Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm Leavin' On A Jet Plane!

We are less that 24 hours from the big family vacation, and I am DISTRACTED!

I took Rusty and Jerome to the kennel in Booming Metropolis this morning. I miss them already. I have driven that route at least twice a month for the last four years, and yet somehow this morning, I managed to miss my turnoff on the way there...and then again on the way back! My only excuse is that the fog was pea-soup dense this morning. And also, I am really stressed.

We're flying to North Carolina for the Captain's leave from Afghanistan, renting a car and taking a leisurely road trip designed to stop in on the three siblings I have in the south. So we'll spend our first weekend in North Carolina with Sister #4, make our way to Northern Florida to see Brother #2 and then finish up in New Mexico with Brother #1. We figured the kids would get more out of a road trip than an all-inclusive at this point. And I'm really looking forward to the road trip part.

But here's the kicker. The Captain, in his infinite wisdom, decided that it'd be easiest for us to all just meet in North Carolina. No prizes for guessing who that plan is actually easiest for! While he's relaxing on a nice long flight with movies, magazines and snacks, I'll be flying alone with two small children, having to make a tight connection in Minneapolis and having to make the two-hour drive to the airport here with no other adult around to pick up the slack and remember everything I forgot. For all my talk about how independent and strong military life makes me, when it comes to having to fly solo with my kids, I am the world's biggest wimp.

If we were driving, I'd be absolutely fine right now. I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I'm realizing that I am just not someone who likes to have to make a scheduled timing...for anything. There's a good reason my hair hasn't been touched by a professional since January 2005. I'm almost always ten minutes early for everything, but having to be somewhere at a specific time sends my brain into a frenzy.

However, escaping my comfort zone once in a while is good for me, so I'm doing my best to try to embrace this, and I've decided that the only thing I can do is to take care of the things I CAN control, and let go of the things I can't. Here are the questions that are currently running through my brain:

1. What if the alarm doesn't go off and I miss my flight?
2. What if the car breaks down halfway to the airport and I miss my flight?
3. What if I can't figure out those stupid automatic check-in machines at the airport and mess things up so badly I either miss my flight or end up on a different plane from my kids?!
4. What if my kids are horrible on both flights and I can't quiet them down?
5. What if flight #1 is late and we miss flight #2?

Here is how I've tried to control things:

1. I've set my alarm, checked that it's on AM, made sure the radio is nice and loud and reminded myself that it has, to this point, never not gone off when it was supposed to.
2. Had my car checked at our local garage and been assured that everything looks good, all fluids are topped up and the tires are properly inflated and in good condition. I also got myself a CAA membership as backup.
3. Reminded myself that there are still a few humans at the airport who are there to help me. Plus, no one at any airline anywhere is going to allow Rosemary's Baby on an airplane without me there to hold him down. And if they do, it's their own tough luck, and I will enjoy a margarita and 3 quiet hours to myself!
4. Packed every snack, toy and distraction I can think of (including headphones for the movie), as well as a full bottle of liquid children's Gravol to put them to sleep if necessary. I also have a giant bottle of regular Gravol to share with every other adult on the plane in case the kids' Gravol doesn't do the job. I'm always thinkin'.
5. If we miss our second flight, I've told myself that they will just put us on another one and I will use my cell phone to call and update everyone who needs to know. Not a big deal.

Putting these silly fears into perspective made me think that perhaps I could go further and become super zen about the whole thing. So I googled "tips for flying with kids" , only to realize I've pretty much already thought of everything. Well, everything practical anyway. Most of the tips were things like "remember to pack an extra diaper" and "bring some toys for the kids". Well, DUH!

And then there was the utterly ridiculous. My favourite: "Dress extra-snazzy, wear large sunglasses and pretend you're a celebrity jetting off on vacation with your little ones." Good lord. I can just picture myself when Rosemary's Baby inevitably breaks away and races off through the crowds to follow something colourful. I'll be tottering behind him on 8" heels, unable to see anything through my dark, non-prescription glasses, and dragging our massive red duffle bag and a six year-old behind me. This, of course, would come after I had to explain to everyone wanting my autograph why such a high-profile celebrity as myself is travelling economy class. I think I'll stick to my jeans and running shoes, thanks!

48 hours from now, I'll be reunited (read: bickering) with my main squeeze, have several extra pairs of hands available to manage my naughty children, and be enjoying temperatures that are practically tropical compared to what we've got here in Manitoba. Either that, or my aorta will have exploded and I'll have lots of time to blog from the intensive care unit. It's win-win! And that last one sounds positively relaxing!

Back in two weeks, my loyal subjects!

Monday, February 15, 2010


This evening I was giving my kids a bath. Rosemary's Baby has a new set of bath crayons from his therapist, who has just started a year-long maternity leave. She wanted to give him something that would encourage him to write and draw, one of his goals for this year. Rosemary's Baby had fun this evening writing on himself with them, while Firstborn took them to the inside surface of the bathtub.

I was reading a magazine and not paying much attention to what they were doing, when I looked up to see this:

Where does a 6 year-old learn this stuff?! He tells me he saw an animated character talking about his "sexy new hairstyle" on a kids' game site, and then wants me to explain to him exactly what "sexy" means!

Time to tighten up the parental controls!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, kids!

For the third year in a row, I am celebrating alone while the Captain is off having fun with the army. It's already looking like next year will bring more of the same. So I'm starting to learn that if I want romance on February 14th, I'm going to have to create it for myself.

I was trying to think today about all the little, insignificant things that I love. Because all the big, super-significant things I love seem to exist on this earth for the sole purpose of breaking my stuff and making messes and smells, which isn't romantic at all.

But my heart isn't quite in it this year. I'm trying to prepare for our (stressful, horrendous, scary) family vacation next week. Between that and Firstborn's declaration that I have to make a heart-shaped dessert tonight (I don't even own a heart-shaped cookie cutter), it was all I could do to think up ONE romantic thing to post. So here you have it. A band I have always loved for its inherent ability to heap on the romance, but hold the cheese.

I promise to try my darndest to leave you with a proper post before we head out next week. I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with love, romance, and only a minimum of mess.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If Only There Was a Protective Slipcover for Bad Shopping Decisions

And now back to what this blog is really all about.

In December, I got sick and tired of dealing with dog hair and juice stains on my couch. We have one of those oversized microfiber things in bright red. It is incredibly unforgiving. So I decided it was finally time to get a slipcover.

I've used slipcovers before, and I find that they slip and slide all over the place, and the end result is that it looks like you just draped your furniture in a big bedsheet. With that in mind, I decided to go all out and get one of the stretchy ones, which I convinced myself was sure to be the answer I was looking for. It'd cling to what it was supposed to and be form-fitting, and suddenly my dog hair problem would be a thing of the past and my life would be all martinis and designer gowns. What could possibly go wrong?!

Here is a picture of the slipcover I chose:

Here is a picture of what it looks like on my couch:

I guess technically it does protect the way it's supposed to (please note: Rosemary's Baby is not wearing any pants), but the nature of the fabric actually makes it a hair magnet that even my washing machine can't hope to salvage. The fact that it just sort of squashes the back cushions into place and makes everything else look lumpy and depressed leaves me thinking I won't be having anyone over for martinis anytime soon.
I hope my dogs appreciate that I spent $90 to turn my couch into a fancy dog bed. At least it was on sale.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Part Two, With a Happy Ending

I couldn't get all that stuff that was floating around in my head to make up one post without it turning into an incoherent rant. So I'm going to get to the second part and then I promise we can talk about something else.

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I read a news article online that resonated with me and then I made the mistake of looking over the reader comments after it, which got me a little riled. Let me just say that I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm against debate. I welcome clear-headed debate on any issue. I simply feel that sometimes when emotions are running high, we zero-in on trying to convince others that we are right, and in the process we miss the bigger picture. My argument here is that if an acceptable amount of work was being done by the world of science into this epidemic, there would be no need for debate. We'd have some bloody answers.

But anyway, the debate was not even what got me riled. It was actually something that I've complained about before, which is the need for some people out there to float around cyberspace looking for nasty things to say to complete strangers, usually anonymously, to make themselves feel smart or superior or powerful. Regardless of where I see this happening (and I see it far too often, unfortunately), it always makes my blood boil.

In this particular instance, I read comments that described our autistic children as "retarded", "slow" and "mentally challenged". I read comments claiming that parents who were questioning the vaccine schedule were knowingly hurting children, and that they were sheep, mindlessly following someone called "Dr. Playboy". It occurred to me that people who would publicly post such hurtful things probably don't even know anyone with autism. And that just made me madder.

So then I spent the next few days feeling angry at the world, convinced that most of the people in it were nasty, sad, powerless little people who just wanted to spread their spite and create ugliness. And not just on this topic. I see it everywhere. Blogs I love frequently have some jerk show up and anonymously insult the author via the comments box. And we all know that for that one stupid, uneducated piece of nastiness, there are probably ten positive comments. But it's that one mean one that sticks in the back of your mind, irritating you afterwards. It's what these people count on.

I admit that for a few days afterwards, I was a little irrational about the whole thing. I saw the world as a place where my child will never be accepted, and where the quality of his life will forever be judged as inferior by others. I admit, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

And then came my roadside adventure.

Late yesterday afternoon I was driving the kids home from a program on the base. They were tired and cranky, and I needed to pee. The road I took is a dirt road, and it is the same road I had my accident on a couple of years ago. Yesterday, it was snowing and, as usual, the road had been cleared just wide enough for a child's bicycle to fit through. As I came to a bend in the road, I realized I couldn't really see if anything was coming around the corner towards me, and I should try to get over to the right a little so I didn't get taken by surprise. Everything out there was very white, and I completely misjudged exactly how deep that snow to the right of the road was. Before I knew it, I was pulled right into it and stuck in a snowbank. My kids were not impressed. And I still needed to pee.

Within one minute of realizing I wasn't going to get out of this on my own, a truck pulled up on the other side and a lady got out and came over. I told her I'd usually just call my husband, but he's in Afghanistan. She repiled "Mine too! Who can we call?!" And we stood there giggling over the insanity of military life, and how this stuff ALWAYS happens when they're away.

As we were trying to figure out the closest towing company to call, another car pulled up. In it was a couple who lived on a nearby farm. They told us to hang on and they'd come back with their tractor. The military wife stayed with us that whole time and within about a half hour, the farmers were back not in their tractor, but in a truck. They had me pulled out of the snow in about 15 minutes. As I sat in the driver's seat trying to carefully reverse my car while the truck slid from side to side on the road, pulling me slowly out, and as my car finally moved safely back out onto that road, the wife of the farmer, and the military wife who had stuck around to keep me company, started jumping up and down, clapping and cheering. Even my kids stopped whining.

It occured to me then that the world is really not made up mostly of people who want to create ugliness. Here I had three people I didn't know from Adam who, out of nothing more than a desire to do some good, had taken an hour out of their Saturday to pull a complete stranger out of a snowbank. Manitoba has the worst weather known to man. But it also has the best people.

And then I thought about all the other issues happening in the world today (yes, it's true. Autism isn't the ONLY one!). And I remembered the millions of dollars that have been raised to help earthquake victims in Haiti, the soldiers who put themselves in harm's way to promote and protect freedom throughout the world, the countless people who run, walk and fundraise for any number of charitable causes, and the people who open doors for you when they see you struggling with a couple of kids and bagloads of their crap. And now that I'm rational again, I can recognize that, without a doubt, this thing happened to me yesterday for a reason. I needed that little push from the universe to remind me of something I already knew deep down. That the number of people out there who want to create good in the world far, far, far outnumber those who want to create ugliness and evil.

And also to pee BEFORE going for a drive.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Some Autism Talk

I've been trying to formulate this post in my head for a couple of days, but all the little bits of it are flying around up there and I can't get them to settle. Here goes.

Earlier this week I read a news story online about the Lancet retracting the study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield potentially connecting the MMR vaccine with autism and bowel issues. For those of you not familiar, this study has been a source of serious controversy for a good few years now, with Dr. Wakefield having been accused of professional misconduct, both in how he obtained the data for his paper and in failing to disclose that he was being paid by lawyers representing parents of autistic children who were potentially looking to launch a lawsuit. He has denied the charges. Ten of his 12 co-authors have published retractions, essentially removing themselves from the whole thing. Is he a guilty scumbag who falsified data and took kickbacks? Is he the innocent victim of a smear campaign headed up by a pharmaceutical industry that has a whole lot to lose in all this? Or do the facts fall somewhere in between? I have absolutely no idea.

I don't know why I still do this to myself, but after reading the article, I scrolled down and started perusing the reader comments. There were hundreds of them. It's a very hot topic, especially for those of us with children on the spectrum. But there was very little talk about the actual article. You know, the part about the doctor who maybe, possibly, probably screwed things up badly enough to have his work completely discredited?? What everyone really seemed to want to do was debate the vaccine theory.

I have my own very strong, controversial opinions on this theory so I understand that desire to convince people one way or the other. In moments of serious irrationality (WHO? ME?!), I have posted articles, opinions and lord knows what else on facebook for all my family, friends and casual acquaintances to be thoroughly alienated by. I have no problems with people sharing what has worked for them. God knows, at this point, that's about all we've got. But when you're talking to someone who has her very own little human petrie dish at home, feeding her new data every day about the puzzling, mysterious, baffling conundrum that is autism, you're unlikely to change her mind. She already knows. Very few of us are just sitting on the fence waiting to be enlightened. And to try to convince the mother who watched helplessly as her child regressed after a vaccine that it was a mere coincidence--or to inform the mother who knows in her heart that it's entirely genetic that the numbers don't add up--is self-righteous and a waste of breath.

It isn't that I don't want the whole world stepping up and shouting about this at the top of its collective lungs. Something that, in the span of less than 30 years, has gone from an incidence rate of 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 110 is something we should all be setting aside our bickering for, and demanding answers to. Research needs to be done, and it needs to be done thoroughly. We don't need guesswork. We need answers. And we need help.

And if what Dr. Wakefield is accused of turns out to be true, it doesn't matter what side of this issue any of us sits on. He's set back progress either way, and done ALL of our children a grave disservice.