Two moms on the road of life

This was a weekend of women.

I drove, with my younger sister M, to see K and her girlfriends in Asheville. We stayed at their new apartment with their new Labrador and their old cat, and their cupboard that contained rice and microwave popcorn. Two chefs. Rice. Microwave popcorn. Unreal.

The first order of business was to get some food in the house, so M and I hit the local farmer’s market, as we’re both on the sustainable agriculture train. She’s the mother of three, one college age and two in secondary school, so when we went to the grocery next, between the two of us, we bought up all kinds of canned and frozen foods so the girls should be set for some time to come, especially since they both eat at the Biltmore at least one meal a day.

We also toured downtown Asheville, grabbing lots of breakfast sunshine, scones and bagels at the Grove Arcade. One little artsy shop had some adorable accent light crabs about a foot across…we both wanted to take one home! (Though they cost more there than at this website…hmm…tourists, anyone?)

After a rousing confrontation with the Biltmore security staff, we took the girls to dinner (including K’s friend N, who had just come from the emergency room under suspicion of swine flu!) at Thai Basil, then K’s roommate S treated us to ice cream at Kilwin’s. If you’ve been there, you’ll know the degree of yummy satisfaction we had. Fudge. Enough said.

Sunday we took the long trip home again, but we diverged along the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first leg of the journey, a trip neither of us had made before.

“A drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway is slow paced and relaxing,” the website says, and that’s very true. For the majority of the part we traveled in North Carolina, the elevation was between 3,000-5,000 feet and curvy as a sidewinding snake. It was Slow-paced or Die, pretty much.

But slowing down allowed us to see many beautiful fall vistas, as the mid-range was definitely at peak autumn color*:

view with tree

Along the Parkway, we found few places to stop, but we were constantly reminded of the breathtaking nature of…nature. Like the area around Linville Falls:

linville falls

As always, I enjoyed being on the road, though after taking the Parkway, I did gain a solid appreciation of the modern expressway. All the same, there’s something to be said for taking the back roads, waiting to see what awaits beyond the next corner:

windy road

*Thanks to guest photographer M for sharing her photos and a sister-bonding trip. 🙂

And Pinocchio arrives

Yesterday we had a first: Little Miss invited a friend to come play for the day.

For those of you out there with the average 10-year-old girl, this is probably not a big thing. For those of us with a language-inhibited autistic child, it’s monumental. We watched over every part of the day like scientists at The Great Experiment, ready to tweak and readjust as necessary.

Some hands-on moments were necessary, as Little Miss’s friend is in her AS class, and neither of them really have the social skills just yet to handle a full one-on-one day. The friend, bless her, is on the Aspie end of the spectrum and talks almost non-stop. So between the two, that worked out fairly well.  Note to self: some structure and planning go a long way toward improving these visits.

With occasional prompts about being kind to your guest, and reminding the friend to ask Little Miss if she needed help with some of the projects, they went along fine; a mid-day visit to the playground and McDonald’s helped break it up. They even squealed over getting the KidsBop music CD in their lunches and had to listen and sing along on the way home– surprising to me because Little Miss had previously had her heart set on a mini Build-a-Bear. Wow.

By day’s end, the friend was ready to come back tomorrow again and stay. Little Miss was just about overwhelmed and left the dinner table to go spin for twenty minutes. An epsom salts and lavender bath went a long way toward restoring her equilibrium. I asked whether she had a good time and wanted her friend to come another time, or if it was too much. She thought about it a minute, and said she wanted her to come another time.

All in all, a wonderful experiment, and another step toward making Little Miss into a “real girl.”  Not that we’re unhappy with the girl we have–far from it–but every once in awhile we do wish that all our kids could be a little more like their peers, able to experience what other kids do.

On the other hand, for two ten-year-old girls to spend a whole day without a mention of boys, clothes brands or not saying one snippy thing about anyone or anything? Priceless.

Moving ahead, pen/keyboard in hand

Halfway through October, and I’ve finished a first draft of my newest novel manuscript, a women’s fiction story about a downsized lawyer who meets a younger man dying of cancer and how they change each other’s lives. It’s about the longest first draft I’ve ever had at more than 75,000 words. I’m very pleased with it, and also pleased that it’s finished before–

NANOWRIMO!!!   nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1.png

Yes, the crazy month of writing dangerously begins in only 15 days. I’ve got a story in mind about psychic vampires, since vampires are the flavour du jour, and we’ll see how it goes. I completed the task in 2007, lost my way last year, but this year looks good for a win.  🙂 The Erie group is meeting up at Borders November 1 at Millcreek for a Write-In–what a blast!

I’ve also recently won a writing course from nationallyknown teacher Margie Lawson, and I’m very excited about it! I got hold of several of her lecture packets and they are fantastic. I’m taking the two weeks between now and NaNo to bone up on her course on Empowering Character’s Emotions. Very exciting indeed!

I’m also reading, which is supposed to be good for writers as well– C.J. Lyons’ second book, Warning Signs, a medical thriller that has all the best stuff from ER and other medical shows I’ve watched, as well as sampling some Harlequin Blaze titles to see how others write sex. (Yes, Uncle Ed, this means that these manuscripts might actually be worth reading…)

All in all, it looks like a productive holiday season, which is good for me–traditionally a slow time for family law attorneys, since most parents try to hold things together for the benefit of the children for a few weeks.  Nice to have something to look forward to.

So ladies and gentlemen, warm up your word processors and get ready to NaNo!

So why is it…?

Why is is that all the chain groceries and other stores are posting signs all over their front windows boasting “LOWER PRICES!” and “20% lower prices!” and “Storewide lower prices” ?  We know for a fact that employee costs have gone up, with the raise in minimum wage and insurance, and the prices of products have also increased with the increase in the price of gas as well as employee costs.

So store are paying more and charging us less?

Doesn’t that cut into their profit margin?

Or is that a belated admission that they had the prices jacked up real high before the economic bad times and were ripping us off hand over fist?

Anyone hear an apology?

No, I didn’t either.

While we’re on the subject

I remembered this week why I quit going to most of my outside groups:  I can’t stop talking about autism.

It’s not intentional. I don’t go to these meetings with the purpose of proselytizing, spreading the Word about the subject. It just happens.

For example, last week I went to a continuing education program on attachment disorders and bonding evaluations. At my table were a couple of attorneys who also work in the children’s dependency field, one of whom is a mother with kids similar in ages to mine.

As the well-known psychologist speaker went through the morning, he talked about how he’d evaluate parents and children who came to him, the different theories of parenting, and some of the equipment he’d use.

He talked about the “Strange Situation,” where a parent takes a young child into a room and then leaves her there; a stranger may then come in to try to comfort the child, before the parent returns.  The child’s reaction to the parent’s leaving and return and to the stranger are all analyzed.

I’ll tell you what–I would have lost all my kids. They never batted an eye when I left them at a sitter’s for work or any other time. They’d have just kept on with what they were doing. I shared this with my friend and she looked at me a little oddly, but nodded.

As we went on the speaker talked about other modes of evaluating how parents and children interact, and he raved about Dr. Greenspan’s Floortime. Now this is one every parent of an autistic child knows–and I had to share that fact. I figured probably the average person on the street wouldn’t have thought of this as “therapy,” and I just wanted them to know. (Even for big kids–see here.)

The same thing happened when he brought out the games he used for older children, like “Imaginiff.” The point of the game is two-fold; to take a given situation and select from a list of answers how another player might respond. Talk about theory of mind! And not only that, in order to get the points for the round, you apparently have to agree with the most other players–double whammy! I was practically babbling incoherently.

Another game he mentioned is called Never Ending Stories. Here players build a story cooperatively with the help of picture cards that direct action, feelings, etc.  For Little Miss, who struggles both with finding her words and working jointly with others on projects, it seemed perfect.

Pleased with my new acquisition of knowledge for the day, I still felt let down as I went home. I know I do the same with family members and most other people with whom I converse–the conversation ALWAYS seems to end up in a discussion of the impact of autism. Even when it’s not an active topic on the horizon, it seems we never escape it.

Maybe this is just a major flaw on my part. Or maybe it’s pervasive with parents of kids with autism. Perseveration, anyone? How do the rest of you keep your social lives intact and apart from this conversation?

This week, I’ve been invited to join the community over at Autisable.com, where bloggers writing about autism are gathered together.  Come by and check it out!