Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Manga Hero

Mrs. Nod and the Nodlings loved this story Many Are Called: a Manga mashup of Bible stories and a touch of Steampunk.

Catholic company called Manga Hero with several titles to their credit.

Dig it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And They're Off!

This is the time of year when I'm truly ready to start enjoying Summer. Strangely, it also happens to be the end. The correlation is purely coincidental, I'm sure.

The girls, Blynken, Nod-girl, and Nib, are all set to start school on Monday. By ready I mean they can't find their shoes, can't find their uniforms, just realized they had multiple pages of math and book reports for summer homework, and Nib is whining that she's not sure that she'll like 1st grade because it isn't like Kindergarten. 

So, yeah, they're ready.

Wynken has another week before high school begins, so he's getting ready by declaring a sudden realization that he doesn't own any pants, and he can't wear his old Catholic school uniform to public school.

Nub has been out of special ed summer school and day camp for several weeks now, so he'll be pleasantly surprised when the short bus shows up at our house next week to take him to 3rd grade. I predict several days of falling asleep on the bus on the way home while he gets used to the rigors of going to full-day school again.

Dab is a typical two year old, which is to say he's alternately cute and suicidally dangerous. Did you know that stair-jumping is going to be an Olympic sport? That kid will jump off of anything and he's keeping in good practice.

The girl Nodlings will be moaning and groaning in the morning about just how earRRRRrrrly it is, and how they can't possibly be expected to move at anything beyond a snail's pace because they are sooooo tired. This from the cadre who currently wake at the crack of dawn to begin a game of tickle chase and blanket forts.

We will dutifully bundle them out the door, kiss their little foreheads, assure them of their undoubted success this year, and wave serenely. Then we will close the door, turn to each other and make this face:

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Big Howdy

So first of all a big Hi! to all of you visiting from Acts of the Apostasy. How about that LarryD, huh? What a guy. Thanks!

They say I should blog more -- and I will. Now that I got that whole New Scarlet Letter thing off my chest. I've had a lot of Real Life stuff clogging up the writing gears that are now flowing since God applied a little spiritual WD-40.

Right now I'm getting ready for practice for that great Fall event that Mrs. Nod loves to hate -- Football Widow.  I've got the jersey on and put the spuds and the suds on hot standby. Hey, it's only on Sundays, and a few odd Saturdays, oh, and Mondays and the occasional Thursday ...

It's only pre-season, but someone who is just as excited is Nub, my 8-year old with Down Syndrome, who is my faithful companion for rockin' the couch potato position.

So welcome to all, come on in and have a look around. Drop me a comment, you know that I will totally appreciate it!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Superpope Anime

If you like the Pope and if you like Manga, then maybe you'll enjoy a Manga SuperPope!

Enjoy this cool anime by David Rutledge over at PhatMass and watch Superpope kick a little demonic booty.


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Politics of the Bus Stop

It's only 6 miles to the Catholic school, but the Nodlings still ride the Catholic school bus with half a dozen other kids from a 10 mile radius. By definition, this means that they don't ride the public school bus. The other thing they don't do is wait at the public bus stop.

This has a very curious effect on them from an otherwise very pleasant neighborhood: they are somewhat isolated from the other neighborhood kids. They don't have the shared experience of going to the same school, riding the same bus, or standing on the curbside with their peers on a cold January morning.

The bus stop is also where the Moms and occasional Dads are forced to congregate making idle chit chat. It's the place where play dates and casual invitations get made for when Johnny comes home from school or soccer practice lets out. Unless you're otherwise involved in common activities or have the benefit of a tight neighborhood community, you're just another wave-across-the-yard face in a suburban island enclave.

Now there are a lot of great things about Catholic schools and the community they develop.  What they lack in convenience, they make up for with depth. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of seeing my eldest son, Wynken, graduate from St. Mary Marvelous. They had a week long graduation celebration the likes of which I have never seen at any level - elementary, high school, or college. Everyone from the Kindergarteners to the eighth graders to the staff to the parents joined in with laughter, tears, reminiscences, and a deep sense of connectedness.

The friendships parents make once they start having children tend to be the parents of their kids' friends. Left to their own devices, kids in a neighborhood will play together in shifting packs that resemble floating crap games with looser rules. Kids are good that way; it's the parents that tend to have the hang-ups. But at the end of the day there is still a little bit of the you-don't-go-to-my-school division even at the kid level.

But that's changing, perhaps by Design. With a Catholic high school tuition being out of our reach (see Forty Percent of Awesome) Wynken is headed to public school. In addition, a new family with 5 kids has just moved in next door.  We've only known them a week, but all the Nodlings and the neighbor's kids have flowed back and forth between the two houses non-stop. Woo hoo!

Not only do they have 5 kids, but the ages match up perfectly with the Nodlings. And in a stunner, their oldest is a boy with Asperger's -- just like Wynken -- and they will be going to the same school. As we struggle to deal with our new reality of a boy with social and executive functioning challenges, God has seen fit to put this family in our lives.

How cool is that?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

24:15 The New Scarlet Letter

The kid’s a near genius, and that’s no exaggeration. Wynken could read his own books by the time he was 3, knows more about modern dinosaur theory than most adults, and can distinguish between exoplanets and objects in the Kuiper Belt.

We were accustomed to him bringing home an A on every test. On a recent test, he brought home a very different kind of A: Asperger Syndrome.

Asperger Syndrome is “an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.” 

ES: Translation: He can quote you an endless stream of information on a handful of topics. What he can’t do is tell that you aren’t interested in hearing about it after the third sentence.

RS: That was a bit snarky.

I’m sitting here having a conversation between my Rational Self (RS) and my Emotional Self (ES). We don’t always play nicely together and tend to steal each other’s lines, but you’re welcome to listen in.


RS: Remind me when we first find out Wynken had Asperger’s Syndrome?

ES: We didn’t find out about it until he was almost 13. Oh we knew it was something, but we kept getting different diagnoses: ADD, non-verbal learning disorder not otherwise specified (yes that’s a real thing), short-term memory disorder, handwriting dyspraxia, all of which didn’t help very much. And then the kid became a teen-ager -- talk about a double whammy.

RS: It’s safe to say that we’ve been in crisis mode ever since -- just getting by, just keeping our heads above water. We started learning more about Asperger’s, but somewhere along the line lost the thread: never finished the books, never joined a group, never really found the things that “work”.  Why is that?

ES: We had our hands full with 5 other Nodlings, including one with Down Syndrome.

RS: Since Aspies have to be explicitly taught social skills and generally have a huge problem with executive functioning skills (making a plan, executing a plan, or seeing the big picture) all of the burden falls on us as parents to “do something”. 

ES: That means keeping tabs on your kid 24/7, endlessly repeating instructions, standing over him to do homework, making sure he remembers to bathe, wear clean clothes, use deodorant (teenage boys stink!). It means telling them not to talk so loud, not to stand so close, not to stare at girls, not to keep beating the same subject to death, apologizing over and over to the principal and that enraged parent because your kid said something he didn’t know was socially inappropriate. It means telegraphing every little schedule change to your child who can’t handle change and has intense emotional reactions to daily bumps in the road.

And that is hugely wearying on a person and a marriage -- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

RS: I have to ask: why don’t you just [read a book | join a support group | get some help]? 
ES: Here’s the thing: people in crisis are unable to help themselves, they are just surviving.

“A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison reveals that mothers of kids and adults on the autism spectrum experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers.” --Examiner.com 

RS: No word on the Dads, however. 
ES: I can tell you my reaction, because I started writing about the “New Scarlet Letter” over a year ago:
“It is the handicap that you can’t readily see. That burns more than the ones you can see -- like a Scarlet Letter in the mind. If a boy is made in a man’s image, then the man is invested in the boy whether he wants it or no.  Yes, they are independent persons, individual wills, separate souls -- but there is something about a man’s son.

I know the struggle is in me, the principal road block in my own mind, in my own heart. How familiar this is, like the first time. Only this seems harder to accept, because it is less obvious. It is my pride that suffers -- cruel heart! Let me be. “

RS: A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?
ES: These are raw emotions. You go find your own.


RS: So what has changed? Why are you talking about this now?
ES: A number of things, I guess. I’m tired of feeling emotionally crippled.

RS: That’s rich, coming from you ...
ES: Easy, now!

RS: Sorry. You were saying?
ES: I’ve spent enough time being angry and frustrated with myself and the boy.

RS: What makes you feel angry about this?
ES: A feeling of helplessness. A feeling that I failed in some way. That either he or I am defective.

RS: [punches ES hard on the arm]  Stop that! You know that’s not true. God doesn’t make junk. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself.
ES: Ow. Sorry. Just being honest with my emotions. Guess you’ll have to help me, Rational Self.

RS: That’s what I’m here for: to keep the emotions in proper check.
ES: I thought that was what the Will was supposed to do.

RS: Stop being such a stickler.
ES: Now who’s rich?  As I was saying, other things have changed. Wynken has graduated 8th grade and will be entering high school in the fall. It’s a natural break where everything changes for most adolescents. We can’t afford the Catholic high school, so public school here we come.

RS: Is he anxious about it?
ES: Is he ever! I think most kids are nervous about high school, but Aspies tend to be more intense about it.

RS: Maybe you could put the money you would have spent on Catholic school into a program to help him? A social skills group or executive function coach?
ES: Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. It’s hard to know where to start. See that part about chronic stress and not being able to help yourself?

RS: Surely the County, State, or Fed has programs or some kind of help? That’s part of why we pay for public schools, isn’t it?
ES: Yes, but the bureaucracy is a rather byzantine labyrinth. We already got rejected by one agency. The paperwork is mind-boggling.

RS: Lots of people have Asperger’s kids, and they seem to manage.
ES: What’s complicating things is that our son with Down Syndrome has also reached a point where he needs extra attention and special programs as well. And there’s the rest of the Nodlings, too.

RS: Family? Friends? Church?
ES: Yeah, they are all trying to help us, but it's slow going. It’s hard because we don’t know what’s available and what would help us the most. Talking about it is a good first step. We are also learning how to accept help, which is harder than it sounds.

RS: Is it getting any easier?
ES: What I can say is that for the first time in two years I feel like there might be some hope that things can change. I see God working in my heart and attitude. I see some events unfolding although I don’t know their ultimate end. We just got some new neighbors this week who have 5 kids, including a 14 year old with Asperger’s.   Coincidence?

RS: There are no coincidences, only God-incidences.
ES: Good thing. I suppose we just need to pray and trust in God’s own timing?
RS: You took the words right out of my mouth.

Got an Asperger’s or other special needs child? How do you deal with it? Inquiring minds want to know!


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