Apple Watch Series 3

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have undoubtedly noticed that smartwatches have become as ubiquitous as cell phones. Smartwatches can track fitness and steps, alert you to calls and texts, and monitor your heart rate. The Apple Series 3 smartwatch has dominated the market, and with good reason—it’s an excellent smartwatch. However, as it goes with technology, many competitors have come out with alternatives to the Apple Watch Series 3. How to decide which smartwatch is best for you? Let’s take a look.

What is Apple Watch Series 3?

The Apple Watch Series 3 is a nifty little device that does a lot of things well. You can use it to make purchases, so you never have to get your wallet out. It has voice assistance, via Siri. It can track your steps and your fitness—even swimming, as the Apple Watch Series 3 is water resistant. It must be tethered to your iPhone in order to work though—your phone has to be close by. That is, unless you get the cellular version which doesn’t need to be tethered. The cellular capability works on all major carriers, in the US at least.

Product Specs

Besides making purchases, the Apple Watch Series 3 can track your fitness. You can even add whatever sport or activity you’re into on it (although it only monitors your heart rate as a gauge for how hard you’re working). It has almost twice as much storage as other smartwatches—either 8GB or 16GB depending on which model you choose. This means if you go for a run outdoors, you can use the watch to play music—it’s stored right on the watch.


If you choose the non-cellular version, it can be purchased for around $279. The cellular version is a little more expensive, at $379. However, remember if you do choose the cellular option, you’ll need a data plan for it (currently about $10 a month). If you buy a leather watchband or a fancy Hermes watchband, it’ll be more. It’s available at any big box store, the Apple website, Sam’s Club, Macy’s, Target—almost anywhere.

How It Compares

We picked a few similar products on the market to see how they compare.

Amazfit Bip Smartwatch

Garmin Vivomove HR

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Smartwatch

Apple Watch Series 3                                                               

Price  $279 without cellular, $379 with cellular (+ data plan)                           3 stars

It is a little expensive however, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Ease Of Use                                                                                                           5 Stars

Set up on the Apple Watch Series 3 is very easy. You have the app on your iPhone, and from there you can add third party apps to the watch. You can also customize the watch faces. The Apple Watch Series 3 syncs to your iPhone seamlessly. If you already have an iPhone, setting up the watch is a breeze.

Performance                                                                                                          4 stars

The Apple Watch Series 3 is a very capable device. It tracks fitness, tells you the weather, you can use it to make purchases. That said, third party apps don’t always work. And if you store music on the watch, it only works with Apple music. You must have an iPhone to consider an Apple Watch Series 3.

The GPS, used for tracking runs or hikes, is reliable. If you’re a serious runner, the fact that the watch starts recording as soon as you tap the run icon might be annoying. It will start by using an accelerometer, but it’s still looking for the GPS signal. This is not as accurate as just waiting for a signal. However, most casual runners will be happy with the watch.

Another feature of the Apple Series 3 watch is the rings it uses to track fitness. Every day, you have a stand goal, and exercise goal and a move goal. Your stand goal is twelve times a day—if you haven’t hit it yet, the watch will remind you to stand up at ten minutes to the hour (if you find this annoying, you can turn it off).  Your exercise goal is thirty minutes a day and your move goal is 600—it tracks everything you do throughout the day.  You get a different color for each ring—blue for stand, green for exercise and red for move. If you’re close to, say, your move goal, the Apple Watch Series 3 will motivate you by telling you that a twenty-minute walk will close the ring.

Finally, if you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and your phone is dead, you can send a distress call with the Apple Watch Series 3.

Design Quality                                                                                                         5 stars

Apple went with the rectangular face and silicone strap. It’s attractive and the fact that you can customize it with different watch faces and bands makes it even more attractive.

Warranty                                                                                                                  3 stars

Apple Series 3 Watch included one year of hardware repair coverage and 90 days of support online or over the phone. It also offers “Apple Care+” for extended coverage not covered by the warranty (for a fee). Not everything is included (for example, if the glass shatters) and there is still a fee, even with the Apple Care+.

Pros of the Apple Watch Series 3

  • excellent fitness tracking
  • a visual representation of how far towards your stand, move and exercise goals you are
  • customizable bands and watch faces
  • Apple Pay
  • syncs easily to your iPhone
  • stores and plays music
  • heart rate monitoring
  • can download third party apps via your iPhone
  • SOS call in an emergency
  • water resistant (up to 50 meters) makes it suitable for swimming
  • Apple updates its software all the time, meaning possible new features
  • has a flashlight feature

Cons of the Apple Watch Series 3

  • battery life is abysmal
  • third party apps don’t always work
  • pricy
  • you must have an iPhone

Amazfit Bip Smartwatch

The Amazfit Bip Smartwatch by Huami is a another entry into the smartwatch field. It offers all day activity tracking, GPS, all day heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring, and an ultralong battery life.

Price                                                                                                                      5 stars

You can purchase the Amazfit Bip Smartwatch from Amazon for about $80.  Yes, $80. It’s hard to argue with that.

Ease of Use                                                                                                           3 stars

The Amazfit Bip isn’t as seamless as the Apple Watch Series. It’s slow to sync and sometimes certain features don’t work at all. It’s a little clunky. On the other hand, it has an always-on display, which is great and easy to get used to.

Performance                                                                                                          4 stars

It shows steps, heart rate, sleep and works great as a fitness tracker. The Mi Fit app lets you share data with friends although it’s a little clunky.

Design Quality                                                                                                      3 stars

It’s not the most attractive watch. It looks a little cheap. However the gorilla glass face is hard to scrape or scuff. And it’s comfortable to wear.

Warranty                                                                                                                 5 stars

The Amazfit Bip Smartwatch comes with a twelve-month money-back guarantee.


  • really long battery life
  • remarkably inexpensive
  • always-on display
  • you can get text, call and twitter notifications
  • GPS
  • basic and functional
  • works with any phone
  • good warranty


  • you can receive notifications but you can’t respond to them
  • looks a little cheap
  • has difficulty syncing with a phone at times

Garmin Vivomove HR

The Garmin Vivomove HR is an analog styled watch that has smartwatch features. It can track your steps, stairs climbed, calorie estimates, stress levels, sleep and VO2 max.  It has a different aesthetic than most smartwatches but it still has many smartwatch features.

Price                                                                                                                     4 stars

At about $200, the Garmin Vivomove HR is a good value.

Ease of Use                                                                                                          3 stars

It has a lot of features, but it doesn’t have any buttons—you have to tap and swipe. It can be difficult to find what features you’re looking for.

Performance                                                                                                         4 stars

As far as the fitness tracking goes, once you use the Garmin app, you’ll have a wide variety of features including workout logs, heart rate and daily activity monitoring, and weekly social and fitness challenges. It connects to third party apps like Strava, so if you are a competitive person you’ll appreciate the opportunity to seize “King of the Mountain” points.

Design Quality                                                                                                      3 stars

Although it has an analog aesthetic, it’s a very basic analog aesthetic. The basic model is a basic black watch although it does come in different styles. The face is prone to scratching. That said, if you’re trying to wear a smartwatch under the radar, this is the watch for you.

Warranty                                                                                                                 3 stars

The Garmin Vivomove HR is guaranteed to be free from defects for one full year.


  • looks like a regular watch
  • receive text and call notifications
  • share and sync activities with Garmin Connect
  • week long battery life
  • swim friendly
  • reasonably priced


  • you can’t respond to text messages or calls, only receive the notifications
  • a little difficult to work with
  • scratch prone

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Smartwatch

Samsung’s entry into the smartwatch field has all the notifications you would want, including fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, water resistance and an altimeter. Also, Spotify has announced you can save off-line playlists to the watch, meaning you don’t have to take your phone or a music player when you go out for a run.

Price                                                                                                                      3 stars

You can purchase the  Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Smartwatch for around $250.

Ease of Use

It stays nicely connected and syncs with both bluetooth and wi-fi and can toggle back and forth between the two. To select an app, you rotate the bezel which is fun but the bezel can be a little stiff. Samsung does not have the access to the huge field of apps that say, the Apple Watch Series 3 does. It’s getting better—like the introduction of Spotify, but it’s limited. However, as a fitness tracking device it is competent by itself. Sort of.

Performance                                                                                                         2 stars

If you’re using the Samsung Gear to track your runs, you may find it annoying. It glitches and drops miles, and then suddenly adds them on in the middle of a run. Like the Apple Watch Series 3, it relies on an accelerometer before it locks onto GPS. It has workout programs, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when it tells you to speed up or slow down. As a running watch, it’s problematic.

Design Quality                                                                                                     3 stars

The frontier edition of the Samsung Gear S3 is huge! If you are petite, you may find it overwhelming. It’s also heavy on your wrist. It does have a very bright and attractive screen and the watch itself is well-made.

Warranty                                                                                                                4 stars

  • Twelve months, parts and labor.


  • well-built watch
  • can make and receive calls and texts right from the watch
  • the amount of faces you can customize it with is extensive
  • it can have always on display
  • bright, attractive screen
  • good music play though Spotify


  • glitchy as a running watch
  • lack of apps available
  • will work with other phones, but it works best with the Samsung
  • heavy and big
  • pricy
  • three-day battery life

Which smartwatch you choose will largely depend on what your needs are. If you have the budget, it’s difficult to beat the Apple Series 3 Smartwatch. It offers an amazing amount of apps and features, and if you opt for the cellular feature, it can act like a tiny phone on your wrist. If budget is a concern, then the Amazfit Bip Smartwatch is hard to beat for the money. No, it’s not as nice as the Apple Series 3 Smartwatch, and it doesn’t have as many features. However, for only about $80 is offers a tremendous value for the money. Not into the look of smartwatches? Then the Garmin Vivomove HR is a good option for a stealth smartwatch. Lastly, if you have a Samsung phone and you like big, heavy watches, then maybe the Samsung S3 Gear is your watch. That said, if what you really want is the latest and greatest smartwatch, then the Apple Series 3 smartwatch is the clear winner.

Business Degree

A Business degree is one of the most versatile undergraduate degrees you can earn. Whether you’re thinking about becoming the next Bill Gates or if you’re leaning towards a career in Accounting, a business degree could be the first step towards a long and profitable career.

What Is a Business Degree?

As you undoubtedly realize if you’re considering a business degree, the world is built on business. A business degree offers a general overview of some of the elements needed to run a successful business.  Typically, a business degree offers courses in accounting, finance, management, and entrepreneurship. There are so many possibilities open to those who obtain a business degree, one of them is bound to appeal to you. People with business degrees work in finance, marketing, sales, media, human resources—the list is practically endless. Many people who pursue business degrees open and run their own businesses.


Different Types of Degrees

There are different types of business degrees involving different levels of education. What level of education you consider will depend on what your goals are, your finances, and the time you have available.


Associates Degree in Business Administration

An associate’s degree in a two-year degree that presents an overview of business principles such as marketing, accounting, and management. Many community colleges offer Associate’s degrees, which is great because they are usually lower-cost options and close to home. This could be a great way of getting your feet wet. If you decide business is for you, it’s generally pretty easy to transfer to a four year school and continue on to a Bachelor’s degree.

Some classes you may take are:

  • Introduction to business management
  • Principles of marketing
  • Introduction to accounting
  • Business writing

Bachelor of Business Administration

A bachelor degree is a more thorough study of business from a four-year college. Not only will you take common core classes (which arguably make you a more well-rounded individual) you will study business leadership, management skills, and communication skills. Some classes may offer projects that put these skills into practice. Seniors pursuing a business degree frequently obtain internships which give students an excellent introduction to working in the business world. Many times these internships lead to full-time employment after graduation.

Classes you may take:

  • Business law
  • Business ethics
  • Information systems
  • Economics

Master of Business Administration

A Master of Business Administration is an advanced degree of study, generally two years beyond the Bachelor degree. There are also alternatives such as an accelerated MBA program, which usually takes a year.  A Master’s degree is especially desirable if one wishes to pursue a leadership role in business. Frequently, people who are employed in the business sector already and looking to advance in their careers pursue an MBA. Many programs are offered at night or on weekends to accommodate students who are employed full-time. Also, online learning may make it easier to fit into a busy shedule. An MBA is a valuable asset to anyone interested in a business career.

Classes you may take:

  • Organizational development
  • Corporate finance
  • Organizational psychology
  • Applied statistics


What Can You Do with a Business Degree?

Those pursuing business degrees have an almost unlimited amount of careers and paths to choose from. Many of the skills you earn from studying business are easily applied to any profession, should you decide to change careers down the road. Here are just some of the more common career options for business degree graduates.

Accounting and Finance

Those who work in accounting and finance manage the money. Many businesses fail due to poor financial management, so it could be argued that accounting and finance people are the most important people in the entire corporation. You may review your company’s financial profile, both past and present. You make recommendations for how to improve the company’s financial outlook. You may advise clients and/or corporations on taxes. You may be a part of mergers and acquisitions. You may even be tasked with detecting white collar crime. The employment outlook for accounting and financial jobs is expected to grow through the next few years, and there is always a need for people who are good with money.


A good manager is hard to find and extremely valuable to a company. Managers must have excellent communication skills, leadership skills and conflict resolution skills. Higher level management can be reached by the mid-level of a one’s career, but a business degree is an excellent platform from which to start. Managers tend to be paid highly and if you’re really good, the sky’s the limit as far as salary goes. CEO’s are basically visionary managers.


While a sales job may not sound glamourous, there are many jobs available in marketing and sales. If you’re an introvert, there are jobs where you never leave the office. If you want to see the world, many sales jobs require travel.  Every industry depends on some form of sales and promotion—colleges, hospitals, corporations. You can choose almost any industry. Sales jobs typically make good money—many top sales people earn over six figures a year.

Marketing and Advertising

If you are creative, a career in advertising and marketing may be perfect for you. You may work in publishing, television, or online. You may be involved in brand management, market research, or public relations. You may analyze markets and make recommendations as to how to capture a bigger market share. You may work with creative people who need someone with practical skills to keep them focused. You may even run your own advertising or public relations firm.

Human Resources

Human resources is the hiring, recruitment and management of business personnel. You may be involved in recruiting for specialized positions, explaining benefits to employees, training new hires, and resolving conflict among employees. It can be a very stressful job and because of this communication skills are an essential part of a career in human resources.

Business Ownership

Many people who study business do so because they dream of running their own business. Running your own business means you’re the boss—you can set your own hours, manage your time and do things your way. You also have to turn a profit so that you can make a living, so many business owners work a lot more than those who work for someone else. You’ll develop your own business plan and execute your own strategy. All profits are yours, and all losses are your responsibility. But you’ll be working for yourself, which is appealing to many people.

Business Consultant

Similar to running your own business is being a business consultant. This person examines struggling businesses from all angles, evaluates where things could be improved and makes recommendations to management. They evaluate numbers and data, figure out how to drive up profits and cut the fat from the budget. The business is free to disregard your suggestions, but your can just move onto your next project. This might be a good option for those who like undertaking different challenges, or those who get bored easily.

Is a Business Degree Right For You?

Although a business degree will provide you with many opportunities in many industries, you may be wondering if a business degree really what you want. Everyone needs people with good business skills—even non-profit corporations. What are some other reasons someone might choose a business degree?

Critical Thinking

A business degree will teach you to solve problems, think for yourself, and deal with tough situations. These are applicable in any industry.

Data Analysis

Being able to evaluate numbers and to interpret what they mean is a skill that many people don’t have but need. Someone good with data analysis can recognize patterns and help businesses get on the right track.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are the bedrock of success in almost any profession. Studying business will teach you effective communication, conflict resolution, crisis management skills and interpersonal skills. You can take those with you even if you change careers later.

Leadership Skills

Leadership is having a vision for a company (or anything, really) and being able to identify the steps needed to get there. A business degree will teach you leadership skills, which will be valuable in your professional and personal life.

Understanding your Audience

Everyone has an audience they need to appeal to—teachers need to reach students, parents need to get their children to listen, managers need to send their message to the employees. Understanding who your audience is can help you ace the job interview.



A business degree offers a very broad range of options. People with business degrees work in almost every industry, in every corner of the world. Even if you ultimately decide to pursue another career, a business degree will have taught you many valuable and easily transferable skills. And if you choose to stay within the business world, a business degree will give you an edge over the competition. Even if you are not sure what you want to do for a career, a business degree is practical and flexible, making it an ideal choice.



3.0 out of 5 starsHas potential

August 5, 2015

Color: BlackPackage Type: Standard PackagingVine Customer Review of Free Product( What’s this? )

I was quite excited to receive these. I have been an endurance athlete for about 10 years now, and I am always looking for new technology. I think these might work well for a certain segment of that population. They’re really overkill for anyone who just casually runs, hikes, or even rides just for fun.

First of all, I initially had some trouble getting the uplink to connect to the sunglasses. So I called Tech support. The first man I talked to told me to download Firefox, or maybe Google Chrome, and try again. So I did that and still no luck. Then he asked me a few questions. I told him I had windows 8. “Oh, it’s not compatible with Windows 8. ” Really? I asked when it might be compatible. “I don’t know. I’m not on the software development team–I’m tech support.” Yes, but not very good tech support. None of this is true, by the way. It works just fine with Windows 8 and you don’t have to download Chrome or Firefox, which I eventually learned after a second tech support person asked me, “Isn’t there anyone at home who can help you?” My husband just dumped the whole thing and re-loaded it from the beginning, but even if I had loved the product I would still knock off a star for their crappy tech support.

And I don’t especially love the product. It does have some cool features–you can shoot photos and videos while riding/running, and with the app, people can find exactly where you are. I see this as a great feature for women nervous about working out by themselves. It would be reassuring to know people can find you easily in case of an accident or whatever. However, there are some cons as well. One, I feel like a complete dork wearing them for a run, as if I had gotten lost on the way to my Terminator audition. Even if I couldn’t see people staring I really didn’t feel especially comfortable wearing them for a run. Also, you wouldn’t think it but it’s hard to see the screen in bright sunlight.

I also tried them out on a ride. This went better. People usually wear sunglasses while riding a Tri bike, so they didn’t make me feel as conspicuous. I did have some difficulty changing kilometers to miles and changing the data fields–you can change them on the unit themselves. I was trying to do it on the website and I couldn’t get it to work. But they are nice on a bike–you can pretty easily see what’s going on with your speed, distance, and if you add on a few features, power and cadence. And there’s a clock right in the middle so time-crunched triathletes can keep an eye on it. After a while I forgot I was wearing them.

But here’s the thing. If you are a runner or a triathlete, there are watches you can buy that will do all of the data these do, at about $200-$300 cheaper. A Garmin 920 will even pick up swimming. No, they won’t take pictures or record video, and the software, to my knowledge, will not show your friends exactly where you are. But unless you are so time obsessed you can not afford the half of a second it takes to glance all the way down to your watch, I would totally go with the watch. I suppose you can’t receive calls and texts on your watch, but I really don’t want to be receiving texts or talking to people when I’m working out anyway. Also, you clearly can’t wear these at night, so if you are in the habit of mountain biking or running at night, you can’t wear your technology. Given what I do and when I do it, I think a watch has more useful practical applications. I do think the technology might have some potential, but as it stands now, I see other products meeting my needs better.

39 people found this helpful

The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality and Murder by Nikki Meredith
ByG. KellnerVINE VOICEon February 22, 2018

Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What’s this? )

In 1969, Charles Manson’s followers brutally murdered seven innocent people over the course of two nights. The first night, they pulled into 10050 Cielo Drive and killed Steven Parent, Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski. Sharon Tate was eight months pregnant and begged for them to spare her baby’s life, to no avail. The next night they killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The crimes were seemingly random and especially brutal, almost all the victims (except for Steven Parent, who was shot) were stabbed, beaten and clubbed to death. Patricia Krenwinkel was there for both nights, Leslie Van Houten was “only” along for the killing of the LaBianca’s.

This subject has potential. Ms. Meredith does discuss the crimes, but mostly she talks about her relationship with Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. The main question, in so far that there is one, is what would prompt two normal, middle-class white girls to brutally kill seven people they didn’t even know?

She does bring in some research, discussing how these girls fell under Manson’s spell and how through both drugs and de-individuation they were led to participate. Mostly, though, she talks about…herself. Her relationship with Leslie and Pat, her relationship with Catherine Share, who was a Manson follower she went to school with. She also talks about her ethnicity, her parents, her brother (who went to prison), her ex-boyfriend, etc, etc. There is some philisophical discussion, about whether or not either one of them should ever be paroled and some discussion of morality, but I would guess about half of the book is about the Manson women and about half of the book is about Ms. Meredith.

Apparently, she has gotten to know these women because she contacted them and requested interviews and they agreed to be interviewed. Fairly early on, she mentions that she will hold off on contacting Susan Atkins “for reasons I will explain later” and then she never does. It’s not like I was on the edge of my seat or anything, but it stuck in my mind. Why not contact Ms. Atkins? What was it about her that made Ms. Meredith decide not to contact her? I don’t know if Susan Atkins just never wanted to talk to her or what.

I skimmed quite a bit–mostly the parts that had nothing to do with the Manson women, and then when I finished I thought, “Well, thank God that’s over.” I’m sure Ms. Meredith is lovely but that’s not why I read this. Like I said, it did have potential and there is occasionally something interesting in here, but overall it was not an enjoyable read.

9 people found this helpful

The Gollum of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman

ByG. KellnerVINE VOICEon June 17, 2014

Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What’s this? )

Jacob Lev is an alcoholic cop whose just been demoted to traffic. Life sucks. Then he is recruited for a “special project” and is called to investigate a severed head left in a remote house in the Hollywood Hills. A carving in the counter reveals the Hebrew word for “Justice.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s a delightful combination of police procedural and Jewish mysticism, realistic and fantastic. You wouldn’t think that would work, but it does. I was surprised I liked it so much–I read something by Jonathan Kellerman years ago, and I remember not liking it. But there’s so much to like–nice imagery and metaphor, great character development, really fantastic writing. I thought it all worked and was really very well done.

2 people found this helpful


Why you should have more than one cat

Why you should have more than one cat

Every time I see cute cat videos posted on my Facebook feed, I think “Wouldn’t it be fun to get another cat?” After all, if one cat is great, more than one is even better. Some people think that cats are independent, solitary creatures, but most cats enjoy the company of other cats.

So, should I get another cat?

Cats that are carefully and slowly introduced can become good friends. Cats get bored and lonely just like people do. A second cat helps alleviate that. They can play together, burning off extra energy and calories (cats need exercise, too). Even if they’re just sleeping in the same room, most cats will enjoy the company of another cat. Having another cat takes the pressure off the human companion, who may work long hours or is busy trying to keep their sanity while they raise children.

Having a second cat will also save another life—not only the one you just adopted, but then a space opens up at the shelter to save another cat. Most shelters simply do not have enough space to accommodate all the homeless cats and kittens that they are presented with. By adopting a second cat, you save a life and enjoy twice as much love. It’s a win-win.

Bored and lonely cats are also more likely to develop behavioral issues, such as marking and scratching furniture. Cats that have another cat to play with are less likely to get into trouble. They have someone to play with, socialize with and conspire with.

Cats have different personalities, just like humans. Not every cat will become best friends with every cat they are introduced to, but for the most part, they can learn to at least tolerate each other. Just like people, just being around another cat is sometimes all they need.

Of course, there are a few things to consider when adopting another cat.

Ok, what do I need to consider?


Probably the easiest way to have multiple cats is to adopt two kittens who are from the same litter.  They’ve known each other their whole lives, and they like each other already. Two kittens are tremendously entertaining. They stalk each other, play together, and are delightfully silly together.

What if I already have an adult cat?

When choosing your new feline companion, keep these things in mind:

  • Gender–Sometimes two of the same sex have more difficulty getting along than one of each sex, but not necessarily. I have two male cats and they are very good friends.
  • Activity level—very active cats will enjoy playing and wrestling with another cat with a similar energy level.
  • Age—an elderly cat might not appreciate a kitten invading her space, but might welcome a more mature cat.
  • Personality—some cats will enjoy a companion, and others will only begrudgingly tolerate it. And some cats just don’t like other cats.
  • Size—cats who are of similar size are less likely to bully each other.


Just like people, cats will appreciate a proper introduction to a new family member.

Start small: When you bring your new kitty home, start off by keeping him or her confined to small area of your house—a den or a bedroom. Ideally not where the resident cat hangs out—you don’t want them to feel usurped. The resident cat should not feel inconvenienced in any way. Make sure the new cat has food, water, a litterbox and toys. The resident cat will catch on pretty quickly that something is up. They can smell the other cat, and probably hear them as well. This will hopefully get them to entertain the idea of a second cat in their household.

Make positive associations

Try to feed the cats at the same time, but on opposite sides of a door. Or talk to both cats through the door, so the resident cat starts to associate the new cat with good things.

Mingle scents: One trick you can try is to pet the new cat with a glove, or a towel, a sock—anything cloth will do. Spend a few minutes, then leave the item where the resident cat can sniff it. Cats can gather far more information based on scent than we can—their adorable little noses are fourteen times more sensitive than ours are.

Let them see each other

After a week or so, (they need time to adjust) let the cats see each other in a safe way. If you can have them see each other through a screen door that would be perfect. Not a lot of people have screen doors inside their homes, so you’re going to have to improvise. Not as ideal, have someone hold one cat and have someone else hold the other cat—a safe distance away.

Let them meet

It’s been at least a week and if everything has gone well so far, it’s time for the cats to meet each other. Just let the new cat out of its space and keep an eye out. Don’t make a big, huge deal of it. Let them go at their own pace. They have a lot to work out in these next few weeks. Don’t be surprised if the resident cat hisses and chases the newcomer. Chasing is fine, but don’t let them fight. However, Don’t get in the middle of them if they do fight. Make a really loud racket by banging two pans together, or throw water at them. If you have a squirt gun handy, that can work, too.

It may take a few months for them to start to get along, and even a few more months to become friendly. The fastest way to cause conflict between cats is to have them feel like they have to fight for resources. So be sure there are enough resources and that both cats have space to call their own. Make sure each cat has its own food dish, water dish, and litterbox. You need one litterbox for each cat. More than one scratching post is important—otherwise one of them may choose to scratch the furniture.  Also make sure there are plenty of toys to go around.

Eventually, most cats can learn to get along

Are there any reasons why I wouldn’t want another cat?

Maybe a few.

  • Expense—Two cats are more expensive than one cat. You need twice as much food, twice as much litter and twice as many trips to the vet.
  • Jealousy–The resident cat is really bonded to you. They might not want to share with another cat. They might want you all to themselves.
  • Space. If your apartment or living situation is really small, another cat might stress out the resident cat, not to mention you. If they have plenty of space, cats can at least avoid each other if they don’t get along. If they feel like they’re on top of each other, they will be stressed and might act out. N bmlp;

How can I tell if my resident cat would like a kitty companion?

Has your cat ever hung out with other cats? What was the situation at the shelter? Many shelters have “cat rooms” where several cats spend time together. If your resident kitty was in the community cat room before you brought him/her home, that’s a good indication that he enjoys the company of other cats. You can bring a friend’s cat over and see what happens, as sort of a trial run. Lastly, some shelters will consider letting you “foster” a cat if you’re considering adopting a second cat. This way you can see how the resident kitty does before you make a commitment. Keep in mind, though—some cats are slow to warm up to other cats, but they do warm up.

What if the worst-case scenario happens and they just don’t get along?

Most pet shelters are familiar with the difficulties of introducing a new family member. Make sure you tell them when you adopt that you have a cat already. They will be able to help you choose a cat that is amenable to living with another cat. Describe your current fur baby to them. Remember, they have a lot of experience with adoptions, and can probably help you choose a cat that is likely to work out. They want you to succeed. If they worst case scenario happens and all your cats do is fight, they will be willing to take the second cat back.

There is a lot to consider when you decide to adopt a second cat. However, if your cats accept each other and become friends (or at least friendly) it can add years to their lives by giving them a social outlet and more exercise. I have three cats, and they all get along, albeit some better than others. But I think they all appreciate each other. Cats are wonderful companions, and having more than one is twice the fun.

Craft Beers

Craft beers have exploded in popularity in recent years, and with good reason. Craft beers are brewed in small batches, and typically have more flavor than mass-produced beers. Visiting restaurants to sample different beers in Conshohocken is definitely a fun night out. Where should you go if you want to sample some delicious local craft beers? Here are our favorites:

1. The Conshohocken Brewing Company

The Conshohocken Brewing Company serves hand-crafted beers brewed right on site. They also offer a variety of sandwiches and street tacos to accompany your brew. They have an outdoor area located right on the Schuylkill trail, so it’s a favorite spot for passing cyclists and people walking their dogs.

2. The Lucky Dog Gastropub.

Great burgers, great beer. They have a number of drink specials and a lot of fun activities, including bingo night on Wednesdays. Steve and Barrie are the husband and wife owners and they definitely go the extra mile to make sure everyone has a good time.

3. The Baggataway Tavern

The Baggataway Tavern has a huge selection of craft beers, plus live music on Thursday nights. It usually features a fun and lively crowd. 

4. The Stone Rose Restaurant

For a quieter dining experience, try the Stone Rose Restaurant. They have over a dozen craft beers, a variety of local drafts and a nice selection of bourbon, rye and scotch. The Stone Rose is a great place to have a quiet, intimate dinner with your favorite person. 

5. Jasper’s Backyard

Locally sourced ingredients paired with a variety of craft beers are what’s on tap at Jasper’s Backyard. They have an outdoor space, even in the winter, and locals enjoy watching the Philadelphia Eagles play while sipping a local beer. 

Certainly there are many great local places to sample craft beer convenient to the Courts at Spring Mill.  Why not pick up the phone and contact us for a tour today?


Bee Hotels

Amsterdam, a city that has so much going for it already (did you know they have more bikes than people?) noticed the bee population falling precipitously and decided to do something about it. They planted tons of native plants and flowers, banned chemical pesticides on public lands and put up little insect hotels all over the city.

A bee hotel is a wooden structure with holes drilled through it. It encourages bees and other insects to build nests. Why doesn’t every city do this? Do we have to wait for the Netherlands to be the example for everything?

Until the city you live in figures this out, you can build your own bee hotel for your backyard. This is not bee keeping—we are not milking the bees for honey. We are just creating a friendly environment for wild bees.

Things to keep in mind:

1)      Start small.

You don’t need a bee high rise or a bee condominium to start. A small bee hotel is great to start with. If it really does well you can more later.

 2)      Build it yourself.

Building a bee hotel is not that hard—there are kits you can order. But if you do it yourself, you know you’re using native wood that hasn’t been chemically treated, which is better for the bees and for you, not to mention cheaper.  Be sure to build a bee hotel that bees will like—no pine cones, no large holes. Bee hotels are made up of small tubes—kind of like a hive. Place it in a dry environment with full sun.

3)      Don’t forget about maintenance!

This is the most overlooked part of installing a bee hotel—or anything really. It’s a lot more fun to bake the cookies that it is to clean the kitchen. Bee hotels should be cleaned at the end of every season, to get rid of dead cells. These will attract mites that will kill the bees come spring. You might want to bring the hotel in for the season.

 You can also plant indigenous plants and flowers. Butterflies like those, too. And they’re easier to take care of than imported flowers that may be pretty but are high maintenance. Kind of like that ex-boyfriend you dated in college.

We can all do our part. Save the bees.

Chapter One: My Summer Job In Hell

My Summer Job in Hell

I could hear the screaming all the way from my bedroom. High pitched, shrill, and furious. The kind of scream that makes you think of blood-sucking werewolves and demons that steal your soul.

I was lying on my bed, my feet propped on my pillow, facing my Kate Upton swimsuit poster. I wish she were my girlfriend but that doesn’t seem likely considering I was voted most likely to be overlooked by my high school class.

Okay, not really. For one thing, I’m a junior. I won’t be voted most likely to be overlooked until next year.

Maybe I should introduce myself. My name is Fynn Hardin. I’m a sixteen-year old male with no girlfriend and no car. I have hair the color of dirt, a long face with a pointed chin and a smattering of freckles. If this brings to mind an image of an adolescent giraffe, you’re not far off.

I was throwing a ball against the wall and catching it with one hand. It’s something I do to entertain myself. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It helps to block out the screaming.

“Noooooo! No! No! No!”

This ended in a screech so loud I thought my head was stuck inside a Boeing 747. I sat up, grabbed my pillow from under my feet and flopped back down, pressing it over my head. Which made me wonder–could I still catch the ball if I couldn’t see, like, by using spidey-sense or the force or something?


Apparently not. I’d have to work on that.

“Fynn! Dinner!”

I debated not going, but I was hungry. So I blew Kate a kiss and shuffled downstairs.

“Hi, Fynn.” My Mom was taking a chicken pot pie out of the oven and my Dad was wrestling a screaming Madelaine, aka Maddie, into her high chair. Sweet. I love chicken pot pie. I slid into a chair and helped myself to a large portion. The smell of hot, delicious, mouth-watering chicken met my nose. Ahhh….

“Fynn!” Dad barked.

I jerked my head up. “What?”

“Could you help me here, please!” Maddie had her feet on the edge of her high chair, her fists of fury flailing around my Dad’s head, her little body bending in an arc. I made a face at her, sticking out my tongue and crossing my eyes and then poking her in the stomach. She laughed and relaxed enough for my Dad to pop her into her high chair. When she realized what just happened, she got ready to scream again, but I shook some Cheerios onto her tray and she brightened.

“Thanks, Fynn,” Dad said, wiping the sweat off his forehead. Dad was ten years older than my mom and he always said that he totally lucked out when she married him. I could kind of see it. Dad’s balding and has a belly, plus he works long hours and has no sense of humor. He has a business with a couple of other guys–they make printer belts, like for industrial printers. Only about a year ago their best customer left and business had slowed to a trickle since then.

“You know, you’re very good with her.” Mom said. I could tell by the way they exchanged glances that something was up. Should I just pretend not to notice? Probably. I shoveled another forkful of chicken into my mouth.

My Dad made a sort of hmmf-ing noise.

“Okay, what?” I put my fork down.

Mom cleared her throat. “We were thinking, that for the summer you could hang out and take care of Maddie. You know, while I go to work to earn money for your college education.”

I stared at her, then at my father, searching for confirmation that this was a joke. My Dad smiled at me, like this was some fantastic opportunity that I would be a fool not to jump at. My brother Kevin looked at me and laughed. His mouth was full.

“Are you kidding?” I managed.

“No, actually we are not,” Mom said.

“I’m getting a job for the summer. You know, so I can save money and buy a car and…stuff.”

Did I mention Maddie was born fifteen months ago? Last summer, Mom was on maternity leave and could look after her own baby. Now that she was back at work, she wanted me to do it?

“You know, it won’t be so bad, looking after your sister. She’s a pretty easy baby.” My Dad said, as if I had not just witnessed the war to get her into her high chair.

“Seriously? How am I supposed to save for a car if I’m running around after Maddie all day? Are you going to pay me for my services?”

“Because everyone…” They both started talking at the same time so Dad stopped and nodded at Mom and said, “You go.”

“Because we’re a family and everyone has to do their part. We can save money not sending Maddie to day care for the summer. Money which we can then use to send you to college.” She brushed a lock of her cinnamon colored hair out of her face. She works nights as an ICU nurse at a local hospital. She’s always tired. “You can borrow my car when I’m not using it. They’ll be plenty of time for you to go out with your friends.”

“It’s not a bad deal at all.” My Dad said, as if he were trying to convince himself.

I sighed. My Mom drove a ten-year old minivan. Boy, I bet girls would be falling all over themselves to be seen with a guy who drove his Mom’s minivan.

There was another reason I really needed a job but I didn’t want to tell my parents.

Three months ago, they had given me a line of credit on one of their cards, for “emergencies”, gas and school expenses. Well, define “emergency.” Is it an emergency if all of my friends are playing the same video game and I am in imminent danger of becoming more of a social misfit than I was already? I thought so. Anyway, somehow I managed to spend $400 on Steam. Yeah, I know. But it’s not really my fault. Where did my parents get this misguided idea that I was responsible? Obviously, the credit card people wanted their money. I had been yanking the bill out of the mailbox before my parents got to it so far, but obviously that wasn’t going to work for much longer. I wanted to get rid of the debt before my parents noticed, or at least pay it down enough so that the total could be construed as gas and school expenses.

And I have to admit, I felt a twinge of resentment about this whole babysitting idea. Was it my fault they had a baby last year? No, it was not. So why was my summer going to be sacrificed? Because it was convenient for them?

“I didn’t ask for you to have a baby.” I said, and almost instantly regretted it.

“Well, if that’s how you feel, I’ll just quit my job to take care of the three of you. Of course, next year when you want to go to college, I won’t be able to help you.” She gestured at me with her fork, and the expression on her face said she would have cheerfully stabbed me with it.

“You know, Fynn, sometimes you have to step up. You have to make sacrifices for your family.” Dad said.

Peace and quiet? I thought. It seemed to me that was what I was sacrificing, not to mention steady income and self-esteem. Instead I grunted. Kevin looked at me and suppressed a giggle. Which brought up an excellent point.

“What is Kevin sacrificing, exactly?” Kevin kicked me under the table.

“Don’t you worry. Kevin will have responsibilities as well.” Kevin stuck his tongue out at me. Maddie waved her spoon around and flicked chicken pot pie all over the table. My Mom sighed and got up to get a cloth. Maddie smiled, pleased with herself and banged her sippy cup on the tray of her high chair.

“There’s a summer job fair this weekend at school. I was planning on going.” I glanced at Mom and then at Dad. This was the delicate moment, where my summer and my self-respect hung in the balance. Were they going to let go of this idea that I would be Maddie’s babysitter, or could I go be a normal high school student with a summer job, meeting summer girls and saving for summer cars?

“Fynn…” Mom appeared to be wrestling with saying what she really wanted to say, versus trying to be supportive. “Look, it’s only for this last summer. Believe me, looking back on this when you’re older, you’ll appreciate the time you spent helping your family.”

I sincerely doubted that. And it didn’t matter anyway, because I was definitely going to the job fair and I was definitely going to get a summer job, no matter what my parents said.

Chapter One: Zaylie

The little bird gave one last gasp and then lay still in Zaylie’s hands. She cupped the still-warm bundle of feathers and stroked the wing with her thumb. She closed her eyes and blew gently. She envisioned the bird’s tiny heart pumping blood through its veins. She blew again, as if trying to light a fire. Sometimes, if there were a spark, it could catch and then the necromancer could tease and cajole and encourage that spark to burst into life.

At least in theory. Zaylie opened her eyes and saw the lifeless black eye staring back at her. She tried again. And again. Still nothing. Resigned, she went into the garage of her Aunt Elaine’s house and found a garden shovel. She quietly dug a grave under the last of the summer roses and softly placed the bird in the hole. Then she covered it as quickly as possible, so she didn’t have to see the bird’s accusatory eye looking up at her. She stood up and brushed the dirt off her leggings and put the shovel back. She sat heavily on the porch steps.

Sterling, her Aunt’s familiar came over to her and bumped her knees with his head. Zaylie scratched his chin and he purred so enthusiastically his whole body vibrated.

“You are a devil, Mister. Yes, you. Killing little birds and such. Don’t we feed you?” Sterling rubbed his face against her legs. “Does Elaine know you’re out?” Sterling seemed unconcerned and just to prove it he started licking his tail. Just then, Zaylie’s cell phone pinged. She dug it out of the pocket of her sweatshirt and saw that she had a text from Elaine. “Zaylie, could you come to the office, ASAP? Thanks.” She chewed her lip and texted back, “Sure.”

What was this about? Zaylie glanced at the scratched and dented crap wagon she drove and decided to walk instead. Witch Enterprises was only a mile or two away from her Aunt’s house. Besides, it was nice out. Global warming had pushed summer past its usual expiration date and the temperature had been in the seventies every day this week.

She walked quickly, even though it made little balls of sweat collect at the back of her neck. ASAP. What was so important she had to come right over? Anxiety poked at her like a stick, goading her to walk faster. She tried not to glance at the cemetery where her mother’s grave sat, quiet and stubborn.

Zaylie had always been able to hear the dead speak to her, even when she was a little girl. As she grew older, the line between the living and the dead grew ever more transparent until it was all but invisible. Then her mother, Mystica, had died. It was as if her mother’s ghostly hand reached into Zaylie’s soul, grabbed her powers and yanked them back into the grave with her. Since then, the door between the living and the dead had slammed shut.

She ran up the off-kilter steps of the shabby Victorian house her Aunt’s business was in. It was once a large, comfortable home for an upper class family. Now it had been subdivided into apartments, two on the first floor, two on the second. Witch Enterprises was housed on the third floor. People knew that Witch Enterprises was there, but most townspeople dismissed Witch Enterprises as a lark, much as they would fortune tellers or psychics. Elaine couldn’t possibly be making much money at such a silly, flighty business. They cast curious glances at her, shrugged their shoulders and frowned as they went about their very important business. Those townspeople who had actually used the services provided by Witch Enterprises never spoke of it. They never told their family or their friends, as they were convinced they would be laughed at or worse. The judicious application of memory charms ensured that although they could remember going to Witch Enterprises, they couldn’t for the life of them remember how it turned out. Anyway, it was best to just keep such things a secret, sort of like the local house of prostitution, also located on Maple Street.

Zaylie pushed the door open and walked across the reception area. In many ways the offices of Witch Enterprises looked like any other business. Elaine had tried hard to make the outer office welcoming to the nervous citizens who came in. The walls sloped down on the sides, making the room A shaped, lending it a cozy feel (unless of course, you were claustrophobic). A colorful braided rug lay across the knotty pine floor. A wooden desk was tastefully appointed with a desk lamp casting a warm golden light. Delicate flamingo-colored flowers sat in a crystal vase. Elaine had painted the walls a cheerful yellow. Bookshelves lined the walls, stuffed with leather bound books of all types. Some of the books were a little unusual: Charms: Lucky or Not?; A Complete History of Magic in the Twentieth Century; You, Too, Can Disappear! And probably not every office contained potions in rich hues of amber, dark blue and violet, stored in a spice rack behind the desk.

Zaylie crossed the small room and opened the french doors to Elaine’s office. Elaine sat at her elaborately carved walnut desk. She wore her very sensible, very non-threatening striped blouse and her square-framed glasses. The effect was of an elementary school teacher, perhaps just a bit past her prime and starting to run out of patience. Sitting in front of Elaine’s desk was a police officer. Zaylie glanced from the officer to Elaine, questioning.

“Hi, Zaylie. This is Officer Green. He has a question for you.” Elaine nodded at the officer.

The police officer, a mortal police officer Zaylie couldn’t help but notice, looked to be just a little older than she was herself, and she was eighteen. He had smooth cheeks and a weak chin. He was blond, though not the white blond that she was. His was more the blond of summer hay and asthma attacks.

“Zaylie Vandercraft?” He asked.


“Hi. I’m Officer Green.”

Of course you are, Zaylie thought. What she said was, “Nice to meet you.”

“I’m sorry. Your uh…Aunt?” He tilted his head towards Elaine, who nodded. “Your Aunt tells me you already heard about Jamie Nottwood? He died last week?”

“Yes, I heard. It’s so sad. He was a friend of mine, back in high school.” Sort of. Zaylie had gone to Ridgeway High School, Jamie had gone to Clarksville High. They had been set up her friend Margo, who had dated a friend of Jamie’s. Zaylie and Jamie had gone on three or four increasingly awkward dates before they both realized that not only were they not cut out to be boyfriend and girlfriend, they didn’t even make particularly good friends. She had nothing against him. He was just really boring. Last week the paper had reported that he had fallen from the ridge that ran up above the stream in the local park. It was definitely tragic, to die so young. Still…Zaylie wondered why Officer Green had come. The story was on the website and in the paper. Surely he didn’t make sure every citizen with a peripheral relationship to Jamie was informed of his death.

He cleared his throat. “Sources…a source has indicated that he may have been murdered.”

“Oh my God.” Murdered! How awful. “But why…why would anyone kill Jamie?” He was nice enough. Bland. Certainly not offensive, but then she really didn’t know him that well.

“That’s what I’m trying to determine. I was hoping maybe you could tell me. Do you know Wyler Park?”

Zaylie nodded. “Yeah. I walk there sometimes. It clears my head.”

There was a pause as both Elaine and the police officer looked at her. Zaylie shifted from one foot to the other. Officer Green referred to his notebook again. “Someone said they saw you there on the night Jamie died. Did you see anyone or anything suspicious on the night of October 2nd?”

“Uhmmm…I don’t even remember if I was there on that particular night, just that I do like to walk there sometimes.”

“Try to think back. Last Tuesday. You must remember something. Officer Green said earnestly.

Zaylie sighed deeply. She tried to think back to the Tuesday of the previous week. Did she walk in the woods that day? She couldn’t remember. Oh, no wait! She did remember. Tuesday last week she was sick. She remembered eating lunch with her best friend Sara, and suddenly being overcome with nausea.

“I was sick last Tuesday. Whoever says they saw me, it couldn’t have been me. I was in bed from just after lunch until the next morning. Remember, Elaine?” Zaylie asked. Elaine thought a minute, then nodded.

“Oh, right. See, Officer Green, no one could have seen her in the park. I remember checking on her myself.”

“You checked on her, what time?”

Elaine scratched her cheek. “Well, just after work. I probably got home around 5:00 p.m.”

“And, after that? Did you check on her at all?” Officer Green asked.

“No, I don’t think so. She said she was sick and that she just wanted to sleep, so I left her alone after that.”

Officer Green wrote something down on his little pad. “So, you didn’t see her until morning?”

“No. But I’m sure she was in her room.”

“Any reason you can think of, why someone would want to kill Jamie?” Officer Green asked.

“No. I mean, I haven’t seen him in a while, but I don’t think he had any enemies or anything.” Zaylie said.

Officer Green nodded slowly. “Okay. If we have any other questions, we may be in touch. Thank you for your help.” Officer Green said, as he placed his hat back on his head. “Ladies.” He walked back out. They waited until his footsteps faded away before they looked at each other.

“Why would someone say they saw me?” Zaylie said. “I wasn’t there last Tuesday. Unless they saw me some other night and got their days confused. I think I might’ve walked in the park on Sunday afternoon.”

“It could be a case of mistaken identity. Someone thinks it was you.” Elaine sighed. “Don’t worry. Obviously you didn’t kill anyone and they’ll figure it all out.” She frowned. “I wonder how they decided it was a murder? Last week the news seemed sure it was an accident. But anyway, Officer Green was just following up on one of many tips. They’ll find out who really did it.” She looked anxiously at Zaylie. “I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Yeah. Fine.” Zaylie said.

She had a bad feeling about this.

Here’s why the prom was such a big deal for my kid

Originally published on

In April, Ben had an appointment with the orthodontist.

“The prom is in May.”

I focused on merging onto the Mass Pike. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

“Mrs. Cowles said she knows who I would want to go with.”

Ben is seventeen. He is on the Autism Spectrum. Mrs. Cowles is his one-to-one.

“Who?” I was intrigued. Ben never mentioned wanting to go to the prom to me.

“Gwen and Emily.”

Gwen and Emily were two girls who were somewhere in his class. I say “somewhere” because Ben has special needs classes and I was pretty sure Gwen and Emily were neurotypical students. At least, when the senior class went to NYC, they did not tote along a one-to-one, as Ben did.

“Do they have boyfriends?”

“I don’t think so. I never see them talking to any boys.”

This stunned me. Ben not only pondered going to the prom, but he was paying enough attention to notice that these girls seemed to be single. Who is this kid?

As it turned out, Gwen did have a boyfriend and Emily had a date. But they said they would be happy to dance with Ben. And Mrs. Cowles said she would go to the prom, to take pictures and keep an eye on him.

Great. It’s all settled.

Naturally, a week before the prom, Mrs. Cowles took a different job. She thought she might still go, but maybe not. This put us into a tailspin.

The prom was at a local venue that usually had proms, wedding receptions, and the like. Dinner was from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Then there was a lull, then dancing.

In the week before the prom, I texted Mrs. Cowles about half a million times.

“Should he go when it starts?”

“Are Gwen and Emily going to save him a seat?”

“Won’t this be awkward, as they have dates?”

“How loud is the prom?”

“Gwen and Emily won’t forget, will they?”

Then someone contacted us with a new problem. One of Ben’s teachers had a question: Who’s going to supervise him?

“Why does anyone need to supervise him? Does every kid who goes to the prom bring supervision? What do they think he’s going to do, explode?”

“He has a disability,” My husband yelled. “He needs help.”

“With what?” I fired back. “He’s just going to go dance with Gwen and Emily, have a soda and leave. He’ll probably last fifteen minutes.”

There was a lot of tense conversation back and forth. Why does everyone always underestimate Ben? Because he’s autistic. Because he flaps and he walks with a lilt. Because he never seems like he’s paying any attention.

Some genius suggested, “Maybe Gail can chaperone the prom!”

“No, I am not going to chaperone the prom. Ben may be autistic, but he knows you don’t bring your mom to the prom.” I actually thought it would be fun to supervise a prom, but I knew Ben would not appreciate it. He wanted to be a regular high school kid.

Mrs. Cowles said other students would keep an eye on him. “They’re all really good with him.”

In the end, we agreed I would wait in the car in the parking lot. It wasn’t like he was going to last long, anyway. He could go, have a soda, dance with Gwen and Emily and leave whenever he wanted. I brought a book. Half an hour, max.

“Have fun, sweetheart,” I said, as he excitedly leapt from the car. We had picked out dress pants, a button-down shirt, and a tie. Typically Ben wears pants with “no buttons, no zippers, no snaps” and never, ever a button down shirt. Or a tie. I opened my kindle.

I could hear the music from the car. It was so loud. I read a chapter. I read another chapter. I had to go to the bathroom. Well, it wouldn’t be much longer. Goodness, had it already been…forty-five minutes?

I read more. I played Hungry Shark. I read another chapter.

Finally, after almost two hours, Ben emerged from the prom.

“I danced with Gwen and Emily!” He sGwenilyhouted in triumph. “I didn’t even recognize them at first!” A little softer he said, “They looked like princesses.” He seemed awed.

“They looked pretty?” I asked.

“Yeah. So, you can understand why I have a ‘crush’ (here he made the signs for quotes with his fingers) on them.” He sighed. “I like good times.”

He chatted with me about the prom all the way home. Being Ben, he said the same things quite a few times, but his happiness at being included, and with dancing with girls that he liked, shone through everything he said. He was just like everyone else, going to the prom and having a good time. He was proud of himself.

I was proud, too. I also harbored a tiny bit of “I told you so!” but I was really happy for Ben.

Never underestimate a kid with autism. They’ll surprise you.

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