Friday, December 31, 2010

Review, Resolve, Repeat

It's New Year's Eve! One year ago at this very moment, I was in an airplane on my way to Hawaii. Oh, Hawaii...I am dangerously close to booking a trip for next New Year's Eve right now because starting the new year somewhere fantastic is just so much better than trying to figure out what you're doing on New Year's Eve. (However, I do actually have fun plans tonight so I shouldn't complain.)

Anthony Bourdain made a nice year-end list that made me want to make my own list, except I don't know that I've seen enough good movies or read enough books this year to make a worthwhile list of that sort, so instead, allow me to simply recap the reasons 2010 was actually pretty great:

1. I traveled...a lot. I got to experience Hawaii, D.C., and New York with my husband and boys, which was amazing. I made a very snowy trip to New York with one of my BFFs. I got to do Vegas with the hubby and another two of my BFFs (and make new friends along the way!). And, of course, there was the work travel (see no. 2), which wasn't always fun, but it did allow me to befriend one of my new co-workers and fall in love with the Ritz Philadelphia lobby (and Monica's cupcakes).

2. I got a job. Yes, after four years of freelancing and contracting, I got myself a real full-time job. It's been quite an adjustment, but I don't mind saying that I kind of hit the jackpot in the employment area. My boss is awesome, my co-workers are awesome, the work is interesting, and even though sometimes I have to put on a suit and present things to people, I can often spend the whole day in my slippers (I work from home).

3. The teenager graduated from high school. There were times that I wasn't sure it would really happen, so the fact that he graduated is an accomplishment, but more importantly, it's a sign of the progress he's made and keeps making. He's healthy, he's safe, and he makes for pretty good company these days. As long as those three things remain true, everything else is just a bonus.

4. I made progress on the 40 by 40 list. I don't know if I knew when I made the list that it would provide such an ongoing source of challenge and opportunity. Things I've just been wanting to do take on new meaning and purpose when executed against the list. Things I could have said, "Yeah, maybe I'll get to that" are now must-do's because they are the list, and that's pretty great. In 2010, I completed five items on the list:
  1. As already mentioned twice in this post, I visited Hawaii (#4)
  2. I sang karaoke (#15)
  3. I scrapbooked my boys' childhoods (#23)
  4. I learned to do smoky eyes (#28)
  5. I participated in a treasure hunt/scavenger hunt in another state (#29)
That's a lot of stuff. Plus, I may also have completed numbers 18, 19 and 21 but I'm not ready to call them yet. I've let the holidays derail the exercise a bit and as for the job, I don't know, it feels like I'd be jinxing something to call it already, so we'll come back to that one at a later date.

I should also mention that my husband realized his dream of opening an improv theater this year, which is pretty fantastic, but I'll leave it up to him to expand upon in his own year-end recap (which I'll link to here if he writes one).

So with 2010 being so good, I'm entering 2011 with a mix of high expectations and fear of disappointment (what else is new?). I haven't yet come up with any resolutions, but I do know that I'm hoping for another year of new experiences, good food, and great friends. And donuts. This year I'm going to learn to make donuts. Dream big, kids.

Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Of Mice and Karaoke

So it was Christmas...we had pie and presents and hosted our first Wii bowling tournament and then yesterday we took the boys to Tangled, which I liked a lot. Loved the horse. Loved the lantern scene. I think Disney must be funneling all the crap into its television channel so as not to distract the talented people.

I haven't been baking much this holiday season, which I'm going to have to see about rectifying now that I have a WHOLE WEEK OFF! My fabulous employer decided to close up shop for the week. I don't believe I've ever had an entire week off from work where I didn't take a trip...I'm not exactly sure what to do. I will probably attempt to cram all of the fun stuff I haven't had time for lately into one week...that will be exhausting, but hopefully fun too. (Full disclosure: I scoured the last-minute travel deals but could not find anything that was actually enough of a deal.)

But before I get sidetracked on all of the things I might do with my week off, I should tell you what I've been doing all of this time that I've haven't been blogging! Two very important things have happened:

1. I completed #15 on my 40 by 40 list by singing karaoke at my friend's bachelorette party last weekend! (yes, the photo is teeny tiny) As I had always wanted, it was "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard. Very fun. I think I will do it again. And since everyone always asks me this: Yes, really, I had never sung karaoke before. I used to sing for real when I was younger (I once sang a Debbie Gibson song in the atrium of a mall!) but something about getting up to sing in front of friends and strangers as an adult is intimidating. But like I said, it was really fun. I actually think we could have a lot of fun with a karaoke set-up at home...perhaps I will start scouring the after-Christmas sales.

2. We got a pet!
Actually, three pets! Three itty bitty mice. After 7.5 years of not really wanting to be responsible for any additional lives, I finally started missing having a fuzzy pet. This led me to the Animal Humane Society website, which I don't recommend browsing unless you're prepared to drop everything and adopt a pet (trust me, you'll fall in love with one of them).

My reason for going to the web site was to get ideas for a pet that wasn't a dog or cat (Aidan and I are both allergic, plus I'm not ready for a dog). I had hamsters and rats growing up, but never a mouse. However, I fell in love with Cumin, this tiny little mouse with the cutest face. After much convincing, my husband relaxed his anti-rodent stance and I merrily jaunted off to the Humane Society, where I discovered that my little Cumin had been at the shelter for months and that she had two sisters, from whom she had never been separated. So I took them all home, changed their names to Lola, Latte and Boots, and we are now living happily ever after. Even my husband likes them. A Christmas miracle, indeed.

I hope you've all been having a very Merry Christmas season, too.

Now it's on to New Year's Eve, the holiday I dread every year because I simultaneously want to curl up in my bed and want to have the most fabulous, sparkly plans in the land. Neither of these things ever happens. Well, except last year when I was asleep in my hotel bed in Hawaii...that was a good way to spend New Year's Eve. I might have to resurrect the New Year's vacation next year. As for this year...I plan to spend the week uncovering all of the fabulous things I could be doing had I planned more than 6 days ahead of time. But it will all work out in the end. Maybe I will make party hats for my mice...

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I always kind of brace myself for the emotional kick in the chest that often comes when introducing Owen to new people and experiences. I should be used to it after 4 1/2 years (crazy that it's been that long since he was diagnosed), but expecting it isn't the same as being used to it. It still knocks the wind out of me. I'm writing this while still catching my breath.

We enrolled the boys in snow sports. Aidan's been asking to snowboard since he was 5, so this year we finally signed him up for a local team where he can learn and hang out with other kids and eventually compete if he wants to. He tends to make friends easily and we don't have to worry about whether people know what's on his mind (he never stops talking), so signing him up for activities isn't a source of anxiety for me.

Owen, on the other hand, tends to meltdown when he's scared or frustrated or overwhelmed. Learning new things - physical things - can be really hard for him, so I was a little relieved when he said he wasn't interested in snowboarding. But he surprised us by saying he wanted to learn to ski. We live next to a ski hill, so we signed him up for lessons.

I had a knot in my stomach the whole first lesson, knowing he was up on that hill with strangers and having no idea how he would do. But when I picked him up, he was beaming. He didn't just love it, he felt like he was actually good at it. He told us that he was the best in the class at turning. He talked about it the whole afternoon.

I sent him off again last week feeling great, knowing he was excited and that he was learning to do something that he might actually use the rest of his life. Again, he came back chattering away about how much he liked skiing and how next week they were going to go up the big hill, which would include riding the chairlift! He was so excited.

So when we dropped him off today and the teacher asked us to stay for a minute, I guess I was a little caught off guard. I thought we were in the clear and that somehow, someway, skiing had turned out to be an activity that he could learn and enjoy just like all the other kids.

Alas, Owen's group scooted off to the bunny hill and the head of the program came over with a furrowed brow to tell us that she didn't think Owen was going to be able to stay with his ski group. "He's getting really frustrated," she explained, "and the instructor is having to spend all of her time on him." Bam. That was the kick. She went on to tell us that it could be a real problem to take him on the chairlift, so he might be put with another instructor so he could spend more time on the bunny hill. Kick #2.

Owen, of course, wasn't there to hear this - the adults always talk about these things behind the kids' backs. I know they think it's kinder that way, but all I could think about was how upset he was going to be if all the other kids went off to ride the chairlift and he was suddenly left with a stranger on the bunny hill. He was so excited. He thought he was doing so well.

And now, here I am, feeling once again like it's my fault for trying to pass my kid off as "normal." I feel bad. Because maybe I should have called out that he has autism when we signed him up. But what would they have done with the information? They don't offer special classes for kids with autism - and even if they did, he likely wouldn't fit in there, either, because he's so high functioning. He doesn't qualify for adaptive phys-ed, which means he participates in athletic activities at school right alongside the rest of the kids. He's not physically unable to participate and so far, I haven't found any type of special instruction for kids who are easily frustrated.

Naturally, following that guilt comes the guilt that I should be thankful that he can participate in the first place. That I have the option of sending him off to ski class at all. That he is so high-functioning. That somehow, despite the fact that he's apparently been having meltdowns out on the ski hill, he's still been coming back in with a smile on his face. And of course I am thankful, but I still want him to have the same opportunities as everyone else. If he wants to learn to ski, I want to make that happen. It sounds so simple.

I keep thinking that not everything has to be harder for him. Maybe I'm still in denial. Maybe I just don't know what else to do. Am I being unfair by throwing him into these situations designed for typical kids and hoping that he'll adapt, or am I helping him learn to function in life? I don't know. What I do know is that I'll put up with endless kicks in the chest if it means he can grow up knowing he can do anything he puts his mind to...I'm just hoping that I get the brunt of those kicks and not him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fun Yummy Drama

It's Wednesday! That means that it's Top Chef All-Stars night!

Unfortunately, it's now just minutes away from tonight's episode...I wish I'd been organized enough to start blogging about it back when it started two weeks ago, but you know, better late than never, right? Plus, two weeks ago I only knew that I thought it was going to be awesome to see so many of our favorite Cheftestants all in one place. And now I know that it is awesome.

Fabio! Spike! Richard! Tre! You may be wondering if I like any of the women chefs...well, I thought I really liked Jamie until she turned out to have become some crazy diva chef since last we saw her. And I'm a big fan of Jennifer Carroll's food at 10 Arts, but well, I can't say I'm a big fan of hers...especially after last week.

Then you add Anthony Bourdain into the mix and it's culinary competition nirvana! I love this season so much that I wish every episode was 2 hours. Actually, if they did a 24-hour Top Chef channel, I'd just watch that. Well, that is unless my other dream of the 24-hour Amazing Race channel was realized, in which case I'd need to switch back and forth.

Yeah, so this blog as no point other than to say: I love this show! It's exactly what I need on a Wednesday night. Fun yummy drama. FYD.

Who will pack their knives this week? Let's hear it for Antonia! (I'm sure she's a lovely person and all, but was she really even all All-Star?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

We'll Make It Anywhere

How much time can pass after a vacation before it's just plain too late to write a blog post about it? Well, my answer is more than 14 days because today it's only been 13 days since we returned from New York and seeing as I am on a plane (returning from my last trip to Philly for the year), enjoying free Wifi (thank you, Delta and Google), I am going to take this opportunity to tell you about one of our best family vacations ever.

At some point a few years back I'd decided it would be fun to go to NYC over Thanksgiving and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It's not like I've ever been obsessed with the parade, it just seemed like a cool family thing to do in NYC. This summer, we decided this would be the year.

A bit of research revealed that it was possible to book hotel rooms on the parade route, thus eliminating both the staking-out-sidewalk-space-at-6 a.m. problem and the freezing-child-who-has-to-pee-in-the-middle-of-Times-Square problem. This appealed to me, so I set to work finding a hotel room that did not cost as much as a small car.

The answer was the Doubletree Times Square, but I'm going to come out and tell you that although it cost less than some of the other options I found, it was way more than I would normally pay for a hotel room...especially a Doubletree. That being said, it was nice and it was another one-bedroom set-up where the kids got the "magic bed" (the pull-out couch) and we had our own room and therefore were not forced to go to bed at 9 p.m. when they did...although walking around Manhattan with two seven-year-olds in the winter is exhausting enough that there were nights when I may have fallen asleep before my boys.

Despite the physical exhaustion, the trip was awesome.

Some highlights:
Taking the boys through Times Square the first time
Owen's comment: "This is kind of like the State Fair." An interesting and relevant connection made by someone who is 4-feet tall and doesn't spend a lot of time pushing through masses of people in a place full of strange smells.

The parade
We watched the parade in our pajamas while eating room service. Sure, it would be a totally different experience on the street, but it was hard to feel like I was missing anything as I stared down at the crowds smushed onto every corner, while I sipped my mimosa in heated comfort. And by the way, the acoustics were amazing.

Touring the Statue of Liberty
This was a highlight in that it's pretty cool to see a national icon right up close. It would have been a lot cooler if I had planned 6-9 months in advance and reserved tickets for the crown. As it was, we went up to the pedestal. With all of the security and lines, it more closely resembled a long, cold trip to the airport than a fun family outing, but I'm glad I did it once.

Blue Man Group
It turns out that seven-year-old boys are just about the perfect audience for Blue Man Group. Owen laughed so loud and so often that I had to shush him. I know the boys don't really understand what performance art is, but they know that weirdos doing cool stuff is awesome, and that's good enough for me.

Thanksgiving in Brooklyn
I didn't end up crossing #16 off my 40 by 40 list, as I'd originally planned, because we got a better offer: Thanksgiving with friends who were celebrating their very first Thanksgiving in their very first house! It was so warm and homey and delicious and nice. So much better than dragging tired kids to a fancy restaurant. (We'll save that for another year.) Plus, Aidan karate-kicked a centipede, smushing it all over a white wall...which was totally disgusting, but retelling the story makes me laugh everytime, so I consider it a fond memory.

Cold Spring
Another friend of ours went and got married last year and moved upstate to Cold Spring. I'd never been out to visit, so we hopped on the train at Grand Central (try explaining the saying "It's like Grand Central Station in here!" to small children who have never heard the phrase...they will be unimpressed), took a beautiful ride up the Hudson River -- completely failed to get off the train fast enough, missed our stop -- and then eventually made it to Cold Spring. Imagine a quaint little town out of a Norman Rockwell painting (did he paint towns? I don't know.) and that is Cold Spring. It is the definition of picturesque. Plus, we got a VIP tour of the fire station and a firetruck thanks to our friend's firefighting husband. Awesome. Plus, we got to stay there overnight and it was the exact opposite of Manhattan (quiet, cozy) and I was worried that would seem anticlimactic after three nights in Times Square, but it turns out it was exactly the right thing. So nice.

There was more. I didn't even mention the food. Mac Bar, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Norma's. We ate well.

We did a lot of fun stuff, but my greatest joy came from getting to see my boys experience so many things for the first time. There was also the wonderful hospitality our friends showed us, which was not just kind and generous, but also provided a unique counterbalance to our otherwise very touristy vacation. Thank you, Heather, Rolla, Maggie and Danny for taking us in and for giving my kids the perspective thatyes, people actually live here.

I've ♥ 'd NY for many years, but now my boys ♥ it, too, and that makes me happy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Whoa. After I posted my last blog entry I seem to have slipped into some kind of work-induced coma because I have only vague recollections of the rest of November...well, with the exception of taking one of the best family vacations EVER to NYC over Thanksgiving, which I will merrily post about very soon. Promise. I just needed to do a check-in blog to prove to myself that I haven't actually forgotten how to blog.

So think of this as a placeholder of sorts. An IOU.

I have many things to blather on about - my fantabulous trip being one. My love and appreciation of the new Top Chef All-Stars being another. Oh, and the whole Christmas spirit thing...I suppose I have some thoughts to share on the way that taking a trip over Thanksgiving kind of compresses the whole Christmas season down to a matter of weeks...I haven't decided if that's good or bad yet. What I can say with certainty is that I liked it better last year when I spent the Christmas season eagerly anticipating our New Year's trip to Hawaii. Now that was good timing.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can't go into detail about anything right now because I'm supposed to be getting ready to host a house of 40-50 people this evening. I am fighting my party anxiety by blogging...I realize that it's counterproductive. Has anyone written a book for people who don't like throwing parties on how to throw parties? I need that book...because for some reason I have accepted throwing parties as some kind of unavoidable part of life.

Yeah, so back soon. Cheers!