Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

No bones about it, a home schooling "aha" moment

EWWWWW!!  Probably not the kind of image you're expecting to see from a vegetarian-tree-hugging-conservative-home-schooling blog I'm sure!  Well there's probably more weird stuff you'll see here too.......But anyway, to the point of this post:  These are beef bones, probably from some poor cow's leg (now how's he gonna win that limbo contest?).  I picked them up the other day at the dog food store for our two fur-people (one elderly but evil Cairn terrier, and one Newfoundland, who isn't evil but she's awfully goofy).  And the minute I put the bones on the counter the science class began:  What's this?,  what are the different parts?, where's the skin?, where's the tissue?, are they hollow?, why not?  what's in the middle of them?, what happens if a dog eats a bone from a diseased cow?, how long will it take the dogs to eat them?.....and so on.

Here's the picture I took this evening of one bone fresh from the freezer (in the foreground) and one of the bones that's been outside for a couple of days.  They started off the same size, so you can see that whoever had this bone was pretty busy! (probably Shalom, our Newfoundland, the other bone got buried almost immediately by the Cairn terrier and I haven't seen it today)

                                                    side by side comparison after a couple of days
This view shows how I got to teach my daughter about what the word "cross section" means.  We had talked about that word a couple of weeks ago when we were looking at a cross section drawing of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, but here we got to talk about how important cross section images are in science.  

                                                    The marrow before the Newf got a hold of it
And then we got to talk about what's in the middle of these bones and why the lady at the store recommended that we get shorter, rather than super long bones (because the marrow inside would be easier for them to access).  So then we got to talk about what marrow is, why it's important for animals and humans to have healthy marrow and what happens to us when our marrow isn't healthy.  And that led to a discussion about how to keep our bones and our bodies as healthy as possible. And that led us to talk about why we're always stressing "green light" foods in this house and why we eat so many leafy greens, grains (including lots of quinoa), legumes and fresh fruits. (the term "green light" foods comes from the book "Eat Healthy, Feel Great" by Dr. Sears, a book given to our daughter when she was two by Aunt Glynis and our daughter immediately memorized every food in EVERY category and began her tenure as the Food Police in our family---oy!!....but it's a GREAT book for kids of all ages, and it removes Mom or Dad from being The Food Nagger, which is a win-win!)

                                                                    marrow be gone!

So this whole experience got me thinking.......beef bones are DISGUSTING!!  Why would ANYONE eat the insides of another living thing and how did I EVER eat a hamburger??  EWWWW!!!  But that's probably for another blog under another title......

No, what I was really thinking was how grateful I am that we have time together in order to do this kind of stuff at the kitchen counter.  Now, could this have happened had my daughter been in public school (or private)?  Probably.  My dad was constantly teaching me stuff, every spare second he had with me (and had I paid attention I might have actually learned DOS or Fortran and gone on to become uber smart and disgustingly wealthy, but I digress).  But in our case, the chances that my daughter would have the capacity to be engaged with us during her "off time" from public school would be very slim due to the fact that most middle school kids now have upwards of four hours a night of homework and they just don't have the time or the inclination to stand around and talk about dead animals.

So I just wanted to encourage all of us (me included) that we have so many opportunities in our every day life to really engage in serious "academics".  We have this amazing gift called TIME....even if it's just a minute or two here and there (depending on your child's developmental stage and attention span), our kids ARE paying attention and this is the kind of stuff they're going to remember-not countless handouts and workbook worksheets.

P.S. And here's a real-life, real-time example: I'm sitting here finishing this post, my daughter just came into the living room and told my husband how in one of the Renaissance art books that we've been reading she saw a painting from a famous Renaissance painter that included a Cairn terrier in it. She couldn't name the painter, but she knows he's from the Renaissance and she knows it included a dog....what could be more important? (!! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Can't Take Over My Life Greta...Oh Wait, Of COURSE You Can!

Yesterday around mid-morning I discovered my Yahoo! e-mail account had been hacked.  Great, just great.  Which means all seven of my contacts had been sent some message containing only a web address for some smarmy website showing monkey porn or 338 ways you can use ________ to make your man happy forever.  Whatever.  I'll leave that to someone who actually has the time + the energy + the $19.95+shipping/handling.  So I sent out the obligatory "I'm sorry I spammed you" e-mail and I thought everything was hunky-spunky.  Until I opened my Facebook app on my phone and discovered that Greta Van Sustern has taken over my life.  I hate it when she does that.  Instead of seeing my photo when I open any of my posts, there's a photo of Greta.  But get this, it's only visible to me on my phone.  When my husband opens his FB app to see my posts, my normal profile pic is there.  And from my laptop my normal profile pic is there.  So now I sound all paranoid because I'm the only one who can see Greta's picture.  (Kinda like when you're the only one who sees the apparition of Mother Mary in a mud puddle in the middle of downtown Buffalo, but none of your other friends see it and every time you walk by that puddle that day on your way to and from your college classes you swear the Great Mother is looking right through you.  Ya, I heard about that once a long time ago)

And how is this related to my Yahoo! account getting hacked?  I have no idea, because the two accounts weren't connected, and as of 1pm yesterday Mark Zuckerberg hadn't taken over Yahoo!, yet.  But now thanks to Greta's little prank, I've also changed my FB account password.  So there she is, Greta, staring back at me every time I look at my FB posts;  that wholesome, yet a little smug, I-know-how-cheese-is-made-and-you-don't Wisconsin glow about her.  Ya, I'm watching you Greta, I'm watching you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I'll NEVER Read A Home Schooling Blog Again, or How Breeding Unicorns With Llamas Will Make The World A Better Place

This is a post for home schoolers. Man, woman, duck, I don't care. But if you don't home school, feel free to leave now because chances are you won't relate what I'm about to describe.  Trust me, you won't want to.

We've been homeschooling for seven years now (stab me with a fork, I can't believe it's been that long and I'm still upright.  I'm drooling on myself, but I'm upright).  I was having one of those days where I needed a little encouragement in the Is-there-a-snowball's-chance-in-Hades-that-my-children-are-going-to-turn-out-normal-despite-the-fact-they're-stuck-with-me-all-day? department.  (and by the way the only reason I even know how to spell Hades is that my daughter is super interested in Greek mythology right now so we're working our way through ALL the gods and goddesses....and what a twisted bunch they are!!  I think those Greeks were probably the first to experiment with magic mushrooms, if you get my drift)  My best friend Sue wasn't available to talk on the phone on that day when I needed some reassurance that I wasn't The Worst Home Schooling Parent Who EVER Lived because she too is a home schooling parent and she was probably too busy having one of those magical mother-daughter moments where her daughter was lovingly and graciously complying with all of her handwriting assignments and who was remembering everything she EVER learned in math (hahaha).  From where I sit my friend is doing an A #1 Super Duper, Give-That-Woman-A-Gold-Star-And-A-Barca-Lounger-In-Heaven medal.  The daughter she's currently homeschooling is her third child she's home educated.  Her first two are brilliant and wonderful, caring and generous human beings that, get this.........dress and look NORMAL.  They're hip and cool and they have BOAT LOADS of friends, many of whom were also home schooled, who are now also independent young adults, and who are also NORMAL.  (And it's actually ALL Sue's fault that we're even home schooling to begin with, but more on that in a later post).

There I was, left un-chaparoned in the cyber world.  With no alcohol.  Did you know there is a veritable cornucopia of home schooling blogs out there?  From Pagan Home Schoolers Who Worship Purple Geodes From Planet XIJ87678 to  Conservative Christians Who Are Sick Of The Government's Plot To Take Over The Life Of The American Family and everything in between.  I mean EVERY thing in between.  Our family?  Good luck putting us in a nice little box with a neat little bow on top, as we're a vegetarian-tree-hugging-Jesus-loving-politically-conservative-disability-friendly-multi-racial family who seems to move every three years whether we need it or not.  Confused?  You're not alone.  My side of the family has COMPLETELY given up on me, which really isn't a bad thing.  But I digress.

So there I am in cyber-land looking for some encouragement on the home schooling-front, hoping to limit my children's time in therapy to a decade or less when they come out of this.  Well that was mistake #1!  Don't read homeschooling blogs!!  Or drink heavily when you do.  Or steal your neighbor's Xanax if you do.  Or wear a blindfold if you do and only read every fifth word. Did you know there are people out there who actually GROW ALL of their own food (from seedlings and babies of course), make their own laundry detergent, plan their meals down to last 1/2 tsp of paprika a month in advance, perform for free in their communities for anyone who will listen on their handmade Brazilian fiddles they make during their daily quiet time (the youngest, "River" is only three, so he uses a butter knife to carve his baby fiddle), and they raise their own money by canning their own raspberry preserves and they recycle plastic bottles that they find while cleaning their nearby parks so they can all go to Rwanda every year to hand out shoes and toothbrushes to orphans.  And I don't drink because.......?  I seriously have no idea.  I had to go take a nap after reading that one.

Near as I can tell home schooling families can fall into one of three categories.  There's category #1, as mentioned above, the over achievers to the nine gazillionth degree on every level of family life.  We bless and release them, while we run screaming in the other direction looking for large amounts of alcohol and anti-depressants. In Category #2  are the families who believe they can do eduction a whole lot better in their own homes and they do it in a wide variety of ways; from having school desks lined up in rows and a flag hung at the front of the room,  to the families who are just as convicted that they can do school a lot better than the current model, but who do it in a more relaxed atmosphere, with kids studying in various places at various times throughout their homes, but whose homes are probably not going to be featured in House Beautiful anytime soon and whose spice cabinets would make Martha Stewart cringe.  Then there's Category #3, the one that scares all of our parents and extended families the most: the UNschoolers.  These are the ones who lean toward John Holt's humanistic view of education which simply states that if you leave children alone and don't hassle them with ANY kind of structure of ANY kind, they will turn out smarter than Guy Kawasaki,  richer than Warren Buffett and more interesting than the Most Interesting Man In The World, and you should just go out and get a hobby that would be useful to the world, like breeding unicorns with llamas while drinking large amounts of Dos Equis.

If you fall into category #1 congratulations, you are an AWESOME parent. Your children will only be the better for eating homegrown kale and mutton (little sweet innocent lambs, by the way, that used to answer to your children's whistles in your pretty-as-a-postcard-meadow).  Your Herculean efforts will pay off in spades and our world will be a better place on every level.  If you're in category #2, congratulations, you are an AWESOME parent!  Chances are good that your child can read by age 14, (beating the national average if you believe what you read in the papers, and of course you do because it's in PRINT for crying out loud, which is almost as good as Walter Cronkite himself speaking from beyond from the The Great News Desk In The Sky). He has a hobby that won't land him on the Crime Watch pages of your local paper, but whose room looks like an Albert Schweitzer experiment gone awry, so you know he's tracking with the normal American teenager.  And if you're in category #3, congratulations, you're an AWESOME parent, and I mean that sincerely.  Every kid learns differently, so kudos to you for being intuitive enough to know when to leave well enough alone.  You definitely have time to blog, write your own music and breed unicorns with llamas, therefor making the world a better place.

But what about the FOURTH category?  And you know who you are, you had to read this post just like you have to rubber-neck at accidents on the freeway....you're the ones who don't home school.  You think we're all nuts.  Or saints. Or that we just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE spending EVERY freakin' waking moment with our spawns and that everyday is just a mutual love fest of adoration.  What about you?  Congratulations, you are an awesome parent!  And that's the truth.  Not everyone is going to home school.  Not everyone can, for a whole variety of reasons.  I do think it's the best way to tap into every child's emotional and intellectual capacity but I'm not naive enough to think that everyone is going to board this train with me, and that's cool.  I don't judge you.  I don't have the time or the emotional energy to. Don't be offended, but I actually don't think about you a whole lot because I'm too busy trying to keep up with my offspring........but I would appreciate it if you would share your Xanax.  I heard it's freakin' awesome when you're breeding unicorns with llamas.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oh, So THIS Is Where You Go To Not Be A Parent Anymore

Just now I was cleaning up my in-box and I found a post that I had made to the L.A. Down syndrome group a few months ago.  I'm pasting it here so people who don't have kids with disabilities might get a taste of some of the mind-numbing conversations we as parents who do have kids with special needs have with mindless drones, who collect a paycheck whether they're actually helpful or not.  Most of the time it's not the stress of parenting a child with special needs that makes us want to stab people in the arm with shivs hidden under our sleeves, it's conversations like these:  This is from Oct. 27, 2011

So this afternoon we had our annual meeting w/ our regional center (Harbor, which covers the SouthBay).  I don't know why I didn't come here first a few days ago and ask for some tips and reminders with which to take to the meeting, but I totally spaced it.  Chalk it up to only have six brain cells left.

Some background:  Hayden is 13, but developmentally he operates somewhere between 2-4years of age (4 maybe stretching it, but hey, I'm entitled to a mother's optimism while wearing my rose-colored-glasses!!).  We currently receive 18 hours of respite/month (which we had to formally petition for last year) for which we are VERY grateful.  We are a homeschooling family and do not access therapeutic supports and services through the school system.  There are MAJOR safety concerns and issues with Hayden including him leaving the house (remember him escaping from our house when we lived dangerously close to Pac Coast Hwy???) and regularly turning on the hot water in the kitchen and bathroom sinks (his nerve receptors don't seem to alert him when his hands are under the steaming hot stream of water), which means line-of-sight-care.  Which means someone MUST be with him at ALL times.  Which means if I need to use the bathroom, I do it BEFORE I make his breakfast/lunch so WHEN (not if, when) he gets up in the middle of his meal to turn on the hot water (which he does compulsively), I'm right there to redirect him.

Okay, so from last year's IFSP to this year's, there weren't a whole lot of major changes in Hayden's life that would affect us accessing services (what services???) and supports (nonexistant so far) from HRC, but I really tried to emphasize from the get-go the safety part of our life and Hayden's inability to respond to stimuli, to our directions (often-not always).  So we start the meeting by going over the first couple of sections and my husband tries to ask our case mgr what can be done to help US bridge the gap between what a typical 13 year old behaves like/is capable of understanding, etc.....and what we go through with Hayden on a daily basis.  And the case worker says, "Can you be more specific?"...."Well", my husband adds, "We don't know exactly what to ask for, but we know we need help".....and the case worker says, "Can you be more specific?".  At this point my husband's face (natural red headed complexion-used to have bright red hair back in the day) goes completely beet red.  Danger Will!  Danger Will!!  Get the husband out of the room before we need a HAZMAT crew in here!!"  My husband tries to explain himself and then she talks OVER him and tells us how HRC can't provide any services whatsoever (good to know---can we just cut to the chase and ask for more respite hours now??), but that she could send us information on classes they have there at HRC (classes? first I've heard of any of that).  She tells us ALL about the "Y" and their various community programs but then when I suggest that we probably can't afford the membership she says, "Oh well, we can't pay for that".  At this point I should say I'm totally cool with that....I'm not expecting HRC to pay for the Y,  or therapeutic horseback riding, music therapy, or camps, or traditional therapies, or anything really.......we just want to KNOW what's out there (In the two plus years w/ HRC we've received NO information about ANYTHING).  About that time I said, we just heard about something yesterday called "The Friendship Circle"......have you heard of that??" I ask her.  "Oh yes", she replies, "Some parents find that organization really helpful, others not so much".  "Well, I just found out about this yesterday, quite by accident and we're kind of interested in that", I added, hoping that at this point she'll actually TAKE THE BAIT and explain a LITTLE about what this group does here in the South Bay.  She told us she thought it was in Redondo Beach.  End of conversation.  What more could we possibly want to know??  At this point my husband's head IS going to explode, so he excuses himself to the bathroom......or the nearest bar, I don't know.

But here's the thing we DID get from HRC:  they can't offer any technical assistance (she did ask us AGAIN if we could be more specific), but we can take CLASSES on HOW to teach our 13 year old son HOW to brush his teeth, HOW to dress himself, HOW to feed himself, etc......  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  There has GOT to be a  hidden camera in this room, I just KNOW it!!  (I take notes officiously and I'm sure she's thinking I really want to know more about these informative classes......really I'm taking notes so I don't forget these little nuggets for this rant).  She also told us how we can take classes on safety so we can teach HIM about safety issues.  Wow, if someone would have just taught me about safety and locks then maybe I could have explained it to Hayden and he wouldn't have walked out the front door of our house....TWICE!!!  At one point, I turned to this woman and said, "Please know that I am not in any way being sarcastic, but in our family, we call this P A R E N T I N G......this is kind of what we do EVERY SINGLE DAY".  I mean aside from reading, writing and arithmetic, we actually DO teach SELF HELP skills every single flippin' day!!!

Then she tells us about ADULT services for ya know when Hayden turns 18....in FIVE YEARS.  I'm ALL for planning ahead.  I WILL plan ahead, but TODAY we're talking about THIS year's IFSP.  Support for this family THIS year, thank you very much.

Okay, here's the other part of the rant:  she told us that we couldn't get more respite than what we have and certainly not 24 hrs/month (is 24/month the "max" # of hours in the state of CA? I seem to remember that from last year)  unless both of us were working parents.  So my husband says (not trying make enemies here on the list, just pointing out some institutional incongruities), "So you mean to tell me that a two parent working household whose child goes to public school six or seven hours a day, and those parents spend three or fours a night with their child (assuming the parents work traditional 8am-5pm workdays) are eligible for 24 hours a month of respite, but someone who is ALWAYS with her child who has SIGNIFICANT special needs and disabilities is in essence "lucky" to have 18 hours a month?"......to which she started back peddling and saying how she doesn't make any decisions and she just passes it along to management, etc......Then she starts telling us about how HRC runs foster homes for kids under 18.....ya know, if it just gets to be "too much".  We could pick him up on the weekends.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME????  How about you take a little chunk out of that $3-5K/month it takes to house a child with a developmental disability in a "foster home" (not run through the county, she assured us) and give it to PARENTS to access more respite???

Okay, that's all I can remember for now.  My apologies to all of you for wasting your time with this whining rant!!.......I need to go meditate, medicate with Halloween candy, or find last night's episode of "The Middle".

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This One's For You Systems-Change Lady......

  This past week I posted on Facebook about about a comment that a speaker made at a meeting that we had just attended that night.  The meeting topic was systems change as it relates to the disability community and at some point the subject of social media came up and she made the (what she thought was) an off-hand comment about not needing to be on Facebook because she had, "plenty of real friends and I don't need to go looking for new ones in cyberspace".  Wow.  That was a mouthful and my husband and I were more than a little stunned as we sat there in our seats.  And me being me, I had to come right home and write about it.

(here it is:  (Thurs.p.m. April 12)  Just went to a public policy mtng in Our Town (public policy as it effects people w/ disabilities), where the person leading it, a major player in state-level systems change, disparaged and impugned social media, saying she has plenty of friends in real life and she doesn't need to look for new ones here on FB. Turns out she's active here in FB land and had more than 350 "friends" (wonder how many are "real"). Dear Systems Change Lady, It doesn't matter what you think about it, social media IS an unprecedented phenomenon that has repeatedly proven itself to be a major player on the WORLD stage and lives HAVE been changed and SAVED. In the world of disability, social media is helping forge authentic and intimate friendships and it is creating dynamic mentoring relationships in which our children's lives are enriched and on really good days, our sanity as parents is restored. Thank you. That is all.)

Okay, so that was my post and I received a lot of positive feedback as a result, which was really nice.  But it got me thinking about this whole "real friendships in the cyber world" thing and I wanted to share this AMAZING story.  A true story......  So this is for you Systems-Change Lady-who-doesn't-think-she-has-the room/time-in-her-life-to-go-"hunting for cyber-friends":  

A couple of years ago I was having a rough go of it with one of our kids (ya know, autism behaviors aren't all they're cracked up to be).  So I found some group on Facebook and put out a feeler to find another mom who might want to chat with me sometime (think, "help, I need a friend, NOW!!").  A woman answered my cry for help and we started instant messaging with one another and right away we found out that we had quite a few things in common, not the least of which was that one of our kids was on the autism spectrum, but the most important was that both of us were Believers and loved the Lord.  And so began a wonderful friendship that grew and grew.  We instant messaged one another, shared photos of our kids, shared our home schooling philosophies and strategies, our parenting strategies and values, etc.., etc.....and we laughed and joked with each other ALOT.  We both love to and NEED to laugh ALOT to keep our sanity!  Pretty soon I was telling her about my wonderful and AMAZING friend who lives up in the Northwest, and how it sounded like they probably had quite a bit in common too, including the fact that they both had older children in their twenties and they both had experience with neuro-development theory and practices, and last but not least,  all three of us also have kids with Down syndrome.   So I hooked up my new friend "L" with my amazing link-to-sanity-friend "S" via FB (using initials here in a vain attempt to protect the innocents) and before long they too were communicating with one another.  Now, fast-forward about a year.  My friend L had been sharing with me that she was completely "over" living in the state where she had been living with her family for years and years.  She was geographically and socially isolated, they didn't know any other homeschooling families, they didn't have any authentic "go to" friends in the community and she was really, really tired of being alone.  So they wanted a change in geography for everyone's sanity-sake.

  So I began to pray over her situation and intercede on her behalf and I just asked the Lord what HE wanted for their family's life and my friend S did the same thing.  Before long L and I were were having conversations about where they "could" live, and what, if any, were the geographic restrictions for them to relocate.  Turns out her husband was completely free to move about the country to anywhere they pleased.  So me, being me....I said, "Well then, you're moving to Tacoma, WA so you can be near S!! I know you've never met her....you haven't even met me!, but you'll LOVE her....you two will hit it off and you'll have at least one friend and your kids will LOVE S's daughter and her older kids....It'll be great!"  And you know what??  S and I banded together and combed Craigslist and Zillow for possible houses and neighborhoods for them, S went out on scouting trips to possible houses and you know what? Last September 19th L's family pulled up with a moving truck and a trailer to within three miles of S's house to a house they had never seen in person and S's husband and a group of guys from their church were there to help them unpack.  

In December I had to make the devastatingly sad journey "home" to the NW to attend the funeral of my beloved nephew Jason.  Within two hours of getting off the plane, S, L & I were sitting in an Applebee's restaurant, all three of us in the same room for the FIRST TIME EVER and it was like we had known each other FOREVER.  The occasion for my arrival was of course horrible, and we all acknowledged that.  They were there for me in the sadness and grief, but before long the jokes were flyin', and we were laughing and carrying on together like it was as natural as breathing.  The only reason we even left the restaurant was that L's kids were getting worried about dinner (like, was anyone going to be there to make it?!).....we had held her captive ALL afternoon after all!!  Now fast forward a few months.......Last Wednesday afternoon I called S to check in with her for the day and she had four of L's kids at her house and they were making a birthday cake for L while she was out running errands with a couple of their other kids before they all headed out of town for L's birthday the next day.  It was going to be a big surprise for L and all the kids at S's house was so excited.  So when L came by to pick up her kids there was a surprise party waiting for her........and I couldn't be happier for her........Well I guess it would be pretty amazing to actually BE THERE in person to share in the party, but being on the other end of the phone was the next best thing.........And that feels pretty real to me.

Clearing The Air

  In recent weeks I've been posting more on Facebook, because there's been a lot more going on in our lives and there's actually something TO post, and I've probably posted it to FB rather than here because FB is like a highway and people will stop and stare no matter what's on the side of the road.  I'm not self-indulgent enough to think that people are actually reading my stuff because they "choose" to per se, it's just that well, that highway analogy pretty much says it all, my stuff is there and it apparently doesn't take any effort for people in my stream to read it, contrasted to the intentional effort it takes to go to some one's blog or website.  So anyway, people ARE reading my posts, which in and of itself is a good thing because, well who doesn't WANT attention?  I won't sit here and pretend that I don't write for an audience.  I do. I also write to get stuff out of my head (it's already plenty crowded there with all the other conversations and voices) and I write because it just feels GREAT.  I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the feeling of putting words to my thoughts and feelings and experiences, and to that end, I don't care if anyone ever reads any of it.

 But at least one person is reading the posts and at least one person (maybe that same person) has their panties in a wad and that's why this post is here. I'm starting to get more comments, which is cool, especially the positive comments!  But of course, that's not what this entry is about, this is about the negative comments which are trickling in.  Apparently some are reading my entries and are seeing things that are not there, like negative comparisons of where we used to live (in the second largest city in U.S.) to where we are now (NOT a big city), with the "where we are now" place not faring so well.

  First and foremost, thanks for reading my stuff!!  I'm just happy that one person has read ONE thing I've written (aside from my husband who also faithfully listened to me every morning during drive-time....he's a good guy). That being said, it's no where near the truth that I have in any way cast a negative light on our current town, which I've have named Our Town in my posts.  I'll get back to that point in a minute, but I want to back up and explain some basic foundational writing tools I use. It's very common to compare and contrast one thing to another.  It makes thing more "real" for the reader, more relate able and a writer can do that without disparaging or insulting one thing or the other, and I think I've done a pretty good job of that.  Are there differences between where we are now from the ginormous city from which we just moved?  Of course!!  Does that mean that I hate this place?  NO, it means it's DIFFERENT.  I have pointed out just a few of the differences, like the lack of Yogurtlands and the fact that I should just prepare myself for missing Indian restaurants and take-out food because there isn't a real big Indian population here.  Does that mean that I think less of where we are now?  No, it means I'm "noticing".  That's what writers do.  They notice stuff and write it down, not totally unlike a painter who paints what he sees in front of him.  And because I really love to write, get this next point because it's important:  I'm writing down the differences. If I wanted to complain about anything, believe me, I've got the words within me to do it.  I'm NOT complaining about our new town because, and here's another really important point:  I have NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.  I am truly happy to be here, and that's probably because I'm truly happy to be ANYWHERE.  It's a heart-set.  A few years back before most of my life passed me by, I decided to jump on the Grown Up Train and be content no matter what my circumstances are; wealthy or poor, tall or short, living in a mansion or not, living at the beach or in the desert.  Since doing that (and making the daily choice to stay on that train) my life has busted out with more joy, more contentment and get this, more PEACE.  Yay for me!  You can join me on that train anytime you like, there's plenty of room!

  Do I miss some things from living in a big city?  Of course!!  And it just so happened that our exact location in that large city was pretty smokin' sweet:  three miles from the beach, a bevy  of friends within the disability community, a church that offered sign language interpretation, a social group for the kids where they were VALUED, included and LOVED for the awesome individuals that they are, and beautiful homes in which we lived and beautiful aesthetics surrounded us wherever we went.  And last but definitely not least (I'm only listing this last because I won't make it through this sentence without a box of Kleenex), quite possibly the best "baby sitter" or child care provider (whatever you want to call it) I could EVER ask for.  She was in our lives for over two years and now we're out here without her.  I feel like I'm on a ledge of a skyscraper all alone.  (oh great, here come the flaming hot tears down my cheeks).  It's been a month since we left and it still feels like a gorilla is sitting on my chest whenever I think of her. She IS all that and more. I feel like I got punched in the gut whenever I think of how we're without her, how our kids are without her love and laughter and joy.  Are there things I miss?  Oh ya, and missing things like Miss Becky will never go away (but I am hoping to be able to talk to her on the phone at some point without blubbering), but it's NORMAL to miss things when you leave something or someone important.  The fact that you do miss means that you have the capacity to make connections to people and experiences within your environment, which is a GOOD human quality.  Please don't mistake my references for missing some thing or some one as "hate speech" for our current location.

  Another writing tool I employ is humor. I like to point out the ridiculous, the absurd, the nonsensical and the inane.  Many times, I'm pointing that stuff out in my own life, my own perceptions and thought patterns.  Other times I'm opening my eyes and just documenting what I'm seeing around me, like the fact that our new town has a North Avenue which runs east and west and a West Street which runs north and south. I pointed that out recently, but does that mean that I'm making fun of our new town?  NO, it means that I'm pointing out that it can be confusing!!  In our previous home I pointed out the proliferation of botox clinics and medi-spas.  Does that mean that I think that every person in LaLaLand was pumped full of bovine botulism and were all phony and fake?  NO, it means I was merely pointing out that there was enough botox for every man, woman and child on the planet, located in one city, which is of course absurd and hilarious, and tragically funny all at the same time.  There is a cavernous difference between pointing out the funny things in life and being mean spirited and derisive.  I will always strive to stay in the camp of the former.

  Thank you for staying awake long enough to read this.....or for employing the use of a 5 Hour energy drink in order to do so!  Life is FAR too short and precious to not laugh, and to not have fun!!  Have a GREAT DAY!!

A Month's Worth Of Posts In One.....

 So this morning I decided I wanted to put some of my most recent posts from Facebook in one place (some of the posts have references to photos that aren't listed here and that's why).  I didn't know the best way to play this, so I just listed them from the first of the writing stream to the current date.  And I did this for me, for my recording efforts, so I can look back and read from the "beginning" (or our latest "beginning"; this new adventure) to where we are today, half way through April.  In my next post, I'll address some of the themes or references in this collection......so IF anyone reads this blog (if a writer writes and no one reads it, is it still writing?) you might want to be familiar with this stuff before reading the next entries.......
(Wed. March 14)  Things I've noticed so far on our Back To The Rockies journey: I'm just a little too happy that gas is "only" $3.59 here (and sadly I have now joined the ranks of my parents who can, and do, smoothly work in the price of gas into EVERY conversation). 47 degrees felt good last night after being in a car for two straight days, but the 36 degrees that greeted me when I let out the dogs this morning was a little startling, as my body doesn't recognize temps under 62 degrees. Also there was a thin crystallized film over the dogs' water this morning. Fortunately Shalom always travels with her ice-fishing pole. Our new little berg is a thriving metropolis of 58,566 people covering 38.22 sq miles. I'm used to 58k people at Costco with me, all with their carts parked in the middle of the aisles while they sample every little morsel they can while chatting up the sample lady. Also, there is no Costco. Or Yogurtland. And I dare say that my days of to-die-for-Pad Thai, melt-in-your-mouth Sag Paneer from Ocean Tava, and fresh-baked-this-morning pita bread from my corner market are over......or maybe just going on a vacay for awhile.               

                                                       Scenes from the journey..........
(Thurs. March 15)  What I've noticed so far today in our new life: I hung up a pair of sweatpants, a pair of pajamas, one of Hayden's sweatshirts, and a pair of DP's skate shoes to dry in the laundry room last night. This morning three of the items were completely dry and the others were just slightly damp. Note to self: you've increased your water intake by about a liter/day, but you'll need to add another liter/day to keep up with what the ambient air is draining out of you.

I took the Big Girl out walking this morning (about the distance from the Esplanade to the Redondo Pier and back) and only saw two or three other people. And they weren't on skateboards or scooters or longboards. Something tells me Chronic Taco is NOT in my immediate future.

There is at least a 30 degree temperature swing between the low in the morning and the high in the afternoon and no one seems to notice. It doesn't even make the news. What could be more alarming than the weather deviating from the standard norm of Sunny & 74F?
(Thurs. March 15) Thursday's Thoughts: The local police had a sting operation set up today to ticket drivers who were going over 30mph and for those tail-gating on a couple of main thoroughfares through Our Town. They don't HAVE enough jails in L.A.! I didn't touch the car keys all day.

Earlier in the day I asked Jeff to go to Trader Joe's to get more milk for Hayden. He gave me a funny look. Hmmmm, I was sure there was a Trader Joe's in the sales pitch.

Filed under the heading of "Things Aspies Say", DP went up to Jeff today and said, "Don't be offended, but you look older than Grammy". HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! No, I wasn't offended AT ALL my little Sweet Potato, but Daddy's ego is down for the COUNT!!

Going to Uncle Danny's with Grammy to see the chickens and get fresh eggs is a pretty cool field trip. Later those eggs turned into pretty amazing cupcake size quiches for dinner. YUMMMM

DP rode her bike around the col d'sac a few times this afternoon and no kids came out to tease her or ridicule her. Nice change

We had to drive ALL THE WAY downtown to get a new string for the girl-child's violin. It took 1.5 minutes. But then from there, we drove OVER a mile to find a restaurant (there were of course other eateries in between, but not the one the hubs was thinking of). I think we crossed two bridges and the mighty Colorado River. I told him we were too far from home and we'd have to find a room for the night.

Better than all the toys we could have unearthed for her from the 498 boxes packed away in a storage unit, was the treasure trove of goodies Grammy found in Auntie Jill's old desk from her bedroom where DP is sleeping.....kept her entertained most of the afternoon!
(Mon. March 19, 2012)  Monday's Musings:

Good news peeps!! Theres a SONIC in Our Town! Hope abounds for when it's 135 degrees in the summer. How do you spell relief? Cherry Limemade!!

I'm sewing on my GirlScout Adventurer Badge after walking in the freezing blustery wind this afternoon with The Big Girl (yes I'm repeating myself--I'm allowed, it's my wall and I can repeat if I want to)

Found a new knitting group. Not the same as my beloved Knitting Brain Trust, but I learned a few new things on my first night there, proving that knitters everywhere are happy to share their knowledge and experience with anyone who wants to learn.

Left alone with her Granddad's piano for a few minutes, the girl-child taught herself the main theme to Star Wars this afternoon.

Hayden, proving once again that he is an exact replica if his father, refused to eat any of his black bean soup until I buttered a slice of bread and put the beans on top of the bread. Then all was right with the world.

My father in law is LIVID over the Peyton Manning acquisition. By the rather heated "discussion" he was having with Jeff after dinner, I would guess this solidifies in his mind why John Elway has never been worth anything. Good thing Biff's # is unlisted.
(Thurs. March 22) Thoughts From Thursday:

I think I need to hire a lotion consultant

The Man needs to start carrying an extra pen with him for all the autographs he's signing around town....... It's like being with Roy Hobbs the way people are reacting when they see him

My in-laws both get Fearless Epicurean badges for continuing to show up to the dinner table despite the fact they've never heard of most of the dishes they're eating.
(Sat. March 24)  Saturdays need to seriously take a chill pill and stop going by at the speed of light. Things that made me go, "hmmmm " today:
SPF 4000 applied-check. Five liters of water packed-check. Mt.Everest approved sunglasses-check. Ready to bike two blocks to the park at 11 this morning. I'm pretty sure the entire state of CO has moved a few hundred miles closer to the sun since we left the first time.

We've gone from high school and collegiate surf teams to bicycle teams. Went to my first criterium today, in downtown Our Town----Wooohooo. A very chill and laid back event, unless you were on a Cannondale, then probably not so much.

H gives the local library a big thumbs-up, as it is WELL stocked with YoGabbaGabba & Signing Time DVD's

Girl-child is getting lots more exercise; she's riding her bike around the court a lot, taking The Big Girl out on multiple walks everyday, and today she made friends with the two boys across the street who own a Great Pyrennes, and then ended up riding scooters with them around the neighborhood park. So far no reports of teasing, taunting or ridiculing (of DP), which is a good (and new) thing

Mimi, the wonder cat, was just down in the basement playing the piano. It's a circus over here, never a dull moment
(Sun. April 1)Sunday's are for driving' so that's what we did today.....we figured the kids hadn't driven each other completely over the edge on yesterday's excursion through the peach orchards, so today we just gave them an extra nudge......besides Jeff and I wanted to hear more Star Wars music.......

So, just a mere few minutes outside of Our Town is this ginormous collection of canyons contained in one national park. It's a little over 26 miles across and it's favorite ride for people who feel the need to peddle their thighs to the consistency of hamburger. In November there's an annual marathon.....time to start training!!!! And of course there are a gazillion trails where you can get to know Colorado's snakes, lizards and mountain lions up close and personal without the possibility of medical care for days and days. Sign me up!

Enjoy the photos.......none of Hayden though because getting a picture of him would require him to get out of the vehicle, which apparently was NOT in the cards today (we asked).......until we locked him IN the car, walked 50 feet away to a viewing point and then he decided he would get out. Fortunately the alarm went off because he was trying to get out after the alarm had been activated.....so we completely interrupted the serenity of nature with a blaring alarm, but Hayden didn't get run down in the middle of a gigantic canyon, so it was all good. And he didn't try to get out again, because Jeff re-engaged the child locks on the back doors.......whew.......Just another day at the office........


(Mon. April 2) Monday's Musings: it was cold today in Our Town. "How cold?", you ask.......it was so cold that Hayden actually wore sweat pants and a long sleeve shirt and DP wore socks (of course she was wearing shorts---that'll never change since she can stand pants if any kind). Apparently the half of Utah that blew in with yesterday's wind storm also brought with it actual Spring time cooler temps.

Tonight at knitting the jr high guy (yes, he's a guy--and he's about a gazillion feet tall) was crocheting a fake horse hair tail cover. No, the horse hair is real (and pretty creepy if you ask me), but it's in a fake pony tail thing that you add to the horse's real tail when they're showing..... That's right, to make the horse's tail seem fuller and thicker!! (I knew my L.A. friends would catch on to this concept right away--like they can't spot a fake horse tail from a mile away---puleeeze). And of course every 4H'er worth his/her salt knows that you have to keep the fake horse tail in a protective sleeve when it's not in use, and since you can't just be buyin those things off the rack, you have to make your own. It's black and white.... The sleeve thing I mean. I have no idea what color the horse is, and not do I care. I mean, what's next, fake eye lash extensions? Rump implants? This is NOT the 4H that my father in law grew up with I'm tellin ya.

Speaking of horsey things (hope I don't lose anyone with that technical ranch-speak), I saw a lady walking around with cowboy boots ( not surprising as they give a pair when you cross the state line, I said I had already bought some at the office) that had actual spurs on them.....and she looked like she knew what do with those spurs too.

Jeff found our DVD player and hooked it up to an unused tv in the basement so H could main-line YoGabbaGabba like the DJLance junkie that he is and H was so excited he wore his hearing aids all afternoon......
 (Wed. April 4) Wow, It's Wednesday!! Seriously don't even know how THAT happened! Turning out to be a lovely week overall:

We found a new person to cut Hayden's hair.....who shall henceforth be referred to as "Saint Linda", or "SL" for short. Really just went in to see if she had the right temperament to handle Mr. Oh-No-You-Won't-Get-THOSE-Scissors-Near-Me, and to see if we could get a little trim, but as the photo shows, we went for broke and Mr. Octopus Hands was thwarted in almost all his evil efforts (it might have helped that he hadn't been in the chair more than two minutes (and fully in rebellion-mode) when I decided that a quick refresher course in the organizational management of his life might be in order, so off to the bathroom in the back we went). SL remained calm, cool and most important of all, super quick with those scissors and within minutes we found a handsome teenage boy under that mop!

CO weather is PERFECT for those with ADD because it changes literally EVERY five minutes!! Sunday and Monday most of Utah's top soil blew into the Grand Valley, yesterday it was partly cloudy and cool, and today it was a brilliantly crystal-clear-blue sky kind of day. If the temp never went beyond today's 70, I'd be in heaven.......but I know better!

We are LOVING the library in our town and H is now walkin' in like he owns the place: through the front doors, veering to the right into the kid's section and with laser-like focus he finds the YoGabbaGabba DVD's and starts shopping. Life is good! No need for a complicated and lengthy seminar from Mom or Dad on how to operate the tv/DVD player downstairs. H just gives us this look of: "Just give me the DVD's please and be on your way Parental Units....I've got this covered.......ta ta,". And off we go......In the meantime, DP has found the section in the library about The Bermuda Triangle and has checked out most of the books on that subject.

Granddad gave DP a rope to help her climb trees (hopefully JUST trees, but I don't know that we've spelled out that she can't climb houses or buildings with it, or use it to wrap around the back bumper of some unsuspecting cowboy's truck to get a free tow on her skateboard.....) and she's a kid on a mission. Last night she led a tree climbing seminar at the park for a couple of kids and she and her dad are headed back there right now.

Seriously hard to believe that Easter is THIS Sunday. Seems like Ash Wednesday was about 15 minutes ago. Six weeks ago seems like a lifetime ago. I must have been in the Your-Life-Is-Going-To-Be-One-Freakish-Adventure-After-Another line. Easter is DEF the BEST holiday of all and the one with all the hope and power. Staying focused on the future and appreciating the present. Life on life's terms.
(Tues. April 10)  Tuesday in Our Town:

Went to a high school baseball game with Mr. Our Town and found out that a couple his friends/former teammates (I think one guy he actually used to play against but they've always been friends through various teams and leagues they did play on together--who knows, can't keep up w/ all the teams through all the years)....Anyway, at least two of them actually played major league ball. Wow. The son of one of the guys who was in our wedding plays shortstop for their high school team. Ya, that REALLY messes with my Master's Degree in Denial Math.

As of today it looks like the Little Lachlan's have been signed to play on a local team. The girl-child wasn't too excited, reminding us that she had already turned down a contract to play in Manhattan Beach right before we had left town, but we're trying to talk her into participating so she can be an encouragement to her brother. Hmmm, have NO idea if that tactic will fly, but the uniforms are green, which may help because her soccer uniform from The Burg By The Sea was green and she ended up actually liking the color green as a result......

While playing Rummikub with The Man the other night (beating him soundly actually, but who keeps score?) with front door open I clearly heard gunshots (I DID live in L.A. afterall so I know what these things sound like......okay, so it wasn't exactly SouthCentral....I watched A LOT of "Law & Order" from the base of Mt. Crumpet, so sue me). I was like, "was that gunfire???" Mr. Man, "Uh, ya......shotgun I think" "WHAT??? What's THAT about??" In the meantime, Shalom, The Dog Who Vigilantly Holds Down The Floor, was on FULL alert barking her massive head off and shaking like a 120 pound leaf....and Mr. Man says, "Ya, you need to get used to this because people shoot guns all the time in rural areas".........Uh, YA, this is me getting used to the sound of guns going off for NO freakin' reason. No sirens, nothing. No front page story in the paper the next day. Oh....speaking of which, TRUE STORY: the national story of the guy who accidentally shot a girl with a mohawk a couple of weeks ago.....from Our Town. Thought she was a bird and he was in his house with a gun/rifle/bazooka or something....I dunno. Anyway, dude lives right here....somewhere. Yikes

In other news: Little Man's language is EXPLODING in this rarified lack-of-oxygen valley. Since we've been here, everyday he's now walking around the house saying "No TV...." with a very somber and melancholy voice. Very funny. And what's funny is that he totally knows how to start the DVD player and get himself hooked up with his Main Man, DJ Lance, so I guess when he's walking around saying "No TV...." it means he's deciding to come up for air. He's also yelling at the table while we're having a conversation during a meal and you look at him to reproach him and he puts his index finger to his lips and says, "shhhh"......HILARIOUS. Yes Dude, please be quiet. Please feel free to talk to us, but not shout. The Dude is trippin. All afternoon today before going to the baseball game he was signing Granddad and baseball.....every five seconds. Yes, Dude, we're taking Granddad to the baseball game. Life was good

The girl child is busy building a not-so-secret hideout behind the shed in the backyard (think Sheldon being able to keep a secret), complete with furniture and spy gear. Great, another possible location for a private conversation out the window. We all watched her second favorite movie tonight after dinner: "Joseph & The Technicolor Dreamcoat"..........What a fun show-I always see something new whenever we watch it (I think we're up to 25 times now......). Her first favorite? "The Music Man". Hmmm, I think I'm going to stick with Donnie-My-First-True-Love-Osmond, as Joseph and call it a night............
(Wed. April 11, 2012)
What kind of day was it? It was the kind of day when, even though your daughter is playing games on your phone in the backseat, and therefor you can't use your "notes" app, you grab the back of an envelope to jot things down, because.....well you can't risk forgetting some of the hilariousness you see.......

In no particular order:

*North Street in Our Town runs east and west. West Street goes north and south. I could only take so much of that and went back to my Mrs. Pollifax book

*We were out on a family trek for most of the morning taking a tour of Our Town in search of a place that would take our recyclables. We even stopped to buy gas at one point. Ya, I get the irony. I think we passed some of the homes from which the gunshots originate. After driving for over an hour (or ALL DAY if you believe the reports from the backseat) we found the ONE place in town that would take our variety of plastics and glass......and it was a whopping half mile from the house.

*Suburbans are compact vehicles here.....for reals.

*Clouds here MEAN something. I went to Never Never Land for quite awhile when I could just gaze up at the sky and say, "oooh, it looks a monkey" or "Isn't that just cute".....No people, we are in SERIOUS weather country and you have to study, analyze and figure out what these clouds are SAYING TO YOU right this minute, because they're saying somethin', mark my words! Today's interesting clouds brought 60mph gusts and black-ish/blue-ish scary-ness that swirled all around the valley all afternoon, but did they bring the much needed rain that everyone so desperately wants? Not so much.....

*.25 buys you two and a half hours of parking on prime downtown real estate.

*Saw my first Asian food store on our search-for-recycling adventure named "Carol's Oriental Foods". I'm not making this up and I don't care what it's called as long I can find a decent selection of nori, peppers, and dals.........my poor in-laws don't know what they're in for..........
(Thurs.p.m. April 12)  Just went to a public policy mtng in Our Town (public policy as it effects people w/ disabilities), where the person leading it, a major player in state-level systems change, disparaged and impugned social media, saying she has plenty of friends in real life and she doesn't need to look for new ones here on FB. Turns out she's active here in FB land and had more than 350 "friends" (wonder how many are "real"). Dear Systems Change Lady, It doesn't matter what you think about it, social media IS an unprecedented phenomenon that has repeatedly proven itself to be a major player on the WORLD stage and lives HAVE been changed and SAVED. In the world of disability, social media is helping forge authentic and intimate friendships and it is creating dynamic mentoring relationships in which our children's lives are enriched and on really good days, our sanity as parents is restored. Thank you. That is all.
(Sat.a.m.  April 14)Overnight here....busy, very busy (think the guy in the UPS spot: "Busy!!....I'm BUSY!!" as he calls out from his empty cubicle)

At some point I get up to use the bathroom:

Me: Shalom, move please, you're standing in front of the door

Shalom: Yes, I'm guarding it

Me: Well I need to get out of the door, please move

Shalom: No, the monster might be there

Me: There is no monster on the other side of the door

Shalom: You don't know that and if my GINORMOUS body weren't squished right up against the door, he would probably already be in here gobbling all of us up like Easter's ham......hey, which reminds me, why is it we only have dead pig here at Grammy & Granddad's house? I could really go for some ham right about........

Me: Move now! I'm about to wee my pants!

Shalom: Whatever happens, it's on you now Hee, hee, get it: "it's on YOU now??" hahahaha! I am SO funny in the middle of the night-who knew?

Me: OW!! Your standing on my foot!

Shalom: You told me to move, so I did. You didn't specify to where you wanted me to move.

......Then, what seemed like 15 minutes later:

Hayden: Oh THIS is SO hilarious!! Mom, Dad, have you heard the one where the........

Me: Hayden, what time is it? It's 5 in the morning! On a SATURDAY!! Trust me this is NO time for jokes

Hayden: HAHAHAHAHA!! This one is SO funny I can't stop laughing and throwing myself on my pillow.....PLEASE, you've gotta listen to this.......So the bear, the priest and the rabbi walk into a......

Me: PLEASE Hayden, save it for your set at the Comedy Club in Manhattan Beach......I'll send you there ONE WAY.....you can stay with Bronwyn Shields or Carrie Wetsch.....I'm sure they'd LOVE to have you for a few days or a week......Just please let me SLEEEEP on a Saturday morning!!!

Hayden: You mean Ryder & Tyler? Those two dudes are HILARIOUS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I just can't stop laughing even thinking about them!! Watch out pillow, I'm going to attack you!! HAHAHAHAHA!! GOTCHA!!

......In the meantime, on the other side of the bed:

Jeff McLaughlin: SNORE, gurgle, cough, SNORE, SNORE, SNORE