Notes From The Road: Caroline

I don’t want to make Caroline into something she isn’t.  But she’s a pretty amazing little girl, and she has this talent that’s hard to describe. I’ve blogged previously about how her Aperger’s Syndrome seems to drive her outward where it drives a lot of kids inward.  It’s more than that, though. Caroline is so loving that she draws others out, as well.

She can make friends with anybody, on or off the autism spectrum, with no concerns for age, race,  gender, or skill level. A trip to the zoo where she doesn’t either meet a new friend or bump into an old one is a tragic day indeed. She has a good sense of caution, and I’ve never felt like she was throwing herself into a dangerous situation with strangers, but she’s just so friendly that others find her irresistible.

We’re travelling today, and she’s gone and done it again. We walked into a restaurant and within five minutes, she had a new best friend. Where Caroline’s Asperger’s is hard to identify, even to parents with a child on the autism spectrum, her new friend was clearly somewhere on that spectrum. One eye wandered, the girl’s words were hard to understand, and she flapped madly. I suspect there was gross motor dyspraxia, as well, because she was uncomfortable climbing in the play area, even with help from Caroline.

She was as thrilled to meet Caroline as Caroline was to meet her.  But where Caroline bombarded her with introductory information, the primary word this girl’s vocabulary was “Ayeeeek!” It’s a word Sam unfurls a lot when he’s headed for sensory overload. However, she used it in a very happy way. At a guess, I’d say this girl was six,or seven but that was largely because she had a brother in his early teens with the telltale fuzz of early adolescence above his lip, and I heard their mother chastising him “she’s half your age!”

I got the sense that this girl would like to be as friend-filled as Caroline, but the love she is obviously pouring out to the world may not always reach its intended targets.  Her parents seemed eager for her to play with Caroline, even though Caroline had basically invited herself over to their table in the middle of their meal, and the little girl left her food unfinished (was permitted and encouraged to do so) to go off with my kids. Then, all three of them, Sam and the two girls, ran around the fishbowl that was the Chik-Fil-a play area, Sam and the new friend squealing while Caroline laughed.

And then Caroline headed up to the slide.

Immediately, the girl’s happy shrieks turned distressed. All the parents looked. So we all saw when Caroline came back down, took the girl’s hand and led her up. The girl’s mother covered her mouth with her hand really fast and looked away, and I knew Caroline had just pushed her friend to some new threshold. It wasn’t that  long ago that proprioceptive distress kept Caroline from climbing up restaurant play areas. She has only been really comfortable up there for a couple of years, and I remember the patient months her therapists labored so she could understand where her own body was in space.

Caroline hasn’t forgotten that time in her life, and I think she must have used something from her own experience to convince her friend it was safe to go up. But I have no idea what, and Caroline can’t remember her exact words now, after the fact. I remember clearly that first time Caroline went willingly up those stairs herself, what my heart felt like when those months of therapy came suddenly to a head in McDonald’s. And I recognized myself in that other girl’s parents, just as Caroline recognized herself in their daughter.  Although Caroline’s eyes have always gone where she wanted, and her pronunciation has always been strong, these girls clearly had a lot in common.

Because we are travelling, I had to make Caroline come out to eat for a few minutes, but I promised she could go back for a little while if she was quick. As soon as she was gone, the little girl’s father bolted into the playground, climbing up and down the stairs himself, up and down and up and down, his curious child behind him. She never went above the second step. This was clearly an early, early breakthrough. But she followed him over and over, until Caroline came back to play some more.

That alone would be enough.  But it wasn’t all. A couple more kids went to the playzone, these girls probably neurotypical. They were willing and happy to bound up the stairs, dive down the slide, and then do it all again, Caroline and Sam shifted their attention. But Caroline did not abandon her first friend. She merely widened her net. Every time she headed up to go to the slide, she poked her head back out, inviting the girl along. And every time Caroline popped out the slide at the other end, the girl shouted “Boo!” and Caroline pretended to fall over with fright, but really laughing so hard that everybody picked up her giggle..

The girl’s father stayed in after Caroline came back, though he retreated to sit on the parent-benches. When he saw the new kids join them, he started trying to gently coax his daughter down, probably trying to end her playtime on a high note before the potential heartbreak of losing a new friend reached her.

But his daughter, entrenched on that second step, refused to move. She sat there, laughing, shrieking “Boo!” and waving at Caroline at every pass. And then the really cool thing happened. After Caroline went four fast rounds up the stairs and down the slide, she added a new component to the game.  Everybody stopped on the second step. The new additions had been clearly initially uncomfortable with the first little girl. But when Caroline stopped and grabbed her hands at every pass, the others fell naturally in line, so that at every turn, there was a moment when all four girls (Sam having retreated into his own bizarre little games by then) held flapping hands and shrieked laughter. And it went on for some five minutes.

It was magic, the kind of spell that only Caroline can weave, and it only works because she appreciates no difference between the neurotypical kids and the austistic ones. Caroline knows she has Asperger’s syndrome. We talk about it. And she recognizes some of the differences it introduces to her life. But to her, in social terms, the girls are all different from her. She doesn’t rank the kinds of difference. She finds them all enjoyable and fascinating.

I imagine it this way. Caroline is standing on this bridge overlooking a distant valley. On one side of the bridge is her neurotypical world and on the other is her autistic one. She has equal access to both and only sometimes gets stuck on the autistic side anymore. The rest of us, those of us who really fully exist on only one side or the other of the bridge can all see Caroline up there, looking down into that valley. It’s impossible for us to tell what she sees, but all of us, on and off the autism spectrum,  can tell that it’s fascinating. Whatever is going on up on that bridge, we’re interested in it because Caroline is. And so we come out to meet her there, and suddenly we meet each other, and because we are in Caroline’s world, it all makes perfect sense and is wonderful fun.

As I said at the outset, I don’t want to make Caroline into something she’s not. I don’t want to force her into a role. But all of this comes from her. I do not send her out to make friends. I am, in fact, often in the position of having to tell her, “Caroline, you’re with our family today. You need to make friends some other time.”

But I don’t want to stifle this gift either. I want to let her explore and enjoy it and marvel at the people she touches along the way. She may do this forever, or it may fade as she grows up. And if it’s that second thing, I don’t want her to have missed even one friend.

As they were leaving the restaurant, their smiling daughter flapping ahead of them, the child’s mother said, “You have a very sweet little girl,” to us. I couldn’t explain “She’s on the spectrum, too,” because that would show I presumed something about her child when she was so clearly not presuming anything about mine, just enjoying her for who she was. Instead I said, “So do you. I think they had fun together.”

And then we both looked away, because it was very, very hard not to cry.


a flicker of inspiration at Lightning BugI’m linking up here with The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s prompt #33, Common Ground. The post was not written specifically for the prompt, but it matches it exactly without any stretching from me, for once.

And then there were two

Well folks, it worked. Or anyway, it sorta worked. There were kinks, and things got hinky there when Sam realized we were really taking his bed away, but our two little sugarplums are nestled right now in their big new beds.

Things got off to a rough start, because the shape of our house made it impossible to drag the beds in ahead of time, meaning we had to plan to deliver them as a middle-of-the-day-work-in-progress surprise. Only when we woke up, it was shiver in my bones pouring rain. Queue Ten Thousand Maniacs. Scott checked the radar, identified a brief hole when we could drag everything in from the shed, and as soon as the predicted letup began, we raced inside with a thousand parts.


I got these beds used off of Craig’s list. But the guy said they were practically unused, because he and his wife purchased them to make their kids room in their tiny army housing bedrooms, only to find out that their kids didn’t want them. Or rather, that their kids only slept in the bottom bunks that came with the units, while the top bunks were taking up badly needed space. So when he said ‘only used five times’, he meant it. The sticky tags were still in place, people. Melted there, from sitting in his shed for a couple of months, in fact.

I could have left them on until we could go get some Goo Gone, but they were bugging me, and they had to be removed.

They did NOT want to scrape off

And they turned into a slurry that had to be knife-scraped

Also, as we knew, they came with some assembly required.

Who the FUCK invented these? Please shoot that person for me.

We didn’t tell the kids what we were doing, listening as Caroline guessed “a place to put a TV in my room?”, “A really weird new desk”, and “my own hole like Ringo has in Yellow Submarine, only this one is square”. (She was referring to the space above the desk, which is something of a hollowed out rectangle until the bed gets into place.)

Hopefully the arrow shows

Although we had already told them that they each got one, as soon as they realized what was happening in Caroline’s room, that was the only place in the house they wanted to be. (Even before the side rails were in place.)

Where It's At

After we finished Sis’s, we moved on to Sam’s.




Caroline's finished productHe walked into his bedroom once, turned around and left without a word, then told Caroline, “Go look what they are doing to my bed.” Naturally, when she checked, nothing seemed out of place to her, since we had just done the same thing in her room. Clearly, she’s dealing with this change better.

What we did to the room. We cleaned up after, I promise. And yes, that IS all us, because I had just cleaned it three days ago.

So while I did this,

While I was doing this

Sam went away, found some scissors and gouged open a glass piggy-bank present one styrofoam bead at a time.

Sam was doing THIS(no pigs were harmed in the making of this disaster)

 “I only wanted to paint it,” he said. Instead, he got to spend an hour cleaning up the mess before I’d even allow him a dustbuster.

Bead by Bead (with apologies to Anne Lamott)

After that, it was still another hour before he was allowed to touch a brush or googly eye.

"Mom, why you gotta take my picture?" "So when you have a four year old boy who does this to you, I can whip this out and say you brought it on yourself."

Sam's finished productAfter we finished building, Sam refused to come in. He said, “No thanks. We can just share Sis’s new flying bed.” However, and I have no idea why this worked, when we found out he was mad because he still had his old mattress (I had thought I might be able to give him Caroline’s boxspring and half mentioned it before realizing that doing so would put his mattress even with the rails instead of below them), I told him the history of every mattress in the house and he was mollified.

So his first foray up his own ladder came at bedtime, when I had been hoping he would climb up sooner. Still, he stayed with only a minimal of extra-hug-n-kiss demands.

Sam: "Hey! How can you give me good night kisses now?" Me: "By standing on a chair."

In contrast, Caroline practically flew up that ladder. She couldn’t wait to bed down in her own personal flight center.

"I'm going to dream about flying"

Overall, it appears the swap-out experiment was a success,  Scott and I are drinking a bottle of celebratory Riesling now, as we clean up the disaster that is Christmas at our house. I notice that this bottle is about the same size as the one we had the night of the Polar Express disaster. We have been working on the same bottle for nearly six hours now and should finish up right at bedtime. That bottle at the hotel lasted only a third of that time. If that. And most of it went in me. *hic*. No wonder I fell asleep before I could post that evening. (I rarely drink and so have low alcohol tolerance to begin with. But I theeeenk that the phrase ‘really drunk’ has application in this situation)

Christmas has ended on a gentle note for us, and I hope for you as well.



Dear Santa Clas [sic]

Dear Santa Clas [sic].

Damn, that's adorableI hope you enjoy the cookies. I hope the reindeer are doing whell [sic]. How are you doing? My name is Caroline Bradshaw Merriman. How is Mrs. Clas [sic] doing? How are the reindeer doing? Our house has a beautiful Chrismis tree Love Caroline

PS How is Rudolph Doing?





Dear Caroline and Sam,

Less so, but she was still thrilledHo ho ho! I do believe this is my longest letter from a child. Keep writing. You are very good at it. Your cookies were lovely. I am taking the chocolate one home to Mrs. Claus. I’m sure she is doing well and will love it. Rudolph is doing well, and so are the other reindeer. They appreciated the carrots. Merry Christmas,

Love Santa




Yes, I did write the response. Because, although I wish it were written to someone else, someone real, even I find it endearing. And I am the creative writer in our family. And if I shield myself from shit like Norad Santa Tracker, those damned holiday specials, and too very many people who don’t respect my disdain for the season, even I can manage that much for my child, who has chosen to believe.

Peace to all who celebrate, gracious thanks for all who don’t, and ‘welcome to the club’ to all like me, trapped in between and floundering.

Chocolate, The Universe, and Everything

I had last minute shopping to do this morning because Sam suddenly told us he wanted bear pajamas and a red bear. Two days before Christmas. Or maybe three, but anyway, at the very last second. (Not that it takes much to get me into Build A Bear. It’s my guilty little secret.) We also needed cottage cheese, so I went to the grocery store.

The mall at 8:30 Christmas eve morning was actually manageable. There were no red bears, but there were bear pjs and there was a spiderman suit he can use to turn a bear red with clothing. It will have to do. Publix, too, was still OK at this hour. But it was already getting crowded, and I was glad to get in and out when I did.

Anyway, I had on this shirt:

I think 'shit' is the word you're after

I turned around to grab some gum in the Publix line, and the Christmas Asshole behind me took my movement as license to converse. Trying to be polite, I turned around like I cared what she was saying.

She stopped whatever she had been proclaiming to demand, “Why would you wear a shirt like that at Christmas?”

Now, I had a lot of options for my answer, all of them true.

For example, I could have said, “Oh, my husband got me this,” and adopted a dismissive, airy tone, like I was saying oh those men, never can tell what they’ll come up with next.

Or I might have said, “Eh, I wasn’t really awake when I pulled this on.” This would have required an apologetic expression and tone, like I was sorry for having fucked up her stuck-in-line-chit-chat moment.

But I think we all know I didn’t choose one of those options. There’s only so much Christmas spirit to go around, you know. Instead, I looked down at the shirt and said, (opting for ‘indignation’ as the most enjoyable tone) “My husband got me this dumb thing, and as soon as I looked at it, I told him, “Honey, you know I’d never say something like that.”

The woman looked relieved until I pointed to the shirt’s first three words and added, “No. I would have said ‘Life Is SHIT’.”

And do you know that lady turned around and left. She gave up a short line and moved over to a long one. I resisted the urge to shout “Merry Fucking Christmas” after her. Because, you know, I’ve got to save my holiday spirit for others, too, you know.

Scenes From My Life

A few scenes from my life the last week and a half.

See? Total fools. The one on the left is approaching a 101 degree fever, but you'd never know by her behavior.

It’s my birthday. We’re in the doctor’s office, and my kids, who will have to come back in the morning to be diagnosed with the flu, are acting like idiots in the exam room.

Pretty, huh?

Sam melts down and has to be bodily removed, and outside, the cold air startles him enough that he stops screaming. But he doesn’t want to come with me, and the people in cars are already looking at me like I might be a kidnapper. So I put him down in the middle of the street (everyone can see him, and the parking lot is far from busy) and walk over to look at the fountain, which is lovely in the sunset. Eventually, Sam joins me. The water soothes him.

The chainsaw means I'm telling the truthWLove love LOVE that scent. I don't care that I'm allergic.e go get our Christmas tree,

and I make sure they cut it off again at the lot.

See? Absolutely fresh.


chomp chompGrandma B. and the kids have decorated the tree, carefully putting the salt dough ornaments a good foot over Fudge’s head. It’s to no avail. The first time we all go away, we come back to find a scattering of plastic balls on the floor and realize we’re down an angel. Possibly two. Fudge has also chomped on the plastic ones. Just to be sure.

Alas, poor SantaWe have moved the salt dough up another foot, but it doesn’t matter. This is all that remains of poor Santa.

Caroline on the couchWe’re at my husband’s Christmas party. Caroline has taken over a couch to flop on.

Mis+chief = why the hell haven't they just put me in charge?It’s the first year I get to stay for the whole party and have both kids along. In just a few minutes, Sam and the four year old girl are going to go hide in the men’s room and tear up an entire roll of toilet paper to throw all over the floor. As we’re leaving, someone will give what remains on the roll to Scott for a gag gift, since it pretty much has to be eighty sixed anyway.

Da manSam is sitting in the office before therapy with an assortment of things he plans to surprise Dr. Cone with. In the background, behind the receptionist’s window, I can hear the therapist stifling laughter, getting it out of her system so that when she comes through the door, she presents Sam with the expression of delight he is hoping for. Well played Dr. Cone.


We’re at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, and Sam is on the zipline. Because I don’t have the good camera along, this is all we can see. But it isn’t that far off base.

Which parent?To the left of the zipline, the kids play in the snowroom, with weird snowshoes in unmeltable snow. Mostly, they thwart Scott’s efforts to take their pictures.

Snowball? With that?But Caroline does stand still for one good photo. Barely.

The ugly dressFinally, the woman two ahead of me in line is wearing this indescribable dress. We’re at Sam’s club again, back at the pharmacy because both kids have gone into a post-flu sinus infection and cough that we’d rather not drag up to the relatives. I think it is African inspired (the dress, not the illness), with earth tones and a collection of patterns. Unfortunately, the material’s texture and its fringy edges serve to make it look like she just sewed together a bunch of furniture throws before coming to the store. I pretend I’m looking through pictures on my phone in line just so I can photograph her.

And that brings us up to now, two days before Christmas. Santa and I better get busy wrapping, or our little elves are going to be completely annoyed Christmas morning. Cheers until then.


The kids’ big gift this year is loft beds, but that requires some rearranging in their rooms. (My mother in law noticed that if we didn’t move Sam’s bed, he’d have full access to the ceiling fan from his current vantage point.) The overall purpose is to give Sam some more space in his rather small room, and I don’t see us getting out of that without doing the same for Sis. (Thank the pricing gods for Craig’s List, or we’d never be able to pull this off). The kids have both been begging for bunk and/or loft beds for over a year, and Scott and I have good reasons for caving in.


You don’t just take an autistic kid’s furniture and move it around willy nilly. Although it’s far from universal, many kids with Asperger’s react very badly to change in general and to change in their surroundings in particular. The results are ugly, and I’m not talking feng shui.

It’s not going to be so bad for Caroline. Without telling her about her present, I’ve been gearing her up for change for a little over a month now. I told her, “You’ve got a lot of toys you don’t play with anymore, and I know you’ll get new stuff for Christmas. Let’s go through your old stuff and donate what you don’t enjoy any more.”

“Oh that’ s great!” she said, and launched into some explanation of loving and giving to others that she must have learned at school. (It finished with having the spirit of Christmas in your heart, so I know she did not learn it from me.) So she’s all revved up to start in on her closets Friday and her bedroom Saturday, getting things fixed up for the Big Holiday.

Sam, though, is another story. He’s the one who both needs and wants the new bed most, but he is also the one most resistant to change. He’s been accepting of my little donation speech in a vague way, but he does not understand what I’m talking about. In order to hope he can enjoy his gift unreservedly, I served up an early shock this afternoon.

Today, while we were building with his Legos, I said “Sam, you need more space in here.”

“Yeah,” he said. He did not look up, so I knew he was basically ignoring me.

“Would it be OK if we took your big dresser out of here? You don’t have anything important in it.”

He studied the ‘big dresser’ which was really somebody’s entertainment center once. Its bottom drawer is missing, so there’s this gaping hole in the bottom where we crammed stuff. It had stacks of garbage we hadn’t bothered to sort on top of it. And the drawers were full of outgrown clothes. “Sure,” he said, and went back to the Legos.

Within an hour, I’d emptied the thing and Scott and I rolled it out to the road with a minimum of cursing at one another (mostly on my part – Scott favors the silent glower). Sam was pretty impressed with the new cozy hole in-between-things that had just opened up. But he needed to go take his nap.

I said, “I’m going to need to move the other furniture around, too” and I gave him an outline of my plans.

He was pretty busy arguing about the nap, and I don’t think he really understood, but he agreed to the changes long before he gave in about going out for his afternoon sleepy-car-ride. (He won’t nap in his bed. Hasn’t for months. He is almost past the need for this nap, but not quite. So we drive him around until he crashes, then bring him home and dump him on the couch.) While he slept, Scott and I pushed pulled, emptied and moved. Still, we were only half finished by the time he woke up.

All the toys were piled up in the middle of the room, mostly on the train table. His bed was on a new wall, as were his bookcase and ‘little dresser’, the latter of which which was Scott’s in childhood. Even before he saw this, Sam woke up mean (he usually does). Scott wouldn’t let him have candy for an afternoon snack, and things got vicious. The vampire teeth came out, we hauled him off to his room for a time out, and he transmogrified suddenly from an enraged beast to a shocked trauma victim.

He kept spluttering at me, trying to speak, but the words just weren’t there. Finally, he screamed, “PUT MY BED BACK ON DAT WALL WHERE IT BEWONGS!”

“It’s pretty upsetting when somebody messes up your stuff, isn’t it?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, dissolving into tears and letting me hold him.

After a couple of minutes, I showed him how he already had a lot more room. We cancelled the time out and let him come and go all evening. Finally, at bedtime, he told Scott, “I like my new room with more space. It sure took me some getting used to, though.”

Just you wait until Christmas, buddy. You haven’t seen getting used to until you find out what your Daddy and I have in mind then. Hopefully, the big shock was today, when I moved it all around and insulted your senses. And hopefully, the next ‘getting used to’ will be joyful instead of traumatic. And if not? Well, we won’t toss anything important out on the street until after we get back from our holiday travelling, OK?

Real danseurs don’t wear underpants

For all my dislike of the Christmas season, there are two things about this time of year that I simply love. One is the music. And no, I’m not talking about that trashy pop shit they play on whatever station calls itself “Mix” in your area. I don’t mean the incessant crappy mall noise that lasts from the day after Halloween until three days past New Year’s either. I mean Christmas carols, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” “The Carol of the Bells” and “Good King Wenceslas”, preferably sung by a full choir a capella or with classical accompaniment.

I like Handel’s The Messaiah as performed by nearly any church, and I enjoy everything put out by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If you promise me good singing, I’ll go with you to midnight mass, Christmas eve service, Hannukah Lights, Festivus, or anything else you might be celebrating.

Directly related to the love of carols, and really a derivative of it, I love The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky is a favorite composer anyway. If they had given out Grammy Awards in the 19th century, he would have clearly received one for “Best Use of Cannons in a Non-Murderous Role” for The 1812 Overture”.  Nutcracker is special though, because Mom (who hated driving downtown for anything) took me to see the ballet the year I turned five. (She did not actually drive. Jenny’s Mom, Bug, was willing, so I also got to see the show with my best friend.) Vastly pregnant with my sister, Mom still waddled down with me to look into the orchestra pit at intermission.

At home, we had a four record set that we only set under needle with great care. My favorite music came from the tail end of the first act and the middle of the second act. I loved the Snow Fairy scene, with its eerie voices, the Chinese Dancers , and the Russian Dancers (Trépak). Because it was Christmas music, we only got it out once a year, and I treasured it.

Several years ago, when a little girl I used to babysit was a Ginger Girl in Cincinnati’s production, I drove up from Lexington to see her. More recently, Caroline started taking ballet. I initially didn’t realize that kids at The Montgomery Ballet’s school can try out for the city production of The Nutcracker. But last year, I learned. I presented the opportunity to Caroline tentatively. I didn’t want to either push or hold back something she might love.

I said, “Are you interested? You wouldn’t necessarily be cast just because…”


“You should try to enjoy the tryout for its own…”


And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. I took her to the studio at the appointed time, and to my surprise, she was cast. The ballet didn’t notify us. They assumed our elated children would come home and tell us about it. Caroline missed the first rehearsal because she hadn’t bothered to mention it at home, even though she was thrilled to be an angel. (They’re the opening scene of Act II, and not all ballets play it with angels.) (Note to Asperger’s Syndrome: Please quit fucking with me this way.) We had another round of the ‘are you interested’ conversation, it went about the same as the first, and she missed no further rehearsals.

I later learned that under a certain age, pretty much every kid who tries out gets a part, because this ballet company needs lots of children. Montgomery isn’t a big city with a lot of professional dancers to fill out the cast. The choreography always calls for copious numbers of small people as everything from party girls, to soldiers, to angels, to polichinelles (Ginger girls). (Caroline already has her heart set on being a poli next year. Though I think she’d be happy with angel every year for the rest of her life.)

She loved it. I loved it. There were two casts, Caroline came with me to watch the show one night when she didn’t perform, and then I watched it again every night when she did. All told, I saw The Nutcracker five times last year. Bliss.

However, due to disorganization and internal squabbling, I never got a picture of Caroline in costume. The angels had a pretty complicated little dance, and I would have liked something to commemorate it.

This year, the internal squabbling blew up into an outright rift, artistic director Elie Lazar left to go be a professor at Troy University, and, aside from the infighting, a couple of professional dancers moved on to new posts. The company had to scramble to get together some choreography and extra adult dancers to put on a Nutcracker at all. (It’s the ballet’s cash cow, really it’s only cash cow, so there was no question of its fate. Just a scramble to get it done.) In the end, there was only a one weekend run (it usually lasts for two weeks) with a single cast (not two casts like in years past).

Caroline was cast once more as an angel, and this year I got bold. Scott’s Mom came down to see her granddaughter in the production. (Naturally, we gave her the flu. Sorry Betty.)  Scott ushered for two shows, I ushered for two shows (we overlapped when Betty watched Sam so Scott and I could see Caroline together for a performance), and for the final show, I volunteered to work downstairs with the kids, hauling along my oh so forbidden camera like a jet-pack on my hip.

Costumes, pret a portier

So, not only did I get the joy of watching my little girl dance in my own favorite ballet, I got the bloody evidence.

My own personal angel

And now, as a final note, I will leave you with this image. A ballerina should never wear panties beneath her tights. The lines are visible to the audience. Caroline doesn’t. Many of the other kids do, because they freak out at the thought of going commando, even in layers. Ballerinas’ modesty is protected by their leotards. But when you see a danseur up there on stage, please consider that those thin little costumes that don’t leave much to the imagination are leaving even fewer empty spaces for you to fill in than you might have previously considered.

That is all.


In case you missed the good news, I’m published! To order a copy of my novel (and find out what it’s about), click on the picture below:Divorce: A Love Story


Divorce: A Love Story

Three. Two. One.

Come here. Get really close. I don’t want anybody to miss the story. Everybody gathered around? Great.


                                                 Can you believe it???

Sorry sorry! Didn’t mean to burst any of the eardrums. Hey! Come back. I’ll speak more softly, promise. My publisher Throwaway Lines released the e-book edition of my novel Divorce: A Love Story yesterday on Amazon and B&N. ON MY FREAKING BIRTHDAY. Thank you SJ and Jason. Oh GOD I’m so happy. For a low $2.99, You can download the novel. Don’t have a Kindle or Nook? No worries. You can grab it for your PC, MAC, i-pad, or smartphone right now if you just download the free app from the Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites.

You can download it here:

Barnes and Noble: Nook

Or here:

Amazon: Kindle

It’s gritty, it’s awesome, and if you buy it, you are supporting a great cause (my ego). Please, consider purchasing copies for everyone you know for Christmas. I’m adding a button to my page to help you achieve this goal. It will link back to my Divorce page, where you can find permalinks to any online retailers. Please, go forth now and buy my book. I’ve said what I needed to say.

Divorce: A Love Story__________

remembeRedButtonRed Writing HoodLinking up to two Write on Edge Posts with this one. The RemembeRed post this week asks us to talk about something we’ve anticipated, starting with “three two one”, and Red Writing hood asks us to think about a time we’ve cleaned house. I think this meets both prompts. Because I’ve been anticipating this for a long damned time. And I feel like I have totally cleaned house.

s30pbadgeI’m also linking up to the folks at Studio30+, who I hope will agree that I’ve said what I needed to say.

Going Visiting

At the beginning of December, I got to go visit friends in Ohio without my husband or kids. (Note: the hubs would have been welcome, but somebody had to mind the banshees.) Although not really a birthday present, this certainly launched my birthday month in fine fettle. First of all, I stayed with my best friend since preschool, Jenny Southcombe.

Jenny and I met because our Moms became friends and we were forced to spend time together. Prior to that time, we were enemies. I wanted to follow every single rule to the letter. Jenny just wanted to play with the damned preschool toys. I don’t really remember how we overcame this, but by the time we had to go to separate kindergartens, we were heartsick, and it is probably her friendship that kept me from realizing until the following year that I had not bonded with a single one of my new classmates.

Staying at her house a couple of weeks ago allowed me to meet her nearly two year old daughter, the elfish Jena (see for yourself)

See? Pure pixie.and to find out that her older daughter, the ten year old Juliette, is a kickass writer. (No, you may not see. I do not photograph anyone over age 8 or so without express permission and sometimes an invitation.) Seeing how Juliette writes was really validating for me, as well. I burned a lot of my early writing in a fit of teenaged mortification, and I have wondered fearfully for a long time if I wasn’t just arrogant to one day decide I’d be a writer. Looking at how good Juliette’s stuff is, both technically and stylistically speaking, gave me renewed confidence in my own ten year old writer self, made me feel like, yeah, I probably did know what I was doing when I picked my future career.

It also allowed Jenny and I to reconnect. We have always been the sort of friends who can pick up with each other years down the road as if no time has passed. And there have been times when we lost touch completely. But we always seem to land on the same page when we do find each other again. And this time, we found each other in glorious hour-long conversations in her kitchen and living room. We stayed up giggling until midnight and woke up thinking deep thoughts at each other. I think that, given a couple more days, we’d have horrified her children by role playing Voltron like we used to do as kids.

So, that in and of itself would have been enough of a reason for me to want to go. But realistically, until I’d done it, I had no idea how powerful it was. So I probably wouldn’t have gone for the sake of a ‘girlfriend’ visit alone. (I had no idea what I was missing. Seriously. No idea. In the future? Oh yes. I will be going to see Jenny. And others, too. And them only, one on one, even if only for a couple of days. Because these are friendships I value so much. I never want to lose them.)

Anyway, as if that wasn’t enough, I also got to go to a wedding and a baptism. And there was a for-real birthday gift in there, but I’ll get to that tomorrow. (Or, given that it’s nearly eleven and my kids are home sick and likely to be up by six, I’ll get to it first thing in the morning after I turn on the babysitter television and upload THIS entry. Or possibly Thursday. Yup. Thursday. Friday?) The wedding was fantastic. The bride is one of the few people – perhaps the only person – who I have literally known for her whole life. She is one year younger (down to the month) than my little sister was, and I can remember her mother bathing her newborn body in our grimy and inadequate sink.

Baby Morgan


Looks a little different now, doesn’t she? (Though really, she doesn’t. She’s one of these people whose face never changed its essential shape, so her baby pictures resemble her little girl pictures, and she’s so pretty.)

I’ve always considered her a cousin, since her Mom is my Auntie Em, no biological relation. And I loved having a “cousin” since my biological ones are all either about thirty years older than me and on my Dad’s side (I’ve never met them – long story) or else “twice removed” or “second” on my Mom’s side (met most of them – another long story, though). The ceremony was short (but very sweet), and the night’s focus was the reception. Cheers Morgan. May you and Jimmie have a long and happy marriage.

Don't you love how the veil comes in under her updo? Isn't that just gorgeous?
Finally, I made it to my Godson’s baptism. Physically, I was standing in for the Godfather. I handed my camera to one of my friends’ friends and stood at the altar. There was an awkward moment when the deacon handed me a candle.

Also, I found out it's sacrilegious to put out the candle in the holy water. Who knew?

Because right about then, the Catholic Godmother was instructed to put a vestment on the baby’s chest and I worried that maybe I was supposed to drip symbolic wax on the baby’s head. I had visions of the headline “Stand-in Godfather Accidentally Burns Baby in Botched Baptism.” Fortunately, the candle just stood for the light of God, and all I had to do was hold it and promise to love, support, and adore baby Jake.

Jake, Genie, and Mike

With a face like that, how could I disagree?
That’s all for …. well a few hours. Several blog entries have hit me all at once here lately, and it will take me a few days to get everything posted.

A post I had thought to avoid

So I was going to lay off the Christmas angst this week, but that was before both kids’ schools called within twenty minutes of each other on Tuesday. Two one hundred degree fevers. Two children in need of picking up. Neither of them sick enough to be bedridden, both of them sick enough to be crabby and evil. And exactly one project to do that would keep them entertained for any length of time.

Salt dough ornaments .(One cup salt, one cup water, two cups flour. Mix until smooth. Hope you have a stand mixer.)  We made these last year because I knew I couldn’t trust Sam with real ornaments, only to discover that they kept vanishing off the tree. Mysterious hanger-hook appearances didn’t seem related until the day that I heard the crunch. Turns out, we made salt-dough-dog-treats. Fudge was cherry picking, then leaving the evidence lying around. So this year, we will hang our salt dough dog treats up a little higher and only give him the ones that don’t get painted first.

In the meantime, instead of cleaning and getting ready for the impending doom holiday, we had to sit around the kitchen table rolling out dough, getting coughed on, and trying to make giraffes stay in their cookie cutters long enough to get dropped on a baking sheet.I had to turn on the oven way early, because last time I used it, the excess crap in the bottom caught on fire.  I needed to be sure I had scraped enough out before I ran the machine again for the hour and a half long drying period the inedibles required.

And when that was all over, we went to the doctor and bought our Christmas tree on the way home. In short sleeves. From a  tree lot that turned out to belong to one of Caroline’s teachers’ husbands. We slapped a string of lights on that baby and called it ready to decorate on my birthday.

Since the salt dough dog-treats aren’t painted yet, they are not tree-ready.  However, thanks to my recent stay with Jenny, I’ve learned about plastic ornaments. I do not care whether they are made in China, destroying the planet, or polluting my children’s environment: they are indestructible. (OK, really, I do care about all those things.) And indestructible means that Sam will at least have to work to smash them, Fudge won’t eat them, and Caroline can have some sparkle on her tree.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law flew in yesterday, so I could let the kids decorating with her (Scott was teaching), while I took pictures. I only had to participate long enough to help them get the angel on top of the thing.

Caroline is still stuck at home through Thursday. (Which is by now today). I just dropped off Sam with promises that we would pick him up right after nap today. Caroline is probably sitting down with her Grandma B and paint the salt dough ornaments, while I, God willing, update my blog.


Sam’s fever was gone by the time we went to the doctor. Still, of course, could not send him to school on my birthday. Caroline’s fever was up. Feared I would need to send her to the Nutcracker dress rehearsal for awhile. On with the joy

Another update:. Caroline did not have to go to dress rehearsal, but she can still perform. Good thing, since she has the real flu. As an aside, guess which Merriman has actually been vaccinated. Yes, her. Sigh. No, really, spare me. Return me to the place I was previously reading

Final update: I wouldn’t know what my kid is doing at this time, since I’m at PriMed Urgent Treatment facility getting a flu test. They prescribed Sam preventative drugs at the pediatrician’s office, but they won’t give the parents such a generous gift. And Primed won’t either. I hope that if my test comes back positive (it will), Primed will at least give in and prescribe Tamilflu for Scott. OK, I mean it, Jessie. If you interrupt my reading one more time, I quit this blog

Flu test negative. It’s safe to go back up now. Only you’re done anyway.