Sunday, March 28, 2010

1st Glimpse of Our New Home

I should have been sleeping too, but I just couldn't. Despite the extra air mattress and pac-n-play (A.K.A. baby jail), this is how we ended up each night last week in our hotel as we began our search for a new home. Too much had happened in too little time. Too much is left to do. My mind was a buzz and numb at the same time. I relished this rare moment of silence for myself.

In four days, we met Mark's colleagues and shared meals with them. I can see why he is so happy with this placement. They are all wonderful people, opening themselves up to help us relocate, have our kids mess up their living room over dinner, and find us the very best school district for Sophie. These people are genuinely excited that Mark is joining their ranks. I heard from more than one person that the competition was especially fierce this year and that Mark stood above the crowd. I witnessed his posture change and a smile I haven't seen in a while return. Why did we have to wait so many years to land? Because THIS job is the one. THIS place is where we are meant to be and we just had to wait for it to become available. Yet another lesson in patience.

In four whirl wind days, we toured the area with a wonderful realtor and saw 25-30 homes. We learned what we qualify for in terms of financing and what houses go for (choke*gasp*cry*). How to explain our new city? Well, it's a big area. It's a big, compact, confusing, hilly area. For example, you can be in the city of X, in the township of Y and the county of Z...until you cross the street (and even the streets sometimes have 2 names). If you cross the street you may still be in city X, but you are no longer in township/borough Y or county Z. What's the house address? Well, technically you can list 3 different addresses and it will get to you. When we had dinner at Mark's colleague's home it was in the neighborhood of Garret Hill, in Bryn Mawr city, in Radnor Township, and the community of Rosemont, county of Delaware. Confused? So are they and they LIVE there. People who have lived there their whole lives are confused.

Why does it matter? Well, taxes can vary drastically depending on your address. Special education services vary but thankfully all the typical public schools in the area are excellent.

After day 2 of house hunting we met our old friends from Madison for dinner. (Father) Adam and Melissa now live in Media, which is not far from Mark's new job at all. Despite completing the same polisci program as Mark, Adam is now an Episcopalian priest at Christ Church. The last time we saw them they had one son but are now expecting number 3 very soon. We walked through the down town to a pizza joint and on the way back stopped for ice cream. Sophie and Mark danced outside of the pub next door that had a band featuring old rock tunes and we all recharged our batteries.

I know it was dark, but the church entrance is a thing of beauty, as is Soph.

Yada yada yada, once we had been in our umpteenth home and were physically and mentally unable to see one more, we finally headed into the city. Our van-o-love whirred by Independence Hall and we drove around a bit, just to get a sense of the city. The destination, however, was in south Philly at an infamous place called Geno's. Why? One must not visit the city of brotherly love and not get an authentic philly cheese steak sandwich.

Although it was only 4:30, the line wrapped around both sides of the triangular shaped iconic restaurant. Mark spotted rock star parking and stayed in the van while I braved the line. My camera and unabashed picture snapping alerted the locals that I was a tourist, but at least I knew how to order like a local, or so I thought.

(you really must click the above pic to get a better look at the staff t-shirts)

You order wit or witout (meaning with or without onions) and choose your cheese. Authentic S. Philly steaks come with cheese wiz. Yes, wiz. You can get other cheeses, such as provolone or American, but why would you do that? When it was my turn I made the rookie mistake of ordering freedom fries in the wrong window. d'oh! You order the steak first then fries later.

(even the ceilings are decorated)
One steak wit and wiz, one steak witout and wiz.

(the infamous sign on their ordering in English-only)
Mouth watering deliciousness I tell ya!

I'm hungry all over again.

So, now we are home. Drained and wit-out housing in 3 months, yet. Still, in 4 days (not including 2 days of driving) we learned a tremendous amount about the area and the people. As I look around our current home all I can think about is purging the place of all unnecessary items and packing for our next adventure.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Golden Ticket

Your first kiss. Graduation. Your wedding day. The birth of your children. Buying your first house. All events of enormous significance. Milestones that mark the journey of your life. We have been waiting for a sign that the next chapter in our lives was about to begin.

Three weeks ago Mark received a call to interview for a job 755 miles away.

The interview process is serious. It begins with a breakfast meeting and goes through the evening, for two days. Each morning in his hotel room Mark would psych himself up with a little Eminem. You know you can picture this!

He fell in love with the campus and made instant connections with the faculty. He knew he had found his DREAM job. Then the waiting began. We waited and fretted and stewed for 3 weeks.

On my way out to run errands last Friday, I reminded Mark to turn his phone on in case I needed to call from the store. 90 minutes later he pulled his phone out of his pocket to check to see if it was on and it began to ring in his hand. The search committee had met and they had chosen him for the job. It would need to pass through the Dean's office before the official offer could be made. A formality. The job was his but we would wait nearly another week to announce it until we had the official offer.
Being a fan of thrift stores and Goodwill in particular, I made a stop in our new store (last Friday). On the wall in large letters they have painted, "We employ people with special needs to empower them through work." Love that! I was already choked up when Mark called me. He couldn't wait for me to get home which meant I was a big cry baby in public.

Barely up the steps to our front porch, Mark came running out and picked me up, twirling me around a la the end scene in An Officer and a Gentleman. I discovered he already had Soph in school gear. We called the immediate family and let Alexander make the announcement, "Hi Papa. We're moving to Philadelphia!"

click to enlarge
It is a private Catholic university located in a suburb just north west of Philadelphia. This small campus has received top rankings for two decades, though most people have heard of them because of their basketball program. The list is long as to why this is meant to be for our family. Mark's new position is as a professor of Russian political science, which is exactly what he's passionate about and trained for. The annual Special Olympics Fall Festival is the largest and most successful student-run Special Olympics in the world. So you see, it's about already having a sense of community, a place where we belong.

We will be making the 12+ hour drive in the next couple of weeks to being our search for housing. I'm already in touch with the Philly DS group, the T21Club (love that name), and Mark's colleagues are passing out the advice as well.

Most of what I know about Philadelphia comes from history books or Hollywood with movies such as Rocky, Philadelphia (Tom Hanks), and National Treasure. Then there are the sports teams, the proximity to NYC and the Jersey Shore that have us excited.

So much needs to be done as we will be moving at the end of June. Packing, cleaning, finding housing, MOVING in 3 months will be a chore. It is a huge area and we won't be moving to Philadelphia proper, but somewhere in the burbs. (it is a big area to choose from). The timing is excellent for the kids. Alexander will finish preschool this Spring and Sophie is aging out of Early Intervention July 1st. Finding a good location for kindergarten and transitioning her to early education is our top priority.

Too much needs to be done to have time to be sad to say good bye to this community we've called home for 3 years, though I know it will happen. Fortunately with the internet, it's not really a good bye. So now the real important question, Geno's or Pat's? (long standing rivalry for who originated the philly cheese steak).

If you have any advice or connections to the Philly area, please let me know.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pastel Love

I was on a mission. Objective 1: Locate the dining room table. Once Upon a Time I know we used to have one. Objective 2: tv off, internet off, family time. Objective 3: Create something that would bring me joy and appease my inner artist.

More proof that she may be a south paw

9 month old body with a 2 year old mind set

Don't YOU decorate for Easter with a St. Patty's Day Bowler (type of hat)?

This kid threw eggs at my door! He says it will tell the Easter bunny we are waiting for him.

I love having our doors open to the fresh air, smelling the earth come back to life and listening to the sound of birds chirping. It breathes hope into my soul.

Spring. Proof that life goes on. Pastels. Rebirth. Soft fuzzy animal babies. Eating jelly beans and chocolate by the pound.

My inner artist envisioned creating an Easter wreath. So I did, left handed, with wire and ribbon. (cast comes off my right arm tomorrow, then 2nd round of x-rays/possible MRI). These are my supplies (some purchased, some I've had for years)

Tulips aren't just the quintessential symbol of Spring, but have been adopted by the DS community (and special needs community at-large) because of Emily Perl Kingsley's poem, Welcome to Holland.

Maybe you think it looks like Easter threw up, but I quite like the end result. In fact, I think I may remove the eggs and bow after Easter and keep it for the rest of Spring.
Tonight we ate dinner together around the dinner table. I can't remember the last time we did this. Usually we eat in the living room, the kids at their little tables, the tv and computers on. It was the most lovely meal and I plan to make this the norm.

Mission, Accomplished.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mothering Oneself

Warning: Blog post as free therapy below

keep your head down and run. go full speed

I put everything I've got into work. With friends, I built a strong Spread the Word campaign that I'm quite proud of.

focus on the task at hand

It keeps my mind off of the rest of my life that's so out of my control. In two weeks time, maybe less, Mark will know whether or not he got the job of his dreams. We've claimed dibs. It would be perfect for him for many reasons, but it would also be wonderful for our whole family. We've been in a sort of limbo for 10 years as Mark went to school. For the past 3 years he's been a visiting professor at a wonderful school. Unfortunately, our time here is drawing to a close. In fact, in 4 months we'll likely be living in another house, in another state, in another town. If he doesn't land this gig, we have no idea where we'll be.


Now that the campaign is over, for the most part, I can take a break before jumping back into my other current passion. I'm planning a conference in June. It will be for people with developmental disabilities, parents, professionals, and siblings. We'll have sessions on sexual safety, school bullying, and even music therapy for the little ones. It's set for June 19th. We'll likely be moving, somewhere, the following weekend.

deep, slow breaths. just don't sit down

The panic starts to creep in. No matter. I just get out the Easter decorations. Pastel colors, lights and bunnies everywhere stave the anxiety off for a little while.

keep going

Sophie's first transition meeting to pre-K is in a few weeks. Her therapists are beginning to prep. They ask what questions I have. None. Not yet. Maybe I'll think about it tomorrow. Today I'll run away from them with my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears. Can't we stay in the EI bubble a little while longer? How can she possibly be almost 3? We need to prep for this meeting and writing her IEP, even though we most likely will be somewhere else when she turns 3 in July.


So, I'm in a big ol green cast. I joke about the claustrophobia, but to be honest, it's real. I fantasize about going to the ER, jumping on the desk, screaming until they cut this thing off. I try not to look at it. I'm sleeping in a funny position these past couple of nights and woke up unable to turn my head this morning, all out of whack.

It's times like this that I need my mother. Unfortunately, she's not available, so I Mother myself. I pick a St. Patty's Day theme for the blog and put up the playlist from last year on the sidebar. I watch 'P.S. I Love You' and ask Mark to bring home some Guinness. I'm in an Irish mood and it helps.

This morning I made myself a scrumptious breakfast. French toast with cinnamon, powdered sugar, and fresh strawberries. I hid in the kitchen and ate every last bite without sharing.

crack up, momentarily and pull myself together

Just as I've established myself in this community and made some truly wonderful friends, we are set to leave. I work my butt off here all while I have an eye on another home in a new community, just out of reach.

wait. wait for news. wait for our lives to change. wait to move somewhere that we can put down roots.

In keeping with the Irish theme, I rented 'Far and Away' this afternoon. I'm introducing the girls to Tommy before he went BSC on Oprah's couch. I picked up a reuben and sat down to the movie with a pint of Guinness (never mind that with this clumsy cast I spilled 1/4 on my crotch).

exhale slowly. close my eyes. pray, blog left handed, and wait some more

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blog Has Gone Green

For my Google Reader and RSS feed friends, we've gone a proper green and my St. Patty's Day songs are back on the side bar for your enjoyment.

Casting Call

Last Wednesday I went out with friends to chambanamoms Night Out at a place called Cakes on Walnut. This day was day 7 of a week long hard core diet (written by RK's dr). I had successfully dropped the weight gained over the holidays and felt the best way to celebrate was to eat red velvet cake. It was a nice evening away from the screaming that is my home of 3 kids, 2 cats, and 1 husband.
Then I decided to tempt fate. I really should have known better. The CU Autism group hosted a spa night for moms of children who have special needs. Catered by the Olive Garden, it was an evening of free mani/pedis, massages and conversation. The universe laughed at my arrogance in thinking I could get away again so soon. As I walked (or speed walked because I'm generally running late in this life) to the front door, I slipped on a patch of icy sidewalk. Old Man Winter took me down on my back side and right hand. I laid there for a few minutes, stunned. The woman who greeted me at the door couldn't help but notice that I was covered in muddy slush. She took me to the bathroom and went to look for help.

I don't know if it's just moms in general, or specifically moms who have a child with special needs, but I was taken care of very well. Dr. Karen, who's son is in playgroup with Soph, examined me in the bathroom and suspected a broken wrist. She called the doctor's office and preordered my x-rays. Crissy followed behind as Bethany drove my sexy red van to Convienent Care. That's rock star treatment in my book. The dr said I had definitely broken my wrist and gave me a splint to wear and referral to the fracture clinic for follow up. In the meantime, Wendy had met us and we all headed to my favorite Mexican restaurant for the biggest margarita in town.

On Sunday, Convenient Care called saying that the radiologist had finally read the x-rays and did not see a fracture, so they cancelled my referral. "Wear the splint for a week and follow up with your primary if it keeps hurting." On Monday, the Ortho office called and they were a bit perturbed that my referral to them was cancelled. Apparently this type of fracture in the wrist can be hard to see on x-ray. I needed to have a 2nd round of x-rays after 2 weeks. As the bone heals, if it is broken or cracked, a distinct white line will show up.

On Wednesday (Spread the Word to End the Word Day) I stood outside for 4 hours in 40 degree weather. I noticed that my hand was turning a lovely shade of green and it hurt even more than the previous day. So, I called the dr and they sent a note to ortho. Ortho decided to take a look today to make sure the green was just bruising and not something else and to make sure I was wearing the proper splint.

This morning ortho Dr. J informed me that it was not the right splint and it was probably causing more harm than good. He looked at the original x-rays and did not see anything that concerned him. He was able to apply a good deal of pressure to my wrist without much pain, which is a good sign. It really hurts on my hand directly under my thumb. My hand and thumb are very swollen and my thumb is shaped like a breakfast sausage, all fat and juicy. (that's hot!)

The plan is to x-ray again in a week. If it still hurts but the x-rays do not show a fracture, then it's time for a MRI and possibly surgery if they find anything. If I'm feeling fine and the x-ray looks good, then I'm done. I want to be done.

So, off to the casting room I went. There was really no thinking when they asked what color I wanted. ReJenerationS refers to spiritual renewal or revival; renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system; the state of being ReJenerated. For this reason, the coming Spring, and of course St. Patrick's Day, I'm now sporting a very green cast. I photoshopped a shamrock on it, but am thinking I really should glue one on.

So for now, it's left handed blogging, which is nothing new for a breastfeeding mama. Here's hoping it's just a sprain. It's not really too big of a deal, besides being an annoyance and being made of fiberglass that I don't want embedded in the kids' skin. This is my 1st cast and I hope to fight my claustrophobic urge to run screaming down the street whacking it on the curb and trees to get it off. Ya, picture that! Thanks to Beth and Stephanie for bringing our family enough food for a week. I haven't had to cook and that's been such a blessing. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More TV Coverage of Spread the Word to End the Word

Here's more coverage of our Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. CLICK HERE

Local TV Spot on Our Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign

News In Depth: Spread the Word

Click the link to watch self advocate Cindy Combs and I speak on the morning show this morning about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign here in Champaign County, IL!