior. I think Joseph knows exactly what he is doing because he can start and stop the behaviors at will. Given the right reward, he stops. The problem is, I'm not supposed to offer a reward after the behavior starts, only before! If I offer a reward after the behavior starts, I'm teaching him to throw a fit because then I offer some treat... Argh.

Like I said--A venting post.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Random thoughts

Better late than never. Here is a photo of Philip's family visiting for one day in December. These were our only house guests for the holiday. Hence, I have managed to clean up and organize spaces in the house that have been a mess since we moved in 18 months ago. Note--it is better to actually unpack after a move. Don't just shove boxes into corners and hope they unpack themselves. I now have a nice work space in the loft, and a sewing/craft room in the upstairs guest room. Dave was so impressed with my organized work spaces he unpacked his boxes and set up his desk on the loft. I need to buy a new lamp or two--and we will have three nice spaces in which to work and play.

In the oh, ouchthatlookslikeitreallyhurts category. We were reminded at lunch today how oddly Joseph's nerves are wired for pain (or I should say NOT wired for pain). He has a bad hangnail that bled last night. It is still pretty raw. We were eating french fries--salty. He took the bandaid off the finger, and kept rubbing the sore spot with his salty fingers. Dave and I were wincing in pain, but Joseph was not even flinching. We put a new bandaid on his freshly washed hands after lunch...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009

I was reminded that today was the beginning of a new year when I looked at my grocery store receipt--our store tells us how much we save each visit with the store "loyalty card," and also gives the year's total savings. I was surprised when I looked at the receipt today to read I'd only saved $5 this year. Oh, yeah, I reminded myself. It is a new year. I guess I'm a bit out of touch.

I have no resolutions to share--just hope and prayers for another good year--for my family and for yours.

I was in the grocery store today because I wanted to I make the same dinner tonight as I had on Christmas day. I followed a recipe. Now for most of you that isn't a big deal. For me it is a rare dinner for which I actually use a recipe. I'm big on making it up as I go along. Recipes require a set of specific ingredients--that usually means I improvise even when I use a recipe. I found this in the newspaper--

Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperation

Fancy Shrimp Pasta With Roasted Red Pepper
Makes 4 servings

8 ounces penne pasta
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion (for about 1 cup chopped)
1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 roasted red pepper from a jar (for about 1/2 cup diced)
2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Cook the pasta in 2 1/2 quarts of boiling water until tender but still firm to bite.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Peel and chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop. Coarsely chop the sliced mushrooms and add them to the skillet. Add the shrimp. Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink and the onion is tender.

Add the peas and half-and-half. Dice the roasted red pepper and add it to the skillet. Stir in the seafood seasoning.

Drain the pasta. Add to the skillet. Mix well.

Reduce the heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Spoon the pasta into shallow pasta bowls.

Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped Italian parsley, if desired.

PER SERVING: 521 calories; 36 g protein; 55 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 17 g fat (8 g saturated); 211 mg cholesterol; 639 mg sodium

I'd like to report I followed it exactly, but in fact on Christmas day I was without several ingredients--no mushrooms, no "Old Bay" seasoning. I managed to find a list of the spices in Old Bay, and I used all that I had in my cupboard. On Christmas day you can't run to the grocery. Today, I went to the store and bought everything I needed. This is VERY tasty. I don't cook with seafood very often. I used frozen uncooked "easy peel" shrimp for this. They were easy to peel, easy to cook, and if I can do it, anyone can. (And, although my improvised variation was different than the real recipe, it was very good as well...)

Perhaps this is the start of a 2009 trend... mind you, I'm NOT making a resolution.