Monday, December 30, 2019

Musings From Natalie #160

Natalie was thinking about the close of the year...

Natalie: So, you are going to be 47 soon.

Me: Nope. 48

Natalie: Whoa! That's almost 50!

Me: hmmm...really.

Natalie: Oh! Don't worry, Mama. You're only halfway there. (to death, I presume. lol)

(I love her half full mentality)

Friday, December 20, 2019

Musings From Natalie #159

Last weekend I introduced Natalie to a favorite childhood movie of mine - The Dark Crystal. 

I think she liked it because I realize I now have a new ringtone - skeksis Chamberlain's whine. 



Friday, November 15, 2019

Teenage Mutant Ninja Natalie

This morning Noah greeted Natalie with a Happy Birthday and a new moniker...Teenage Mutant Ninja Natalie.

I can't believe she's really a teen.

When I look at her I still see her like this:

...maybe that's because I wish I could keep her close to me -- all to myself.

But, I know that's not how this growing-up thing works.

She's such a joy. She finds the good in all things and all people.

She thinks memes and vines are funny.

She loves musicals and knows all the words to the songs in Shrek and Hairspray.

She's a big Billie Eilish fan.

She reads every day and every evening. Her ELA teacher is certain Nat will read her entire library of books before the end of the school year.

She's started looking at colleges...

I can't even.

Happy 13th to our Natty Grace!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Musings From Natalie #158

Natalie: Can I have a hug?
Me: What kind do you want?...dinosaur T-Rex?...butterfly? or bear?
Natalie: All of them!
Me: (pinching myself inside that she's days away from becoming a teenager and still wants hugs from her mama) Ok!
Natalie: I don't know who invented hugs...but I'm glad they did.
Me: (me, too)

Recently I took this pic of Natalie and sent it to my sister. I think it's hilarious that Nat is in plays and dresses just like her Aunt Nae did in high school.

Deep Thoughts From Noah #96

Recently Noah was invited to have lunch with his Best Buddy and another pair of Buddies. While driving to the restaurant, I reminded him to use his best table manners.

Me: Noah don't forget to use good table manners.
Noah: Mahhhm! I already know that.
Me: Don't forget to use napkins and...
Noah: Ok... Hey, wait, are napkins REALLY neccessary?
Me: sigh...

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Pushing Past Panic to Find a Passion

June 17th marked 17 years of marriage with the Big Steve-O, yet the two of us never took/made time to celebrate. This summer has been fraught with a lot of heartache and anxiety over parenting Noah. I've lost weight, my hairdresser noticed my hair was thinning and I've felt extremely fatigued. Last month Steve signed me up for a one day, pet portrait watercolor class because he always seems to know what I need even if I don't always agree with him...kinda like that one time nearly eight years ago when he signed me up for a writing course.
Me: "Why would you do that? I have no idea what to write. I have nothing to say."
Steve: (no words - just an unwavering belief in me)

Steve may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is honest and fair and his faith in Jesus is strong and has carried our family through tough times. While his words are few, his actions speak volumes. His passion is in making me happy...mostly -- though there's a reason, as a little boy, his mama called him Steven the Heathen.

I love you, Steve -- you big lug.

I began painting -- mainly out of fear... because I hadn't held a brush for 10 years and didn't want to look like a complete fool at the class. So, I practiced as much as I could and although I nearly had a panic attack during the class and had to leave early -- I have found joy in the process.

My first one I created for a friend who lost her beloved 2 year old Belgian Malinois this past spring.
Meet Indie

A few weeks ago my niece had to put down her 4 year old dog unexpectedly.
Meet Sadie

Last month my Barb, my sister-friend, celebrated another trip around the sun. Someone who over the years has talked me down from more ledges and lifted me up more times than I can count.
Meet Cocoa Bean

When I shyly showed my paintings to my former boss, Ellen Rohr, someone who I have always admired for her can do, glass half full attitude, she immediately offered to pay me to paint her own two pooches...a gift for her husband. My heart nearly burst...not for the money, but that I could bring joy to someone from something I created.

Meet Molly and Sox

Our Truvy dog's breeder, Theresa has been a lifeline and been available to us any time we have called on her with a question about our pup. For her, a rendering of her beloved, 3 year old labradoodle.
Meet Dusty

My latest rendering is for a lovely lady who lost the dog of her life to cancer.
Meet Rusty

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Changing Times

The summer season...
A time of growth when the days are longest and the nights are shortest. For Noah he has spent many of those long days worrying about the changes he will experience by attending a new high school this fall. The nights extra short as he's up before the sun because for him change is synonymous with impending doom.

Summer is also the time when kids seem to grow the most both physically and emotionally. With only two more days til the start of a new school year, I have begun examining the ways in which Noah has grown this summer:
* he held a part time job
* he can independently walk to and from the park near our home
* he has a "long-distance" girlfriend he face times every day

 However, some things do not change.
..Noah's desire for sameness. Keeping the status quo in a world of never-ending change, is near impossible and stressful. I try to control "unexpected" things by serving him foods he is comfortable with and can tolerate. Keeping up with routines and schedules -- even in the summer months.

...Noah's short term memory difficulties. I make him lists, but he refuses to use them. I try not to lose my patience when he forgets and brushes his teeth without paste or can't remember which trash can is for waste and which is for recycling or has misplaced xyz...again and again.

...Noah's love for repetition and imitation. He is not only good at learning piano pieces by ear, he is also pretty terrific and imitating inflections/mannerisms and phrases from people he has met or movies he has much so it sometimes feels as though there are other people living in our home.

...our need for support from Action for Autism St. Louis. This summer through AFA Noah received private occupational therapy twice a week. On Tuesdays he and his beloved therapist, Cindy, worked on sensory issues and keyboarding skills. On Thursdays the two of them walked to our local city center to work out or played Foosball. She helped him devise a simple exercise plan that included using the treadmill and other equipment. They walked to a local eatery to order, count out money and pay for an item on his own. Through it all she has been his sounding board and counselor and helped him work through frustrations about being picked on at the pool this summer or worries about attending a new school.

On August 24th our family will be participating in our 11th annual AFA Family Fun Walk. If you feel led, please make a tax deductible donation here. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Family Fun Walk from the drop down list and type Felgenhauer in the Donation Notes bar.

Thank you to all who have supported us in the past and those who are able to help this year.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Scaredy Cat

The other day Truvy and I set out earlier than usual in an effort to beat the grotesque humidity. We did our normal loop around town, however, as we inched our way up the remaining incline, I was feeling overheated and felt it best if we shortened our route. As we walked along I noticed a black cat sitting still as a statue at the edge of a driveway. Truvy didn't even notice him. Her eyes were trained on several squirrels scurrying among the trees. I quickly glanced at the cat and in response, he puffed up his shiny coat. While Truvy and I were already in the street (because there were no sidewalks) I steered her into the middle of the road. I wanted to communicate to Puff-Kitty we had no interest in him and he was safe. Oddly enough as Truvy and I continued, I felt like something was following us. I looked over my shoulder and there was that cat. I couldn't believe it. So much so, I actually said aloud, "I can't believe he's following us." At this point Truvy turned and noticed the cat. She cocked her head in curiosity, but the manner in which he walked --low to the ground, I felt an urgency to pick up our pace and keep moving, but in that instant, he pounced....not in the cute way that cats jump on a toy mouse or bat a feather tether toy -- his back arched, his mouth opened and were claws out. In response, Truvy yelped and jumped backwards -- trying to get away. I got tangled up in her leash and landed hard on the pavement. As I scrambled to get up, the cat lunged again. I felt like we were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. My arms and legs swinging wildly as I tried to shield the two of us. My voice shrill. Was anyone seeing this? I wondered. Truvy and I nearly ran down the rest of the street, stopping only to cross the road. I looked back and in the distance could see a small, dark furry figure -- still except for a flitting tail.

Since this experience, Truvy has become afraid of Natalie's black, stuffed toy dog. I've tried several desensitization techniques, but she isn't buying it. She barks at it and backs away...refusing to go in her room. I don't blame her. The experience shook me up, too.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Deep Thoughts From Noah #95

Noah: Mom, I have nothing to wear.

Me: How can that be? I've done all the laundry.
(I head upstairs to his room. Not only is his dirty laundry basket half full, but he has dirty clothes strewn all over his bedroom floor.

Me: Noah, you need to bring your dirty clothes down so I may wash them.

Noah: Oh. I forgot.

Me: Why are all of your clothes on the floor?

Noah: I don't know

Me: Noah, you have to have a better reason than "I don't know."

Noah: Well...because if I put them in the laundry basket I was afraid they would overflow.

Me: Touche

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Truvy's Birthday Pawty Wrap Up

I think it is fair to say we are a little over the top with our pup...and I'm okay with that. Her entry into our home required more than a year of planning, research and 100+ allergy shots. However, nothing prepared me for the level for which I would love her and the positive affect she would have on our entire family. Steve and I spend more time together and we both have better health (Steve's lost 20 lbs!) thanks to daily walks. Noah's confidence grows as he practices commands with her and is always happy to take her out for potty breaks. Natalie just loves having a furry companion to sit with her while she reads.

While I was hoping to train her to become a therapy dog, I think she may be better suited as a circus dog. She knows lots of tricks -- sit, down, stay, spin, rewind, peekaboo, shake, left paw, right paw, high 5, high 10, take my arm and walk and most recently -- jumping through hoops. Her favorite games are find it, Frisbee and tug.

We socialize and board her at Silver Maple Pet Center. Each month they celebrate birthdays. They threw Truvy a fun-filled pawty with more than a dozen of her friends. When I picked her up, pet attendant, Lauren said, "I just wanted you to know -- Truvy now has a boyfriend."

Say what?!

Everyone -- Meet Don.

Natalie has been dreaming about Truvy's birthday party for months. She didn't think a "friend" party  was enough. She wanted her to have a family party, too! She found a recipe for a layered dog cake (Ask me if she's ever made a cake for her ol' mom...hmmmm). She made a photo prop (I taught her well!) and we invited my friend Christy, her daughter, Jessie and their pup (4.5 month old, Teddy -- Truvy's half bro) over to celebrate. We nearly melted under the 90+ temps, but did our best to keep cool with popsicles and iced tea while we watched the two dogs romp around the yard. Jessie presented Truvy with a large, decorated birthday cookie which the two pups happily shared. We took lots of pics and made lots of memories.

Nat was so fired up  -- after the party she opened up an Instagram just for Truvy. I don't have an account, but it seems our dog does.  #groovy_truvy

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Top 5 Teachings from Truvy

1. Have fun. Fun is where you find it. Truvy has joy because she seeks it out...whether it's watching bunnies and birds on her perch, hunting toads in our yard or making friends at the vet office. She doesn't wait for adventure to come to her.

Much of our adult lives are focused on work -- things we have to do; commuting to a job we may not enjoy, paying bills, doing home improvements or training-up kids. Life can get bogged down by all the stuff we have to do that we forget how to fit in joy...unless it's something scheduled -- like a birthday party or concert. Instead incorporate fun into your day...every day. Perhaps instead of looking at your phone or checking Facebook, you read a book on your lunch hour or take a short walk. Listen to music while house cleaning. Encourage your children to dance while they straighten up their rooms.

2. Rest. Truvy is an active pup. She loves our walks around the neighborhood and catching frisbees  in the yard each day. She's never turned down a rowdy game of tug, but she also knows the importance of recharging herself with a short snooze or just sitting on her perch and watching the squirrels and birds in our yard.

In our fast-paced world of instant messaging, 24/7 shopping and work days that stretch into the night -- it's easy to forget to stop and take a rest. Don't feel guilty. A nap doesn't have to be a 2 hour thing. Set a timer for just 15 minutes, close your eyes and be still. Step outside and take in the sounds and smells around you. It's likely you'll have more energy and creativity to complete your work after a short break.

3. Be Generous. Truvy is a fluffy bundle of generosity. She gives with her entire wiggly self -- no holds barred on kisses. She's never met a lap she didn't like to plop herself down on. She is happy to share her time and space with everyone.

Be giving of yourself -- with your time, your talents and your words! Facebook and texting are okay but they are no substitute for real, face to face time with a friend or family member. Communicate with real words -- I like you, I love you, I care for you, I'm thankful for you...Also, don't be stingy with affection. Give hugs freely.

4. Be Present. Truvy is a busy pup! But something she doesn't do -- she doesn't multi-task. She loves to eat, play, run, jump and receive belly rubs, but she doesn't try to do any two things at once.

While multi-tasking seems necessary, it also can be a real kill joy. Eating or drinking while looking at a computer screen or your phone prevents you from truly experiencing the flavors, smells and textures of what you are consuming. Driving and texting will not only kill your joy -- it may kill you.  Put your phone away. Watch your child blow out the candles with your own two eyes, rather than viewing the experience through your camera lens. I admit I have been guilty of focusing on documenting an experience rather than just enjoying the moment. Multitasking doesn't always help you accomplish more and sometimes it makes you resentful because you are hurrying your way through life.

5. Forgive. Truvy loves everyone and everything except trips to the groomer. When she returns from having her hair trimmed and fluffed, nails clipped and glands expressed -- she usually puts herself on her climb and mopes. She hangs her head over the edge and sighs loudly. I think in an effort to make me feel bad. Seve (ever the instigator) plays along. I'll hear him say things to her like, "Oh, did that mean mama of yours make you get your hair cut?"  "Poor Truvy". While I'm usually the one she follows around like there is an invisible string attached to me -- on grooming days, she gives me the cold shoulder. However, when all is said and done and it's time for bed. She always finds her way back to her spot on the floor, next to my side of the bed. By morning all is forgiven. She doesn't hold grudges.

Forgiveness isn't always easy and time doesn't heal all wounds. But, holding grudges...withholding love and friendship...holding onto pain and anger just leaves you empty and often sad. Forgiveness doesn't mean you are letting someone off the hook for hurting you, it just means you have allowed yourself to let go of the pain. Sometimes forgiveness leads to renewed and improved relationships. Other times it offers you an opportunity to just move forward.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Curiously Awesome Good Time

 I am a planner's planner. I'm a terrible procrastinator. My Meyer's Briggs tells me I prefer things settled and decided. I like to make lists so I can check off the items as I do them. Sometimes I do things and then write them down on my list just so I have something else to check off. However, when it came to Noah's 16th birthday -- I must have hit the pause button on my brain because I had no idea where we could go that would be cool, fun and something out of the ordinary. (That is, after his allergy testing and ENT appointment...I know! It sounds terrible -- How could I schedule those things on his birthday, but the reality was the ENT had taken a second look at Noah's CT scan and he wanted to see him and ordered allergy testing. Schedules were tight on both ends. It was either do it on Noah's birthday or wait til end of summer to be seen. Thankfully, my friend Barb came to the rescue. She called to wish him a Happy Birthday and told me she had heard about a local company that made youtube videos and offered tours. She was sketchy on the details, but one thing she mentioned got my attention -- they have a prize wheel to spin at the end of the tour. Hmmm...

I had no idea what Vat 19 was, but I was getting us a tour. It was either going to be really awesome and score me points with my surly teen or really stupid. I took a chance and we snagged the last remaining spots for the afternoon tour. As Noah and I headed out to his appointments, I asked Natalie to start watching some of Vat 19's videos because we needed to know what we were getting ourselves into.

When we returned home, Nat was still glued to youtube.

She began filling us in on what she learned, but her tidal wave of giddiness had us hearing a mish-mash of topics that didn't make sense like a toe of Satan sucker, a spicy nut challenge, a burrito blanket and something about a man sitting in a tub of putty. She was talking so quickly and her voice went up two octaves as she spoke.

"I couldn't stop watching them," she said. 

"Great! Get in the car. We need to go now if we are to be on time." I replied.

As the kids and I entered the doors of Vat 19, our mouths remained closed as our brains tried to take in the potpourri of  eye candy --  a stuffed toy fox head on one side, an enormous floor to ceiling rendering of Abraham Lincoln made out of pennies on another. A skeeball game and dozens of toys and products adorned the tables while the walls were covered in artwork from Vat 19 fans from all over the world. I was still in the dark about what Vat 19 was about when our tour guide and company owner, Jamie, led us through the offices of the many departments who have contributed to Vat 19's gold button Youtube subscriber status. In a decade their subscriber-ship has swelled to nearly 7 million. They are closing in on earning Youtube's coveted 10 million subscriber diamond button award. Jamie talked about their company's history and pointed out some of the props from past videos like Just Cereal Marshmallows -- a five foot tall cereal box they filled with two million cereal marshmallows. Later he showed us the enormous gummy pizza box which once contained a gummy pizza so large each slice weighed in at 28 lbs! We met the product buyers writers, editors and actors who create videos to entice, entertain and sell "curiously awesome" and sometimes dumb, but awesome gifts. Everyone we met was kind and a good sport about answering everyone's questions. We walked through their extensive prop room and took in their various sets and camera equipment. I noticed many of the tour-goers talking excitedly amongst themselves when they spotted props from their favorite videos and being star struck as they had their photos taken with the actors. I patted myself (Thanks Barb!) on the back for scoring a fun day with my kids and grinned as I watched them entranced and enthused by all they saw. I could see the wheels turning in Nat's head.

"I can't decide if I would rather be one of the writers, editors or the actors! I want to do it all!"shared Nat.

Next we had the opportunity to preview a video not yet released for a new toy they are about to launch. We ended the tour with a trip to their warehouse. Since Vat 19 is strictly an online store, it was kind of a special opportunity to shop the aisles live and in person.

Vat 19's 16 catergories of products includes gummy, spicy stuff, fun and strange stuff, thinking putty, crazy candy food and drink and much more!

I found anniversary gifts for Steve and a birthday gift for Barb. The kids each bought Vat 19 hats which they have been happily wearing every day.

Here are some of our favorite videos. If you are looking for something fun to do to connect with your kids -- especially your tweens and teens - I highly recommend a trip to their Maryland Heights headquarters.

Toe of Satan Lollipop Challenge
Gummy versus Real Challenge #1
7 Gifts So Dumb They are Actually Awesome
Gummy Versus Real: Live Animal Edition


Friday, May 31, 2019

Letting Go of 15

Yesterday was Noah's birthday yet it has taken me a full day to process my 15 year old is now 16. Why? 16 is only 365 days older than 15. It's no big deal, right?

Not for me.

This month we had Noah's transitional IEP. Since Noah would be turning 16 before his next IEP, Special School District begins looking at his case a little bit differently. Things get real. The SSD case manager begins asking questions like what path/future do you see for your child. Do you see him working full time in a competitive job? Part-time? Volunteer work only? Does he have stamina to work a 4-5 hour shift?
Next came a question I've wondered about, but had never addressed formally with educators

Is Noah pursuing a high school diploma or a certificate of completion?

When the SSD case manager asked the question, I didn't answer immediately. Instead other members of Noah's educational team began wrestling with the question aloud.

"I don't know. This is so hard. I see so much potential in him. He is smart in so many ways." said Cindy, Noah's OT/counselor/friend. (She has been part of our journey since Noah was five years old.)

(I've heard this kind of talk for most of Noah's school career, yet, he's now 16 and test scores and his current output of work seem to point his future in another direction. In my heart I knew but my mouth remained silent)

Next came a voice from an educator, an expert and someone I consider my friend. Always kind, and patient, yet firm and convicted. She spoke up when I couldn't.
"I think he is 16 now and it's time. I think a certificate of completion is appropriate," said Mary, Miriam School Head of School.

When she spoke I knew it was true. In my mind I envisioned a set of heavy doors slamming shut. I began making a mental list of other things that were also true.
* Noah is almost 16, but he will never drive a car.
* Noah is 16, yet he isn't ready to leave our street without supervision
* Noah is 16, but I can't leave him home alone for more than an hour to run to the store.
It was like I was trying to punish myself for letting go. For giving up or giving in.

But, Mary spoke up again, her voice pulled me from the negative mental vortex I was dragging myself down into.

"I think Noah would be a good candidate for the Succeed program at UMSL."

(I had never heard of this before, however, the idea of Noah taking part in a college program gave me a flutter of hope -- his path may not be straight, but the opportunities are still wide open)

Hope floats, it raises you up so you can tackle another day.

Yesterday Noah turned 16, but I turned a corner. I'm less fearful for what lies ahead. I'm talking to God more. I'm letting go...of 15, anyway.

Happy 16th Birthday Noah!
I may need to look up - to look you in the eye and I may not be able to carry you in my arms, but...
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as your living, my baby you'll be."
Robert Munsch

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Mom

As a mom sometimes days run into each other. A long, hard day velcros itself to an even longer, sleepless night. Back to back without a reprieve. The other night thunderstorms had Truvy restless and noisy. From 12:30 p.m. til 2:30 a.m. she rang her bells to go out, circled her bed, clicked her nails on our wood floors as she paced from room to room. I called her to bed. I commanded her to "go lay down".I even brought out the heavy...the pink, polka dotted jacket that she loathes to wear, but it often calms her as a thunder jacket might.
None of these things worked. In the end I found myself standing in the rain with weighted lids at nearly 3 am. At 5:30 a.m. Steve's alarm went off. I dozed for a few minutes before rising with him. I kissed him out the door at 6, then turned to Truvy who seemed bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to face the day.
 "Do you want to wake the kids?" But, before I got to the end of my question, she was already sitting outside Natalie's bedroom door. She was ready to get their day started. The morning was fraught with anticipation and a little anxiety on Nat's part. She was getting her braces off and was worried it would hurt or she'd gag while they took impressions to create her retainer.
Once we had successfully coaxed Truvy into the crate, we headed out the door at 7:15 a.m. to pick up our carpool, drop her off at school and then head to the orthodontist for an 8:30 a.m. appointment for both kids. An hour later we emerged from the office with one kid in braces and one without! Woo hoo! Back on the road I headed to Town & Country to drop Noah off at school then drove back to Webster Groves to drop Nat at her school. It was now almost 10 a.m. I returned home, released the beast and took advantage of the reprieve from rain. I walked the dog til 11 a.m then carried her to the car (as she is still less than enthusiastic about car rides) to take her to the vet for a flu shot. Once we returned home I tried unsuccessfully to load her back into the crate. At 12 noon I was back on the road again with my fluffy sidekick. This time we were headed back to Town & Country to pick Noah up from school at 12:30 as he had a half day. After dropping off our carpool Truvy dog began barfing in the backseat. It wasn't pretty-- the volume produced was actually quite epic especially since it was 1 p.m. and she hadn't eaten since 6 a.m. I pulled up to the house -- hosed out the car, hosed off the dog, hosed off myself then drove to McD's because I had promised to take Noah out to lunch. As I turned into the drive through I realized I could no longer ignore the searing headache -- a vice pressing on either side of my temples. I returned home -- apparently Mother of the Year to my son who loves cheeseburgers almost as much as he loves Star Wars. I took a shower and put myself to bed. It was now nearly 3 p.m. At 3:30 p.m. I was bolted from sleep as Truvy greeted Natalie with a hearty welcome and Nat made a beeline for my room.
"Mom, my permanent retainer fell out today at lunch."
Then Noah suddenly appeared and although it had been less than two hours since he ate lunch..."Mom, what's for dinner?"
This account is typical for me and likely commonplace for many moms.

I'm happy to report that today -- this Mother's Day I didn't have many to do's on my docket and bickering between the kids was mild. Noah made me a card and sang karaoke -- Elton John's "I'm Still Standing". How apropos. Natalie made me a card, a "chore voucher" and a worry pin (complete with a clothesline to hang it on). Steve played it safe and expressed his love with Kakao's chocolate caramels.  He's a smart man.
To all the strong women out there caring, cooking, cleaning and keeping their children from killing one another  -- Happy Mother's Day to you!