Sunday, September 30, 2012

Riddle Me This

So I made a vow to myself about a month ago that I would blog at least twice a week and by golly I'm not going to break that vow for anything, not even a 4 day long hospital stay (also on the not-exempt-from blogging list: attacked by wolverines and forced to hide in a ditch [because, I mean, what ditch doesn't have wi-fi these days?], had mouth torn off by crazed chimpanzee [don't need your mouth to blog], and received tragic haircut [an impossibility with the lovely Holly as my stylist and besides I can always wear a wig in my PhotoBooth photos])!'s Sunday night...and I still owe myself and y'all one more blog this week...and I'm tired...and I have to get up early

Cheat blog!

I thought I'd play that game in which I tell you three things about myself, one false, two true, and you have to guess which is the false one. Keep in mind I am a sad, twisted, and occasionally disgusting individual:

1. In college, I got peer-pressured into going to dinner at a sushi restaurant even though I hate sushi. After one too many slabs of raw fish and a couple of glasses of sake, I ended up throwing up at the table. The restaurant owner did not seem at all perturbed or surprised and calmly brought me a towel. I guess you sort of expect that kind of thing from time to time when you run an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.

2. As a child, I kept a notebook in which I created a different imaginary family for myself each week complete with ages, occupations, features, and personalities. I then spent the rest of the week pretending to interact with them, and actually talked to them out loud when I thought no one was listening. No wonder I only had two friends.

3. I once went with Dylan to a work function held at an aquarium. There was an albino alligator there. His eyes followed me around the room the entire night and I was convinced he had it in for me. I kept grabbing Dylan's arm and whispering hysterically into his ear, "It wants to eat my soul!!!" while he tried desperately to maintain a professional manner as he talked to some of the most important scientists in his field. The two free drink tickets but non-existent promised buffet might have had something to do with my behavior...

Alrighty, so there you have it. I'll let y'all know the right answer in the next blog. 'Til then, Happy Riddling, dear readers!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Long Week

It's been a week since I last blogged and what a week it's been! I'm pretty sure I've aged a good 10 or 15 years (my face may really be caving in now). Warning: this won't be a funny one.

On Monday afternoon, I was having my lunch while the kids napped when I heard Rylan scream. I ran into his room to find him vomiting in small bursts and yelling this strange guttural yell between times. I took him to the bathroom and after he was done, I cleaned his bed and laid him back down. He immediately went limp and seemed to fall asleep. About 45 minutes later, he woke up and did the same thing. I ran back in and helped him to the bathroom. As soon as he was done, he went limp and closed his eyes and started to make a strange twitching motion with his arms as if he was brushing flies off his face. I spent several minutes trying to rouse him, but he would not open his eyes or move except to twitch his arms. Needless to say, this scared the pants off me and I called the pediatrician who said to bring him in right away.

By the time we got to the doctor's office, Ry had opened his eyes and was acting fairly normal again, though he was trembling and a bit sleepy and upset. The doctor examined him and said he probably just had the stomach flu though it was possible he either had an intestinal blockage or was having seizures and if he threw up and went limp and unresponsive again, we should take him to the ER.

At about 7 p.m., Ry fell asleep on the couch sitting up. This was extremely unusual for him as he usually has a lot of trouble falling asleep. Dylan picked him up to take him to bed and Ry opened his eyes and stared straight ahead. This was also unusual since he has nystagmus which means his eyes dart from side-to-side almost constantly. I said to Dylan, "I think he's having a seizure," and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, Ry's eyes started blinking rapidly and then rolled back in his head and he went very stiff and started breathing in a deep, grunting sort of way. Then, he went limp and his eyes shut and he started to make that twitching motion with his arms again. I practically shoved the two of them into the car to go to the ER, and only when they were gone did I think, "Gee, I would have liked to go with them..."

Luckily, I have very good friends, one of whom left in the middle of a class to drive across town and pick Pippa and me up and take us to the Children's Hospital. By the time we got there, Ry was already back in a room. Turns out he had made a spectacular entrance by throwing up all over his father, himself and half the ER the minute they got through the door. That combined with the fact that he's non-verbal and autistic and a nurse's misunderstanding of his nystagmus (she thought it had just begun with the seizures, which would signal a very bad brain injury or tumor or somesuch) got him jumped to the front of the line.

We were in the ER for about 4 hours while they ran a CT and bloodwork on Ry. The CT was clean, but the bloodwork showed some possible seizure markers so they decided to admit him. By that time it was nearly midnight, so Dylan and Pippa went home and I stayed with Ry. About half an hour later, I was giving a nurse his entire medical history (which took about as long to explain as it did for us to live it) when Ry opened his eyes and stared straight ahead again. I said to the nurse, "He's having a seizure," and pulled the emergency cord out of the wall. I felt so weirdly calm at that point. It was only when 5 nurses and a doctor ran in and started putting an oxygen mask on him, holding his airways open, shooting him up with Ativan and barking questions at me that my legs started to shake and I felt like I was about to cry or faint. He came out of the seizure a few minutes later but not until half his face had turned blue which was utterly terrifying. Luckily, the doctor was able to confirm that he did have a seizure, so they put in a call to the on-call neurologist and he ordered an EEG for the morning.

I got about 2 hours of sleep that night. Every time Ry moved I jumped up convinced he was having another seizure, but he was fine. In the morning he was sleepy and grouchy because he wasn't allowed to eat or drink in case they had to sedate him and he kept trying to pull his IV out so he ended up with tape halfway up and down his arm to keep it in, but otherwise he seemed fine. They took him for the EEG around 11:30, and said the on-call neurologist would read it and come talk to me. We waited...and waited...and waited...and nurses and nursing assistants came and the hospital dietician came to pester me with about 1000 questions about what they could send him on his meal trays since he has so many food allergies and he's on the autism diet (hospital cafeteria food is ironically the least food-allergy-friendly food on the planet), but no neurologist. He didn't come until 6:45 p.m. at which point he said that the EEG looked normal and asked whether we wanted to be discharged with meds or run further tests. kid just had 3 or 4 seizures out of the blue, yeah, I want more tests. So, he agreed to run a long-term EEG the next morning with the idea that we'd run it all day and then maybe run an MRI and be discharged the following night...

...except they didn't come to get Ry to hook him up to the EEG machine until mid-afternoon the next day. To his credit, the neurologist showed up shortly afterward this time and said he'd like the test to run all night and we could go home in the morning. Poor little buddy got about 4 hours of sleep that night because he had EEG leads glued to his head and a cap of gauze and tape over it and he was on camera as they wanted to see his movements so he couldn't move much or I had to come put him back within the camera's range.

The next morning, the neurologist came and talked to us. He said he'd reviewed the MRI Ry had as a baby and it looked normal, but the fact that he had so many seizures in a row without having a fever or being sick was worrisome and an indication that once his brain gets into that pattern, it will just keep going. That coupled with his autism (a certain percentage of autistic people have seizure disorders) made him fairly certain that this wasn't a one-time fluke and would probably happen again. We agreed to do a trial of medication and picked one that has no cognitive or behavioral side effects. They finally came to take the EEG cap off of Ry around 3:30 and we were discharged at last about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. We won't have the results of the EEG until next week.

Phew. So. You see why I didn't blog this week! It was a fairly scary week, but it had its good moments as well. While we were in the hospital, our therapist called to tell us that, against all odds, we won our insurance appeal! So we get all 30 of Rylan's monthly ABA hours back! I consider that to be nothing short of a miracle and just about the best news I've received in years!

Also, on Wednesday night, Ry was very upset. He was crying and pulling at his EEG cap and flailing around his bed. I could tell that he was just incredibly uncomfortable and wanted to go home. I could see the read-out from the EEG machine, too, and the lines were dark and full of sharp peaks. I crawled into bed with him and put a hand on his belly and started to sing his lullaby, "Sweet Baby James" and I got to watch as the lines on the EEG read-out settled down into gentle waves as he relaxed and snuggled up next to me. Sweet electronic validation of my parenting skills, haha.

Hopefully I'll have something funny and silly to blog about next week, but for now I'm just glad to have my boy home and to know what's going on with him.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Burn Baby, Burn

The kids and I have been down with some sort of cold and fever nonsense the past couple of days. Actually, I've been down, the kids seem to be deriving greater power from combining their strength with the strength of the virus (call Professor X, I think I found him a new strain of super-powered mutant). I've been treating us with regular applications of Studio Ghibli movies and the omission of pants (ain't nothing a little half-naked cartoon watching can't cure) because I don't like to medicate fevers until they hit 101/101.5ish. I do have some vaguely well-thought-out crunchy theory about this that I picked up from somewhere: raising its temperature is the body's way of attempting to kill infection and thus should not be interfered with unless the danger to the body from raised temperature becomes greater than the danger from infection (or unless you have an important work presentation/therapy appt./first date and need to appear not to be the bride of Death).

There is a pleasant side effect of a low-grade fever, though. Unless you have something truly miserable like the stomach flu, being mildly sick with a fever is almost as good as being drunk (not that I've ever been drunk, Grandma, I swear...ah the dangers of having young, hip grandparents who know how to use the Facebooks). Everything just gets a bit shiny and blurry like someone took a watercolor brush to reality. It also tends to release pent-up creativity. One of my favorite Sylvia Plath poems is "Fever 103" which she wrote while suffering from a sinus infection. Of course, she was a great genius, and I am more likely to look over my feverish scribblings the next morning and think, "What on earth did I find so profound about that half-squished date stuck to the carpet, again?", but...nevertheless...

A low-grade fever can also have a similar effect to alcohol on socialization. For example, last night I had a conversation with Dylan that went roughly like this:

Dylan came into the kitchen as I was standing at the silverware drawer trying to remember which utensil you use to eat soup. I turned to look at him and said, "Whoa...your eyes are so shiny!"


"You know, when you turn your head, but your eyes don't follow all the way and then they finally get to the other person's eyes and they're all shiny?"

"Are you drunk?!"

"No, I'm just feeling a little like Captain Smith and Pocahontas."

Dylan, not being familiar with any music made prior to 1990 despite constant involuntary exposure to my Frank Sinatra Pandora station, stared blankly.

"You know," and then I sang, "What a lovely waaaay to burn."

"What is wrong with you?"

I sighed and explained, "I have a fever."

"Maybe you should take some Tylenol..."

"Nah, it's only 100.6. I'm good."

"Okay, crazy lady..."

So, clearly a fever is not optimal in any social situation in which you're trying to convince the other party you are sane/competent/serious/dateable/not eligible for involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, but still, if you're sick and you've got nothing else going on and you can't take Nyquil because you're nursing and thus-OMG-the-poor-baby, it can be a mildly good time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I turned 29 today. Okay, I guess I don't turn 29 for another hour and a half or something, but really, technicalities, people.

So, 29 is the age that a lot of people, especially women, choose not to leave. I believe my grandmother was still "29 again" when my dad was well into his forties. He was one of those rare fertilized-egg-in-egg-in-ovary pregnancies.


Anyway, I do understand the fear of aging. It brings death one year closer, right (well for y'all it does. Me, I'm planning on living long enough to transfer my consciousness to a robot like Sheldon on "Big Bang Theory")? But, let's be honest, for women death is not what we fear.

We fear our faces caving in.

I remember seeing an episode of Oprah back before she got all vaguely spiritual and got her own (HA) network so she could share her profound(ly shallow and extremely specific to her) revelations with the world 24 hours a day. It was a makeover episode with Cindy Crawford, and some expert on the episode said, "After age 25, a woman's face starts deteriorating and all we can do is slow the damage". I was probably about 14 at the time and I thought, "Oh no! I only have 11 years until my face starts caving in!"

This fear stuck with me through several life changes and spurred me on to make some incredibly stupid decisions.

"Well, I better say yes to riding in that boy's car while he drag races in the country because Lord knows I've got to find me a man before my face caves in."

"I better not say anything about the racist and inaccurate jokes my boss is making about my Jewish heritage because I really need to get a career going before my face caves in."

"I guess I better pop out some kids before my face caves in or they'll scream in horror when they emerge from my body and discover they were birthed by an alien."

(Disclaimer: I do not regret having my children. They are fantastic and totally understanding of Mommy's need to mop up her puddle of face for an hour every morning before we leave for therapy.)

(Oh Disclaimer Two: I'm not actually Jewish. My boss was going off a Jewish Studies minor and her absolute bat-crap craziness with that one.)

At 29, though, I'm pretty much past that fear. 25 is not when your face caves in. 29 is. Last night I went to bed at 28 and 364 days and I looked like this:

I'm so hot I can't even open my eyes all the way or the hotness of my eyeballs will catch your soul on fire.

And this morning I woke up at 29 and looked like this:

Made it this far. Eff lung cancer. Hand Granny her smokes!

I keed. I keed. Obviously, I still look exactly like Megan Fox (duuuuuuuh).

The thing is, I am no longer worried about my face caving in. When I was 16, the worst thing you could have called me was ugly. Now, I'll melt into a puddle of tears while listening to my Backstreet Boys album on repeat and eating chocolates stolen from my mom's "secret" treat cupboard if you call me stupid (sorry Mom). This is why I welcome 29 with open arms and am even more excited about 30. Established smart folks in their 30s and beyond tend to see kids in their early-mid-twenties as having the intellectual abilities of your average toaster (the kitchen appliance, not the futuristic super-robot). I can't really blame them for that as I have become guilty of it, too. I was having a lovely conversation with a very smart lady the other day and then I learned she was 24 and everything that came out of her mouth after that sounded like this, "Wewww, I fink Womney is a doodyhead. Him should get a spanking,"(If you're reading this, lovely lady, you need to know my old ass is being snarky to compensate for the fact that you still have your original face). We tend to forget that we had lots of opinions too, some of them even well-informed, when we were younger. Luckily, at 29, I am no longer automatically assumed to be a moron. I have to open my mouth to give people that impression.

I guess what I'm saying here is that even if my face does look like the surface of the moon when I wake up in the morning, I don't care because I'm finally getting to the point in life when even the jackasses who claim we're adolescents until we're 30 have to acknowledge I'm an adult...which is nice...considering I've been a legal adult for 11 years and have a college degree, a 7 yr. old marriage, a mortgage and 2 kids...which means that maybe they'll finally take me seriously...

...until they read my blog, that is.

OHMYGAH, where did my face go?!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dragon Training

So, awhile back I promised my child-free friends that I would never write or talk about potty training (I'm not sure if this promise was explicit, but I made it in my head. Why aren't y'all telepathic like me?). Why? Because potty training is boring, kind of gross, and to those of us who have been quietly doing our business on a toilet for the past 30ish years it doesn't seem like a major accomplishment. Congratulations, you're not a chimpanzee. Woohoo.

Thus, I am not going to be blogging today about what's going on in my house this weekend. Instead, I'm going to tell you a story about my pet dragon.

Yes, I have a dragon. I told you I was a badass.

A candid shot of me and my dragon buddy about to sit down to a nice game of naked checkers.
I've had this particular dragon (we call him Lil' Smokie) for about 4 years now. Lil' Smokie's a sweet dragon, very helpful around the house (he eats all the junebugs and cicadas in the summer). The only problem I've had is that I can't keep him from spewing fire all over the place at seemingly random intervals. After the 30th or 40th time of coming home to find the living room a smoking ruin and a singed, hairless evil Tobi pissing on our bed in vanity-inspired fury, I knew I had to do something. The only solution I could come up with was to strap a bucket of water to my lil' fiery buddy's snout.

This strategy has worked really well for the past few years, but I can't help but notice that when I bring Lil' Smokie out to socialize with other dragons his age, fewer and fewer of them are sporting water buckets. It's also become inconvenient and expensive to replace the bucket every few hours when it becomes clogged with ash and melted beyond salvageability. And my sweet dragon has begun to remove the bucket when I think he's napping and burning up his sheets and blankets. Clearly, I need to find a better way.

So I decided this weekend to take Lil' Smokie to the bathroom every time he has that unquenchable urge to breathe a little fire. I've filled up the bathtub and I figured he can stick his head under water and let loose every 30 minutes or so. I really thought that would be a wonderful outlet for him and train him that there are appropriate times and places to breathe fire and inappropriate times and places to do so.

Lil' Smokie does not seem to be responding well so far. There are little flames cropping up all over the house and the living room is a veritable lake of fire. I've spent my entire morning carting him to the tub where he refuses to make so much as a spark and then dealing with the aftermath of his eventual explosions of smoke and hellfire all over the house. I'm about to douse the entire family in flame retardant as a precaution.

The thing is, this isn't the first time we've tried to wean Lil' Smokie from his water bucket. Friends and family have been very helpful with suggestions. "Why not shame Lil' Smokie into breathing fire only in the tub?" they ask smugly (er, I mean helpfully), "Just tell him that breathing fire in the living room is a filthy, filthy habit that only degenerate people-eating dragons do." Lil' Smokie, however, is impervious to shame. It is his best and worst quality. Others have advised, "Give him a sign that he can make to let you know he needs to make fire." Unfortunately it is difficult to sign with dragon claws. Still others have said, "Just let him run around the house breathing fire freely for a few days, he'll get the message." Perhaps these folks would like to pay to replace my curtains...and my chairs...and couch...and television...and children.

As I survey the living room in its various stages of being-the-eff-on-fire, I wonder if Lil' Smokie will ever be ready to let go of that water bucket. I know he's smart enough and I know he's old enough, but maybe he secretly wants to burn the house down. Then he could revel in the ashes alone (oh all alone the glory of it!) and be just who he is without any buckets or tubs or expectations.


P.S. This story is entirely 100% true...except the dragon is Rylan and the lakes of fire are puddles of piss...all over my house. HA! Tricked you.

P.P.S. I know it was painfully obvious the whole time. Thank you for sticking with my laborious overwrought metaphor.

Here's my Lil' Smokie in (in)action:

I may be cute, but I'll smoke a b*tch.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 it D&D you're looking for?

Y'all were so nice about my nerd blog yesterday that I decided to write a sort of nerd blog part 2 about the difficulties of finding nerd friends as an adult. When you're a kid, it's easy to find nerd friends. You just look around the playground and see who else the bullies are throwing oranges at (yes this actually happened to my poor nerdy sweatpants-wearin', bowl-cut-sportin' husband in middle school) and you go ask them, "Hey wanna play Magic at my house after school? We can watch Next Generation after. It's the one where Picard goes back to France and sees his brother. Dra-MA!"


As an adult, though, you're pretty much reduced to answering ads for role-playing groups put up in comic book shops or finding local nerdcore activity Facebook groups. I can tell you from experience (Dylan's, not mine) that you'll end up sitting in a lot of basements with balding, single 35 year olds who still live with their parents and spend their entire Subway restaurant manager income on attending Star Trek conventions that way. Obviously, this is not the ideal peer group for high-functioning semi-closeted nerdfolk who, you know, have a mortgage and mate outside of World of Warcraft.

So, what's a nerd and his nerd-convert wife to do? I propose that the process of finding nerd couple friends is similar to what swingers must go through looking for new...friends...:

Could I interest you in a little light role-playing?

You meet a couple or half of a couple at a non-threatening but nerd-friendly event. Screenings of old sci-fi movies, the aforementioned comic book shop (the basement dwelling types are fairly obvious out in the light of day), or sometimes crunchy gatherings like Farmer's Markets or Holistic Moms meetings (though you have to be careful there because sometimes crunchy means, "My husband makes a boatload of money working for Pilot so I drive a hybrid SUV to deal with my massive liberal guilt," not, "I'm accepting of all lifestyles and down for a little nerdy fun"). Your eyes lock across a crowded room. You may notice soft signs of nerdiness such as a Star Wars T-shirt or Doctor Who tattoo. You think, "Hmm...promising..."

You find an excuse to get a little closer, following them around the room trying to catch scraps of their conversation. A reference to cylons or Daenerys Targaryen emboldens you. Your hands "accidentally" touch reaching for the same collector's edition of Watchmen.

"Oh, sorry," you say.

"No problem," they reply.

"Hey, I like your Star Wars shirt," you say.

"Oh thanks!"

"Hey, which Star Wars movie is your favorite?" you ask. This is a test. If they reply with the titles of any of the prequels, run away immediately. They are not nerdfriend material as they are total morons with no taste.

"Empire Strikes Back, definitely!" Now we're talking.

You continue the conversation and find a way to slip in a "find me on Facebook". You go home and tell your spouse of the exciting possibility of new friends to get down and nerdy with. You then proceed to pretend for the next 24 hours that you have a life and are much too important to be sitting around desperately waiting for a friend request. "I'm a grown-ass man (or woman), " you tell yourself, "I have a house and car and all." Still, when you finally get that friend request, you're excited. You spend the next 2 weeks carefully crafting each of your status updates to gently hint at your nerdiness but also reveal that you are in no way an uber-loser/basement dweller. You comment on every single blessed thing your potential nerdfriend posts, but you're casual, saying things like, "Cool..." (the ellipses are an important touch that imply you've become distracted by something even cooler while commenting) or "Me too".

After 2 weeks of Facebook courting, you send a message. It reads something along the lines of, "Oh hey, I LOL'd for an hour at your critique of the Real Housewives phenomenon. Wanna come over this Sunday for dinner?" Dinner is good. It's something normal people do and in no way smacks of nerdiness. Also, it's something everyone has to do every day, so it's not like they can say, "Oh, I don't eat dinner. It's just not my thing." If they reply that they're busy that day, follow up with, "That's okay, just found out my good buddy Nathan Fillion's in town, so he's coming over instead." If they don't immediately write back with a "OMG, I just canceled every plan I've ever made. Please let me meet Mal!" then give up. It's a lost cause.

If they do show up, proceed carefully. You must display the right amount of nerd paraphernalia. A boxed complete Battlestar Galactica is good. Life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the entire cast are not (just stash them in the shed and bring them out one by one if the evening's going well). There must be alcohol to lube up the conversation with and you'll probably spend a long, agonizing time deciding whether mead is too outright I-was-a-Medieval-Studies-major before deciding on a decent but readily accessible beer.

During dinner, you'll subtly steer the conversation towards nerdy-lite topics such as movies based on comic books all the while inching your T-shirt up bit by bit to reveal your, "Comic-con 2010" camisole. If they respond well to this, you can then share stories about your college roommate who was "so into D&D it wasn't even funny". You'll want to take a long pause here to allow them time to respond. If the response is something along the lines of "Ew, gross. D&D players are unwashed girlfriendless freaks" it's time to come down with a sudden and terrible stomach bug. If it's, "I totally know what you're talking about! Some of the guys in my old gaming group could get pretty intense", you're golden.

Now's the time to say those fateful words, "So...are you guys gamers?" If they respond with a "Are we what?" or "Yeah, I totally love Call of Duty," sigh and mentally relegate them to the level of thrice-yearly bar buddies. If they eagerly respond with a list of role-playing games they enjoy (that don't involve whips and chains...unless of course you are in fact swingers), you've found it! Your nerdfriend couple match! An elusive and wonderful thing it is. Enjoy it, friend.

Yay! I no longer have to round out my dungeoning crew with my kids' stuffed animals!

Monday, September 10, 2012

If You Want to be Happy for the Rest of Your Life...

...find a nerdy guy, become his wife. Seriously. I have been happily romantically involved with a man who might be described as a geek, or nerd, or dork (or tastytastysupergenius if you want to be more charitable and accurate) for 11 years. We rarely fight, he's never forgotten my birthday and he still brings me flowers (or Sims expansion packs) when he knows I've had a bad day. While the nerd-as-romantic-champion is nothing new (see "Back to the Future", "Indiana Jones", "Bringing Up Baby"), I want to present to you my particular set of revelations as the very happy wife of a nerd as to why they make such excellent spouses:

1. They didn't get laid a lot (or at all) in high school: Apart from the obvious benefits of smaller chances of contracting STDs or having crazy ex-girlfriends coming out of the woodwork 10 years down the road with child support orders or racy topless texts, do you know what this means? They were probably "the friend". They were the guys who sat around for hours listening to their female friends complain about how hunkyhunkyfootballplayer dude wouldn't call them back. While this undoubtedly sucked for them at the time, it also gave them an excellent window into the female brain and unparalleled practice in listening when a woman is talking to you even if you're not interested in the subject matter. Dylan actually sat and listened to every single one of the 65 poems I wrote for my book of poetry even though poetry in general makes him want to take a long nap - and he gave meaningful feedback. Go Team Nerd!

2. They don't give a crap about sports: There are some exceptions to this rule, of course, but a lot of nerd/geeks aren't huge sports fans. What this means if you're a woman who also doesn't like sports is that you can make plans on a Sunday in the fall and he'll actually show up. It also means you never have to listen to someone screaming at your TV for 6 hours in a row (unless, of course, he's watching the terrible last season of "Battlestar Galactica"). What this means if you're a woman who does like sports is that you get 100% control of the remote every time there's a big game on and someone who will probably fetch you snacks and drinks in return for the promise of...ahem...other favors...

3. They always have the coolest gadgets: There is nothing more futuristic than a nerd's computer/gaming den. Bonus? They probably won't want you playing with their gadgets and will buy you your own. This also means you always have someone on hand who can effortlessly set up a wireless router or explain to you why your computer is making that weird clunky sound when it starts up (and maybe even fix it).

4. They've never lived in "the bubble": In case you haven't seen that 30 Rock episode, living in "the bubble" means that everyone treats you better automatically when you're attractive. Another way of saying this is that they never learned to rely on their good looks and/or sports skills to get by and thus have had to develop interests, conversational skills and a personality (not that there aren't well-rounded super-hot, super-athletic men...they're just harder to find in my experience). Do you know how I fell in love with Dylan? Over e-mail. I wasn't romantically interested in him right off the bat, but he wrote the funniest, most entertaining and well-written e-mails I'd ever read. The Keanu Reeves lookalike I was also "talking" to at the time wrote things like, "Wat up, babe? Just ate a sandwich." Which guy would you rather live with for the rest of your life?

5. They get better with age: When I met Dylan he was slightly chubby, had a questionably fashionable goatee and wore tech pants and the same 2 Ren & Stimpy T-shirts almost every day. Now he's a runner, embodies the nerdy-hot look that's trendy right now and regularly gets hit on by undergrad students (which doesn't concern me since he's generally oblivious to this kind of attention and because I could take those twiggy little beotches down if they tried anything). By the time he's 40, he'll probably be voted People's Most Beautiful Man. On the other side of the fence, I noticed at my 10 year reunion that some of the most popular guys from my high school shall I put this...gone to seed...

6. They're not constantly worried about getting their man cards revoked: There are a lot of things that some men won't do because they're afraid it threatens their masculinity. These things run the gamut from buying tampons for a sick girlfriend to appreciating Jane Austen to letting their sons play dress-up in princess gowns if that's what they want to do. Nerdy guys have never been terribly concerned with fitting the standard American definition of "masculine" and thus are generally not chauvinistic a-holes who refuse to do the dishes when their wives have the flu because that's "not their job".

7. They'll expand your horizons: You will never know until you try, but you may be the world's biggest Star Trek fan, or you might get really into A Song of Ice and Fire (the Game of Thrones books), or find that you're nuts for comic books or role-playing games (not those kind of role-playing games...although...) or Cowboy Bebop (an anime series). Even if you try all of these things and discover they're not your cup of tea, you'll probably at least gain an appreciation for the artistry that goes into them and you'll understand that nerdy pursuits are just as valid as non-nerdy ones. Expanding your understanding of human behavior is never a bad thing.

8. They're curious: This will drive you crazy sometimes, but it is also what's going to keep your marriage interesting over the long haul. Nerds are always learning something new, which means they always have something new to talk to you about. Sometimes their manias may be unutterably dull, but you will at least learn a lot of factoids that will help you kick ass at Trivial Pursuit. This also means that they're more interested in learning things from you, which means they will actually listen to you when you least most of the time...

9. They don't care about keeping up with the Joneses:...unless, of course, the Joneses have just purchased a life-sized Stormtrooper model. Nerds don't care if they have the biggest house on the block, or the nicest cars, or the most well-dressed children. Appearances don't concern them, because they realize that substance is much more important. While this will inevitably annoy you when your nerd sends your daughter to school in her brother's shirt, snow pants, mismatched socks and with unbrushed hair, it's nice to be married to someone who's not putting the entire family in debt to reach some insane standard of living that won't make either of you happy anyway. They are also unlikely to criticize the way you keep up the house. If a nerd has clothes to wear, dishes to eat off of and can find his electronics without too much digging, he's happy.

10. They will never stop being grateful for you: Even though nerdy married or committed men have been securely involved in a romantic relationship for years, a tiny part of them still remembers being that 17 year old who took a "friend" (AKA closeted lesbian, someone who actually wanted to go with their more popular friend, or their cousin) to the prom. That tiny part will never stop being in awe of the fact that they get to see a woman naked. This will do wonders for a gal's self-esteem, especially after babies and time have begun ravaging the body. This also means that they will think about what might make you happy and try to do it whenever possible. And if making each other happy ain't what marriage is for, I don't know what is.

Well, there you have it: my top ten reasons why nerds make excellent husbands. I'm sure there are excellent non-nerdy husbands out there, too, but I wouldn't trade my nerd for any of them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

La Mancha List Part 3

It's Saturday and 2 of the 4 Dittrich-Reeds are down with mystery fever/tummy bugs. Guess what that means? La Mancha List Part 3! The blogging equivalent of counting cleaning your kitchen as your exercise for the day! What the heck am I going to do when I finish this thing?

So, the Impossible Dreams continue with:

51. Take the whoooooole family on vacation: My family and Dylan's have been unbelievably generous over the years. It's no secret we've hit a lot of rough patches in the past 4 years and there is no way we would still be afloat in any sense of the word (yes, we would literally be under water - our hot water heater exploded a few years back) without their help. I'd love to pay that back by taking them all some place fabulous.

52. Learn more world history: I blame the American public school system for this one. I know the crap out of American history. The rest of it? Well, I know Ancient Egypt...also there was this place called Mesopotamia...and I could name you a handful of Greek gods...Yeah, I'm an embarrassment to myself as a citizen of this world and I'd like that to stop.

53. Read all the major holy books: This is another citizen-of-the-world guilt thing. I've read the Bible cover-to-cover several times and I've read quite a bit of the Talmud and other Jewish religious writings thanks to a random decision to minor in Jewish Studies in college, but other than that, I've got nothing.

54. Do something for all of Ry's therapists - past, present and future: I purposely left this one a bit vague as I'm not sure what would be financially feasible and appropriate, but I want to do something to give back to these incredible people. We would be groping in the darkness of autism without them. They've helped shine a light to show us the way to our son and to show him the way to us. A lot of them don't even bill their full hours and some of them do pro bono work on the side because they are just that passionate about helping kids with special needs. They rock. Period.

55. Master headstand in yoga: I've practiced yoga (at home, I neither have the money nor nature to pursue classes) for about 10 years and I'm pretty strong, but I always chicken out when it comes to headstand. It just seems so...dangerous...but if done properly it's supposed to be amazing.

56. Paint a Bob Ross painting: This is a silly one. I love Bob Ross and while I'm under no illusions that his paintings are great art, the technique looks like fun. Someday I'd like to buy a canvas and paints and paint those happy little trees along with him.

57. Visit Australia: I've become more and more interested in Australia recently. It seems like a really cool place with diverse landscapes and wildlife. Plus, the accents are excellent.

58. Wear something I've made: So this one ties in with the sewing/crocheting/knitting goal obviously. I don't care if it's an ugly crocheted bracelet or something. I just think it would be neat to be like, "Oh, this hideous thing? Yeah, I made it."

59. Finish P90x: I've started P90x a few times but have had to stop due to injury. My knee is finally pretty well rehabbed so it's time to get XTREME!

60. Do something awesome for my 30th birthday: My birthdays over the past...8 years or so have been pretty tame affairs. I've been pregnant for 2 of them and have had babies to care for for a lot of the rest. I'm totally fine with that as 26/27/28 etc. are not really big deals (as Patton Oswalt would say, "Happy Birthday. Shut the f--- up and go to work.") 30, though, I'd like to do something wild for that one.

61. Take the kids to Disney World: Originally we had planned to do this next summer, but I don't think that's going to be financially possible. That's fine, because they're probably a little too young to enjoy it anyway. So this is something I'd like to do a few years from now.

62. Learn a sport for realsies: I was always one of those klutzy, asthmatic spaz kids who hated P.E. I would sneak to the back of the line to avoid having to hit the ball when we played softball, or trot along 10 steps behind everybody else in soccer so I wouldn't be faced with having to try to kick the ball. Now, though, I'm not afraid of being made fun of and would like to learn how to properly play at least one sport.

63. Make sauerkraut: I tried and failed to do this last month (it was more like moldkraut). I'm going to do some more studyin' and try again.

64. Make a pie that rivals my mother-in-law's: My mother-in-law makes the most amazing pies I've ever tasted. Seriously. Amazing. I'm great at cakes and decent at cookies, but the perfect pie has thus far eluded me.

65. Have a wine cellar:...with wine in it...

66. Get Ry into a university study on autism: I have offered my son up as a guinea pig to the University of Tennessee multiple times, but so far they haven't taken me up on it (though Pippa has been in about forty billion infant studies). For the good of scientific research, humankind's understanding of autism, and because I'm just curious, I'd like to do this eventually.

67. Learn how to fix hair: This goal's mostly for Pippa's sake. I am dismally terrible at hair. Most days I just wash mine and let it be. In all honesty, I just can't be bothered and would rather spend the 20 minutes I'd spend fixing my hair exercising or playing the Sims. But poor Pippa should not have to suffer because of my disinterest. Have you seen that mop of hers?

68. Have a plastic and Teflon-free kitchen: Another filthy dirty hippie goal...

69. Go flare-free for 2 (non-pregnant) months: The only time I've had a fibromyalgia remission that long was when I was pregnant with the kids. I don't know how attainable this goal is, but I do know that if I can be strict with my diet and get enough sleep (ha!) it could happen.

70. Get Ry into horseback riding: That is, if he's interested. I just have this feeling that he'd really enjoy the movement of it and the horses. It's not in the budget now, but hopefully someday!

71. Go camping with the kids: This may seem like a simple goal, but let me be clear: camping with an autistic non-verbal preschooler who doesn't sleep is a very different animal from camping with a neurotypical child. Still, I am determined it will happen...maybe next year...

72. Own a piano: I took piano lessons for 10 years, but I haven't had regular access to a piano for the past 10. I miss it!

73. Live somewhere where it REALLY snows: Technically it snows here in Knoxville, but we get maybe a couple of inches a few times a winter if we're lucky. I want snow banks, snow drifts, blizzards (okay maybe not blizzards).

74. Get colored streaks in my hair: Yes I'm too old for this. Yes it's totally overdone and lame now. I don't care. I'm thinking dark purple would look very me and probably no one else...

75. Have a conversation with Rylan: I don't care whether it's through sign language, typing, a voice output communication device, or actual talking. I'd just love to hear what he thinks about things.

Oky doky! Only one more installment left (thank God because I'm pretty sure I don't have enough life left to finish all this stuff)! Thanks for reading and dreaming with me!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Squinky Jane, Baby Supervillain Extraordinaire

It has been brought to my attention that I never write about Pippa AKA PJ AKA Squinky Jane. Rest assured, I love my daughter and she is a real child not a cardboard cut-out we haul out for family pictures. I was merely waiting for the non-disclosure agreement I signed at her birth to expire. Girlfriend came out with pen and contract in hand (don't ask me how she smuggled those items into my uterus). KIDDING.

Sort of.

A photo from the day she was born: no pen and contract but you can see she has...a strong personality...

No, she didn't make me sign a non-disclosure agreement, but I have great faith that she could have strong-armed me into doing so if it served her purposes. Confused? Let me taking a jaunt in a seemingly random direction as is my wont...:

One season on "Last Comic Standing" I saw a comic perform a sketch comparing his 2 year old son to a WWII Japanese prison camp guard. He described himself as hiding in the corner trying to write jokes while his 2 year old strode around the house declaring, "You play trains NOW!" When that approach did not have the desired effect, the child grew interrogative and suspicious and sat down (here the comic pantomimed him taking a long drag on a cigarette, which I assume was a joke...I hope), looked his father in the face, paused and asked, "Why you no play traaaaains with me?" (I so wish I could have found the sketch on Youtube as I'm really not doing it justice by describing it).

That kid's got nothing on Peej.

I have come to realize over the past 15 1/2 months that Pippa is some sort of genius supervillain/dictator sent by God knows who to beat first her parents and then the world into submission. Her weapons include guilt, cleverness, sheer force of will and cuteness.

Cuteness is a weapon she generally wisely wields against her father. Mommy can be influenced to, say, give her an extra cookie through cuteness, but Daddy's where the real goods are to be had. A well-timed, "I lub Dada" can land her Daddy's entire lunch after she's just thrown hers on the ground uneaten (Mommy should know better than to offer her such slop. Peanut butter banana sandwich? Mama please.). An adorable squinky smile distracts Daddy long enough so he doesn't notice she's just pick-pocketed him and is running away to drop his credit cards down the air conditioning vent and make calls to her league of baby supervillains on his cell phone.

Guilt is similarly effective on Daddy. What tender-hearted man could withstand the outpouring of grief Pippa displays when Dylan leaves the house in the morning? Throwing herself at the door wailing, "Dada! Dada! I lub Dada! Dada! Hep pwea (help please)! Dada!" is a surefire way to get Daddy to come back inside and give cuddles and kisses and an extra sippy of juice. The rewards of guilt are not only immediate. PJ knows the image of her wallowing in utter misery at the departure of her father will stick in Dylan's heart like a barb poisoned with a mind-control drug, inducing him to take her on furtive weekend trips for french fries (verboten by mean ol' Mommy) and "prettys" (AKA anything shiny, pink and obnoxious).

I am fairly impervious to guilt (you wanna play that game, sweetheart? Let me show you what you did to Mommy's tummy skin), so Pippa has resorted to cunning and trickery. Yep, that's right, I'm being outwitted daily by someone who can't even pronounce her own name yet. She is constantly assaulting me on new fronts so I never know where to send my forces. If I focus on covering the bathroom thinking "Well, yesterday she was teaching those Lego guys to swim in the toilet", she's in the living room holding a secret war council on the top of the table with her most trusted allies: my cell phone, inhaler, and the DVD remote. When I go to "rescue" her off the table, she calls me "Mean mean mean mean" and three seconds later, she's holding swimming lessons in the toilet again.

I swear she knows how to throw her voice, or she's paying her brother in cool scraps of paper (a Boog's tastes are simple and odd) to make Pippa-like sounds from her room to cover up her nefarious deeds in other parts of the house. I'll be collecting laundry and pause to listen to the "kids" playing happily in Pippa's room before I make my way to the bathroom/laundry room/redneck hellhole only to find her in there dropping my Penzey's spices down the open shower drain. When I say, "What?! You were in your room playing with your brother! There were two voices! I heard two voices, I know it! Don't tell me I'm crazy!", she just laughs this slow and deliberate laugh, "Ho ho ho ho" and gives me this steely-eyed Civil War general look. She knows what she's doing.

Gen. John Bell Hood illustrating the Pippa look

I bear the brunt of her formidable force of will as well. A Pippa shall not be moved. Period. You know that redirection parenting trick you're supposed to use when they're too young for time-out and they're doing something naughty or dangerous? Pippa laughs in the face of redirection. If she wants to climb up onto that bookshelf and fall on her head and get a big goose egg she can use to guilt Daddy into getting her some ice cream with, then she is damn well going to climb up that bookshelf. Pippa doesn't care about the stinky old slide you're offering to let her climb up instead. She is making a strategic move in climbing up that rickety $30 Target bookshelf and resistance is futile. And you know what? Sometimes after the 300th time of removing her from said bookshelf and telling her "No, we don't climb bookshelves! Not safe! Let's climb the slide instead!", I think, "Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to let her climb the bookshelf..."

That's how she gets me. She wears me down to a convictionless shadow of a person who can't tell whether it's acceptable or not to allow a 1 year old baby to climb up a piece of furniture 5 times her height. Mind-control powers, yo. Girlfriend's got 'em.

The worst of it all is that I'm pretty sure Dylan and I are both suffering from Stockholm syndrome. She manipulates and abuses us and pushes her insane toddler agenda on us and we just cannot stop raving about how adorable and smart she is. I'll call Dylan and gush, "Pippa said, 'Hep pwea, Mama' when she wanted to get onto the kitchen counter to play with the steak knives. Isn't she clever?" and he'll counter with, "This morning, when she climbed into my lap and grabbed my fried eggs off my plate, she said, 'Thay you' before stomping on my balls and running away. She's a genius!"

Yeah, she's a genius alright - an evil genius. I fully expect to discover at some point that I was somehow magically impregnated by the spirit of Voldemort while reading Harry Potter around the time I got pregnant with her (no, Harry Potter had nothing to do with her conception. I'm not that kind of dork). Nevertheless, we remain calm under fire and although I sometimes feel like I'm raising the world's next Mussolini, perhaps with excellent, firm and compassionate parenting she'll end up being more of a Hillary Clinton - a polarizing figure yes, but no one can deny she's got passion and grit and a certain...squinkiness about her...

Squinky Jane for President 2052

Monday, September 3, 2012

La Mancha List Part 2

It's Labor Day and rainy and I'm still trying to kick this flare so I really want to crawl back in bed, but it's a bloggin' day. Guess what that means?

La Mancha List Part 2, y'all!!! ("To RUN where the brave dare not GO!")

26. Learn how to sew, knit or crochet: At various times in my life, I've half-heartedly attempted to learn one of the above, but being clumsy and lacking patience, I've generally given up after about 20 minutes with much cursing and throwing of pointy needle-ish objects. Someday, I'd like to torture my descendants with ugly misshapen sweaters or socks (or fluffy pink bunny suits, holla!) for holiday gifts, and so clearly must attain some sort of proficiency in some type of garment construction.

27. Attend a Summer Olympic Games:I've been bananas for the Olympics for basically my entire life (my mother still possesses an outfit I wore as a baby advertising the 1984 Olympic Games). At the age of 12, I watched the Magnificent 7 win the team gold in women's gymnastics and calculated whether, with much hard work, I could manage to make it on to the 2000 women's gymnastics team. Lacking both gymnastics skills and any level of muscle tone, this was indeed an impossible dream, but attending an Olympic games is not.

28. Visit England: I am a level 1 grade A Anglophile, so walking the paths of Jane Austen and Shakespeare (and Colin Firth...) would probably make my head explode with maybe I should tackle this goal last...

29. Visit Japan: I admit I never thought much about Japan until I started dating a level 1 grade A Japanophile about 10 years ago, but the idea of visiting has grown on me in the past few years, especially after reading David Sedaris' hilarious tales of his adventures in Tokyo.

30. Learn how to change a tire: While driving the kids alone, I like to freak myself out over what I would do if I got a flat tire. We only have one car, so Dylan couldn't come out and rescue me. Learning to change a tire myself would eliminate one of my many sources of road anxiety.

31. Write a sci-fi or fantasy series: In case you haven't noticed yet, I am a huge geek. At least if I became a sci-fi/fantasy writer as opposed to a sci-fi/fantasy reader, I could make some money off my geekdom.

32. Meet Mindy Kaling: I thought I should probably have one meet-a-celebrity goal. I considered Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale, but honestly, what I want to do in their presence is the same thing I can do from afar without embarrassing myself (i.e. stare, drool, make high-pitched squealy sounds). When I read Mindy Kaling's book it was like reading my own inner monologue (only slightly more Indian and a lot more successful). If I met her, I feel like we could become buds...and then I could meet John Krasinski (cue staring, drooling, and high-pitched squealy sounds).

33. Run the Hood to Coast relay: For those not in the know, this is a kick-ass relay race in Oregon that I learned about from the Another Mother Runner podcast. It sounds disgusting, grueling and like about a metric ton of fun.

34. Make some girlfriends who are crazy enough to run the Hood to Coast relay with me: Right now I think I could count on *maybe* two of my pals to be nuts enough to tackle this goal with me and sadly, one cannot run a relay race on one's own. Yet another reason to become an extrovert.

35. Sew a quilt: So, I'm pretty much going to have to conquer #26 before I attempt this one. My grandma sews the most amazing quilts and I grew up thinking that was one of the coolest things ever. I've just noticed a lot of these goals revolve around replicating something cool I saw someone else do in my childhood...hmm...

36. Learn Krav Maga: Why? Because it looks totally badass and anyone can learn it. Also, an extra measure of security to level against my stranger danger anxiety (thanks a ton for that one, McGruff the crime dog).

37. Swim across a body of water: I purposefully am not specifying which body of water, because I am a crappy swimmer and at this point my life swimming across a pond would be a major victory. Perhaps after I train for that triathlon I'll be up for tackling something slightly larger.

38. Go on a vacation WITHOUT THE CHILDREN: When Ry was about a year and a half, my good buddy Lindsay (the fearless kitten from "Flight Face") and her husband qualified for sainthood by watching him overnight so Dylan and I could go to Asheville for our 5th anniversary. It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. and I've been dreaming of it ever since. An entire vacation without the children sounds like utter bliss.

39. Learn sign language for reals: Technically speaking, we communicate with Ry through sign language. The problem is that I have the sign language vocabulary of a mentally impaired chimpanzee. Eventually I'd like to learn enough to have a conversation and to be able to tell his hand stims from actual signs...

40. Own a piece of property near a beach: Condo, apartment, house, cardboard box, I do not care. I also don't care which beach (although one located in Antarctica is not high on the list). My Boog adores the ocean with every fiber of his odd little being and it would be fantastic to be able to spend time at a beach every year with him.

41. Visit all 50 states: Airports don't count. Driving through them does, but only if we stop and set foot on the ground (side note: in reading over the rough draft of this [yes I rough draft my blogs, so what], I realized I had written "set food on the ground". I almost left it because it was such an awesomely weird typo). 24 down, 26 to go.

42. Visit Prince Edward Island: I must have read the Anne of Green Gables series about 200 times as a kid. I'd love to see where it all happened (yes I know it's fiction).

43. Make it all of the way through "Citizen Kane": I have tried. I have failed. I have fallen asleep.

44. Make it all of the way through Ulysses: Ditto.

45. Do a totally homemade Christmas: I love the idea of making all gifts, meals, decorations, etc. from scratch one year. It's a very Laura Ingalls Wildery thing to do. I'm going to have to get a whoooole lot better at crafts first, though.

46. Grow a lemon tree

47. Finish writing La Mancha list: Yeah...I wanted to give myself an easy one. Plus, I am finding it harder and harder to come up with stuff I really want to do.

48. Own a Jacuzzi tub: On our honeymoon, we stayed in a hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub and it was absolute HEAVEN. It was so awesome that I almost talked Dylan into buying a house here that needed major renovations and had no yard just because there was a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom.

49. Own a personal housekeeping robot a la Rosie from "The Jetsons": No, the Roomba doesn't count. I want one with a sassy personality that I can talk to.

50. Power my entire house with solar panels: A friend of Dylan's once told us that I think actually got a check from the power company every month because he powered his house with solar panels and there was enough energy leftover that it was actually putting energy back into the system. I have no idea how that works exactly, but it sounds insanely cool.

Well, that's my next 25. Stay tuned for Part 3 the next time I'm too to come up with a new blog topic!

(To be WILLING to march into HELL for a HEAVENLY cause!!!)