Overwhelmed…

So once more, we’ve had a really hectic couple of weeks.  Mason started school (yay!), but for the first week and a half I had to drive him to and fro.  Of course, this was insanely chaotic considering he’s in pre-school.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It was only kind of chaotic.  The problem is, the school pick up lines in this town are INSANE.  I mean seriously, where do all of these people come from??  There’s like five elementary schools in a 10 mile radius of us – and there are that many people picking up their kids in the afternoons at one school?

Yeesh!  I guess the town really is growing.

So, since Mason’s in preschool his day starts at 11:30 (unless it’s early release Wednesday, in which case it’s 11:00.  Speaking of, can someone PLEASE for the love of God tell me what the heck is the point of early release?  Other than to make my life complicated because I forget it every single week?  I legitimately don’t understand why my children get out of school an hour early every Wednesday.).  His day ends at 2:05.  Kaleb’s bus arrives at our house at 2:30.  Mason’s school is a 10 minute drive from here – under good, hit every green light conditions.  I don’t have that kind of luck.  I hit every red light from here to that school every single day.  Even when I take the back roads – which is way worse because those lights take forever to change.  So, call it an even 20 minutes.  Which gives me exactly five minutes to grab Mason, throw him in the car, and rush home to get Kaleb off the bus.

What this means is that I have to be in the front of the ridiculous parent pick up line.

Which means I have to arrive at his school no later than 1pm.

Yep.  I have to get there an hour early in order to pick my kid up from school and have a chance at getting home before Kaleb’s bus.  This is what I call INSANE.  So, for a week and a half I dropped him off and went to hang out with my mom (who legit only lives 10 minutes from the school) for an hour before turning around and going to get the Mini Monster.  Then we’d rush home and wait for Kaleb’s bus.  Finally, Mason got a bus schedule.  They pick him up here at 10:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 10:45) and drop him off at 2:25 (even though the stupid sheet says 2:38).  That’s four whole hours all to myself!  OMG I could do yoga!  I could ride my bike!

I could sit on my couch and watch grown up tv while the sun is still up!  I could eat ice cream in the middle of the day!  I can shower and pee all by myself!  Hell, I could dance around naked!  

Okay, I won’t dance around naked.  First, I don’t dance.  And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t do it naked.  I’d probably hurt myself – and how do you explain that to a paramedic?

But still.  Maybe it sounds horrible of me to be doing happy dances because my little dude is going to school – but if that’s what you’re thinking…. just wait.  Your day will come.  Your kid will get on that bus, and after the initial “I’m going to miss him so much, I hope he’s okay, what will he do without me, what will I do without him” moment, you will walk back into your house, and it’ll hit you.  That moment of I’m alone! I’m really truly alone!  will come.  And I’m willing to bet you consider dancing around naked too.

Anyway, Mason finally started school.  And considering I was able to do yoga in my living room uninterrupted for the first time EVER, I’m going to go ahead and say this is awesome!

Truthfully, over the last few months, life has felt completely non-stop. I haven’t been sleeping, the kids haven’t been sleeping.  Drama and meltdowns everywhere.  This responsibility and that obligation.  I can literally count on one hand how many times in the last three months I’ve even attempted to apply makeup.  Wedding plans (who knew there was SO much crap to think of?!), this kid to that doctor, that kid to that therapist.  IEP meeting for this one, evaluations for that one.  I’d already put my plans to start my own non profit on hold for lack of time.  What it all comes down to is that I was overwhelmed.

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For a while I muddled through – because I couldn’t find a reason to be overwhelmed.  This was my life.  These things have always been here, and odds are they’re going to get a lot worse before they get better.  The meltdowns will get bigger, the responsibilities will only get heavier… so why was I all of a sudden drowning in the things I’ve come to think of as life’s constants?  Then one day it hit me – like the proverbial ton of bricks.  Where the hell was I in all of this?  I was completely lost in the rush of everything and everyone else.  In doing so my family was suffering.  I was miserable.  My relationship was suffering because I wasn’t put the time toward it I needed to.  My kids suffered because mommy was tired and cranky.  Even the dog was suffering.

When was the last time I did something for me?  I couldn’t remember.  I was so busy running around like a lunatic with all the other crap I’d basically neglected all but my most basic needs.  Clearly, something had to give.  So, I swallowed my pride (which I was frankly surprised to find I had so much of) and, despite my extreme hesitancy to do so, I backed out of some pretty big obligations.  In truth, I was terrified to do that.  I put my name on this.  People are counting on me.  This is my reputation.

But what’s a reputation when the whole world is crumbling around your ears?

I’ll tell ya what it’s worth.  Absolutely jack s**t.

I knew there was probably going to be some fall out – I probably put a really good friendship in jeopardy, and I’m feeling the sting of it.  But it was time to do something for myself.  So what did I do?

I planted a freaking garden.

Yes.  You read right.  Me – Captain Black Thumb planted a garden.  I’d wanted to do it for years.  I’ve been muttering and complaining about having to buy fresh herbs at outrageous prices only to have them go to waste because I only needed one sprig for years.  So, I planted a garden.  And it’s doing AMAZING.  As I write this, there’s a chicken in the oven full of my very own thyme and parsley.  I put some more focus on my relationship and am glad every day I did.  I put some more focus on my kids – and I’m still glad every day when they get on the bus!  But more than that, I made myself a goal.  It’s an outrageous and probably impossible goal, but I’m cooking my way toward it one day at a time.  And no, I’m not saying what it is until it becomes a bit more attainable!

So, I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing all this now.  I guess a part of me is upset because I think I really did put a big kink in a friendship that meant a lot to me.  And I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to fix it one of these days.  Another part of me is proud (there it is again) – because I finally took the best piece of advice ever given to me when Kaleb was born:  take time for myself.

Instead of running around at night and trying to catch up on work I couldn’t do during the day, I’m doing the work during the day, instead of a million other things.  And at night?  I’m sitting on the porch, listening to Frank Sinatra and Etta James and reading any book I please for as long as I please.  I’m happier.  I’m happier at the butt-crack of dawn when I get up to get Kaleb on the bus.  I’m happier in the afternoon when I get both boys off their respective busses.  I’m happier after a failure of an IEP meeting.  I’m happier when I’m pulling the kids apart while they try to rip each other’s throats out.  I’m happier watching the same episodes of Little Einsteins over and over again.  I’m happier when my soon-to-be husband is home.  I’m happier.

So, sure I can’t be super mom.  I can’t chair walks and be on the PTA board, and start a non-profit, and run all over hades and back for everyone who asks anything of me.  But what I can do is raise two healthy, happy boys on the spectrum.  I can have a healthy(er) relationship with the love of my life while I plan our wedding.  I can do a better job of getting and staying in touch with the friends and family who have had my back since day one.  I can spend time in my garden and read books.  I can go to pumpkin festivals and blues festivals and enjoy my life.  Because as important as all the other stuff is – my family is the reason I was doing it in the first place.  So why would I do it if it was making my family suffer?

This actually wasn’t as difficult to write as I thought it would be – because I really mean it.  To all of you who told me it was important to take care of me – I digress.  You were right, I was wrong.  And I’ve never been happier to discover how wrong I was.

To all of you out there worn down, weary, and worried about the same crap – all I have to say is…

Stop.

Who is going to take care of everyone else if you’re locked in a padded cell after holding yourself to this ridiculous standard of parenting?  Being involved doesn’t mean doing everything that walks across your path.  It means being sane and stable and happy enough to do the fun stuff.

I’ve got to go pull my (hopefully) delish chicken out of the oven so I can feed my kids and get them off to bed.  Then I’m going to go watch something asinine on television with my love and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

I hope you have as good a night as I’m going to.

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Father Of Mine…

Happpy Father’s Day!

I can honestly say I’m blessed to know a lot of amazing fathers, and I hope each and every one of them have an incredible day today.  But, more than anything, there are three men in my life who have completely shaped my vision of what makes a great father, and I’d like to take the time to say something to each of them today, since I’ll only get to spend the day with one.  First, of course is Daddy – who I am lucky enough to navigate parenthood with Monsters with.  Second, is Papa Clyde – AKA my father; and third is Poppy – my know-it-all (it’s true, he does know everything!) grandfather. Without these men I wouldn’t be the person, daughter, friend, or mother that I am.  Each one of them has influenced me beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Poppy 

Happy Father’s Day old man!  I haven’t called you yet this morning because I figured you might actually take advantage of the day and sleep in and I didn’t want to be the one who woke you up!  Mind you, I obviously have no problem doing this every other day of the year, but still.  It is Father’s Day after all.  I truthfully don’t even know how to write this.  When I look back at my life, and your role in it, I can honestly say you are one of the only people in the world I have always known, 100% was there for me, no questions asked.

For as long as I can remember you’ve answered endless un-answerable questions, simply to entertain me.  You’ve given me your love for a good baseball game, a cold beer, and a determination to learn how to do an Irish Step Dance (which we both know I will never be able to accomplish given my miserable failure at any form of dance).  More than that, you’ve given me stability, love, faith, and a sense of humor I would be lost without.  I have countless memories of conversations we’ve had while walking through grocery stores, or other public places – most of those memories are seared into my mind not because of the depth of them (not that we haven’t shared in some wonderful and serious conversations, because we certainly have), these memories stand out because of the looks on the faces of the strangers around us as they eavesdropped on the constant banter between us.

You have always been able to find a way to find the humor in even the worst situations, and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to you for giving that gift to me.  Being able to not just find the good in the bad, but finding the humor in what should be a humorless situation has saved me on so many levels.  Knowing I can call you and no matter how much of my own hair I have pulled out over the antics of the Monsters, you will laugh so hard I can’t help but laugh with you.  It’s become one of the most important aspects of my life, and my number one coping mechanism when things get rough.

You’ve been a father to me through thick and thin, going above and beyond grandfatherly duties, and I’ll never be able to properly express how much that means to me.  I have never felt like I didn’t belong with you.  You gave me my first lesson in love being thicker than blood.  So, when you’re sitting in the pavilion next, drinking a beer and listening to the radio, have that flamingo at your side give you a toast from me.  Next month I’ll be able to give you a proper toast myself, and I fully expect to leave with a heart full of love and a belly full of laughter.  I love you Poppy, I miss you to pieces, and I hope you have the best Father’s Day yet.

P.S.

Kaleb says “Happy Father’s Day!”

Mason says “Why?”

Ha!  I love you,

Princess Flamingo

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Papa Clyde –

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!

I’ve had my fair share of father figures throughout my life.  But only when you came along did I truly get a Dad.  I know I have probably already said this a hundred times, for a hundred different occasions, but I’ll say it again:  Thank you.

Thank you for being my Dad.  Thank you for taking me as I was, and as I am, and loving me unconditionally despite my best efforts to make you do otherwise.  Thank you for standing by me, behind me, and in front of me as I navigated the world around me.  Thank you for being everything a father should be and more.  Thank you for opening your arms, your heart, your family to me and never letting go.  Thank you for rescuing me from myself when I needed rescuing, and letting me struggle when I needed to rescue myself.  Thank you for everything.

Through you I have learned so much.  I’ve always been stubborn (a trait we both share to a fault), I’ve always been a heard-headed girl, who wanted what I wanted and that was that.  You’ve taught me how to accomplish the things I want in this life, while building relationships, instead of burning them to the ground.  You’ve shown me how rewarding it is to teach others, and help those around me.  You’ve redefined compassion and loyalty, while encouraging me to continue to be as outrageous as I want to be.  You’ve given me independence, while making sure to be there when I needed someone to lean on.

We’ve grown together – you and I.  We’ve both had some of the stubborn stripped away in light of things that we couldn’t see coming or control, and we’ve learned from those things.  In all the battles I’ve had to wage, with myself, my kids, my family – even you – you have always been there to find the light at the end of the tunnel with me.  We’ve been through awesome times, and we’ve been through hell, and no matter what you never lost faith.  You’ve made me crazy, and I’ve made you grey, yet still you stand proudly by my side and introduce me as your daughter.  You’ve shown me what it means to have not just a father, but a Dad; proving once more to me that love is stronger than blood.  I couldn’t imagine what my world would be like without you, and I never want to.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy, I will see you this evening, and I’ll raise as many toasts as I can to a man who changed my life for the better, forever.

I love you,

Your pain in the ass daughter.

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Daddy 

Happy Father’s Day Love!

Of course you know I had to save the best for last 😉

Oh where do I even begin?  We have the luckiest kids on the planet – because they have you.  But they aren’t the only lucky ones, I am as well.  In the last five years we have gone through hell and back more times than I dare count.  We’ve made each other laugh, and cry, and yell, and curse the heavens – but through all of it you have been, and always will be, everything.

You are my constant (I am perfectly aware of how completely unstable that must mean I am!), my rock, a beacon for everything that matters in this world.  You have taught me so much, and continue to do so each day.  You’re honest to a fault (seriously, no girl actually wants to know if the dress makes her look fat), your integrity and ethic is unparalleled to anyone I have ever known.  But those aren’t the reasons I love you.  Actually, half the time, those are the reasons I want shake you!

I love you because you are you.  I’ve never been more aware of how lucky I am to share this life with you than I am right now.  Our boys get to grow up with a father who teaches them that life isn’t easy – but it’s worth it if you work for what you want.  They have inherited the best of you, and for that alone they will grow up to be forces to be reckoned with.  You sacrifice daily for this family – for me, for them, for us as a whole – and you don’t get nearly the amount of acknowledgement that you should.  You spend months away from us to ensure we are able to do the things we want to do.  To give them the life that we want for them.  To give me a life I could never have dreamed of, and we will never be able to fully make you understand how much you mean to us.

Each and every time life throws us a curveball you take it and make it work to your very best ability.  You miss so much, yet without you, there wouldn’t be anything to miss.  You come home to chaos, and crazy, and you accept and love every single bit of it.  You chose us – and we are so incredibly lucky.  We are lucky to have a man who knows when to push and when to wait.  We are lucky to have a man who is patient, compassionate, understanding, faithful, and just as insane as the rest of us.

I’m sorry that you are missing Father’s Day.  But you’ll be home in just a few days now, and we will make up for it as best we can.  I know it’s hard being gone.  I know it isn’t easy to have to miss out on so much, I can’t even imagine how hard that is.  But what I also know is how much we love you.  We go about our daily lives while you fight tireless for us to have them, and we could not be more proud of you.  You are the strength in this family.  The foundation of the life we are building together.  I can look back at the last few years and know with an absolute certainty that we can face anything.  We can make it through anything together.

I cannot wait to start the rest of our lives together.  I cannot wait to marry you.  And I love you all the more because you’re crazy enough to actually want to marry me.

You are an incredible father, (future) husband, and friend.  You deserve an amazing Father’s Day – and when you get home, I will give that to you.  Once and for all you have proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that love is thicker than blood.  I love you more than words can express, and I will see you soon.  There will be cold beer, warm pizza, and a house of Monsters waiting for your arrival.  Have a wonderful day Love.

I love you,

The insane mother of your children, and your future wife.

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***There is a side note here.  Because I probably won’t be writing tomorrow, I need to say this now.

This is a bittersweet day for me.

Don, one year ago tomorrow you left this world, and all of us in it that loved you.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.  For 364 days I have looked down at the pirate band on my arm I have thought of you. I hope wherever you are, you have the peace that was sometimes so difficult for you to find in life.  I hope you’re playing beer pong and listening to music loud enough to make everyone around you crazy.  Most of all, I hope you are happy, and I hope you know how much you were loved by so many people.  We miss you.

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Learning To Fly…

Well, it’s official.  Mason has been diagnosed with autism.

As you may, or may not have noticed, I have been basically been avoiding all forms of human socialization lately with few exceptions:  interactions that are required in regard to one of my many “jobs” (this includes school meetings, the very awesome special needs convention this past weekend, and walk related duties); interactions with my children (which, given their constant screaming lately, has taken a lot of silent counting in my head); and a small handful of friends and family.

This is nobody’s fault but my own.  I typically handle stress pretty well – given that I live in a world of Monsters and Mayhem and am often the focus of angry little people (not actual LP – the small humans I gave birth to).  At any given point in time you can find me juggling multiple things at once while still attempting to actually read books and not go completely crazy.  This is not currently the case.  What I’ve been doing has instead been less like juggling, and more like trying to catch the balls shooting out of a tennis ball machine on high speed.

While wearing giant clown shoes.

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I’d love to be able to pinpoint exactly what has gotten my sanity in such a state, yet there isn’t a way to really do that.  It’s mostly been a lot of little things that refuse to go away and are slowly playing tug-of-war with what’s left of my mind.  Take insomnia for example.  There were a few years where I legitimately didn’t sleep more than 2 hours a night, and it was never consecutive sleep.  I never really knew what the problem was, I just knew I couldn’t sleep, and that was a pain.  Now, many years and two kids later, the insomnia bug has struck again.  Even on the nights when the kids sleep through the night, peacefully and quietly, I can’t stay asleep to save my life.  Then when I do sleep, I have dreams that would make Dean Koontz proud.  Seriously, I wake up irritated in the middle of the night because some of the nonsense my head is brewing up would make for some really wild stories.

Anyway, enter the vicious cycle.  I can’t sleep because I’m stressed.  I’m more stressed because I’m tired and less equipped to manage all of the tennis balls shooting out of the machine.  Rinse, wash, repeat.

Add to that the kids spending all day long acting like a case of fireworks that someone tossed a match into…

Mason screams because Kaleb touches A.

Kaleb screams because Mason touches B.

Mason screams because Kaleb screamed about Mason doing X…

They aren’t even actively fighting – they’re just shrieking at each other for absolutely no logical reason.

And then they do start fighting, and I wish they’d go back to screaming at each other.  At least the risk for immediate physical injury is not present when they are on opposite sides of the room shouting at each other like a couple of tortured banshees.

Then there were the two evaluations Mason had scheduled for this week.  I’ve been completely stressed out about these evals for an absurd amount of time – and as insane as it is to be so worried about something I have no real control over – those tend to be the things that make me the craziest.  Captain Control Freak here – checkin’ in!

As I’ve explained before, Mason is really good at manipulating the people around him to get what he wants.  That is by far his biggest strength.  When we were going through this with Kaleb I knew what was coming.  Kaleb is who he is, you see that the minute you meet him, and you’ll never have cause to think anything else.  Mason however, can be who or whatever he wants to be depending on the situation he finds himself in.  So many people only see the sweet, funny, yammering Mason who appears to be just like any other kid.  They don’t see the motor problems, the sensory issues, the meltdowns and the OCD like behavior.  Most people don’t even have a clue they’re being shamelessly manipulated by a two year old.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people who barely know him, or only see him on good days inform me that they don’t think there is anything “wrong” with him.  I’ve learned over the last few years to shut my mouth, smile politely, and change the topic.  The same thing happened with Kaleb when he was going through his evaluations.  One nay-sayer after another crawls out of the woodwork.

The biggest stress point of this is people trying to attribute Mason’s own peculiarities to learned behavior he picked up watching his brother.  Which is basically impossible considering most of Mason’s problems are either things Kaleb stopped doing long before Mason was born, or things Kaleb never actually did.  I could sit here and list them one by one – but I really don’t think it’s neccesary.  Daddy and I both see it – and we’ve been seeing it since Mason was very young.

My concerns regarding the evaluations stemmed from this.  I was so worried Mason would put on his little angel face that the people doing the evaluations wouldn’t see the issues underneath it.

Now, a part of me knew this was a ridiculous fear.  These people are trained to see the delays, the pervasive play, the preferred solo play, the sensory issues, the lack of communication (This is not to say he doesn’t speak because he does – he has words.  Most of them are in reference to a vehicle of some sort, but he does have words.  The difference between speaking and communicating however, is huge.  Just because Mason can use words does not mean he uses them to communicate.).  Regardless of it being an absurd thing to fret about or not, Mason is a sneaky little thing, and I was sincerely worried about this.

Tuesday he had his evaluation for Child Find.  This was to ensure he would be starting school in the fall, and get the help he required (speech, OT).  We got up in the morning and headed over to the school they were to do the evaluation at.  I remember going to the same school for Kaleb’s evaluation three years ago.  We walk in and meet the psychologist and the speech pathologist who are to do the eval.  We put Mason in his seat, and he immediately starts to flip out.  We put him in my lap, and get more of the same.  Eventually we just put him down to see what he’ll do.  And of course, he goes directly to a school bus I wouldn’t have found if I was looking for it.  He must have honed in on it the minute we walked in the room.

The rest of the evaluation was pretty standard.  They ask questions, I answer questions.  One tries to engage Mase while I answer questions, then they switch.  It became obvious pretty quickly that Mason had no intention of cooperating – but at least he wasn’t screaming.  I have no idea what their end result was, and I imagine I probably won’t until the staffing meeting is scheduled before school starts up.

That night we went to see Scooby-Doo Live (Musical Mysteries).  Growing up I was obsessed with Scooby, and it absolutely thrills me that both the boys have a love for the crazy pooch as well.  We went to Johnny Rockets and got milkshakes and burgers before the show, and all three of us had a great time singing along and warning Scooby and Shaggy whenever the ghost entered the stage.

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Yesterday morning Mason had his diagnosis evaluation.  This was it – time to figure out what is going on with the bug once and for all.  Daddy and I knew what was coming – but it’s still a nerve wracking experience.  Once again Mason had no interest in any interaction with the psychologist doing the final evaluation (this of course was added to the mountain of paperwork I filled out a few weeks ago, the evaluations that Mason’s therapists did, and all of the information on file from the last two years).  No big meltdowns occurred (unless you count him throwing himself down on the ground and screaming for ten minutes over a matchbox car being taken away).

At the end she was able to total up his scores and give us an official diagnosis.

Mason has autism.

This is the point in time where I am brutally honest.

I am so unbelievably glad the evaluations, wondering, questions – all of it is over, I can’t even begin to express.  Am I upset?  Sure, a bit.  But honestly, we’ve known this was coming for so long I came to terms with it long before yesterday.  It doesn’t change anything.  At least, not really.  It doesn’t change who my child is, or who we are as a family.  It doesn’t affect how we play, or learn, or spend our evenings.  It doesn’t mean he’s anything more or less – he is who he is and we love him for that unconditionally.  And, with the exception of the Poopcasso Jr. tendencies, I wouldn’t change a single thing about him.

But we finally have something written down.  Something that gives us an absolute, definite direction to go in.  We know now where to get help for him, and we know he will get that help, no matter how hard we have to fight on occasion to make it happen.  That is a relief.  The piece of paper, the label – they don’t matter to us, but they’ll go a long way to ensuring he is not looked over or ignored as he continues to grow.

Last night was the first time in well over a month I really slept through the night.  I didn’t so much as move.  Seriously – I woke up in the exact same position I fell asleep in, not even the blankets had moved.  Of course, an entire night without moving is a great way to give yourself a backache and a stiff neck – but it was so worth it to not feel like I was going to fall asleep standing up.

It’s been a crazy couple weeks.  In the last week alone we’ve had The Family Cafe conference, my mom’s birthday, both of the evaluations, Scooby-Doo, and more meltdowns than I can count.  To add to the crazy, I’m packing up all three kids with Miss Lisa tomorrow and we’re going to go meet Lightning McQueen!  I cannot wait to see the look on Mason’s face when he gets to go meet his Cars hero in real life!  Follow that up with a trip to the T-Rex Cafe and our week will be completely.  Thankfully, Daddy comes home in less than a week and maybe we can go back to having some semblance of calm (if you know us personally, you are probably laughing like crazy right now).

But, since it is Friday, the week is finally over, the evaluations are finally over, and the house is relatively clean (no, seriously!  Mason has of course trashed his room again, and the living room has a few cars scattered here and there, but it actually looks like people live here instead of crazy Monsters).  I’m going to go make mini tacos, fire up the popcorn machine, cut up some fruit, and watch Star Wars with my Monsters. *Mason has discovered the joys of watching the Jedi go to town with a light saber – the look of awe/wonder/what the hell?? that crossed his face when he first saw Yoda was priceless!

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Honestly, I’m not trying to be all MIA – and I’m going to work on getting myself back in the habit of writing in the mornings.  Of course, I promise nothing.  Have a great weekend everyone, I can’t wait to tell you all about meeting Mason’s heroes!!

Since You’ve Been Gone…

Kaleb has taken it upon himself to become an informant on Mason.  By that, I mean every time Mason strips himself of his diaper Kaleb shrieks across the house “Mommy!  Mason’s Naked!”  And if Mason has opted to take off all his clothes he will shout “Mommy!  Mason’s Super Naked!”

Unfortunately, as much as this sounds like a blessing, it’s got some big downfalls.  Like Kaleb not going to sleep until Mason goes to sleep because he feels the need to run to Mason’s room every fifteen minutes to make sure he isn’t naked.  Neither Mason or Leah taking a nap because Kaleb is constantly running into the gate to make sure they aren’t naked.  Or this morning – this morning was the worst.  I woke up at 6am to Kaleb screaming.  He was screaming at Mason.  I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but Mason was still sleeping, so this was not cool.  As I made my way out to see what was going on, Kaleb stopped shouting and headed in my direction.  I asked him what he was screaming at Mason for – because Mason was sleeping, and it wasn’t nice to wake him up.  Kaleb’s response?

“I had to see if Mason was naked!  He wouldn’t stand up!”

Oh good grief.

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Okay, so I’ve been pretty absent over the last couple weeks – sorry about that.  There’s been a LOT going on.  I started writing this Thursday – today is Tuesday.  That seems to be the reoccurring pattern for the last few weeks, I’ve barely touched the computer.  In part because of the kids, and in part because I have a bunch of different projects going on at the same time, and I can only do them in bits and pieces while the kids are sleeping.  Which is typically when I write if I don’t get it done in the morning during breakfast time.

I mean, it’s actually gotten kind of ridiculous.  I have a bunch of save the dates to address (and don’t bother suggesting the printer, every time I have attempted to use that infuriating device I end up with a paper jam and ink everywhere), and I can only do a few in a sitting because after about five my handwriting turns to something so illegible even I can’t read it.  I have finally finished painting all of the tiny wooden letters for Mason’s walls (that took me almost two weeks after sorting them all out).  But, I still need to finish the shadow boxes and the canvases for his walls – which is a huge problem since every time I sit down with them I draw a massive blank on how I want to do them.  I have a cabinet I need to sand down and paint to replace the crumbling POS I’ve been using to house the kids’ artwork, coloring books, work books, etc.  I have to transport all of the stuff I’ve stock piled for a garage sale out of our garage before Daddy comes home and has a mini-stroke at the pile of boxes and bags in the corner.

I’ve got picture frames with plastic instead of glass to paint with chalkboard paint, then convert into daily schedules for the boys.  All of the other projects I’ve had going on for a while and have been trying to balance them with all our other activities.  The schedules are a new project, and have planted themselves pretty firmly at the top of my list.  Our house has always been pretty loosely controlled chaos.  I want the kids to be able to adapt to sudden change and the unknown.  Now, that’s not to say we don’t have a routine, or we just throw the kids into potentially meltdown-causing events without warning.  When we know something big is coming (such as an upcoming trip up north) we talk about it constantly, so they can be ready for it.  I know how well Kaleb does with routine and structure.  Sometimes I feel like I’m cutting of my nose to spite my face with the whole “life is chaos” theory.

So, I’ve decided to try to balance the two a bit better.  We used to have picture boards and schedules all over the house.  Until Mason started eating them.  And Kaleb started having meltdowns because Mason was eating his pictures.  So, since Mason had no interest in using the pictures, and Kaleb no longer needed them to communicate, we took them down.  I’m going to make each kid their own daily schedule – on the chalkboard so I can adjust the times each day as needed.  I want to set it up so we have a few hours spread out through the day for “school work”, as well as separate time for me and the boys individually.  However, the schedule will not be the same every day.  I’ll change it up each day, moving around the activities and times – sometimes we may have adjust in the middle of the day.  I still want them to be able to adapt to chaos, but I also need to prepare Kaleb for his first year of kindergarten and Mason for his first year of pre-school.  Anyway, we’ve been busy doing other things as well.

First off, after a week of nothing but play and nonsense, we’ve been attempting to get the house back in order.  And what I mean by that is – I’m trying to clean while the boys have metaphorically superglued themselves to my backside and proceeded to fight and argue with one another while making a mess behind me.  I still don’t know why I try.  I remember a time when my house was clean.  It is not clean any longer.  In fact, it looks like a herd of bulls ran through it.  Bulls with sledge hammers.  Costumes from us playing dress up and going on treasure hunts strewn everywhere.  Potato head body parts launched like rockets through the living room.  Doll houses, furniture, cars, and people.  Puzzle pieces scattered.  Alphabooks strategically placed in locations designed to make me slip and break my neck.  Dinosaurs, dragons, and legos hidden everywhere.  Kaleb’s stories, books, and assorted artwork on every surface… it’s a giant mess.

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Then again, the fun parts are totally worth the mess.  Both of the Monsters love music of all different genres and styles.  Classical music helps Kaleb calm down, but put on some Adele and the boy will be singing “Rumor Ha-Ha” with every bit of passion he has.  Mason is the kid who likes to dance though.  I have come to realize I’m going to have to put him in a dance class of some sort since it appears he has inherited my unfortunate rhythm (or lack thereof).  But he loves to dance.  We don’t watch a lot of ‘typical’ tv with them around – it’s usually Disney Jr., movies, or music.  However, one of the few shows I love to watch with them (aside from Jeopardy!) is So You Think You Can Dance.

I can’t dance.  I know this.  It is a well documented fact, and if for some reason you should see me attempt to do so you should either knock me out, shield your eyes, or run in the opposite direction.  I have no hopes of ever being a participant on this show.  The boys however?  Different story.  Every time we watch it Kaleb asks me if someday we can go there with all the dancers.  Mason doesn’t ask anything – he just dances.  I have been trying to capture video of this forever, but he’s elusive, that kid.

Anyway, Nigel says “Cue Music” and Mase moves his little body all over the place.  He usually tries to mimic whatever he sees on the screen – which is 100% of the time really entertaining.  He goes from ballet to jazz to hip hop and back again – it’s absolutely hysterical.  Especially when he’s pretty much naked pretty much most of the time.

On the less humorous side of things, we had a meeting the other day to determine Kaleb’s placement in kindergarten next year.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the entire meeting and the decision that was made so that will be a post for tomorrow (or whatever day I’m able to sit here for more than five minutes without being attacked by my Monsters).  I would however, like to ask anyone who knows anything about EBD to share thoughts and feelings on it, because I’m still trying to decide how I feel.

Hopefully I’ll actually be back to posting regularly after this – we are cleaning the main part of the house today.  Well, we’re going to try.  Well, I’m going to try.  Oh, who am I kidding?

I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you what a disaster my house still is.

History Repeating…

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  ~ Albert Einstein

This is how I feel at least twice every day.

Why did I just pick up that bin full of potato heads?  They’re just going to dump it out again.

What is the point in folding Mason’s clothes and putting them in the dresser?  You know he’s going to pull them all out and pee on them as soon as you put him to bed.

How many times are you going to say “Use your inside voice!” before you learn that the children don’t have inside voices?

Pick up this, put it away.  Step on it again in twenty minutes.  Pick it up, put it away, step on it again in twenty minutes.  Pick it up, put it on a shelf, step on it again in twenty minutes.  Pick it up, throw it in the garbage, go hide in closet.

Don’t jump on the furniture!  Stop throwing things at the television!  Don’t hit your brother!  Stop screaming!  Leave the dog alone!

These things.  These ridiculous things just keep happening over and over again – yet I continue to try, over and over again.  Hoping, with some sort of sich masochism that one of these days I will actually get a different result.

Who knows, maybe one day I will.

Anyway, we went to the library Friday to pick out some movies for the weekend.  It occurred to me, while standing there listening to Mason scream at Kaleb and Kaleb scream at me in the middle of the children’s section that the kids have never seen Mary Poppins.  Oh, wait.  I have never seen Mary Poppins.  I know, I know, major Fail.

I was too preoccupied falling in love with Beauty and The Beast and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Both of which my kids have seen at least five times each.  I wasn’t the “Spoon full of sugar” kind of kid, so to speak.  I was definitely more “Time Warp”.  But still – what kind of self respecting movie-night making mother am I if I don’t sit down and watch the lady with the crazy umbrella (Mary Poppins is the one with the umbrella, right?) fly around the tv?

Right then I decided to remedy my Mary Poppins problem and borrowed it from the library.  Since we’re spending the weekend celebrating Kaleb’s graduation to Kindergarten I figure it will be a perfect addition to our party.  But first things first, we needed Shrek 4.  Last week was so rough I opted to make this week as much like a vacation as I could.  Which meant 7 days of movie nights, favorite foods, fun and games, and lots of low key fun.

We watched the first three Shrek movies throughout the week, at least three times each, and now we needed Shrek 4. We took a break from the movies on Wednesday since Uncle Ed came into town to play, which was awesome.  It’s been years since we got to see him, and the boys certainly did their best to make up for it!

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So when we went shopping on Friday after the library we picked up Shrek 4.  Unfortunately, by the time we got home both of the kids were walking nightmares.  Screaming, fighting, throwing, kicking, you know the drill.  Mason screamed for an hour because he wanted cereal, Kaleb screamed because Mason was screaming.  By 6pm Friday night Mason had put himself to bed and was sound asleep.  So, our celebration got postponed until yesterday.

We spent all day yesterday making a mess of the house we had just cleaned.  We made our fruit fondue dip, and while it was setting Kaleb and I set to making some spinach dip.  Though he suddenly stopped me and said:

“Mommy, I don’t want spinach dip.”
“Oh? What do you want instead?”
“Peas dip.”
“Peas dip? What would you put in something like that?”
“Peas, tomatoes, cheese, milk, cookies, and olives!”
“Buddy… that sounds really gross.”
“No! Everyone loves peas dip!”
“Okay, let’s just stick with spinach for today, what do you say?”
*sigh* “I guess mommy. But only because you’ve been a very good girl today.”

My kid is truly silly sometimes.

We filled up on our dips and snacks and settled in to watch Shrek Forever After.  Fifteen minutes in, Mason jumped up, ran to the popcorn machine, grabbed his favorite popcorn cup and started screaming for the popcorn machine.  So, we took a break and made some popcorn.

Settled back in to watch Shrek 4 – and didn’t get very far.  Fighting, fidgeting, screaming – oooh my.

Both boys went to bed around 9, and I vowed to finish this party today.

So, we’re going to make puppets with paper bags and have a puppet show.  And we’re going to watch Mary Poppins.  And we’re going to continue to completely destroy the house – because, well… the bins are already dumped out everywhere, we might as well play!

Then we will get up tomorrow, and clean the house again.  Wreck and repeat.  Insanity I say.

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Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown…

We dropped Daddy off at the airport so he could go back to work this morning before school.

We got back home with just enough time to pack up Kaleb’s lunch, fill out his folder, and meet the bus.  While I’m making his sandwich, he sits down on the kitchen floor with Milo, and starts petting him oh so gently.  I’m thinking this is weird, but maybe, just maybe Kaleb is finally starting to understand that he has to be nice with the dog.  Then I hear him start talking to Milo, very quietly.

“It’s okay Milos.  I know you miss daddy too.  But he had to go on the airplane to go back to work.  He has to go make us moneys so we can buy things.  He’ll be home soon.  It’s okay.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  It was so uncharacteristically sweet for Kaleb (when it comes to Milo, the kid is a wrecking ball).  It was also another one of those moments that strike me so randomly – where I see my child trying to cope with emotion by transferring it on something else (it used to be the doll houses).  Daddy’s had this job for as long as we’ve been together.  It’s all the boys know.  But this was the first time Kaleb really got it.  And it was kind of heartbreaking.  The whole time we were waiting for the bus we discussed how long Daddy would be gone, all the things we would do when Daddy gets home, and some of the things we will do before he gets home.

Kaleb has received his very first birthday invite from a classmate.  This is kind of a big deal for me – especially because I know the little girl has been subject to some of his meltdowns in school before.  We’ve got a baseball game to go to, a wedding expo to go to, possibly Scooby Doo live (um, can we say AWESOME???), as well as getting this poor house back in order.

The one thing I’m most focused on though, the one thing that’s happening before Daddy comes home that is going to give me a bit of a panic attack – Mason’s evaluation was finally scheduled.  June 13th.  I’m a bit freaked out.  Okay, I’m a lot freaked out.  With Kaleb, we knew, just like we do with Mason.  But Kaleb is the kind of kid who shows all of his cards without question.  Mason is… Mason.  Yes, he’ll look you in the eye – but not because he wants to make any form of eye contact – he’s actually studying your eyes.  Yes, he points – but 99% of the time it’s only to the things he’s trying to grab out of thin air.  Yep, he can be social.  Again, not because he actually wants to interact – he wants to understand.  The kid is almost as obsessed with how people work as he is the 4 billion matchbox cars spread across this house like little land mines.

So, what happens when the eval falls on a good day?  A day where he’s more interested in studying you than anything else and you take that as socialization?  What happens then?  Do we start from scratch.  We’ve known – for a long time now, that Mason isn’t “typical”.  He’s not as violent as his brother – well, not usually.  But he shows all of the major signs, and he does things that sometimes make me feel like I’m watching a parallel world.  Things he couldn’t have learned – as Kaleb had stopped doing those things before Mase was even born.

I forgot how nerve-wracking this can be.  Actually, that’s not true.  This is a different kind of nervousness.  Totally different.  And that’s even more stressful.  Kaleb was a shoe-in so to speak.  We knew it, they knew it, it was just a matter of formalizing it.  The only real nervousness I felt with Kaleb was that he was going to break another chair.  Plus, his eval was close enough to Mason’s due date that I was concerned about missing the eval.  Which, incidentally, I did.  Mason was born two weeks early – Kaleb’s eval was 30 hours later.

However, with Mason?  It’s almost as if he’s a total unknown.  The Developmental Pediatrician knows it – has remarked on it, recommended evaluation more than once.  Same goes with the Pediatric Neurologist.  Kaleb’s neuro has remarked on it, recommended evaluation on nearly every trip that Mason joins us.  Before you ask, I don’t take Mase to either one of them because neither of them has room for new patients right now.  And Kaleb’s DP took me 16 months to get in for an appointment.

But, like I said, Mason is different.  A lot of his problems aren’t as loud and violent.  A lot of them are quiet things, things that happen and are downright disturbing at times.  I’d be afraid to spend a day inside that kid’s mind – he connects things in a way I’ve never seen before.  Then you add in the sensory issues, the sensitivities to noise, certain textures and tastes.  Throw in fine and gross motor delays.  Add in the fact that he mostly talks Masonese, and you rarely get good, real, clear words out of him.  Throw in the obsessions, and the weird thing he does when he “collects” things out of the air… I cannot really explain this.  And I truthfully have no idea what he’s doing – I just guess, and hope that I’m right.  When he sees something that interests him, he basically plucks it out of thin air, and places it in his other hand – which he holds like he’s holding a box.  Occasionally he’ll put his imaginary things in a car if he’s carrying one.  He walks around basically all the time with that hand clenched like he’s holding something.  It’s odd, and I don’t know how else to explain it.

The toe-walking and W-sitting.  The OCD and insistence that things be exactly just right and nobody else touch them.  The refusal to sleep – and the need to smack his feet on the mattress over and over and over again in order to fall asleep.  The fixation on balls and anything with wheels.  The incredible, frightening ability he has to manipulate every one and every thing around him.  The list goes on.  But what if the person doing the evaluation doesn’t see it?  What if that person only sees that sweet, happy, curious Mason that most people see when he puts on his “people face”?

Then what?  I didn’t realize just how much this was going to rattle me until they gave me the date.  We’ll get through it – we always do.  I’ll make sure to be thorough on the paperwork, and Mason will just be Mason.  Still.

On a more positive note, Kaleb’s room is finished – totally finished.  And Mason’s Corvette Bed came in two days early – which was perfect.  Daddy was heartbroken that he wasn’t going to be here when Mase saw it for the first time.  I was heartbroken at the thought of having to put it together.  So we spent all day yesterday scrambling to get everything done.  And remarkably, we pretty much did.  Mason is in LOVE with his new bed.  Kaleb is absolutely overjoyed with his new room – it was just what he needed.

So turning Mason’s room from a nursery into a big boy room (one that is not overwhelming) is my new project.  Guess we’ll need to take a trip to Michaels soon.  Anyway, here are some pictures of the Monsters new stuff (and by some, I mean a ton)!

The New Bed

The New Bed

Waiting for the gates to open so he can get to the car in his room!

Waiting for the gates to open so he can get to the car in his room!

Annnnd he's off!

Annnnd he’s off!

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Yes, the headlights actually turn on.

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Thank you Daddy!!!

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Now on to Kaleb’s new room!  You’ll notice the walls are bare – we didn’t want to overwhelm the room, so we made a deal.  If he sleeps in his bed every night, sometime in May we will go and get some wall decals.

Kaleb's closet pt. 1

Kaleb’s closet pt. 1

Kaleb's closet pt. 2

Kaleb’s closet pt. 2

Big Green Chair

Big Green Chair

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Rest In The Bed…

By 8 o’clock last night I looked like a giant teddy bear threw up on me.

I’m not even remotely joking.  I was covered in foam.

Okay, Tarantino style, here’s what happened:

We’ve had problem after problem with Kaleb and his room for the last couple of months.  He continues to insist he’s hearing noises in his room – neither of us can figure out what noises he’s talking about.  The problem is, it could be any number of things – but the times and reactions are so inconsistent, I was seriously going with “I TOLD you the house was haunted!”

Okay, okay.  No.  I don’t actually think my house is haunted (but remind me to tell you about the dead people in the walls…).  However, as I could not find a logical reason for his constant insistence that his room makes noise.  And it just kept getting worse as time went on.  He went from just getting up in the middle of the night to insisting during the day that his room was “scary and not safe”.  Well, this is a big problem.

And then someone posed a question, wondering if the noises he’s hearing aren’t in his head – as a way to compensate or express overstimulation.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  So, enough is enough.  Daddy and I discussed it (well, I talked and talked and talked until he probably agreed just to shut me up), and we decided it’s time to redo his room.  We’ve been planning on getting Mason a Corvette bed for a while – but we weren’t planning on painting his room, just touching it up when I pull the nursery rhymes off the walls to give him a more “big kid” theme.  We’d also been planning on finding a good time to redo Kaleb’s room.  Originally, this was based on two main factors:

  1. The kid has thrown, kicked, punched, and slammed an unbelievable number of small holes in the walls, and we need to fix them.  
  2. It is time for the Red Bed to go.

Now, of course, there’s more of a rush on it.  If he really is too overstimulated in his room – we need to fix it, pronto.  And as I sat thinking about the entire situation, I know that I’m partly to blame for that.  We don’t have a good “time-out” spot in the house.  So, we’ve always given time out in the bedroom.  That’s generally my primary mode of discipline – go take five minutes and calm down.  So, not only is he not calming down because the room is too “loud” – he’s associating it with being in trouble, not being safe.  Insert me smacking my forehead in a “how did I not realize this??” moment.

So, we are putting a rush on it.  I made Kaleb a list to explain what has to happen for him to have a “New Room” where he can feel safe.

  1. Break down the Red Bed
  2. Clean up the foam and bed
  3. Clean all of the crayon and marker off the walls (no more writing utensils of any kind are to be allowed in that room anymore.  It’s going to take me a month to get it all cleaned off)
  4. Fix the holes in the walls
  5. Pick out paint color
  6. Pick out new sheets
  7. Move the furniture
  8. Tape off the baseboards
  9. Paint the walls white (primer)
  10. Paint the walls the new color
  11. Get new bed
  12. Have a New Room!

He’s stoked about this, btw.

So, at 12:30 yesterday afternoon, I went in and started to break down the Red Bed.  Don’t know what the Red Bed is?  Well…

The Big Red Bed

The Big Red Bed


Obviously it’s red.  It’s also big.  7 foot in diameter actually.  It’s round.  It’s filled with what looks like a couple of memory foam mattresses that went through a wood chipper.  We bought it for Kaleb a couple of years ago, because his night terrors were coming back worse than before, and he was having a hard time sleeping in a regular bed – we’d find him in his bean bag chair a lot.  So, Daddy found the Red Bed (and believe you me, it didn’t come from someplace you typically buy kids furniture!), and there you have it.  I set it up the day it came, and made a huge mess, but the kid loved it.

Over the last few months though, we’ve noticed he’s sleeping on the futon, not the Red Bed.  While the Red Bed cradled him and gave him the stimulation he craved when he was younger, we think it’s time for him to have a regular bed again, since the only thing the Red Bed is used for anymore is something to jump on.

So, again, I went to go and break down the Red Bed.  Remove the cover, set it aside to go to the laundromat.  Grab the box of 39 gallon bags, and unzip a tiny section of the inside liner.

The foam inside the Red Bed

The foam inside the Red Bed

Ah crap.  I forgot what a complete and utter mess this was.  And I’m standing here with a garbage bag in my hand wondering how on earth I’m going to get the foam from the bed to the bag.  Then I ha an Ah Ha! moment.  We have at least ten different buckets stashed around this house – Mason is constantly changing his favorite form of container for the four thousand matchbox cars he cannot live without.  Run and grab a bucket – before I know it the bag is full.  And I haven’t made a dent.  Oh this sucks.  Daddy comes walking in, takes one look at me, the bed, and the bag, and tells me he doesn’t think this was such a good idea – I point out that switching the beds out was his idea.  He walks away shaking his head.

But he’s right.  This was a BAD idea.

Five bags in – we’re talking just shy of 200 gallons here folks – and I still haven’t made a dent.  By the time I’m on my 7th bag, it’s time to get Kaleb off the bus.  Tell him I’m breaking down the bed so he doesn’t go completely off the rails when he walks in and sees the mess.  He even helps me for a minute, which has me super excited because I was totally ready for the meltdown.  But compared to the toilet – the bed is no concern.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned the toilet?  Well, it was still clogging every day.  And finally Daddy had enough and decided to put in a new one.  So, while I’m literally up to my elbows in foam, he’s up to his in crap.  He did find the clog though – it wasn’t a matchbox car as we had suspected.  It was a dinosaur.  Ohhhh Mason, whatever will we do with you??  Anyway, Kaleb was upset because Daddy was “breaking” his toilet.  This was a problem for a while – but eventually he got past it – until this morning.  He used it, but he wasn’t happy about it.  It’s not the same as his other toilet and he needs the other one back.  Yeahhhhh no ya don’t.

Anyway, by 6 I was nearly done with the bed.  The entire bedroom was covered in foam, and so was I.

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Stopped to make the kids dinner and clean up the kitchen, got them in bed, ran to the store, and by 8 was ready to start cleaning the foam up off the floor.  21 bags later.  That’s more than 800 gallons of foam.  And we have NO idea what we’re going to do with all of these bags unless we get this bed sold, and fast.  Since Mason was actually asleep, I opted to sweep up as much as I could with the broom, and vacuum up the rest with the shopvac today.

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So, Kaleb slept in Mommy and Daddy’s room.  Mommy and Daddy slept on the couch because Kaleb is a bed hog.  And Mason woke up in time to see the bus… again.

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Now I’m off to vacuum, scrub, run to the vet, spackle and prime.  Wish us luck!

P.S.

There aren’t actually dead people in the walls.  At least, not that I’ve seen.  But I have my suspicions.