Friday, April 29, 2011

Making Friends (or Not)

Tonight was the annual school carnival. I dread this event for all the regular reasons, such as it's a waste of money, it's loud, they pump all the kids full of sugar, they give them bags of cheap plastic crap, and there are about a thousand ways I'd rather spend a Friday night.

I continue to go, of course, because my boys love it. Every classroom is transformed into carnival games (that cost $1 per play), there are mini donuts, a bounce house, and the principal dresses up like a ring master. It's elementary school nirvana.

Tonight, however, I found it depressing. I mean, sure, I'm used to the usual isolation that I feel at school events because all the parents seem to be friends (church friends, golfing buddies, ECFE friends, etc.), but tonight I noticed that my kids don't really seem to have friends like the other kids. I've suspected as much for awhile, but it was more obvious tonight. All the kids were ditching their parents to wander the halls in groups. Many had made plans to meet up in advance. My kids said hi to a few people, but didn't seem to share a connection with anyone. Even Aidan's "BFF" seemed to be more interested in hanging out with other kids than with him...(Later, I asked him about it and he said, "I know she's not mad at me because I didn't do anything." Can you hear my heart breaking?)

I know Owen is well-liked, but isn't hard-wired to seek out close friendships. Aidan is sweet as can be, but  he seems to be socially awkward in the most painful way. The harder he tries, the worse it gets. And he's sensitive and wants to fit in. Poor thing.

And of course I worry that it's at least partially our fault, for being so overwhelmed by having twins that we never made much of an effort to socialize them...for generally not being good at meeting new people...for not going to church...for not joining the PTA...for not living on a block with kids their age. Who knows all the things we probably could have done to set our kids up for social success? The point is, we didn't. And neither of them seems to have the innate social skills to compensate for the hand they were dealt in the parent department.

I'm not being all fatalistic here. They do have a couple friends. The scene tonight just made me a little sad. Because sometimes I just want things to be easy...and I guess some thing are. Algebra and chemistry will probably come easy. A group of friends to hang out with on a Friday night? That might be more of a challenge. Sigh.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Free Time

I made the mistake of arriving early for my Dining Out for Life date, thinking I'd be able to work while I waited...only to find out the wifi is down.

So here I find myself with free time that I cannot occupy with work or reading (I forgot to bring my book) and it turns out that I'm very uncomfortable sitting alone in a booth with nothing to stare at but my Blackberry. It makes me paranoid, like the staff thinks I'm being stood up (but I'm EARLY! I want to scream, even though I'm not sure anyone actually cares whatsoever).

Really, I should be able to enjoy getting lost in thought during this "free time". I could think about travel or my kids or work or what I'm going to write my novel about...instead, I'm testing out this blogging via email function. Because then there's one less thing for me to do later.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Classify these as good times

Ok, we're doing all good news today:

  • I found out today that we'll know by June 3 (probably sooner) whether we're getting tickets to the 2012 Olympics! This is very exciting. It's going to be a test to my trip-planning abilities if we go. I mean, I've tackled Disney World, I've tackled Las Vegas on New Year's Eve (and St. Patrick's Day), but a foreign country with 8-year-olds at peak tourist season during the Olympic Games? That's gonna be interesting. 
  • I went to Bars class this morning, even though there were lots of reasons not to. That means I've exercised two of the last three days. Go me!
  • The boys came home from school today happy as clams and Owen even exclaimed "It was the best day of school ever!" He even tried out a self-regulation exercise that his therapist showed us yesterday. Yay happy school days!
  • I've decided I don't like gin martinis. That means I can now focus my attention on making a delicious Grey Goose martini myself and I'll be able to check number 22 off my list! Even better news is that my sister-in-law is coming over tonight to help me in this quest. And even better news is that one of my BFFs has suggested a martini marathon, which I envision to be like a pub crawl with martinis and that sounds pretty fun (hello, birthday party!)...we'll need mini martini glasses, though. Do you think if a group of people showed up with mini martini glasses, bartenders would be okay with making mini martinis? Cuz otherwise the marathon would end after bar number 2. 
  • And finally, remember I mentioned that I was asked to write a story for a local arts publication? Well, I got it done on time and today my editor told me he loved it and had no changes! Truth be told, that makes me nervous as I tend to write with the intention of being edited (I am positive that says something about my psychological make-up), but that's still good news since it's the opposite of him hating it. 
And there you have it. Good night and gnus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Excuses and more

As if it's not bad enough that I'm failing miserably, I'm afraid my daily blogging challenge has turned my blog into my nemesis. It makes it feel like work. (yes, apparently work is also my nemesis...I'm better suited for days spent lounging by the ocean with pina coladas)

I thought it would be a good writing exercise, but instead it feels like my writing is even more pointless than ever. Sigh.

Are there phases that a person goes through when forming new habits? Enthusiasm, boredom, self-sabotage, and then justifying failure? Yep, those are my four phases of being a quitter. Except I'm not quitting in this case. I'm just whining. But I'm planning to finish out my last 5 days strong!

It should help that I'm on single parent duty this week - I find that staying home is far more conducive to blogging than actually having a life worth blogging about.

My husband is in New York on a freelance gig and I realized that even though he's gone a lot at the theater these days, I had forgotten the anxiety I get when he's gone for several days. It's like my brain thinks we're going to a desert island or something and I must gather enough supplies to last us the entire length of his absence in case we lose contact with the outside world. I have to assume that it's a holdover from when the boys were younger because back then, I really did feel overwhelmed just taking them both to the grocery store by myself. Now it's easy-peasy, but I guess old associations are hard to shake.  

In other news, I realized that I have less than 5 weeks before I'm going back to Vegas for our friend's wedding, which means I have to 1) buy a "summer formal" dress and 2) wear a swimsuit in public. Both of these facts got me out jogging yesterday. Jogging! And, according to Google maps, I jogged a full 0.45 miles without stopping! That's pretty major for me. I guess what everyone has been telling me about it being easier to run outside, might actually be true. Huh. I'm hoping to keep it up and maybe eventually jog the full mile to the Caribou up the street (I believe that if it was a Starbucks, I would have done it already).

I'm also participating in the Autism 5K here in Minneapolis on May 21. I don't plan to run the whole thing, so I don't think I'll be checking anything off my 40 by 40 list that day, but it will be a fun family activity, it's a great cause, and it will contribute to the body reshaping I'm hoping to achieve in less than 5 weeks. Win-win-win.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Incrediblest Ediblest Egg

It is Easter. I hope yours was filled with family, fun, and Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Some people get all crazy with them...

I find the egg best enjoyed in its purest form.

Happy Easter!

(Btw, you can skip Hop. Seriously. Skip it.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baseball and Eggs (separately)

Today we made it through our first entire Twins game with the boys! This feat allowed me to learn that baseball has nine innings, not seven. (I don't know why I thought it was seven - is there a sport with seven of something?)

It was a cold, rainy day, but we had so much fun. It helped that we had good seats this time, so we could see what was happening without the TV screens. Plus, it was a daytime game (less tired whining) and we brought blankets. And we ate a lot of crap, which I'm pretty sure is an important part of the baseball experience.

Then, after the game, we dyed Easter eggs. For the first time ever, I undercooked the eggs. (Seriously, how do you hard boil eggs wrong?) Luckily we only cracked one...kind of a giant waste of eggs though.

Hope everyone has a nice Easter. We plan to pay reverence to the Cadbury Egg...truly a miracle.

Btw, I just learned the word "obeisance" and I think we should all try to use it in conversation tomorrow. Go!

Friday, April 22, 2011

At Least I Know I'm Free

I'm behind. Busy week. Bad week for blogging. Sorry, blog, I owe you 3 more days.

I just caught up on Parenthood. That last episode wrecked me. Those writers must be brilliant because no matter how far-fetched or cliche the storyline seems, it always ends up being good - and usually makes me cry. I've even almost stopped thinking of Dax Shepard as the idiot from Nick Lachey's music video.

I'm worn out. Not enough sleep. Not feeling good. Just a little out of whack.

I probably shouldn't admit that while in this state, I put in a request for tickets to the 2012 Olympics. We've been talking about maybe going since the last Olympics, but I have to believe it was fate that reminded me to Google the event tonight, only to find out that this happens to be the last day to request tickets through the official U.S. ticket provider.

You put in your request and then you wait to find out whether you're getting anything - not the ideal trip-planning process. I've already decided that it's not worth making the trip unless we can see the closing ceremonies...part of me is hoping we don't get tickets because it would be a crazy expensive and chaotic trip, but then the rest of me thinks it would be a super amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip and a fantastic reason to go to London. Now it's up to the universe and the Olympic committee...or whoever doles out the tickets.

Alright, time for sleep. Tomorrow we've got a wholesome family day at the ballpark. Seriously, ballgames and the Olympics? I'll let you know when I put "Proud to be an American" on my iPod.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Fame Monster

I'd like to tell you about how I was whisked away in Lady Gaga's tour bus on Sunday night and only just regained consciousness this morning, glitter still stuck to my eyelashes...but that didn't actually happen. I just fell into a work hole - better known as getting-distracted-right-when-you-might-be-forming-a-good-habit.

Turns out Gaga might not be so fun to hang out with anyway based on this whole Weird Al fiasco. Did you see his blog post on his "Born This Way" parody? Please read it. I've mentioned before that I have a special place in my heart for Weird Al, but doesn't his telling of the tale just reconfirm what a decent and nice guy he is? Seriously. He's just an artist trying to make his art. (Art that has withstood the test of nearly three decades, I might add.)

I like Lady Gaga. I planned to buy her new album, but this is just bullshit. Anyone who can't accept Weird Al parodying their song as the ultimate compliment doesn't deserve the honor. Add in the fact that he planned to donate all the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign and it's just a disgusting ego trip on her part.

I might be irrationally upset about this, but I just can't abide anybody screwing over the beloved Weird Al. Especially not someone who has risen to stardom by being a completely over-the-top media whore.

Anyway, please enjoy what could have been his new hit song:

UPDATE: In case you haven't heard, the whole fiasco has been resolved! Oh, internet, you are so magical. So happy to know that it was a misunderstanding and kudos to Weird Al for not being nearly as bitter as the rest of us...


I have been negligent in my daily blogging. I will return later today to say more, but in the meantime please enjoy the sight I woke up to this morning.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More Fun, Less Money

It's Sunday, the night of pondering the week ahead and watching The Amazing Race.

As I've mentioned many times before, I ♥ The Amazing Race and this season is better than ever! The clues actually sometimes require the contestants to think and they've managed to keep the herd pretty close together for the most part, which is always more fun.

My kids keep asking when they're going to do another family edition - my guess is never because I have to imagine that it was a logistical nightmare having minors traveling all over the place and generally being at risk of injury. However, if they ever did announce another one, I'd consider trying out, mostly because I don't think we'd get chosen. While it would be cool to be part of a show I love and travel the world for free, I do not think I would love being in a constant state of high-stress and sleep deprivation with my husband and kids. We'd end up with a whole reel of our worst parenting moments. No thanks.

As for pondering the week, nothing big to worry about in the near term, so my attention then turned to all of the things I want in the longer term. I can blame The Amazing Race, actually, because now I want to visit Vienna at Christmas time...which got me wishing we could take an international trip every year because there are so many places I want to go.

And then I was thinking, what if we could take one international trip and then one beach vacation every year?! Maybe we'll only bring the kids on one or the other. That felt manageable for a second...but then am I swearing off Vegas and New York for the foreseeable future? And what about the places in the U.S. that aren't beaches that I'd still like to see?

All that pondering was really just a distraction from the fact that paying our regular bills is getting tighter thanks to the fact that it's been an entire year since we had two incomes. Which is to say that if I want to continue fulfilling my travel fantasies, something is gonna have to give somewhere else. (duh)

The fact is that I'm just not good at not spending money...wait, let me rephrase that: I'm not good at not doing things in order to save money.

I'm not a big shopper or anything, but I like to make plans, and those plans generally involve eating out. Plus there are the emergency fast food dinners with the kids, or the "It's Friday! I'm not cooking" dinners with the kids. And then all the other stuff that falls under "entertainment": happy hour, movies, dessert after the all adds up. I won't share how much we actually spent on these things in 2010 (I track them in Quicken), but it's safe to say that we could have taken a nice trip to Vienna.

So how do I give my social life a thrifty makeover? I want to see my friends and do fun stuff but not end up spending so much. Is there a reality show for that? Is it called "Saturday nights at the Bowling Alley"?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Olive Juice

I made progress in my martini challenge last night. I finally had one I liked! However, it was a (just-slightly dirty) Grey Goose martini and, while enjoying it, I was informed that vodka martinis are not "real" martinis, so I guess I better acquire a taste for gin. 

I mean, I suppose I could declare a vodka martini a real martini if I want - I do get to set the rules when it comes to my 40 by 40 list, but I'd rather learn to enjoy the original. Too bad I don't have a chauffeur...I could sure drink a lot more martinis if I did. Maybe on my 50 by 50 list (gasp), I should put "Make enough money to afford a chauffeur." While I'm at it, I might as well add a housekeeper and gardener to the list...

In other news, today is one of those gray, cold, gloomy days (34 degrees - happy spring!) when everyone seems to be getting on each other's last nerve. For the kids, it's screech, whine, repeat. For the adults it's more like snappy-snap, silence, repeat. I think we all need a tropical vacation. And possibly some more sleep. In lieu of those things, I suppose I'll just try another martini. 

Friday, April 15, 2011


It's the middle of April and it's snowing. That's all I've got. Good night.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Great day in the autism department. We met with the child psychologist and she was smart, kind, and most importantly, well-educated about autism. She honed in on the emotional regulation issue immediately. But what I liked the most was how much time she spent on his exceptional and amazing qualities. (and that she really listened to him)

For the first time I realized that the reason I've discounted a lot of what we've heard from the special education teachers at his school is that they never seem to view him as a whole person. It always feels like he's a set of issues that need to be overcome. That they're just doing what they can to get him back into the herd.

But the woman we met today - let's call her Dr. Wonderful - saw him as a whole person. A charming, smart, articulate little boy who gets overwhelmed and doesn't know how to express himself. A person that's coping the best way he knows how. She shrunk his autism down to size, rather than letting it take up the whole frame, as it so often likes to do.

The plan is to keep seeing Dr. Wonderful to work on helping him regulate his emotions - which, she explained, basically comes down to "learning to tell people what you need, so that they can give it to you." (couldn't we all benefit from such a lesson?) If he can learn how to do this, we should be able to reduce, if not eliminate, the meltdowns that disrupt his everyday activities. (Insert huge sigh of relief)

That's what she's doing for Owen. But what she did for me today was confirm what I've long suspected, but still allow myself to doubt sometimes: He's going to be okay.

Sure, school will be a little harder for him sometimes. Conversations might always take more effort for him. But in the grand scheme of things, he's fine.

I know it seems small, but it's not. It's enormous.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Mind Allows

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.
- Japanese proverb
Since we've got a "things I failed to mention" theme going now, I might as well add that yesterday I failed to mention that in spite of the issues he continues to have (and my issues with his school), I think Owen is doing really well. The fact that he's spacey is nothing new and the fact that he's having fewer meltdowns is progress.

The thing that bothers me - and the reason that I am actually thankful that this teacher brought up anxiety, even though she went about it in the wrong way - is the idea that he's going through his days scared or upset or anxious or sad. Sure, a small dose of such things would be normal for a kid, but to have it be a daily, or even hourly occurrence is heartbreaking.

So if there is anything I can do to fix that, I will. I'm just hoping it's not medication because I feel like his brain has enough to contend with already.

He's good...amazing, in fact. And I have no doubt that he will grow up to do extraordinary things. I'd just also like him to be able to do plain ol' regular making polite conversation with new people. Like completing writing assignments in class without crying. Like, eventually, dating. (and by eventually, I mean when he's 25)

I don't want to take the quirks out of him. I just want him to be free to navigate his world however he chooses - without being controlled by fear.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It's funny how even though I'm blogging all the time now, I still fail to mention big things that are happening. For instance, we found a specialist for Owen!

Of course, you didn't actually know we were looking, did you? Because I never mentioned it. The bigger thing I never mentioned was the pressure we've been getting from the special ed teacher at school to put Owen on medication for anxiety.

The first time she mentioned it was at fall conferences. I was caught off guard, having never had anyone describe his behavior as signs of anxiety. I've since learned more about the anxiety that comes with autism and would have to agree that Owen's meltdowns do look a lot like anxiety. But medication still seemed like a big step, so I consulted his pediatrician who said there was no evidence that medication would be a good long-term solution for Owen and that, unfortunately, "some teachers like to make things easier for themselves."

So I started looking for a specialist and found that most of them had mile-long waiting lists and didn't take our insurance. When we went back to conferences the next time, I delivered the news that no, we would not be medicating him, but I was trying to find a specialist he could meet with to learn coping mechanisms (since apparently they don't teach such things in school). I thought the issue had been settled, but when we recently went back for his annual IEP meeting, the special ed teacher brought it up again, saying she knows where I stand on it, but that she really thinks treating the anxiety would help him in the classroom.

In the very same meeting, his classroom teacher - who is the one that sees him most of the day and has wonderful things to say about him - reported that he's having fewer meltdowns, but seems like he's having more trouble which, the special ed teacher commented, "Well, that's the autism." you want me to medicate the issue that seems to not be as much of an issue, but there's nothing we can do about the spaciness?? (Needless to say, it became even clearer that we need a professional who is smart about these things.)

Naturally, I found the special ed teacher's push for meds to be irritating and somewhat distracting from the real issue at hand, which was how she planned to help my son in school, but it has since come to my attention that her behavior is actually illegal, seeing as she is not a doctor...which makes it all the more abominable, but still does nothing to help Owen.

(And I want to point out that I'm aware that many kids with autism do need medication and I am not against it as a last resort, but the idea that we would go from zero to pills - against the advice of his pediatrician, no less - is crazy to me. He is seven!)

So anyway, after much searching and calling and waiting, we are seeing a child psychology who specializes in both autism and anxiety on Thursday! And she's covered by our insurance!

I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but I am hoping that she'll be able to help Owen develop the skills to reason his way out of the fear that holds him back. And I'm hoping she can teach us how to help him. I'm just hopeful. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Moment of Loving Stuff

Things I love today:

Wearing pajamas until 4 p.m.

@cakespy on Twitter (I loved the website already, but the tweets! Oh, the tweets.)

Mint Oreo cookies (naughty)

The phone call I got from the teenager today to confirm that we are on for dinner tomorrow night (with his girlfriend!)

Sunshine (yay spring!)

The spinach, chicken, and raspberry salad I made for dinner (healthy!)

That my husband loaded the dishwasher (hallelujah)

What do you love today?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It's the 10th of the month, which seems like a good time for a check in on the slump climb.

I am maybe halfway through "Be Different" and it's great. (Btw, I hope you all saw that John Elder Robison himself stopped by my blog a few days ago!) It's educational and interesting and I think it will be really helpful for Owen in a couple years. Despite the painfully slow rate at which I've been reading books, I am on-track to finish it by the end of the month.

I've missed one day out of 10 on the daily blogging, which could either be viewed as a 10% failure rate or a 90% success rate. I'm going with the positive. As for that freelance assignment I mentioned, it's due at the end of the month, so I should really start writing it.

I am seriously failing here. To be fair, I'm still recovering from a horrible sinus infection that makes it feel like there's an ice pick in my brain. I've been on antibiotics since Thursday, so I should be nearly recovered, right? Yeah...I'm a little worried that I got put on antibiotics that are too weak. They never believe me when I tell them that I've built up an immunity...but I suppose that's what I get for going to the Target Clinic rather than building a rapport with an actual doctor.

One positive step is that I have signed up for Bars Class again. I've been absent for an entire month, but I will return on Saturday! I'm also trying to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. The boys are even (sort of) rollerblading now, so we could potentially go for a run/skate!

I feel pretty good about this one. I've been making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and it's working, although I will admit to eating cheese fondue and chocolate cake the other night...although I never said I was giving up all the good stuff, just eating more fresh stuff. I definitely need to stick with this one and possibly make more of an effort to reduce my sodium intake. I don't think I eat an irregular amount of sodium, but I feel like I'm puffing up like a marshmallow lately. Maybe that's just what it feels like to get fat...must. get. back. on. treadmill.

Despite my mixed success in each of these steps of the climb, I do think my mood is better and I'm feeling less hermit-like, so I seem to be getting somewhere, even if it's slow. Onward!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Photos & Friends

We survived the sleepover. The children would probably even describe it as "fun." Success.

In other news, I've been pondering things (as I'm known to do) and I've come to two decisions:

1. I want to do a photo everyday for a year project.
2. I want to complete #35 on my 40 by 40 list by my birthday. That means I need to write each one of my friends a letter saying what they mean to me.

The first one will be easy to start and hard to stick with. The second one will be hard to start, but I'm hoping the words will come easily once I get started...

So, for the photos, I'm torn. I like the idea of just having a photo that represents each day, but then I also thought it would be interesting to do a photo of a certain time of day. Like, a photo of everyone I'm with at 7 p.m. everyday. Yes, I'd end up with a lot of photos of me and my kids in our living room, but that's not all bad. You'll still be able to see a progression over time. Thoughts, anyone?

Also, can you start such a project on a random day in April, or would it be better to wait until either the first on the month, or my birthday or something?

As for writing my friends letters, well, that begs the question of who makes the list, right? I'm not going to write every person I know a letter, but how do you define "friend"? Is it how long we've known each other? How often we speak? (If we're actually talking about talking, that's a short list) I don't know...I'm feeling a need to set criteria so that I can limit the list, while also not hurting anyone's feelings. Maybe I'm projecting here, but if I had a friend who announced she was writing letters to all of her friends and then I didn't get a letter, I'd be a little hurt. I have to think about that one some more. The point is that if I got hit by a bus next week, or month, or year (or if one of my friends did), this is something I would like to have done.

And also, does an email count as a letter? Did I really mean that I would write actual paper letters? (I should really remind myself to be more detailed when setting goals)

So if I manage to complete this task, that means I can either learn to change the tire or learn to make and appreciate a good martini. You guys were pretty enthusiastic about the martini challenge...makes me wonder if I should make an entire list devoted to bartending seems that I have many very willing and able friends when it comes to drinking.

I think I'll pursue all three goals and see what happens. Maybe I'll end up completing six list items in a year. That wouldn't be so bad considering the effort and expense involved in many of the remaining items...I really should have put "get rich" on that list.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Tonight I am hosting a sleepover. Five kids, including mine...which I guess makes it a slumber party. And it's nobody's birthday. I think I just let my guilt at not inviting anyone to sleepover at our house for 6 months get the best of me.

The thing is, sleepovers can be a beautiful thing when they are at someone else's house. Free babysitting and the kids have a great time! But you've got to give to get and it was beyond our turn to invite the boys' friends over, so I figured I might as well kill all the birds with one stone and make it a slumber party.

I stuffed them with lasagna and have a movie and ice cream sandwiches waiting. But I also have an Owen sitting inside watching You Tube videos while the rest of the kids play kickball in the driveway...everytime he tries to engage in the group activity, he ends up having a meltdown. His friends are polite and patient with him, but no one wants to be shrieked at for hours.

I don't know how to help him. He knows these kids. He likes them. I don't understand the anxiety he feels, but I do recognize that it's a visceral response. I just wish I could help him feel comfortable in the situation. I wish it could be as fun for him as it is for Aidan.

It's hard, but it's worth it. It's good for him to get the chance to do regular kid stuff, even if it's stressful (for both of us). He does have fun - it's just a lot more work for him than other kids. But I'm grateful that he has friends and that they are understanding of his quirks and his meltdowns. I hope that it lasts.

For now, You Tube seems to be the common denominator, as all the kids have now gathered around Owen to watch Annoying Orange videos...please let there always be a common denominator.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Free Stuff vs. Free Time

Today I need to talk to you about Extreme Couponing - the show and the activity. I watched what I believe are the only two episodes of the show that exist so far on TLC and I am simultaneously horrified and intrigued.

I mean, on the one hand, these people are clearly hoarders with a form of OCD that allows them to appear functional (and thrifty!). On the other hand, holy shit! Getting $600 of groceries for $6? I'm a little envious of that part...although most of them appear to be living on soda and packaged dinners.

I don't want couponing to be my "lifestyle" as many of them proudly proclaim that it is, but do you think it's something that you can dabble in? Or is it like heroin, where I'll start off trying to get free Hot Pockets and the next week I'll be spending 8 hours at the grocery store buying carts full of toothbrushes?

I do clip coupons and I do get excited when I save $10 or $20. I'd probably get even more excited if I was saving $500, but I feel like I'd have to share my excitement with my basement full of food because I would have no friends and my husband would leave me if I started spending every waking moment combing through coupon websites and darting out to the store at midnight to buy 80 boxes of Frosted Cheerios and 35 2-liter bottles of root beer.

That all sounds pretty judgmental...I think I'm just in shock that such a thing is possible. I guess I can't fault people who choose to spend their time that way. It would make more sense to me if they were using all the money they save to take lavish vacations or, you know, somehow enjoy life, but then they'd miss out on the deals...

I think what I'm saying is that even though I, who once created an Excel spreadsheet based on the order of the aisles at SuperTarget, have no desire to put that much effort into grocery shopping, I think I'd like to have an extreme couponer nearby in case of the Apocalypse or, as one of the husbands on the show suggested, a zombie invasion.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


It is only April 6 and I've already failed in my goal of blogging every day this month. Damn.

What can I say? I had co-workers in town, we had an all day meeting, I didn't get home until late and I just went to bed. I'm not giving up though - I can blog through May 1 to make up for the fact that I missed yesterday.

My waterpark virus has now morphed into a sinus infection, causing me to feel like I am underwater (is that ironic?). Today I discovered that eating spicy food is a great treatment for a sinus infection because not only do the spices temporarily reinstate your sense of smell, but they make you drinks gallons of water, which is what you're supposed to do. I could attempt to eat spicy food every day and see if it cures me, but I'm pretty sure that I'm just going to go to the clinic and demand antibiotics tomorrow because I am miserable. Seriously - didn't you miss this type of fascinating information yesterday?

I actually have some more profound thoughts that I'd like to share, but I can't quite articulate them with all of this snot in my head, so they will have to wait for another day.

And now I must go, it's Top Chef Reunion night and the premiere of Extreme Couponing!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two to Go

In exactly 2 months, I will turn 34. I just realized that I've only knocked out three of my 40 by 40 list items since my last birthday! If I'm going to stay on schedule, I have to complete five list items every year.

I'd love to have all of my friends travel to New York or Las Vegas with me and eat at either Per Se or Joel Robuchon for my birthday, but seeing as none of them are prone to jetting off for $400 meals at a moment's notice, that dream will have to wait.

In fact, none of the travel-related ones are going to happen in two months (I am going to Vegas again in May, but it's for a wedding and there are no 16-course tasting menus on the agenda) can also cross off learning to play guitar and having an essay or short-story's not going to be Christmas or Thanksgiving before June...I already had my taxes done...and we've established that I've fallen off the exercise wagon so there's definitely no way I'm running a 5K yet.

I think this means that I'll be baking a pie and drinking a lot of martinis over the next 60 days. Or I suppose I could learn to change a tire...that would actually be a useful thing to learn sooner than later. Maybe I should start drinking the martinis now as a precautionary measure anyway - I mean, who knows how long it might take for me to learn to appreciate one? Based on the few martinis I've ever drank, it's an acquired taste...practice, practice.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where Not to Get a Massage

Today my husband and I were supposed to redeem our Living Social deal for a couples massage at Euphoric Ambiance Massage & Bodyworks. This was our third attempt.

The first time we had an appointment, we received a call the day before, during which I was informed that they were double-booked, so we'd have to reschedule for the next week. Okay...annoying, given the logistics involved in finding a time both my husband and I were free and we had childcare...but it's not like my coupon was redeemable somewhere else, so I was willing to give this place another chance.

So our rescheduled appointment was for this past Friday at 2 p.m. At some point during the week, I received an email telling me my appointment had been moved to 2:30 p.m. Okay...

Then, at 2:05 p.m. on Friday, as we were leaving the house to go to our appointment, I get a phone call saying that one of their therapists didn't show up for work, so they were having to reschedule everyone. She went on to tell me that even though they're not normally open on Sundays, they created a shift this Sunday to accommodate everyone that had to be rescheduled.

This is normally where I would have sworn off ever doing business with this place (it's not like massages are hard to find), but again, I have this damn coupon that's already been paid for and it would be a really good deal...if you ever actually were to get massaged.

So, alright, Sunday it is. We drop the boys off with my mother-in-law. We go. I had been warned we'd have to call to be let in because the building is locked on Sundays. We call...voicemail. We wait 10 minutes. We call again...voicemail. Then we get a call back! We explain we're waiting to be let in for our appointment and are told, "Ok, I'll be right down."

Right down! We wait another 10 minutes. I walk around the building to see if there's a second entrance the mysterious caller could have been trying to let us in through...there is not. We call again...voicemail. Even better, we can't leave a message because the voicemail box is full! We wait a bit longer, then decide that hanging out in a parking lot isn't really how we want to spend our afternoon together. We leave. Massage-less and pissed off. The mystery caller never bothered to call back to explain herself.

Tomorrow I will call Living Social and get my money back. And I will make sure to tell everyone I know never to do business with Euphoric Ambiance Massage & Bodyworks in Minneapolis, although it's probably not necessary, seeing as they make it nearly impossible to do business with them in the first place.

But what I really want is to find out what the hell is actually going on at this place...are they hoping to frustrate everyone who bought the deal to the point that we all give up and they just get to keep our money? Or are they actually this bad at running a business? Or is it all just a front for some kind of seedy business venture to which I probably wish I hadn't given my personal information?

P.S. I ♥ Groupon and I've had good experiences with Crowd Cut. This is my first Living Social deal, but I'd like to think that Living Social couldn't possibly have foreseen the depths of the dysfunction at this place...we'll see what they say tomorrow.

**UPDATE 4/4/11 Living Social was apologetic and issued a full refund. Still no word from Euphoric Ambiance.**

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Different Kind of Different

I read the introduction of "Be Different" and I'm really excited. I can't wait to give it to Owen to read...the only thing nagging at me is how to explain Asperger's syndrome vs. autism (because John Elder Robison has Asperger's and writes specifically about Asperger's.) The simplest explanation is that Asperger's is the highest functioning end of the autism spectrum.

What trips me up is that Owen seems to be at the highest functioning end of the spectrum and yet he's been diagnosed with the broadest term "autism." This is supposedly due to the fact that when he was little he displayed echolalia, the condition common among kids with ASD where they repeat what you say rather than actually coming up with their own words (this only lasted until he was maybe 3). It's considered a speech disorder and, to my best understanding, kids with Asperger's don't have speech disorders, which means Owen gets put in the autism category.

According to Wikipedia: "The amount of overlap between high-functioning autism (HFA) and Asperger syndrome is disputed. Some researchers argue that the two are distinct diagnostic entities, others argue that they are indistinguishable."

The science in this area just still isn't altogether scientific...and the process of diagnosing autism is still very subjective. It's the combination of observation (usually by a doctor who has only known the child for a short time) and information provided by the parents. I can tell you that I did not enjoy the pressure of trying to accurately remember every milestone he did or did not reach from birth to age 3...especially considering I had twins.

Does it really matter whether Owen technically has autism or Asperger's? In the grand scheme of things, probably not - I'm well aware that the label has nothing to do with who he is as a person. But it matters to me in terms of helping him understand what exactly is so different about is brain. And, honestly, telling people your kid has Asperger's tends to be different than telling them he has autism (I've done both) - people tend to associate Asperger's with socially awkward geniuses, which is far less scary to the general public than "autism" which, unfortunately, a lot of people still don't understand.

I can't really blame people for being confused about autism since the spectrum is so broad. There's still that old picture of the child who can't speak and bangs his head against the wall or has violent outburts - and this is reality for some kids at the far end of the spectrum - but there are a million variations in between that picture and, say, Albert Einstein (whom many now think had Asperger's). There are all kinds of developmental delays, communication challenges and, most commonly, social issues that affect people with ASD.

There's no blanket approach to kids with autism because every single one is going to have his or her own quirks, issues, and gifts. Unfortunately, our world likes blanket approaches. Our public school system is built on a blanket approach to education. And corporate America is still pretty much built on a blanket approach to success. But with 1 in every 110 people in America now diagnosed with some form of autism, we're going to have to find another way.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent there. We were talking about Owen. My sweet, brilliant, funny little Owen. Whose traits I identify much more closely with Asperger's than classic autism...I don't know if there's a good solution to that dilemma. I'm guessing that as he gets older, it will become clearer and he'll be able to decide for himself what he wants to tell people. In the meantime, I can just keep being honest with him.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Beginning of the Climb

The first day of my slump climb is going alright. I am still sick, so that's working against me, but I had a productive workday and it's after 5 p.m. and I'm not yet wearing my pajamas, so that seems positive.

I haven't yet started reading "Be Different," but I plan to start this weekend, which is good because it's been taking me a ridiculous amount of time to get through books lately. Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to put my reading of "Spoon Fed" on hold for the moment because I simply don't make enough time to read. (But so far I really, really like "Spoon Fed.") What I need is a long plane trip so that I can catch up on my reading...somehow travel did not make it into the slump climbing plan.

Interesting news on the writing front. I awoke this morning to an invitation to write a story for a local arts publication! I mean, it was an invitation from a friend, not some crazy random coincidence or anything, but still, it supports my theory that you have to tell the universe when you want things...although technically I don't know that I knew I wanted to freelance again, but when I got the invitation it made me happy, so I guess I did.

No change on the exercise front. But I've mentioned that I'm sick, right? Resolutions aside, exercise cannot resume until it no longer feels like a bear is sitting on my chest. (maybe it's more of a medium-sized dog, I don't know)

As we speak, I am cooking a wholesome dinner for my children and me! Baked chicken with green beans and potatoes! Even though I was very, very tempted just to go to McDonalds, I am proud to say that not a single component of this meal came out of a can or box...or even the freezer. Yay me!

I could skip the part about the only other thing I've ingested today being a caramel macchiato, but if I don't accurately portray the depths of my issues, how can we accurately measure my success in the end? So yeah, not a banner day of eating, but I'm finishing strong.

I know what you're asking yourself: Will every post this month be as thrilling as this one?

I promise not to use the Read/Write/Exercise/Eat template every day, but I think it will be a good way to keep me on track and also help me out on days when I have nothing to say.

And my closing thought for today: I want to wish all of you a happy beginning of Autism Awareness Month. Please do your part in helping to spread accurate information about this disorder. You can learn more at