A local tradition–Fair time!

It would be difficult to find a bigger event in our county than the annual fair. It’s said to be the largest agricultural fair in the state. it sure feels like it on my broken knees at the end of walking around it all afternoon, that’s for sure!

I was originally not going so early in the week the events will be going on, but I made the mistake of discovering that a live wrestling event was going on. Not the  WWE, mind you, but a smaller, local version thereof. Little Miss has become a huge fan of WWE. for some reason, and I missed a chance to take her to an event last year. So I bucked up my courage and muscle relaxers and we headed out to the fair grounds.

IMGP2233She picked seats that had a great view,  away from the main crowd, and the bulk of the noise. I was also tickled that she managed to go to the  busy souvenir table, and negotiate her own signed photo of a wrestler, IMGP2224with her own money, despite a barn full of sensory distractions.

The matches were hot and heavy, and she got to see Asylum, her IMGP2225pictured wrestler fight.

My favorite was the last fight we watched….hard to tell who the “bad guy” was. The fight was allegedly for some Pennsylvania championship, and the current champ, IMGP2227“Big Time” Bill Collier, sure had a big shiny belt on. But he was fighting this little skinny guy in tie-dyed yoga pants, who IMGP2227went by the name Jimi the Flying Hippie. How could I not cheer for Jimi?

 

The crowd was funny, too, because Big Time came out as a bad guy….but sure as shooting, the politics in this backwoods haven of conservatives took over and the poor pinko hippie IMGP2237had no chance at all.

Once she’d had her fill of the entertainment this provided, we walked the fair grounds until I couldn’t stand it any more. We checked out the Home Show buildings, where she got comic books from the CCDAEC  that convinced her that I needed to stop drinking my once monthly wine coolers because I am clearly an alcoholic. *eye roll*

IMGP2241Of course we stopped by the Methodist Church building to have homemade pie! She tried strawberry rhubarb on purpose because it was something new. 🙂

And no Nick! Serious disappointment there.

Lastly, it was annoying as hell that the carousel they got this year was for little kids only, and they wouldn’t let her ride. She was nearly in tears, but stopped just short. It’s been her go-to ride, guaranteed at least five times a fair. She needs the spinny thing to help with her fair sensory overload. They didn’t even have bench seats, like most do, for the older people to relive a bit of their youth with a ride. Considering they charge admission including rides for everyone this year, you’d think everyone should have access to the rides. End rant.

So we went on the ferris wheel instead, and she pronounced herself IMGP2242satisfied, and reluctantly declared it her new favorite. From there we could see them setting up  hundreds of seats in addition to the grandstand for the Jake Owen concert. We left just before that onslaught of folks began to arrive. Yay!

Now for a night of trying my new magnesium oil spray and letting Little Miss de-stress. She had an amazing day, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

A brief interlude

IMGP2184I got a chance to travel to Florida this weekend to a friend’s wedding, a long-time compatriot from my newspaper days. She was the matron of honor at my second wedding (or third, depending on how you count it), and I’m the godmother of her first son. That being said, we haven’t been closely in touch for years, though we do manage to have a face-to-face at least once every couple of years.

Florida is beautiful and sunny in May, though the temperatures were considerably higher than I was used to, after a long winter in the IMGP2180frozen Northlands. The wedding itself took place on the beach in Melbourne. Both the bride and groom wore white–before Memorial Day! *fans self*  Most of my lady friends in the South would have fainted dead away. It was short and sweet, and the view was delightful. The ceremony was followed by a small but energetic reception with some of the best food I’ve had in awhile–jerk IMGP2181chicken, reggae shrimp and this lovely cake:

I also fit in a trip to my dear friend Edde’s in Fort Pierce, where we had lovely weather except for the last night, when IMGP2190some serious dark clouds rolled in over the ocean, dragging thunder and lightning with them. But we still had a nice visit. She was feeling a good deal better than she had been in December, when last we visited, so that was something to be grateful for.

Little Miss spent the weekend with her dad, which I hope did them both some good. Certainly a little “me” time was appreciated. And of course, nothing says Florida like this:IMGP2172

Not something you see every day….

 

 

Taking a moment to recognize success

little_girl_hugging_her_mom_0515-1004-2122-0454_SMUAnd in the end, the love you take

is equal to the love you make…  

(Lennon.McCartney)

 

Living with a child on the spectrum is so often a one-way street. No matter how you model appropriate emotional reactions or human interactions, many times there is no reciprocal response. While a neurotypical child may glean an empathetic response from experiencing such interaction in her own life, the same isn’t always true of a child with autism.

I say this having lived with three children on the spectrum, two of the Aspie leaning and the other more “typically” autistic. The boys often have no idea how to respond to emotional displays or the needs of others. (Surely this is why Sheldon Cooper has been taught by rote that when someone is upset, they should be offered a hot beverage.)

Little Miss, however, has come a long way on her road.

I know this because as I’m watching THE JUDGE this evening, a movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall (which I highly recommend), there comes a part where a situation very near to my own life occurs, and it hits me right in the gut. I start bawling, kind of caught off guard by the depth of the emotional net that traps me.

My daughter, who’s playing in her room, calls out to me, then when I don’t answer, she comes out to the living room,, concerned. She asks if I’m all right, and when I explain the parallels in the situation, she slides next to me on the couch and puts her arm around me, telling me it’s all right and that my parents will always live in my heart, so I shouldn’t be sad. When I manage to get under control, she leaves me long enough to bring me her own tissue box. She waits until I’m all dried up and then reminds me it’s okay before she goes back to what she was doing.

red flowers

red flowers

The enormity of what I experienced brought another whole round of tears, for a very different reason. Out of that quiet, self-absorbed girl, such a display of exactly the right reaction was unexpected–even more reassuring that she knows how to be a kind and loving person, and may, someday, be able to exist on her own and have friends and loved ones in her life. What a blessing. Just another reminder that none of us should give up, even when the going is tough. Hope is in the love you make for your child to experience. 🙂

 

Don’t assume, ask–a rule to live by

When I was a kid, maybe fourth or fifth grade, one of the highest honors you could get was to be chosen as a school Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signcrossing guard. Remember those kids? They would wait with the professional guard and help others cross the street, take care of stragglers, all that sort of thing.

At Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Euclid, Ohio, in order to be selected as a student guard, you had to have all A’s and B’s and be a good, reliable student. I’d transferred to the school in fourth grade, so I didn’t get chosen right away, of course, and that was fine. So in fifth grade, I was ready when they announced the names, because I always had good grades and was a teachers’ pet kind of gal. But they didn’t announce mine.

So I worked even harder, and when they announced the names for sixth grade, I just knew I’d be included. They nominated other girls who lived on my street. They nominated just about every one of my classmates in the top reading group. But they didn’t pick me.

I was devastated.

What was wrong with me? I mean, I remember being one of those nerdy kids the cool kids picked on. My stepmother had an odd sense of children’s fashion, and I didn’t have a lot of friends. But this could have been a real self-esteem builder and verification to the other students that I wasn’t a total loser.

It took me awhile, but finally I got up the courage to ask my teacher why I hadn’t been selected. She smiled quite fondly and said, “Oh, Barbara dear, we didn’t think your parents would let you participate.”

So they hadn’t even given me the chance to ask if I could–the school officials had just made that decision for me. Expecting I’d be disappointed by my parents saying ‘no,’ they were being kind by not inviting me.  Forty years later, I still feel that disappointment and loss of vindication.

Raising children on the spectrum brings me into a confrontation with this issue a lot. How often do others–or even us as parents–leave our kids out of activities because it’s assumed they won’t like it/do well at it/be interested? Are we being kind when we shield them from potential failure?

If I assumed that Little Miss couldn’t deal with loud activities because of her sensory issues, she’d never have signed up for chorus, which is one of her favorite classes at school now. She loves singing at concerts. IMGP0394

She would have missed one of the greatest concerts we ever attended–and one she loved–because we’d have skipped it rather than helping her cope with a set of good headphones and a blanket to cover her head when it got overwhelming.

We might have assumed that she couldn’t compete with other children in the county fair contests, but she tended her flowers and won a ribbon every year. She attended dance classes, even though she opted out of the performance. That was okay with me, because I asked her opinion first. She wanted to dance with Miss Heather, but she didn’t want to participate in the end of season event. I don’t see that as someone who doesn’t finish what they start, I see it as someone who’s empowered to make their own choices for age-appropriate activities.

The boys, too, have been offered options–martial arts classes, music classes, theater classes, after school gaming sessions. They don’t choose many, not being particularly ambitious. But they get the first chance of refusal, which I believe is the right way to go.

What about you? Have there been events or activities you’ve offered to your children that you thought they couldn’t/wouldn’t like or be able to participate? Is it better to keep them from the disappointment of failure? What have they tried and succeeded at that surprised you?

***

VoodooDreams_w7507_medOn the same note, I will not assume that you don’t like free books, but I will ASK if you’re interested in this, the third book of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series, standalone novels of romantic suspense, all with a heroine who’s a lawyer in the great city of Pittsburgh. VOODOO DREAMS is FREE for Kindle December 17-21. You may get one for yourself and as many friends as you think would like it for Christmas! Here’s the storyline:

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious–but handsome–lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He’d much rather devote himself to her–especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to threaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle’s clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

 

Whither my little girls have gone?

I’m on the road today, somewhere in Iowa, on my way to a five day intensive writing workshop with Margie Lawson, having a “deluxe continental breakfast.” Not really sure what continent it might be from, but the coffee is fabulous.

But the topic of conversation on the TODAY show overhead is whether mothers and daughters can be best friends. They interview a set who are, at the same time the experts are horrified and gasping “no! No!”

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Not about being best friends with my daughters, but my relationship with them. As I’ve said before, most of my girls packed up and bailed for parts unknown. M picked the Navy, traveled the world, met The One, has a lovely family now living in Florida and soon to take off for foreign parts, if she has her way. B lives 2500 miles away in Nevada. K moved to North Carolina. (D is still in town, but she’s so busy we hardly see each other!) It’s hard to stay close from that distance.  They have their own lives. Mother isn’t part of it.

I asked M recently if she’d done it on purpose, moved away to exclude me. She laughed and called me a “silly mom” and assured me it wasn’t like that.

So many people I know in our small town live here forever. As do their parents. Children. Brothers. Sisters. Cousins. Even the ones once removed. Big family parties, cookouts, so on.  I see B doing this with her new family, and I’m glad she has the support.

So am I wishing they were too frightened of the “big world outside” to leave to stay home near me? Of course not. Maybe I’ve just done my job and sent them out, free and secure, to fly on their own, like any good mother bird.

At the same time, I resent only seeing them once every year or two. I wish they were close so we could do things together, so I wouldn’t worry when they had hard times, so I could pop over with a pot roast when I knew they needed it.

Mary Quigley quotes Jonas Salk like this:

Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them. — Jonas Salk

She makes some good points in her piece on adult children. It’s certainly not my intention to become a helicopter parent. I hate flying, for one. But I have grandchildren I hardly know, and all three of these girls are just slipping away in the passage of time. None of us knows how much time might be allotted to us. We might say, “Oh, someday we’ll…” but we don’t know whether we’ll ever get that chance.

Meantime, I suppose, I should be grateful they’re flying so successfully. If they don’t need me then I’ve done my job, right? It makes sense. But sometimes it just doesn’t satisfy my heart.

Little Miss is now a woman…

Isn’t this a fabulous menarche goddess? I found it here. I remember the pieces we did in The Vagina Monologues about  the first time, and all the reactions mothers had–girls getting slapped, girls forced on birth control, girls given a beautiful feast and celebration with their female relatives.

But this is Little Miss we’re talking about.

She and I have had some basic conversation along this line, and I’ve tried to demonstrate for her as I could with my own few and far-between events. As I recall, her comment was, “I don’t think I like that.”

Join the club, honey.

But as evening draws to a close and she has used the proper tools for the job, as she is wont to do, the night is quiet. Four horsemen did not appear. The air did not fill with the sound of angry thunder and sharp lightning, and the earth did not split open. We had ice cream and a nice kiss for remembering to tell me when it happened.

Surely not the end of it. But an acceptable beginning.

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. 🙂