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Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Wasn't All Bad, I Promise (Here's A List!)

I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a year end, have you?

I mean, honestly! Between the election and all its bile, the massive amount of celebrity deaths, the terror attacks all over the world, Russia dabbling in our election. . .

It's been a hard, angry, generally terrifying year.

But there have been good things, too. For instance:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Many More, 2016? How Many?

People die every day.
People that people care about die every single day - it's a fact of life, just like paying your taxes.
And it's also a fact that I've never personally met either one of these people.
But I am a mother. And I know a mother's life.
Thank God, I don't know a mother's grief. May I never know it.
And it's all fine to say that at least they're together, but I bet if you gave that Mom a choice, she wouldn't have ever wanted it that way.
This year has been a slaughterhouse of talent taken too soon. But this one hits harder than most.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: What Makes A Year?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
So sings the song
Minutes I've wasted
Minutes of brilliance
More of the former than the latter, I'm afraid
New years bring new beginnings
But only if you let them
I'm going to let them
(she says in a hopeful voice)
And away we go. . .

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

So Much For Good Intentions. . .

For the first time in a very long time, I have the entirety of the week off between Christmas and New Year's Day. This is due to a new policy from my employer (and wow, what a great policy) and of course, I had all sorts of plans for how I'd actively spend this time.

I'm going to write! 5,000 words a day!

Nope. 2300. And it wasn't on the project I desperately need to finish.

I'm going to pick a different room in my house every day and do a deep clean!

Nope. Took the kids to the mall because a teen girl got Christmas money and it was burning a hole in her pocket. Specifically, I took the kids to the second largest shopping mall in the nation and there were enough people there to repopulate the human race with full genetic diversity should we have experienced a nuclear war.

Monday, December 26, 2016

When You're Torn Between Fervent Applause And Cringing Discomfort

One of things about being an autism mom and and autism blogger is that people forward me and send me links all the time. The more popular links end up hitting my inbox several dozen times, and that's okay. I'm thrilled that my friends and readers notice and share articles about people on the spectrum and I hope they continue to do so.

Just before Christmas, the link I was getting a few times every day was for this stunning performance by a young girl:

Kaylee Rogers, who has autism and attention deficit disorder, sang the song at Killard House School in Northern Ireland. Her fellow students sang beautifully in the background.

This girl and her schoolmates rocked it. The performance is amazing. As the mother of a child with autism (who also sings like an angel), I felt a lump in my throat and chills go down my spine listening to this.

And then I realized the song I was listening to wasn't Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. It had the same tune. The word Hallelujah in the chorus was the same, but that's where the similarity ended. The song was now a Christmas hymn celebrating the birth of Christ to the tune of "Hallelujah."

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holiday Friday! Let's Watch Some Tidings Of Joy!

For decades, the folks at Sainsbury's and John Lewis stores in the U.K. have been making wonderful and memorable Christmas ads. Today, I thought I'd share some of my favorites. Enjoy!

Check out these dads in their festive Christmas sweaters (or "jumpers", if you're in the UK) for Sainsbury's:

Nothing stops true love in this ad from John Lewis:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Reminder Of The Power Of Peace In This Holiday Season

During World War I, a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front took place around the Christmas season. In the week leading up to the holiday, French, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk.

In some areas, men from both sides ventured out on Christmas Eve and Christmas day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs, and several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of British football with one another, giving one of the most memorable images of the truce. And after those brief moments of peace and brotherhood, the fighting resumed the following day.

Let's not forget our essential humanity, this holiday season. We need it now more than ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: My Personal Elf

There he is, waiting for Santa 
To come by on that big, red firetruck
He might be a teenager now
But Santa is as real as ever
One of the perks of autism
(Oh, there are a few)
Santa is because he always has been
And there's something to that
Something kind of wonderful

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not The Merriest Of Christmases

So yeah, I'm bummed today. I'm not holding out any hope that the electoral college will do anything other than what is traditionally done.

This Christmas season, I want everyone to remember that kindness matters, especially in the face of those who would embrace hate with the power of a government behind them.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fun On A Holiday Friday: A Collection Of Holiday Goodies

It's Friday - and getting closer and closer to the holiday! In the spirit of this festive occasion, I've put together some cartoons that I think will amuse. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Christmas Was Saved By Looking Through My Daughter's Eyes

The first Christmas after my daughter was born was a rough one. Normally, Christmas is a joyful time for me - that tree goes up before the crumbs of the Thanksgiving turkey are being scraped from the plates, and I used to go whole-hog on the house, decorating it to a ridiculous degree.

Just the year before we had moved into our dream home, and held a Christmas housewarming that I'd exhausted myself preparing for. I didn't care. I was six months pregnant with our long-awaited (and medically fought for) first child, I had a beautiful new home, and all was right in my world.

And then, just a month after Christmas, the world shattered around me when I discovered my husband's girlfriend. I was ten weeks away from giving birth to Anna, and after a lot of turmoil, a change of jobs for both of us, and a never-ending storm of tears (mine), denial (his) and stops and starts, we were finally on our way to rebuilding our marriage.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's Harder To Be The Breaker-Upper Sometimes

Anna had her first ever break up with her at the helm. And it was rough. I mean, really, really rough.

Thank God we didn't have social media when I was in high school. It's hard enough when a relationship falls apart, but to have everyone climbing on and fanning the flames all over the internet to everyone you're going to interact with (and a lot of people who have nothing to do with you but still have to offer an opinion anyway) is just brutal.

Anna did her best to soften the blow. She really cared about this person, and still does - it just wasn't the right person for her. And it's very, very hard to let go of a good person even when they're the wrong person. To hurt that person, even when you know it's best for both of you, in the long run.

My heart goes out to her. That's enough to deal with without the whole world in your business. Technology has improved our lives so dramatically, but in situations like this, it's a curse beyond belief.

We've come so far.
Sometimes, it's too far.

Monday, December 12, 2016

My Dublin Diary: Odds And Ends

One of the true joys of travel is discovering all the little differences, in people, in language, in the way the people live their day-to-day lives. This post is a collection of some of the oddities (at least to an American who isn't much of a world traveler - yet) that I observed during my time in Dublin.

First of all, the whole toilet thing. That's a typical public toilet and in most places I went they were like this - all one piece without a separate seat. I guess Irish men are trained not to splash or something. No arguments about leaving the seat up or down in Ireland.

And speaking of toilets, most of them had two flush buttons. I assume this is for "liquid" and "solid" but I had no idea which button was which and none of them were ever marked.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fun On A Friday - Another Edition Of "Today In The News"

Happy Friday, folks. And it is a really, really happy Friday for me. My publicist reached out to me yesterday (my publicist!) because I have a book that will be in bookstores in less than 60 days. Can you believe it? It's still pretty damn surreal. But good. So very good.

And since I'm having a great Friday, I think you deserve one, too. Have a laugh or two on me, courtesy of your local news:

Do not lose focus when driving through Canada:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Dublin Diary: Out And About On My Final Day

Outside the Gaeity Theatre

After visiting the Archaeology museum, I dined on one incredibly hearty and satisfying bowl of Irish Stew over mashed that stuck to my ribs for the rest of the day:

Look at that - my mouth is watering all over again!

I may not have dined with tablecloths and Waterford crystal, but the pub grub and street food I found in Dublin was delicious. I honestly did not have one bad meal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Lucky Thirteen

There are thirteen years between these pictures.
It feels like it's been ten minutes
I half-expect to find Fisher-Price all over the floor
Or hear the strains of SpongeBob or Sesame Street
No more tying shoes
Or blowing noses
Or silly bathtime shenanigans
No more folding them gently into me
After they crawl into my bed
No more tucking them in side-by-side
Because they don't want to sleep apart
I wouldn't trade who they are today for anything
But I'd love to have an hour of before back again

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Dublin Diary: Black Friday, Dublin Style

Grafton Street, decked out for the holidays
If I had been home for Thanksgiving, I normally would have been shopping on Black Friday. Guess what? Not only was I shopping, but Dublin does Black Friday, too. See? This picture was taken in a shopping mall. Or a shopping centre, as the Irish would say.

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Dublin Diary - Day 3: The Irish National Museum of Archaeology

Day three of my Dublin adventure saw me utilizing my three day Dublin Bus Freedom Pass for the first time. I hadn't had to touch it since my LEAP card got me everywhere I was going on Day 1 and Day 2, so it would have been a bit of a money-waster if I'd paid full price. Luckily, they ran a Black Friday special online and I got it for half-price, so it worked out splendidly.

The pass granted me 72 hours of access to any bus in the Dublin area, including (and this is the important one) the hop-on, hop-off bus that loops all the tourist attractions in Dublin. There's a guide driving the bus, and you have your choice of taking the pre-recorded tour (great if you don't speak English as they give you headphones and there are alternate language channels at each seat) or you can opt for the live guided tour. My bus driver was Sean and he was the sauce from which awesome is made. He sang, he joked, he told us all about everything and he made the tour five times as fun.

My first stop on my way to the museum was the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Park, a lovely little spot of green and the statue is wonderfully whimsical, flagged by pillars bearing great quotes from the master.

You definitely want to click this to embiggen.

Once Upon A Time – Season 6, Episode 10 Recap: A Brief Glimpse Of Might-Have-Been

Tonight we begin with Regina, Killian, and Emma (with sword in hand) heading for Regina's vault, only to encounter the Evil Queen. She's standing over Robin's grave and goading Regina, who takes the bait and cues up a fireball.

Then she takes a few digs at Emma and her sleep-cursed parents, and Emma loses it, taking a swing at the Evil Queen with the mysterious sword - and draws blood without putting a mark on Regina. Now they have a weapon capable of killing the Evil Queen, so she gets the hell out of dodge in a poof of smoke.

Unfortunately, she poofs away only to get waylaid by Rumple, who's thrilled to know that Emma can now kill her. He puts a tracking cuff on her, vowing to finish the job if Emma doesn't.

Meanwhile, over at the loft apartment, Snow is sleeping as Henry begs Emma not to try to kill the Evil Queen. Emma reminds him that she's the savior, then she tells Regina to hang tight with Henry and she takes off to handle things, flanked by Killian and David.

Here's a shot of Emma and Killian, because they get 
exactly seven-tenths of a second together in this episode

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fun On A Friday - "Well, That Was Unexpected. . ."

It's Friday, and I'm suspending the travel blog till next week to bring you your weekend-inducing entertainment. Today's post is titled "Well, that was unexpected. . . " and for good reason. Enjoy these clips of unexpected things (and I'll bring you the rest of Dublin next week)!

Unexpected science:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Dublin Diary - Day 2: Howth Harbor And The Rugged Irish Coast

Would you look at that? I mean, I know the panorama skews it a bit, but damn. Pics really don't do this place justice, but here's a few anyway:

On the bus ride in- the footpath follows the coast

"Ireland's Eye" - an island just off the coast

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: The Sentinel

For countless years, it's stood
Looking out over the rocky Irish sea
Sometimes a guidepost
Sometimes a place of worship
Constant and always looking to the horizon
Waiting for a traveler
Like me
To tell its story to

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Dublin Diary - Day 2: Back In Time At Malahide Castle

On day two of the great Dublin adventure, I sprung a modest twenty euro (I got a 5 euro discount because I also booked a Freedom pass for the hop-on-hop-off bus in Dublin) and booked a five hour tour that took me to Malahide Castle and then to the coastal village of Howth, with a tour back along the coastline.

I couldn't have asked for nicer weather in November, honestly. It was 49 degrees and sunny, not a raindrop fell on me the whole time I was there. I woke refreshed in the morning, had my cup or two of good Irish tea and headed off to the bus tour headquarters on upper O'Connell Street. Along the way, I grabbed breakfast at the highly recommended Rolling Donut. Oh, dear God, these donuts. So good. I had the Bailey's Cream donut and it was everything I never knew I needed.

Monday, November 28, 2016

My Dublin Diary - Day 1: Waiting And Wandering

It took three trains and 5 hours to get to Newark International Airport (due to wait times between trains and my commute to the train station), and once I got there, I breezed right in. I was expecting a huge wait in security lines, but most people traveling on the day before Thanksgiving are doing so domestically, so the International terminal didn't have much going on.

They also didn't have much in the way of food once you got past the security checkpoint. There was one bar/restaurant with about ten things on the menu, and the cheapest meal was a hamburger that rang in at $24.50. And the fries were extra!

Yeesh. So I ordered an $8.50 side of fries and reasoned that would hold me over as a meal until I got on the plane.

Once Upon A Time – Season 6, Episode 9 Recap: One Dark Mother Of A Backstory

I apologize for the tardiness of this blog. I was on my way back from Ireland last night! I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Dublin, where I had a rollicking good time. Even checked out the Gaiety Theatre (Colin's alma mater) and listened to Trad (traditional music) at one of the best pubs for it in Dublin. How could I resist?


Anyway, on with the show. We begin tonight with Rumple running down a fairy who warns him that he won't get away with whatever it is he's doing.

The Evil Queen shows up and Rumple reminds her that she's still got some sister-killing to do if he wants to get a piece of of his dark dagger of love. He throws some gold dust on the fairy, turning her old, knowing that this will send a message to Belle letting her know that he's going to use the magic on her. Once he ages the baby out of her, he can use the shears of destiny to cut the boy from his fate and take him from Belle.

Flashback now to Rumple's castle in the Enchanted Forest, where he drops a baby unceremoniously on the table in front of Belle.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Fun On A Friday - The Terrific T-Rex Compilation

Ah, the majestic Tyrannosaurus Rex. Such a fierce predator - that is, until you put him in the modern-day world. This is just a collection of really silly guys in a really silly T-Rex costume doing really silly things. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Stepping Back In Time

There's a saying that goes:

To a European, a hundred miles is a very long way
To an American, a hundred years is a very long time

So here's me, boarding a plane and taking a long journey
Back in time to the land where some of my ancestors lived and breathed and loved and died

An unexpected, but thoroughly welcome adventure

tóg go bog é

Take it softly, they say
And I will, wrapped in the warmth of hundreds of years

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

That Time I Almost Died - From A Watermelon

When I was five, my family had a fourth of July barbeque, with all the typical fourth of July sort of foods: BBQ chicken, burgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, potato salad - and watermelon.

I was eating it all with gusto, especially the watermelon. It took me a while to eat each piece, however, because I had to carefully, meticulously pick out each and every seed.

You see, I had older brothers. And older brothers delight in torturing their younger siblings. Not long before that day, I had been informed by one (and affirmed by the other) that the swallowing of an apple seed would cause an apple tree to take root in my stomach, growing until it burst through my skin. This I believed like God himself had engraved it on a stone tablet for me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shine Ireland Develops App To Teach Children On The Spectrum Social Skills

A friend pointed me toward this article about Shine Ireland, an organization out of Cork, Ireland that works with local families to secure assessments, therapies, services and appropriate education for their children who are on the spectrum.

In addition to that they've developed a couple of terrific game apps that helps children on the spectrum practice their social skills. The apps have had over 40,000 downloads worldwide.

Both apps teach valuable skills in a really fun way (I downloaded and David really loved playing!). The design team behind both apps recently won the National Net Visionary Award from Dot IE, Ireland's domain registry service and represents the best of Ireland online.

The apps can both can be found by searching Shine Ireland in the app store and selecting Social Skills for Autism, or the latest game, Kloog 2: Return to Zugopolis.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fun On A Friday: All Signs Point To Laughter

It's that time again - Friday!! And not just any Friday for me - I'm off all work all next week (gotta clean my house since I'm going away) and Wednesday, I step on a plane, cross and ocean and wake up in the land of my ancestors. How amazing is that?

So here's a collection of brilliant signage to ease you into your weekend with a good belly laugh. We'll start with this poor, lonely soul: