Monday, January 31, 2011

Things Fall Apart

Things are officially falling apart here.  Not everything.  Some things are insanely organized, for which I kind of want a prize.  But other things ... not so much.

My standards have fallen so low that when I realized that I had, in fact, actually remembered to buy butter, I high-fived myself. 

In some ways, everything is fine.  I'm making dinners, cleaning the house, schlepping the kids to school, and cleaning the house again.  I'm mowing the lawn (yes, it grows year-round here), weeding the garden, taking out the trash.  I'm parenting our children.  Tight-lidded jars that I would normally hand over to the Professor, I open myself with the jar-opener-doohickey.

In other ways, everything is not fine: I'm forgetting things, gaining weight, avoiding phone calls.  I vacuum the entire house and just want to sit down and weep. 

There still has only been one damn showing of our house.  The people who came to see it said it was too big.  We actually got that comment once when we were showing our house in Pennsylvania.  One prospective buyer said the house was beautiful, but she didn't want to clean that much house.

My husband and I were dumbfounded.  "Does she realize that cleaning is optional?" the Professor asked.  "Really," I replied.  "I mean, we never did."

Now I'm cleaning incessantly because there is nothing else to do with my nervous energy.

The kids are starting to get a little whacked out.  The girls are bickering and Little Dude's behavior has gone down the toilet.  It takes every ounce of energy I have to deal with this calmly.

I know that there are plenty of real single moms out there who have it harder than me.  I'm a fake single mom: separated due to circumstances, but both of us counting the days until we can have our family back together. 

I mean, hell, my husband has a job, right?  And he's not deployed to some god-forsaken desert, he's working in a comfy, heated office.  While it sucks to pay for a rental and a mortgage right now, it's not the end of the world.  Real single moms do it all on their own, without the light at the end of the tunnel that's taunting me. 

But still: even though plenty of parents have it harder than me, it doesn't make it suck any less for me right now.

I've said before that I'm sure single mamas get sick of married mamas exclaiming "I don't know how you do it!"

I mean, duh.  You just do it.  Because, obviously, you have to.

But I'd like to ask: um, do you have any tips? 

It's great that I'm showing my daughters, and my son, that a woman can do all these things.  I can mow the lawn, take the trash out, handle selling a house and still make four science-themed t-shirts for Science Day at school.  And it's also okay that they see that parenting is hard to do on your own.

But basically, I have two houses to choose from, and I'm going to choose the one that has my husband in it.  I'm going to pack it up, haul myself and the kids back to Pennsylvania, and sell this house empty. 
But in the mean time: seriously, any tips on this solo parenting gig are appreciated.  I need something like the jar-opener-doohickey, but for changing diapers and putting the kids to bed.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Proposed Revisions to Autism Diagnosis in DSM-V: My Response

The nice people at the American Psychiatric Association are cooking up a brand-new Big Book o' Crazy! I wrote about the Big Book o' Crazy once before, for ADHD Awareness Week.  I wrote about how no one in in our house had ADHD that I knew of.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Oh, my.  Now I know differently, don't I?  Sigh ... good times.
The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-V) isn't due out until 2013, but that doesn't need to stop us from poking through their proposed revisions.

The proposed revisions to the autism diagnosis were revised this week, so I thought it might be helpful to take a look, and see how these criteria translate into real life with my son, who is currently diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum.

First, let's point out a couple things: The DSM is a manual of "Mental Disorders" and is produced by a group experts in the field of mental health, not the field of neurology. Autism is currently defined as a set of behaviors, as opposed to "etiology," or identified medical cause. (Translation: We don't know what the hell causes it, but, like porn, we know it when we see it.)

Why do I care how they define it? Partly because while I get that my anxiety and depression are mental disorders, I don't think my son's autism is a mental disorder.  I believe, that in his case, it's a genetic condition.  The other reason is that classifying it as a psychiatric disorder makes it entirely less likely that insurance companies are going to pay for services, as the lack of parity in mental health coverage in this country is obscene.

Another thing you might want to know: The DSM-V proposes Severity Levels of autism, based on how much support a person needs. I'm not sure how this is going to play out in real life, because the levels are "Requiring Support," "Requiring Substantial Support," and "Requiring Very Substantial Support."

What. The Hell. Is "Very Substantial"?

While the APA looks for a thesaurus, let's look some more at the actual proposed revisions, shall we?

The proposed revision eliminates Rett's Disorder completely.  Not that Rett's no longer exists, it's just that it's got a medical cause, and therefor not a mental disorder.  I hope that means that people with Rett's get more insurance support, not less. 

The DSM-V folds autism, Asperger Syndrom, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified) and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder all under the umbrella of Autistic Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It removes speech delay as a must-have for diagnosis, but throws in sensory issues as a possibility.

Still with me?  Here's the proposed criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder, and how it applies in our case.  The APA's criteria is in blue.  My response is in black.

Autism Spectrum Disorder:  Must meet criteria A, B, C, and D:

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across contexts, not accounted for by general developmental delays, and manifest by all three of the following:

1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity; ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back and forth conversation through reduced sharing of interests, emotions, and affect and response to total lack of initiation of social interaction,

So, what this means for us is that we had to teach Little Dude to show concern if someone is hurt.  It was not an innate skill that he had.  Now he knows to go give the person a hug.  On the other hand, if he accidentally hurts someone, his response is over the top.  He melts down, shuts down, and it takes forever to get him back from that place.  So "abnormal" here could be read as "inability to regulate."

Little Dude does understand and use facial expressions, but often his expression is just blank.  It's interesting, because people often ask me, "what's wrong?" when nothing is wrong: it's just that I'm not smiling.  It makes me feel like people expect me to walk around grinning at nothing, just to reassure them that nothing is wrong.  And that right there?  Is one of my little specks of autism.

2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction; ranging from poorly integrated- verbal and nonverbal communication, through abnormalities in eye contact and body-language, or deficits in understanding and use of nonverbal communication, to total lack of facial expression or gestures.

Little Dude definitely avoids eye contact with strangers, but really, do I want him making eye contact with Uncle Creepy while we wait for our Happy Meal?  Not so much.  Generally I find this trait to be a total win. He can make eye contact when he feels safe.

3. Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships, appropriate to developmental level (beyond those with caregivers); ranging from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit different social contexts through difficulties in sharing imaginative play and in making friends to an apparent absence of interest in people

First off, props to the APA for pointing out that autistic children might be totally fine and dandy while they're with their primary caregivers.  How this applies in our case: Little Dude is totally fine playing by himself.  Generally speaking, he prefers it, because other people mess up his Legos and that pisses him off.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements, or use of objects; (such as simple motor stereotypies, echolalia, repetitive use of objects, or idiosyncratic phrases).

Little Dude flaps when he's happy or excited.  Because he's super-happy on Fridays, we call it "Flappy Friday."  I'm not exactly sure what "repetitive use of objects" means.  Does it mean "hyperfocus on tiny Star Wars minifigures, turning them over and over while making little noises and holding your breath?"  If so, then: check.

2. Excessive adherence to routines, ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior, or excessive resistance to change; (such as motoric rituals, insistence on same route or food, repetitive questioning or extreme distress at small changes).

Yeah, we've got these all covered.  You might think, hey, don't all little kids pretty much eat the same thing every day?  Yes, they do.  However, most little kids don't go completely bonkers if they accidentally eat their sandwich sections in the wrong order.

Also, is motoric even a real word?  I was an English major and I had to look it up.  The medical definition is muscular movement.  Thanks for keeping things clear, APA.

3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus; (such as strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).

You mean it's not normal for a four year old to live and breathe Lego Star Wars?  Hmm.  Okay then: check.  But also, meh.  It's normal for him, and he rocks at Lego Star Wars on the Wii.  Some day he's going to be amazing at what he does, so this is another one of those autism traits that's a big fat win in my book.

4. Hyper-or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of environment; (such as apparent indifference to pain/heat/cold, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, fascination with lights or spinning objects).

This one is interesting to me because all four of my kids have had sensory issues.  However, the girls all "outgrew" most of their sensory issues with the help of intensive occupational therapy.  Little Dude has improved greatly in this area, but his sensory issues are still significant. 

You know how you know your kid's sensory issues are a problem?  When it impacts your entire family.  If everyone in your family panics when you hear a baby cry in a store because you know it's going to set off a freak-out meltdown in your child, it's time for an evaluation.

C. Symptoms must be present in early childhood (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities)

Okay.

D. Symptoms together limit and impair everyday functioning.

Yeah.  This one's going to be a fine line, isn't it?  Especially because as parents of spectrum-y kids, we find that we structure everything in our children's lives so that their stress is minimized.  What you'll want to point out, and document if possible, is how these "symptoms," or differences, affect your child outside the home, and specifically at school.  Because that's the crux of the matter, really, when it comes to getting your child the services that will make life a little less stressful for him or her.

I think the point is that there are a ton of spectrum-y people walking around, with bits and specks of autism, who are getting through the day.  I know plenty of people that are somewhere on the spectrum, they just don't necessarily need intervention.  The APA is looking to diagnose people who need support, after all, not just people who are quirky or socially awkward.

Severity

Then there's the Severity Levels.  It's going to take a really experienced clinician to make these judgment calls, and we have a serious lack of experienced clinicians.  That's why it takes up to a year to get an appointment with a autism specialist at the best children's hospitals. 

I get that the goal here is to quantify things, and eliminate the vagueness of labels like "High-Functioning Autism," which isn't a real diagnosis.  However, these levels seem a little arbitrary and subject to opinion, which makes me nervous.  I don't know how these levels are going to affect the services kids get.  If my son "graduates" from Level 2 to Level 1, does he lose occupational therapy?  If he does well in Level 1, is he penalized by losing services?


You can see the original DSM-IV Criteria, the proposed revisions, rationale, and severity levels at the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-V Development website.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest Post: Donkeys to College

This post was originally run on a brand-new blog called Donkeys to College, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  I love her, I love this blog, and I love this post.  Also, I'm incredibly glad this didn't happen to me, because I'd still be whacked out on Ativan after this kind of trauma.


Urgent Update: Stink Bug Pandemic Causes Rise in Blood Pressure

Ucccchhhhhhh!!! There was a tremendous stinkbug incident here today and I have to share so you will know what to tell the paramedics if I am unable to communicate due to my passing out or having a stroke.

I get in the shower, get completely wet with warm, toasty water and then look up. Stinkbug. Right in the middle of the shower head. Sooo grosssssss I can't even say. I want to flick it off - but to where? Bad enough it could touch my hand, but I am naked. What if something goes wrong? My blood pressure is going back up just telling you about it. I could turn off shower, get out, get tissue, remove bug to toilet, flush and then resume shower. But, now I am wet and cozy/toasty. I will be cold if I get out. But the bug can't stay or I will throw up.

I take my razor and use the handle to poke it to the ground. Then, I take the shower head off and direct gross hateful bug to the drain. I spray it hard and make sure its little legs aren't dangling on the grate. Down the drain it goes. I feel certain it's dead since it left its yucky stinkbug smell. But no!!! Just as I relax, I look down and that sucker is back!!! Crawling towards my foot. Ucchhhh! Really, I am going to throw up.

Repeat shower head/bug down drain drill (because, honestly, I am not getting out and getting cold). Now I continue with my shower, but every time I relax I get a quick burst of blood pressure-increasing adrenaline as I remember to look and make sure it's gone.

Finally, I have moved on and start to shave under my arms (sorry for TMI, but we need it for the story) when suddenly I realize I am going to have a stroke because there is a bug crawling down my leg!!!!

So, as it turns out, just a blob of shaving cream running down my leg. But still, very upsetting and alarming.

In closing, you can see that the ever-growing presence of these bugs (one might say pandemic) is a public health threat. And, yes, I know, the word pandemic is really only used by people when they think they are smarter than every one and they want to show that they mean a really wide-spread epidemic. But, it is fitting in this case. This is VERY SERIOUS. I mean, you cannot kill these bugs. If you smush them they leave a smell that makes you gag and probably causes brain damage. If you spray them with bug spray they just laugh and give you the finger.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Real Estate Tips That May or May Not Work

It's really starting to piss me off that I can't telepathically will someone to buy this house.  I need some kind of real estate super power or something.  I'd like to be able to send out sonic waves like Aquaman, only instead of rounding up all the manta rays, I would rally the house-shoppers of the greater Houston area.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I concentrate, sonic waves do not seem to be emanating from my right eyeball.

Darn.

Here are some other things that haven't worked so far:

  • Keeping the house immaculate in the hopes that someone's going to call any second now and want to see the house in 15 minutes.  It could happen.
  • Staring at the walls and periodically yelling "would someone just buy this f--king house??"
  • Eating lots of cookies.
  • Sending snarky emails to my husband.
    • Repeatedly looking up my listing online to make sure it's still there.
    • Repeatedly checking my cell phone to make sure it's still on.
    • Repeatedly emailing my real estate agent with even more fabulous photos of my perfectly-staged bathroom.
    I've also buried a statue of St. Joseph, patron saint of real estate, in my front yard.  I'm not a very religious person, but I am so down with trying anything right now.  One of my good friends gave me a little statue of St. Joseph, and the deal is that you bury him in your yard, facing your house, and pray, and this will help you sell your house.  It seems totally sacriligious that I just jammed a saint into the mulch around my zinnias, but my Catholic friends all assure me it's cool.

    Note: If you want your neighbor's house to sell, you bury it in your yard, facing his house.  That could be very handy if you have those neighbors that are still letting off fireworks.

    Note: I don't have any neighbors like that.  My neighbors are awesome.  You'd love them.  You should totally buy my house.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Pregnancy Brain (Guest Post for Pregnant Chicken!)

    Today's post is also appearing on the brilliant blog Pregnant Chicken!  I love Pregnant Chicken for writing about pregnancy in a way that's honest, funny, and totally not scary.  I don't plan on being pregnant ever again but I still read her blog because of the awesomeness.  Also, she's from Canada, which makes me feel all cool and international.  I hope to eventually get our kids together to play Lego Star Wars and bond over our families' shared love of bacon.

    ......

    Today I placed my son’s glasses on top of the car, and drove off like that. In all fairness, my hands were full – car keys, backpack, glasses, and belligerent autistic four-year-old who did not want to go to school. I put the glasses down because I didn’t want them to break. Awesome.

    This is what we call Mommy Brain. Mommy Brain accounts for all the things you mess up until senile dementia takes over. Before Mommy Brain, there is Pregnancy Brain, which is actually worse. Pregnancy Brain is caused by having gallons of progesterone floating around your body while trying to grow an entire human being in your body. It’s like the craziest Sea Monkey science experiment evah, and it’s happening inside you. It’s amazing you can even remember to get up in the morning.

    Fortunately, Mother Nature takes over and ensures that you do the bare necessities – your body tells you urgently when it’s time to eat, sleep, and pee, which is pretty much all you do during a pregnancy anyway.

    However, because your brain is so busy telling you that you have to pee like a racehorse right this very second, it stops telling you other things. Important things, which might affect your employment or your ability to function normally in society.

    I had four children in the space of five years, so I pretty much have irretrievable brain damage at this point. Possibly, when they’ve all gone off to college, I’ll be able to spark some new brain cells by doing lots of crossword puzzles. Maybe I should start taking some of those souped-up “senior” vitamins (or “geezer pills,” as my parents call them) to try to stave off the inevitable dementia that’s coming my way.

    During my first pregnancy, when I was still working, I forgot the email password I had had for months. It was completely gone from my head, and had to be reset. I didn’t do too many other stupid things at work because I was so busy throwing up during that pregnancy.

    When I was pregnant the second time, I already had two-year-old twins. I remember lying (on my left side, of course) on the couch, watching Blue’s Clues with my toddlers and being stumped. Let me say it again: I was stumped by Blue’s Clues. I was all, “dang, Blue, I have no. freaking. clue. what the heck you want. Steve, you’re a freaking genius to figure out those fiendish clues.”

    That wasn’t my only proud moment. During my pregnancies, I did all kinds of stupid stuff. I showed up for an ultrasound appointment a day early, and an OB appointment a day late. My daughters missed a swim lesson because I got lost on the way to the pool. I still have no idea how that happened.

    One of my friends is right now pregnant with her fifth girl. Her oldest is only seven, so she’s been steeping in progesterone and prolactin for the better part of a decade now. Her round ligaments and her brain are shot. The other day she stood outside her house, attempting to open the door with her remote car door opener. She just stood there, clicking and clicking, wondering why the door didn’t beep and unlock. Poor thing.

    My friend L. has the most entertaining Pregnancy Brain evah. She completely loses the filter that stops you from saying the things you’re only supposed to say in your mind.

    Once, when she was pregnant, L. told a smart alecky co-worker to suck her d--k. This is a woman with a graduate degree in business who never swears at work. She later said that because she was pregnant with a boy, it was at least linguistically correct.

    During her next pregnancy, in a meeting with several co-workers, including two company vice-presidents, someone commented on another person’s new haircut. L. piped up with, “too bad you didn’t do something about those nose hairs.”

    L.’s unfiltered mouth when she has Pregnancy Brain is so shocking and hilarious, I wish she would have more kids. However, it’s astonishing she managed to keep her job through two pregnancies, so she’s decided to stop while she’s still employed.

    The best thing you can do about Pregnancy Brain is to prioritize and then enjoy it. Put sticky notes on everything so that you remember the essentials, then use Pregnancy Brain as the perfect excuse for pretty much anything you don’t feel like doing. “Sorry, I forgot about that. I have Pregnancy Brain.”

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Restaurant Rules: Top 10 Tips for a Nice Dinner Out With Your Little Nutjobs

    (Note: I have changed the original title of this post on learning that the word spaz is actually highly offensive in the UK (as well as by some here in the US.  Here in the States, it's used commonly to mean a person who is overly excited and/or clumsy, and no offense is generally taken.  Please know that no offense was meant, and certainly I would not have chosen that word if I knew it was hurtful to those with cerebral palsy and their families. Many thanks to the reader who let me know.)

    Incredibly, we went out to eat again.  It's not always the easiest thing in the world; however, I love not cooking.  I especially love not cooking when my parents offer to take me and the kids out to dinner.

    We went out a couple weeks ago and had a major triumph (mostly).  This trip out was also a rousing success (sort of).

    Going to two sit-down restaurants in the space of two weeks is some kind of record for us, and I think I've learned quite a bit.  I figured I should share the knowledge in my new Restaurant Rules: Top 10 Tips for a Nice Dinner Out With Your Little Nutjobs.

    10.  Why yes, kids, you can fill up on bread.  Knock yourselves out.  There is no possible way that you're going to sit here calmly at a table for 20 minutes and not eat the bread.  I don't care how fascinating the puzzles are on the kids' paper placemats, even the best-behaved child is going to whine about being hungry within 60 seconds of the food being ordered.  Whining when hungry is some kind of biological imperative in children. 

    What's that, you ate too much bread and can't finish your dinners?  We can box it up and take it home.  Yay!  I don't have to cook tomorrow, either!

    9. The restaurant must be loud enough that no one notices how loud our kids are.  Yes, this means it will be so loud that you can't carry on a normal conversation with another adult.  But you're out to dinner with your kids, which means you're not going to have normal conversations, anyway.  You're going to spend the entire evening telling your children not to point at the guy at the next table whose toupée is slipping off his head.  At least this way, Mr. Hair Club For Men won't hear you.  When's the last time you had a normal conversation, anyway? 

    In terms of noise, Texas Roadhouse fits the bill perfectly for us, because it's acceptable -- nay, encouraged -- to randomly let out a loud "whooooo-oooooooh!" yelp.  It's like it was made for us. 

    8. If your kids can order for themselves, great.  Let them.  Teach them to ask for their food clearly and politely, and to respect that the waitress is busy and working hard.  If, on the other hand, your child dreads speaking up, making eye contact, or talking to strangers, then just order for him.  If you berate your kid into ordering for himself, you're dooming the rest of your evening. 

    7. Let's keep the expectations realistic, shall we?  Little Dude can be well-behaved during a long wait for a table, or during dinner at the table, but not both.  Particularly if the waiting area involves crying babies, his least favorite sound.  It is preferable to wait outside in the cold, where he can flap and jump around.  This is partly true because he has Asperger Syndrome, but it's also because he's four.   

    Likewise, expect to play musical chairs at least once.  My kids can barely stay in their own beds at night.  The chance of them staying in the same seat during dinner is slim to none.
    6. We require a booth that backs to a wall on at least one side.  To cope with the noise / lights / mounted moose heads in a restaurant, Little Dude will kick his seat incessantly, which will irritate the adult in the next booth.  It is not possible for him to stop, and it's really pointless to expect it.  He needs to be seated where his relentless drumming isn't going to ruin someone else's meal.  Ideally we would be put in our own room with padded walls, but Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse don't seem to offer that as an option.

    5. There is no shame in cutting it short.  The evening is not a failure if you don't make it through the whole meal.  It's not a disastrous family outing: it's a trial run for next time! 

    4. Plan ahead.  Even if the meal seems to be going swimmingly, ask for the check before you're done with the meal, or (if you're feeling brave) when you order dessert.  Better to leave on a high note than have your kids melt down while waiting around at the end of the meal.  Your evening is ticking away and your kids will turn back into pumpkins, you just don't know when.

    3. Your child is never too old for you to consider packing a change of clothes. Little Dude spilled lemonade on his shirt, making it cold and wet, which is uncomfortable for anyone, let alone a kid with sensory processing issues.  Fortunately, we had a sweatshirt that he could wear without the shirt.  Without that, he would have been shirtless like Gibby on iCarly.  And while we don't go to restaurants that require a jacket and tie, we do generally try to go to places that require a shirt.  And yes, I did take him into the bathroom to change him out of his shirt.
    Which leads me to ...

    2. If you have a child with sensory processing disorder, avoid the bathroom at all costs.  Between the automatic power-flush and the automatic hand dryer, it's freakout central.  Even without using the toilet, your kid will touch something that requires the washing of hands before returning to the table. 

    Your SPD kid will then have the horrible dilemma of trying to figure out which is worse: wet hands or using the powerfully loud, hot hand dryer?  (The answer: both are too evil to even contemplate.  Solution is to a) run around the bathroom freaking out, which will cause your hands to air-dry naturally, and/or b) wipe your hands on Mom's jeans in a way that makes it look like she might have wet her pants.)

    1.  Don't sweat it.  If your kid(s) melt down past the point of no return and you have to carry them out while your husband fumbles for the credit card, don't be embarassed.  People aren't nearly as interested in your disastrous family outing as you think they are.

    Bon appétit!

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Skype is Not the Same

    Dudes, I'm wiped out.  It's been a hella crazy week, and I'm just shot.  I am spending hours cleaning this house every day, waiting for the phone to ring to find out that there is a showing -- only there are no calls, there are no showings.

    Gah.  Damn this crappy housing market. 

    Meanwhile, the Absent-Minded Professor is living half a country away, and we miss him.  We also miss the cats.  We Skype with the Professor, and with the cats, but it's just not the same.  For one thing, you can't really pet the laptop.  I mean, the kids keep trying, but they just keep leaving Goldfish crumbs and grimy fingerprints on my screen.  For another thing, it's Skype, and the cats just don't really want to participate.  Also, one of the cats is deaf so she is better at ignoring us than most cats.

    And though we talk on the phone for hours, their daddy is not here.

    Skype is not the same.  So there is a tendency to feel bummed out.

    But then a reader named Chessie sent me an email with the subject line, "Roly Poly Cat Head" and I laughed out loud in my very clean and lonely house.  She had left a comment on my post "Flying Solo," which was about my husband driving across the country with the cats.    

    Her comment was, "I really wish I could post a picture. When we moved with our two cats in tow, I didn't have my cat carrier so I shoved them both in a cardboard box. Granted we were only moving 20 miles.

    "So halfway through I realize they aren't moving much and I think they can't breathe. I poke a hole in the top of the box.  My husband says, "That isn't a good idea." I start to ask "why" when a cat claw comes out. Then another. Cat claws come back out, and cat HEAD pops out of a *very* small hole. I'm sitting there with what looks like a severed cat head balanced on a box.

    "Naturally instead of shoving its head back in, I took a picture."

    Obviously, my response was to beg Chessie to email me the picture. 



    The cat's name is Pepper, as in Dr. Pepper.  It was in the box with another cat named Dewie, as in Mt. Dew.  So this is a woman who not only thinks severed cat heads are hilarious, she is also highly addicted to caffeine.

    I love my readers.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    So Maybe I Can Joke About It Now

    The latest debacle at school has been resolved. A meeting was had, boots were worn, and all of my requests were met.  Cookie was brought in at the end of the meeting so that the teacher could apologize to her.  I have to say the school principal handled it beautifully, and she was great about assuring Cookie that this would never happen again, and that she had done the right thing in asking for help.

    So.  Maybe now I can joke about it.  A few weeks ago after water was denied to the first grade for being "too noisy at recess" I had some suggestions on possible consequences for the teachers involved.  For example, I thought perhaps they should have to take the entire first grade on a field trip to Chuck E. Cheese.  Or perhaps they should be made to exercise on the playground for 30 minutes while being yelled at, then withhold water while allowing each child a blue raspberry slushy.

    I have some similar ideas for the teacher who denied Cookie a trip to the nurse after she said she thought she had taken the wrong prescription medication.  Here are some ways I think she can make it up to Cookie:

    • Serve bacon to Cookie every morning.
    • Serve bacon to Cookie every morning while on Clonidine.
    • Serve bacon to Cookie every morning while on Clonidine. Also: withhold coffee.
    • Serve bacon to Cookie every morning while on Clonidine.  Withhold coffee.  When she complains that she's tired, the students get to tell her that while they believe her, they don't think she gets to go home for something like that.
    • Serve bacon to Cookie every morning while on Clonidine, withhold coffee, and then give each child a roll of cotton candy for snack time.
    Some additional suggestions from my friends:

    Val at Mompetition suggested that while the teacher is serving bacon to Cookie, whacked out on Clonidine, without coffee, that lullabies should be played.  When the teacher breaks into tired-tears, switch to nonstop playing of the Animaniacs' State Capitals Song for the amusement of my state capital-obsessed daughter.

    Law Momma at Spilled Milk pointed out that Cookie shouldn't have all the fun, because who doesn't like freshly made breakfast in the morning?  All the kids deserve a nice hot breakfast delivered deskside by the teacher.

    Amy at Pregnant Chicken thinks that before I leave, I should, um, defecate on the principal's desk.  And that I should be sure to eat corn.

    Kate and Lydia from Rants from Mommyland couldn't make any suggestions because they were still gagging at the fecal corn reference.

    An anonymous reader suggested that the teacher should have to clean my house 'til it's sold.

    Rebekah at Mom-in-a-Million wore boots today in solidarity with me.

    To all my readers, friends and family, thanks so much for all the love and support during this incident.  When you're walking into a meeting like this, it really helps to know that so many people have your back.

    xoxo, SRMM

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Epiphanies: Three Things That Work

    In the midst of my usual chaos, plus the latest debacle with the school, I had some of epiphanies this week.  It turns out I have three miracle products sitting right here in my own house.  I thought about doing a vlog for you guys, with me hollering about the awesomeness of these items like Billy Mays, but I have have too many stress zits right now.

    The first one is something that helps both of my older girls have an easier time focusing on their homework. I've been trying a few different kinds of fidgety things with them during homework, like pencil grips and letting them chew gum.

    The only problem with fidget toys is that if they're too awesome, they themselves are a distraction.  Even a pencil grip can become a figure in a miniscule opera if a certain someone hasn't had her medication, so we can't get too exciting over here with fidget toys.

    We tried giving them a 12-inch ball to put their feet on.  We tried giving them a smaller ball to roll under their feet.  We tried giving them breaks every ten minutes to do some jumping jacks. One of my daughters finds that she can focus well when she's in the candlestick yoga pose, but it's wicked hard to write (upside-down) and maintain the candlestick.  Who knew?

    What worked?  Having them sit on a big exercise ball instead of a chair.  We have those "wiggle seat" chair pads but I guess those just aren't enough sensory input for them.

    These exercise balls are genius, as far as I'm concerned.  I'm suprised whoever that guy is that replaced Billy Mays isn't shouting about them on my TV.  I'm considering replacing all of our dining room chairs with them.  Probably if you replaced all the chairs in elementary schools with exercise balls, America's standardized testing scores would skyrocket.

    I know.  You're thinking that's not a good idea because half the kids would fall and crack their heads open, and the other half would just throw the balls at the teacher's heads, and the other half would make inappropriate ball jokes.

    Yes.  That was three halves.  I suck at math.  Obviously, because I had to sit in regular chairs during my entire education.  See?

    Next, I'm going to tell you about the possibly the greatest book ever written.  I was an English major, but you can keep your Faulkner, your Joyce, your Shakespeare.  This guy Simon Beecroft puts them all to shame.

    This book puts my kid to sleep, and that makes this the new standard in English literature.

    It is LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary.  We don't call it that, though.  In our house it is just called "The Star Wars Book."

    It turns out I have been going about bedtime reading all wrong.  This is a major discovery for me, so I must share it with you.  I had been reading Little Dude stories.  With plots.  After we read them, he wants to discuss them, like a tiny little literary critic.

    When I read him the factoids in the Lego Star Wars book, he passes out.  You know how in the movies, the child is always asleep by the time the parent is done reading the book?  That has never happened in (my) real life until now. 

    I read him this book in the same voice I use to read The Night Before Christmas.  Except instead of reading about eight tiny reindeer, I'm explaining the inner workings of the various flightcraft of the Wookiees. While Star Wars is science fiction, this book is actually nonfiction: it describes, in minute detail, the Lego Star Wars sets.

    We've had this book for several months now, and we look at it almost every night.  We would read him bits and pieces from the book, about this set or that.  Little Dude would name all the Jedi characters, and all the Sith characters, and all the different droids.  It was like an exciting game.  Exciting game does not equal sleep.

    It never occurred to me to just read the thing, page after page, like it was a story book.  But it's apparently the most soothing thing in the world to Little Dude.  If he ever loses interest in LEGO Star Wars, I'm just going to find a civil engineering textbook to read to him.  I bet he'll love it.

    The third thing is vinegar in place of expensive, allergy-inducing liquid fabric softener.  One of my readers recommended it to me a while back because my kids are allergic to scented laundry products.  This is totally Hints from Heloise of me, but still.  This is important.  Because that nasty, funky odor my kids put into their clothes?  This stuff gets it right back out.  Even if I leave the laundry to sour and funkify in the washer for a day or two.

    You don't want that foofy expensive kind that's been aged in Martha Stewart's cedar chest or something.  Get the cheap white vinegar that's distilled right out of the BP oil spill.  It costs like nine cents a gallon or something.   Again, I'm suprised that Billy Mays wannabe isn't hollering at us all about the powers of vinegar to destankify your laundry.  Even if I forget and leave the laundry in the washer for a day, it doesn't have that sour smell. 

    Vinegar ... where have you been for the last ten years of my life?  Also, my kids smell kind of funny.  Can I just spray them down with vinegar?

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Exhausted, Stunned, Angry

    I am exhausted.  And stunned.  And angry.

    Sometimes, there are things I can't write funny about.  This is one of them. Remember the time my first grade daughter had water withheld (the entire grade, actually), for being "too noisy" at recess?  Remember how I was able to (angrily) joke about it?  Ain't happening this time.

    On Thursday morning, my almost-ten-year-old daughter Cookie took the wrong prescription psychiatric medication. Instead of her morning Zoloft, she took her bedtime Clonidine, which she refers to as the "Super Loopers." 

    By mid-morning, based on the way she felt, she realized what had happened.  She told her teacher that she thought she had taken the wrong medication that morning, and asked to go to the nurse.

    The teacher said no.

    I know.  You're like, wait, what?  It. Gets. Worse.

    Cookie explained that she thought she had taken a Clonidine, a prescription medicine that helps her go to sleep at night, instead of the Zoloft she normally takes.  And that if anything ever went wrong with her medication, she was supposed to go to the nurse, so that I could be called.

    The teacher said, "I believe you.  I just don't think the nurse would send you home for something like that."

    I have absolutely no idea how Cookie got through the rest of the day, but she did.  When I picked her up from school, she was slurring her words. 

    One doctor's appointment, one temporary medication adjustment, and 48 hours of careful observation later, her body was back in balance.  She's fine now.  We've taken steps at home to make sure this doesn't happen again.  There is now a big sun on the morning med, and a moon and stars on the evening med.

    I feel terrible that this happened in the first place, because it makes me question our decision to give Cookie this level of independence.  Cookie is almost ten, and is a very smart, responsible girl.  I make sure she takes her medications, but she is the one who takes them.  I want her to have that responsibility because in all likelihood, she will be dealing with anxiety for the rest of her life.  She needs to feel like she has some control over that.

    The Pork Lo Maniac's medication, on the other hand, I dose out.  She has ADHD, and hence, is less interested in details like what to take, and when.  Also, her medication is a controlled substance.  It's speed, actually. So that one, I dose out.  Every time, no exceptions.

    But Cookie, I still believe, is able to have more independence in her mental health care.  So although we have made some changes, she is still the one taking her own medication.  She made a mistake that I could have made.  Mistakes happen.  And while this particular mistake happened at home, it was at school that she was denied medical care.

    Coming on the heels of the water incident, I'm not feeling confident that this school can take care of even the most basic human needs of my children.

    I'm terrified.  What's next?  I couldn't have predicted that they would withhold water.  No matter how whacked I think some of the people at that school are, I certainly couldn't have imagined that anyone would choose to not send a child to the nurse after the child said "I think I took the wrong prescription medication this morning."  So what's next?  No bathroom breaks?  No food?  I don't know.

    I know that I have a lot of readers who homeschool, and I know that I'm about to get like 50 comments that say, "this is why I homeschool."  Let me say this: I can't homeschool.  For one thing, I'm trying to sell a freaking house and my husband is nine states away.  I'm kind of losing it.  For another, I just don't think I'm a good enough teacher to teach four children, including one with ADHD and one with Asperger Syndrome.  We did the virtual online school for a while last year and it was great, but really not what's best for my kids.  Assuming they're being given water and whatnot, they actually really like school. 

    Before, when I heard people talk about homeschooling, I didn't get it.  Most of the people I know personally who homeschool do it for one of two reasons: because they want to incorporate their personal (usually religious) beliefs more intimately with their children's education, or because they want to give their kids the academic advantage of one-on-one teaching and an enriched curriculum.

    Now, when I see the comments, "this is why I homeschool," I get it.  Something went sour at their public school.  I have many friends who are teachers, and I love them.  My kids have had many fantastic teachers at all their schools, and I seriously love some of the teachers in our current school.  Most of them are awesome.

    But some of them suck.

    The old adage says that one bad apple spoils the bunch, and that's certainly true of teachers.  Our school is "exemplary" in terms of standardized testing.  Ninety-nine percent of the teachers love teaching, love kids, and put their heart and soul into doing something amazing for other people's children.  It's astounding, really, what teachers do.

    But when you get that one suckfest of a teacher, it sours you. It sours the child on school, sometimes irretrievably.  It sours the parent on mainstream schools.

    I'm frustrated and angry, but I believe in our teachers, our public schools, and my kids.  I believe that the problems in this school can be fixed.  As long as I am still living in this town, I am going to be up their asses trying to make that happen.  I am exhausted and I have a lot of other crap I need to get done right now, but nothing this important.

    I had to wait a few days before I could write a coherent letter to the principal. I reviewed my own advice on how to write an effective nastygram to a school.  I'm copying in a print-out of the email from October in which I notified all of Cookie's teachers about her medications, and noted that any behaviors out of the ordinary would warrant immediate medical care.

    "Scathing" does not even begin to describe the letter I am bringing to the principal today.  I waited to write it until I had most of my anger under control, because I don't want to just rant.  I want results.  My goal is not to get this particular teacher in trouble, it's to make sure this doesn't happen to one of my children, or any other child, again in that school.

    On the other hand, principals can't make certain changes without parent input.  Unless parents are willing to state, in writing, when things go wrong, there is absolutely nothing that can or will be done about certain suckfest teachers.  It's possible that this teacher has made other grievous errors; I don't know.  Neither does the principal unless you tell them. In writing.

    I am requesting an apology, in my presence.  I am requesting that Cookie be reassured that she did the right thing by asking for help, and that she isn't in trouble for telling her parents what happened.  I am requesting that the teachers receive training on kids and medication and how to handle emergencies.  I am requesting that the principal make it clear to the entire staff that negligence is not tolerated, and that a policy be put in place that covers treating children with basic human respect.

    Now excuse me while I go lodge a size 9 cowgirl boot up someone's ass.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Clever Pregnancy Comebacks: Multiples Edition

    Today I'm also hanging out with my friend Amy over at Pregnant Chicken!  She ran some snappy comebacks for the stupid questions you get when you're pregnant, so I felt compelled to add a "Multiples" edition. 

    For my contribution click here: Clever Pregnancy Comebacks: Multiples Edition.

    For the first two editions of snappy pregnancy comebacks, click here for Part One and here for Part Two.  Also, if you're one of the two remaining people on the Interwebz who haven't seen her Awkward Pregnancy Photos post, you absolutely must click here for that.  Be warned: don't drink anything while reading that one, or it will end up on your screen.

    The Middle Child

    The Peanut Butter Kid turns seven this week, which seems strange to me.  In my head she's still five.  Where did age six go?  What the hell happened this past year?

    Oh, right.  We moved twice and had unemployment and all the kids had major health issues and I had to cut back on caffeine and then I went stark raving mad.  Oddly enough, it turns out that during that time, my kids continued to age.  (Who knew?) Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac are going to be ten this spring and Little Dude is going to be five.  In my head they're all two years younger than this.

    I should have figured that out that they're getting older based on the way they're growing out of shoes.  However, since apparently my kids can grow two full shoe sizes overnight, it's a poor way of judging their age, so there you go.

    The Peanut Butter Kid is my middle child.  She's actually the third kid out of four, but she was my second pregnancy out of three, so she's the middle child.  It's got to be tough being sandwiched in between a set of twin girls and a little brother with special needs.

    She manages to shine, though.  She's brilliant, for one thing.  She busts her butt to keep up with her older sisters at nearly everything.  And she stands pat as the only member of our family who does not like bacon.  (I swear she just says she doesn't like it, just to be different.)  And she's girly.  Pathologically girly.  She loves all things that are pink, shiny, poofy, and/or glittery.  She's basically a magpie, really. 

    I don't mean to say that she wants to be a princess when she grows up, or anything like that.  Her latest plan is to be a doctor that's also a kickboxer that's also writer.  It's just that she's going to look fabulous while doing all these things.

    When you talk to the Peanut Butter Kid, you don't think about the fact that she has sisters who are twins or a brother who has Asperger Syndrome.  You think about how special the Peanut Butter Kid is.
    To be honest, at this point I'm not sure that our older two get so much attention any more for being twins.  They're fraternal, so while they look like sisters, they definitely don't look identical by any stretch of the imagination.  Plus, Cookie is almost two inches taller than the Pork Lo Maniac, so strangers assume they're different ages.  When they were babies in a double stroller, we had more of that whole freakshow Gosslin scene going on, but that, thank goodness, is over.

    Little Dude gets plenty of attention for being an adorable little boy in glasses, which seems to make everyone think he looks just like the kid in Jerry Maguire.  And he also gets plenty of attention from family, because, honestly, he requires a lot of attention.  Parenting a child with autism sucks up a lot of time and energy that you would otherwise spread a little more evenly across your kids.

    We work really hard to give all our kids one-on-one time.  It's nearly impossible now, with my husband working nine states away.  So that I can take just the Peanut Butter Kid out tomorrow, my incredible friend Peggy Sue has agreed to take the other three kids for a while.  Peggy Sue's baby has a double ear infection and antibiotic-induced poopination, so you know that what she wants right now is three more kids.  One of whom has a sinus infection and antibiotic-induced poopination and sensory issues. 

    (You know what's not fun for kids with sensory processing disorders?  Sinus pressure.  Also?  Antibiotic-induced poopination.  It's all wrong.)

    Yeah.  Peggy Sue is awesome.

    So tomorrow the Peanut Butter Kid and I are going out together, just the two of us.  She wants a new poofy dress for her birthday, that she can wear for her Fancy Princess Winter Ball birthday party next weekend.  Yes, it grates on my last feminist nerve that she wants more princess crap.  I would like to wear jeans for her party but I suspect she wants me to dress up, too.  And you know what, why the hell not? 

    The Peanut Butter Kid is a girly girl.  It's who she is.  As the middle child in between non-girly girls and a boy, it certainly makes her stand out.  There are worse things we could be experiencing in terms of "middle child syndrome" than poofy dresses, so we'll celebrate it.  We'll all get decked out for her princess party, but she will have the poofiest dress of them all.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    An Update on Delaney: Happy Birthday, Baby!

    After I wrote about my little friend Delaney in a post called The Bigger Picture, I had several requests from readers for updates.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has given to her medical expense fund.  Delaney's family is moved beyond words by the outpouring of support and prayers that they have received from those close to them and those they have never even met.  This overwhelming kindness of strangers is what gives me hope that our society has not gone completely Snookified.

    Yesterday, Delaney finally went home from the hospital after an 18-day stay.  During that time, she managed to fight off RSV, a urinary tract infection, and a kidney infection, on top of the original cold she went in with.

    She is still not taking in an ideal amount of nutrition, but is slowly inching her way up to that number.  She went home with prescriptions for anti-nausea medicine to help keep more of her formula in, as well as prescription pain medicine.

    Kids with mitochondrial disease have major energy problems to begin with, and a round of illnesses like this can permanently lower her "baseline."  It will be a while before we know if that has happened with Delaney.

    Regardless, she's doing incredibly well at this point.  She's such a fighter; her friends and family call her our "Mito Princess Warrior."  We're all thrilled that she is back home with her parents and sisters in time for her birthday, which is today.

    Happy birthday, Delaney.  May you have many more.


    Again, for more information about mitochondrial disease or to find support, please see the Mito Action website.

    To read more about Delaney or chip in to her medical expenses, please see her Give Forward page.

    Note: Delaney's photo, first name, and information used with permission of her parents.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Aging Like a Fine Wine. Or Something.

    I cannot wait for this week to end.  Doing the morning routine and the bedtime routine on my own is a little, um, tiring.  And then tonight Little Dude threw up. 

    But wait, can I just tell you something exciting?  He ran into the kitchen and threw up into the kitchen trash can.  Which is awesome and super-helpful and something none of my other kids has ever done.  They tend to just announce that they feel sick and then puke immediately.  So there's something great about massive Sensory Processing Disorder; he hates being messy so much that he figured out that throwing up into something would be tidier.  Yay SPD!

    To recap my week: parenting solo, puking, SPD.  Awesome.

    In related news, I found my first white hairs this week.  I had a couple of white eyebrow hairs a while back but I chalked it up to bleaching by overuse of zit cream.  At least that's what I told myself.  Anyway, I tweeze my eyebrows obsessively, so those two suckers got yanked right out along with the other strays.

    But now there are white hairs on my head.  At first I thought maybe they were just really, really light blonde highlights that had somehow magically appeared, but they're not really in the top layer of hair.  Also, and this is really weird, some of the strands of hair are stripey.  Part blonde and part white.  Like a car sputtering out of gas.

    I don't have any plans to cover up the white hairs.  I figure I'll rock it like Diane Keaton or Jamie Lee Curtis.  But then I went to Google some pictures of celebrities with gray hair, and it turned up a whole bunch of celebrity hipsters in their 20s with dyed gray hair.  Not dyed to cover the gray, dyed to make their normally nongray hair gray.

    Last spring, Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, a bunch of fashion models I've never heard of, and and various and sundry hipsters were all sporting faux gray hair.  Which obviously I had no idea about, because you know how I can't manage to keep up with hairstyle trends.

    Once again, I am behind the trend.  Now I'm totally going to look like a wannabe.



    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Eeeeew -- mini-Snooki video

    This video pretty much sums up everything that's going wrong for so many tweens today. In general, I actually kind of like Snooki, with her Elfin Magic and take-it-or-leave-it body confidence. But this ... is just eeeew.

    Top Ten Things That Are Wrong Here:

    10. "You're never too young to look bangin'." The wrongness of a child behind described as "bangin'" is staggering.

    9. It appears that Snooki uses her own lipstick on this kid. Dare I ask what kind of creepy-crawlies are in her lipstick?

    8. That much hairspray could trigger an asthma attack in a child.  Kudos to Snooki for telling the girl to "hold your breath.  For like a minute." 

    7. The high hair (what we used to call in Philly "the higher the hair, the closer to God") went out in 1998 even in Jersey.

    6. The phrase "the infamous smoky eye."

    5. The word "Guidette."  Or did she say "Guida"?  Either way.

    4. That much bronzer on a child can only remind one of the Oompa Loompas.

    3. "You have to put on the pink lipstick, because boys like pink."  Thank you for setting feminism back about 60 years.  Unless you mean that you're comfortable with gender nonconformist boys wearing pink?  Yay!  But no.  Also, she's ten.  Even if she is into boys, ten-year-old boys do not give a crap about pink lipstick.  They're too busy making fart noises with their armpits.

    2. Where. Are. Her. Parents?

    1. Eeeeew.  Just eeeeew.


    video courtesy of AOL

    Flying Solo, Part 2

    We're on Day 5 of me flying solo with the kids.  My husband (and the cats) survived the snow-strewn drive back to the east coast, so he's setting up the new rental house.  By setting up, I mean, of course, inflating the air mattress and doing some crossword puzzles.  In all fairness, he starts Monday at his new job, which provides for our family of six.  And there's actually nothing else to do at the new house besides crossword puzzles, because there's neither TV nor Internet access yet.

    I am  keeping the Texas house freakishly clean and staring at my cell phone, waiting for the real estate chick to call and tell me there's a showing.  We have not had any showings yet, but every day I shine every surface and vacuum the entire house, like some deranged 1950s TV housewife.  Except I'm not in heels and pearls, I'm in jeans and coffee stains.  Also, the 1950s housewives didn't seem to be so dependent on Diet Coke and Zoloft.  Also, Mrs. Cleaver never debated at the end of the day if she was a) too tired to cook or b) too tired to drive to Chick-fil-A.

    It was Chick-fil-A for the win, obviously.  We ate dinner at 4:30 because it's not like I was going to magically find more energy if we waited longer than that.  Plus if you go earlier, you can avoid most of that Lord of the Flies scene in the playroom.   It actually wasn't bad, except there was one little blond boy there who I'm pretty sure was the main character in Village of the Damned.  Seriously.  In fact, I would have taken a photo to prove it to y'all, but I'm pretty sure he would have killed me with his mind.

    So far things are going okay on my own.  The first night I tried to be super-organized: I lined up all the lunch boxes, set out the clothes, and had the coffee maker ready to go.  Then I couldn't sleep.  I drank a cup of Sleepytime Tea, to which the good people at Celestial Seasonings have now added valerian root, which is not nearly as good as Ambien, but has the advantage of being sold at Kroger.

    Speaking of which, does anyone remember that I suggested that Celestial Seasonings make some Ambien Tea?  (How about a nice hot cup of pass the hell out?)  I see they've taken my suggestions to heart, despite the less-gutsy marketing choice to go the nonprescription route.  You're welcome, Hain Celestial Group.  I will take my payment in herbal tea and organic shampoo, please.
    Eventually at about 11:30 p.m. I took a children's Benadryl. 

    It turns out I can't handle Benadryl at such an advanced hour.  I slept through my alarm clock.  I mean I didn't even hear the damn thing because I was whacked out on Benadryl busy drooling on my pillow.  So the kids were almost (but not quite) late to school on the first morning of me being all "I can do it all on my own."

    So no more Benadryl for me while I'm flying solo.  I'll stick with the valerian root stuff, because at least I still hear the alarm in the morning.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Flying Solo

    The latest chapter of our adventure has begun.  While the kids and I stay behind, attempting to keep the house ridiculously clean sell the house, The Absent-Minded Professor left for his new job in Pennsylvania.  He's driving his tiny two-door car packed full of the essentials: an air mattress, a few dishes, and a jumbo-sized Space Bag of flattened-out pillows and stuff. 

    Have you seen these things?  You jam all your poofy comforters and winter coats into a Space Bag, and then vacuum the air out of the bag.  You're left with something that looks like it's been run over in a Road Runner cartoon. 

    I'm interested to find out if the things I packed for my husband really pop back to life, or if they've been crushed forever.  If they pop back to life, I'm planning on packing my entire house in Space Bags, just for the fun of it.  My kids thought it was the most entertaining thing ever.  I thought it was super-entertaining until I went to lift the vacuumed-out jumbo-sized bag.  It turns out that a pillow, a parka, three sweaters, two comforters and a blanket weigh a metric f-ton when you smash them all together. 

    Is there a math equation to be had here?  One jumbo Space Bag jammed full of stuff = 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 inches = 1 metric f-ton.  There's some New Math for ya.

    Sorry about the pseudo-swear there.  I just can't otherwise accurately describe the weight of this incredibly awkward item.  I also think the public should be warned that if you think you're going to pack a whole vacation's worth of ski clothes into one tiny carry-on by using Space Bags, that carry-on is also going to weigh a metric f-ton.  So you will not be nonchalantly swinging that thing over your shoulder.  You will be hiring a skycap for your carry-on like some kind of celebrity jackhole. Just sayin'.

    Okay, so the trunk of my husband's tiny car is weighed down with vac-flattened household goods.  The passenger seat has his duffel for the motels, plus his snore machine.  He pointed out that he didn't really need to take it with him, since I won't be there to hear him snore.  I pointed out that the snore machine keeps him from not breathing and I'd really like him to, you know, keep breathing.  That seems essential.  He ended up bringing it, not because he likes breathing so much but because he really does sleep better with it.  (Uh, because you're breathing.)

    That leaves the back seats of the car.  You know what's there?  The two cats!  That's right, he's taking the cats with him.  Because he's a god among men.  Also because I told him he had to.

    More specifically, my stepmum said that whenever they moved, my dad drove the cats.  Which is freaking brilliant, really.  I don't know why I assumed I had to bring the cats.  I guess it's because I basically do everything related to the house / the kids / the pets.  So when my awesome stepmum was like, "Oh, no.  You're driving the kids.  That's enough,"  I was all, "ohmygodyou'resobrilliant thankyouthankyouthankyou."

    Because, seriously?  I can drive across the country on my own with four kids.  I've done it twice already.  It's fine.  We're connoisseurs of Holiday Inns at this point.  But adding in two cats to the picture might finally put me over the edge.  One of the cats meowed at full blast for seven hours straight on the way from Dallas to Houston.  And that was on an extra dose of cat dope "Composure."

    Also, my husband, without the kids, can do the trip in four days.  With the kids, it's a five-day trip.  At every stop, you have to add on 15 minutes per child.  A ten-minute stop at McDonald's for my husband is a 60-minute stroll through the McBathroom for me.  In this weather, the cats might freeze to death during that time.  Which would so not be cool.

    I wish my husband was into photography, because I bet there's some really good LOLcat photos to be had on this drive.  He's been letting them out of their crates because he can't take the whining.  (Story of my life, buddy.) 

    So if you see a small car, so weighted down with Space Bags that it's dragging sparks behind it, with two cats peering out the back window at you, wave.  It's the Professor.
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