Saturday, December 26, 2009

So much to write and so little time.....

A year ago my son and I got Guitar Hero World Tour for Christmas. We had a great time playing the game and trying to surmount the challenges it presented. It also exposed both of us to new music and I purchased quite a bit because of the game. One group in particular I have really fallen for is Paramore. There is something about the way they put their music together that REALLY appeals to me. They may have a way to go on their lyrics, but their music and vocals are the best out there in my opinion. What makes this striking really is that they are practically teenagers. I can't imagine what it must be like to be doing something you love as a young person, to have your music and visage in one of the most popular video games of the year, and to be opening for acts in concerts that in my opinion they should be the headliners for. I went to see No Doubt only because Paramore was opening for them. Gwen Stefani and crew are a great group, but I really can't wait to see how Paramore grows and matures.

About the time I heard Paramore was coming back in concert in October as a headliner, their tickets had already been sold out for over a month. Their latest album, "Brand New Eyes" is fantastic through and through and has some great songs where they are working on expanding their style. I also created a channel in Pandora for Paramore and it instantly generated more music that is very similar in style which also generated more music purchasing. I refuse to buy music from iTunes anymore. While the client is good and easy to use, I have other devices I like to play music on and iTunes DRM doesn't work there. In general, Amazon MP3 is very easy to use and the music purchased there works on everything (Except Nintendo DSI which doesn't play mp3s at all).

Hallelujah - by Paramore:

So, I haven't just been listening to Paramore all this time.

Brandon is doing great in school. He was making all A's through most of the first nine weeks, but started slacking towards the end and finished with straight B's (But very high B's that would have been A's in my time). For the first time since he has been in school, I haven't had to go to a parent teacher conference. He is doing THAT well. There hasn't been a year since he was four years old where I didn't have to go in and talk to school staff about his very special challenges. Last year, after the first week, I was in a conference with 9 staff members that was VERY contentious. In the end we were able to work together to craft a plan that would put Brandon on a track to succeed, and he did, finishing the year on the Honor Roll.

The second nine weeks here have been a little more challenging and we had a rather large setback. His mom started talking to him about coming to live with her next year. She told him she works at a small christian school where he could be at school with her everyday, he would be with his friends there, her dogs, etc. She did not talk to me about it before hand, and she left it up to him to tell me (which took an awful lot of courage on his part).

The problem this creates is that now he is in the middle, a position NO CHILD should ever be in. Parents, or some other adult, should make those decisions. No child should ever be put in a position where they need to choose between one parent or another. A child, even a teenager, is not capable of making sound decisions in this regard.

I had to have a long talk with his mom. Brandon has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Getting him to an emotionally stable point where he has the support, environment, and resources to succeed in a normal classroom has taken 8 solid years of work. His mom has not participated in the day to day struggles, the wrestling with mental health professionals, the battles with schools over his needs, or the financial burden that goes along with all the above. Now she sees a flourishing child, and is in a financially stable position for the first time ever, and she tells him how much better it will be there with her.

I work with many families that struggle with Asperger's children. Private schools, with the exception of those dedicated to Asperger's, don't have the resources to deal effectively with special needs children. Large school districts with huge tax bases like Virginia Beach struggle with it, but the resources are there. It isn't easy as they don't really want to part with the money or resources, but it is a battle that can be won. Someone that doesn't have the resolve to send money monthly to pay for half a piano lesson certainly doesn't have the fortitude to go to the mat and fight for her son, much less the resources to pay the tens of thousands of dollars and literally thousands of hours out of work to get the help her son needs. I have built networks of friends and professionals here that understand Brandon, and can channel me to the resources I need when I need them. He spends his long breaks with his mom, and spends the summer with her. I have worked long and hard to ensure he doesn't have to know why his mom and I divorced or why he stays with me. I only want him to have a great relationship with his mom because the other stuff really doesn't matter. He should never have to know, and just about everything he will eventually figure out as he gets older, but he certainly isn't ready to know it now or be the rope in some sort of ill conceived tug of war.

On to lighter subjects....

Brandon and I have been practicing for a Christmas piano recital at a local mall. We performed last Saturday in the food court at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach. He did fantastic. It was my first recital ever and I was overly nervous. I can easily get up and talk all day to security and network experts in a large auditorium for a televised presentation, but ask me to play a piano to a group of people eating lunch and I fall apart! Brandon played two pieces first, and then he and I played "French Carol" with him playing Secundo and me playing Primo. Then I went on to play three pieces by myself. So time I would normally be writing or doing other things has been spent playing the piano.

At the beginning of November Verizon released the Motorola Droid cell phone. While I love gadgets, I am rarely first in line to get any of them. Usually it is several months or even years behind. I have been hearing about iPhone users rave about their iPhones for some time, but didn't quite get what they were raving about. Now I do. I was first in line to get a Droid and I have not been disappointed. I love everything about this phone, but it is so much more than a phone. Like iPhone users already know, it is a mobile computing platform that makes so much more sense than a laptop most of the time. It can't replace a computer, but there are so many situations when a computer just isn't needed. I can talk to this thing, navigate, do geocaches, buy stuff, find movies, and SO much more. Text to speech, speech to text, barcode scanning, and on and on.

I have told my son that he should always smile when people take pictures and he should be careful what he does because he never knows when someone may post the picture, or write about an event. Yesterday was one of those moments.

We have the yard that collects the leaves of the whole neighborhood. We had to rake the leaves Thursday December 24. HAD TO. It has been one of the WETTEST years on record EVER here. It rains almost every day, and the days it doesn't rain, it makes up for on the days it does. We had about two dry days in a row and we had to move.

If I don't accomplish anything else with this child, he will be able to rake a yard without complaining by the time he is 18. He had a meltdown at first, then finally realized that the consequences weren't worth the tantrum. He certainly can complain a lot though. We were about halfway done when he was just about in tears, perceived pain wracked his face, eyes were rolling, head swiveling in imagined vertigo...he was obviously about to die. He cried out in collapse and succumbed to the cold, wailing that his hands were cold. It was a award winning performance. I told him to keep moving and his hands would be fine. He had gloves on, and a heavy coat. Like a banshee, he kept whining about how cold his hands were.

I finally asked him if his mouth was cold. He said "No." I said, "That's because it is moving. You should learn sign language, that way you can complain with your hands and they won't be so cold." It was so gratifying and funny to see the obvious confliction deep within his soul as he struggled to keep his suffering act going and not just bust up laughing. It was a struggle he lost by the way. It is actually my favorite way to break down his protests. I try to find some way to make him laugh. It instantly breaks the tension and then all of a sudden things don't seem so overwhelming. It works every time. After all, life just doesn't have to be that serious does it?

SGG and I have been keeping busy, trying to find date time without the children here and there, but also finding things they all enjoy. We have been planning something very special for just her and I, but more on that at a later time! It is so hard, but I feel like right now I have a good balance between the four corners of my little world. SGG, my son, my work, and myself. There are things that come up here and there that threaten to disrupt, but my whack-a-mole skills are improving.

We had a great Thanksgiving and a great Christmas. Below are some pictures from a few of the things we have been doing.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and will have a great New Year, A Bright Future, an Exception-al holiday, Seeking what warms you even with your Daily Plate of Crazy, with Different Kind of People, Creative-Types looking at each day, where ever your Depots are, in Gray or colorful Fortresses, Just on a Journey or a Mama bloggin, a Morgan or a Musing, Oh the Joys of the holidays and friends where ever they are, Ramblings from a Parent, Rants, Robin, Single Parenthoods, Summer Roses, Daily Gripes, Hygiene is SO IMPORTANT, Hot Tub Journey's, or even Texas Sized Quests, Sunnybrook Rants, or long lost Theaters. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences over the past year (and years).

Storm in November:

Geocache in SGG's neighborhood...we saw a Bald Eagle on this short hike too...

How my son sees of the first things he did with his DSi last year:

SGG and I wandering through the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to Blacksburg, VA for a rare weekend without children. This is a section of the Appalachian Trail in the mountains:
and another from the trail:
Hockey game, just me and all three boys (and a whole cub scout troop):