Monday, May 2, 2011

Special Needs Mamas: I Need Your Help!

I’m working on a Mother’s Day article for my column and could use your help! (what good is a blog if you can’t use if for personal gain?)

Below is a questionnaire.  Copy and paste it, fill it out, and then email it to me at

Not a special needs mom?  Forward this post to one you know.

What is the name, age, and nature of your child’s special needs?

How did you react when your child was first diagnosed?

What has been the most challenging aspect of parenting your child(ren)?

What has been the most rewarding aspect of parenting your child(ren)?

Andrew, my nine year old with autism, epilepsy, and cystic fibrosis, has taught me many valuable life lessons. What has your child taught you?

Do you have a funny/inspiring anecdote that you can share about raising your child with special needs?

Oh.  And if you want an actual blog post to read, visit me here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Photo Op

My mom really wanted a nice picture of her and the boys.  And wouldn’t take NO for an answer.


Mom's computer Spring 2011 074

Trying to get Andrew to look at the camera.

Mom's computer Spring 2011 076

Except for Ian, no one really looks very thrilled.  Or photogenic.

Mom's computer Spring 2011 077 

Mauling him seems like the logical next step

Mom's computer Spring 2011 078

Oh Andrew.  I know how you feel buddy.

 Mom's computer Spring 2011 081

Choking your grandson is a perfectly acceptable method of getting him to take a picture with you.

Mom's computer Spring 2011 067

Grandma’s gone.  Cheese!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

That’s How We Roll


Disco Ball?  Check.

Incense?   Check.

Dollar bills?  Check.

A sea of red stained lips, short skirts, over-processed blonde locks and rhinestone studded stilettos?  Check.

Cigarette smoke billowing from ashtrays?  Check.

Another Sunday morning mass at our Orange County, California Polish church?  Check.



(this disco ball hangs several dozen feet from the altar of our church.  For reals) 

Who says Jesus doesn’t appreciate a good party?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sometimes 2nd Graders Know Best

You may have heard through the grapevine (me) that I have written a children’s book recently. The story was inspired by the relationship between Andrew and Ian, and is entitled Superheroes Don’t Have to Wear Capes.  My ridiculously talented friend Spiral (that’s her professional name, not her birth name, which, if it were, would NOT BE ODD AT ALL) agreed to illustrate the story, and a few months ago I shared the first completed spread (that’s fancy publishing talk for two pages that are side by side) on my Facebook page.


Now comes the hard part; trying to find a publisher that will be just as excited about this project as I am.  I’ve begun the exciting  uber crappy process of querying potential agents and publishing houses, and as far as I know there is no bidding war yet, but I expect that to change anysecond.

In the meantime, my best friend Heather came up with a plan to  have me “test run” the book in front of a real audience of *gasp* children.  If you know anything about kids it’s that they have an uncanny ability to tell it like it is. Which for someone who prefers a blatant lie over a dose of ego-busting truth is just all kinds of wonderful.

So yesterday I found myself sitting in front of 60 some odd Kinder-2nd graders, a sea of knobby knees before me, my future as a children’s book author hanging in the balance. Okay. Maybe it was less Dean Koontz and more Eric Carle, but it felt intense. 

I gave a little speech, including the background of the book and why I wrote it, then delved into the story. 

Aside from a few little misbehaved turds (I blame the parents) and a rogue nose-picker, I had almost all 120 eyeballs on me the entire time.  When I was finished, I asked if anyone had any questions, and a hand shot up in the back. I called on the boy, a 2nd grader by the name of Brent:

“Yes, you, honey.  Do you have a question?”

“Great story. I just wanted to tell you that your book is gonna like be sold out.”

Folks, I think I just found my agent.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Hope This Thick Skin Will Look Good On Me

You come to a point, as a writer, where you have to choose.
What's more important? 
That people love me, respect me, cherish me? 
Or that I tell it like it is and stay true to the story, no matter the consequences?

On the day I first chose to write about my struggles with alcoholism, I chose the latter. 

I knew when I started out with blogging that my goal was not to write reviews about mascara (though I do not in any way begrudge those who are on that path. I often defer to their opinions when purchasing products). 

But for me, personally, writing was and continues to be a passion beyond words, something I can feel, something I can taste, something I both love and hate at times.  I am a slave to it; beckoned by it's siren, forced to be at it's whim.

Plus, there is nothing quite like the high of a well placed adjective.

Writing my column, This Modified Life, for The Orange County Register has allowed me the opportunity to invite a wider audience into my life and I continue to choose the path of truth; my truth.  It is also forcing me, as a writer, to come to terms with the fact that not everyone out there is going to love me, or love my writing, or my opinons.  In fact, there are people out there that are downright going to be annoyed with what I have to say (or, maybe even worse, won't even care).  I am feeling the sting of that, especially today, in response to an article I wrote about standing up for my special needs son.

But you know what?  Thanks to some of these folks that seem to have a rather unpleasant attitude (I'm trying to be polite) about what I have to say in this particular piece, I am growing some thicker skin, and realizing that if I really want to rock the world one word at a time, I have to be willing to take some heat. 

Which I am, so bring it.

It's a small price to pay to get to do what I love.  And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll be able to make a positive difference in someone's life.

Like my own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pregnancy Weight

I know it may seem ridiculous to keep referring to the extra pounds I carry around my middle (and my back, and my sides, and….oh to hell with it…they’re everywhere) as pregnancy weight, especially when you consider that the last time I played host to a 65 pound bundle of joy was back in 2003.

But get this.

Yesterday my mom showed me a dress I used to wear as a little girl:


When I asked her how old I was when I wore it, she said about two.

And then I looked at the tag:



Yep.  That would be a size 6X.  Which apparently I wore at the age of 2.

So you see, I’ve been carrying around this pregnancy weight since I was TWO years old!

Not so ridiculous now, is it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Wish You Were an Alcoholic Too

Yesterday scared me.

I awoke to a pounding headache, the back of my head throbbing in the darkness of the early morning.
I took some Tylenol, made some tea, and settled onto the couch, awaiting the rush of energy and happiness that would follow once my head stopped trying to kill me.

The pain eventually went away, but instead of embracing the day, I found myself dreading it.  Every time I tried to move, I felt as if I were made of lead, my body and mind refusing to collaborate, my attempts at snapping out of it futile.

It wasn’t just that I was physically tired.  I was mentally exhausted, which for the most part is nothing new, except that usually I manage to suppress it and get on with my day.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday I gave in to the dread, the despair and the depression that kept my ability to DO, just out of my reach.  I felt an overwhelming, frightening, exhausting emptiness.  I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t think straight.  I could barely move.

It was 12:30 before I even brushed my teeth, and I reheated the same pot of water 7 times, never getting far enough to actually make that much-needed second cup of Earl Grey.

Like I said, it scared me.

I managed to make it through the rest of the day by the hair of my chinny chin chin, but I went to bed in a defeated blur.

This morning I thought about yesterday, and instead of trying to pinpoint the exact cause of my demise, or ruminate on what I could have done differently, I had one, very clear, very profound, very loud and necessary thought:

My worst day sober, has got nothing on my best day drunk.

And then, after I dropped Ian off at school and made sure Andrew was looked after, I hightailed it to my nearest AA meeting, where finally, after much too long, I was able to exhale.

I wish you were an alcoholic too.

I mean, I don’t wish for you the drama, and the heartache, and the guilt (not to mention the wasted precious time) that comes before sobriety.  But I do wish you had a roomful of people that understood you, didn’t judge you, offered you their phone number in case you needed to talk at 4 a.m.  I wish you knew what it felt like to sit among doctors, lawyers, and homeless men and women and watch them hug, support, and pray with one another.  I wish you knew the comfort it brings to be able to know that you’re not the one in charge in this great big world, that you don’t call all the shots.  That you aren’t weak when you cry out for help, and that the greatest asset in your life is to feel gratitude in your heart.  I wish you knew what it was like to relate to a perfect stranger, hear their voice tell your story, and be reminded that you are not alone.  I wish you could leave the weight of the world at the door of your nearest meeting, and know you have a choice in how or if you want to carry it anymore.

Today is a new day.

For me, for you, for those of us blessed enough to still be stomping around in it.

I’m going to enjoy the $hit out of it, if you don’t mind.

One very sober, very grateful moment at a time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It’s Not Like It’s a Four Letter Word

My sister and I met up for a sushi lunch yesterday, with my beloved, squeaky Andrew in tow (hooray for two weeks of Spring Break!).  We ordered our food and proceeded to try and engage in meaningless conversation while Andrew proceeded to try and do everything you aren’t supposed to do in a tiny, cramped, dining room filled with other patrons.

Obsessed with an aquarium in the corner filled with bright orange fish, he squawked and he squealed to indicate his need to go visit the tank rightnow., and while I had no problem walking over there with him, I wanted to use this natural setting to generalize the one thing we can never get him to do beyond therapy, which is to wait.

I used our “First, then” model, letting him know that “first you need to finish your lunch, then we can go see the fish tank,” and he let me know that I should buzz off by arching his 50 pound frame and bursting into a rendition of his infamous whine, a sound that usually causes my eyeballs to bleed, followed by a lip twitch and a desperate desire to lunge myself in front of anything moving faster than 20 mph.

At this point I knew better than to continue with my therapy-based experiment, the whines gaining momentum, the other patrons beginning to hint at their displeasure by hurling their chopsticks at us like spears (hey, I can take a hint).  I grabbed by little bundle of joy, sat him ever so gently upon my lap, and hurredly finished the tail end of my conversation with my sister, which must have been about a family member since my sentence ended with jack@ss (I offer only the best in quality conversation and dining companionship).

And then Andrew laughed.

I looked at my sister, looked at my son, and looked at the fresh sashimi, still untouched, on my plate.  I pulled Andrew’s face close to mine and said “banana.”  The whining immediately ensued.
I tried “chocolate.”  More whining.  I said “Willy the watermelon eating walrus.”  Still, more whining (and more chopstick throwing).

And then I said jack@ass.

And he laughed again.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I did the right thing by asking for a to-go box and leaving the premises (and sticking my sister with the bill for our abbreviated lunch date),  but this blog is all about telling the truth and honestly, doing the right thing can be so overrated sometimes, especially when fresh Hawaiian and Philadelphia sushi rolls are involved.

So instead I took the road less traveled (mostly because it’s a road reserved for awful parents), held my nine year old close to my chest, and every so often, in between delicious bites of my Japanese cuisine and shallow girl talk, I leaned in, and lovingly whispered “jack@ss” into his ear.

Judge me if you will, by leaving a comment below.  I’ll be sure to send you a free, sample copy of Andrew’s impressive vocal range, including the ever popular “someone please stab my ears with the nearest sharp object you can find whine.”  Extended version, of course.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, Life/Food Section, Page 3

This morning, just like every weekday morning, I had to get the kids up, dressed, fed, and ready for school.
Instead, I drove like a bat out of hell to my nearest gas station and bought three copies of The Orange County Register
What?  That’s all they had left.
I screeched into the driveway, jumped out of the car, hobbled into the house, limped down three flights of stairs, got out my magnifying glass,and opened up the paper to the Life/Food section (thank God that sentence is over; I was running out of verbs. Ha! no pun intended).  There, on page 3, for all the world a smaller portion of a small portion of a particular subset of individuals within a slightly larger demographic to see, was my very first article in print.
I know, right?!
My family, of course, was very enthusiastic:
“How come you used Jo Ashline for your byline?  Can’t you refer to yourself as Joanna Agnieszka Bartlomowicz, daughter of the illustrious Polish-immigrant Margaret Bartlomowicz?  That just rolls right off the tongue and sounds so much better, don’t you think?”
Where is your picture?  There’s no picture of you?”
I thought you were going to be on the front page.”
“How come you didn’t mention ME anywhere in the article?”
After all of the supportive gestures from my loved ones, I realized I had to use the bathroom and took my article in as reading material. The whole experience was pretty intense.  The article wasn’t half bad either.
I decided to head over to my local Starbucks, where I quickly noticed that NO ONE was reading my article, and so I may have purchased a half dozen copies, threw away everything except all the page 3’s, and placed them throughout the establishment in a nonchalant manner. I never realized being a writer would be so hands on.
So now here I sit at home, surrounded by huge stacks several copies of today’s paper, my dream of becoming a writer slowly becoming a reality, my house resembling the ones they depict in that show Hoarders, and my face, hands, and certain discreet areas covered in newsprint (don’t ask).
Anybody know where I can find a frame big enough to fit my article and my ego?
If you squint your left eye while blinking your right one rapidly, you should be able to make out my byline.  Let me know if you have trouble, and I’ll let you borrow my magnifying glass.
Ian enjoying mommy’s article
(I threatened him with no breakfast until he read it )
*I used the term “my article” no less than five times in this post. I can’t believe you read this far.  I’ve managed to annoy even myself.*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The (Not So) Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest

So, a good friend’s mom was purging some old cd’s and I got first pick the other day.
I was mostly looking for music that would appeal to Andrew; that would soothe, stimulate, and engage him at home or in the car.

There was a wide variety to choose from; classical, soft rock, even some compilations of popular numbers from well-known musicals.  I also happened upon a cd entitled “The Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest,” and snatched it up; Lord knows this family could benefit from some soothing sounds every once in a while.

Tuesday afternoon, while driving to Andrew’s physical therapy appointment, Ian saw the stack of cd’s and asked if he could pick one out to play in the car.  I said sure and he ended up choosing the Rainforest one.  We put it in the cd player and listened as the “soothing sounds” filled the car:

A pleasant yet subtle symphony of exotic birds, chirping in the tree tops, their tiny beaks paying homage to nature in joyous harmony .

A soft wind gently caressing the luscious green leaves of environmentally sacred plants and flowers as they danced in unison to the aforementioned bird song.

A child being tortured, yelling out in pain for it’s mother to come save him from the clutches of some wild-eyed jungle baboon who has kidnapped him and is forcing him to pick rainforest-sized bugs off it’s
rainforest-sized baboon butt.


The serenity was replaced with a series of hot flashes, heart palpitations, a desperate desire to rescue this forsaken child, and a sudden, intense, urge to pee my pants as a rush of water filled the tiny speakers of the car.

Now, I may sometimes take creative liberty when I write on this blog, you know, to make it more entertaining for you, so I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that I was full of crap.

Which is why I recorded a portion of what we heard so that you too can experience the “Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest.

The (Not So) Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest from Jo Ashline on Vimeo.

I'm afraid to listen to the rest, especially track #4, which is entitled, "Soothing Sounds of the Rainforest Predators Feasting Upon Their Prey, or track #11, "Soothing Sounds of the Ginormous Rainforest Spiders Crawling on Unassuming and Stupid Tourists.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apparently She’s Just Inconvenient

Seems like some folks in Edgewater, Florida need a lesson in acceptance.

According to this article, there is a six year old little girl whose presence at  school is no longer desired by some of her classmates’ parents. 

Is it because she’s violent?   Nope.

Is it because she brings drugs to school?  Nope.

Is it because she is so severely allergic to peanuts that she is considered legally disabled by the Americans with Disabilities Act?  Yep.

Apparently, all of that extra hand washing and mouth rinsing that students have to “endure” on a daily basis is a bit inconvenient for some (God forbid a bunch of germ-ridden elementary kids wash their hands a few extra times each day).  Their solution?  Remove the problem (her) and have her home-schooled.  

Of course!  What a brilliant idea! Why didn’t we think of that?  In fact, we should go to every school in America and remove every child that requires some sort of “special” attention or accommodation because let’s face it, they’re so inconvenient.

You know what really burns me about this though?  It’s that these are the parents who are raising the next generation of children who will end up becoming a bunch of intolerant, ignorant, #$$%’s when they grow up. 

A few years ago I had a student who had the same kind of allergy as this little girl.  We kept an EpiPen in the classroom (out of reach of curious hands) and the office, and trained the staff how to use it.  The students washed their hands when they came to school each morning, ate at the designated “peanut” table during snack and lunch if they brought food from home that could potentially cause a reaction, and then washed their hands again upon returning to the classroom.

And you know what? Here’s what happened:

1.  We had the healthiest school year ever.

2.  My student with the allergy was able to enjoy coming to school, a right ALL children should be given.

3.  The entire student body learned fundamental lessons in acceptance, compassion, and a sense of responsibility not only to themselves, but to their community and fellow human beings as well (sounds like some of these Edgewater parents could learn a thing or two from them).

And here’s what didn’t happen:

1. No one suffered from some sort of “extra hand washing nervous breakdown.”

2. No one complained.

3. No one felt like they weren’t welcome or didn’t belong because they were different in some way.

4. No one realized that they could and should be resentful of my student because no one taught them that.

So to you, Chris Burr, father of two kids who attend the same school as the young girl at the center of this ridiculous drama, I say this:

It’s easy for you to sit there and pompously proclaim that “If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” because luckily you DON’T have a child with a problem, and if God forbid you did, you have no IDEA the lengths you would go to to give her the highest quality of life possible. You see, it’s that darn IF that gets in the way of that logic.  Because IF I had a million dollars I would not drive a used station wagon Volvo, and IF I were a size 4 I would not wear drawstring pants on date night and IF I  had a magic wand I would wave it all around and turn people like you into kinder, gentler, more accepting human beings who realize that parents like us - who DO have children with problems - aren’t looking to turn the world upside down with our “ridiculous” demands; we’re just looking for it to bend at the knees a little and meet us halfway.



*If you haven’t checked it out already, I write a column for The Orange County Register, “This Modified Life, here.  Come by and visit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CNN Does Not Stand For Children’s News Network


“Yes sweetheart?”

“When is the ring of fire coming?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, the ring of fire that’s going to come and burn everything down and make the earth explode into a million pieces and turn people into ash and then the poison will come down from the sky and whoever is still alive will be poisoned to death and their guts will spill out all over the place and their eyes will fill with blood and whoever is still alive after that will go to Walmart and steal television sets.”


“Mom, just tell me the truth.  I already know it’s real, because Seth saw the whole thing on tv last night with his parents and he came to school and told us everything because he watches the news all the time and he said we need to buy special pills and did you buy the pills yet mom? Did you? And he said that the news also said that there are airplanes filled with bombs flying around and that baby seals are being kidnapped and sold in the black market and that the price of tar heroin is on the rise and he knows EVERYTHING mom.”


It’s called The Disney Channel, people.

Try it sometime.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spelling Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Every Monday Ian’s teacher (who is a dear friend and who I absolutely adore) emails the parents the spelling words the kids must practice that week.  I don’t make a huge fuss about it, partly because Ian is brilliant and really doesn’t need the practice, but mostly because I’m too damn lazy and don’t wanna. 

We were gathered at the dinner table tonight, Mikey, the boys, and meandmylaptop, when I noticed that Ian’s new words for the week had just arrived; feeling pressured by society to “parent” my child, I printed them out and announced in my least “this sucks” voice that we would be reviewing them together.

The first few words seemed benign enough:  steam, thread, tried, else….

and then I began to notice a somewhat disturbing theme:








Um, either Mrs. M is having a super duper bad week or, rather than the more traditional “Spring is Here” theme, has chosen Stephen King for her next unit.

Either way, I’ll be paying closer attention to his curriculum from now on; partly out of curiosity, but mostly to gather evidence for the authorities.

Also, If anyone is interested, I am suddenly too petrified busy to continue in my role as room mom.

Also, would it be inappropriate to include a restraining order in her Teacher Appreciation Gift Basket?



Friday, March 11, 2011

And Then She Made Me Face the Truth, (That B***).

I bring him with me, stuffed up and home from school, instead of cancelling, because the last time I had to call last minute, I was charged $150.00 (turns out I had signed some sort of contract about that.  Darn that fine 14 pt. New Romans print)

I take off his shoes, knowing he will climb on top of the couch, which is situated against the window, a perfect view of cars and the occasional bus, which in no time motivates him to press his face against the glass and squeal in delight.

I see her flinch, my therapist, at the sound of his high pitched joy. I ignore the microscopic mixture of self-consciousness and annoyance that has suddenly planted itself in my head.

We begin our weekly 45 minute session, something I both look forward to and sometimes want to avoid, depending on the topic we unearth on a particular day. 

My voice sounds strange today as I describe the challenges and rewards of watching my dream of becoming a professional writer unfold before me, worried that I may not be able to keep up with the vigorous dedication it takes to truly make it, terrified of facing my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone, even if it’s one tiny shuffle at a time.

Something excites Andrew, and he squeals again.

I see my therapist shift in her chair, her facial expression morphing from one of genuine interest to one of disdain.

“Is there any way you can get him to stop doing that?” she asks me.

“Nope.  It’s a stim.  He just does it." I reply tersely.

I feel her watching me for a moment, unable to meet her gaze.

“Tell me what’s going on.  What are you feeling?

The familiar sting hits the corner of my eyes.  I swallow back tears, big, giant, crocodile tears, and before I can stop myself, say what I’m thinking out loud.

“I’m offended. That you asked me to stop him.  That it’s bothering you. That you’re annoyed with my son. I’m shocked that you responded that way, as my therapist.  And I’m thinking I don’t want to come back and see you anymore.”

She is quiet for a moment. “I am not annoyed by your son.  I am not bothered.  I am also not usually in the presence of a child with stims, and so my question was in response to my wanting to know what you can and cannot control.  But your reaction tells me that this is a very sensitive subject for you.  That you must be faced with the fear of what others think of your child on a constant basis.”

I think about what she has just said.  I want to smack her because she has hurt me, because she has brought attention to something I rarely allow myself to think about, and because she couldn’t be more right.

I no longer care whether I appear composed, and I let the pain and disgust and anger and self-consciousness out of their cage, until I am sobbing, drooling, my vision blurred, and within seconds I have emptied the bright orange tissue box propped up against my left thigh.

She has uprooted me.  When I try to tell her that I am defensive only because I am protecting my son, she forces me to admit that I am also protecting myself.  From prodding eyes, from silent questions, from potentially being rejected.

Somewhere in the middle of this very awkward, very unplanned conversation, I find myself sitting up a little bit taller, my shoulders far less tense than I can recall in a long time.  My tears have dried, and though my eyes are red and puffy, they are able to meet the eyes of my therapist, who suddenly seems much less irritating and so very……….smart.

We finish our session while Andrew continues to randomly squeal in an undiscovered octave, his brief but powerful interruptions a sort of exposure therapy for the both of us, as she becomes more accustomed to the shrillness of his voice, and I become less focused on worrying what she thinks of us.  When it is finally time to stop, I stand up feeling lighter not only from what transpired here today, but also from the prospect of what may transpire here in the future.

And that’s why I’ll be back, with a bigger box of tissues, same time next week

(and why she makes the big bucks).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When "OMG,That Sucks" Doesn't Even Begin to Cover It

I've been keeping things pretty light-hearted around here lately.  Sure, once in a while I make you suffer through a bout of poetry that probably only makes sense to me, or I touch upon our struggles of raising a special needs child, or I vent about random crap that needs to be vented about so that I can clear my head and proceed with Life.  But for the most part, I hope you expect a good laugh when you drop by. So I feel it only fair to preempt my post tonight with a fair warning that what you are about to read is not for the faint of heart.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't stay; it just means I want you to be aware of the magnitude of it.

Suz Broughton, who is a columnist for OC Family Magazine and the lead blogger for wrote a post today about a little girl who lives here in Orange County named Maddie James; a tow-headed beauty, aged five, who loves the sea and looks pretty darn fabulous in her tiny spectacles, and who, as of January 16th, 2011, has been given only months to live.

Like most of you, I simply cannot wrap my mind and my heart and my soul around this kind of information.  I hate suffering of any kind, but when it touches a child, something inside of me ignites and a raging fire burns until I am incapable of thinking or feeling anymore at all.

I know the struggles of parenting.  I have gone to bed sobbing from exhaustion and fear, cradled in the cold, hard, unforgiving grasp of reality, wondering if my prayers are being heard, and on the darkest nights of all, wondering who the hell I'm praying to anyway.  But none of that matters when I read a story like this, nothing makes sense when I read a story like this; I am humbled and terrified and inspired by it and as I stare into the face of this tiny, precious, beautiful little angel, I am stripped bare of all of my previous complaints and worries and priorities and I am just a floundering human being, raw and vulnerable and wanting, more than anything to understand.

But that is not my place, and instead, I choose to focus on what I, You, WE, can do.
So before you do anything else tonight, please read this little girl's story, and the amazing plight of her mom and dad.

I know that by the time you read this your children will probably be snuggled up in their beds, your mental reel playing back a day filled with spilled milk, pick ups, drop offs, missing shoes, burned dinner, too much homework, messy bedrooms and backseat brawls. 

And I hope, more than anything else in the whole wide world, you're also thinking how damn lucky you are do have to do it all over again tomorrow.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Son of a Biscuit

035 I fell down the stairs last night while giving Ian a piggy back ride.

I slipped and fell backwards and Ian hit the edge of one of the stairs with the middle of his back.

But enough about him.

In an attempt to spare him having all **5 pounds of mommy landing on top of him, I used my right foot and ankle as landing gear and as soon as I did it I knew I was screwed.

The pain knocked the wind out of me, but I was coherent enough to witness that:

1. Out of the half a dozen or so eyewitnesses that were present, only 2 sprang into action while the rest tried to ascertain the seriousness of the situation from the comfort of the dining table.

2. I’m talking about YOU, Dad.

3. Ian was the first to be triaged, and I’m assuming it’s because he was crying louder than me.  I’m going to have to work on that.

4. No one offered to carry me down the stairs to my bedroom.  I’m going to go out on a limb here (ha!) and say it was because they wanted to spare me the humiliation and not because they were concerned with the laws of gravity.

I managed to make it downstairs by scooting on my butt, breathless the entire way.  I have a pretty high threshold when it comes to aches and pains, but this was a doozy.  I knew immediately after it happened that my foot wasn’t broken, but I also knew that a bedpan was not necessarily out of the question.  When I mentioned this to my husband he looked slightly nauseous and appeared a bit faint, but I think he was just super worried about me.

I endured the Oscars (not sure what was more painful, to be honest) and went to bed hopped up on extra strength Tylenol.  It was a sleepless night but not the kind that you brag about to your friends.  The morning brought more pain and I struggled with:

1. Watching Mikey NOT do things my way as he got the kids ready for school and packed their lunches.

2. Watching Mikey NOT listen to me as I micromanaged from the couch.

3. Watching Mikey walk away when he had had enough of my unsolicited advice, knowing full well that I couldn’t run after him.

4. Determining the distance between Mikey and my left crutch.

It wasn’t until everyone had left and I was stuck watching The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the remote clear across the room on the other couch, that the severity of my situation began to sink in. Luckily I was able to get an early afternoon appointment to see a local Orthopedic Surgeon.  My best friend drove me and my husband met me there.  The concerned look on his face filled me with warmth and love. “Seriously?  You steal my brand new socks everyday and then you wear your most hideous pair to the doctor’s office?”

Charming, isn’t he?

At this point the pain was getting worse and worse, and in the intensity of the moment I began to say things that made no sense:

“I’m so sorry I was so unpleasant this morning; it’s not your fault you don’t know the kids’ morning routine by heart. It’s my fault for assuming you should know what to do instead of realizing that you are at the office and not aware of our schedule.”

Obviously I was delirious at this point.

After taking some x-rays and moving my foot around until I yelped in pain, the doctor confirmed my worst fears:

I’m a moron who needs to watch where the hell I’m going, or at least let my son soften the fall next time. 

Also, I sprained my ankle.

Let the pity party  (and gift-giving) commence.

Friday, February 25, 2011

No Wonder Grown-ups Are So Grumpy

JGS_CrayonDrawing So I’ve got this new gig as a freelance columnist with OC Moms for the Orange County Register.

I’m not sure, but I might have mentioned it.  Once or twice.

I’m also doing some behind-the-scenes stuff for them, such as editing blog posts, scheduling content, and marveling at the fact that I have access to news stories before you do. 

But mainly I spend most of my day convincing myself that rearranging the content so that my articles are in the Breaking News category and displayed on the front page, all day, every day, might not be such a great idea and could create some discourse.

I’ve been successful so far, but I can’t make any promises.

This new gig has definitely lifted my spirits though, since I’ve been down in the dumps about leaving my teaching job, which I loved, when we found out about Andrew’s CF diagnosis last fall.  Writing the column has been a dream come true, and I’m thrilled to be part of such an awesome network of writers and contributors.

Last week I had to go into the office for some additional training, and spent the better part of Wednesday morning at the Orange County Register headquarters, a large, looming, pink(!?) building that I’ve driven by countless times as a perplexed Orange County resident.

I was promised a tour of the newsroom, and was fascinated by what I saw:

Grown-ups.  (Everywhere).

Hot beverages and sharp scissors in precarious places.

Unsupervised candy

And by what I didn’t see:


Glitter.  (Not one little speck)

Lincoln logs

I learned (rather unpleasantly, I might add) that not everyone appreciates a good solid nose wipe (not to brag, but I can spot a rogue boogie from a mile away and can nab that sucker in 2 seconds flat, left-handed, using a one-ply tissue), and that certain people really take offense when you remind them to tuck in their shirts and tie their shoes.

I also had a difficult time finding the potty, and no wonder, since the door isn’t painted lollipop purple and instead of a picture of a cartoon toilet, has the word Restroom written across the top. How confusing is that?

The other thing that struck me as odd was that when it was time for snack and lunch, everyone ate at their desks. In front of their computers.  And kept working.  No recess. No monkey bars. No freeze tag.

No wonder grown-ups are so grumpy.

I got the distinct impression that, even though every bone in my body knew it was the right thing to do, a game of twister and a finger painting session would be out of the question.

But I’m definitely going to suggest pajama day the next time I go back. And maybe some glitter.

Because even grumpy grown-ups need a sparkly Pajama Day once in a little while.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kismet or Coincidence? Neither, actually.

So our Valentine's Day was pretty mellow this year.  And by mellow I mean that Mikey went to work and I spent the day covering five hundred strawberries in chocolates, tying ribbons on last-minute teacher gifts, dropping children off, running to the store for steak, setting the table for dinner, attending back-to-back classroom parties, eating back-to-back cupcakes, and spending the rest of the afternoon nursing what some may refer to as a diabetic coma.

We had a nice family meal and adopted my mom (dad is in Singapore on business), my sister (single, and looking!), and my grandmother (single since 1943, and looking.......for her dentures!) as our Valentine Orphans (catchy title, huh?  May even trademark that).  We all exchanged little goodies and cards, and had a magnificent time. At least I think we did.  I was still in that diabetic coma.

When my husband and I opened up the cards we got for one another (yes, we do get roped into this Hallmark holiday, so suck it), we were pleasantly surprised when we realized we had gotten the exact same ones!
 "I'm Blessed to Have you for a Husband/Wife" 
"Even when it seems the days just get more hectic and theres always some new worry or stress....blah blah blah blah."

My husband declared it one more sign that we were soulmates, and we high-fived across the table, glowing with love and excitement.

The truth is, I didn't have the heart to tell him that this card was the one I had settled for, when the one that I was actually looking for, the one I really really wanted to get for him because it summed up perfectly what I felt for him, the one I spent days hunting for, wasn't anywhere to be found:

To My Husband:

When you leave your shoes, scattered all over the floor, because the shoe closet is a whole ten freakin feet away
it makes me want to scratch my eyes out

When you give the boys a haircut and then leave the little hairs stuck in the sink, on the toilet, on the floor, and in the soap dish
it makes me want to stick my hand in the blender.  On high.

If you ever want me to put out again, wash a #$%!!! dish once in a @#$!! while.

Happy Valentine's Day!

*Thank you honey, for being such a good sport.  You are an amazing husband and father, but that's just not that funny, you know?*

Friday, February 11, 2011

PSA: Ladies, Don't Put Those Panties On Please!

Photo courtesy
Gross teenagers and desperate husbands not included.
I was at Victoria's Secret with my sister this morning and the place was pumpin', filled with doting boyfriends and horny hopeful husbands picking out that perfect little ensemble to present to their significant other.  There's nothing like the promise of cleavage romance that motivates a man to plunk down $150 on something he's probably going to rip to shreds with his teeth anyway (and I'm just talking about the obligatory steak dinner).   Bras, panties, lace lingerie; it was all there for the picking. 

And the probing. 

And the groping.
And the.........ew.

First it was the group of adolescent boys, deep in the throes of puberty, huddled over by the flourescent piles of g-strings, their grubby little hands and teenage hormones raging all over the merchandise, their mouths wide open, the drool landing in places you just don't want drool to land.

Then it was the old man standing in front of the lingerie display, his wrinkled and cigarette stained hands man-handling the backless pink apron number, and for some reason I got the impression that that little exchange was about as much action as gramps was gonna see. Ever.

I stood back and took a good hard look around; the place was pumpin' alright, with testasterone-drenched men of every shape, color, and size, sweating, fantasizing, and panting all over your panties.

That's right.  Kind of gives new meaning to Victoria's "Secret," doesn't it?

So when your kind, thoughtful, loving man gives you that coveted pink and red striped box this Valentine's Day, I urge you to

smile gratefully

accept it carefully (wearing latex gloves, of course)

place it on the nearest flat surface

and then set that box o'nasty on fire before the cooties have a chance to escape and infiltrate your personal space.

*This message was lovingly brought to you by a fellow woman who is gravely, if not a bit irrationally, concerned about your lady parts*

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Discussion Over Dinner

"Hi honey.  How was your day?"

"Oh man.  It was brutal."

"Really?  I'm so sorry to hear that.  Tell me all about it."

"Well, it started off okay, until I was notified that someone was trying to take over part of my account."

"Oh no!"

"Yeah.  The guy tried to recruit some of my guys and was trying to buy them for loads of money. It was so stressful, I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to reconcile my account and resolve this mess!"

"What did you do?"

"I spent the money to get them back.  It was an expensive move, but well worth it.  Except he came after me again!  Dude. This guy was trying to wipe me out! I ended up talking to someone about it and they contacted the Admin for my group; he got back to me pretty quickly and we went over the details of what had been going down.  He told me that what the guy was doing was illegal and made him apologize; basically banned him from having anymore contact with me. " 

"Wow!  Good for you honey!  Sounds like you were able to resolve things!"

"It was so intense babe.  I kept getting updates the rest of the day from other people who had experienced similiar issues with guys like this and they gave me some pretty great ideas on how to better protect my allies and my Kingdom in the future.

"Well, that's terrific.  Ha! You just said Kingdom on accident.  You must be working too hard."

"No, I meant to say it.  Why, what did you think I was talking about?"

"Um, work?"

"Work?  No. Work was fine."

"Well then what the hell have you been talking about this entire time?"

"My game. On my iphone. You know, Kingdoms at War."

I can't wait for date night.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not Guilty


Recently I had the opportunity to accompany a friend to a warm and fuzzy little place called the Santa Ana Courthouse.  She needed to straighten out a traffic violation and always hungry for blog material being the good friend that I am, I offered to come along for moral support.

Upon entering the facilities, which are, um, spacious and decorated in what I would refer to as DMV Chic, I began removing any metal I was wearing and noticed a bunch of folks taking off their belts.  Wanting to warm up the crowd a bit, I jumped in with “I hope everyone wore pants that fit today!” and waited for the round of chuckles my cheesy jokes usually garner.


The officers were not amused and, judging by the signs they flashed, neither were our local gangbangers (who, by the way, did not wear pants that fit, thankyouverymuch).

Just as I was about to retrieve my duffle bag purse from the conveyor belt, one of the policemen guarding the x-ray machine stopped me and pulled me aside. 

“Ma’am?  What is your business today at the court?”

“I’m here to support this woman, who was pulled over by one of your fine-weathered friends for driving like a jackass.”

My girlfriend shot me a dirty look; I shot one back at her that said “he’s got a gun and a very official looking moustache, so shut it.”

“Ma’am, I cannot allow you to proceed past this point until you give me permission to throw this away.”

And that’s when he pulled out, and held up for all of the criminals of Orange County to see, a four-pronged, silver-handled, dinner fork.

Yep.  I had a dinner fork in my purse.

Someone snickered.

I felt equal parts mortified and…….nope……mortified just about sums it up.

I told him he could toss it and tried not to let him see the pained expression on my face.  It was a good fork.

Once we got passed the check-in, we headed towards the courtroom designated on my friend’s paperwork and it was harder than you might think to distinguish the lawyers from the defendants; you can take the crackhead out of wherever a crackhead would hang out and put him in a cheap, oversized suit with a matching polyester tie and pleather shoes, and he’ll look just like the lawyers.  Luckily the handcuffs help; also, lawyers tend to have less facial piercings and usually don’t sport forehead tattoos, but really, that’s where the differences end.

Mostly though, I was surprised to find that the court has such a family-friendly atmosphere!  There were children everywhere: climbing the benches, eating Cheetos off the floor, coughing NOT into the inside of their elbows.  I was especially moved by a family who stood behind us in line; the father was dressed to the nines in a t-shirt that must have been a gift when he renewed his Hustler subscription, the silhouette of a woman in a compromising position splayed across his back.  His wife/girlfriend/baby mama/call-girl was equally classy in her cleavage baring top and low rise jeans, her penciled in eyebrows positioned in an arch that clearly said “Gurl, you best not be staring at my penciled in eyebrows,” her ruby red platforms the perfect contrast for her black ankle monitor.  Their daughter was adorable and the way she pronouced the word $@#% with a little lisp just melted my heart.

Suffice it to say, I was a tad disappointed when it was my girlfriend’s turn to go before the judge and she got her ticket thrown out without my help; I didn’t even get to shout “You can’t handle the truth!”

With any luck, someone close to me will break the law soon because I can’t wait to go back.

Someone over there owes me a fork.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pieces of Me

I love relatives.

In fact, a very thoughtful one recently gave us a unique gift for Christmas.  She had one of our family photos turned into a jigsaw puzzle.  I know!  How..........special is that?!

I've been avoiding it like the plague saving it for a special occassion and guess what?  Last night Ian managed to find it under my car tire.  Thank goodness because I have been searching everywhere for that thing and was ready to call it a day and admit defeat.  But in swooped my nosy and relentless little troublemaker  determined seven year old, and luckily the puzzle was still intact and not damaged.  At all.  Not even a little bit.  Imagine that. 

I was thrilled, to say the least. 

So when Ian asked me to build it with him last night, I promised him I would, just as soon as I finished up some very important chores, such as
scrubbing the bathroom grout
retiling the roof
tilling the soil
and making and jarring fresh fruit preserves (it's never too late to start a new time-consuming hobby!)

but damn if I don't posess a fantastic work ethic and was done with plenty of time to spare.

So we started the puzzle by laying the pieces out on Ian's bed and sorting them by color.  I was in a patterned  dress in the photo, so spotting the puzzle pieces that were just me was easy enough, and I began to make a pile. 


After a few minutes I looked over to see how Ian's pile was coming along and noticed that he was done.

Everyone else

So it seems that out of a 500 piece puzzle, I consist of 457 pieces.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Case You Haven't Heard (insert eye roll here)

So Sunday was one of those days where for 24 hours the universe shrunk a little bit and revolved around Me (okay, so not really that much different than Monday-Saturday, but bear with me a moment). .

I recently became a columnist for OC Moms (as well as their Special Needs Ambassador) in collaboration with The Orange County Register, and my first article was published this past Sunday.

I woke up bright and early (or maybe I just never fell asleep?) and approached my laptop like a child on Christmas morning who can barely make out the faint outline of the bicycle he begged for and didn't think he'd get but HEY!! Look! there it is all shiny and new!

I found my article online and stared at the image staring back at me (mainly my tiny head and byline) like a mother who gazes upon her newborn for the first time, and though it sounds all kinds of warm and fuzzy, I'm pretty sure I looked creepy, especially with the pool of drool that was quickly gathering next to the keyboard.

And that is how my husband found me when he FINALLY woke up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m (hello selfish! who can sleep in at a time like this????!!)

So naturally I spent the entire day glued to my computer and iphone, keeping tabs on the number of Facebook shares I was getting and making sure I knew what I was going to say when someonesuperimportantandfamous called me to offer me millions of dollars to write for a living.

The phone call never came (I'm sure it's a slight oversight and will be remedied quickly and accordingly), but the euphoric feeling that something I wrote was out there in cyberspace being read by way more people than this little 'ol blog lasted all day long, and really came to a head when, right before bed, I discovered that my article was also picked up here.

Um.  Hello Jazz Hands!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to share the news (again) and then I'll shut up (don't count on it) and I promise to blog more because I realize that it's been an entire week since I've posted something about.....myself.  Why you stick around, I don't know, but a big THANK YOU to everyone who has believed in my dream of writing.  Especially my uber handsome husband, my mom, my dad, my sister, my best friend, my mother-in-law....

And if that sounds a little like an acceptance speech, you're damn right it is.  Because next up is an Oscar, or a Peabody, or whatever the hell kind of award they give to a small town* writer with big ass dreams.

*Orange County, California is technically bigger than a small town.  In fact, I think it has like a few million people in it.  But it sounded better that way, and as a columnist, I find it necessary to take creative license in order to prove my point.  I don't expect you to understand.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lumberjacks are people too

In an effort to keep from rolling myself into the fetal position and giving in to the voices inside my head, I've convinced an innocent woman new therapist to take me on as a patient.  I found her through my network provider website, and picked her out of dozens of names because of her close proximity to my house and the fact that she specializes in crackheads life-challenged people like myself.  The good news is, when I called my insurance company and they looked up my modest list of diagnoses, I found out I qualify for something called "severe, lifelong, debilitating, she'll probably end up in a padded room someday mental illness status," which means I get unlimited, year-round access to a shrink! 

It's been years since I had this kind of therapy, my parents having spent the majority of my teens busing me between licensed professionals who promised them they were fully capable of excorsising the demons that had turned me into an unbearable heap of hormones.  I resented them for forcing me to talk to these strangers about my innermost thoughts, strangers who, quite honestly, came across as needing some kind of mental interventions themselves. So I've avoided therapy like the plague.  Plus, it's not like anybody ever freaked out over a little ocd, panic, alcoholism, depression, and agoraphobia, right?

But in light of the recent craptastic events which have occured around here, including Andrew's health problems, quitting a job I loved, and not winning the lottery for like the 100th time in a row, I decided it was time to give therapy another try. And so far, I have to say, it's going pretty well.  We seem to get along, my therapist and I, except when she tries to give me unsolicited advice. I get plenty of that from my mother; I don't need to go out and pay for it, know what I mean?

Oh, that and the other day she told me a story about a man who was chopping wood and gathering water when he suddenly became enlightened.  Despite this, however, he continued on with chopping wood and gathering water.  So far I've gathered that:

1.  This man was a moron.  He should have become enlightened while he was napping or getting a massage
2.  She wants me to go out and buy an axe
3.  I'm going to need to relocate near a river of some sort.

And even though I don't really know how becoming a lumberjack will solve my fear of malls and dangerous situations, such as going to a Denny's outside of my immediate neighborhood, I trust this woman to help me get over my phobias and learn to live again.

Unless she starts mouthing off and giving me her opinions.
Then all bets are off.

Because nobody likes a know-it-all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shrieks are Louder than Words

They make it work somehow.

They speak their own language.

Or in this case, they "shriek" it.

And it doesn't matter whether or not anyone else "gets" it.

It just matters that they do.

To say that I love these two more than any human should be capable of loving someone else is the greatest understatement in the known universe..

Shrieks are Louder than Words from Jo Ashline on Vimeo.

Oh.  and if you're wondering why they're just standing there, buck naked, freezing their keisters off, it's because we were waiting for the tub to drain. 

So that I could clean out the poop. 


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Best Friend's Bathtub is Dirtier than I Thought.

You can learn a lot about people by visiting them in their homes.   Color schemes, knick knacks, window treatments, florals vs. solids; these important details can often provide a tiny glimpse into the hearts and minds of the residents, illustrating their passions, hobbies, and personal habits.

A spotless kitchen, for instance, with nary a gadget in sight and a fridge covered in take out menus, may be indicative of a homeowner who prefers delivery to dishes.

A worn lazy-boy located front and center in a living room which boasts a television set larger than the square footage of most three car garages could be a sign that someone spends their days (and nights) glued to quality programming such as ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN IX and ESPN For the Divorced Dumbass Who Chose ESPN over His Wife.

And some of the most intimate details of a person's life, of course, can often be found in their bathroom.  Electric toothbrushes, air fresheners, anti-wrinkle cream, one-ply toilet paper; the bathroom is a breeding ground for personal information (raise your hand if you're a liar and have never opened someone else's medicine cabinet) and can offer true insider information on the people in your life.

So imagine my horror when I went to use the bathroom at my best friend's house, someone I thought I knew well, and my sense of sight was assaulted by um, this in her bathtub:

Now, I don't know what's worse:  thinking that her five year old daughter had something to do with this (in which case, may I suggest a medically induced coma until she's 21), or that my best friend's soriority days at a prestigous university were back to rear their ugly head (in which case, may I suggest less wine with breakfast).

The truth folks, is that there are no winners here.

Except of course, Ken.