Monday, June 25, 2012


It's roughly eight months ago, and cleaning day in our little household.  I am dreading this moment, but I know that it has to be done.  So I grit my teeth, and turn on the vacuum cleaner.

Instantly, little C's hands fly up to his ears, and his whole body tenses in panic.  He begins to cry, and my heart breaks.  Again.

I hate it.  I hate every damned second of it, but I know that a lifetime of waiting to vacuum until he's asleep, or at a friend's house, or even in another room, will do him no favors.  At some point, he will be at someone else's house, or at his preschool, or any other random place that vacuums are wielded, and he will need to not go to pieces when he hears that noise.  He will need to keep calm, hold his ears, and take a deep breath -  whatever he needs to do to stay in one piece.

This moment is bigger than the vacuum.  This moment will be a stepping stone to the motorcycle engine, the firetruck horn, the deep bass of the movie theater.

For the many life moments that simply can't be predicted as easily as a vacuum cleaner, I need my boy to do this - starting here, at home, where he has a soft place to fall.

So I grit my teeth, and start vacuuming, careful to keep my actions as seemingly casual and natural as possible.

And still he wails, and I feel like the worse parent on the face of the earth.

Conditioning is suck-tastic that way.

Big C is sitting on the couch, watching whatever program is flickering on the TV.  This is old hat for him, and he is seemingly unfazed both by the machine and his brother's cries.

Or so I think.

With all the energy that is so envy-inducingly present in a 4-year old's body, he springs from the couch, and starts running around the room like a maniac, screaming and waving his arms in the air.

I think at first that he is mocking his brother, but then I see it.

He stops, and looks at little C with that conspiratorial grin on his face that I know will mean the death of me one day.  Then he starts again.

And, magical moments of magical moments, little C takes off after him, his little body shaking with laughter now instead of fear.  His hands are still planted firmly on his ears, and he keeps a cautious distance from the vacuum, but it is a start.  His brother has made this a game, and that is - for the moment, at least - good enough for him.

To this day, every single time I turn on the vacuum, my little boys do the maniacal vacuum dance routine, and it makes me smile.  It also gives me perspective, and hope.  I had no idea what to do to help my little man scale that mountain that he was facing.  I was prepared to grin and bear it through who knows how many weeks of cleaning routines, to condition him, but I didn't know how to make it easy for him the way that his brother - instinctively - did.

I hope - desperately - that they will always retain that bond, that brotherhood will always transcend the perceived boundaries of disability.

I pray that long after I'm gone, firstly that little C will no longer need the maniacal vacuum dance - but more importantly, that if he does, his brothers will never be too old or grown up to dance it with him.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Once Upon A Time

So, my little man has tackled many a skill in the last fifteen months since we started therapy. Some have been hard won, entailing protocols and reinforcers and data sheets. Others have just COME, as if from some cosmic skill fairy.

Pretend play was one of those things that kind of stumped me. How do you teach pretend play? Sure, you can introduce scenarios, and bribe siblings to play along, but you can't force spontaneity, or contrive imagination. Yet every visit to a "typical" preschool setting involved kids little C's age running around like tiny maniacs, pretending to "be" this or that.   I KNEW this was a skill that - if lacking - would be problematic in our Quest for Typical Schooling.

He's so literal-minded sometimes, that it worries me, the thought that he may be TECHNICALLY FUNCTIONAL in a class of his peers, but never really fitting in, never QUITE drumming to the same beat.

It breaks my heart to think of my baby always on the outside looking in.

So we've been plugging along at learning every other skill set necessary to function in a typical preschool (IN THREE MONTHS, HOLY COW), and trusting that the rest will come in time.

Last night, mama's in a pretty crappy mood. The day has been filled with DETAILS of every shape and size--doctor's appointments, scheduling FOLLOW UP doctor's appointments, remembering this, checking up on that, and I just want PEACE when the end of the day comes. What I get instead is endless traffic on the drive home, a house that looks like it's been hit by a small tsunami (despite constant efforts to keep up with it), and hungry, expectant children as soon as I walk in the door. Some nights it feels like I JUST CAN'T KEEP UP, and last night was one of those. By the time food is scrounged up, little bellies are filled, and the dog is dragged out of the trash can AGAIN, I am desperate for just five minutes to myself - in the short minutes left before bath time, I need to NOT BE NEEDED just long enough to catch my breath.

Then I hear it, a little, "Help me. Help me." Lord forgive me, my first thought was an exasperated, "Now what?"

I figure he is upset because a piece of one of his favorite toys has come off (again) and the anxiety that is rearing its ugly head here lately is driving him to seek someone - anyone - to put it back together.

Instead, he wanders around the corner with one of my tennis shoes in his hand, and thrusts it at me with a grin, declaring "It's a glass slipper!"

I stare at him, stunned. Not only is this the first time I've heard him string such a long sentence together, he is communicating an imaginative CONCEPT, to me. This isn't "Give me milk" or "Pick me up," this is a precious snapshot of what is going on in his head at that exact moment.

He is pretending.

He then proceeds to thrust his tiny foot into my shoe, lock eyes with me again and declare excitedly, "It fits!"

He has been watching the Cinderella episode of Super Why lately, and here was the result. This kid was taking the concept of the show, processing it, and incorporating it into his play. ALL ON HIS OWN.

Hey, Pre-K? Consider this me, putting you on notice. We're coming for ya.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One of these days...

Whoever coined the phrase "terrible twos" apparently never made it to the "f@%&ing fours". 

My middle child is the same age now as my first"born" was when he entered my life,  and I have spent the last week staring at him in stupification, thinking that I don't EVER remember him being this maddening.  In fact,  I'm pretty sure neither one of our subsequent children would be here right now if he had been.

I love him,  I do.   Most days I'm so proud of him I could burst, but good grief, it's a miracle we all made it through this week intact.

Well, except for the fact that my teenager is sporting a sparkly new cast due to a broken wrist, so I guess that's relative.

But we DID have a phenomenal experience getting little C's hair cut, and started swim lessons, AND I'm chugging along on my book.  I'm only a little bit neurotic about it. 

Sort of.

It's been an action packed week, folks, with an amazing play date...

My little kleptomaniac

An exhausting but surprisingly enjoyable trip to the zoo...

This is so us

And this ending to a trip for a haircut.
So long, mullet!

Turns out I STILL can't get out of one of those without crying.  At least these were happy tears.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cyd Rants

It's like Molly Rants, only with fewer readers.  And more residual anger....

This week, I had what is perhaps the worst customer service experience of my life - with a cell phone carrier.  A carrier I have been with for more than ten years.  The resulting chaos got me thinking.  What in the world is going on with mobile?

Here’s why I think cell phone companies have their heads stuck in the sand - and are determined to stay that way.

Mobile, as we all know, is booming.  By some estimates, mobile traffic accounts for a whopping twenty percent of all web traffic today, and is estimated to increase 18 times in the next five years.  We love our smartphones, and our tablets - our Facebooking and Tweeting.  We’re not giving them up anytime soon.
Perhaps it is this thought that has the Big Three cell phone carriers relatively complacent.  Frustrated with our lack of service?  Our prices?  Our ever-changing policies?  Fine.  Go ahead and cancel.  
They know we can’t get off the Kool-Aid.  With only three major cell phone companies in America, they figure the pie is large enough to go around.  If they lose a few customers here and there, well - they’ll make it up.  Where else are people going to go?

Where, indeed?

The problem with this theory is that where there are consumers willing to pay for a product, there will always be innovation.  Companies like Ting are offering a la carte cell phone service - by my calculations, my already-low contract plan would be cut by $77 a month, a savings of $1862 over the next two years.  And that’s including the purchase of two unlocked phones, but as the company seems totally fine with you bringing your own phone as long as you purchase your first one from them and are up for a little hacking, my savings would be even more than that.  Ting even recently ran a promotion in which it paid off the prior contracts of thirty-one subscribers.  With zero fees, bill credits for data and minutes that go unused, and a “no limitations” policy, signing another expensive two-year contract with one of the Big Three seems a little ridiculous.

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Ting.  Although I may very well be a future customer]

Amazon has also recently been making a big splash in mobile.  The recent launch of the newest behemoth Android phone, the Evo 4G LTE, has Amazon undercutting the carrier by $50 on the contract price, and their unlocked price is pretty reasonable too - especially considering the prices are tax-free up front.  Brick and mortar stores are also offering incentives such as gift cards to go along with on-or-off contract purchases, along with offering their own protection plans and buy-back programs--making the incentive to walk into a carrier’s retail store smaller and smaller.  Add in overpriced accessories, falling customer satisfaction scores, and employees that are often less-than-helpful,, what are we hanging our hat on again, Big Three?

Oh, customer loyalty.  After all, a long-term relationship with my carrier should count for something, right?  Four service center visits, four very frustrating calls to customer service, and several headache pills later, the answer in my case is - um, no.  It doesn’t count for a thing.

With rumors of Google selling their phones directly and unlocked, and at an affordable price, the mobile tide may soon be changing.  If other manufacturers follow suit and are able to give consumers an attractive array of options while providing the freedom to switch teams at their leisure, carriers are going to have a lot of scrambling to do.  As selling on consumer relationship seems to be a thing of the past, buyers are going to be more than willing to go where the money leads them.

And competition may be about to get a lot more interesting.