Sunday, June 24, 2012

17 Things About Our 17 Year Old

1. Ethan was born on June 24, 1995 (the day the Devils won their first Stanely Cup).

2. He generally eats 4 foods. There are rare exceptions.

3. Even though he eats 4 foods, he LOVES to eat them in restaraunts.

4. Ethan likes to watch Spongebob for exactly the amount of time it takes him to eat a snack - he then promptly shuts off the show, even in the middle, and even if someone else is watching.

5. Ethan used to shun homemade chocolate chip cookies in favor of Chips Ahoy brand, even when I hid them in the same wrapper.

6. He 'auditioned' for the part of a newborn baby with Down syndrome for The Guiding Light.

7. Ethan is bald because he has Alopecia Universalis. He likes being bald very much.

8. Ethan owns hundreds of matchbox cars, and enjoys playing with them.

9. Ethan can color for several hours at a time.

10. Ethan has been recently begun carrying a 'man bag' - you should see the contents!

11. Ethan utilizes several terms of affection for people in his environment - 'old man', 'poopy hair', 'meany mom', etc. He *thinks* he is hysterical.

12. Between birth and around age 7, Ethan was critically and chronically sick. He now rarely gets sick.

13. Ethan LOVES being a spectator and sporting events - especially the Devils. He enjoys boxing, baseball, basketball, and car racing.

14. Ethan is an absolute book fanatic. He keeps close tabs on what he owns, likes arranging them in ways that make sense to him, and brings his favorites everywhere he goes.

15. As a little child, Ethan broke or figured out every baby lock we could get our hands on, climbed babygates (even when I stacked them two high) and shredded three 'tents' meant to keep kids in their cribs.

16. Between the ages of 2 and 10 Ethan slept very little - sometimes staying up all night - sometimes several days at a time. He is now usually the first person to head to bed.

17. Ethan is interesting, funny, a good brother, an excellent student, and I am proud to be his mother. He is loved deeply by his family and I am happy to wish him a very happy 17th birthday. It will be celebrated with yet another bowling party.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Read more about Ethan here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

When Ethan's Home

Ethan loves school. He likes the structure and the predictability of the bus coming, his morning activities and the school schedule.  He likes that Art is on Tuesdays and that his schedule is placed into neat little boxes on a paper. It makes sense to him.

What he does not like is the willy-nilly nature of lazy summer days. To say that he doesn't like it is one thing. The truth is, it's not just that he doesn't like it, the nature of his disabilities make the plethora of activities occurring at unpredictable times an anxiety producing affair. Transitions of any kind and his oppositional nature make moving from activity to activity a very difficult proposition - yes, even if it is something he would like to do! When he says that he is interested in going to the library, it's all 'hurry up guys! he says he'll go, better get in the car before he changes his mind'.

It may sound like he's just a spoiled brat. But this genuine malfunction. The ways some people are terrified by heights or spiders, his opposition to moving from one activity to another causes a defense mechanism that is very difficult to overcome.

The way his attention spans functions is another great stumbling block. He either seems to settle in to something, like painting or cutting out snowflakes, or rearranging the living room, only to leave 3 minutes later. Next, he might over-focuses on an activity (like 'cleaning' his room) for an inordinatre amount of time and can not be swayed to consider another activity. When he decides that he is going to 'play ESPN' for a while, complete with an interview location, he leaves a wake of accoutrements all over the yard. Let's not talk about the show the neighbors must see when he decides he's Gandalf.

Having Ethan home from school is not difficult because Ethan is difficult - it's because there are 3 other boys involved in this cocktail of fun and frivolity. Ethan teases Sean and Sean feels the need to defend himself vehemently. I remind him that we just don't need to listen to him - but his response is still 'you're bald, E!' Nice. Ethan calls me old, and Sean insists I am not. Thank you, baby.

Ethan's other super-power is his extrodinary 'gift' of perseverance. This is not like regular-kid-bothering-you-for-something - trust me, I have three other kids for that. This is the ability to ask for an iced coffee and a cookie 4,300 times in two hours until I decide that it is actually something I want to do. I really need to pitch his skills to the people who run Guantanemo Bay, I really think he could make anyone do anything! A new type of torture, for sure.

We have a 'Summer To Do' board on the wall with all the things we'd like to see and do this summer. I have a mental catagory of things I'd like to take Ethan to, the things that Ethan would like, and things that will wait until E is safely and happily back to his days at Midland on July 5.

So today we are off on a roadtrip to Cabela's. The real excitement is wondering what could happen - not on the trip - but with Ethan :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Say Anything

I know something's been going on around here, but I am just not able to pack it into neat little posts with shiny pictures. It seems like the days right now come in drips and drabs and there has been so much to wrap up - hockey, scouts and Ethan's school year. There was playoff hockey, which is always fun to watch with the added pressure. No 1st Place teams, though. I made somewhere in the ballpark of 150 chocolate covered Oreos as 'thank you' gifts for the staff at Midland. 'Thank you' often doesn't seem quite enough for what they do for Ethan.

I've been filling out camp forms and registering for swim lessons. Gavin conquered staying overnight with the scouts on a camping/canoeing trip for the first time - just in time for 7 days away from home! I've made countless phone calls and sat for many hours trying to account for every penny of our OWN money to be reimbursed by our FSA account. I got to $2,971.43 out of $3,000. I think that's as good as it's going to get.

The baby, um, I mean, Sean had a fever for 5 days. Ethan has been flying a little high with all the end of school excitement. What that means to is that he pulls stunts like 'borrowing' a bunch of boxes from the attic (yes, they were previously filled) and packing up his whole room so he could pretend to move! E is a great packer. Awesome.
We picked up our pop-up camper after 18 months in storage to find it practically ruined. By practically, I mean probably $1500 in repais and countless hours of scrubbing. Unexpected, for sure.

See, none of it gels, and it's a disjointed routine of errands and chores and no fun day trips. It seems like all work and no play. It's probably not true.
What is true is that it's Monday, and today we will make a 'Summer Vision Board' of things everyone wants to do this summer. Dennis will contribute, 'Stay Home' and 'Swim in our Pool'. We'll join the library's Summer Reading Program and as soon as the sun comes out again and the thermometer hits 90, all will be right with the world and I will find my Summer Mojo!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Central Park

Last year we visited Central Park for the first time. I knew when I left the park that there was so much more I wanted to see! So, with the weather conditions just right this weekend, we headed in again. The first time we entered the park at Columbus Circle and saw the sights there. This time we came in near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had visions of some hackeysack playing on the great lawn, bubble blowing at Strawberry Fields, and relaxing while eating some ice cream. What is the saying? 'The best laid plans.....'

Parking proved to be a problem although we had been lucky on another occassion - $53 later that was solved. We enjoyed our time at the Diana Ross Playground.

The huge rocks all around the park always slow us down because the kids want to summit each of them, but they provide such great photo ops.

Belvidere Castle was very cool and gave us aweseom views of the park, particularly Turtle Pond.

I enjoyed watching Gavin scale the castle wall and listening to the comments from onlookers!

We ambled through the Shakespeare Garden and saw the statues Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.

It was right around this time that Ethan's incessant pleas for pizza and our 'differing parenting styles' got the best of us. I felt that Ethan was really getting to Dennis and he responded with frustration and a general amount of grumpyness. He felt that I was ignoring the whole situation and therefore making it harder for everyone. We had a full-fledged argument in the middle of the road in Central Park complete with swear words. I won't say who said them to protect the guilty.

Ethan has this persistence that has the qualities of a cinderblock wall. He will say the same thing over and over and over and over and over...and if you tell him to stop - he says it again. He's like a terrorist. When his demands aren't met, he takes the whole situation hostage. Which means, if you are trying to walk, he sits, if you are trying to sit, he walks, if you are trying to talk, he talks over you, if you want him to answer a question, well then, suddenly he's silent. He gets very 'stuck' in a loop of ideas that seem to be nearly impossible to shut off. You can either drop what your doing and fix his perceived dilemna or have a family meltdown in public.

We paid a little homage to John Lennon and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Strawberry Fields.

Then we left the park to get some pizza...because we had to.

It actually occurred to me leaving the house that morning that we have had a streak of successful, harmonious family outings and that I was owed a 'not-so-good' trip. Yes, it really works that way. So the trip only garners a '6' on the daytrip scale. Although the weather was a '10', we lost some points for the bickering - and I still have a whole lot of Central Park to see!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Family Closet/Laundry Room

(I warned you that this blog was about 'the good, the bad and the mundane'.)

I have a long and hostile relationship with laundry.

I started married life with access to a washer and dryer in the basement of the condo units. From the time Ethan was born until he was three, I used the laundromat with no other access other than my mom's house. And up until one or two kids ago, I experienced the usual amount of laundry woes. Sometime between Mikey and Sean the problem went from challenging to what felt like insurmountable. Something had to be done. 

I tried a schedule, several of them. "Do a load a day" plan - yeah, well, what if you find fun things to do three days in a row? I tried the once a week plan - oh, really bad idea. One time I bagged it all up and sent it to the laundry mat - nothing was right from the laundry detergent to the folding, not to mention the cost. I always ended up with piles of dirty laundry in my dirty laundry room, piles of clean clothes on top of the dryer, in baskets all over the house and some eventually pulled out by the kids onto various floors. 'Where are my clothes' was the mantra I hated most. (Really it ties with 'what's for dinner?') 

There were times I'd stand and fold a whole basket of clothes, only to find them rifled through, and therefore back to 'needing folded' status. Kids were yelled at, I was exhausted, Dennis was often frustrated and if he even implied that I wasn't getting enough laundry done...well, I try not to curse here at the blog.

When I heard about the 'family closet' idea I did not think I had enough space. Some people used a whole 'extra room' - what the bleep is that?!?! I looked at beautiful laundry rooms and I won't even link the pictures here because they are just too pretty and they will only upset you! I thought we needed an entire laundry room overhaul followed by the construction of super-awesome-custom shelving and cubby spaces.

But thank God there is a more pragmatic, logical person living in my house. (Don't let that get back to him.) He said we would just haul what the boys already used for clothes storage down into the basement and go from there.

It's not too pretty, but the results are magnificent, if I do say so myself!

Magnificent because it's working! Here's the plan. 3 huge garbage cans work as the 'laundry sorter'. Wash, dry and pull the clothes out on top of the washer. Each article of clothing is folded and plopped directly into a drawer.

Ugly and yet effective! I have always been a 'function over form' kind of girl.

I still bring whatever is Dennis and mine, as well as towels, upstairs and put that away. I timed it - it takes 9 minutes. That also does not leave me any baskets full of clean clothes littering every room in the house (right before this I counted 8 one day), a pile of 13 clean loads of laundry piled somewhere waiting for a spare two hours to fold, or baskets that the kids end up dumping over. What's done is done - right there and then!

There is an organzational addage that says 'touch something once'. I was putting my hands on the same clothes once to pull them out of the dryer and into a basket, another time to fold it and replace it into the basket and yet another to take the basket and dish out the clothes into drawers. Is it possible I have cut the work by 2/3? I waited a month to tell you about this and everyday I continue to think that I have reclaimed time and saved my sanity by using this system.


Where are the boys getting dressed?

Sometimes they go down and grab clothes and get dressed in their rooms but mostly they are changing right there in the laundry room (the reason I bough the super-cheap runners from Home Deport for $2.27/ft.) They were often doing that anyway being that their clothes were sitting in some yet-to-be-put-away basket of clothes. Changing down there means the clothes they are changing out of can either go back in their drawers or right in the dirty laundry. Bonus!

What about clothes that need to be hung up?

I decided the only clothes that are getting hung up are Ethan's shirts, scout uniforms and the one pair of dress clothes that each of the boys own (another tenent of happy laundering - own less clothes!!).  Ethan's shirts are being hung up directly over his dresser on a bar above his dresser with the option of doing that for the other boys also. The scout uniforms and dress clothes are all hung together in one small closet upstairs.

What are you doing with all the extra space by not having to have dressers in the kids rooms?

Loving it! Everyone got bookshelves to hold all their personal belongings and a few extra square feet of floor space :)

Got another question? Post it here, let's figure it out. (I swear I did not know that I could write this much about laundry! I think it tells you something about me, but I am not sure what yet. If you have an opinion about that you can also post that here :)