Monday, August 29, 2011

Rooster in the Road!

     My Rooster.  I just love him to PIECES.  He says the darnedest things.

     Wait, is darnedest a word?  Have I spelled it right? 

     Regardless, we've had the darnedest day, he and I.

     It all started with a phone call.  From a number I didn't recognize.  Cricket's voice on the other end.  Just minutes after they both headed off to the school bus stop.  This couldn't be good.

     "Hey, well if Rooster doesn't make it home in the next 30 minutes, you have to come get him now."

     "Cricket, is that you?  Where are you?  What's going on? Are you alright?"

     "It's not ME Mom, it's Rooster.  You have to come get him, he fell down.  Oh wait, he's getting up.  Nevermind."  Click.

     So if this was a conversation with your child that would freak you out, you're in good company.  I was a little freaked.  But you must also realize that conversations like this are not unusual around here, living in the nuthouse.  I've been working really hard on not over-reacting to weird junk like this.  Take for example:  When Cricket was about three, he'd been rehearsing for three months at church on Wednesday nights for the preschool Christmas pageant.  I was informed that every child would have a costume made for them by a team of talented ladies at the church, no problems.  A few weeks before the big day, I started asking questions... What did I need to do?  Nothing, it's taken care of.  Seriously, what do I need to be doing to get ready for this?  Absolutely nothing.  Don't worry about it, just show up.

     And show up I did.  There was no costume.  I started asking around.  I got blank stares.  I was asked if I'd gotten their emails and letters.  Uh, well no, I wouldn't have been asking every week if I needed to be doing anything if there had been letters and emails.  I was asked if he had been at the rehearsals every week.  Uhm, yes, all but one in three months.  They had no record of him being there.


     So any reasonable person would have thought that this was a terrible clerical error.  But I was looking around this room of maybe 25 kids, with ALL of these teachers and thinking-- how on EARTH could they not remember a child being here for all of these months?  I know it's not an easy job, but COME ON!  So my mind went where no mom's mind ever wants to go.  Someone had been taking my son out of that room for an hour every Wednesday night and no one knew it.  WHO had been doing it, and WHY?  And Could Someone PLEASE Just Tell Me Where He's Been All This Time?

     Sanity entered stage left in the form of our children's pastor, who had been at many of the rehearsals and seen him there.  And slowly but surely, the women who had actually been in charge started coming around and assuring me that he had indeed been there, but somehow he'd just been left off of the list.  I felt like the idiot.  Because I'd acted like an idiot.  In front of a lot of people.

     To their credit, the costume ladies had him in a costume by the time the program began.  Evidently, there is a fourth wise man that no one knows about.  He wore a Burger King crown, an old gold colored choir robe with a blue sash, and carried a green glass vase as his gift to the baby in the hay.  And he knew every word to all of the songs, so we know quite well that he was in rehearsals.  Whew.

     All that to say, I've been doing my Ever Best to not overreact until I've gotten all of the facts.  Sometimes it happens, more often than not, it doesn't.  So I tried to just laugh off the conversation with Cricket this morning and continue on my merry way.  Have I mentioned that I'm also trying not to humiliate Rooster any more than necessary either?  No?  Didn't get that impression from previous posts?  Well I am.  Trying.

     Then my neighbor showed up at my house.  With Rooster.  Looks like he found him sprawled in the middle of the road, and he couldn't get around him with the car, so he got him up and brought him home.  What a good Samaritan!  I tried really hard not to think about the fact that he'd just come home in the car of a man that he didn't know, but I did, and we had to have a little talk.  But I didn't overreact.  Which is important for you to know.

     It was a mild sprain.  He'd tripped and fallen, it hurt, and he just wasn't getting up.  Even for the neighbor's car.  That's my boy.  He gets it from his mamma.

     On the advice of my brother, medical expert extraordinaire, I took him to the immdediate care clinic and got it x-rayed.  Sprained, not broken.  Splint, not crutches.  He was so disappointed.

     "You wanted it to be broken?  Why?"

      "I just wanted the wheelchair.  I like it."

     Oh, Rooster.  What am I going to do with you?

     More things he's saying:
     We were listening to the radio in the car and he found that Maroon 5 song about moving like Jagger (and I'm thinking, with a walker, maybe?).  He likes it.  I asked him if he or his friends even knew who "Jagger" is.  His reply, " That guy from that band."  What band?  "Mick Jagger and the Other Guys."

     He is obsessed with weather and stays glued to the Weather Channel.  Lately he randomly yells, "Irene, you old blowhard!"

     Sigh.  Smile.  That's my Rooster.

Photo courtesy of Julie Elliott-Abshire.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Looking Back. Good Times. Spots On Berber.

     You know, I'm really liking this blogging thing.  I rarely write anything anymore, and now I have the perfect excuse to think something through- to create something new as often as I feel led.  It's quite the creative outlet and I've become a bit emotionally bonded to it.  Already.  It makes me feel... Oh I don't know.  I can't stand touchy-feely let'stalkaboutourmotivations moments anyway.  Cutting to the chase-

     I stumbled across a rare piece of writing I did about three years ago, when my kiddokis and I were first beginning our journey as field harvester extraordinaires.  I had forgotten what prompted it.  I'd had a rush of mixed emotions right at the last minute, and I couldn't verbalize what was happening very well. 

     So I wrote about it.  It's what so many of us who enjoy writing do.  When we can't get it out of our mouths, we write.  And I did.  I'm so glad I did, because not only had I totally forgotten about this little episode in our lives, but I now have a chance to look back.  I can gauge where I'm going by looking at where I've been, both physically and with writing.

     And here it is, dated December 20, 2008.

    We leave in ten days.  Ten days to pack three lifetimes into three suitcases.  Ten days to distribute the cast-offs, the leave-behinds, the junk we never needed anyway.  Today Cricket and Rooster attended school for the last time before we go.  The other children will go back in a few weeks, they won't.  They accepted it better than I did.

     The decision to go wasn't hard.  It was what God wanted from us, and it sounded so thrilling, so adventurous.  Who wouldn't want to leave this life behind and go to the Great Elsewhere?  I've been confounded by the surprise of others- people who were shocked, people who would never do such a thing.  Why?  Why would you want a normal life?  Somewhere in the last few weeks I began to understand.  I became afraid.  I resisted change.  I am normal after all.  Who'd a thunk it?

     For someone who really isn't doing much to celebrate Christmas this year, I sure am busy.  Cleaning out a house takes all of my strength, mostly in the thinking-about-it stages.  I am constantly remembering things that must be done.  This weekend is carpet cleaning.  I am going to get every little grubby spot out of the floor.  I rent from my mother.  I want this place left as clean as I can get it.  While the rugs dry, I'll sort the clothes in the laundry room that don't have a place yet.  I have baskets- too small, save for next year, Goodwill, give to so-and-so because her son is size thus-and-such... I swear they are breeding. 

     I am comforted by the fact that much of this slumbering domesticity will be left behind when I enter the New World.  I'll be living in one room with Rooster and Cricket, and there won't be much more than sleeping bags, suitcases, and clothes to care for.  I loathe housekeeping.  I'll be a much better parent without so many household duties.  I'll be taking care of my kids, instead of taking care of their stuff.

     I've got fun stuff to tell about leaving, things much more exciting than laundry and spots on berber.  It's just that right now, it's just talk.  What am I doing now?  I'm letting go of an old life, burying the past, and like any funeral, it's not fun.  I'll let you know when this part ends.

Photo courtesy of Jane Cleary.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gimme A Ticket For An Aeroplane...

     Yes, you could say I've done a bit of traveling.  Compare me to a business traveler and I come up sorely lacking in frequent flyer miles, but compare me to most, and I'm a gate-hanging diva.  I know my American Airlines frequent flyer number by heart.  God has given me some very unique opportunites, and I've learned that when He gives you an opportunity, you should take it, because God doesn't do boring.  On the contrary, it's more like wild monkey fun.  And I do mean wild monkeys.

     I've been asked, quite often now, how I get the best airfare for our many splendid adventures, so I thought it might be of some interest to you to take you through the wild and wooly adventure of purchasing airfare to our greatest pond hop to date- our trip to Perth, Australia.  In 2009, which was actually the beginning of our family journeyfortheglory, the three of us said goodbye to family, friends, toys, wedding china, furniture, and seperate bedrooms. We set out for six months of training with Youth With A Miss--n at the Perth base in Western Australia.  So the end of 2008 brought a season of education for me- on how to wrangle every last discount out of an airline, because hey, they're wrangling every last dime out of me, right?

     My evening looked like this: get Rooster and Cricket some sustenance vaguely resembling dinner, attempt a load of laundry, watch an episode of something on Nickelodeon with the kiddokis, give said kiddokis a tub-dunking and hope they don't stink by morning, get them into bed, and spend the next two hours online squeezing every last drop of information from the internet about airfare. 

     What a life.

      I did learn a trick or two.  One is that complete trust in God always bears fruit, even if you can't see it at the time.  Two is that banging your head and suppressing naugty words does absolutely no good (don't bang your head on anything, and go ahead and say the naugty words.  Quietly.  Where no one can hear you).  And three?  When all else fails, if you happen to have a brother with an attitude and a penchant for getting through to people on telephones when no one else can, go ahead and let him call the airlines- I dare ya!

     Down to business- How do I recommend finding the cheapest airfares?  Sigh.  There is no method that seems to work best every time.  Any time that you want to find a deal on anything, block off a good deal of time to spend researching the internet first, and have realistic expectations.  A $500 roundtrip flight from Jacksonville to Perth does not exist, believe me.

     First, know your fares.  As soon as you have a destination in mind, go to every travel website you can find and search the available fares.  Many of them will now compare several sites for you, which can cut down on a little of the legwork- use them.  Start noticing which airlines offer the lowest rates.  Write them down.  While you're at it, take a look at alternate airports. Driving a few hours away to an airport with different flight availability can save hundreds of dollars.  Case in point: the last time I checked airfare to Port Au Prince, a flight from Jacksonville cost over $700, but a flight from Orlando (2.5 hours south of Jacksonville) was less than $350.  Even with the cost of gas and parking, you can come out ahead.  Don't get too carried away with this.  On this same trip, flying out of Miami cost about $300, but it meant a total of around 8 hours each way in the car.  Saving an extra $50?  Not really worth it.

     So once you know which airlines look the best, go straight to that particular airline's website and look up their published fares.  With only one exception, I have absolutely always found the best prices directly from the airlines themselves, not on the travel websites.  This is only not true when you need to book a hotel and a rental car too.  Typically when you book all three, you pay the regular price for your airline ticket, and next to nothing for the hotel and rental car.  So these sites can be worthwhile, but not typically for the work we do.

     Next, backtrack your route.  I went online and searched for all of the airlines that flew out of the airport in Perth.   It turned out that there was a no-frills budget airline called Tiger Air that flew from Perth to Singapore at dirt cheap prices.  So in the end, I booked our flights from Jacksonville to Singapore on American Airlines.  Singapore just happened to be about as far away as they flew at a reasonable price. It seems that taking a code sharing flight with another airline makes prices rise significantly. Then I booked a flight to Perth from Singapore on Tiger Air. 

     The savings?  Over $1000.  That was worthwhile.  And our family got a 16 hour layover in Singapore- one of my favorite places on earth!  Think of it as an Asian Orlando, except way cheaper.  We checked our luggage at the airport and hit the town for a day of shopping and fantastic food, complete with a nap and a shower at a really cute local hotel.  Hey, when you're flying for three days with two kids, a shower and a bed is gold, pure gold.  The price of a day's worth of food, souvenirs, and the hotel?  Less than $100 for the three of us.  Between the educational aspects of visiting another foreign city and the chance to relax, the stopover in Singapore would have been worth it without the airfare savings.

     I think I have the "Extreme Airline Travel" covered for today.  What about you?  I'm always looking for the latest tips.  Got some for me?  What are your favorite lessons about traveling?

Photo courtesy of Christian Großekathöfer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Really The Same But Different

     I learned something today.

     Stop.  No Laughing.

     I am attempting to familiarize myself with more British slang before our family makes the big leap o'er the waters- just to keep from completely humiliating ourselves.  It's just one of those things I'm doing for fun to keep myself amused and also to stay motivated when I'm bogged down in the hows and whys of constant fundraising.  This morning, completely by chance, I stumbled across an article on the difference between pants and trousers.

     It seems that we Americans call the thingies that cover our legs from waist to ankles "pants" and the British refer to them as "trousers."  Now this wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that the thingies that Americans prefer to call "underwear" is what the Brits refer to as "pants."
     And all this time I thought the word was knickers.

     This could very well lead to some troubling moments for our family.

     Quite a few years ago, we were all settled in front of the tv, dutifully watching some family entertainment, when some character, on some show (don't ask, we don't remember) uttered the historic phrase, "Where in the heck are your pants?"  We liked it so much that we insert that line into household conversation whenever we possibly can. 

     It may have lost it's appeal within the normal passing of time except for the fact that dear Cricket absolutely cannot stand to be fully clothed.  I find him shirtless daily, before noon.  As the day wears on, he loses the "trousers" as well.  I've learned to cope with this phenomenon by buying him the most voluminous underwear on the market.  He secretly rebells being fully clothed in public by leaving the house sans underwear on alarmingly frequent occaisions.  I have some concerns that one day he will become a nudist. 

     So you see, we frequently have the opportunity to use the phrase in differing variations.  Now what happens when we get to London, and Cricket invariably does what Cricket does, and someone hears Rooster yell, "Cricket! Where in the heck are your pants?"

Photo courtesy of Fons Reijsbergen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jemima's being nostalgic, duck and cover.

     Today was a very big day in the life of Rooster.  He went to his high school freshman orientation.  Reread that sentence and let that sink in a bit.  He's going to high school.  Next week.  Glass of water and a chair for Jemima!!

     Poor Rooster was the only one there who had his mother and his nine year old brother following him around.  Now before you go thinking that I'm one of "those" moms, let me defend my decision to publicly humiliate my child.  He's very high functioning, but he's still autistic.  He needs someone with him to explain things sometimes.  At school, he has a parapro that does this, but there was no parapro today.  So what's a mom to do?  Make my kid a social pariah, evidently.  I parked my car, and the three of us marched into the gym of good old Brunswick High, my alma mater.  I cannot believe I followed my son through freshman orientation.  I am mortified for him.

     There have been a lot of changes to the Gold and Blue since I graduated, but one thing that seems remarkably unchanged is the gym.  Big pirate painted on the back wall, blue drapes on the stage, even the little foldey-outey bleacher chairs are still there.  Oh, and while I'm on the subject- there's Mrs. Mungin, my old advisor.  And the assistant principal taught umm... world history back in the day.    Seeing those two was nothing next to seeing this teacher walking down the hall that I knew as the cheerleader who did all the backflips at the pep rallys.  She stood up and told the freshman class that when they graduate, it'll have been 20 years since her own graduation.  Somebody should tell her to hush, she's younger than me.

     The walls are a different color.  It still smells funny, but a different funny.  And I know I've gotten wider, but would that really make the hallways seem that much more narrow?  the classrooms so tiny?  I took for granted that I'd remember forever the hallways of my high school, but as we walked down the old language arts hall (now the freshman hall), I realized that I couldn't remember where my homeroom was.  For four years I started every day by walking into that room, and I couldn't remember if it was the second one from the end on the right, or the third.  And for the life of me I couldn't find my Latin teacher's room (sorry, Magistra).  It was in the middle of the hall, a muddle in my memories, even though I could tell you just where half of her wall decorations were hanging the last time I saw them.  I did manage to find my foreign policy teacher's classroom.  I think I must have left some energy traces in there because I knew it immediately.  It had to be all of the ducking and weaving I did (because he quite often threw things).  Ahh, Model UN- the good old days.

     As if this wasn't all bizarre enough for one day, our next stop was the show choir room.  The show choir teacher (the same one that was there when I left) put all of those hormone riddled, pimple bespotted freshmen-to-be on risers and taught them the fight song.  Yup, the fight song.  Despite my best efforts, I found it necessary to choke down  my instinct to sing along.  Unbelievable.  This was after my first urge (pointing and laughing) was successfully squealched by the realization that no one present would understand why it was so funny, so strange, so incredibly flipping surreal.  Well, maybe the teacher/somersaulting cheerleader might get it, but I had a feeling that she'd already been down that hallway and gotten her late pass, so to speak.

     Other things to ponder:
     I'm going to be going to Friday night football games again, as a mom.
     The homecoming dance is five weeks away.    What am I going to wear?  I mean, wait...

     Oh, crumbs.