The Spider-Finger Incident

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Amazing that something so small could cause so much trouble. Our family attended a Fall Festival at the boys’ school last weekend and there was fun and games and PRIZES. My youngest son earned this small plastic spider ring and proceeded to jam it on his finger… this very small, non-adjustable ring, on the fattest of his fingers. The next discovery was that he couldn’t get said ring OFF of his finger! He walked up to me with huge, pitiful eyes that were starting to well up with tears, bottom lip quivering, and showed me the offending spider-finger.

After some unsuccessful attempts at removal the tears were flowing down his sweet little cheeks. I enlisted the aid of two dad friends of mine and borrowed some keys to try to pry the ring off or break the plastic. Unfortunately I didn’t think that through and the leverage caused the key to dig into his poor little finger. My son started sobbing. Then one of the dads tried to simply muscle the ring off of his finger, thinking that if he just yanked quickly and hard enough it will pop right off. Instead the plastic dug into his skin and my son started crying even harder and shrieked at my friend, “OWWW! What are you doing?!?” His tone implied that what he really wanted to say was, “What are you thinking YOU CRAZY OLD MAN!?! You’re yanking off my finger!” While trying not to laugh I thanked my friend for his help and apologized that my son yelled at him. Luckily he “gets it” and wasn’t offended. Later I reminded my son about respectful behavior, but at that moment we had more pressing matters to tend to~ like the fact that my son’s finger was turning the color of the purple spider ring.

The situation was getting tense, and my son was growing increasingly anxious. I was trying to calm him down while also attempting to figure out a solution. He wailed, “It’s going to be on there forever!” And he was totally being serious. My 8-year-old totally thought he was doomed to having a spider-finger for the rest of his life. That’s Autism. He didn’t even think about what might happen before he forced that tiny little thing on his finger, and then was horrified at the result. Not boring. In fact, the “not boring” factor is the reason that this is only the second year we have even attempted going to this event. In the past it was too hard. Believe it or not, this year went better than last year. If the spider-ring incident is the worst thing that happened we are doing pretty good!

By the way, I finally found help from someone who had access to the teachers lounge. We cut the ring off with scissors. Simple as that, and a lifetime of arachnid enslavement was averted. And circulation was restored, that is also pretty important. Crisis solved. No more spider-finger.

To Blog or Not to Blog

top mommy blogs

I have no less than five new blog posts swirling in my head at all times. Actually, some have been swirling for so long that they would no longer be considered “new”. The problem is that I have this self-imposed pressure to write every post like it is my doctoral dissertation. I also tend to disappear into the writing and it is ALL I want to do. For DAYS. (At this point I am tempted to make some joke about forgetting to clean the house or feed the kids but then someone would judge me and think I am a bad mom. So never mind). I am trying to be more informal and will start letting myself simply post short anecdotes sometimes. Better for everyone in my household. Hopefully that won’t change the overall tone of the blog too much.

Speaking of blogging, I am thrilled to announce that Seriously Not Boring was added to the “Top Mommy Blogs” directory last month! It will hopefully help this little page reach a wider audience. In order to STAY in that directory I need your help, though. Please click on the “Top Mommy Blogs” widget in the sidebar (there is an example of the picture at the top of this post as a visual aid). That’s IT. Could you pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease take a moment and do that clicky thang? That simple little motion counts as your vote that Seriously Not Boring is awesome and stuff, and we move up in the rankings.  Thank you so much for the support!

“I’m sorry, Ken, but that is incorrect”: My response to Ken Jennings

Wrong Answer

Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings made the following tweet yesterday: “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” The Twitterverse almost immediately exploded. Some people laughed, most were outraged. Jennings has not yet responded to inquiries and comments about the tweet. Part of me wanted to resist giving this ableist nonsense any more exposure, nor give that person any more free press, but I just have to say: I’m sorry, Ken, but that is incorrect.

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Jellyfish in the Baby Pool: Protecting my child with special needs

pool fun

All parents want to protect their children. We are constantly on guard, looking for potential threats. Parenting a child with special needs often requires an extra measure of caution, because problems can hide in the most innocent of places. Where some parents see fun and merriment, we may only see danger, potential meltdowns, or sensory overload.

An experience we had many years ago on a family vacation comes to mind as an analogy. My husband and I took our two small sons to the beach and it was a lot more work than we expected, partly because our toddler and preschooler had distinctly different sensory needs at that stage. My oldest child spent most of his time avoiding the sand and crying “Dirty, dirty…” under his breath. My youngest, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of the sand. He would sit and eat it by the handfuls.

sticky fingers                      sand feast

After a while I was exhausted and decided it was time for “easy.” We headed to what I thought would be a safe haven: the baby pool at the beach club. After a few minutes of play I stepped on something squishy at the bottom of the pool. I picked it up, and to my horror realized I was holding a jellyfish. A JELLYFISH. In the BABY POOL! A man saw my reaction and said nonchalantly, “Oh yeah. my kid was playing with that. It doesn’t have any tentacles!” I was appalled. Why would anyone take a risk like that with the safety of small children? Not to mention the fact that a baby pool doesn’t need any extra organic material, if you know what I’m saying. Not wanting to take that man’s word for it that no one could get stung, I disposed of the jellyfish. It was a wake-up call to me that there was something potentially dangerous in an environment that should be protected.

As my children got older, and my youngest son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I realized that the world is full of “jellyfish in the baby pool,” so to speak. Other parents of children with special needs know what I am talking about. Experiences that may be perfectly safe or enjoyable for typical children can be dangerous or overwhelming for a child who is physically or neurologically different.

Dinner out as a family? Lots of ways you could get stung by jellyfish. Taking your kids with you grocery shopping? Jellyfish. Public school? Jellyfish. Amusement parks? Jellyfish. Trick or Treating? Jellyfish. Dentist appointments? Jellyfish. Enjoying the latest Disney movie at the theater? Jellyfish. Haircuts? Jellyfish. Playing outside with other children? Jellyfish. Easter egg hunts? Have mercy. (If your child can get through the waiting for the start of the hunt then you sure as heck better have some emergency eggs stashed in your pockets just in case the hunt itself doesn’t go well.)  Chuck E. Cheese? Actually, never mind that last one. I’m pretty sure all parents feel the same way about that place.

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Wizard World Comic Con

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Check that one off the bucket list~  I finally attended my very 1st comic con! For some reason Wizard World decided to come to my little ole’ town, and as a a lifelong geeky fangirl of sci-fi, superheroes and the like I was SO there. It was the first year for this event here, and it was a smaller con. Smaller can also mean less crowds and less waiting in line, especially since a lot of people had not heard about the event (I saw a lot of “wish I had known about this!” comments after it was over). But it was still well-attended , and it was if I had finally found my people. I was positively giddy, and all day long I felt like my son at 1:06 in this video, “This is the best thing of my life!” The video (our own little brush with media and pop culture when my son’s enthusiastic response to playing with a sea lion briefly became one of those “viral videos”) even came up a couple times in conversations about using media opportunities to help bring about more than entertainment, but also a greater good.

When we arrived downtown it was right at starting time, but there was a loooong backup to get into the parking deck. I tried not to go into fits, thinking about the fact that I was wasting time in the car. Must. See. COMIC-CON! Finally I asked my husband if he could pleeeease park the car without me, and I jumped out with oldest child and scampered to the convention center. I then proceeded to break rule #1 of comic cons: make sure you know what line you are waiting in. Luckily, I didn’t waste more than a minute, ha.

Commence the joy.

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Kids get in free with a paid adult so we had our two boys with us for the first two hours, then my parents kindly picked them up. The boys enjoyed seeing all the superhero, comic and sci-fi merchandise. My youngest son wore a shirt with the Autism Ninja, our very own family superhero.

The NinjAlex, our Autism Ninja superhero, created by my son and drawn by my brother.

The NinjAlex, our very own Autism Ninja superhero. Copyright Jennifer Bittner and Brian Roberts.

My oldest was wearing a Minecraft shirt, and the highlight of his day was when someone dressed as Steve gave him a thumbs up. There were a lot of cosplayers, and we were impressed by how elaborate and creative some of the costumes were.

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I have no idea what that third set of people are supposed to be, except that they are now IN MY NIGHTMARES! And look at that intricate cardboard Groot! But baby Rocky, however adorable, was just NOT having it.
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Beauty & the Beast: Living with depression and bipolar disorder

"Starry Night" by Van Gogh, public domain. Image found at http://www.wpclipart.com/art/Paintings/Van_Gogh/Van_Gogh_starry_night.jpg.html

“Starry Night” by Van Gogh, public domain. Image found at http://www.wpclipart.com

I woke this morning after a full nights sleep and stretched, feeling completely refreshed. I then realized I also felt completely sad. It took me a moment to remember why… Robin Williams had died, a victim of the Beast. The recollection of that awful truth, the reality of it, sucked the joy out of my morning. I no longer felt refreshed. Ironically, that is how depression can seem. And although today I am not actually depressed, just deeply sad, I know all too well what it is like to battle the Beast.

Robin Williams embraced life with creativity and manic intensity. He was the ultimate embodiment of “Not Boring”. He was able to gift the world with great beauty and uniqueness because of his incredible talent and fervency. But the ability to feel so deeply, live life so intensely, can often come at a great price. Many other great artists also struggled with depression or mental illness. Continue reading

I Watched You Dance (A letter to the father of an adult son with Down Syndrome)

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Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration. Continue reading