Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Minivan Mom

Well I've done what I swore I would never do again. I bought a minivan. We wore out two of the damn things back when the twins were babies and toddlers - practicality won out over coolness - but almost six years ago husband shocked the shit out of me and bought us a brand new Acura MDX. I love that car! It's COOL! I had a cool car! But my driving 25,000 miles a year has taken it's toll plus the twins have long stork legs that no longer can fold themselves into the way back seat.

So we traded in our little P.O.S. (but fun to drive when it was working) '93 Saab 900 turbo convertible for a Honda Odyssey ex-l. It was a no brainer when we found out the Saab qualified for the Cash for Clunkers program. The credit we got for it was five or six times more than the car was worth *and* was the same amount we paid for it so I figure it's the only car we have ever made money on. Or at least broke even with.

We're keeping the Acura because *gulp* daughter will be driving in a little over a year - plus I LOVE that car! - so I can still be cool when I'm just hauling around one or two people and don't need enough leg room for my rapidly growing progeny. Plus it has AWD which, if we have another snowpocalypse, we will definitely need.

Road trip '09 starts on Friday and the new van will make it infinitely more comfortable for everyone. The things can watch movies on the dvd player, daughter can stretch out on the very back bench seat and sleep and I can count my pennies as I get 25 mpg on the highway.

But I won't be cool.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Boys

Although the fact that Things 1 & 2 have Asperger's Syndrome is listed in my little bio to your right, I've yet to write about what it is and what it means to me, to them, and our family.  The kids and I leave for Road Trip '09 on July 31st and because we will be meeting up with my whores, the Vegas Show Girls, I thought this would be a good time to bring up the subject of Asperger's because Yo, Mel, and Christy have never met the Things and forewarned is forearmed!  (Shelly is their Stepgrandmonster so she already knows how brilliant - and difficult - they can be. :)

This short summary of Asperger's is by Nancy Mucklow and is the best description I've found yet for what Asperger's is:

Asperger Syndrome is a type of autism, and autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person interacts with others and his or her world. It’s not a mental illness, and it is not caused by weak parenting. In its more severe forms, it’s a disorder because it causes disorder in the life of the child. In its milder forms, it is more of a marked difference from the norm. In our culture, which judges people on the way they interact with others, these disorder-differences can have a profound impact on a person’s life.

You’ve probably heard the parents complaining about the difficulties they’ve had with the child in the home - obsessive behavior, irrational outbursts, wild fears, and irritability over the smallest issues. These problems are not misbehaviors, but rather the child’s responses to an inability to comprehend what is going on around them and inside them. Some experts have called it a “mind blindness,” one that causes the person to stumble and bump into complex social situations that they can’t “see.”

Yet by effectively “blinding” the mind to certain aspects of daily life, Asperger Syndrome enables the child’s mind to focus in a way that most of us are incapable of. They feel their feelings more intensely, experience texture, temperature and taste more powerfully, and think their thoughts more single-mindedly. In many ways, this ability to focus is the great gift of Asperger Syndrome, and is the reason why a great number people with Asperger Syndrome have become gifted scientists, artists and musicians.

It is as if the Asperger brain is born speaking a different language. It can learn our language through careful instruction or self-instruction, but it will always retain its accent. While Asperger adults go on to successful careers and interesting lives, they will always be considered unusual people.

Her summary is only part of the entire article which she wrote especially for Grandparent's of kids with Asperger's.  If you're at all interested, the whole article is available here.  Click on 'Family Matters' in the left column and it is the first link listed.

Things 1 & 2 fall into the "moderate" category of Asperger's, with Thing 1 presenting as slightly more "Aspie" than Thing 2.  Thing 2 has two common co-occurring issues in Aspie kids, severe depressive disorder and ADHD, both of which he takes medication for.  I'm also pretty sure that Thing 1 has some OCD issues but because they do not interfere with his day to day life I'm not worried about them and he isn't under treatment.

Talking to the Things is sort of like talking to Bill Nye the Science Guy on speed.  Or an encyclopedia read by that speed reader who used to do the teeny tiny car toy commercials.  Their current obsessions are politics (they are firmly in the liberal democrat camp), religion (Thing 1 is a militant atheist and Thing 2 is agnostic but much more open minded than his brother) and all things scientific.  Scientist Genius Brother *frequently* comes to my rescue and the boys call him once or twice a month to settle disagreements on the magnetic field of the earth, answer questions about the possibility of non-carbon based life forms on other planets and tell them what absolute zero is.  (Apparently it is different than just plain old zero.  Who knew?)  Thank GOD their uncle is a genius because most of the time I haven't got a clue what the hell the boys are talking about.

Reading people's body language and facial expressions is not something they can do without some help and prompting which means that they often talk LONG after their audience is bored with the topic and they haven't got a clue if someone is ticked off at them until they are specifically told.  Or thwacked on the head.  Whatever.

I learned long ago that getting upset, yelling and screaming or spanking them just escalates any behavior that I'm trying to stop.  We work on a lot of redirection, correction and explanation.  Thing 1 especially wants a rational explanation for every instruction he gets so we are currently working on just following my instructions and asking for explanations later because I can't always explain all my rationale to him right when I'm telling him to stop/start/change whatever it is he's doing at the time.  If he can do this by the time he is 16 I'll be happy.  Right now it's all practice all the time.  And lots of wine for me.

Thing 1 also is working on the tone of voice he says things in.  About 90% of what comes out of his mouth is just fine as far as the words go but the tone of voice he uses makes him sound like a total and complete asshole.  He comes across like a condescending prick and we're trying to help him be more aware of HOW he says things as well as what words he uses.  Some days it feels like a losing battle but we have to get him to understand and moderate his tone or else he is going to get his ass kicked.  A lot.

Thing 2 has struggled with social issues at school for a very long time but seems to be doing very well at a new school that he started at last November.  He wants friends, he wants to do social things but has a hard time cracking the social behavior norm codes that other kids expect from him.  Dungeons & Dragons, video games and internet sites have truly been a godsend for him and he has a few close friends with hopes for more next year.  Funnily enough, he gets along GREAT with girls and kids older and younger than he is.  It's his peers that he has the most trouble with.

Newsweek magazine published an article not long ago about autism and Ari Ne'eman, the 21 year old founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.  It was fascinating for me to read not just because of the information but because Ari sounds so much like my boys.  I hope that we can teach them to be as successful in the world as he has been.

But right now it isn't easy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crazy Making

Ninety-nine percent of the time being in a bi-cultural marriage (Fancy!  I didn't know that's what I was in until Marvelous Mom's church ladies asked me to come and speak to their group on the subject!) is a total non-issue for Husband and I.  He was 16 when he jumped into a pool without checking for water first and moved to the states with only the clothes on his back so he has assimilated (BORG!) into American culture seamlessly.  

We only fight about normal things like the fact that he never listens to anything I say so I have to tell him things forty-eleven times before they sink into his thick skull and the fact that he still hasn't re-caulked the fucking BATHTUB even though it started to mold WEEKS ago!!!

Sorry - got a little worked up there...

My point is that the fact that he was born and raised in Iran and I was born and raised in the US has never been an issue for us.

Except when his mother visits.

Intellectually I know that Iran is a rabidly patriarchal society (unlike the U.S. which is only common cold-ly patriarchal) and that Motherinlaw is a product of seventy some odd years of that culture.  However, knowing that does absolutely NOTHING to offset the unbelievable frustration with her behavior, most of which is the product of her culture.  The rest of it is age related.  I know because Grandmother acts the exact same way.  It's uncanny sometimes.

When a woman lives in a rabidly patriarchal society, she learns to get her way by being passive-aggressive, manipulative and emotional.  At least that is what Motherinlaw does to get her way.  I think my deduction that it is a result of her cultural heritage is pretty spot on because when first your father, then your husband and then your oldest son can do whatever they deem best for your life regardless of your own wishes and desires then you HAVE to be a sneaky bitch.

This is not to say that Motherinlaw's husband was a tyrant - he peeled her tomatoes for her for fucks sake, or that her oldest son who just happens to be Husband's brother is not trying to do what she wants, she is just physically and mentally incapable of being straight with him.  She tells him she is just fine staying here another two months - because that's what she thinks he wants to hear - and then when he is not around she makes my poor sisterinlaw's life a living hell.  (Lucky for me it is their turn to have her staying at their house, I got the first tour of duty this year.)

She really isn't a nasty person, or even bitchy, this is just how she deals with unexpected circumstances that have postponed her planned return to Iran.  I totally understand that she wants to go home but I also am frustrated that she won't be straight with her sons about what she wants and flat out refuses to make the last leg of the trip - from Europe to Tehran - by herself because she is afraid of getting lost in the airport in Tehran.  The city she lives in.  Surrounded by people who speak the same language she does.  With signs posted in the same language she reads.  It's calculated helplessness and it's driving me around the fucking bend!!!

The end result of all these shenanigans is that Husband will be taking her back to Iran on July 31st and returning on August 9th.  It is safer for him to take her because he is not a U.S. citizen like his brother, but given the precarious political situation there right now I'm still very nervous about him making the trip.  Not to mention that he wasn't originally going to be the one to take her home so he has to rearrange his entire life to do so.

I am trying very hard to keep my BIG FAT MOUTH shut about everything and not lash out at husband because I'm frustrated with his mom.  I *know* it's cultural, I *know* she's an old lady and isn't going to change anytime soon and I *know* I don't understand but it's still driving me bonkers!  So y'all get to read my rant instead.  Lucky you!

But if husband gets thrown in an Iranian jail I will show Motherinlaw what a strong, straight-talking, direct woman looks like!  ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


We had a great time taking husband's Mom to the zoo the other day.  Things 1 & 2 took very good care of her...

Husband even convinced her to ride in a wheelchair most of the time so she wouldn't be in pain from all the walking.  Here she is posing with Thing 2 and his long-lost brother...

We also took a friend of daughter's along.  Here they are goofing around like the silly baboons that they are...

No matter how old the kids get, they always love going to the zoo!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday You Whore!

Today I wrote a guest post for my friend Yo's birthday.  We are totally twins separated at birth.  Well, and by a few years too.

Go check out the twisted, naughty sense of humor that we share!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?!?!

Daughter and I finally saw Up! tonight.  IT COST US $25.50 JUST TO GET IN!!!  I almost choked on the spot when the cashier told me the total.  It was a great movie but not that great.  In fact I've decided that no movie on the planet is worth that kind of money to see in theaters.

Except the new Harry Potter movie.  Which we are going to see on opening day next week.  *Ahem*