Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deep Thoughts from Noah

"I want a snack," said Noah

"How can you be hungry when you just ate an hour ago?," I asked.

"Well, I just want a snack in case I get hungry," explained Noah.

"Alayna tried to kiss me, but  I got away though.  It makes me nervous...about getting married," shared Noah

"Alayna will probably break up with me," continued Noah

"What would you do if that happened?" I asked.

"I wouldn't worry about it.  I could just remember the fun times we had and if she called me back I'd just say I don't care and she would never break up with me again...until the next day when it happened," explained Noah.


"Mom, will you ever outgrow your sickness?" asked Noah.

"You mean my allergies?" I asked.

"Yes," said Noah.

"No, I'll always be allergic to cats and dogs," I explained.

"Well, maybe when you get old and die, then I can get a dog if I act responsibly," shared Noah.

(Hmmm...there's always hope)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dear Noah...Thanks For Helping Me Grow

The following story is part 2, click here  to read part 1.

Although exhausted, when Steve and I finally crawled into our beds after spending 12 hours in the car to take Noah to Camp Barnabas, I found myself unable to rest.  The house was not only quiet, it was empty.  Natalie was spending the night with her grandma and Noah was more than 300 miles away.  It felt odd not having them near.  I tossed and turned and attempted to get comfortable while Steve lay motionless.

"What in the heck are we going to do when they grow up and move away?" I shared.  "We'll have nothing to talk about!" I continued.

"Oh, we'll just have to have lots of sex then," retorted Steve.

"You're so funny," I replied.

"Hey, that wasn't meant to be funny," said Steve.

Within minutes I was asleep.  The next day, I kept myself busy with various errands, but by late afternoon, I was dying to know how Noah was doing...without me.  I sent a quick email to their "mommy checks" account and tried to go about my day.  I didn't know how often they check the account so figured it could be Tuesday morning before someone responded.  However, at 9 p.m. I received a call from Amanda, a nurse practitioner working at Camp Barnabas.

"Noah has a terrible middle ear infection," explained Amanda.

She had checked to make sure he wasn't allergic to any medicines and had already started him on penicillin as they had some available at camp.

"He should be feeling better in a couple of days," added Amanda.

I couldn't believe it.  Noah hadn't had an ear infection in more than two years.  Apparently it was Murphy's Law that he get one when he's miles from home, but I didn't have to like it.  I felt helpless and slept poorly that night.

The next morning I contacted Amanda to ask if I should come and get Noah, but she assured me it wasn't necessary because when she went to give him his morning meds, he told her he slept well and had no pain.  A little while later I received a response from the camp director through the mommy checks email system:
Noah is doing great!  He is already feeling better so please don't come get him.  There is another boy at camp that loves Star Wars and they are having a Star Wars party this afternoon.  Noah talked to one of our staff guys about how to make more friends so they are practicing how to do it.  He did all the activities yesterday including sand volleyball, disc golf, and T-shirt making.  He is so sweet and we love having him here.



While I felt relieved he was feeling better, I'd be lying if I said, I wasn't a little disappointed.  I was definitely having a tougher time with this separation than Noah, it seemed.  When the day finally arrived to go get him, I was more than ready.   We pulled into the entrance of the camp just minutes after it opened, but we found the place already full of parents and campers toting their belongings to their cars.  As Steve fumbled with his camera, I snapped at him to hurry up. When we were about 75 yards from Noah's cabin, we spied him waving and calling out to us enthusiastically.  Then, Noah just took off running towards us.  I relished the moment as he collided into my arms.

Looking up at me with teary eyes he choked out "Mahhhmmm."  But, before I could respond, he added, "I want to come back.  Please...can I come back?"

Hmmm...I'm pretty sure you must leave a place before you can technically come back to it, but instead of sharing this bit of knowledge, I simply sighed and replied, "Of course!"

Saying good-bye to his team of counselors was tough.

Noah and I at the closing ceremony.

Noah with his Star Wars buddy, Jack.

He said, "yes" to so many new things.

"Was it scary?" I asked.  "Yes, it was very scary...I only went down it 6 times," replied Noah.

JT, though Noah thinks he's Obi One, played along and took Noah for a ride in the "Millenium Falcon".

Friday, July 27, 2012

Musings from Natalie #8

Overhead while Noah and Natalie were playing restaurant with Nat's play kitchen:

"I'll be the cook," said Noah.
"No, I'll be the cook.  You be the dishwasher," instructed Natalie
"I don't want to be the dishwasher," said Noah.
"But, the dishwasher is a VERY important job!" promised Natalie.
"Fine." surrendered Noah

"Mom, is that a sausage dog?" asked Natalie while pointing to a dachshund.

Me: "Are you having fun with Grandma?"
Natalie: "I'm having buckets of fun...100 BUCKETS!"

(Hmmm...was this before or after Grandma bought you a Monster High doll?)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Know What You Mean #3

"Mom, they have hamitizer at camp," announced Natalie

(I don't think they were hypnotizing cured pork while at camp.  Rather, I think she was enamored by the sweet-smelling hand sanitizer available in the bathrooms.)

"Natalie, did you know that if you eat too much sugar it will make you viper?" said Noah

(I don't think he meant consuming sugar would transform Natalie into a snake...which is a good thing or else I'd be a 20 ft python by now.  Rather, I think he meant too much sugar would make her hyper).

"Mom, come whiff me," said Natalie while we swam at our community pool.
(I don't think she wanted me to check to make sure she didn't stink.  Rather, I think she wanted me to come with her to the lazy river float.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear Mom...I'm Growing Up

When you're a parent you'll do things for your kids that you wouldn't do for others, even yourself.  The moment I became a mother, I was 110% vested in my child's future success.  Sometimes, ensuring it has meant going the extra mile, but this past Sunday it involved traveling 625 miles...round trip.

With three bags full of Noah's belongings, we loaded up our Camry and headed to Memphis to take Noah to Camp Barnabas or "Camp Barnacles" as Natalie calls it.  Camp Barnabas provides children and young adults with special needs and chronic illnesses, the opportunity to try new things in a way that is safe and successful for them.  Through adaptive activities, they become participants rather than observers.  All of this is provided in a Christian camp setting.  The week Noah would be attending was specifically designed for those with Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD). Although the plan for this trip had been set in motion six months in advance, when the day finally arrived to go, I wasn't quite prepared.  I still couldn't believe that my kid, the one who used to bang his head on our hardwood floor when upset and spent more years in pull-ups than I care to count, was now going to be eating, sleeping...and living without me, and my mommy-safety net for six days and five nights!

As I double-checked his items list, it was as if my head and body were disconnected.  I couldn't really think about the drop off.  I could only focus on the tasks I needed to do in the here and now -- like labeling every stitch of clothing and personal item Noah owned.  When I asked Noah if he wanted me to pack along his sleeping buddies -- a stuffed Scooby Doo and Beanie Babies, Claude the crab and a pug named Wrinkles, he responded with a horrified look and then vigorously shook his head no. It seemed he planned on jumping into the role of "big kid" with both feet.  I wondered what else he was thinking about shirking...surely not hugs and kisses from his mother.

The drive down was an adventure in itself as Noah had not been on a long car ride since he was a baby. About an hour into our trip, we made a rest stop at a McDonald's. When I emerged from the restroom I found Steve and Noah waiting for me.

"Did he go?" I whispered to Steve.

"No, he wouldn't go.  There was a fly in the stall," replied Steve matter-of-factly.

"What?" I responded.  "Noah, come with me," I commanded as I took his hand and quickly pulled him into the ladies' room. Once inside Noah scanned the room shell-shocked.

"Mom, I can't be in here.  This room is for girls!" stated Noah.

"Noah, no one is in here.  It's fine.  Besides, we won't be stopping for another hour.  Go ahead, it's clean," I said. 

Without another word he entered a stall and locked himself in.  I stood near the sinks and waited.  As the minutes ticked by I counted the cracks in the floor and studied the tiles in the ceiling while woman after woman entered and left the restroom.  After 15 minutes, Noah whispered for me through the door.

"Noah, are you okay?" I asked.  With the room quiet again, Noah cautiously opened the stall door and peered out, "I can't go in here.  It's for girls," he decided.  Apparently he had spent the entire time standing fully clothed in the stall panicking that he'd be found out -- a boy in the women's restroom.

"Noah, you have to at least try because we aren't stopping again for at least another hour," I explained.

With a look of deer in the headlights, his big blue eyes accepted my words and 30 seconds later I heard a flush.  Success.

Back on the road Noah alternated entertaining himself with his DSi and Spiderman activity book while I thought about how far we had come.  I wasn't thinking of the miles we had traveled, rather the growth and accomplishments Noah had attained since we began our journey on Planet Autism.  When we were about an hour from reaching our final destination, we made one last pit stop at a gas station that also served Baskin Robbins.  Noah excitedly ordered a scoop of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  However, when the attendant handed him their signature pink spoon, Noah froze. 

"I can't use this," said Noah.

"What are you talking about, Noah?  It's a spoon. It's the only kind they have," replied Steve.

As Noah teetered on having a meltdown over the idea of consuming his dessert with a girly-colored utensil, I held my breath.  Eventually he decided that he wanted the ice cream more than he cared about the color of the spoon.

Although we arrived at the campgrounds right on time, a motorcade of more than 30 cars were already ahead of us. Camp volunteers walked alongside the waiting vehicles to check in campers.  

"Who do we have here?" asked the volunteer.

"Noah Felgenhauer," piped Noah from the backseat.

As the volunteer scanned and re-scanned his list in search for Noah's name, my heart raced as I second-guessed myself.  Inside I worried I screwed something up or didn't fill a form out properly.  

"No problem, I'll just make him up a badge right now.  I know I saw his name earlier.  I'm not sure why it didn't print," explained the volunteer.

So, while my anxiety was growing as our car inched closer to "the drop-off" point, when I looked behind me, I saw that Noah was grinning from ear to ear in anticipation.

Once we reached the end of the line, we unloaded Noah's things.  With hardly a glance at us, he headed straight to the reception hall to meet his personal camp counselor and receive a welcome cheer from the staff.  

Next, Steve and I parked the car and ventured to the nurse's station to drop off Noah's medications and get him formally checked in.  Our last stop was to meet him at his cabin and say our good-byes.  When we reached his "home away from home", we found him already making up his bunk.  While he chatted with his counselor, he seemed almost oblivious to our presence.   

Noah and Casey

Noah outside his cabin with his cabin manager, Kelso and counselor, Casey.

As Steve tugged on my arm, I frantically rattled off the detailed instructions I'd written out in a two page letter to his counselors.  I gave Noah a hug and turned around quickly so he couldn't see the tears that threatened to ruin my strong front exterior.  Steve and I headed back to St. Louis and although our car was visibly lighter, my heart was heavy as I realized my baby is growing up.

Part 2: Dear Noah...Thanks for Helping Me Grow

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Acting Up and Loving It!

On Friday, while watching Natalie sashay across our city center's stage to prepare for her scene, I was reminded just how lucky we are to live in a community that values and supports the arts. This past week Natalie attended drama camp through Shrewsbury's Parks and Recreation Department.  The fee for the five day camp was minimal, but the skills and confidence she gained in class were priceless. Under the direction of our high school's drama teacher, Colleen Malone, Natalie and 30+ girls, many with little to no theater experience, learned about improvisation, pantomime, costume and set design and more. Malone not only directed, she inspired and drew out each girl's creativity in a way that felt safe and fun.  

Natalie returned home from her first day and announced, "Drama camp is AMAZING!"  Before she was completely inside, she was showing me her "warm up" exercises.  She was excited to demonstrate her developing mime-walking skill and told me all about the puppet she made at camp. Within minutes, her enthusiasm over puppets inspired her to set up a show in our living room.  I sat down and listened, but couldn't help but take notes. 
Once upon a time there was a small, gray tiger named Lulu.  She lives on a small iceberg called Pola.  She's a curious tiger.  She used to live on a ship, but she got thrown out by the pirates.  They threw her out of the ship because she always had hair balls.  She floated on a piece of the ship until one day she saw a floating iceberg.  

"Hmmm...what's that doing here?" she said.

She took a lick.

"Brrr!  That's cold."

One day she slept on the iceberg.  The iceberg moved and broke into pieces and she jumped off it onto land.

"Oh no!"

The iceberg broke.  She tried to fix it.  She was so upset.

"What am I going to do now?"

She licked one piece of the iceberg then she sent her Grandma a letter telling her she needed carrot seeds to grow food.  She received one carrot and a piece of carrot pie.

"Yummy, yummy," said Lulu.

She wanted to eat the pie, but then she remembered -- veggies first!  She learned that on the pirate ship.  She licked all the crumbs and then ate all the pie.

The End.

Each day her joy for drama camp only grew as she showed off her "tongue exercises" and brought home colorful masks and told me all about her new "best friends" at camp.  I was impressed with her ability to recall and perform the difficult twisters like, "Big black bugs bleed blue black blood, but baby black bugs bleed blue."  By the third day, I was sharing Natalie's enthusiasm for class with her teacher and inquiring about future camps.  Malone appreciated the positive feedback and then shared, "Your daughter is among the youngest in the group, but she is absolutely fearless.  After one demonstration she's already telling me, I've got this."

"Yeah, let's just hope she uses her powers for good!" I responded.
Natalie is front and center showing off her creative endeavor.
Natalie and her partner practice their scene.
To learn more about the Shrewsbury Summer Drama Camp, click here to like them on Facebook.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Musings from Natalie #7

Me: "You are going to Noah's award ceremony tonight."
Natalie: "No, I'm not."
Me: "Yes, you are."
Natalie: "No, I'm not going.  I'm staying home."
Me: "Yes, you are going.  Do not talk back to me again."
Natalie: "Well, I was just trying to stand up for myself."

Noah: "My favorite radio station is Fresh 102.5. What's your favorite, Natalie?"
Natalie: "I like Jagger."
Noah: "No!  That's a song.  What's your favorite STATION?" .
Natalie: "I LIKE JAGGER!"
(They continued this ping pong convo until Noah had a heiny and I rationalized that it's got to be 5 o'clock somewhere.)

This week's "smokin' girl song comes from Gwen Stefani, "The Sweet Escape"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

McDinner Wars

I'm tired of competing with the Gold Arches for my children's taste bud affections.  What is it about a little, smiling red and yellow cardboard box that sends my kids into squeals of delight?  Surely it can't be the food.  It's filled with so much salt that I think it actually anesthetizes their sense of taste.  Maybe it's the factory molded plastic prize so lovingly crafted from China that sends them oohing and ahhhing. Or, it could be the surprise element or desire to "collect them all" that draws them in.  I think kids are innately collectors.  Lord knows my two have collected everything from rocks and rubber bands to bugs and buttons.

So, I've decided that if I can't beat 'em...I'll join them.  I've been in marketing for more than 10 years; I just need to start "repackaging" my offerings to make them more sell-able to my target market.  Starting now, I'm going to invest in cardboard boxes...lots of them.  And when the kids ask, "What's for dinner?” I'll put on my newly purchased visor and smock and say, "Welcome to the F Inn Family Diner -- Where you can have it our way or the highway!  May I take your order?"  Then I will point to the fancy schmancy menu marquee I've invested in. However, instead of burgers and fries, they'll find items like beef and broccoli; roast chicken and sugar snap peas.   A bonus for me is that with all food items served in paper and plastic - I'll be reducing the amount of dishes to clean!  For prizes, I'll just select from the many discarded toys lying under their beds or left forgotten in a drawer and cover them in shrink wrap.  Surprise!  My hook for getting them to return? "Come back!  There's no telling what toys you'll see again!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can Do Attitude

I am looking for folks in the St. Louis area with a "Can Do" attitude who would like to put their drinking habits to good use.  We are collecting aluminum cans for Camp Happy Day, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maintaining academic skills during the summer break for children with special needs, including our son, Noah.

A big thank you to the soda guzzling employees of Browning Arms who were happy to hand over their empty cans.  If you or your place of business would like to donate your cans to Camp Happy Day, please inbox me at andrea at therapyonwry dot com


Monday, July 16, 2012

Wake Up Sleepyhead

Last night our neighbor came over to show Natalie, our resident bug lover, a colorful, albeit dead, beetle she found in her garden.  Natalie was completely enamored with the insect and immediately put it in her bug box.  However, the state of said bug led to a heated exchange between Noah and Natalie.

"Natalie, he is dead," stated Noah.

"He's not dead!" insisted Natalie

"Yes, he is," reiterated Noah.

"No, he's not!" she argued.  "Elaine gave him to me and told me he doesn't require food or water.  He just needs love...LOTS of love and I get to look at him.  He's a great pet," added Natalie

After a short pause she asked, "Mom, do you think my beetle can learn tricks?"

"Hmm...maybe you can teach him to play dead?" I suggested.

"Yes!  That's a good one," she agreed and then asked, "Mom, do you think I could teach him gymnastics? Because he has these little hooks that he could use to swing from blades of grass."

"I don't know about that," I replied.  "What about a name?  
Did you name your beetle?" I inquired.

"No.  What should I name him?" she asked.

"He's your beetle.  You should name him," I replied.

"Hmmm...how about Sniff?" she suggested and then quickly dismissed it, "Though he doesn't really sniff much.  How about Sleep or Sleepyhead?" she asked.

"Sleepyhead!  I like it," I said.

"Do beetles poop?" she asked.

"Yes, but I don't think you need to worry about that with Sleepyhead," I said.

"Mom, today is Sleepyhead's bertday!" Natalie cheered.

"It is?" I questioned.

"Yes!  What do you think he would like?" she asked.

"Hmmm...I'm not sure.  What do you get a sleepy beetle for his birthday?" I asked.

"I know!  We could make him a new home.  He needs a beautiful place because he has a beautiful back.  He can't live in an old, stinky bug box!" she explained.

(Which reminds me of a new book idea for children's author, Laura Numeroff, "If you give a girl a sleepy beetle, she'll want to give it a beautiful home...with accessories  The beetle will ask for gymnastic lessons and the Mom will want a drink.)

Natalie shows off Sleepyhead.

"He's too beautiful to live here!" said Natalie.

"Now, we just need to make fun accessories for him!" she cheered.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Personal Day

I need a personal shopper...for my kids.  However, this professional would also be required to take my kids along for the excursion and leave me at home to eat bonbons and finish Charlaine Harris' latest offering.  I rarely go shopping...except to the grocery store or when it's absolutely necessary to hold my mental state together.  And, I almost never tote my kids along; which explains why when I loaded them up in the car to mundanely shop at Kohl's for socks, underwear and shoes, they were completely enamored with the box store.  I knew enough of the chain's layout to park at the entrance nearest the shoe aisle. However, the moment Natalie's feet crossed the threshold, she announced she needed to go to the bathroom located on the opposite end of the store.  As we passed the models and endless displays, Natalie's inner shopper seemed to have awakened.  "Mom! Would you take me here on my bertday?  Look at those cute shoes!" she announced, as she pointed to a mannequin wearing stilettos.  "Look at all that jewelry!  It's so sparkly!" she squealed as she tugged my arm to point out nearly every item we passed.  

After visiting the facilities we headed back to shoes. They had a nice selection of Skecher's.  They even had the same z-strap shoe as Noah's current pair. However, no amount of cajoling on my part could convince Noah that he would be happy with shoes that didn't light up.

"But Charlie has light up ones!" he whined.

"In a size 5?" I countered.

Since I could not reach a middle ground with him, I decided to tackle the remaining items on our list. Upon arriving in the department of unmentionables, I discovered that Kohl's may offer discount prices, but they are ruthless with their marketing tactics.  They have all their toys arranged next to socks and skivvies.  So, while I searched for Noah's size, I listened to Natalie tell me how much she needed a $20 Monster High doll called Draculaura.  Sorry, my dear, but no 5 year old of mine needs a sexed up Barbie with glitter and fangs. Incredibly, Noah then shares that he needs to go to the bathroom.

"We just came from the bathroom.  Why didn't you go when Natalie went?"  I asked.

"You didn't tell me to go!" he answered.

While Noah shifted his weight from side to side, waiting for me to respond, I closed my eyes and counted to 10. As we trekked back over to the bathrooms, I decided I'd reached my own "Shop til you drop" threshold, only in my case, I had purchased nothing, but was ready to drop down on the floor and have a huge fit outside the Misses department.  And, I realized I don't need a personal shopper...just a personal day.  T-minus 29 days and counting til school resumes.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Ever have a Friday that ends up feeling more like a Monday? 

Yesterday, I began the morning by burning the last two remaining slices of bacon for Noah's breakfast.  Yup, that's right, the kid who once only preferred
Star Wars smells, now not only likes, but thanks God for processed pork during our dinnertime prayers.  Somehow I was able to convince him that it was just extra crispy.  After getting him off to camp, I was then left to deal with the rats nest of tangles that make a home atop Natalie's head every morning -- no matter how much conditioner, detangler and leave-in tonic I apply the night before.  I've been trying to convince her to cut her waist-length mane, but her reply is always the same, "No, I want to be like Tangled."  Indeed.  

Natalie's camp was meeting at our community pool, or so I thought.  We arrived to find the place deserted. Darn it.  

"Natalie, I thought you said they were meeting at the pool?"  

"Oh!  That's right.  We're meeting at camp.  Today is red day, I need to wear a red shirt," said the girl with a wardrobe of pink and purple.  

"Natalie, I don't think you own anything red." I replied.  

"I know!  I'll wear Noah's Cardinal shirt," announced Natalie. 

So, we drove back home, and got her changed into Noah's shirt and cinched it with a scrunchie so that she didn't look as though she were pant-less. We got back in the car and drove to the park.  Immediately I could see the place was packed with kids running around.  I started to breathe a sigh of relief, until I noticed that all of them were wearing swimsuits!  What the heck?  

"Natalie, I thought you said today was red day?"  

"Oh, wait!  That was Thursday!  The day I missed," she explained.  

When I couldn't find Natalie's group, I asked some of the kids milling about the playground what they had planned for the day.  I learned they were having a water play day and would be sliding down a big, hand-made slip n'slide. 


Natalie and I once again got back into the car and drove home to change.  Talk about your deja vu! After helping her into her suit, we headed off once again to find her group.  We were told we would find them at the "big hill" next to the city center.  When we'd reached our final destination Natalie announced, "I'm a late mess!" My feelings exactly.  Thankfully, my boss was understanding and even with the morning's obstacle course of events, I was only 20 minutes late. Hmmm...maybe I should consider training for ABC's show, "Wipeout".

Friday, July 13, 2012

Musings from Natalie #6

Natalie burst into Noah's room yelling, "ROAR!," while wearing the mask she made at camp. 

"Hi, Natalie," Noah responded nonchalantly then returned his attention back to his LEGO's.

Disappointed, she asked, "How'd you know it was me?"


Natalie: "I had a plan last night, but it didn't work out so well."
Me: "Really?  What was your plan?"
Natalie: "Not to talk for a week."

"Noah is so cozy," she said.

Steve: "Natalie, if it starts thundering and lightning, the lifeguards are going to kick us out of the pool."
Natalie: "Will it hurt?"

Natalie: "Mom, all the counselors at camp call me cutie...I don't like it.  I want to be Monster High and that's not cute."
Me: "What does it mean to be Monster High...scary?"
Natalie: "Scary awesome."

(Note to self: No longer refer to Natalie as Tigerlily, Sugar or Cutie...just Scary Awesome.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Spy Something Cute

I admit it, there were times when Noah and I were knee-deep in therapy...listening therapy and brushing therapy and swinging therapy and systematic desensitization therapy that I began rethinking my dream to have two children.  I was overwhelmed by the marathon of to do's that needed to get accomplished and worried if I skipped just one I'd be jeopardizing his future success.  Noah was also chronically ill either from an ear infection or some other virus and we still didn't have a handle on when his next seizure would arrive.

Thank goodness I found a way to hand over some of my fears to God.  Less worrying and more praying led me to open my heart to a new friendships and to take the leap of expanding our family.

Yesterday I was reminded of the positive effect our "addition" has been for our family while Noah, Natalie and I were playing a game of "I Spy".  When it came to Natalie's turn she announced, "I spy something cute."  To which Noah replied in earnest, "I think it's me!" and then the two of them collapsed into a heap of giggles.

Although they argue and get on each other's nerves at times, no amount of therapy can replace the bond the two of them have forged.  They are each other's cheerleaders...and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sounds Good to Me

On Saturday morning the kids and I scurried out of the house just before 8 a.m. in hopes of beating the heat and the crowds coming to see the brand new, $18 million, 1.5 acre, Sea Lion Sound exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo.  Yet, when I turned on my car, I noticed the thermostat read 102.  Oh well, I still had high hopes of arriving before the masses.  We secured a free spot outside The Living World and although I wanted to make a beeline for the new exhibit...the kids really wanted to take a stroll through the Children's Zoo, first.  I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to hurry the kids as Noah petted guinea pigs and Natalie pretended to give a stuffed lion a haircut (Eraka would be so proud) in the make-believe vet center.  After saying hello to the pot-bellied pigs and Natalie had successfully squirted pink, "hamatizer" (hand sanitizer) all over her shirt, we rinsed off and headed over to welcome the sea lions back home.  It's hard to believe that they've been gone for two years while their new habitat was being constructed.

As we walked over, I tried to explain to them how cool the new exhibit would be...that they would have the opportunity to walk through a tunnel.  I shared that there would be water all around them and that we'd get a unique view of the sea lions as they swam.  But, when we reached the entrance Natalie suddenly looked quite pensive as she asked, "Mommy, would you hold my hand?  Because I'm afraid I'll get washed away."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We're Jammin

You can't be married to someone for 10 years and not have them do or say things that make you want to put them in a headlock...while other times you're reminded just why you said, "I do."

Steve and I were brought up very differently.  I grew up in the burbs and spent Saturdays at the ice rink or hanging out with girlfriends at the mall; whereas my husband spent most of his childhood either knee deep in a "crick" or 20 feet high in a tree-stand.  I love to dance and miss twirling at Casa Loma Ballroom or rockin to the beat at a club.  On the other hand, my guy would rather have all his teeth pulled out without anesthesia.  Sometimes he and I even speak a different language.  Instead of mine and yours, Steve says mine and your'ins and he regularly uses colorful phrases like, "It's hotter than a cowboy's 45 on a Saturday night" or "If you're gonna be a bear -- be a grizzly."  When I'm feeling overwhelmed by a problem, he's the one to remind me, "Remember...how do you eat an elephant?"

So, although my husband prefers to give our lawn a mullet over a traditional crew cut and the job of repainting our bathroom (Mother's Day gift circa 2008) is only 80
% complete and we've been living with a "phantom flush" for years, he is also the one who ensures that the checkbook is balanced and I have gas in my tank.  And, he's first to notice when I'm low on chocolate and regularly replenishes my stash.  On late evenings before I can finish saying,"I'm hungry, but there's nothing good in the fridge."  He's already putting on his shoes and asking,"What do you want?" 

Which explains why this past Saturday (his first one off in weeks) he chose to rise before dawn to spend part of it baking under the sweltering heat to pick berries...for me.  He set off with a three gallon bucket and a desire to fill it so as to have enough fruit to make a couple batches of jam and a big ol' cobbler. Three hours later, he returned home looking like he'd wrestled with a clowder of cats.  He had cuts, scratches and thorns all over his hands and knuckles and up and down his arms.  His shirt and pants were heavily snagged from dealing with the tangle of thorns that cover each and every berry branch. He was a mess, but was wearing his lopsided grin.  And, although I've not been around many swine, I think he really was "happier than a pig in poop" when he presented me with his booty -- nearly two gallons of blackberries.

He and I went on to spend a couple hours together washing and mashing berries and preparing our mason jars for jam.  So, although you won't find Steve and I cuttin' a rug together, for one afternoon we were for all intents and purposes...jammin.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Get a Dream...Get a Job...Get Me Outta Here!

Where would I be without the library's fantastic summer line-up of live entertainment, craft sessions and movie showings?  I tell you where I'd be...I'd be baking my head in the triple digit, St. Louis heat at some park because my two Tasmanian Devils have too much energy and we have too little house for them to run around in.  On Thursday, my reprieve from the scorching heat was all thanks to Juggling Jeff.  The Tesson Ferry Branch invited him to not only entertain, but encourage and teach kids how to make their dreams come true.  He got the crowd fired up by inviting the pint-sized bunch to share their dreams.  And, while some had lofty dreams of becoming an opera singer or a race car driver -- none of them came close to the altitude of Natalie's aspiration of becoming a bird when she grows up.  She shared her feather fantasy with me on the car ride over and was very disappointed to learn that the closest she would come to flying would be in an airplane.  

During his show, Juggling Jeff took the kids on a journey of reaching their dreams by following a few easy steps.  First, he challenged them to get a really big dream and then position it deep in their heart. This involved the kids reaching their hands into the air and seemingly grabbing their dreams with their bare hands and then purposefully stuffing them deep into their chests.  His antics were met with wild enthusiasm from the audience of youngsters as reflected by their ear-bleeding squeals. 

Juggling Jeff used his dream of becoming a professional juggler as the model and shared that one of the first things he did was study and learn everything he could about juggling. The next steps involved practicing and finding a team of experts to help you accomplish your dream.  At this point Natalie turned to me and whispered,"Will you be on my team?"

"Of course," I replied. However, to myself I thought I better figure out how best to channel her creative energy or I'm going to end up with a kid who works at fast food joint sporting a chicken suit.

Juggling Jeff 
And, while Juggling Jeff began the show juggling tennis balls the size of beach balls, as he continued through the dream-reaching steps of focus and persistence, his tricks became more difficult.  His grand finale involved him getting out of a strait jacket while staying atop a large, spinning yoga ball.

As soon as the show ended Natalie grabbed my arm and yanked me towards the bookshelves.  "Mom!  Let’s go get some books right now and find out what I’m going to grow up to be!" she exclaimed.

On the car ride home I asked the kids,"What’s your dream?" As you can imagine, I received two very different responses.  

Me: "What’s your dream?"
Noah: "Nothing.  I didn’t dream anything last night."
Me: "No.  What do you want to be?"
Noah: "I just want to be myself."
Me: "No.  What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Noah: "Nothing.  I don’t want a job. When we get home can I just play this Sonic video game I checked out?"

Me: "What’s your dream?"
Natalie: "I want to be EVERYTHING!"
This was followed by "Mom, can I study this when I get home?" she asked while holding up the companion CD to the "DK Eyewitness Evolution" book she had checked out. 

"Sure," I responded.

As I fumbled with the door carrying a load of books into the house, Natalie asked, "Mom can I be a lot of people and have a lot of jobs --like a zookeeper and a lab scientist and an ocean helper?"  Before I could even answer she was already headed to her room with an armful of books and said, "OK, mom, I’m going in my room to study now," as she closed her door behind her.  

A few minutes later she emerged wearing a pink satin dancer dress with a notepad and pencil in her hands and said, "Mom, I can't draw a dancer. 
 I need to draw what I see on the T.V. so that I don’t forget what I learn,"  However, since I couldn't draw fast enough, she decided it would be better if she just took photos of the T.V. screen while she had "Adventures with Dance" playing in the DVD player.

A short while after Natalie announced, "Mom, I wanna be in a show,”

"What a coincidence," I stated. "Because Daddy and I just signed you up for drama camp, today actually," I continued.

"What’s drama camp?" she inquired.

"Remember how you told me you wanted to be an actor?  At drama camp you'll learn how to perform for an audience.  You'll also learn about set design and how to make costumes," I explained.

“I want to be in charge,” she responded.

"Oh, then you want to be a director.  But, before you can be a director and tell everyone what to do you have to learn and understand how all the parts of the show work," I stated.  
Uncharacteristically she did not respond.  She just gave me a smirk and then turned on her heel and headed off to her room to continue watching her dance video.

Dear God:
Stop jokin' around.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stand By Me

I know there are a lot of women out there who just LOVE their hairdresser, but my feelings for my stylist run deeper than the shampoo bowl.  I met Eraka…or should I say, “Hairaka” as Natalie calls her, when Noah was a preschooler and Natalie just a baby.  I was juggling work while managing Noah’s therapies and seizures along with Natalie’s growing eczema and ongoing sleep issues.  The last time I had given myself permission to enjoy a haircut was when I donated my hair to Locks of Love.  However, as I listened to woman after woman in our MOPS group not only rave about their new styles, but recount how much fun they had while in her hands – I thought, I want some of that.  When she enters a room, Eraka is a hard person to miss as she seems to radiate positive energy.  Her ready smile and infectious laughter is rivaled only by her willingness to give hugs to anyone in need of one.

During that first cut, I learned that while we look and carry ourselves very different on the outside, inside we share a lot of the same struggles and dreams.  Today, five years later, our friendship has grown beyond the commonalities of motherhood.  She’s my party-decorating-partner-in-crime, and like me, believes no social gathering is really good, unless costumes are involved.  Whenever I spend time with her, I always return home walking a little taller...more so than can be explained by hairspray alone.

(L-R) Barb, Eraka, me and Nancy at my surprise 40th - Eraka chose a cougar theme.
On 4th of July, she messaged me to say she and the kids were having a lemonade stand and were going to donate all the profits to  Action for Autism St. Louis– an organization near and dear to our family’s heart as their support has helped us maintain Noah’s academic and social skills through his participation at Camp Happy Day.

Her kids were so enthusiastic and thought of everything...even name tags.  Below are the commercials they created and Eraka posted on her Facebook page to entice customers.

If you are in need of a new 'do.  Visit "Eraka Scissorhands" at Trim - A Hair Salon in Kirkwood, MO.
And, if you'd like to buy a "virtual cup" of lemonade. It will fill up your heart without affecting your waistband one bit.  Click here and type lemonade in the comments section.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Musings from Natalie #5

Me: "Natalie! Come on!  We have to go!"  
Natalie: "Sorry, Mom.  I'm coming.  I was just talking to the flowers and telling 
them that it will probably rain someday."

Me: "Yes, Natalie.  I will watch you during your gymnastics class."
Natalie: "Ok, so wherever I walk, you move your eyes."
(Yes, Queen of Quite-a-lot...I promise.)

Me: "Natalie, I know you are not a patient person, but I need you to 
wait a minute."
Natalie: "Yeah, I'm a right-now-person."

This week's "smokin' song" per Natalie.  "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Know What You Mean #2

If you are a parent then you are probably well versed in the language of Kidese (kid-EEZ). However, dialects and terms vary greatly among the population of the pint-sized group. Here are this week's  phrases that Natalie has tossed out and I've tried to catch her true meaning.

"Mom, Noah is always giving me nuts!" yelled Natalie
Since Natalie is allergic to peanuts, I'm pretty sure he wasn't trying to give her any legumes. I think she meant Noah quite often makes her nuts.

"Mom, can you help me find Ariel's boobs?" asked Natalie
Although models and celebs are known to change their cup sizes quite regularly, I don't know of any dolls sold by Disney that offer that option.I think she may have meant she needed help finding her mermaid's bikini top.

"Yea, Dad...if you lived in South Africa then you could shoot cantaloupe!" cheered Nat
Although it is difficult to land a good, ripe cantaloupe.  I don't think it requires firearms, only a little thumping with your thumb.  I think she meant to say antelope.

"Mom, did you buy any moo moo's?" inquired Natalie.
Since we don't live in the country and have no room to house a cow, I think she may have meant Moo Tubes -- the sugary snack marketed as push-up yogurt for kids.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Fun

Early this morning Steve took Natalie out to the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area on her very first...and quite possibly last, blackberry-picking adventure.  If you've never picked berries, then you can't really appreciate why they cost so much in the grocery store. Basically, if the chiggers and ticks don't get you -- the thorns will!

About five minutes after they arrived, I received a call from Steve saying, "We need bigger buckets!"  This was surprising to me as we have had so little rain.

While on the phone I could hear the pride and joy in his voice as he shared, "Well, she's an interesting picker...she puts one berry in her bucket and then the next three go in her mouth."

I figured they'd be gone for a couple of hours or at least until they had buckets brimming, however, I received another call about 15 minutes later...this time the call came from Natalie herself.

"Maaahmmm, there are forns," she sniffled.

Needless to say, the thorn in her finger cut their berry-picking trip short.  She LOVES venturing into the woods with her Dad -- whether fishing or hunting for mushrooms, but when she hurts, she just wants her Mama.  And, I'm glad.

By 9:30 a.m., the tears and forn in her finger were gone.  Both she and Steve had been de-ticked (we found two crawling on their clothes!) and had showered so as to be ready to attend our community's 4th of July parade in the triple digit heat.  We go every year and the kids always look forward to scurrying around for candy and beads that get tossed out to the crowd.  And, I'd be lying if I said Steve and I didn't spend a lot of time laughing and placing bets on who would be the next unlucky person to step into one of the road apples left behind by the crew from Green Acres Ranch. Good times!

So bright...gotta wear shades

Greater St. Louis Ghostbusters...I had no idea

An awesome rendition of downtown Webster created by Webster Groves Art & Air
The End...or so to speak.