Archive: May, 2017

I met Diana 10 years ago

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

I know I write about this almost every year, but May 31, 2007 is the day that I met Diana. I have "firstdateaversary" set as an annual recurring event on my calendar, because in many ways, this is a date more important than our wedding anniversary. On the wedding day we made a commitment, but aside from making it legal, nothing really changed from one day to the next. As things have happened so quickly in our lives together, I think of the first date as the most important.

That was a crazy couple of weeks. I had just returned from visiting Kara in the Twin Cities, where she started work at Valleyfair. That next weekend I was going to Hersheypark for an event we did there, with Catherine, who was by then my ex-girlfriend, but traveling partner, and we went to Orlando shortly after that. The day I met Diana, I had been at Cedar Point at 5 a.m. for Maverick's media day, though I had already been on it a few days before that. I was busy all of the time.

Diana and I had connected on a dating site months before, but she spent time in Florida caring for her mom in the last few months of her life. Then my goofy schedule, and one cancellation from her due to allergies, put our first meeting off even further. When the day finally came, with drinks at a little dump called the Ice House near her work, we talked for a few hours while the Cavs played on TV's. We exchanged stories of working in radio and theater. She was a big nerd about some things, and I thought that was cool.

We had dates about a week apart after that, and it wasn't entirely clear where it was going, but it was going slow. There was no romantic first kiss, just an agreed desire to get it over with, and so that happened in the hot tub. After a few weeks, we realized that we both thought the other wanted a lot of tongue when making out, which was incorrect. We took our time, which is to say that it took at least two months before we were one of those gross couples that are always touchy-feely.

Diana moved in with me at the end of the year, and we got engaged in just under a year, married in less than two. Pregnant in a little over two, moved 3,000 miles in two and a half. Baby before 3, more moving, etc. Life has been a constant adventure, and while we've had difficult times, the difficulty has rarely been about our relationship.

The first decade went so fast, but I'm sure we have many more to go. Sometimes I'm frustrated we didn't meet a decade sooner, but we've definitely made up for lost time. Having a great copilot to rely on is a great feeling, and it sure makes parenting easier. I'm always amazed at the way she adapts and changes, and continues to be the strong human that backs me up.

So here's to our first ten years together, Red Delicious! We should totally do something cool this weekend.

Your fear of terrorism is irrational

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 12:00 PM | comments: 0

The attack last week on a pop concert in the UK was upsetting to say the least. If you live in Orlando, you haven't forgotten about the Pulse shootings, either. Whether or not that was a terrorist attack of a home-grown crime doesn't matter. It's a scary, sad, anger-inducing thing.

Terrorism is a last resort disruption that acts in a way that a full nation can't. A terrorist organization can't destroy another nation with its air force and navy, or a well organized force of a hundred thousand people. If it's an organization at all, it doesn't exist as a member of any world order. Because it doesn't have that power, and make no mistake, it's about power and not religion, it has to improvise and look for other ways to affect the world. The actual damage it does is usually symbolic and rarely devastating relative to other things we can't control (especially natural disasters). The symbolic damage is really good at creating fear.

Fear is a powerful motivator, and it influences our decisions. We don't try to cross an 8-lane freeway on foot, because fear makes the powerful suggestion that we might not survive. It's a useful mechanism in that case. On the other hand, sometimes fear just gets in the way. When we're teenagers, we're afraid to talk to people we want to see naked because, well, just because. Nothing bad can actually happen beyond being disregarded by the people we desire, but this generally does not result in a fatality.

John Q. Terrorist can't outright destroy a functioning nation by way of brute force. He doesn't have the resources. But if he's patient, he can set things in motion to have it destroy itself. Because fear is such a powerful motivator, it can cause people to have strong feelings of distrust... toward each other, toward the government, to people not like us. The United States already has this seed in place, because despite 200 years of slow progress, we're still not over racism. As a society, we've managed to marginalize this to an extent, but not enough to avoid electing an authoritarian who takes advice from a white nationalist. It started before that, even, when through two presidents, of different parties, we allowed our freedoms to be eroded through domestic surveillance programs. I thought the Brits were more evolved than us, but they too think they can go it alone, by leaving the EU.

The terrorists don't win by killing people, they win by getting us to tear ourselves apart.

Let me frame it a little differently, though. If you're an American, your odds of being killed by a refugee terrorist in the US is 1 in 46 million. The odds of being killed by an illegal immigrant terrorist are 1 in 138 million. Now, because I'm going for perspective, know that the odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 113. Think about that. If 9/11 happened once a month, getting in your car is still exponentially more dangerous. Are you scared of getting in your car?

Your fear of terrorism is irrational.

When you change your behavior, engage in fear of people who look different, elect people with a nationalist or isolationist agenda, you are giving the bad guys exactly what they want. I'm not suggesting that we become flippant about the real problem of terrorism, but the reality is that most of us are not affected by it, and likely won't be. Don't give the bad guys what they want.

US healthcare is not for everyone

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 28, 2017, 10:43 AM | comments: 0

With Diana's recent bout of migraines lasting four weeks, I once again appreciate how screwed up healthcare is. The first problem is that healthcare can, for the most part, only be had because of insurance, and insurance is largely dependent on having a job that provides it and hopefully subsidizes it to some extent. In a perfect world, where everyone had a job and these circumstances, that would be great, right? Of course, we don't live in a perfect world, and furthermore, kids don't get to choose their parents or their circumstances. Make no mistake, had my kid been born to parents scraping by financially, he wouldn't have had all of the therapy that has allowed him to compensate for ASD and his developmental challenges.

Back to my wife's situation, she's had a number of visits to a neurologist with $50 co-pays each time. Her MRI had a co-pay of $200. Seeing her general practitioner had a $35 co-pay, and the emergency room he sent her to had a $300 co-pay. Now we're going a second time, for another $300 (IV infusions just aren't available here anywhere but in a hospital). This isn't a cut on our insurance plan, because it doesn't really matter who is writing the policy. While inconvenient, this isn't a financial issue for us. But now imagine that I was a worker in the local tourist service economy, making $10 per hour. We would be closing in on a grand to treat this one problem, which is a month's worth of take-home pay for a service economy worker. That person would have to choose between financial hardship, maybe bankruptcy, or not getting the care at all.

Why are we OK with this?

The cold hard facts are that we pay more in this country per capita for healthcare than any other nation (it's not even close), but rank 31st in life expectancy. If life expectancy is a proxy for the quality of care, then we are absolutely doing it wrong. We pay twice as much as the UK, which funds a public system and ranks 21st. America likes to be number one in stuff, but why in healthcare costs?

As much as I think a single-payer system seems like a good idea, right or wrong, my greater frustration is that we won't even have the conversation in the United States. All of the alternatives are off the table, without any regard to their merits, because sticking with the big pile of expensive suck we currently endure is better. That's completely insane.

If you want to wave a flag and chant "USA!" then you really need to accept that this system sucks. That means considering alternatives and having the conversations. Stop aligning with your favorite party, because this isn't a sports rivalry. Cast aside the ideological bullshit and demand something better from your elected officials.

I'm handling stress

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 10:40 PM | comments: 0

I have historically been terrible at dealing with stress. When the going would get tough, I would predictably fall into certain patterns. I would kind of withdraw from the world, not be excited about anything, bottle it up, sleep poorly, and the worst part, have repeating bouts of IBS. These last few weeks, my stress level has been pretty high. Diana's condition, and the lack of medical progress, was difficult for me to see. Simon asking if Mom was going to die, while still experiencing anxiety about many things, including second grade (yeah, months in advance), has kept me on a short fuse. Work has been busy, but I don't know that it has been any more stressful than usual. I typically enjoy the responsibility I have, though in the context of the rest of life, maybe it too has been wearing on me.

Things were different this time. I knew I was stressed, but I seemed to process it differently. The starting point is probably that I've been in a solid routine of daily movement. While I definitely want to drop some weight, I'm mostly trying to offset all of the sitting time that comes with my line of work, and make it a permanent part of life. I haven't shut down and become anti-social, and I vent about the stress to friends. Somehow I've managed to sleep pretty well, too. The IBS hasn't hit, probably because of the activity and the general avoidance of fried food.

The timing for our next vacation helps a lot, too. It's a little harder now to take vacation time, because I can't just yank my kid out of school because we feel like it. He actually has to be there now. I imagine we can still pull him out for a Friday three-night cruise now and then, but not often. It's so important to unplug on a regular basis, and I still forget to do it. There's no medal for ignoring your limits and burning out.

It seems as though effective stress management is something that grownups should just be able to do, but I know people way older than me who haven't figured it out. Life is challenging enough without having your brain in this weird chemical state that feels terrible. Figuring out how to process and purge stress seems like a good use of time. I'm a lot better at it than I was even five years ago. Perhaps being a parent has granted me more patience.

It seems like things catch fire every four years

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 8:37 PM | comments: 0

When I look back at my life, it seems like bad things happen every four years or so. They aren't necessarily bad things happening to me directly, but some category of stuff that really blows. The last few weeks were one of those things, where Diana started a migraine headache that wouldn't go away. Slowly, it was like she was disappearing into a pile of mush, and it was heartbreaking to watch. That's not a way to live. It was, perhaps indirectly, related to some other health scares, all generally not a big deal in the end, but we finally moved forward today by bailing on her neurologist and revisiting our GP, and he put her in the ER where she got a nice cocktail of drugs via IV to break the headache. It's not gone, but she's not rating her pain at 10 anymore. The hope is that she's better in a few days.

Four years ago, she had "the" health scare, right as we were moving from Cleveland to Orlando. That one turned out to be OK too, but the timing sure was rough. Four years before that, we were abandoning Cleveland, pregnant and failing to sell two houses. Four years before that, my first marriage fell apart. Four years before that, well, 2001 wasn't good for anyone, but it was my first introduction to surviving unemployment and a poor economy. Should I start worrying about 2021 now? Of course not, I don't buy into coincidental bullshit.

If this is our hiccup for the year, I can live with that. Diana is full of Benadryl and passed out now, getting her first real sleep in weeks. Simon is hopefully a little more at ease too, as his ASD tendencies don't leave a lot of room for the nuance between minor cold and certain death. Team Puzzoni soldiers on.

Review: Pandora, The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 15, 2017, 10:23 PM | comments: 0

Disney started doing passholder previews today, and we were able to secure a reasonably early time on a school night. A few things to keep in mind... This was a limited preview so the new area at Animal Kingdom was not busy. The line for the snack/beverage shack was the only significant line. The river ride was a walk-on, and the flight simulator ride was running in 15-minute blocks of passes handed out at the entrance to the land. It appeared that the new restaurant was fully operational, but we didn't go in. Also, this was before sunset, and we were out at 7:45 p.m., before it got dark. I suppose there are spoilers here, if you're worried about a ride being spoiled, so avert your eyes if you don't want to know what's in there.

I have never seen Avatar, the movie. I remember when it was released, people made a big deal about it, but between moving cross-country, starting a new job, looking after a pregnant wife and otherwise having a full plate, I didn't see it. When I finally bought a Blu-Ray player, it was offered as a free mail-in, but I forgot about it. So going into this new thing, my full understanding of Avatar is that people somehow projected themselves into blue cat people living on some amazing planet that was going to be strip-mined. Or something. Mostly, I heard the movie was really pretty.

Crossing the bridge to what used to be Camp Minnie-Mickey and the theater for Festival of The Lion King, a little bend and foliage hide the area for a big reveal. Or at least, it would be a big reveal if you couldn't see the back of it from the parking lot. The floating rocks are impressive, but not quite the gravity defying thing shown in the artist renderings. You definitely can trace the load-bearing elements, but it's still visually very cool. It's also very windy. I'm not sure if that's intentional, or just something that happens (it's like that walking under Spaceship Earth at Epcot most of the time).

From the central area under the rock island things, the Na'vi River Journey is off to the left, as well as a restroom, while Flight of Passage is to the right. They appear to be in the same building, which has an impressive series of queue paths that mix the alien plants with real plants and probably the most expensive rock work ever made. Even the hand rails have a custom finish and custom lights and such. Further to the right is the bigger counter service restaurant, a gift shop and a beverage stand.

You'll notice that cast members are happily shouting alien words at you, which is kind of weird, and maybe a little awkward. When someone at Epcot in the France pavilion says, "Bonjour!" to you, you get it, because it's a French person, and you have a frame of reference. The people in Pandora are just saying some made up stuff to you that isn't real anywhere else. It comes off as corny, and maybe it's worse because I didn't see the movie.

We started by boarding the Na'vi River Journey. Most of the queue is in the shade or under cover, but I imagine that even on a busy day it will move pretty quickly. The ride seems to have a lot of boats running very closely to each other, and it loads in pairs, four rows total at a time. Dwell time is very short. Drop in, sit down, and off you go.

If there's a story to this ride, I don't know what it is. The first turn has some small glowing things that look like... uh... let's say adult novelties hanging from the ceiling. Then you see a blue cat person that says something, and off you go into a jungle forest thing. Each scene uses some brilliant and convincing effects, and some of the 3D video projection is convincing enough that you have to look hard to even see that it's video. While there are some places here and there where you can see lights, they're probably the most hidden of any dark ride I've been on, so you need to look hard to be taken out of the moment.

I'm just not sure what the moment is. Every scene has some new bioluminescent plants or critters. I can tell that the "native" music gets louder and more layered as you go, and culminates in a blue cat person that is easily the most fluid animatronic character I've ever seen. I don't know what he's singing, or why, or where all of his buddies are, but he definitely seems to stare into your soul.

Then it's over. I mentioned that people described the movie as being "eye candy thin on plot." If that's what they were going for in the river ride, then mission accomplished. I did it twice, and while certainly magical and beautiful, I had no frame of reference and wasn't sure why I should be emotionally invested in it. This might be confirmation bias here: Since Pandora was announced, I wondered what the viability of this IP-made-themepark strategy was, because it's not like people have been talking about Avatar for the last seven years. It's not on T-shirts and lunch boxes or generally a part of the public consciousness.

Is this harsh? Maybe. Fortunately, it's not the only attraction in Pandora.

Flight of Passage is the simulator ride. More on that in a moment, but let's talk about the queue and pre-show. The stand-by queue is really long, and transitions from outdoors, to a cave with paintings, to an airlock sort of thing, to some interior bioluminescent environment, to a lab (which has a lot to look at), and finally the Avatar "interfacing facility" that let's you plug into a Smurf. This is explained in a poster in the Fastpass queue in three easy frames. It shows you sitting in the seat, "clearing your mind," then you psychically connect to your avatar (are these basically brainless blue-meat people for your use?), then you ride a Banshee. Got it, let's ride!

They were still feeling out loading and training, so with the scheduled times and no standby for the preview, it still took about a half-hour to get through the ride. I don't think they're running at full capacity, so I'm not passing judgment there. The first room piles in 16 people, though the first two seats were apparently broken. A screen on the wall blacked out the #1 and #2 positions. What follows is a far too lengthy explanation about matching your DNA to an avatar (again, are these soulless, brainless meat-people?), and they blow some parasites off of you and suck your DNA into the walls or something. In the next room, they explain the ride system to you, which has seats and restraints similar to a Zamperla Disk-O with the outward facing seats. There is also more story explanation about connecting to your meat-person, as told by Dr. So-and-so, which might be a woman posing as Sigourney Weaver. It probably doesn't matter.

Once we were seated, we ended up being there for awhile because of a disability load. I'm OK with that, but since my 7-year-old was a little anxious, I was worried he'd freak out. There's a little screen on the front of the seat to create some distractions. The 3D glasses are the best made of any ride, and are the best of any 3D movie or ride I've ever seen. The room goes dark, there are some flashes and the shield in front of you opens to reveal a gigantic screen. What follows is a flight simulation that moves you up and down, and each seat pitches and rolls individually. Along with wind and water effects, it's the most convincing flying sensation of any simulator I've ever seen. It raises the game. The world of the blue people is visually interesting, and has some "gee whiz" moments, even for someone who doesn't know the film. It's a bit more aggressive than, say, Soarin', or even Star Tours, but the movement is more precise because of the nimble, individual seat. It also has nice touches, like the ability to feel the Banshee "breathing" between your legs.

I'm torn. I was completely underwhelmed with the river ride, but really impressed with the flight ride. Again, the problem here is that I'm not in any way invested in the IP. There are other examples in town where this matters. For example, I don't care about The Mummy, but it's a damn fine roller coaster anyway. To me, that's why the thrilling flight simulator here works, but the boat ride is frankly not more interesting than Pirates of The Caribbean. At least I can relate to pirates.

We'll be back, but probably only to see it at night, which I imagine is spectacular. If Disney wanted people to have more to do, they've succeeded. I'm just not sure that the emotional connection that people have with it will be very strong.

Hey! We found a Smurf Thundercat taking a bath!

TNAF is still awesome

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 14, 2017, 9:41 PM | comments: 0

I almost forgot to mention that I saw The Naked And Famous the week before last at some goofy amphitheater I didn't previously know about here in Orlando. They opened for Blink 182.

They only did about 10 songs, which was a bummer, and of those only one was from In Rolling Waves, my favorite of their three albums. They've been playing more songs at some of the festivals and such, and I hoped beyond hope they'd play more. Alas, I was just happy to see them. It was almost three years ago that I saw them play The Beacham here in Orlando, and that was a fantastic show. I'm still struck by how live they are relative to their recordings, and they sing well, too. I'd love to see them take another swing through the area as headliners.

I'm not a Blink hater, but I wasn't all that interested in seeing them. I guess I just thought of them as a Green Day knock off, meant to capitalize on the pop-punk thing in the late 90's. But while Green Day eventually started doing Broadway musicals, Blink perfected an enduring appeal to everyone from frat boys to teenage emo girls with plugs in their earlobes. That's an impressive way to roll for two decades. It seems a little silly for 40-somethings to be singing teenage anthems, but hey, good on them. I'd be lying if I said I didn't know any of their songs, because I pretty much knew them all. They're definitely entertaining live.

It's weird how these days I'm more about going to see a Broadway level musical than a rock show, but what I'd give to see someone like TNAF in that environment. I'm definitely closing in on midlife.

Simon's America

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 14, 2017, 3:50 PM | comments: 0

Politics in the last year have been a real downer, for sure. It has felt like there has been a renewed desire to hate and discriminate against groups of people, on the usual basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender and sexuality. I was so sure that we were slowly moving beyond that.

Being a dad definitely causes me to be more engaged in the desire to be outspoken against this irrational hate, because I don't want my kid growing up into a world that makes it OK. What surprises me is that, already, at the tender age of 7, I can see that Simon's America is not reflective of the one that I see on TV and social media. It looks more like the one that I've lived in, especially in my profession, which I perceive to be far more diverse than average.

When I look back at the parent group we were a part of during his first two years, I see parents from many professions, either from or one generation removed from immigrants from all over the world. Now that we live in Florida, we go to birthday parties and see that many of his friends speak Spanish. His friends have included Jews, Hindus and Muslims. The parents come from everywhere from Macedonia to Brazil to India to New Jersey. The families range from single parent by choice to same-sex couples.

Simon's America is how America looks, and that diversity can't be stopped. Even though we're experiencing a bump in the road, and we are obligated to be vocally opposed to the hating, this is our future. It's real life today for my kid, and I see it in my personal and professional life. This America isn't something to be scared of, and I would argue that it's something to be celebrated. Our future is only going to get more challenging as we rely more on machines to do things, and divisiveness toward people not like you won't change that. Baseless fear of other nations with which we necessarily participate in a global economy won't help either. We have to break the cycle of fear and start working together again to create things.

Simon's America is pretty great. Hopefully you'll want to come along for the ride.

Selective memories

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 14, 2017, 3:09 PM | comments: 0

One of our cats gets nervous about, well, everything, but he especially freaks out when I pick him up. In fact, he seems to kind of gloss over and pretend he's somewhere else, in a way that's kind of disturbing. It's as if his brain has a self defense mechanism to block out the unpleasantness of the situation.

I think that memories might be like that, too. I frequently mention how I miss Seattle, along with the mountains and perfect summers and what not, but my friends there have not been shy about just how brutally crappy the weather has been this last winter. I only spent two winters there, but they seemed decent enough to me. The rain in November and December was a drag, but it seemed like there was always a break in the clouds either at work (Redmond) or at home (Snoqualmie) on any given day. Maybe because of the change in elevation? I dunno, it just seemed tolerable. Maybe the mountain views skewed my perception.

An alternate theory is that maybe I just have selective memories. The two years spent there were very intense, mostly because of having a child, but also because of the moving and marriage and new job and such. I may have been too tired to remember everything, or my brain just skips the parts I didn't like and goes right for the sunny mountain moments. And cheese. If that weren't enough, I've had additional memories to help paint over any potential unpleasantness, including a visit where we got to see a Garbage show, and last summer as our bookends to the Alaska cruise. It was just completely perfect.

For my Seattle friends, don't worry, July 4th is right around the corner, and therefore summer is only weeks away!

Like you're running out of time

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 11, 2017, 10:38 PM | comments: 0

Because everything comes back to Hamilton, there's a theme in the show about its namesake and, "Why do you write like you're running out of time?" While a useful foreshadowing device (spoiler alert: Aaron Burr shoots him), it's a testament to his extraordinary drive that made him such a key figure in the founding of our country. We're all running out of time, technically, so a little urgency to do "stuff" is probably healthy to an extent.

I feel this urgency all of the time, but I think I have different opinions about what "stuff" is important and should be prioritized. I've known a lot of type-A people who see little other than work, but for little reason other than it's what they think they're supposed to do. In fact, I find it valuable to spend time daydreaming and contemplating such things.

The thing that I often come back to, as a guiding principle, if you will, is that the things that are an act of creation are worth emphasis, and taking what little time we have. I'm pretty liberal about what that means. The aforementioned daydreaming is, for me, something that results in a lot of creation. It's the origin of so many things I've created, for fun and for work. Parenting is an act of creation, as the first teacher for your kid. I can't even work in a job that doesn't involve creating something. Some time ago, I realized that the scope of what I create was less important for my own happiness as long as I was happy creating.

Monochromatic decorating

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 9:48 PM | comments: 0

I was going to write about politics, but honestly, I think I'm too exhausted to do it, and I don't know that it's constructive. So let's talk about decorating!

We go through little streaks where we watch a lot of HGTV. I'm not sure why, but it feels satisfying when some young couple comes up with the strangest "requirements" for a house or a renovation, and they live in a market where a house costs nearly a minimum of a million dollars. It's such a different world compared to the Cleveland market, or even here in the western reaches of Orange County, Florida. It's not so different, however, than Seattle. I love it out there, but man is housing expensive.

Anyway, the thing that is really striking is how trendy decorating can be. Right now, it seems like the new hotness is monochromatic decor. By that, I mean virtually everything is some shade of gray. The paint is gray, the flooring is some shade of gray, counters and cabinets are white, accents and furniture are white or black. I keep seeing this over and over again. It's not just on TV, either, because many of the home models around us are decorated the same way. Apparently, making your house look like the interior of a futuristic spaceship is the thing to do.

I'm not dissing this look, mind you. I actually really like it. My concern is just that it seems like something that would very quickly feel dated or overdone, the way that cherry wood and brown granite does now after 10 years or so. Mind you, the gold standard even four years ago was dark cabinets and a certain lighter speckled granite that was everywhere (guilty).

When it came time to pick stuff for Puzzoni McMansion v2.0, I was kind of dreading it. I like the monochromatic look, but accept that if we bail 15 years from now, we might have to replace it with whatever people like then. Plus, everything in that category was conveniently more expensive. As it turned out, we were able to combine a lot of choices to make something that covers a wide range of tastes, and is hopefully a little more unique. We're doing the base paint as a light gray, flooring that is a light brown with a somewhat gray tone, dark brown cabinets, white counters and in the kitchen, a marble backsplash that mixes white, grays and browns to tie it together.

The fun (and cheaper) part of decorating will involve adding color via window treatments and lighting. Although, we're strongly attracted to a concrete coffee table. We saw one in a model that was awesome. So, a little more gray before we get into color.

Sad kid gloves

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

This year's parenting stress has come in the form of pediatric psychiatry. I mentioned previously that Simon was diagnosed with ADHD after some issues in school where he couldn't stay on task. A low-dose amphetamine seems to have made a huge difference for him, according to his teacher, but it has potentially amplified or surfaced some new issues.

The first problem is that the therapist that should be offering the treatment to pair with the drug for ADHD said she couldn't work with him because he has crippling anxiety. We've seen this at school, too, in that if there's something he doesn't feel that he can do, he simply shuts down and avoids failure entirely. He had a mini-meltdown in art class because having to draw caused more anxiety than he could take. It's hard to say if the new found focus makes this worse or not, but either way, we feel very strongly that drugs should be paired with therapy, so we need to work through that.

The other problem, and the one that is emotionally difficult for all of us, is that Simon has taken to picking the skin from his fingers. Not just the cuticles, mind you, but the actual pads of his fingers too. The school called last week because the nurse is spending a lot of time putting bandaids on his fingers, and there's no end to it. If that weren't enough, when we ask him to stop, he immediately feels bad about, because he doesn't understand that it is, to some extent, and impulse that he can't control.

He was on Prozac for awhile to address the anxiety, but it didn't seem to be working, and certainly the compulsive finger picking should have been kept in check too. Now he's on something new, and we're hoping that's the ticket. It's absolutely heartbreaking that the kid is 7 and having to medicate like this (he also takes allergy meds). If there's a bright spot, it's that he seems to have developed a lot of coping mechanisms for the ASD behaviors, which is a serious achievement.

For now, sometimes we need to keep gloves on him when he's playing, which, again, makes him feel as though he's doing something wrong. It's a difficult time for this sweet little kid.