Monday, November 23, 2009

With a bah bah here and a bah bah there

My son recently decided that it is hilarious to listen to me make animal sounds. Since I am always eager to reward his attempts at communication, his request of: "mama, bah bah," is quickly rewarded with my best impersonation of a sheep (and yup, I do a pretty good bah bah). The problem is, Will doesn't just want me to do one sheep impersonation...he wants me to do one sheep, then 2 or 3 chickens, then a monkey, then a cow, then 3 or 4 get the point. His delight doesn't diminish. No problem - again, I aim to please - and besides, its just the two of us in the car on our long commute to and from school each day - perfect time for me to perfect my horse winnie. I think I would do just about anything to hear that child laugh because it is truly infectious. But what about when it isn't just the two of us? Time to get creative. This afternoon on our way home from Cleveland I was on the phone (and not with family or friends) and his little voice came from the back seat: "mama, buh buh." This means I am suppose to cluck like a chicken. I tried to ignore it. A little louder this time: "mama, buh buh!" For those of you who really know me, what do you think I did? That's right - I tried to cover the microphone on my cell and as quietly as possible, I did my best chicken impersonation. There was a slight pause on the other end of the line as the person tried to figure out what they just heard. I, of course, acted like nothing had happened and went right on with the conversation. So, if you happen to be on the phone with me in the near future and think you hear animals in the background, don't be alarmed, its just me, and no - I haven't lost my mind - I'm just doing my best to make my little man laugh.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Loooooove Santa

Jessica came home from preschool the other day and informed me that Swiper was on the naughty list and wasn't going to get any presents from Santa. For those of you without little ones, Swiper is a character on the Dora the Explorer show. He is a fox who is always swiping things from Dora - he's very naughty. They must have talked about him during story-time that day. Jessica went on to declare that she was on the nice list. It didn't occur to me at that point, what a goldmine this was. I began incidentally reminding her, during bouts of naughtiness, that Santa was watching. She would pause and declare that she was on the nice list. She clearly understood that the naughty list equalled no presents but she wasn't grasping the concept that Santa could see her.

Then it happened - I had a brilliant idea. We were getting ready to go to cheerleading practice and she was being ridiculously uncooperative. For the last several weeks she had been terrible at cheerleading: refusing to practice; flopping on the floor; running across the gym and refusing to stop; in general, wreaking havoc during the entire hour long practices. Each week I walked out exhausted and frustrated. I knew that most of this was a result of her Autism and had become a ritualized habit, but I also knew that she was capable of better behavior than this. This is a cheerleading squad for special needs kids but she was the worst behaved one BY FAR. I had been toying with the idea of letting her quit but she loved it the first few weeks and I hated to see her quit just because she had recently decided that it was "too hard." On this particular evening I was at my wits end. I knew we needed to get out the door soon or we would be late but she refused to cooperate: kicking her shoes off after I put them on; flopping on the floor when I tried to pick her up; and finally declaring that she "wasn't going" (with a stomp).

I grabbed a notepad off the kitchen counter and wrote "naughty" at the top of one column and "nice" at the top of the other. I then said: "Jessica, this is a naughty or nice list and Mommy is going to mail it to Santa." She froze mid tantrum. "I'm on the nice list," she declared. I informed her that just wanting to be on the nice list wasn't enough - she had to act nice. I went on to explain that every time she acted naughty I was going to put a mark on the naughty list and every time she was nice I would put a mark on the nice list. She listened intently - clearly sizing me up to see if I was serious. I then told her again that it was time to go to cheerleading. She screamed and flopped on the floor. I said: "naughty" and made a dramatic mark on the naughty column. She screamed in terror: "NO! I want to be on the nice list." I explained that she needed to act nice to be on the nice list.

Long story short (too late, I know): she had the best practice ever. She tried to follow directions and truly had a good time. Throughout the practice I gave her occasional "nice" marks to reinforce her desired behaviors and she didn't have one tantrum. At the end of the practice, with a huge smile on her face, she told me she had fun. I was so happy. I knew that she would enjoy herself if she just let herself.

The naughty or nice list is still in effect and hasn't lost its potency. Each night we count up the tallies to see if she gets a naughty or nice mark for the day on the big chart I created. She is so proud of herself for remaining on the nice list and can't wait until I "mail" it to Santa. My only question is...can the Easter Bunny have a "naughty" or "nice" list after Christmas is over?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Malibu Barbie

Let me start off by saying that I am a life-long conservative Republican and so the comments that I am about to make about Sarah Palin have nothing to do with political affiliation. My opinions are not based on my allegiance to the political party but rather my allegiance to the "female" party.

When I went to the mailbox yesterday and saw my current issue of Newsweek I had to smile when I saw the picture of Sarah Palin gracing its cover. There she was in all her glory...proudly sporting her tight biking shorts. Great legs, I thought. If those were my legs I'd probably walk around in those shorts year-round. As a woman, I am not offended by Mrs. Palin utilizing her "assets" - good for her. I am not disgusted by the fact that she is a Mom and yet is proud of her sexuality. Again - good for her. But, and this is a big but, you can't have it both ways sweetie. I know this picture was originally shot for another magazine - not Newsweek, but she did pose for it. Her choice, but a choice nonetheless. Many of her critics have argued that she is just a glorified "fluff chick" (and not a very bright one to boot), and that she is only where she is politically, because of her looks. And how does she prove them wrong? By posing in pictures like this.

Again, I have no problem with this picture. I think she is a beautiful woman and if all she has is her looks - than by all means use them. But, if she ever wants to really be taken seriously, than she needs to present herself accordingly. You can't expect to be treated like Professional Barbie and dress like Malibu Barbie. It just doesn't work that way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Silent means Silent!

Clip...Clip...Clip...finally silence...slurrrrrp!

O.K. Here's the situation. I am studying this week for my Praxis II teaching licensure exams. I will be taking two this Saturday - back to back. All week I have been trying to study at the Cleveland Heights Library in their SILENT study room, but I have heard just about everything EXCEPT silence.

Day One:

The morning started off nice and peaceful. I had pointed my desk towards the wall to eliminate distractions and the room was nice and quiet. Then again, I was the only one in the room. Everything changed about 20 minutes into my studying. A woman arrived. I waited patiently as she loudly unpacked her laptop and settled in. Finally, silence again, then...clip...clip. I turned my head slowly and stared in amazement as this woman continued clipping her nails. Yep. Apparently she needs a study room to perform self-grooming tasks unlike the rest of us who prefer the privacy of our home. Maybe she just had a hang nail and needed to clip it really quick...clip...clip...clip...nope - she was just rude. It took every ounce of self-control I had to not cross the room and rip the clippers out of the woman's hand and toss them out the open window. I exhaled slowly and returned to my studying.

Silence. How nice. Slurrrrrp....shake....slurrrrp. "I THINK YOU GOT IT ALL!!!" is what I wanted to scream, but I didn't. I got up and went to the ladies room. I'd like to say that the day got better from there, but it didn't. Obviously some people just don't understand the concept of a "Silent Study Room."

Day Two:

Things started off great. There was only one other person in the room with me and he was working quietly on his laptop. I was really getting some good studying done, but then she arrived. A woman in about her 60s entered the room carrying a box and a plastic bag full of papers. She was anything but quiet. I watched her as she loudly unpacked the contents of the box...a desk lamp. What??? Who brings their own desk lamp to the library? It gets better. She plugs it in and the room fills with a quiet, yet annoying, humming sound. She fidgets and fidgets until she apparently finds the perfect placement for this florescent lamp/magnifying glass. Yep, it had a huge magnifying glass attached to it. Kind of cool, but again, who brings this to a library. I figured she must have some pretty important documents she needs to read. Nope! I watched in astonishment as she LOUDLY removed a Walmart sales flier from the big plastic bag and placed it under the magnifying glass. I swear to God I'm not making this stuff up. She had traveled to the library to use the "Silent Study Room" to look at sales fliers with her own lamp!!

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of my week thus far; lets just say that once again, I have concluded that people are completely self-absorbed and rude. No regard for rules. Being silent in a study room clearly doesn't apply to them because they're special. The worst part is, when a room is quiet, every little noise is magnified. Someone clipping their nails; slurping a soft drink; rustling through a plastic bag; or listening to their IPOD so loudly that you can hear the a "Silent Study Room" these noises not only distract you - they consume you. You can't ignore them because they have become the only noise in the room and your brain can't help but focus on them.

So, I'm about to enter the "Silent Study Room" again today and with my current stress level, I hope, for everyone's sake, that people obey the rules and keep quiet. I'd hate to end up on the evening news: "Crazy woman throws chair at unsuspecting library patron as she screams 'Silent means silent!!!!'"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The highlights

I finally started packing this weekend. It's been no secret how I feel about this move, but like it or not the moving day is fast approaching and these boxes aren't going to pack themselves. Today was a gorgeous day and as I was watching the kids play in the backyard I started to feel nostalgic. We've had so many wonderful times in this house and have created so many amazing memories. My heart felt sad and the feeling lingered as the day slowly slipped away.

After I put the kids to bed I sat down at my computer to blog but I felt in a funk. So...I did what I always do when I need a little cheering up - I started looking at pictures on my computer (I have almost 11,000 pictures on my hard drive). I started feeling a little better. Than I switched to watching old DVD slide shows from previous years. At the end of each year I create a "highlights" DVD comprised of still-shots from that year. It is a nice snapshot into what our year looked like. About half-way through the first one I realized something that I know is going to change my outlook on this move - permanently. All of the amazing memories that we've created have nothing to do with this house; it has to do with all of our family that has blessed our lives so richly. No matter where we call home, that isn't going to change.

So,as I begin working on 2009's Highlights DVD I look forward to seeing how it ends. Despite the change in location, I know the coming holidays are going to be filled with the same love and laughter that comes from spending time with people you cherish.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Ultimate Sacrifice

EMBED-Tricked On Halloween - Watch more free videos

Most of us get to go about our daily lives without ever knowing what it means to truly sacrifice for this great country, but not this little girl.

I am thankful for all the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our great nation - and to their families who have to wake up each morning wondering if their loved ones are safe.

Thank you! You will forever have my gratitude and respect.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I love my microwave

O.K...let me give you a little back-story here:

We sold our house a few weeks ago and started the process of having all the inspections done. First one was radon - we had a very high level - mitigation is costing us between $800 and $1200 depending on whether the inexpensive route brings down the numbers. Next up was the general home inspection - electrical problems were detected resulting in repairs over $400. He also found an abandoned well in our basement that we were unaware of. There is a special way to properly "abandon" a well - that cost another $425. So we exhaled because at least we were done with the insane out flow of cash (at least until closing but let's not go there).

Then, this past Thursday morning my microwave went out. It is a large mounted unit that matches the stove beneath it. Seriously! The stinkin' thing couldn't wait to die until I moved out in a few weeks? We called out a repair man and he informed me that he wasn't sure of the exact cost to repair until he took it back to the shop to take it a apart but he knew it was one of a couple of things with the cheapest being around $180. He said that I could buy a "scratch and dent" that they had in the store for only $199. I asked about installation -- yep, an additional $100. $300 - No way! I said I'd rather fix it, even if it only saved me a few dollars in the end because I'm moving out.

Sounded like a good plan until I realized just how dependent I am on the crazy thing. Yes, I cook, but I also do a ton of re-heating with our crazy lifestyle. The weekend was rough but I figured - at least I will probably have my microwave back Monday or Tuesday...nope. I received a call yesterday from the repair shop and they said that it was "blah blah blah" part and it was going to cost $250 for the total repair. I was annoyed but at least I was still going to be saving $50 by having it repaired versus buying the used one from the shop. I gave myself a little pat on the back and asked when he would be able to bring it back out...he had just ordered the part and it wouldn't be in for 3-5 days! My pat on the back was turning into a kick in the butt.

How did people live before microwaves? Even the simplest of tasks - like making soup - goes from a quick 30 seconds in the nuker to 5 minutes on the stove. Five minutes may not sound like a lot but when you have a child that thinks he is going to die of starvation if he doesn't eat immediately, those 5 minutes become an eternity. I made a roast last night after the kids went to bed for tonight's dinner. I knew that tonight was going to be insane because I would have to run in the door with Will after our commute home from Cleveland and grab Jessica and run back out the door to get her to cheerleading on time in Tallmadge (a 45 minute drive from our house). Sounded like a brilliant plan until I remembered today that the roast would have to be reheated in the oven. Do you know how long it takes to reheat a big roast in the oven? FOREVER!

So what's the point? I have a new found appreciation for my mom -- she had 4 kids and no microwave...poor thing!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


We had our first "peer party" this weekend and it was a huge success! After much thought I had decided to have a Halloween costume party for the kids. We invited all of Jessica's preschool class which consists of other children, like her, who have Autism. We also invited some family and friends to help make things feel a little more familiar. I knew Jessica would be exstatic to have all of her friends at her house but I wasn't sure what Will would think about his world being invaded by a bunch of rowdy, random kids. He did great. Yes, the noise level was extremely high and more than a few times I noticed that Will had his fingers in his ears, but overall he was amazing. No meltdowns. No hiding in his room. He wore his costume without protest and interacted nicely with those he knew. We played games where the children won prizes and we ate lots of yummy snacks. All-in-all a triumph for the Cunion family.

Here's my complaint though...Why is it so hard to RSVP? I had invited 10 children from Jessica's class and only heard back from 3! Since I didn't hear one way or the other I knew I had to prepare for the possibility that they could show up. That meant planning for food for 7 more children and their parents. That meant having prizes for 7 more children (each child won a prize for each game we played). That meant having 7 more treat bags for the kids to take home. I'm not trying to be cheap but it is just plain rude to not RSVP when an invitation specifically asks you to.

The important thing is that the children had a great time and accomplished another milestone: hosting a peer party. Little victories my friends...but I treasure them.