A Mom and Her Boy

LoveJust took an evening walk with The Boy around the block, because today was a gorgeous day — 82 and sunny, and this evening was a perfect summery evening, where the temp in the house is about the same as it is out of the house, and neighbors are playing in the yard.

We held each other close and talked about things to come and the things around us like the birds, and why they eat worms.

I love these moments when I get to hold my boy’s hand, when he wants my arm around him, when he seeks hugs.  I know that pretty soon, he may not seek me out for this kind of comfort anymore.  These simple moments are precious, and I know it.

Love that boy!

Crafty Bridal Headband

In case you didn’t know, I have short hair.  No, really short.  I don’t have the luxury of getting my hair all done fancy for special events, like, I dunno… a wedding.  I’ve been pinning pictures of brides with short hair for awhile to get a feel for my options.  You know what?  There aren’t too many pictures of brides with short hair on the interwebs!  But the ones I did find looked super cute with a simple headband.

Next step was to price headbands, and when I saw that they run at least $25 or $30 (sometimes more), I thought I could make something I really liked myself, for cheaper (probably).  So I started pinning DIY headband tutorials like this one.  I still didn’t have a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted, but I was anxious to get crafty, so I headed off to Hobby Lobby.

This is what I came home with:


All told, I spent about $16 including tax on the various supplies.  I sat down one afternoon and started playing with the supplies, literally throwing things together to see what came out.  One of the first things I did was wrap the off-white ribbon (the kind that has a bit of wire in the edges, so it stays put) around the headband.  This particular headband even had a handy little wrap of ribbon around the ideal spot to place a feature embellishment:

headbandwrapped headband

(And even better, there happened to be a knot in the ribbon that ended up right at that spot, so I could still locate it after I wrapped the headband!)  I hot glued the ends of the ribbon to the headband when I was done wrapping.

Next I started playing with which embellishment would go on the headband.  I had picked up some flat-ish crocheted flower shapes in the scrapbooking section and started playing around with those to see if I could make it into something that looked decent:

placement1up close crochet

Then I stitched them down to the black felt right down the center, so it would stay in place.

Next I started beading the center of the flower with some glass pearls (4mm, I think), and some light pink crystal beads:


When I finished with the flower center, I added some “bridal trim” to the outer spokes.  The trim came in one long piece, but I simply cut each individual flower off and hot glued it in place:

"bridal trim"all trimmed

Next I hot glued all of the edges to the black felt, and cut the felt shape out.  I put a dab of hot glue right on the headband, and placed the embellishment on the dab of glue.  Then I cut some felt patches to glue to either side of the band to hold the embellishment in place:

glued felt patches to hold in place

And then I tried on the finished product:

finished headbandon the bride!

Not bad for $16 and a little crafty fun!

Progress: Noticing a Difference

measuring resultsI’ve done a few posts about exercise over the past year, and if you’ve been around awhile, you know it’s a relatively new concept for me.  For most of my life, my high metabolism has carried me through, and I haven’t been too worried about what I eat, or my weight in general.  Around the time of the breakup of my marriage, I was at my heaviest, and lost a lot that summer and fall, getting back to my more normal weight range.  And then about a year ago, I started to notice the cellulite and flab creeping in, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t so happy with what I saw in the mirror.  Last winter, I bought some weights and a bike trainer so I could ride my own bike (which I love!) indoors.  I also started breaking out the yoga mat again on a semi-regular basis.  And it lasted awhile, but I didn’t really see results, so I slacked off and got out of the routine.  This past fall, I wrote about needing to get back into some kind of routine, because I was shocked at weighing in at the doctor’s and finding I was 15 pounds over my normal weight – yikes!  And then I came up with a plan.  And when that wasn’t quite working, I adjusted it a bit.  I struggled with it.  I really, really struggled with it, and I felt like I was failing.

And then in March, something clicked.  I started sticking to my plan.  The thing I thought I’d never do, get up early to workout, started working for me.  I found I wasn’t tired, I was very willing to get up and get on the bike, and just ride.  It was another opportunity for some alone time, and to process thoughts, so it wasn’t a crazy, chicken-with-its-head-cut-off kind of all-at-once start to my day.  And I coupled it with some targeted, low-impact exercises found on Pinterest a few minutes before bedtime.

And then…  I actually upped it.  I was riding the bike 3 times a week, and I bumped it up to 5 days a week (although sometimes I take a day off to do a 20 minute yoga routine instead).  And I started doing the night-time exercises every night.  And I added another routine found on Pinterest, and some sumo squats.  Not a ton, but enough to burn.  And I kept upping my resistance on the bike, making sure I was still sweating by the time I was done.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve gotten a few updates, which I promised, and which helps keep me accountable, and since the beginning of March, I’ve lost two inches on my hips!  And I woke up yesterday, and I couldn’t see my saddlebags anymore.  And that inner-thigh fat?  It’s fading.  They say it takes four weeks for you to notice the changes, and 8 weeks for close friends and family.  It’ll be interesting to see what The Man says when he comes to visit this week.

All I know is, for the first time in my life, I am enjoying working out, and I’m seeing results. 😀

Delayed Gratification

Pictures had to be taken of all the princess dollies...

Pictures had to be taken of all the princess dollies…

Today, The Boy and I went shopping with PITA, Princess, and Sunshine.  Sunshine was in rare form, and not a little contrary all afternoon, so PITA was having a time of it.  Trying to win the Best Auntie award, I bought the girls spring dresses that were on sale at Sears, and then we went to lunch at The Boy’s favorite restaurant (even though he and I had just been there for fun Friday two nights ago).  We have our routines when we go to this restaurant — he likes to order an orange juice in their large to-go cup, and insists on sharp crayons.  He also likes to order a strawberry sundae (which he likes to joke is a “Sunday with a y”), with no whipped cream.  We started to come to the end of our meal, and I turned my head and whispered that maybe we should wait on the ice cream until after we had left the girls at their house, because I didn’t think PITA wanted to get the girls ice cream after the afternoon we’d had, and I didn’t want The Boy to eat it in front of them.  So I was whispering away in his ear, as he started whimpering because we were going to break routine, and he was “being punished”, but as I spoke, and as I reasoned, he started to understand.  Finally, he agreed, and no more was said about the “Sunday with a y”.  We left the restaurant, and even went to a couple more stores (luckily Target was on the list – another of his favorites, and another we had just visited for fun Friday), and then we dropped the girls off at home.  He quickly reminded me of our deal, and I told him I would keep my promise, because that’s important, but also because he really deserved it for being such a trooper all afternoon.  Little girls can be trying for any eleven year old boy, but especially for this one who likes his routines.  He hung around fitting rooms while the girls tried on three dresses apiece, was patient with their jokes and questions, and agreed to forgo his usual treat at his favorite restaurant.

I told him how proud I was, and that he had shown me how very mature he was becoming.  For a typical kid, this might be normal or even the expectation, but for mine, it was such a huge victory, and a great Mothers’ Day present.  Soooo proud.

To Mothers

It’s Mothers’ Day.  Today is a day that not every mom gets to celebrate because a lot of us do it on our own, and our kids are too little to understand.  So you just keep on keeping on as if it’s just another day.  If you are a mom that won’t get any special treatment today, know that I celebrate you, because I’ve been there, and it can be a tough day, reminding you of your single-ness.  But it should also remind you of your strength.  Find some way to treat yourself today.  I’m cheering you on.


I don’t often know what to say when people tell me I’m a good mom.  My mind immediately fixates on the last time I was not a good mom, as if to provide proof of the contrary.  You see, no one knows the true quality of my mom-ness except for The Boy.  He’s the one who sees me as a mom at my best and at my worst.  Kind of like a married couple — no one can see inside that relationship except those two people.  You may get glimpses, but never the whole picture.  But unlike a married couple, The Boy didn’t consciously sign up for this relationship with me, and neither does any kid on the whole planet.  You don’t get to choose your own mom.

mom&meThat’s the reason I am so glad I have the mom I do.  I know quite a few people whose moms were really, spectacularly not-good.  And that’s a hard thing.  Moms are so much to those of us who have them.  They are our first and last teachers, they are our home, they are our comfort, they are the voice of reason.  Mine also happens to be one of my best friends.

Let me be clear that she was NOT my best friend when I was growing up.  She was my mom, and she never once fell into that trap that today’s parents tend to – making poor parenting decisions because they are afraid their child won’t like them.  Bleh.  Nope.  Mom was Mom with clear expectations, and consequences (although she will say she never had to use them because I was such a good kid – she forgets how messy my room was, and how she threatened to come in with a garbage bag and throw everything on the floor in it, and hence in the garbage).

She taught me how to put on pantyhose, how to jitterbug, and how to drive a stick.  But more importantly, she taught me how to mother.  She never told me to clean my plate, only to eat until I was full.  She read to me all the time when I was little, and we read near each other as I got older, my dad often calling us “the bookends” because we were often on either end of the couch, sharing a blanket, and reading.  We still do this, to this day.  She taught me to cuddle, kiss, and hold hands often.  She taught me to listen without passing judgment (at least not right away).  She taught me to accept differences, respect hard work and education, and value independence.  She taught me the importance of believing in and loving myself.

I can only hope that I am teaching my own son these things, as well.  But if I fail, I know she’s got my back, because she also happens to be the best Grammy in the world, too.

Moving On

I’ve worked in the same place for twelve years.  And although I have had other jobs, even within this career, I have always been a teacher.  That will end in June, and it’s scary yet liberating, unfathomable yet exciting.  I shouldn’t necessarily say that I will not be teaching – I should qualify it with, “in the public schools”.  I am actually quite hopeful that I will continue teaching in some capacity, whether it is tutoring, private lessons, community college, or in some other area.  I mean, let’s face it — I’m not going to become an accountant, a cage fighter, or an astronaut.  I do this well enough, that I feel like I can transition my experience and skills into something similar if not the same.

mona in threadOne of Gardner’s multiple intelligences is Intrapersonal Intelligence which has to do with knowing and understanding yourself — I have always scored very highly in this area on those tests, probably from being an only child, with no one to analyze except myself.  I really think about my own emotions and reactions, and try to learn from myself on a constant basis.  I have been monitoring my feelings toward this slew of big change heading our way, and as the day gets closer, I have noticed a few things I will miss, for sure.  But mostly, I am ready.  Ready to be doing something else.  Ready to reactivate and rededicate my brain to new and different ventures.

Today, I received news that would have driven me insane – news about coming changes to my current position.  Almost simultaneously, I received news about a possible job prospect where I’m headed, one that is exactly the type of thing I was looking for.  And I thought, “How serendipitous that I receive both pieces of news on the same day!”  I could have headed down the negative path, worrying about what I’m now thinking of as “my old job”, but instead, I’m clearly thinking and moving toward this positive path, the path of my future.  I see that as even more proof that I’m ready.

Take Care

I’ve been thinking a lot about how little people pay attention to those around them.  There have been a number of stories of people passing by strangers on the street who are in obvious distress, like the gay couple who were attacked in broad daylight across from the New Yorker offices while people inside the nearby McDonald’s chose to take photos and video with their phones rather than intervene.  Or the complete lack of courtesy displayed to other drivers that is so prevalent on our roads today.  Or the incessant bickering, and finger-pointing coming from our nation’s capital.

Taking CareBut, too, we hear the stories of people “paying it forward” – people paying for a family’s meal “just because”, or the athlete giving up his chance to compete to donate bone marrow.  And these stories make headlines because they are a bit shocking.  People go that much out of their way to help strangers?  Yes, yes they do.

It’s called courtesy.  It’s called caring for your fellow human.  Some call it fellowship, or humanitarianism, or good manners.  It’s just caring about people, and not just yourself and your own little world.

In the adolescent stage of human development, the individual is naturally self-centered.  There’s a natural, psychological reason why kids that age are so insecure – they really believe everyone is staring at their every pore everyday.  Do you remember that?  I certainly do.  And therefore, everyone must care about everything they do, and therefore, they see themselves as the most important thing in the universe.  My point is, it’s a stage in natural human development, and we are supposed to grow out of that, but many of us never do.  (And I think that percentage is getting higher, in part helped along by parents raising their children to believe that they are the most important thing in the universe.  But I digress.)

I think that the realization that you are not the sun, while everyone else is just flotsam — IN YOUR WAY…  I think that’s quite close to the meaning of life.  Knowing that we are here, put on this Earth to help each other, and acting upon it in your everyday life and dealings with others has got to be the be-all, end-all.

After these musings had been bouncing around my head for a few days, I saw this video which complemented my thoughts extremely well, except that I don’t think this worldview is dependent on education.  I think it’s dependent on being human.

The Classification of “Meltdown”

Rainbow pencil

Rainbow pencil (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

There is clearly a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.  Tantrums are thrown for effect, while meltdowns are thrown because the ability to communicate something has evaporated, and tolerance levels have been exceeded in some way.  But I have noticed my own language lately, in describing behaviors as a “meltdown”, when they aren’t really.  With The Boy, I tend to classify all of the behaviors leading up to a meltdown as “having a meltdown”, so that others who do not have living-with experience with autism will understand.  Many, many times, we are able to avert the big blowout.  In fact, they have been fairly rare, at least in public.  But the behaviors beforehand are no picnic either, and require me to be firing on all engines, brain clicking along, coming up with solutions, ideas, and decisions at lightning speed, much like a battlefield medic.  It’s really a crisis for both of us.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some universal way of describing this “ramping up” of anxiety pre-meltdown?  Wouldn’t it be great if that became part of the autism awareness and acceptance vernacular?  Like one of those smiley face charts at the doctor’s office that they use to help you decide how much pain you are in, so that you can describe it to them accurately?

“Boss, I’m going to be a few minutes late to work, we are at a level orange on the meltdown scale right now, and hope to have the situation back down to a yellow shortly.”

“Honey, I think we need to find our way to an exit.  This looks like a green heading into yellow territory.”

“Hello, Mrs. Vandenberg, I just wanted to let you know that we had a pretty rough morning, and got up to hot pink because his favorite shirt wasn’t out of the dryer in time for school.”

Of course, the application would probably vary from person to person, but it would provide a little more information than just, “he’s having a meltdown”.

What’s your opinion?  Let us know in the comments

Eye Contact – Not His, Mine

English: 0I’ve noticed that on bad mornings, or during and after a public meltdown, that I avoid eye contact with pretty much everyone I come into contact with.  Some would say that reaction is a clear indication of embarrassment, I guess, but it isn’t — I’m not at all embarrassed by my son and his autism.  That’s who he is, and it isn’t going to change.  It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, because we can’t control it, we can only manage it to the best of our ability.  And sometimes that’s not enough to avoid disrupting our lives and those around us.

I think this natural reaction of mine is so that I can avoid reading other people’s emotions about it.  Whether they are anxious, judgmental, sympathetic, or they pity us, I don’t really want to know.  I don’t have time to care about their feelings about the situation.  I have to make sure The Boy is OK, and then keep it together until I can process my own feelings in a private environment, so that I can go about my day and do what needs to get done.  I don’t want to have to deal with them, too.

Maybe that seems harsh, but it’s a method of survival and coping that has developed naturally.  I can’t take care of everybody else.  My son and my owns self are my first priorities.

Teacher Appreciation

If you weren’t aware, this week is teacher appreciation week.  And I have a few things to say about teachers – a few blog posts-worth.  I’ll start with this…

My HomeworkTeachers work hard.  I know because I am one.  I also know because I watch others do it, and because I know my own son.  I remember my friends as students from my own time in school, and I have been immersed in the culture of education for the past 33 years.  I have also come to realize that teaching is one of the most difficult gigs out there.  I have only recently learned this from speaking to colleagues who have worked in other sectors before teaching (and some after teaching, as well).  And I can tell you that it has only gotten harder as the years have gone by.

Teachers, lately, have started verbalizing how difficult the job is, primarily because the demands have increased while the rewards have decreased.  And there has been considerable backlash.  No one goes into teaching because they get summers off (because we don’t, really) and will make loads of money, but neither should teachers qualify for public assistance, yet they do.  Neither should they have their names printed in the local paper, labeled “ineffective” based on their students’ test scores, yet they do.  Teachers are sometimes expected to produce miracles, and when they don’t they are vilified.

I consider myself a good teacher, and I don’t think it’s conceited to say so.  One knows when one is good at one’s job.  Notice I didn’t say “great”.  But over my career, I have been called a racist, a “favoritist”, I have had countless parents berate me over the phone, swear at me, and question me on why I didn’t let her daughter fill out her birthday invitations in class, or why I was upset that their son threw pencils at my office door.

Those aren’t typical days, but increasingly I am incredulous at  the things we deal with, from all sides.  It’s a really hard job.  And parents who really know their children usually get it.  It’s too bad so many don’t have a clue who their own children are (“My son doesn’t lie!”).

So take a moment this week, and think about the people who have taught you, and the people who are teaching the children of today.  Send them good thoughts and/or prayers that they will continue to have the strength to do the job they do, because that’s what they really need, so much more than the trinkets from the dollar store, and the cookies.  They need your support in the classroom, in the community, and at the polls.  They sacrifice so much and work so hard for our kids, and will never be appreciated enough for doing so.