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Friday, May 25, 2018


Emma is driving.  Supervised, but she's driving.  The state of PA requires 65 hours of supervised driving over the course of no less than six months after she receives her permit to take her test.  We've been whittling away at that in increments of one hour or so for the past couple months.

They're little bite-sized packets of tenuously-controlled terror, but if I'm being totally fair, it's my fault.  She's doing fine.  She's doing better than fine.  She's doing great.  But I'm still scared shitless at least once or twice per drive, and I THINK it comes down to MY inability to trust that she sees stuff and will react appropriately to it.

I suck at roller coasters.  I suck at airplanes.  Honestly, I suck at being a passenger in most people's cars.  I involuntarily hit brakes.  I white knuckle "oh shit" handles.  I just suck at not being terrified at trusting other people to be in control of my safety.  And I'm no expert driver, so it's not that I feel I'm sooooo much better at doing it than other people.  I in control.

So for a couple hours every week, I give up control of the car and we barrel (carefully drive) over the road at break neck speed (typically at or below the speed limit) running errands or just getting into the practice of driving.

Have I lost my temper?  Yes.

But we're developing a system.  Reading through the driver's manual to get ideas how what/how to teach Emma how to drive (it's actually a "how to teach your teen to drive" manual) I found a gem about having her verbalize all the things she's doing in the car.  Apart from being a chicken about loss of control in general, I think particularly hard for me is just not knowing that she sees the things I see.  I am at war with I constantly teach (nag) her throughout her drive?  Do I give her credit and assume she's got it under control?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.  I harken back to a huge fight my girlfriend and I got in just after high school.  We were visiting her family in Denver.  She was driving.  I kept giving her directions.  In my head I think I thought it was my job in the passenger seat to be navigator.  She lectured me heatedly about it.  We fought and the car was silent.  I saw our turn coming up.  She was in the wrong lane.  I'd JUST gotten my ass handed to me for telling her to switch lanes.  JUST.  I didn't say anything until after the turnoff passed. 

"You just missed the turnoff," I said, helpfully.  Fight two was about recognizing the difference between nagging her about what to do behind the wheel and not helping her navigate to her family's house.  I my argument was that she'd just yelled at me for a half hour about not telling her how to drive so I was letting her show me how well she did it.  Passive aggressive...probably.  Yes.  Fine.  Definitely.  But really you had to be there.  I would NOT have won in that situation.  If I'd have told her the exit was coming up...but we can never know, can we?  Maybe she'd have been, "awww, thanks, Jim, I didn't see that!"  Plus I was like 19.  *side eye*  whatever.

ANYWAY...I won't NOT tell her about something that could potentially get us in an accident or going the wrong way like I did with my girlfriend all those years ago.  So we get into little spats, and honestly?  Honestly she's been handling THOSE really well too.

I got sidetracked.  The manual said to have Emma verbalize her observations and proposed actions:  "I see a yellow light up ahead, I'm going to slow down and stop at the red light", "I see the car stopped in the middle of the road with his turn signals on.  I'm slowing down in case he can't turn."  That kind of thing.

That stuff?  REALLY helps.  She doesn't brake the same way I do.  I want to hit the brakes now...and she's waiting...but if she at least tells me she sees the obstruction, and WILL hit the brakes, it lets me feel less like I'm waiting to die.

We're still not totally consistent at this approach, but it helps.  The other thing that I THINK helps her (I'll chat with her about it before our next drive, because I was just thinking about it a few days ago) but also helps me is providing her with the same narration in question form.  "There's a light up ahead, do you see it?  The car in front of you is signaling, so he's probably going to slow down to turn, are you ready to hit your brakes?"  That extra bit of communication is better than the...slow down, SLOW DOWN SLOWDOWN STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP that I'd PREVIOUSLY been using.

It's scary, but it's not scary because she's doing a bad job.  It's scary because she's driving a car for the first time and accidents happen...even to me...and it makes me nervous.

She applied for a second job.  She's decided she wants to save for a car which I honestly think is amazing.  So she applied for a second job and she has her second interview tonight.  She's got hustle.  I mean...everywhere but at home.  (I sat on this post for a day because I was going to add pictures and then I forgot, and in the mean time she got the second job.  Woohoo!)

I parked a trash can, HER trash can in front of the door to her room after taking out her garbage last Thursday.  By Saturday I was posting snapchat stories with "Day 3" to 'help her remember', but by Day 4 I finally got fed up and asked her to put it in her room.

Clothes on the floor, in some cases inches from the empty laundry basket.  Bed unmade unless I specifically tell her to go back upstairs and make it before school.  It feels like it's a constant battle against entropy.  And entropy always wins.  Never bet against entropy.

She's learning the discipline of completing her homework though.  That's almost entirely on autopilot.  She still slips into bad habits at the end of the quarter or school year, but her grades are better, and I rarely have to tell her to get school work completed.

And she's nervous.  All this shit is coming at her fast now.  She's at the end of her sophomore year and they're starting to pressure the kids to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  Next year we'll start looking at colleges...maybe applying...touring.  It's a lot.  And it's scary.

And it's bittersweet.  At least for me.  I may never be a true empty nester.  Lily will almost certainly continue to live with me throughout adulthood.  But Emma is THIS CLOSE *holds thumb and finger imperceptibly close together* to being off on her own.

Driving, college, graduation, they're all just an eye blink away.  Just like everyone said 16 years ago when she was born.

Monday, April 2, 2018

We're Walking!

It's here, people!  The walk is here. Man, it snuck up on me again.  Maybe it's better to be a total pain in the ass to people about it just so everyone knows it's coming versus trying not to inundate people with reminders.  Well, regardless...we're basically six weeks away.  The walk is May 12th!  It's time NOW to register and donate, and send me your tshirt sizes so I have enough time to purchase them. 

Regarding the tshirts...when you register to walk or donate or whatever there's a place on the registration form that prompts you for your tshirt size...this is for the Highmark shirts...NOT the Justalilwalk shirts.  I can't even see what you enter there, so if you're walking with us in May...please please please reach out to me on facebook/twitter/ig/text/email or...if ALL ELSE and get me sizes. 

The walk is always a blast and it raises money for a great charity that directly benefits autistic people (both children and adult) and their caregivers.  So...Register now at the link below!!

Link to just a lil walk team page!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another One Bites the Dust

Lily's nurse quit.  She gave her...10 minute notice yesterday  I'm supposed to hear back from the agency sometime today, but haven't yet.  Not sure what they're waiting for, but my dad is getting Lily off the bus today, so at least we're covered.

So the saga of getting/keeping an aide continues. 

At issue is Lily's aggression.  Here's where being me (someone who attempts to see both sides of the situation all the time) sucks.  Because I get why she quit.  She doesn't want to get hit or kicked or bitten anymore.  All that is a slam dunk.  I didn't want that either.  I am NOT a huge fan of coming home to what amount to "I quit as of this moment", but it's definitely hard to deal with aggression.  So because I understand the "why" of it, it makes it hard for me to call her the "bad guy" in this situation.  And yeah...probably I'm putting too many things in quotations in this paragraph.

The devil's advocate side of me, however, is wondering why this nurse struggled so much with Lily.  Even when Lily IS aggressive with me...she only ever actually hurts me when I'm stupid enough to play chicken with her, holding my hand or arm or fingers too close to her mouth when she's really really pissed off (bite!).  But the slapping thing?  Scratching?  Kicking?  She's 12, low muscle tone, significantly uncoordinated (I mean, I still help her down the steps), how hard is it to dodge a slap?  Or to catch a foot and hold it when she tries to kick?  That's a trick question...I already know the answer is...not very fucking hard.  Because I do it regularly.

Whatever this nurse's approach antagonized the shit out of Lily, because nobody has EVER struggled with her like that.  Each day I'd come home and listen to the nurse...basically tattle on Lily.  It was stressful as fuck.  I couldn't wait until she was out the door every day and my family could just chill out again and relax.  Because honestly the minute I walked through the door, everything was fine and normal.  Manageable. 

Sigh.  Back to square one.  We'll see what the agency offers. 


I remember when I first moved to Pittsburgh and asked people directions to things.  Apart from the fact that Pittsburgh's winding roads are gridless and confusing, people would tell me how many minutes it was from point A to point B.  I can't remember who I asked, maybe it was Leslie, but I remember asking, yeah, okay, 15 minutes, but how many miles is it?

And she (or whoever it was) had no idea.  I couldn't believe it.  Nobody knew how far anything was from anything else.  It was X minutes.  It was hard for me to get my brain around.  In Montana everything is X miles.  YOU decide the minutes based on how fast you drive.  It's 40 miles from Big Timber to Columbus.  40 minutes for some.  30 for others...

I literally just realized this a couple nights ago, but nobody knows how many miles it is, because there aren't what would have to be hundreds of thousands of signs with miles posted on them.  Sure it's like that on the highway, but in the metropolitan sprawl of Pittsburgh and it's surrounding just can't post as many signs as it would take. 

How did I not put that together?  Back then I just thought if someone was going from Shaler to Dormont, for example, there'd be a sign that said Dormont 10 miles.  But...there isn't because there's no Shaler to Dormont expressway.  It's just a bunch of different neighborhood roads and a few miles of parkway.  (They should really fix that)

Anyway...I realized it on my way home, looking at the GPS, which tells me both how many miles and how many minutes.  And I remember thinking...who the fuck cares how many miles it is?  I need to know how long it'll take.  And right then I thought...oh my mouse was visiting the's just a very different frame of reference.  10 miles might take 30 minutes.  Or 45 with traffic. 

In Montana it's just a simple equation.  Distance/velocity = time.  That equation doesn't work in the city.