Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Father's Love

Today, Ed came home from work with a bright green balloon for Asher. He called me to have Asher meet him out front for a "surprise." Asher, a big fan of the balloon, thought it was a great surprise and even fell asleep tonight with the balloon string in his tiny little hand. Ed had snagged it from work and commuted home by train and bus holding a bright green balloon with a red string. That mental image has kept me smiling all night, along with all the teasing he got from his fellow commuters.

He also took Noe on a bike ride. He didn't even get out of his work clothes because it was starting to get dark. Ten minutes into their twenty minute loop, they got caught in a huge rain storm. I offered to pick them up, but Ed insisted on finishing the ride because Noe was having a good time. They came back into the house, two happy wet dogs.

The boys don't have a clue how lucky they are to have such a loving and dedicated father....but someday they will.

In Case Neilsen Media is reading ...

Here is our fall TV lineup:

*The Office (after we catch up to the current season on Netflix. Can't believe it took us this long to watch this funny funny show)

*House (don't know if I'll make it through the season....last season wasn't as good as previous years)

*Desperate Housewives (we hadn't watched this show regularly for a couple seasons, but the season finale last year got us hooked again)

*Friday Night Lights (so underrated....so great!)

*Project Runway (I love hearing Ed's opinions on the runway outfits...not that I'm that much more educated on the subject)

4 1/2 hours of TV a week. I don't feel guilty. We have DVR and watch our shows at the end of the day, together, after the boys have gone to bed. It is something to look forward to at the end of a day. Plus, I rarely watch movies, so that is my screen time....unless you count the Internet....whoops.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two years ago at this time....

We were visiting abuelos and vacationing in LA.

Three years ago....

we were enjoying fall in our Astoria Queens neighborhood (our last autumn in NYC).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jen's Household Tip #1

Don't turn your oven on when there is paper inside.

I thought our new oven smelled funny when I stuck dinner in to cook. Apparently, I didn't get all the paper out that the manufacturers stick inside. When I went to check on things, I saw a small orange fireball through the oven window. Now that's what I call christening a new appliance!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday Travels: Natural History Museum

Yesterday Asher and I hit the Natural History Museum to see the butterfly exhibit. The exhibit was a 90 degree, 90 percent humidity room with close to 1000 exotic butterflies and we were able to walk around freely with them. Very cool.

After that we saw some other exhibits, like the insect zoo and the dinosaurs, bought some rocks and then walked around the sculpture garden. Such a beautiful day to be playing tourist in downtown DC. At the sculpture garden I made Asher tell me what he thought the abstract sculptures looked like and his answers were hilarious. At one, he kept saying "crap" when I asked him what it looked like. I don't think that word is in his vocabulary yet, but I had to agree with his answer.

On our way back to the metro station, we saw the presidential motorcade heading along Constitutional Ave. towards the Capitol building. I read later that Bush was at the United Nations today, so it must have been the VP. A few minutes later, the motorcade returned back to the White House. I was hopeful that they had gone up to Congress to figure out this whole financial crisis and had made quick work of a solution. Yeah right. We passed the National Archives and there was a huge protest sign out front. I wonder if Cheney saw it out his window and what he thinks about all the people who hate his guts. It is so weird to think that my dad handled some of his financial dealings when he was not so well known or hated.

We stopped off in Arlington to pick up our car and have pizza with Ed, then headed home from our fun day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Little Boys & Trains

(Asher at Day Out with Thomas, Mt. Hood, OR. June, 2008.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Asher's newest reply to a question is "Of course I can't." Asher, would you clean up your mess, please? Of course I can't. Asher, would you like some chocolate milk? Of course I can't. The funniest part is that he thinks he is saying "yes" when he is actually saying "no."

Noe's teacher sent home a note last week that read something along the lines of...."Noe has been derobing whenever he is asked to stand up. We need to discuss this matter." Annoyed and slightly nervous she thought Noe was a little pervert, I emailed her. Apparently, he has been pulling down his pants when asked to stand up. I thought about it awhile, and realized that the only time we ask him to stand up is when he is getting dressed. He was jumping ahead in his directions. We have stopped giving him verbal directions when he is getting dressed. If that doesn't work, I may have to face the possibility that I have a little flasher for a son. The funniest part of the situation is that his teacher kept using the word "derobing." I kept picturing Noe in a judge's robe.

One afternoon last week I was fighting a horrible sinus infection and I wanted to take a nap before Noe got home from school. I set up Asher with a train dvd and begged him to watch it so I could sleep. He watched for a few minutes and then started to come upstairs. Still desperate for sleep, I started thinking fast as I heard his little feet climbing the stairs up to our bedroom. I buried myself deep under the blankets and waited. He predictably jumped on the bed and started shouting, "WAKE UP BABA!" I calmly replied, "Asher, I'm not asleep. I am busy building a train tunnel." He totally fell for it. "Oh, ok Baba," he said and went back downstairs to let me sleep. An hour later he brought all of his trains up to play in the "tunnel" I was supposed to be "building." I think he was a little disappointed in my work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

ABA Family

We are an ABA family. This is the main therapy we are using to combat Noe's autism. ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) has a basis in behavioral psychology. It's main components are simple: 1) reward good behavior, ignore unwanted behavior 2) learn new skills by breaking them up into smaller parts 3) be consistent: with your directions, with your expectations, with your rewards and consequences. However, the simple suddenly becomes complex when you are working to change the behaviors of a child with autism. It is also very data driven. In an ABA session, performance is meticulously recorded. This helps establish real, rather than antecdotal progress, and helps deconstruct problem behaviors or lack of progress.

In a typical ABA session, Noe will work on his programs at his small table with his therapist. Programs might include - practicing imitatation or following directions "hands on head", "turn off the light", and working on academic skills such as cutting with scissors or matching associated objects (sock and shoe, bike and bike helmet). Another chunk of time is devoted to setting up situations for Noe to practice his language skills. Our ABA sessions also include a lot of "play therapy." Where play is fun and comes naturally to most kids, we have had to teach Noe how to play. For Noe, play is work.

Noe has 12-15 hours of ABA therapy a week. His progress from the therapy is real, although it ebbs and flows. For the past few months, however, we have noticed a considerable improvement in his language and overall progress. It feels like we are finally starting to see the fruits of our labors.

This coming year, I will be attending various seminars on ABA with the goal of weaning ourselves off the expensive consultant that manages our ABA program. We will continue to hire therapists, but the direction and management of his therapy will fall on me. The prospect is both frightening and exciting to me. Frightening that I will have this awesome responsibility, exciting that I will better be able to teach him and guide his progress, and that we will no longer be weighed down by consultant fees.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Market Crashes and Long Naps

So what does someone who has an unhealthy obsession with the stock market and her family's finances do when the sky is falling around her?

Well....on Monday I spent most of the day curled up with my laptop in the fetal position, watching the market's slide with shock and horror. Yesterday, when it became apparent that the markets were in for another meltdown, I took a very long run while Asher was in preschool, then an equally long nap when he got home. He was pretty excited about an afternoon of unregulated Thomas the train dvd viewing. I also grabbed some extra hours at work that evening, just to keep my distance from my laptop.
I'm not so worried about the stock market drop itself. We have decades to go before we will need to access that money. I have no doubt it will recover a hundred fold. I am worried about the fallout.... job loses, shrinking school budgets, etc. etc. I am also so regretting our home purchase. It is going to take too many years to break even on what should have been an easy, safe investment. We didn't even buy at the top of the market.

I still think back to our sleazy mortgage broker trying to talk us into a crappy loan and saying that we were foolish to put down 20% on our house when there were so many 0% down loans available. I have been very tempted over the past couple of months to go back to his office and ask how business is going and if he still thought we were fools....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Food Trail

Ed is working between three offices right now - the Post headquarters in downtown DC, the website office in Arlington and the Loundon County bureau. Luckily, we live in an area that isn't more than half an hour away from any of these offices, and both the Post headquarters and website office are right off the Metro.

Ed tends to go to the same offices on the same days. For example, he is usually at the website on Mondays and downtown on Tuesdays. I figured that he scheduled offices based on the ebb and flow of the news cycle. Nope. He decides where he is going based on the possibility of free food.

Mondays are free bagel days at the website. Tuesdays are full of meetings downtown, and inevitably offer leftovers. Fridays are pb&j days at the website. He tends not to make it past his side of the bed on Friday nights after he's been working at the website. As for free food at the Loudon, there isn't much....he works out there as little as possible.

If newspapers fold anytime soon, I think Ed will miss.....the free bagels.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Photo Shoot

A couple of friends in my ward are thinking of starting a photography business and asked if they could photograph my boys. I was really pleased with their work and thankful for their wonderful gift.


I retract my claim that it is impossible to get good photos of Noe. You just have to know what you are doing with a camera.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I read an article recently about some of the research Harvard scientists are doing to unlock the mysteries of autism. They think that autism results from genes that have failed to activate, rather than defective ones. They believe that someday they will be able to activate these genes, kind of like you would activate your new bank card by calling the number listed on the back. They have already had success "reactivating genes" on lab animals. I'm sure it is years, maybe decades, away....but a little hope goes a long way for us right now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't Worry Baba, I Come Home Soon....

Those were Asher's parting words to me as he entered his classroom on his very first day of preschool.

Don't rush, kid.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday Travels

The pools are closed, the tourists are gone and the humidity has headed south, which means we can find our entertainment in the District once again. Asher and I have a goal of getting into the District to see or do something every Tuesday this fall. It's our only free day, so we must take advantage.
Today, Asher and I did the National Zoo...round 2. He spent a lot of time watching the giant pandas play and the elephants eat and the hippos swim and seemed to have a great time, but when I asked him his favorite part of the day, he enthusiastically offered, "TRAIN RIDE!" He has also been feeding all of his Thomas trains since our trip, much like the zookeeper fed the animals.

Watching the animals, I couldn't get over how similar they are to us. The elephants had a huge living area, but the baby elephant was under his mother's feet the entire time. Meanwhile the papa elephant spent most of his time on the other side of the compound, checking out the other elephants. But if we were an elephant family, Ed would be the elephant in the corner reading the newspaper or taking a nap, not checking out the hot female elephants.
I think I'm going to like Tuesdays in the District with Asher. Time feels so fleeting with my little people right now. In a couple of years, both boys will be in school all day long and I will probably be back in the workforce fulltime.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Morning Mess

We woke up to a container of Nestle Quik dumped out onto the carpet in our office/guest room this morning.

We have narrowed our search down to two possible suspects.

It vaccumed up easily, but I feel like I am inhaling powdered chocolate milk particles every time I go in the room. It did leave behind a lovely sweet scent, however.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Goodbye, Nina!!!

Tonight, we had our good friends, "Nina" and her mom over for dinner to say goodbye before they left for their state department post to a foreign land. They live next door and have become very good friends to us over the 1 1/2 years since we moved in. Asher and "Nina" are especially close.

When we first moved in, Asher couldn't pronounce Nina's real name, and the nickname stuck. They have a funny relationship: Nina gives the orders and Asher is the yes man. They have seen a lot of dirt, made a lot of messes and done a lot of laughing in their past 1 1/2 years together. They also share the bond of being half-Mexican. Neighbors have mistaken them as brother and sister.

Asher has been very curious and confused about the moving trucks parked in front of their house this past week. He looked out the window for a very long time after they left our house tonight. My heart breaks for his first little broken heart.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Congrats, Martha....

for paying back your entire KIVA loan on time! You accomplished what many of us rich gabachos up north can't seem to do these days....stay out of debt and pay our bills on time!
In fact, I have yet to make a bad loan on KIVA. Every single woman I have loaned money to has paid it back in full and on time. So I've never lost a penny of my own money (unless you factor interest into the equation, but really, money isn't earning much of anything sitting in a savings account these days). That's my kind of charitable giving.
Check it out: www.kiva.org

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Life and Trains

Asher and I were hanging out one recent morning. We were in our office/guest room looking at family pictures I have arranged on a bookshelf.

He noticed this picture of his grandparents. It is taken just a couple of months before my dad's death and it is one of the few I have of my parents together. I asked him who was in the picture. He replied "Grandma and Grandpa" (he knows his grandfather from pictures). Then he said, "They hugging."

I am constantly asking Asher questions to increase his language and avoid more speech therapy bills in our home, so I asked, "Why do you think they are holding each other?"

Asher's reply: "Oh...well...Grandma wants to play trains, but Grandpa no want her to."

Of course, Asher. That makes perfect sense.....in your world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten

....and riding the big bus!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Last Two Weeks in Numbers

The boys and I have had a lot of time together these past two weeks since my summer employment ended. Abuela went back to LA and Ed's "busy season" at work began in full force at that time as well. Here is a look at the last two weeks in numbers:

45 minutes..... length of time the boys lasted at the National Zoo. It took us 40 minutes to ride the metro and to walk up the Woodley Park hill to even GET to the zoo!!!

8 ... number of trips to the neighborhood pool.

6 ... number of McDonalds Happy Meals consumed.

85 degrees. The average temperature over the past two weeks (my approximation). The weather was amazingly mild for this time of year, but I'm still ready for fall.

18 ... number of books and videos checked out of our local library.

8:00am. My average morning wake-up.

7:00am. The boys' average morning wake-up.

42 ... number of juice boxes consumed on outings.

98 ... number of times Asher asked when his school starts.

1000 .... number of times I repeated the words "I can get through the next two weeks" to myself.