Thursday, February 28, 2013

When the kids outdo adults on acceptance...

It seems I'm moving up in the blogger pool. I've gone from being the slime covering the bottom to the aquatic insect larvae that eats the slime. I've had a few posts featured here and there and (I AM THE BEST MOTHER EVER ! ~~~hacked by Walter <->and I am totally keeping that.) and I got a few ...*cough*unexpected*cough*... comments. You've got the uber helpful comment suggestions on changing the kid's diet or seeking counseling because, apparently, special needs parents aren't allowed to have a bad day or something and then comes the part where the kids aren't allowed to be the evil little creatures they are some days and if they are being the evil little creatures they are some days, you should totally beat them with your Bible because if you don't, you are raising the devil. serious. Ok, well, that wasn't a direct quote, but "spare the rod, spoil the child" was definitely mentioned. and warning against raising the devil.

I'd like to say, first of all, that I am a believer. I do love the Word of God but I'm not a big fan of this interpretation of what is said there. This, however, which can be found in Matthew 18...
3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
...tells me that although I may not be right for not beating the Hell out of them, I sure am not wrong for loving them through their hardest days and doing my best to teach by example- in both successes and failures.

My purpose in saying that is not to attack the Bible (both scriptures are found there) or someone else's beliefs (which they are totally entitled to). My purpose is to illustrate differing opinions, differing interpretations, differing views, differing perspectives- none of which are necessarily "wrong" when you actually look at what is said and see both sides of it. and the fact that my kids are my kids and I will do whatever the hell I want to do with them because you aren't the boss of me. So, *neener*. (Had to throw that in there.)

The point is the comments and bigger blogging. It makes me question what I want. I've never really been much on ambition or aspiring to greatness in any world, much less the online autism world. I'm happy with my small group of people who occasionally like me. I love that my small group of people are nice and not judgmental in the least little bit. I like that you respect my page, you respect me and each other enough to follow my rules of playing nice. I love that fact that you don't tell me what I should believe or how I should raise my children. You share your experiences and ideas without condemning me for mine. I love that. so much. but just moving up to insect larvae has me a bit nervous about what I'm swimming into and questioning if I really want that.

My friend Jim is a bigger blogger with more awesome things to talk about, more real things, more important things. He writes his own blog, Just a Lil Blog, and writes for Childsplay. He's BIG. and being BIG, Jim is loved by many... and hated by just as many. Everything he does, everything he says is watched. put under a microscope. and then ripped apart. He is a popular Target. The other day sometime, he shared a story about a boy and his basketball...

and then he was ripped apart. Reading the words thrown at him broke my heart, reading his responses to the insults and accusations as more and more people joined in to attack him made me more proud than ever to have this man on my friend list. He is amazing. and I totally agree with him. (He'd still be amazing if I didn't, just so you know)  

The media spin on this and other similar stories is ridiculous, it pisses me off. Making people into heroes for being nice to the poor disabled kid. Giving them a big pat on the back for throwing a dog a bone. It's disgusting. I can't argue there ... BUT, the event was a beautiful thing. It does warm the cockles of my heart because of what I see.  

I see our kids being raised in a whole new time. I see them growing up in a time of acceptance, understanding, awareness. I see kids who know.

I see my boys growing up with an autistic brother and truly seeing their peers as peers, as friends, as equals- disabled or not- because they are more accepting than any of the kids we went to school with. I see their friends treating Alex and their similarly affected friends with respect and at times affection because they are aware. I see kids that wanted to make a peer's dream come true and did what they could to make that happen. They didn't do it for the glory, they did it for Mitchell. because they understood how important this was for him.  

I see kids who understand my Goofy one needs a little extra help. Kids who give him extra directions when he needs them, kids who look out for him on the playground, who include him in their playing, who see him as a friend and accept his issues as being part of who he is- no questions asked. and do their best to help him navigate a confusing environment. To make sure he is with them, not just being dragged along.

I see kids who get excited to see Alex come to the playground, who run around with him because what he likes to do is run and they don't expect him to change for them. They are willing to go more than halfway to meet him. The chase him and make him laugh, they smile and wave to him in the halls with a "Hi, Alex!", they see him and accept him- no questions asked. To make sure he is included, that he is part of them and not just some weird kid on the outside.

I see kids who are good kids, who are willing to give the extra support because they can, because they want to. Not because they will get anything in return, but because they are growing up in a world where it's ok to be different and it's cool to treat everyone with respect. They take the Marine's determination to never leave a man behind to a whole new level. The school yard level. and that warms my heart. 

In the comments on Jim's post, I see people with differing opinions, differing interpretations, differing views, differing perspectives who don't want us to have differing opinions, differing interpretations, differing views, differing perspectives. If you don't think the way they think, if you don't feel the way they feel, if you don't see the way they see... well, then, you can't be their friend. You are an outsider, you are wrong, you are an enemy because there is no room for difference. I think it's about time we start looking to our kids to teach us a little something about unconditional acceptance.

Until we can learn that... I sure am not looking forward to catching the attention of those bigger fish.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I called my son a name... and I couldn't be more proud.

This morning, I was laying in bed waking up when I heard crying and Walter asking my brother to look at the Goofy One's hand because he threw a snowball at him. My brother said, "You threw ice at him?" "No, a snow ball." "It's ice." "There's snow under the ice." "No, there's not. It's ice." Out of bed and to the kitchen I go. Fresh out of bed, no coffee, mostly asleep, I lost my temper and I called my son a dipshit.

Standing in the kitchen, looking at my son, I'm furious. I cursed his impulsiveness, lectured him on thinking first and called him a dipshit for throwing ice at his brother when he should know better. He sat in the kitchen chair looking at me and did what I least expected. He diffused the situation and turned my entire argument back on me with a bland look and a sentence. "You don't need to call me that." I'm surprised at his quiet demeanor and his direct words addressing my behavior, not me as a person, and out of reflex I keep going, "I'm sorry, but was that not a stupid thing to do?" He looks me in the eye, keeps his emotions out of his face and says, "Yes, it was. But you don't need to call me that."

I'm in shock. My brother starts laughing and tells Walter, "You think that's bad, you should have heard the things we were called growing up!" and I'm thinking... he's right. both of them. I look at my son who has still not broken eye contact, not moved a muscle, standing his ground. I see a boy on his way to becoming a man facing down a bully, not responding with aggressiveness but not backing down and I think of my own words, my actions, my hypocrisy, the cycle of abuse- intentional or not, abuse is abuse... and... I have no response available except to kiss my boy and tell him how proud I am of him. So very proud of the way he stood up for himself. #Respect

Friday, February 22, 2013

12 steps to surviving the IEP with your sanity intact

Alex's IEP meeting is in about a month. That means I'm paying more attention to the posts bloggers are writing concerning their feelings/fears/experiences with the IEP meetings. I see a lot of anxiety. and it seems the anxiety is not always from their own experiences since a lot of them have younger children just starting out, but from others (like me) speaking about their horrific experiences. Sharing the negative is necessary. We need to know we are not alone, you need to know that the negative is there and be prepared to fight. You need to know that there is a very real possibility that things are going to go badly and that when they do go badly, you don't just take it, you use what's yours to use to fix it, to get your child the services that they are entitled to under IDEA and to know how to go about it. but that's not a guarantee it will go badly. It could go smoothly and you leave there feeling like you own the world. You need to know that it's not all negative. These meetings are hard, no doubt about that, but there are ways to make it easier. It's not always us vs them, we are a team and we have to work together to act like a team.

1. Trust your team. at least, until you are shown that they cannot be trusted. Even then, it's rarely the entire team that can't be trusted. There is most always someone there you can look to for help. The teacher and paras spend 8 hours/day with your child, 5 days/week. They start looking at your child as one of theirs. The therapists don't always change every year. Some of them develop a long term relationship with your child. Some of them care. Some of them see more than just and IEP when they look at your child. Find out which ones.

2. Talk to them beforehand. Tell them what you want and ask what they think. This isn't really working for me this year because they seem to be playing their cards close to their chest but I'm trying anyway. I have told them what I want with minimal response, I'll see how that goes at the meeting. Spend as much time as you can at school to see what he can do and what he can't. Sometimes... I know. Alex won't let me in his school either. But, if you can, it would be a valuable experience.

3. Know your rights, know your child's rights. You have them.
A quick summary of IDEA.
Part B of IDEA.

4. Know the information you already have going in. If you are updating an IEP, know what's already there. Study it like you are studying for the most important test of your life. If you do not have a current IEP and are just starting out, The Special Education Advisor is a wonderful place to get all of the information you need. They answer the question "What is an IEP?", they offer an IEP Success Kit, and they have a facebook page where you can ask questions about just about anything school related.

5. Make notes before you go in. If you have questions, if you have concerns, if there are goals you want to work on, write them down before you go in because once the meeting starts, you won't remember a thing.

6. Have a list of strengths ready. Preparing for an IEP, you spend so much time focusing on what weaknesses need to be addressed, you come up blank when they ask you for strengths because you didn't study for that question! Then you get tripped up and the rest of what you studied is gone. Take a picture of your child with you to help you focus on who you are working for.

7. Relax. Spoil the heck out of yourself. The day and night before the IEP meeting, do whatever you do to relax. Take a long bath, paint your nails, watch a movie, have a glass of wine. Walk, work out, whatever, do something with your excess energy so you can be calm. Do what you can to get a full night's sleep. Oh! Hey, check this out- NightFood.

8. Don't dress to impress. Don't go in feeling like you are playing dress-up or going clubbing. Dress for confidence in your competence. Wear what makes you feel sure of yourself. If it's jeans, a hoody and a pair of awesome boots, go for it. If you are more a dress and drool worthy heels type of gal, that's cool too. But dress for yourself, not the image you think they want to see.

9. Eat before you go. I know your stomach is all tied up in knots or you have bullfrogs jumping around but for the love of Pete, EAT! Trust me, no matter how yucky you feel, your stomach will start growling in the middle of the meeting- distracting. and embarrassing. Plus skipping meals is a very bad idea. And, yes, this one is a whole lot of the pot calling the kettle black because... who has time for food!? There's no time for breakfast or lunch, I'll just eat at supper and it'll be fine. "Skipping meals leads to poor cognitive functioning, including loss of memory, concentration, the ability to learn, hand-eye coordination and catching mistakes.” Yeah, you need all the cognitive functioning you have today. At least grab a muffin to go with your coffee on the way out the door.

10. Take someone with you. Yes, I know. million other parents running around and not one of them can go with me, either. BUT, there are other people. The social worker at Alex's school said she can go with me this year. I came clean on my ADHD, she understands my trouble and explained how she could help me in the meeting. I feel so much better about this just knowing someone will be there for me, someone I trust. If no one else, take an advocate. or a neighbor. or just grab some stranger off the street (with their permission, of course. you don't want that mess) but don't go alone. You would feel a lot better if you at least looked like you had someone in your corner.

11. Ask questions. Make sure you understand what's being said and why. If the person you brought with you doesn't know what's going on, make sure to explain so that when you leave, they know exactly what happened. If they know more than you do, ask them to explain to you. I say this because in slowing it down to explain, you are more able to take it in and process it. It's the difference in standing in the middle of the highway with cars zipping by and standing in the middle of the highway directing traffic. Take notes while you are there. Once you leave, there's a good chance you won't remember a thing.

12. Do. not. ever. sign the IEP on the spot. I've heard that preached and heard that preached and waved it off with a "pfft, girl, you crazy." but it's serious, man. It doesn't matter if you agree to it or not. I learned this lesson last year when the meeting sounded great and they were all professional and I got the one thing I asked for and I was stuck on feeling like a dumbass over AFO's because I listened to the doctor instead of a physical therapist and my phone kept ringing and the clock kept ticking.... because it wasn't until later I found out most of his goals were "missing". Take it home, read it over when you can concentrate, sign it if you want to or make notes on what you want to change and take it back. You have time.

For those of you who have been around for a while, what would you add to the list?
Those of you new to this, what would you like to know?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Last night, the kids all waited with bated breath, watching the news for school closings. Each time they rolled around and their schools weren't listed increased the anticipation, the danger of possibly not being on the list. That occupied them for a time, and the adults as well. My brother was on the edge of his seat, Alex's Mommy calling like crazy, everyone trying to update me because they know the news gives me nightmares.  So, of course, when I got the phone calls notifying me that schools were closed, you can bet your bottom I didn't tell a single one of the little devils ;)

This morning, I thought I would sleep in and then we'd do something. Little did I know that 7:30 was as much of "sleeping in" that would be allowed and the "something" would be the apocalypse.

I should have known. Should have seen it coming as soon as my brother came to me last night looking for band aids for 2 small, screaming boys with blood gushing down their fingers, hands, arms...soaking their shirts- 1 white shirt and 1 brand spanking new sweat shirt. I am not happy. The Little D pushed the hamster too far and Goofy tried to defend his cousin by "punching" the hamster with his finger. I'm considering taking back the "brilliant" word I use to describe the Sons of Satan.

But, foolishly, I thought that was as bad as it was going to be and the SNOW DAY!!! would be freakin' awesome. We would do fun things and hang out and watch the winter storm... hell, I don't know what we were going to do. I planned on winging it. (because that always works well.) but it was going to be fabulous.

"Fabulous" is not a pack of rabid wolves fighting over a hunk of meat. but that's what happened. So I, being the alpha (*snicker*), called a halt to the shenanigans. They cleaned the living room and their room. By the time they were done, I thought all was under control.


They set off the smoke detector. without smoke. who knew that was even possible?

Alex ran out the unlocked back door in his diaper and fell in the icy snow.

There was much screaming, crying, and howling at the ceiling fan (I kid you not).

Bouncing around, jumping off of furniture, running inside, throwing things- mostly at each other. Humming, running, spinning, jumping. wedgies, wresting, throwing things- mostly at each other. loud music, loud TVs, loud children (I swear I medicated them), driving me flipping insane with their inability to get along.

Then Thing1 showed up with a cappuccino. "I knew it was a snow day and thought you could use this with all these kids." I. Love. Him. so much.

I danced with Alex at his request of "da? da?". As soon as I dropped to the floor, defenceless as I waited for the room to stop it's violent spinning, Alex attacked me! He jumped on top of me, laughing like a crazy man and bit my face! I think it was supposed to be a kiss. but still, there were teeth involved. I call that a bite.

Skipping, headbutting, kicking, stomping, laying in the floor and tripping the runner who retaliated with "EEEEEEEYA! EEEEEEEYA!" and galloping to his room just to come back and open the microwave- open, shut, open, shut, open, shut.

and then, they wore themselves out. They backed away to their separate corners to rest and regroup before attacking again...

It's looking like there may not be school tomorrow. 2 4 day weekends in a row? I think I might cry. I miss school. I love school.

Dear School,
I will never take you for granted again... (by "never", I mean this week... maybe next week too.) I will appreciate you. I will treasure you. I will be thankful that you are willing (or required by law, but whatever) to take my children for 4-8 hours every week day and I will never nitpick the way you decide to handle the demon spawns when you have them... (again, by "never", I mean this week... maybe next week too.) (but then again, the way the crying just started up again, I may really mean "never")

Dear Snow/Ice,
You suck. You could at least have the decency to stay off the roads.
No Love,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alex! SMILE!!!!

After chasing the boy around for days...
snapping away with the camera...

getting looks like this...

and this...

and even one fake out...

I finally got it!!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Birds, The Bees, and "I love you."

It started with a bag of chips and a distracted mother. I was doing my time on the conveyor belt of torture while Big D sat stuffing his face with a bag of chips and a container of 1/2 eaten dip and my brother joined him in mocking me for various things, pretending to watch reruns of an old sitcom when along came Walter who flopped down beside my brother, drawing Dad's attention.

Dad: Did you get into my dip?
Walter: yeah.
Dad: The chips were in the top of my closet which means you had to go in my room and get them. Did you eat my chips?
Walter: No.
Dad: Then how did you eat the dip?

*busted*, Liar. So, Dad's all "hand over the phone." and Walter's desperately trying to text his "girlfriend" before handing it over. uh-uh, boy. that's not how it works. Now, this "girlfriend" is different than the last "girlfriend" in that she is not in Texas. She is right here in St. Louis. but she's still just a "girlfriend" with air quotes because ... well, because I said so. *firm nod*

I'm not paying much attention, going on about my business, until Big D, who's tormenting Walter, reads off in an overly sweet, girlish voice, "I love you." Now, you can bet your bottom that got my attention quick. It was my good fortune that the treadmill had already stopped or I'm confident I would have done a bit worse than trip over my feet getting off that damned thing. The words running through my head would have made a sailor blush, so I think it might be a good idea to step outside before opening my mouth. and then Walter ruins it. "I already asked mom if she could come over and she said no." and there's a chorus of unfair, paranoid mom horse crap pouring out of the living room. I open the door and very calmly ask my boy if I needed to explain my parenting decisions to him. I ask him if I need someone else's stamp of frickin' approval on my declaration. The answer, of course, is no. This isn't a freaking democracy, man! There's no vote. What I say goes and that's just the end of that. Keep pushing and I just might start screaming, "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!" and mean it. Justifiable homicide is a real thing, ya know. He doesn't dare even glance at Dad with hope for back up. They both know better.

Next thing you know, we're all piled in the living room: Big D, Thing2, Walter, my brother and myself having THE talk. My husband thinks I'm being ridiculous because he's 12 years old. I ask him if he wants to talk about 12 years old, because 12 years old is not too young to be having this talk. Big D says Walter isn't me. No, he's not. because he has supervision and he has a parent who will talk to him. He has a parent who will do everything in their power to keep girls out of bedrooms, out of the basement, a parent who will hound his ass and hunt him down to drag him home if need be and that is exactly what I am doing right now. I am talking to him. as his parent. My brother wants to know how much of what I've done has influenced who I am and how I could have learned my lessons without making my mistakes. Which is a good point, but still. he can make his own mistakes but he can also hear what we have to say first, having already made our mistakes.

I've preached at Walter for a good many years so he's familiar with most of it. Today, I did something a little different. I asked him. I asked him why he wanted a girlfriend. I asked him what he was looking for in a girlfriend. We discussed the difference between girl friend and girlfriend and the vital importance of girl friend coming before girlfriend. You need something solid to build a relationship on. If you do not have the solid foundation of mutual respect, admiration, affection... what do you have? What is your relationship about if you have no friendship to build on? Is the relationship about YOU, what you want, what you need or is the relationship about the both of you as a couple being together? Do you want this girl for what she makes you look like to your friends or who she is on her own, how she makes you feel when you are with her?

These are the years that you learn how relationships work and what you want from a relationship. This is where you learn the reasons for looking for your One. Not the time to make a "life-long" commitment to the first person who looks at you. We talked about the need to be picky, the need to be careful who you choose. The way to do that is to be friends first. Be friends, do things together as friends, start building that foundation. If it doesn't go beyond that, it doesn't go beyond that and you are still friends. Jump into something without looking first and you have no clue what kind of slop you are jumping into until you are already over your head and sinking fast.

One part where Thing2, my brother, and my husband really impressed me was backing me up on "I love you." If you tell every single girl you are ever with that you love them, whether you do or not, just saying it to be saying it, the one that matters won't be getting much. If the words are easy to come by, they don't need to "earn" them, even if the earning is just in being the person they are. You cannot go throwing those words around. They are important, sacred words that need to be held onto tightly until the person they were meant for comes along. That way, when you finally say them, you and the person you are with will understand how powerful those words are, you will know what a gift you have been given.

Learn to be a friend before learning to be a boyfriend.

You don't commit to having a girlfriend until you mean it.

You don't have sex until you mean it.

You don't say "I love you" until you mean it.

If you can't do that, then you just aren't ready to have a relationship.

I might let her come visit as his friend because how is he going to learn to build a friendship if mommy's holding his hand too tightly to let him play? This is an area that I need to learn to step back and observe, ready to catch him if he falls or witness the first flutters of flight, instead of being in the middle directing every step. but I can promise, I will be within seeing and hearing distance at all times. and there will be no "dating" going on. uh-uh. Not until the boy's at least 25. maybe 40.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Time to End the Reign of Resentment: Alex's Other Parents

This past year has brought a complete change in my relationship with Alex's other parents. This time last year I was hating them. which is an understatement. They called when they wanted, they came around when they wanted, they did what they wanted to do with no regard for anyone else and I was quick to condemn them.

I've talked about resentment before, more specifically, last year when Alex's Mommy needed help getting Alex's sister a diagnosis and getting her started in school. I was indignant, I had a half way bad attitude, but I did it. I resented the hell out of the fact that I couldn't get help with Alex but they needed help with the sister and I was the only one who knew how. I eventually got over it, by the time Sister's IEP meeting came around, I was ok with helping, ok with the routine we had fallen into. to an extent. I was still holding on to some resentment.

Sis's 4th birthday is coming up. That should be a happy, exciting day. It's been 4 years since she came into this world. 4 years since the magical day that Mommy gave birth to a slimy little ball of perfection. It's a day for celebration. To celebrate her. but I can't help but marking the time more as it's been 4 years since Alex's Daddy has taken him overnight. It's been 4 years since Alex stopped being his Daddy's world. It's been 4 years since Alex learned he couldn't count on his Daddy to pick him up on weekends and started clinging more tightly to only me and Walter.

Then something surprising happened. It started out I was going to take Sister for a few hours yesterday or today and somehow turned into overnight. I don't know what or how or up from down but it was planned before I even knew what hit me. and I was going to go with it. She's great, ya know? I love her. and the chance to do girly things... I'm all over it. So, she was coming to stay the night. and the only thing my husband had to say about it was he wasn't taking her home in the middle of the night, if she cried, they were coming to get her. so, cool! we have a plan. but still, I'm clinging to that little sliver of resentment. Until Mommy yanks it out of my hand.

When they got here, she wanted to talk with me in private. and repeated my resentment word for word. Alex's Daddy does not want Sis staying the night. It's not right. He doesn't take his own son because they can't handle the two of them together, how could they expect to leave her with me?

and my eyes are opened. It doesn't even matter.

Other than a couple of hours here and there, Alex has missed 4 years of his sister's life. Other than a couple of hours here and there, my boys' sister has been an only child. They are the ones missing out. These pictures? In 4 years, this is the first time they sat down together to watch a movie. Alex did try to sneak his foot in her direction one time, I don't understand the boy's obsession with kicking his sister since he doesn't even try it with anyone else, but he only tried it once last night. They bickered over a toy. We held Alex down and gave him tattoos. Goofy ignored her in favor of a video game until he was ready to play, Thing2 was in and out with his girlfriend, Walter didn't bother coming home. We did all of the things Alex does with his brothers and she enjoyed being a true part of a gang of siblings for one evening. Not just everyone fawning over her and doing everything she wanted to do but a real, honest part of the family.

and I feel the guilt that is the result of holding on to "it's not fair", clinging to "why do I have to?" because it doesn't even matter. At their house, it's not long before he's calling for his mom and his brother and begging to go "goodbye". He wants to come home. He wants his mom. His sister is a little more open to other places. She enjoys staying the night with family members. Here, she's another bean in the pot and the house is ok for her because it's set up for her brother.

I've been sufficiently put in my place by nothing more than the one person I resent resenting himself for the exact same thing and siblings doing what siblings do. I've come to the realization that it doesn't matter who does the work. It doesn't matter who has the heavier load. It doesn't matter who puts in what effort. What matters is the kids are paying for the adults' selfish crap. What matters is, above all else, I preach the importance of family to my boys then turn around and mock what I hold most dear by resenting the fact that I "have to" do it. You do with family because you want to, because you love them, not because of obligation or the off chance you will get something out of it.

"Have to" is done. It's time to have an open talk with Daddy about his perception of what's right and let Sister take her rightful place in this family.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Planning Birthday Parties

Alex's Mommy and Daddy (father and step-mom) were here the other day and Mommy wanted to talk to me about something. They had been talking about Sister's birthday parties, how many and where and who goes to which ones. They decided to have one here for with Alex so Alex could celebrate his sister's birthday with her. Ok, that's great.

Then she drops the bomb... Daddy wants to have a birthday party for Alex this year. out somewhere. a "normal" party. in a place like Chuck E. Cheese's or McDonald's. My immediate reaction was derisive laughter. I laughed at Mommy, told her Daddy was f*cking crazy! INSANE. I told her I hope he plans to do it himself and I wish him luck because I want no part of it. No way. There's no frickin way in hell I'm taking that child anywhere like that. That reaction seemed to have hurt Mommy's feelings because she was serious. He wants to do this and she told him they couldn't do it unless I was there to help. That made me feel mad and bad at the same time because on one hand, why do I have to be there to do the work with his son for a party he wants to throw but on the other... why not just go help?

I told her that's impossible! Not to mention stupid and selfish. This kind of party is not for Alex, it's for Daddy. This kind of party would be pure torture for Alex and me! Even when Mommy and Daddy bring Sister to visit Alex, Alex gets overwhelmed pretty quickly and has to take frequent breaks in his room. That's in his own home with people he loves. not out in a place that is not much other than a vicious assault on the senses.

not to mention, it's flat out dangerous for the small children who frequent such establishments considering they frown on adults climbing around in their play areas. he will hurt someone. We stay away from smaller kids that don't belong to us because the parents of smaller kids that don't belong to us get upset when we injure their babies. Mommy and Daddy don't even take him to their house because he's too hard to handle there! With just the 2 kids!

We go to empty playgrounds. We go to his school where there are no other kids, we go to the elementary and take advantage of the almost empty kindergarten playground and the wide open grassy areas to stay away from people.

Could you imagine what he would do in public, overcrowded, overstimulated, overwhelmed, with no immediate access to adults and no safe place to go calm down!? with practical strangers all up in his face wanting him to be socially acceptable and all "normal" child affectionate like? NO! I'm not doing it! If Daddy wants it, Daddy can do it. period.

and then the guilt set in. and the understanding that Alex has to try new things once in a while which means I have to take him to try new things once in a while because I am his safe place. Alex needs me to not leave his Daddy on his own to handle it because Daddy wouldn't be able to handle it and Alex needs the comfort and support of someone who knows.

We came to an agreement. a compromise. If Mommy can find a place to have a party that would be safe for Alex and would have only the kids he's comfortable with, we will have the party there. I googled the contact information for the closest BounceU. IF only a select few are invited, IF it's not too much on him, IF he's not expected to do more than he is comfortable with, IF he can enjoy his own party... I can live with that.

Well, yesterday, we went there. and we talked to a very nice lady. She takes us on a tour and the first thing I see is color. and I'm not just talking color. I mean color like KA-BLAM! In yo face! color. Yellows and purples and reds in the shades that make you want to curl into a fetal position with your eyes closed and whimper like a scared little puppy. She says they are in the process of painting. I'm in the process of a heart attack. based on color alone my instincts are screaming NO! She takes us into the first room and I breathe a sigh of relief. The walls are plain grey-blue. and they plan on keeping them that way. There are several bouncy things waiting to be blown up and it looks like Alex heaven. except that he's going to have to be encouraged to get up there and do his thing but that's cool. we can do that.

Then she says they will be in there for 30 minutes and transition to the next room. mhmm, "transition". and "transition" is not optional. Then after 30 minutes in that second bouncy room also with calm colors, they transition to the party room.

The colors in the hall are still bothering me and I am dreading the transitions, especially thinking of the combination of transition and color, but she assured me that they get tons (complete with the usual eyeroll and double handed gesture that turn tons into tons) of children with autism and they love it. (notice the italics? just making sure. because they sounded important.) So, Alex's Mommy went ahead and made the reservation.

It's only going to be the normal kids- Thing2, Walter, Alex, Goofy, The Little Dementor, The Tiniest Supervillain, the Sister, and the grandbaby. Kids who know him and what he needs, what he likes, and won't be offended if they are asked to jump somewhere else. Kids who won't be worried or upset if he runs into trouble during the party. No unfamiliar cousins or aunts or uncles that he doesn't know. No pressure to socialize. I'm thinking this won't be so bad. This might actually be very good. He might love it. I'm excited now. and I'm glad Mommy and Daddy pushed me to at least consider it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tired of the IEP.

It's that time again. I got the e-mail to set up a date for Alex's IEP and all of a sudden, I just feel ill. I so don't want to deal with this right now. (who does, right?) I'm just so sick of all of it. I'm tired. so very tired.

I went to print my IEP wish list, sat back in my chair with my eyes closed and could have fallen asleep forever. I'm wiped out. I sit there and I wonder what the point in this meeting is because every year- every single year- it's complete regression over summer break. It doesn't matter what goes into the IEP, it could stay the same things forever and it wouldn't matter because it's the same thing year after year. Complete regression, no overall progress.

I don't know the reason for it. It could be the 6 schools in 7 (8?) years, it could be the constant changing of staff, it could be the constant changing of goals, it could be Alex. I was hoping that this school would be the difference. This school would be exactly what he needed to finally just ... get it. I just knew that this was the school for him. and I can't say it's not. I really don't know what to expect from this school yet. Last year we had a rough start but this year has been better. at least he kept the same teacher all year... so far. I worry about what we're facing next year. I think about promises made, promises kept, promises broken, truth told and truth deflected and I'm still not sure where we stand. I'm not sure how much trust is there. but then I wonder what I'm pushing for. does it even matter? Would it make a difference?

I'm looking at my wish list and it just seems ridiculous. All of it. When the goals started all those years ago, it made sense. Have a big goal, make the IEP goals steps to the big goal. as the years go by and he masters each one, move on to the next step until he gets the big goal. but as the years go by and the Team changes and people leave and new people come in this goal doesn't make sense and that goal doesn't make sense, he's not getting anywhere here, he's done with that one so let's work on this, this and this instead and right now, I have no clue what the big goal is anymore and I don't know where he's at on his way to mastering it. It seems he's bouncing around from one thing to the next, never finishing what he started.

And so, I'm considering. What's the point? How much do I really need to be involved in what they decide to do for him? It would be easy enough to just show up and say, "Ok." no matter what they offer because what they offer doesn't matter. At this point, looking back at what feels like all of the wasted years, it seems like he's just passing time until he ages out at 21. If that's what he's doing, if that's all he's doing, is my energy best spent somewhere else?

Hopefully, I'll have the answer to that before March 29th rolls around. Until then, I'm going to assume that I'm tired and have a bad attitude. I'm going to study his current IEP until I know every dotted i and crossed t and every typo in there, I'm going to put together the suggestions and concerns I have, I will have a list of strengths ready to rattle off. I will assume that this school will be the difference. This school will be exactly what he needs to finally just ... get it. I just know that this is the school for him and this is the year that everything will fall right into place.     ...*fingers crossed*

Monday, February 11, 2013

How I Cope.

I got a comment on a recent post,
"...can you direct me to a post or two (I'm new here) that maybe talks about how you keep from feeling unbearably put upon or enraged you cope?"
and I'm having a hard time answering. "how you keep from feeling unbearably put upon or enraged"... I don't. I do feel unbearably put upon every day. and as that goes on unchecked, it turns into frustration and anger. They used to rule my life, those emotions. I couldn't get out from under them because life was so unfair! Why do I have to do everything? Where are all of these other people who are supposed to be helping? Why can't the kids do one single thing for themselves!? They treat me like a maid, like my sole purpose on Earth is to serve them. Why does everyone have to be so selfish and so lazy? Why can't they give me a break!? because you know, it's always their fault. their demands. their needs. nothing of my own. Then I heard 2 things that changed everything.
1. I was reminded to check my attitude.

Attitude is a big part of the equation. It's perfectly normal and perfectly ok to have emotions but you need to consider what the emotions are doing for you and to you. Getting a good mad on once in a while, justified anger at the universe in general or a righteous anger that fuels you to do what needs to be done, can be good. But what if that anger is not justified or righteous? What if the anger you are feeling is a bitter poison festering inside you until it's a weapon that can be used on the people around you to make someone pay for the way you are feeling? That's not cool. that's not going to get anything done or help you in any way. It will hurt you and those around you. That anger needs to be dealt with. Stopped in it's tracks by any means necessary.

This is my list of coping with the rage:
  • I hide in the bathroom for a few minutes and cry if I need to.
  • I get my MP3 player. I put it on and turn it up and drown out everyone around me. When I get my MP3 player going, my family knows I'm not in a good place and they need to lay off. I need to not talk to them because if I do, there's a good chance we will both regret what I say. Kids do not need to be in the garage when I'm out there smoking. That is my break time. the few precious seconds I can leave them to fend for themselves while I enjoy peace and quiet. the second hand smoke is just an excuse to get them away from me. as long as they are safe, for this time, I don't need to be at their beck and call.
  • I go to my friends. To the people who know. I find support online.
  • I find some first world problems. Mine or someone else's, it doesn't even matter. Find the problems you can laugh about like your kids throwing 5 lbs of beans or conspiring to make you insane. Find something, anything to laugh at. and then laugh. find the humor in anything you can find the humor in. and appreciate it.
  • Look at the people around you. Really look at them. at their perfection. Ignore the faults and look at what makes them great because, let's be honest, you aren't easy to live with, yourself  ;)
  • Hug them. Tell them you love them. Tell them why. When you see it, when you say it, you will know it and you will feel it.
  • Take lots of pictures. The bad memories are always right there begging to be remembered, the good ones, not so much. In pictures, you remember the bright spots of the day because every day has them, you're just too overwhelmed by the bad to recognise the magical moments.

2. I was reminded to recognise "love" is an action word as much, if not more than, an emotion.

What you feel is only relevant to you. It's what you do that matters with the people around you. You can be angry or hurt and that is fine but watch what you say. Watch the words that come out of your mouth. I'm not talking about cussing or things like that, I mean watch the emotions behind your words, the reasons you say what you say, and the direction your words are being thrown. Be respectful. be direct. Tell them what you think, what you feel, but if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. You can't fully control the way others talk to you but you can set the bar. You can show them what you expect by treating them the way you want to be treated and letting them know when they are not. One key word in doing this successfully is "I". Not, "You are so lazy, you won't even help when I need it!" but, "I am feeling overwhelmed and I really need help." Not, "Why do you have to be such a jerk!? Why do you always have to talk to me like that!?" but, "I'm getting upset right now. I understand that this is a tough topic and I think maybe we should walk away and talk about this when we can be calm." Understand that behavior is separate from the person. You can address the behavior without insulting their character.

This is how I cope with feeling unbearable put upon:
  • I ask someone to do something for me. It doesn't matter that it's so simple I could do it myself or I don't even really need them to do it. I ask anyway. "Walter, can you hand me my coffee, please?" "Goofy, can you see what your brother is doing?" It's something that someone else is doing for me. Not yet another thing I have to do myself. It makes me feel good when they do it and it makes them feel good when I let them know how much I truly appreciate it.
  • I make time for myself. I don't care if the house is a mess, the kids are running wild and supper hasn't been cooked, the second Thursday of every month, I'm going to my support group meeting. In the mornings, I don't care that it looks like a freakin train ran through my house, me and my coffee are sitting right here at the computer and doing what I want to do. I don't care if the kids fight and bicker and tear the house down, Friday nights, I'm getting my freaking bath, a long one. Wednesdays, I don't care what I have to do to find a kid to go with me, we are getting out of the house and going to story time at the library. All of that because I want to. as long as I'm doing everything I can for them, I can do everything I can for me, too.
  • I made chore lists and routine lists and they will do what they can do for themselves no matter how freakin hard I have to bribe them or how often I have to congratulate them on their awesome capabilities.
  • I let go of "my way". If it's done, it's done. If it's not done perfectly, I don't care because they did it for me. They put in some amount of effort to please me, and that pleases me. so I say thank you.
  • I learned that no one is a mind reader and if I want help, I have to ask for it. It doesn't matter how many of them step over that pile of clothes or add another item to the overflowing trash can, no one will know you want them to do something about it until you ask them to with a few simple words. and then, usually, the response is "Ok." and they do it. and I say thank you.  
  • I learned to say "No." I learned to say "I will help you but I will not do it for you." I learned the difference between big deal and little deal.
  • I learned that most times, indignation is a worthless feeling. Sometimes, being upset at the people who are not helping does nothing but drag you down because they don't care. You might as well suck it up and let it go for your own piece of mind. 
  • I learned that when I use please and thank you, I usually get the same in return. even if I have to remind them sometimes.
and this is how I cope with my life... I get angry and I get frustrated. I get overwhelmed and feel like I'm drowning in everyone else's needs. I get to the point that I just can't do this anymore, just can't. It's too hard. Too much. I want to sit down and cry it out and feel sorry for myself... so I do. and then I get up and dry my tears. I seek support when I need to and avoid it when I need to. I try to remember to not lose myself working so hard to put one foot in front of the other, watching my feet so closely that I lose the path. I try to remember to look up once in a while to see where I'm going, but not so long that I forget to watch my footing, to look back and see how far we've come, but not so long that I forget where I'm going. I sit down and I breathe and I relax but not so long that I lose my sense of direction.

and I know that I will fail in the way I treat the people around me, in doing everything I need to do, in putting on foot in front of the other, in watching where I'm going, and keeping track of where I've been... I will stumble, I will fall and at some point, I will bring others down with me. but I will be quick to say I'm sorry, I will mean it when I do and they will know it.

Bec is one very lovely lady that I admire quite a bit with her strong common sense, big heart, direct honesty, and real world answers. She has a couple of posts here that I strongly suggest you read...
Coping Isn't Optional
It's Ok To Forget The Bad Days 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Keeping me on my toes.

Two of the numerous F5s that tore through here last week went home Friday night (those two being the Little Dementor and the Tiniest Supervillain) leaving a trail of unimaginable destruction in their wake...

Trust me, you don't want to see the rest. While trying to clean that up, kids ran wild and Alex, looking to get a giggle, threw the hamster cage in the floor. The hamster survived, all of the bits inside the cage went flying like someone busting open a shaken up soda can. All evening I'd start something and they'd hit somewhere else. I never could get a darned thing done.

So yesterday morning after my husband left for work and there was suddenly this stillness in the house, this quiet contentment amongst the kids to sit around doing nothing but watch TV quietly... I was in heaven. I felt bad that I've been neglecting my page, either I'm too busy to tell you what the hellions are up to or it's so still that there's nothing to report but man, that stillness was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life!!!! I grabbed my coffee and sat in my chair with a smile to tell you about it.

...and jinxed myself.

You know how they talk about the calm before the storm? How they describe the eerie quiet, the spooky, unnatural stillness seconds before the tornado comes ripping and roaring through? They tell it true, man.

As soon as I hit "publish", I mean the split second I took my finger off of the button, the Goofy one comes in crying. His brother won't play with him. fine. Play with Alex. "But Alex won't talk. and he just walks away. I don't want to play with someone who just walks away." just then, Alex walked away. Right straight over to a twisty tied 5 lb bag of dry beans. He shook it good, busted it open and threw it down the stairs. followed quickly by the rest of the box of things waiting to be put away.

I'm trying to get Alex calmed down, I walk him to his room so he can be alone with his things, I can find the vacuum cleaner and get it cleaned up without him taking off on me and on the way...

find out someone had a little trouble with the toilet.

Can't find the carpet cleaner anywhere, only to remember that my husband mentioned Thing1 wanting to borrow it. I text Thing1...nothing. Crap. I text my husband, cussing all the way just to be clear on exactly how happy I am about having to clean this freezing cold mess up with a mop and my socks because my shoes have holes all in them when I really don't even want to consider exactly what stopped the toilet up. and the fact that as long as it's taking me to throw my fit and clean this (probably literal) crap up with a mop, all of that water is leaking into the basement all over clothes because we need to caulk where the floor meets the wall. I get done cleaning it up and I am texting my siblings and my friends that in moments like these I really want to go hug my parents and tell them how freakin' sorry I am for all of my previous years, when my husband calls me. The carpet cleaner is in the basement. He just forgot to put it back where it belonged.

The Goofy one is having trouble with the computer. Since I changed all of the settings, I have to be there to help him get where he needs to go and to redo add ons and such. It's a pain in the you-know-what. He's being a pain in the you-know-what. and I'm still not pleased that he threw every single one of my micro SD card adapters and my flash drive in my coffee. Granted, he didn't know it was the wrong cup, it looked like the right cup and it was sitting in the right place but I don't know that I want this child anywhere near my table but he won't stop begging!

Then Thing2 comes home...

 What can be more wonderful than brothers?

...unless you want to add in a sister?

She's loving the "mouse" and wants to hold it the whole time she's here. When it's time to go, she doesn't want to leave. I promise her a trip to the library Wednesday- story time or no story time- and she's happy. She knows she'll be back. She knows she will see the "mouse" again. ...and I think maybe we just found a name for the hamster. While they were here, Mommy started talking birthday parties (plural). but that's a conversation for another day.

Whether it's the kids or family members, neighbors, or other parents... they keep me guessing, keep me on my toes, surprising me with new challenges and new ways of working together. Pushing me to be more than I was yesterday. the good and the bad all tangled together until you can't tell one from the other, making me into a new, stronger, more resilient, more capable person than the one I started out being. Every day, growing and evolving into a new person.

"I can't go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then." -Alice

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Parental Control Online.

I've been having some trouble with Walter lately. Smart-mouthed, sneaky, inappropriate computer using, lying little Walter.

Last week, he choke slammed his brother and lied about it. I'm not surprised, the boy doesn't tell the truth about anything even when caught red handed. Lucky for me, he's nowhere near as much of an accomplished liar as Thing1 which means I have no doubts when this boy is lying. None. It's all right there, plain as day. His punishment (for lying, not choke slamming his brother) was washing walls and detail cleaning 1/2 of the kitchen. I keep telling my kids they get in more trouble for lying to me than they would for what they are lying about but this one just refuses to catch on. He thinks at some point he will start getting away with it, I think.

A few mornings ago, I woke up and walked into the kitchen to an empty table. where my laptop should have been. nothing. I hollar at Walter, being the second one up, the first with no laptop of his own, "where is my laptop?"
"I don't know, I didn't have it."
"Really? You're going to lie to me?"
"Mom. don't you think I learned my lesson from lying to you!?"
No. I know better because I know when my boy is lying. and he is.

I'm thinking about what to do about it. I know there must be an unsavory reason for him having my computer when he knows he shouldn't have it but I'm not sure what to do about it. So, I'm thinking.

Sometime before yesterday (since I keep forgetting to check my blog e-mail) I got an e-mail from someone wanting me to check out Gecko Monitor and look at a few internet safety related posts they've done. Now, I can't tell you much about them other than telling you to ignore anything they say about autism, they have a Google pagerank of 3, and a lot of people are talking about them. I read their site and it looks... well, go see. Thinking about bosses remotely seeing every keystroke and screenshot is more than a little creepy and thinking about who has access to your computer content is a little unsettling, especially when my whole professional (don't laugh) world is my laptop and all of the intellectual content (do. not. laugh.) is my words on my laptop until I'm ready to publish... but when I thought about what I could do with Walter... *evil grin*.

I talked to my friend about my thoughts and need to get Walter on at least a long leash she asked me what I've done so far. Nothing. What can I do? Then she smacks me with some common sense.

I created 3 user accounts on my laptop (hit the "start" button, search "parental controls"). one for me, one for Walter and one for Goofy. No one has the passwords but me. they have to come to me to log them in. The computer stays at my table (that's always been the rule, it's just not followed by *cough* some) in the kitchen. If both of those fail, or I can't watch everything they are doing, I made use of the parental controls in the user setup (see above). Then since you can control time and game ratings but not what's online, I went to the Internet Content place ("tools", "Internet Options", "Content") and the second one down ("Content advisor") allows you to restrict what they see online. All password protected.

The PITA part of that is you also restrict yourself. Apparently, you can't do internet settings for individual users. and then it blocks stupid things like AOL and blogger (really? what's up with blocking blogger?) and you have to keep putting your password in to unblock your own sites. Then every time you google something, you have to put in your password to unblock what you want to read. and then once you unblock ("always" because I'm too lazy to enter my password every single time) for yourself, you unblock for them.

The good thing about universal restriction is when I walk away logged in, like I just did, and the Goofy one jumps on, like he just did, he still can't have access to sites I don't think he should be seeing. The only thing I know for sure this is going to take care of are the questionable sites that keep popping up in my browser history and it might stop the little one from clicking on everything he sees.

The final step I took (so far) in getting on top of this whole I'm going to do what I want to do on the internet and you can't stop me BS is reading the Gecko site to Walter. I told him what it was, how it worked and that this will all happen stealthily, without the user knowing they are being monitored, and the logs/reports can be accessed at any time with a secret key combination and password, or emailed to the parent. He gets the idea. clearly. Booyah. Mom wins. (hopefully)

...just in case... any other suggestions?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

THE WORST STORY TIME EVER!!! <- in all caps, because it was that bad.

For the first time since I took all 3 of my Lovely Little Children of the Corn to story time, tried to check out books with both Alex and Goofy in tow, and ran into the Chameleon, I left the library something other than relaxed and recharged, ready to do a giddy dive into the stacks of books we brought home with us. I am actually pretty angry. and irritated. and I'm not alone in my irritation, the jurors were polled and the verdict is in... a unanimous vote of major suckage with a loud cry of THAT WAS THE WORST STORY TIME EVER!!!!

It started out great...

We got rid of the all of the kids until it was just the tree of us. and we headed out on a grand adventure.
We had a good time picking out books. loudly. with even louder shushing. and settled on 3 each.
We walked on over to wait for story time to begin...
and shared our cars nicely with a girl who asked.

We went in and settled on in for loads of fun stories and jiggly movement and happy songs...

which never happened.

Sure, the age says 3-6 and not all of these kids are 3-6 because these things aren't always a singular occurrence. Sometimes they come in 2s and 3s or even 4s and mores. and they don't always pop out at the same time which makes them different ages. those are called "siblings". and siblings don't magically disappear at story time just because they aren't the same age. Look at the staggered legion of evil I lug around with me. You think that's entirely by choice? well, partially by choice, but still. you can't always get a babysitter for the ones who don't belong (and don't get me started on that). but that doesn't even matter because the age is 3-6. most 3-6 year olds have a bit of a hard time listening to stories that have 5-10 sentences per page, dull illustrations, and more than 15 pages per book. Heck, I'm *cough* old enough and I missed an entire story because my attention wandered! Now, take that book that they will have a hard time sitting still for and put it back to back with 4 more and you are going to get antsy pantsy kids who are not listening to you. *shrugs*, that's just the way it works. Movement breaks between stories keep the kids from being too wiggly. at the end, it's a wasted effort that just takes up more time. and speaking of time, 20 minutes! Story time is 20 minutes! never a second shorter and never, never 10 minutes longer!!! Attention span. google it.

Dear Story Tellers, Watch your kids! If they are counting their fingers, tracing their shoes, wiggling around, laying in the floor, looking at others and not hardly glancing up at the story, it may be too advanced for them. or even if you do not watch the kids, look at their parents. If the parents are fidgeting, looking confused, looking at each other, staring at you in shock or glaring at you like you're a dumbass... you may want to reconsider the book.

That isn't what pissed me off though (because yes, it's the only one that fits). What had me furious was when a little girl walked up to the Story Teller and the Story Teller raised her eyes up, touched the girl on her back, nudged her in the direction of the audience and said, "You need to go get your mother." Are you freaking kidding me!? OUR Story Teller would have made eye contact, smiled to acknowledge the girl, and directed her to a seated position and encouraged her to listen to an at least almost age-appropriate book with a gentle authority that is never disobeyed but the child is still left feeling welcome and the parent doesn't feel the need to pick their child up and walk out on story time!

Thank God OUR Story Teller is only on vacation and will be back soon. I think I'll call ahead next time to make sure she's there before I take any of these kids. Or I could trust that the fill-in chose to take the advice I left her with and try it again... but the girl going next week is a 3 year old with a developmental delay... I don't want to turn her off books or story time... maybe I ought to just call ahead.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Let the wild rumpus start!!!

 There is so much to tell you I just don't even know where to start! I could tell you about when we went to Wal-Mart and by the time we get to the check out line I'm promising that Goofy child of mine if he doesn't get his butt over by us I will duct tape him to the cart.

Or when I walk to the living room doorway and glance at the TV and see mostly naked women doing impressive things with a pole. I slowly turn my head to look at the person watching... "Mom, it's not..." *raised eyebrows* Walter: shuts mouth and turns channel.

Or when my brother lost the Goofy one in Chuck E Cheese for 9 minutes because the effing child doesn't listen.

Or when my husband decided to get Walter the hamster he's been begging us for for years, except we forgot neither one of us like to touch the bitey little things and they they put him in a cardboard box. CARDBOARD. and he PEED ON ME!!! and THEN chewed his way out of the box! out. of. the. box!

Or when the Tiniest Supervillain aided in the escape from Hamster Alcatraz and *I* had to pick the little ball of toothy fur up.

Or when the Tiniest Supervillain and the Goofy one tried to flood the bathroom.

Or when Walter choke slammed the Goofy one- from. top. bunk.

Or when all of the little ones minus Alex plus my brother were hooting and hollaring and jostling for a view of the turtle chowing down on live fish. ...which I must admit was part of the reason we got the fish.

Or, I could just share these...