Friday, September 29, 2006

Pay to Play?

As you guys know, Demetrius is raising money for his school…that of course included a call into his grandparents. Nonni Cheryl and Grandpa decided to give $30.00…but I guess that it doesn’t quite work out to just $30. Here’s what I mean:

• $30 for the donation
• $3 for the card that Nonni buys to send the check in
• $2 for ice cream money for Demetrius (Grandma’s….)
• $3 for the card for Maya, because Demetrius just can’t get one…
• $2 for Maya’s ice cream money (all has to be fair in love and war)
• .37 for two stamps

Grandpa called me and told me that the $30 was just the ante for a seat at the table.

He’s right.

Tough to be a grandparent these days… C’mon Gramps…$2 is cheap….

Welp, Nonni and Grandpa come out in a couple of weeks. Wait until the kids get you saps…I mean…you guys to the toy aisle at Target.

Have that Visa card ready!

(Who are we kidding, everyone who knows our family knows I’m the soft touch.  I just took them to WalMart last weekened to get new DoodleBear markers and an Avatar action figure…) 

Posted by Jerry in 16:22:27 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Daddy’s Office Art

I’m lucky enough in life to have an actual office to work out of these days…which gives me more than enough walls and space to hang alot of Maya and Demetrius art. Now, the truth be told, Maya herself could fill up these walls and cabinets with a new collection each and every week, but the Pink Bombshell (for those that don’t know, that’s her super hero name) allows me to poach some of the best she has (the MoMA can’t get a collection as hot or recent as what I have on my walls) each quarter. For Demetrius – I do hang alot of his art. However, I like to hang his school work… sometimes I look at it and see the progress he’s making and that definitely makes me smile a little brighter…I mean, look at these Ms! These are regular, kindergarten-appropriate Ms!

So I ask, what could be better on my walls? Some scenic poster of a mountain with a waterfall and the Sun coming up behind it with some cheesy statement about ‘paitence’ or ‘persistence’? Instead I can have actual persistence and achievement on my walls – like all the work he’s done to improve his dexterity and coordination to write his Ms. Can there be any motivation better than that?

Or how about ‘inspiration’? Is there any better inspiration than seeing what is springing from Maya’s imagination on a daily basis? Want to inspire me? Well, money does help, but really – it is her artwork that is inspiring. Look what she is creating…and look how she is keeping a whole niche industry – glitter glue – in business!

This is Jerry Ant…which Maya made for me in pre-school. Named after me so that I can have a pet, like Buddy, at my office

Look at those Ms! Booyah!

What’s a cabinet full of? Nothing but sticky notes, pens, file folders and other work stuff….but taped outside is a tapestry of artwork that world has never seen! Canvassing a 1.5 square foot area is pure creativity with at least two metric tons of glitter glue. It is amazing that the cabinet door hasn’t fallen over on my head by now

Posted by Jerry in 14:13:05 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hitting and Power Selling

Demetrius had an interesting day yesterday.  He got in more than a bit of trouble – he got frustrated with a friend and hit her.  Now, let me stress he got lectured and in trouble.  But…. again, he is beginning to react in ways that are important to his social development.  A year ago, he would have just screamed and introverted…. yesterday he argued and then hit.  Now, we need to solve the hitting, but at the same time it is good to see him now trying to express himself when he’s mad, happy, etc…  Alas, the behavior seems more consistent with a three or four year old (do regular six year old boys hit first, argue second? Hard to say, I’m not around many regular six year old boys…help me out here folks with boys in that age range) but it is dealing with it that I’m pleased with. I just wish he hadn’t had thrown a punch.

That said, he is also raising money for his school’s fun run next week. So, of course, we called family members first.  He got tired of pitching his grandparents then having to talk about how school is going, etc… (He hates talking on the phone) and by the time he got his Aunt Rachel on the phone he just said to her, “Give me $20 for school.” I think the pitch worked!

If it were only that easy to ask for a raise….

Posted by Jerry in 14:03:33 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Head Cold Head Ache

Well, as it works in the world, we are all over our colds – and Maya has finally caught hers.

And it is a doozy.

Remember when you were a kid, and how much a cold bothered you? Not in terms of “I’m sick and can’t get out of bed cuz I’m achy…” but more along the lines of “I can’t breathe out of my right nostril and I’m getting irritated!” That’s where Maya is, at that point of being pissed when she lays down and can’t breathe.

We read last night together in bed and she was really chapped that her nose “was stuffed up”. She said it hurt a lot, and I believed her as she attempted to blow as much air out of her nostril as possible. She has figured out if you hold the one nostril closed that you can blow a lot of air through the other, and she thinks she’s ‘opened it’, but still hasn’t quite figured out that it will close up again (nasal cavity, et al is beyond her). So she just gets mad (and who knows what else comes out of that nostril when she blows) and stews.

Because Maya never quits going, it is kind of hard to ever tell how much something like this would bother her. It won’t when she’s on the move, but when she stops to watch some Drake and Josh (she loves Drake… he may be her first crush) or go to bed; she actually gets angry about it.

I’m pretty sure this questionable young man is Maya’s first crush…but right now she’s really only concerned with the crushing pressure she feel from her head cold.  That’s a good thing in the eyes of this particular father…. 

I told her she’ll get used to it, that the pressure in her head from the cold will stablize over the next day and she’ll feel better. I then gave her a kiss.

She had a final question: “What’s pressure? And if it is in my head, could I die?”

Sigh.

On another note, see this great story working around the Internet. You can find tons of YouTube postings about Team Hoyt, etc…with a Google search.

Posted by Jerry in 15:22:27 | Permalink | Comments Off

Monday, September 25, 2006

Daughters, Raptors and Candy

“God wants us to have Candy,” Maya Marie Grasso, September 24, 2006

So, Sundays are the ‘free’ day…the day where we don’t put any stones in the bowl from the stone jar.  It is also the day we tally up and see whether or not we get a few pieces of candy from the candy jar for having stones left in the jar. 

Both kids get a bit worried (by this time, they can’t remember if they got in a lot of trouble over the week or not…) but fear not – we have yet to have a week where we don’t get candy.  Maya gets super chatty/excited and just says whatever comes to mind, like the great statement above as she pulled apart a Rolo piece and ate it last night.

She’s also got the ‘game’ figured out.  She was telling Demetrius that the ‘secret’ to the ‘stone game’ (when did this become a game? Or is this a psychological game between parents and kids, and she’s figured that out too!) is that you have to be ‘good’ later in the week, closer to the ‘candy day’. 

So, if I follow cognitive four-year-old thought, you can ignore your parents and not mind your manners, be good, or talk back on, say, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday-ish…. but Thursday on you gotta start being good to preserve those precious stones for the candy on Sunday?  She’s got that figured out after three weeks of this?

Pretty soon she’s going to have it figured out that she can average two stones a day, and still get her candy…

Every time I think I’ve got her outsmarted, she’s outmaneuvers me…

We’re going to have to switch things up a bit.  Throw two stones in the bowl for a minor offense to screw up her system.

This reminds me of something a colleague of mine references at work about her son, that the kids are like the Raptors in Jurassic Park, they are always testing fences for weak spots, they never test the same spot twice.

 

Is there a difference?  Both are adorable to their parents…but are fierce creatures that smell weakness, strike fear into the hearts of others and hunt for flesh…well, one hunts for chocolate, the other for small mammals and lizards…

Posted by Jerry in 14:24:40 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Rainy Sunday Post

What a weekend.

It started out amazingly painful. I ran about four miles and also 220-yard sprints to try to increase my speed. I hate sprints because #1 – I’m 37 years old and I don’t do them well, #2 – I’m not in shape for them, #3 – I swear that grass is growing faster than I run, #4 – I can’t breathe afterwards (because of 1-3?) but once it was over I got my rhythm back and finished my run strong. Buddy loves the sprints, because he gets to run around off leash for about 20 minutes.

But then, after I showered the fun started – we had our first Miracle League baseball game of the season. See some of the pictures below. Demetrius only had about seven players show up for the game, so it went fast. Maya is beginning to figure out that the kids that are playing are different. She was asking questions about what was wrong with some of the kids. Well, she asked a lot of questions about what was wrong with Alex (he has some ear issues and learning disorders) and some of the other boys. But one cute moment – a little boy on another team, Christian, was enamored with my camera phone. He wanted to take a picture, and Maya told him that he could take a picture of her holding his football. Christian told me he wants to be a pro football player like Michael Vick. Sadly, Christian is wheelchair bound. He’s about six years old. I think I’ve said this before, but man, this can be really hard and heart wrenching.

Demetrius’ First At Bat: Homer!

Maya holding Christian’s football, he’s clicking away photos

My first game, and I caught the ball in my glove!

We then had dinner with our friends the Carraghers. Man, they are good people. Elaine has been one of Kim’s best friends since we’ve moved to Georgia, and I love Joseph, Elaine’s husband. Except he’s a Jets fan. I just don’t understand these people. Why suffer through such pain, annually? I mean the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years, right? The closest example in modern times, I think, is being a Jets fan.

Jets…Jews….one letter difference, but both have wandered in the desert for years…but one has found the promised land….the other is still circling since the late sixties

The Carraghers have a four-month old daughter, Maddie, who wishes she could be four years old playing with the other kids. Demetrius came up from the basement at one time while Maddie was cooing, and asked if he could hold the baby. He then whispered things to her like, ‘be careful’ and ‘hello baby’. She loved it. This picture shows that.

Demetrius and Maddie, she loved the attention

Today we did some yard work, had some donuts, and went to Oughtabees for lunch. This is also where Maya will have her birthday party (10 kids get to make pizza and cupcakes from scratch and play games) and we put the deposit down. She is having a hard time accepting that the party is months away, but now she has something to look forward.

And yes Heike, she said that Emily has to come. We agreed. Here are just some more great pictures of my family.

David Button (with plane), Demetrius, Maya and Kayleen on the beach at Hilton Head

Sports Illustrated Cover Model – One Piece Issue Only!

Maya and her pre-school class watching chicks hatching at petting zoo

Nap time! (Notice who isn’t sleeping – too much fun to have to take a nap…)

Grassos in Hilton Head, the last hurrah of a great summer!

Posted by Jerry in 20:30:07 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Poor Maya Marie

We have a crisis in the house, and it has nothing to do with the color pink or stitches.

It has to do with carpool.

Maya’s scared of carpooling with anyone but Buddy and Mommy

Maya is part of a carpool to her pre-school and she doesn’t like it because she doesn’t know the Mommy that well. So she’s a bit scared of riding to school…so much so that she says she isn’t willing to go (man, she likes to throw down!).

She is riding with a Mom that’s a friend of Kim’s and her little boy who also attends the school, but he’s ‘little’ (he’s three) and not in Maya’s class. What’s humorous about this is that Kim’s already given him a ride to school and he doesn’t care – but do most males care about much? Hey, he’s getting to school where they have a playground and snacks – what’s to worry about?

I had a talk with Maya about this, but she isn’t yet able to verbalize why she is scared. I’m 37 years old and I still remember the feeling of being scared to be away from my Mommy and being with new people. Truthfully – it’s a good thing because she’s aware of stranger danger, etc…but we are trying to tell her its okay.

Last night she told me that this was a big deal, because Ms. Laura ‘goes a different way’, but the real story is there is no right way because the girl is scared.

Kim is going to ride a few times with Ms. Laura to try to calm Maya down and get her to relax during the ride to and from. But Maya isn’t the real one suffering here, nor is it Kim….

It’s the dog Buddy! Do you know how those kids love to pet him in the school parking lot..that’s alot of Goldfish/candy/cake covered hands and faces he doesn’t get to lick now….

Posted by Jerry in 21:40:19 | Permalink | Comments Off

Ms. Ball’s Note Home

I don’t know if you will be able to tell from the pictures below, but this is a note home from school today…..but not what you think…this is a note Demetrius wrote to his teacher, Ms. Ball’s, mother about her actions at school. That’s right, you read this exactly right.

As we are all aware, DEMETRIUS LOVES THE COMPUTER. So when he gets time to do different things in school, he inevitably moves over to the computer station. Ms. Ball, recognizing that this is stemming, told Demetrius to go play at some other station. Demetrius refused, and when she wouldn’t budge he told her that he was upset with her (she said he was VERY serious) and that he was going to write a note to her Mommy to bring home after school.

So Ms. Ball brought Demetrius a piece a paper, helped him with the hard words, and he wrote the below note, telling Ms. Ball’s Mommy that she wasn’t nice and needed to let him play on the computer.

Needless to say, we were thrilled. He is using some cognitive thought to figure things out…even by deploying the ultimate threat there is in the mind of a Kindergartener – the dreaded note home to Mommy about behavior at school.

This may be Demetrius’ greatest document to date – the note home to his teacher’s mommy!

Posted by Jerry in 01:57:28 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Thursday, September 21, 2006

USA Today Piece On Autism

USA Today, which is fabulous at writing 500 word pieces for the masses, wrote a nice piece last week on Autism.  Here it is , a story that discusses two recent studies.
Posted by Jerry in 18:11:31 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Big Red

I had a chance to catch up with a friend in the Bay Area that I see about once a year…when she passes through Atlanta or I make it out there. 

Let me tell you that she’s one of those friends that time just stops for.  One of those people that when you meet up with, even if you haven’t spoken for three months, that you just pick up from the last time you were breaking bread or having a cup of coffee. She’s got one of the best laughs in the world, and she’s a great practical joker.

For sake of this posting she’s ‘Big Red’ (she has flaming red hair and is six feet tall).

She’s really a superstar, she’s held some great PR jobs over the course of the ten plus years we’ve been friends and now she is executive director of a growing non-profit, recently married, and living happily in one of the prettiest places in this country out towards Santa Cruz.  Things seem to playing out for her.

Except last Christmas she was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma.

Let me take that back, that’s the GOOD NEWS.  Initially she was diagnosed with Stage 4.

Long and short of it is that in about a month she’ll start a treatment plan that won’t be easy, and she has to live with the knowledge that the disease spread to her lymph nodes, they cut tumors out of her back, and she may just be a sitting duck for it show up in other places in her body, or hopefully, it will go into remission.  Oncologists don’t paint pretty, modernistic pictures – they paint sterile, cold, black and white ones.

Skin cancer – its not treatable by chemotherapy.  Everything that is promising is in clinical trial, so you have to weigh the risks and rewards heavily.  She made mention to me that one aggressive treatment had to be administered in an intensive care unit of a hospital because the side effects were so immediately toxic.  As she said, she doesn’t feel that bad yet to engage in this trial. 

But like all of us with the special needs kids, she’s battling the health insurance companies who have issues with paying her treatments.  Sometimes I’m just not sure that this isn’t the biggest battle we all fight, and of course, in theory, we should be fighting the disease or disability, versus the insurance we pay for to help us. But anyway, that’s just a soapbox statement.

So as we caught up, like we do every time, we talk about life back in Seattle…when we were all DINKs and singles having a good time worrying about silly things like our careers and office intrigues.  Since Kim and I were really the only married couple of the group, we worried about a few more things, but we were all on par with each other.  

But this time it was just a bit hollow, that communal memory of our ‘easy’ twenties.  We are both in different places in our lives now, and looking back isn’t nearly as important as life today or projecting forward. 

See, we both have our ‘things’ hanging over us, which most of our friends from these other times in our lives don’t.  Sure, everyone has their own baggage, and it is somewhat relative, but stage 3 or 4 cancer…that’s heavy.  Heavy like raising disabled children.  So it seemed easy to talk about where we are and just dived into it. 

“How are you handling this, Big Red?”  “How do you feel?”  She was honest and so was I: case-and-point, we talked about how it seems like at times your empathy actually decreases after being through these things in life, versus increasing.  Like when people complain that they didn’t get a big enough bonus to buy a new BMW this past year.  Get over it!  We discussed how we are so much more frank in our assessments about things, people and life… for better or worse, since this has happened to us.

Further, playing the games at work, the drama that takes place there, that’s where we have to sometimes pretend now and how it can just suck the life out of you. 

I related an epiphany I had earlier in the year when I was in a planning meeting with lots work soap opera crap playing out…the day after we got Demetrius’ results back from his IQ test.  All I could think was, “I’m listening to this shit about who is out maneuvering who for some blankety-blank service when I have a son that’s scored in the bottom 20% of intelligence for kids his age!  Does this really matter?” I realized I had to try to find emotional energy for the office going forward, that I had become vacant in what was going on in my career.  And how you’ve got to focus to make some element of it matter – and how taxing that is.

I don’t know if she lays in bed thinking about things like I do, or if she does it during a long walk in the mountains or shopping (she loves to shop).  But I was thinking unemotionally that Demetirus’ disability is in a weird way ‘at the right time’: we are still young, we have energy to give to this and as a family we are just entering into our prime earning years, we can give him it our all, God willing, over the course of years.  He’ll get the best we’ve got at the most opportune time.

But cancer in her thirties…  She’s just 35.  There is no right time for this, where do you go mentally with this?

Then I remembered something from earlier.  She was laughing a lot. That big laugh that makes everyone around her smile.  She’s still laughing and smiling.  It reminded me that I need to do that more often, as I’m prone to make the joke and not laugh at it. 

It’s simply a hard road to hoe from this point forward for our families and our lives – I wouldn’t be writing a cathartic blog if it wasn’t.  It brings me back to this point for all of you that have read this posting thus far: are you getting everything you can out of each day?  When you can look back ten years with a friend – what do you see?  Do you see living life to its fullest?  I can honestly say that for me, I could have done better in that category in 1996.

But I see Big Red laughing now the same as she did then. 

Big Red, you are in our thoughts and prayers – don’t stop laughing your way through this.

Posted by Jerry in 23:51:33 | Permalink | Comments (6)