Susan's Blog

Saturday, December 30, 2006

La Danse Lavande

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Proud of My Pride

Just got back from the movie Eragon. I took Nat, Max and Ben. Haven’t done that in a long, long time. Usually I think the movie will be just too boring or silly, or Max doesn’t want to go or has plans, or I’m scared to take Nat for fear of noise/tantrums/hard stuff. But that is so old. I’m a tough old bird and a little silly talk or arm biting just rolls off my steely spine. Let ’em look, I say.

When I was buying them sodas and popcorn, one of the cashiers was clearly giggling about Nat. Too much for me to think she was attracted to his beauty. Because first of all Natty had walked right up to the Counter Girl and then just stared at the soda machine, waving his hands and silly talking. He looks like he could buy his own thing, so why doesn’t he, they must have been wondering. I said, “Two Sprites and a Diet Coke.” But when I said, “Sprite,” Nat said, “orange,” so I switched the drink order to two oranges and a diet coke, and then Ben said, “No, I want Sprite,” so I had to change the order again.

I was so psyched that Nat could tell me what he wanted, right away! But Cashier Girlie must have made a face so the Counter Girlie admonished her to mind her own business. I looked over at Cashier Girlie and I grinned widely, saying, “Boy, I guess it would have been good of me to ask them what they wanted first!” Ha, ha, isn’t life just a jolly giggle! I was ready to say, “Can’t wait until you have some kids!” But I continued to smile kindly, the Benevolent Old Mom Who Has Seen It All. I guess I kind of have. Cashier Girlie then looked at me kind of sheepishly. Nat took his soda and strolled away, silly talking at the top of his lungs, God bless him! I just laughed — a real one this time — and walked after him, Ben trailing after me.

Then there was some anxiety over — you guessed it — the theatre lights, which were still on during the previews!! Thought I’d have to take Nat home, but Max reassured us that they would go off when the movie started, so Nat kept repeating that, quivering and shaking his leg the entire time. Poor darling, he refused to start his soda or eat his popcorn until those &*^% lights went off.

Throughout the movie, all three boys were riveted. I, too, enjoyed it. A bit of a Lord of the Rings rip off, but the hero was cute enough — although he looked a bit too much like Max for my comfort — and so we were all entertained.

I am very proud of us, needless to say.

Ich Bin Eine Balabusta

Remember when I said I am not a hausfrau? Well guess what? I think I really am. I feel so good right now because I cleaned my house! What’s more, I did not do all the work! I had each boy dust his own room, plus Nat did some extra dusting downstairs and I did not even tell him to do it!!!! It is the Swiffer that I have to thank. The Swiffer is a trend that is sweeping the nation! (Okay, I stole that joke from Dane Cook, only mine is not X-rated!) But really, the reason I like the Swiffer is that I just give a boy a cloth and it picks up dust, no chemicals to worry about on their precious hands. Then I go over it with a Pledge-soaked wipe, at least the areas that people will see, plus I like the smell of the Pledge.

Then Nat did his blog post, telling me in his own Sweet Guy way that he was sick of seeing me walk around in my PJs, and that it was time to get dressed. Mr. Routine! You could set your clocks by Nat! And he’s a Scorpio, in addition! So, before showering, I Tilexed the shower! Unfortunately, now I have Tilex in my nose, that I can’t seem to get rid of, so I made some decaf in the hopes of eradicating those fumes. Where is the Cat in the Hat when you need him? Plus Little Cat Z, of course!

I think it is so funny — and no accident — that the Yiddish word for “good housewife” is balabusta, which sounds like “ballbuster!” As Marie Antoinette may have (should have) said in reply to her famous husband’s quip: “La Balabusta, C’est Moi.”

Max Speaks

Max and his friend made a podcast that I think is terrific. It really shows you the interior life of the fourteen-year-old (non jock) boy’s mind, or at least, these two wonderful boys’ minds! Max is the main voice and his friend has the softer voice. I love it, but maybe because I’m the proud Mamma?

I think I am going to try to do a podcast, a talkshow that I have been dreaming about: Special!
I would have special needs parents on the show talking to me about their problems, thoughts, epiphanies, solutions. How they have fun. Also, perhaps some non-parent experts to give their two cents. Anyone interested in talking to me on a podcast? Email me ( and we’ll decide if this thing has legs or if it’s just another Libra dream of mine…

Favorites of the Moment

1) Allergy medicine: Claritin — it’s cheap and OTC and did not make me drowsy throught XMas. (I have a cat allergy and my FIL has cats, as opposed to katz, to whom I am not allergic)
2) Song: Pump It, Black-Eyed Peas. Thank you, Max, this is the best workout song I have ever had. Yo, yo.
3)Work out at gym: crunches on the half-circle thing; arm weights (12.5 lbs in each hand, yeah, baby, I be a strong beyotch) and elliptical with iPod watching the big flat screens do their thing.
4) Work out at home: other than something with Ned, my DVD of tribal fusion BD (that’s belly dance, FYI)
5) Belly dance costume: black leggings, black bra top, lots of beaded crap around my hips (Ned bought me all kinds of stuff: tassels, sparkly trim, bells, silvery and red ribbon to decorate myself with) and a big beaded thing wrapped around my hair so I look really tribal.
6) Snack: Atkins peanut butter crisp bar (only 2g and totally delicious).
7) Belly dance move: upper rib cage eight (see pic)
8) Bad habit: drinking too much decaf and foaming up my cream with this thing my mother bought me.
9) Magazine: The New Yorker What else is there, frankly? It’s got comics, movie reviews, liberal reporting, witty exposes, and poetry!
10) Medical professional, other than my sister and sister-in-law: my doc! He answers my questions over email!!!
11) Bearded man: Ned
12) Movie star man: Jeff F***ing Bridges. He is the sexiest thing on the planet.
13) Spa treatment: Facial, sans extractions
14) Hair style: Just the right blow-out; not too flat, not too straight
15) Luxury I can’t afford: A regular housecleaner
16) Shopping secret: Anthropologie has a huge sales section in the back
17) Thing to do with Nat: Read the surfing book. He is totally riveted.
18) Thing to do with Ben: Build a world with Legos (recent project: land of the dead)
19) Thing to do with Max: Shop at Apple store, drive around in car (it’s how we talk).
20) Thing to do with friend: coffee
21) Thing to do with Mom: Shop and then eat
22) Thing to do with Laura: Walk and talk
23) Thing to do with Dad: Bike ride
24) Thing to do with Ned: Laugh
25) Thing to do with myself: Belly dance

Yeah, that’s right! Want to make somethin’ of it?

(Can you guess that Ned got a new camera for Chanukah and who is his favorite model?)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Good (Enough) Day

Sticking close to home these days. Not doing much of anything, except living moment-by-moment, which is sometimes the best way to be as a parent. I have a feeling of wellbeing that is rather inexplicable, so I thought I’d make a list of the things I’ve accomplished to see if I can understand what went right thus far. My therapist tells me that extrinsic achievements are not necessarily the route to happiness, but they sure help.

1) Wrote a great piece and submitted it to the WashPo at the request of the Asst. Editor. This accomplishment plus contact made me feel a bit more like a real writer than I have been feeling of late.
2) Decided to cancel trip to either NYC or DC, rather than leaving it up to Ned to say, “We don’t really have the money.” I can be the heavy sometimes.
3) Explored fancy options for New Year’s eve here. Someplace where I can wear the red dress. All seemed too-too; strange combinations of scallops with caviar or mint and fennel, for like $195 a person. We are not foodies. We don’t know wine from whine. Ned hates suits. Hmm.
4) Planned, instead an interesting New Year’s eve sans Manhattan. There is a local (not at all fancy) sweet little place that is trying something new: Turkish band and belly dancer. So… maybe I can still wear red dress because it is New Year’s eve?? Opinions? (This does not really count as something positive that happened)
5) Took Nat and Max out to get a snack while I bought coffee at Peet’s
6) No Ben because he had a playdate, second day in a row! Nachas
7) Dieted successfully for two days now.
8) Danced for an hour last night after having gone to the gym in the morning, too.
9) Knee no longer sore, despite dancing.
10) Helped Max clean out desk so he can give it to Benj; helped clean off big desk he will use (from third floor).
11) Heard from someone interesting from my past but handled it well.
12)Did not bug Ned to come home early, though very bored.
13) Picked up dust bunnies with my hands.
14) Luxurious hot bath tonight
15) Going to watch either Taladega Nights, or Tourgasm, or Team America (Max’s recommendation in exchange for watching Ordinary People with me).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas In New Hampshire

Tabblo: Christmas 2006 in New Hampshire
Monday, December 25, 2006

O, For a Bagel

By far
The thing I miss most
Is a fat shiny salt bagel,
With just the right crunch of toast.

No cream cheese
I can always eat that
No, with real butter
pale yellow, soft with fat.

Rounded halves
Sit buttock-like on a plate
The crystalline salt, tiny diamonds
Why do I have to gain weight?

Butter-soaked spongey bites
Between my teeth, rough on my tongue
Finished far too soon
My paean now sung.


Well, it’s here. The most anticipated day of the year. So many of you must be feeling so extremely psyched right now (it is 6:59 a.m.). Probably kind of the way I feel waking up on my birthday, which is still my most fun day of the year.

We Jews don’t have a guy like Jesus whom we celebrate like this. Ben was asking me how did Santa get into the mix, and I couldn’t really tell him a whole lot. I hope my readers will fill me in. I think he came out of a tradition in Norway or something. A lot of people rag on Christmas for being not a sincerely religious holiday at all but the beauty of it is, it is a total conglomeration of traditions from all over the place. The tree, I believe, is a German thing, or even a pagan rite; Santa Claus is something from somewhere else; I think the Germans do a thing where they leave out their shoes and they get presents in them — you can see that is similar to the stocking by the chimney bit.

It is disappointing the way commerce gets into the whole thing and makes everyone sick by blowing in Christmas songs as soon as November starts, and commandeering of late autumn, by forcing her to wear red and green for weeks and weeks. Anyone would be tired of that, even with the most fun day of the year attached! But thank goodness red and green has real staying power; it is one of the most beautiful color combos, because of all you can do with red (it can be maroon, fuschia, ruby, scarlet, tomato, purple, and pink). Green; not so much, but it is a perfect foil to red. It knocks blue and white out of the park, that’s for sure; come on, what can you do with white, for God’s sake, except maybe make it silver??

The thing is, though, there’s always a moment — come on, admit it — when you get really psyched hearing those songs in the stores. Even a Jewish girl like me gets a lift in her step, unloading my three boxes of Lucky Charms onto the conveyor belt to “Baby, It’s Cold Out There,” or “Silent Night.”

Maybe I’m luckier than a lot of you because Christmas has no emotional baggage for me. I don’t have to remember when I was little and so-and-so spoiled the whole thing, or how this one or that one is always uptight or bitchy. I don’t have to feel teary about this memory or that. I came to Christmas as a 19-year-old. My first Christmas was with Ned’s family on Cape Cod. They always celebrated with Ned’s stepmom’s family, the McKeys, a large family with a great sense of humor. It took me a while to catch on, and to not feel weird being a Jew among such a deeply traditional, Christian family, (not religiously but culturally Christian) but I eventually realized that their bits and schtick were very much like my extended family’s and now that we don’t see them I find I miss them!

Now they celebrate it in New Hampshire, with just Ned’s father, stepmother, stepmother’s best friend, and Ned’s sibs and spouses. That is fun, too, and it is where we are going today. We’ll eat roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, beautiful desserts, at a gorgeous table with old, old family silver (Ned’s family — the Batchelders — go way back; they actually have a huge old tome called The Batchelder Geneology, with all these Nathaniels who were sea captains, etc., from the 17th and 18th centuries) before those things were fashionable, and name cards with little symbols for each dinner guest, combined with funky theatrical stuff because a lot of them are in the theatre (both from Broadway and now up in New Hampshire, The Barnstormers). Everything is very classy and elegant but also warm.

A long time ago, when I was an angry young woman and went to the Batchelder Christmas, I requested that my kids receive presents that said, “Happy Chanukah” because I didn’t want them to think they were celebrating Christmas. I look back on my intense younger self and try to forgive her for being so afraid of everything. I think now I was just really trying to stick up for myself, afraid I would disappear amidst all the Christmas stuff. I hate feeling invisible. I was afraid that Nat would be confused. (I am smiling as I think about that one.) Or that the boys would prefer Christmas, and not want to be Jews. Seriously, this is a fear that Jews have, of the tribe diminishing, of people leaving the team, of the religion dying out not from gas chambers and pogroms, but from funseeking!

I understand that. I am not so worried anymore. I think my boys will probably choose to be Jews simply because they are raised as such and it is part of their identity. And if they don’t, they will still be who they are and I will love them and adapt, the same way I adapted to Ned’s family traditions.

Now, so many years later, I feel like such a firm part of Ned’s family and I see that there is no disappearing. There is blending. Like Christmas itself: traditions from everywhere. I don’t care what it says on our presents. I just want it to continue to be the same, forever. I suppose that is the way most of you feel in your hearts today, too. You just want to feel the good that is Christmas, lifted out from the overly-chewed-gum feeling imposed on you by our Krazy Kulture, and to always be able to look forward to it being pretty much the same, every year, elves and all.

Enjoy! Be happy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Comedy, Last Night

We went out last night to Fanueil Hall, to the Comedy Connection with friends to see Gary Gulman, (below) a really talented stand-up comedian. He does a lot of comedy about being Jewish in a Christian world, and he really gets it right. He also talks about cookies, about how the sugar cookie is the lowest on the cookie totem pole, being the only cookie that can only offer you a shape as its attractive quality. He says, “Guess what, Sugar Cookie? All cookies are sugar cookies. Without sugar, you’ve just got a cracker.” Yeah, it loses a lot in the translation.

He is also extremely sexy, and 6′ 6″. Like a Jewish Matthew McConaughey. He was happy to take a picture with us; I asked him how old he was, feeling a bit like a yenta, but he told me, “36.” Me, too!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Afternoon Coffee

Not enough said
About early afternoon coffee
My silver scoop, a trowel cutting black earth
You will join me; now it’s an occasion
I say build a fire —
You furrow your brow.
Studying your new camera catalog
Getting ready to consume me with that big lens.

Sons spread around us, warm and industrious, birds studying what’s beneath them.
The black table pitted and smeared with breakfast droppings
A messy sprawl of bags — your family’s gifts — waiting for
tape and shears in the drawer that sticks from old paint
(they all stick)
While the squat black coffee pot pisses and smokes
like an old street man
From our days as two in that city of brotherly love
Where we found ours.

Declaration of Love

I think that Ned is planning on taking me away for an overnight somewhere. We are talking about Washington, DC, although I really wish I could go for dinner at the White House again! How can I get invited back? Though I suppose that’s mostly so I can buy another gown and dress to the nines. We only got invited to one Christmas party this year; unbelievable! Usually it is seven in one weekend! WTF? Is it our deodorant?

More than partying, I have felt the real need to go off with Ned and cocoon. We have had some extremes this year, some very wonderful times but also some scary lows as a couple. Our shimmery golden 25 + year bond has stretched and broadened, and sometimes thinned in places so we have really needed to repair. We do this by spending quality time (stupid cliche but so true) and also by checking in with each other frequently. We I.M. during the day — I have learned (the hard way) I.M. etiquette, whereby you must first say, “Hi” before beginning with some sexy thought. He gets annoyed with me when I just burst out with some declaration of love or lust online. But I love Ned on I.M.; he expresses himself more clearly with the typed word sometimes than face-to-face. I am intrigued by his I.M. voice. Perhaps I need to learn to shut up more in real life so that I can hear more of his spoken voice, but I suspect that I.M. somehow frees him up.

In DC, we are going to stay in some outrageously luxurious hotel; right now there are deals on five-star places, so sign me up. A long soak in a marble tub and an in-room massage; wonderful. Lying around on impossibly soft beds and then out to dinner at this restaurant in Georgetown, where they have belly dancing, of course. The next day we would probably do what he wants, which I would like as well: go to the National Archives and see the original Constitution and Declaration! Though I prefer his declarations…

Sweet Something

A silvery wet rainfall this morning; white mist streaming in. It is warm enough that the grass seems to be greening up a bit. One of those wintry rains where the bark on the trees looks black against the powdery gray sky. I sip strong, sweet, creamy coffee and watch through white linen curtains, the stillness of a pre-Christmas Saturday.

I finish the last brown drop and pour another, a luxury. Usually I try to save two mugfulls for Ned, but I will just make him more when he emerges from the warm white cave of snoring blankets. I love Morning Ned. His hair stands up a little, which is adorable, he’s without glasses, (like the Ned I first met), his eyes are wide, navy blue, and innocent; he’s warm and he’s usually humming.

Ned and Max are the happiest people I know, I think. Happy in the content sense. Not much bugs them. They have an interior that is rounded and smooth and that allows most irritating things people do to simply slide off. Hence, their nicknames Neddy Sweets, and Little, Little Sweets (way back when, Max was a tiny baby. It lasted for like a day, and then he became big. I called him Little, Little Sweets and it got shortened to Little, Little. Nat was Sweet Guy, and Ned was Sweets. By the time Ben came along, he was called “Littlest Sweets,” but we quickly amended that because Sweet and Benji don’t really mix! Ned calls me “Susan Sweets,” by the way. At one point, when we were engaged, we considered taking a brand new last name: Sweets.)

Ben and I are rarely content. We swing high and low. Our happiness is sharp and bright; our crashes burn and hurt. Our anger is fiery and terrible, Old Testament style. It is our wiring, we can’t help it, but most likely certain meds would soothe, if we were plagued by it too much.

And Nat? I think he is a content soul. Anyone who would walk around murmuring about the things that interest him, rarely cry, and grin over candy seems to me to be a content type. His anger is rare (knock wood), fierce, but short-lived and often he just takes it out on himself (biting his arm, poor darling).

The silence upstairs was just interrupted by a sharp burst of sound, hard feet on the floor, a deep-voice cough; Nat is awake and already active. He will get completely dressed, come downstairs, and eventually take his place in the center of the livingroom couch. There is the gentle murmur of his “silly talk,” and a worried glance out the playroom window at the street lights and the Christmas lights. Good or bad? I still don’t know for sure what it is he wants to see out there. I’m sure he’s annoyed by the lack of sunlight, however.

Last night I heard him silly talking and one of the words I could make out, other than “dark,” was “Funny Bunny,” the name of his old stuffed animal. Hoping he wouldn’t mind, I said, “Nat, did you say, ‘Funny Bunny?'”

“No Funny Bunny,” he said, but he was grinning widely.
“Natty, I love you, ” I said, also smiling.

Nat had been excited to get a bag of candy from one of his teachers, Kristin, he told me. He sat down after dinner and scarfed the entire bag, while Ned watched enviously. Ned asked him for a bite, and Nat said, “No,” grinning.
“Natty, you don’t share?” Ned asked.
“No,” still grinning.
I said, “How about me?”
Nat looked up, worried. “No — ” he started to say, and then I made a sad face and he said, “Yes.”
Ned said, “Oh, you’d share with Mommy and not me?”
“Jewish Mother guilt,” I said, smiling smugly. “It works on all three of them!”
Or maybe Nat doesn’t mind saying he’ll share with me because he knows I won’t really eat the candy? Hmmm. It’s like offering my dad a taste of a Devil Dog or Twinkie; you know he won’t take a lot, (he calls it “tax,”) so you don’t mind. It counts as sharing, but it is hardly anything!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

It Might As Well Be Spring

I’m as busy as a spider spinning daydreams
I’m as giddy as baby on a swing
I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud
Or a robin on the wing
But I feel so gay, in a melacholy way
That it might as well be spring
Oh and it might as well be spring.
–Astrud Gilberto “It Might As Well Be Spring”

Holy Cow!
Ned bought me a pink velvet mermaid skirt and matching velvet gauntlets! It arrived today; a perfect fit! The mermaid skirt is tight and stretchy over the hips, with a wide hem of pink chiffon starting at the shins. It is like putting on springtime.

Today was a day just for me. It might as well be spring, as the song goes. I felt so happy and light, and it was warm: in the 50’s! Green Christmas. I did some writing and then went to a spa to get a pedicure, even though it is winter, because I am a dancer and my feet show, so my toenails should be pretty. I decided to get a facial, too, and that was like a dream. A full hour of having my face stroked, steamed, lotioned, and masqued. While the masque hardened, she massaged my neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. When I was through, I did not need any makeup! For the rest of the day I went around barefaced, which I never do. That’s how good I felt. And Ben said I looked “younger” than yesterday, bless him.

We had Chanukah early. Max loved his Star Wars book and Benj loved his new Legos. Nat did not seem to notice his new book. He just loves tearing the paper off a present and rarely looks at it. What he loves about Chanukah is the candles; he is mesmerized by them. We have six menorahs: one is all silver, and serious; one is brass, from the UPenn bookstore when we were first married; one is a lumpy, floppy ceramic triangle with tiny uneven holes done by Max when he was little; one is gold spray-painted noodles done by Benji in kindergarten (the noodles are all burnt black), and another is one M and B made of Legos with Lego flames, and another is the electric one in the window, and another is little metal choo-choo trains that hold three candles each. They burn all at once and are so beautiful, just perfect with their even little flames, like yellow cat’s eyes.

Ned is not home because he went out to dinner with his colleagues to celebrate the final shipping of their product prior to Christmas. They made their milestones and they are very happy. I have never seen him so in love with a job! I am happy for him although sometimes jealous; jealous that he focuses on that so much (I want him to focus on me all the time! No, I don’t!) and jealous that he has a job he loves so much. I wish I did! I love the writing and giving talks but I don’t get to do it consistently! Silly, but human, I guess(?)

After Chanukah dwindled down I slipped in the tribal DVD and did some more practicing. Tonight I learned how to contract my upper abs (separate from middle and lower). I also tried doing a pelvic lock, which is a sharp contraction right under the navel. Everything was better than yesterday, so I stretching up to a new level of learning again.

Any day that ends with successful belly dancing is a good day by me. What would make it perfect is for Ned to get home already so I can thank him for that fantastic pink costume and see him unwrap one of his.


A tired bedtime fight
I fell asleep through some of our words
which tore open a crisp white envelope
and made a paper cut in your heart

Throat dry, eyes wet
Nothing more to be done?
Hope collapsing in my chest, pressing me to just give up.

Something about morning light
And the quiet, cold house
Where ordinary stretches to greatest heights
And you, so familiar, every mole and hair now a tiny reassurance
Your coffee flavored mouth
my breakfast.

The Kindness of Strangers

Here is my column for today’s Brookline Tab.

The Kindness of Strangers
Susan Senator
Brookline Tab, “Edge of Town”

This is the time of year when we focus on gift-giving. I try to
remember all the kids’ teachers, even though Brookline schools has a
policy against giving gifts to teachers, there’s always some way, like
cards, or baking, to say thanks. But there’s often someone important
I forget, especially in my oldest son’s case. Nat goes to a private
program for children with autism, so rather than just one or two
teachers in the classroom, there are five specialists in his class of
eight, and rapid staff turnover, due to the intensity of the
job. Because of this I don’t always get to know everyone in Nat’s
life. But it feels especially remiss not to acknowledge all the people
who work with him, particularly now, when he is 17 and there is so
much left to do for him to prepare him for the world.

It seems like ever since the beginning of Nat’s life I have been
focused on how hard things are for him. Even when he was little I was
thinking about his future, and I have needed to rely on others:
teachers, doctors, therapists, and tutors to help teach him the many
things he needs to know.

Most parents worry about their children, of course, but back when Nat
was diagnosed with severe autism – so many years ago – we felt
completely alone. We didn’t know of anyone else like him. Now things
are different, but back then, all I knew was that my husband and I
were alone with a baby we loved but didn’t understand, and we were
scared. Questions and doubts colored every conversation we had: What
should we be doing for him? Who will help us? And the most horrible
question, the one that still makes my heart hurt: What happens when
we’re gone?

I have learned to live with such uncertainty by now; it’s just a small
line between my eyebrows, a soft twinge in my throat. We understand
that we cannot plan for every eventuality, even though we are teaching
Nat what to do in any emergency situation we can dream up and
recreate, safely. We can teach him to put a bandaid on a cut, but how
do we teach him how to know when he needs stitches? Those kinds of
gray areas are hard to teach, yet they make up the fabric of daily
living in a complex world We will probably always need to have help
for him. I am only just beginning to accept this.

Yet I don’talways accept it. I make jokes like, “Well, I just won’t
ever die,” while I continue to cultivate my relationships with the
staff at his school, keeping my eyes open for those special teachers,
those aides who go above and beyond, who really “get” him. I am
secretly looking for my future respite workers, for the people who
will help us when he’s an adult. There’s the music teacher who is
determined to teach him real music theory; the gym teacher who gets
beaned with willfully thrown balls, yet proudly calls him Adam
Vinatieri; the swim coaches who get pinched but cheer him on when he
races. And of course, the bus drivers. With little or no training in
autism, they get to know his quirks, his likes and dislikes, his radio
station preferences. They talk to him and keep him happy for an hour
and a half every day. Maybe it’s not as much as teaching him how to
count change, but sometimes I wonder.

The other day, because it’s close to Christmas, Nat’s driver handed us
a big bag of presents: a huge box of oreos and a polar fleece top to
keep him warm. “He always asks for cookies because I give them to him
sometimes,” she shrugged. “So I want to make sure he gets his

The old twinge in my throat flared up. I almost cried as I took that
bag from her. This gift was much more than a bag of cookies. What she
gave me was a little peace of mind. I still don’t know what the future
holds for Nat as an adult. But I’m pretty sure that there will always
be people out there who will care for and love him, even when it’s not
part of their job description. Even when it’s not easy. And even when
I’m no longer around.

Voices — Or in My Head?

Some friends are beginning to read my sample chapter to my new book, and the feedback has been very positive. The only suggestion I’ve had is that maybe I want to include other moms’ voices, rather than just my own. The thing is, a big part of the success of Making Peace With Autism was my voice. My honesty, my story that others share so much, and my attitude. That is my best way of writing. I don’t know if I could really do justice to other moms’ voices in my new book. I don’t know if it would come out right. I don’t only want this to be a “useful” book; I want this to be a moving and good book!

It is so tricky trying to write a book. I have to be able to dig down to my most honest and raw thoughts to get it right. I can’t write something that is a marketing manager’s dream. If I am asked to write something that is too manufactured and slick and not quite me, it won’t flow, it won’t happen.

One friend is organizing a moms’ focus group so that I can hear from them and get ideas. It’s research. But I don’t think I can take it any further than that and actually make other moms into characters with their own voices. I can’t imagine doing that, the way I write, unless it’s fiction!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Going Tribal

Ned’s father and stepmom bought me this DVD for Chanukah. They made an excellent choice! I had just begun to think about Tribal belly dance, because the other night, my teacher was wearing tribal garb and it was very interesting. She had on a metallic coin bra top, heavy eye makeup, and a long fringed and tassled hip belt over leggings. So this is a very different look from the cabaret-style Egyptian belly dance costuming I’ve been into, which is more sequined and beaded and at times a bit garish. The tribal thing is more ethnic and exotic. It fits yet another side of me, because I happen to be rather ethnic myself! Tribal is more focused on drum solos and a bit more infused with Eastern elements of yoga and spiritualism. Okay by me. I can use a little spiritualism/meditation, etc.

I watched the DVD and saw some extreme belly dance, performed by Rachel Brice. She could do things with her different body parts that looked like a Disney nightmare of a belly dancer, almost as if her head were separate and floating above curling fingers, slithering waist, flipping belly.

I had to try it. I took my laptop and DVD up to my bedroom and tried a little of it, but it was a bit uncomfortable because it was so hard to do! So I knew I was hooked.

This morning after everyone had gone I put on black leggings and black bra top and the silver belt made of tiny bells and blue beads that the boys had gotten me for my birthday. Also the matching silver and blue beaded slave bracelets (one I had bought and one Ned had gotten me for Chanukah)

I have ordered my own silver coin top and maybe I’ll get one of those tribal belts with the fringe! But if I don’t, I can wear it with the beautiful green silk scarf or the boys’ belt.

So this morning, clothed in my tribal look, I practiced Rachel Brice’s 30 minute routine. It starts with a whole yoga warmup, which I’ve never done, but I enjoyed and found pleasantly strenuous. Then I learned how to do a hip lock, which is a hip lift that you cut off sharply, no extra movment (and as little jiggling as possible). The non-jiggling is achieved, I realized, by lifting the torso/chest as high as you can and tucking the pelvis so that basically everything remains contracted except for the obliques which are lifting the hip. This lifting also improves the look of everything, especially if you have a more meaty middle due to 1) your age; 2) your Eastern European roots and 3) having eaten like a pig while pregnant three times, and thereafter until you discovered Dr. Atkins.

So all day I’ve been trying to sit and stand like that, to build my core (so that I don’t get grossed out when I watch myself perform). I felt a bit of that high, that belly dance high, when I caught a glimpse of myself doing the interior hip circle correctly — which is done only with ab muscles, not really hips at all!. In a flatter, leaner stomach you can see the muscles switch sides as they expand and contract. It is quite dramatic. In my belly, you can see a shimmer of that happening. Oh well, at least the piercing looks nice. In time, however, I expect it will all look better, and come more easily. And then I will perform.

Things That Go Beep in the Night

I am already onto coffee cup #2 and still bleary. Why? I took Ambien at 3 a.m. Why? Because there was a beep that kept going off at seemingly unpredictable intervals (no, it was not Max’s new Annoy-a-tron, but how ironic, if I were awake I would frown). Why? Because one of our many smoke detectors had an expired battery.

So here’s my question, which I got from Ned, who asked it very pithily and pissedly at 3 a.m. last night:

Why the F don’t our smoke detectors have little lights that stay on once the battery is dying, so that you don’t have guess which detector it is that has expired?

And I would like to add:

Why do smoke detector batteries always expire at 3 a.m., the freak-out hour?

We had to stand for several minutes under each smoke detector, watching and listening, neck craned upwards, eyes pulling shut, waiting for the beep. Then, when we’d determined that no, this one was NOT it, we would move on to a different one. I fantasized for a moment about assigning a detector to each boy, but I figured I was the parent and and I had to let them sleep.

Finally Ned discovered it was the CO2 detector. Of course I asked worriedly, “You sure it’s not a real CO2 problem?” But he didn’t even answer and I might not have even asked it. It was so late and we were so tired that we might have eaten the batteries and thought we were dreaming of bad candy.

I got back into bed, a little worried that sleep would be spoiled by being awake a little too much at 3 a.m. but next thing I knew I smelled coffee.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chit Chat

Oh he never speaks his passions
He never speaks his views
Where other men speak volumes
The man I love is mute
In truth I can’t recall
Being wooed with words, at all
Even now…
–He Plays the Violin, “1776”

Nat did not want to “play on the computer today.” Still, I thought it would be good for him to get in the habit of articulating his thoughts and getting himself out there. He, like his father, and apparently Thomas Jefferson, is a man of few (spoken) words! He is completely unnerved by the December sky, which only starts to get light when he leaves for school and starts to get dark when he comes home. The street lights in our neighborhood are not well calibrated and they flicker on and off. Oh, insensitive Town of Brookline!

On another front, I spent a few hours with a friend in a local mall today, helping her decorate her house. We were hanging around in Restoration Hardware and I noticed a stocking stuffer type of gift called, “Chit Chat.” They were billing it as a box of conversation starters. It was a lucite container holding little square cards, each with a question or statement that would get you thinking, such as, “What are the best landmarks in your city, and why?” and “What is your favorite entree?” Kind of typical Restoration Hardware crowd fare, but it got me thinking, there could be such a thing made for folks with ASD. Someone like Nat could really benefit from a modified “Chit Chat;” with questions like, “What was something good that happened today.” or “Tell me what your favorite sport is.”

My friend actually bought “Chit Chat” as a family Chanukah present. I think it’s a great way to get talking. This is something Ned and I do sometimes. We just sit and tell each other favorite this or least favorite that, and sometimes we try to guess what the other would think. I find it’s best played lying together on a couch or the wife sitting on the husband’s lap. That way I can be sure to have his full attention; blocks the laptop quite nicely!

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