Tuesday, August 29, 2006
We sat and relaxed for a short time, about 5 minutes, before SmallBoy and PC decided it was time to build a sand castle. The little girl who had come down and set up camp while her friends went in the lake was still sitting by herself, keeping watch. PC thought that perhaps this might be an opportune moment to work on social skills with SmallBoy by having him invite her to come and join them. He and I discussed it and decided that would be a great idea. PC asked SmallBoy if it would be alright if the girl joined in the construction of the castle, and SmallBoy agreed; she came down to the beach with boys so she can’t have TOO MANY cooties. Next step: get SmallBoy to go ask her to join the fun.
“Hey, SmallBoy. How about going over and asking that little girl to come and play with us?”
“SmallBoy, why don’t you walk over, introduce yourself, and see if she would like to help?”
SmallBoy was fully engrossed in the idea of the sand castle and, although he was not averse to having someone new join in the fun, he was not about to stop what he was doing in order to take the necessary steps to have that happen. Instead, PC, being the true gentleman that he is, walked over to her, introduced himself, SmallBoy, and me. She said her name was G. He asked her if she had a cottage in the park or if she was just visiting, she was visiting. Her mother was painting a mural inside a friend’s newly purchased cottage, and the kids had come along for the vacation. WOW! She was one luck girl! She said one of the boys in the water was her brother, E, and the other, M, was the son of the woman who owned the cottage where her mother was painting. PC asked G if she would like to come and help. She declined. I couldn’t tell if it was a decline because she wanted to stay put in spectator mode or if it was that she was told by her mom not to do anything until she arrived on the beach.
PC and SmallBoy returned to their building. The first part of their construction was to dig deep enough in the sand to reach water and create a pool for the castle. They set this part in the wettest sand, closest to the breaking waves. The concept was to have the pool fill as the waves crashed in. Brilliant idea, we thought. The hole was dug about a foot and a half across and probably about 6 inches deep. Next they began to line the inside of the pool with medium-sized beach rocks to fortify the inside walls….it was all about the strength of the pool and how it would stand strong against the attacks from the water. The next step was the fortification of the pool’s exterior. Large rocks were chosen for stabilizing the gate walls of their castle. In comparison to the interior rocks, these were boulders. By no stretch of the imagination were these rocks really boulders, or even the size of bricks, but when side-by-side with the rocks holding up the inside walls, they were enormous, and considerably heavier. Each rock was chosen on its weight, its shape, and its “coolness”, because you know a man’s castle must be cool, and therefore, his pool cannot be anything less.
Once the pool’s gates had been strengthened, it was time to begin decorating/fortifying the outer walls – they said fortify, I said decorate. PC began by making drizzle castles along the upper rim of the pool, the part that was level with the beach. All along the perimeter of the pool stood individual drizzle castles. For those of you have not had the joy of making a drizzle castle, the process is a simple one: Fill your hands with wet sand and drizzle it into a pyramid-ish shape. As the castle forms, it takes on the effect of those drip candles – you know, in college, the ones we all used to stick in the chianti bottles and melt (and then burn another one in a different color) – each layer dripping down onto the one beneath, until the “castle” has formed a steeple-like peak. I thought they looked like a forest of pine trees that had been caught up in a sudden sand storm. With the forest of castles firmly in place, or as firm as sand can be anyway, PC and SmallBoy decided it was time to add the pebbles to decorate/fortify the outer walls of the pool. For strength, they scooped up handfuls of rocks and pebbles of many sizes, shapes, and colors, and packed them into the side walls. This took quite a while, considering the size of our castle pool.
PC and SmallBoy were busily tending to their magnificent creation, when one of the boys came in from the water and asked if he could help. He introduced himself as E. He told us that the girl on spectator duty, whom we had already met, was his sister G. E immediately set about helping to gather pebbles and add them to the walls; and just in time, too! The next thing we knew, the waves had a sudden surge and were crashing even harder on the beach. It seemed that our mighty fortress was under attack! It was quite a sight watching two boys and a grown man rushing with an intense urgency to protect and save their creation. G. saw the urgency with which the guys were rushing up and down the beach and finally came over and asked if she could join in the fun. OF COURSE!
Finally, after what seemed like eons, the waves eased, the “ocean” subsided, and the fort was safe. SmallBoy and E thought that in celebration, they would take turns burying each other in the sand. The began digging a hole with their hands, like dogs – or primitive men. PC saw that if they continued digging this way, the process would take the entire weekend. He jumped right in with the boys, helped dig, and offered “digging advice” on how to maximize their project with minimal work. They became so carried away with their digging, that the hole was big enough to bury both boys…which was exactly what they did. SmallBoy and E sat facing each other, cross-legged, and PC buried them up to their shoulders. G came over and taunted her brother, all the while, the boys just laughed. To bust out of their entombment, they both used the Incredible-Hulk-Break-Out method, flexing their 8 & 9 year old muscles until the sand finally broke away.
Covered in sand, there was only one thing to do…and they got right back in the water. As I looked up from writing about the fortress building, I saw PC, SmallBoy, E, & G all back in the water. SmallBoy flopped in to get off all of the sand, E did the same, G took great joy as she splashed her brother, and PC, well, he was enjoying being a kid – a grown up kid, mind you. No one said that we ALWAYS need to act our age, right?
PC and SmallBoy took one last trek out to the sandbar. There, they met the other boys who had come down with E & G. These boys were a bit older, more like 11 & 12. For the rest of the afternoon, they surfed the waves, splashed each other, jumped, flopped, and bellyflopped over the waves. When they finally came back into shore, they were breathing heavy, their lips were back to blueberry purple, and they were shivering. Exhausted? Yes. Done for the day? Definitely. Ready for more tomorrow? OH YEAH!
As I folded up the beach chairs, gathered the cooler, the towels, and my writing, the guys made one last fortification effort for the afternoon. The waves had, once again, become stronger, which made it quite apparent that something was blowing in from the west. If our castle had any hope of surviving the impeding storm, it needed more strength. PC and SmallBoy packed in the beach rocks and pebbles as much as they could. We bid farewell to our castle, imprinted it on our memory, and headed back up to the cottage. Our hope was to come back down and have a beach fire that night with G, E, S – their mom, and the family they were staying with – to roast marshmallows, drink beer (and juice boxes), and have fun. We hoped that the weather would cooperate.
SmallBoy demonstrated, once again, his amazing memory and his growing familiarity with the park, as he led us back to the cottage down the path. I was certain that this had become his favorite route, but couldn’t decide if it was because it was shorter, because it was woodsy, or because it was just “cool.” As we walked, though, our stomachs growled in hunger. We had not brought any snacky food to the beach with us, just juice and beer. The guys worked much harder and, were therefore, much much hungrier than I. We had two choices for dinner: more hot dogs or pizza from DiMaggio’s – the world’s best pizza (outside of Chicago, that is). Gee, which would you have picked?
As the cheese formed a tightrope between our mouths and our pizza, our tummies made more noise – this time in gratitude. We talked about our plans for the evening. PC and I watched with concern as the sky darkened and the wind began to pick up. SmallBoy was so set on going to the beach fire. We were worried that this might totally throw him off. We had made it a point, as we progressed through the day, to stress to SmallBoy that even when we try to plan things, sometimes they have to change; that as early as that morning when we left, the weather forecast had predicted rain, and had made us aware that we might have to have a Plan B for the night time hours. While we sat. devouring our pizza with the ferocity of wild beasts, the rain began to fall. It was a light rain, which left us some hope that it would lift and pass before it was time to go down to the beach fire. We made our way home, changed our clothes, and relaxed on the screened in porch while we digested our dinner and formulated Plan B – all the while, we prayed we wouldn’t have to use it.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Oh, and here are a couple fun ones, including my handsome man singing the song he wrote - which you can hear on our myspace site (soon to be updated with the live one from yesterday - it's even better than the one already playing there!)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
SmallBoy exhibited his incredible memory for directions and routes by leading us back to the beach through the secret path, one of the many shortcuts between our cottage and the rest of our community. This path, as with the last, was wooded. The floor was dirt, leaves, tree roots, sand, sticks, and stray, often crushed, acorns (ever so painful when stepped on with a bare foot). It was a quick path, but for the inexperienced its narrowness and unpredictability - as far as the texture of the ground awaiting each footstep, can hold a bit of a scary-factor; not scary movie-scary, just an uncertainty, a fear of the unknown, mild fear for safety. SmallBoy was very pleased that he was able to be the guide, and told us as we proceeded, where we were on the path and what was coming next. I was very impressed, but yet again, not surprised, at his knowledge. It’s that Aspie-ness, again – the memory, the detail, etc. PC had told him, “Ok, SmallBoy, you lead the way, we’ll follow you, but ask us if you are unsure of where to go next.” He never asked, never even hesitated.
With the path behind us, we again took to the road. PC stopped us to show SmallBoy something that had completely amazed him as a child. Secluded, though the park may be, it is not primitive; there IS electricity running through it, as well as phone lines. PC and I have had the great fortune to have been young children when Star Wars was originally released in the theaters in the 70's – the FIRST episodes, as far as we’re concerned. Correction: I had the great fortune to have been a young child when Star Wars was originally released in theaters. PC, well, he was still on his trike. Nonetheless, there are certain things about those movies that get permanently lodged in the memories of anyone who saw them while growing up – when the imagination had not been overtaken by reality, when the creative things we would make up and pretend still ran rampant in play. Star Wars, and everything about it, was one of those things.
PC not only shares a love for the Star Wars movies, but for film and movie making. He loves to watch special features and find out how certain things were originally done, researched, pulled off. He can tell you if a movie was shot on film or tape (and we hear about it quite a bit, as LargeBoy also shows an interest in studying film). One of the first times that PC took me to Michigan, before we were married, he wowed me with his knowledge of special effects, particularly sound effects. He relayed this knowledge to SmallBoy who can find amazement in most things, and who was astounded by this new revelation. It blew his socks right off.
We had stopped on the road after emerging from the path. I mentioned earlier that the park was fully equipped with phones and electricity. Above our heads, of course, ran the electrical and phone lines for the park. PC said, “Hey, SmallBoy! Wanna hear something cool? Wanna hear a Star Wars sound?” At the mention of Star Wars, SmallBoy’s excitement and interest piqued. He looked curiously around at the land and homes around us while he attempted to figure out just exactly how, and from where, PC was going to summon up a sound from Star Wars. As before, PC took on the role of teacher and explained to SmallBoy that when George Lucas was making the first (OUR generation’s first) Star Wars movie, he had trouble finding a sound for the lasers and light sabers. That explained, PC took a rock and, on the first shot, nailed it against one of the power lines. The sound of the hit, coupled with the vibration of the wire, created a sound much like the lasers and light sabers. PC further explained to SmallBoy that before they had the technology to recreate this sound, that the rock against the wire trick was used to actually capture the sound, and then the sound was manipulated to form exactly the effects they were seeking. Tweaked one way the sound would represent a light saber engaged in battle, another, a light saber being powered up, yet, tweaked another would mimic a shot from the laser on and X-Wing or Tie Fighter. This new information fascinated SmallBoy, at least momentarily before he refocused on the task at hand, getting to the beach. I can promise you, though, that for the rest of his life, when he watches Star Wars, SmallBoy will be reminded of the creation of the sound effects and, more than likely, will share that knowledge with everyone he can.
We picked up our journey once more and walked, still barefoot, to the beach. It took the guys only moments to scope out just the right spot, take in the view of the waves crashing on to the beach, plop down their stuff and head straight into the water. It was quite obvious that this was what they had been waiting for, since 5:18 that morning (and probably before). The waves had increased from earlier in the morning when the water was still quite calm, making them ideal for some serious beach play. I’d like to say that the guys stopped and checked to see if the water had warmed at all and then gently waded in, allowing their bodies to gradually get used to the temperature. I’d like to say that they were cautious. I’d like to say many things, but I would be stretching the truth - more like outright lying. They threw caution to the wind, and tore right into the lake as if they had been traveling through the desert and had finally reached a giant oasis, not wasting any time indulging in the pleasures it provided. They were such happy campers.
PC had already explained to SmallBoy that Lake Michigan, at least our part of Lake Michigan, has a very strong undertow. That, of course, entailed explaining an undertow and how it can just sneak up, grab you in its clutches and whisk you away. He explained the dangers of fighting the undertow and what to do if he got caught. Our hope was that this would scare the bejeezus out of SmallBoy so that he would be extremely cautious, and he was. Sometimes we have to take advantage of the Asperger's to instill the importance of a particular issue. In this instance, it worked. SmallBoy desperately wanted to go out to the sandbar, but knew that he shouldn’t go out on his own. PC went in with him, as they had run into the water together, an image of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum imprinted itself on my memory, and he surmised that the water was safe enough for the sandbar - IF they went out together. PC let me know it was ok by shaking his hands over his head while flashing me this devilishly goofy up-to-no-good grin. Then, before I knew it, all I could see was the back of my guys as they waded and swam and splashed their way out to the sand bar.
I didn’t really pay too much attention to them, as I was engrossed in reading my book and bathing in the warmth of the sun's mid-August rays that reached down to embrace me on the beach. I will, no doubt, end up all wrinkled and skin cancer-y because of my extreme distaste for sunblock, but, despite my Italian DNA, the sun completely passes over me if I even apply an SPF 1. I could be slathered in baby oil, basking in the sun, being pummeled over and over by UVA & UVB rays and get nothing. If my body manages to gain some color, it’s usually just something fleeting that peels, tanned or burned, within two weeks. Hmmph!
While I read and tried to steal some rays, a group of kids came down to the beach. The boys immediately dove into the water, leaving the little girl alone to set up camp. She planted the big black and aqua blue umbrella into the sand, opened it so wide that I was afraid it would gobble her up, assembled her beach chair, and plopped in, arms folded, watching the boys. She seemed resigned, as was I, to sit in the chair and spend the afternoon as a spectator. I could still see PC and SmallBoy bopping around and splashing and leaping into the waves, and she could see her friends doing the same. After much splashing, my guys came in to the shore, PC with an exhausted SmallBoy at his side. Naturally, I thought that this was it, that SmallBoy was ready to head back. Nope. No way, Jose. This was only the beginning.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Our tummies happy, and full of cheese dogs (we eat simple to maximize “out time”), we set out towards the dunes for our next adventure – walking off our lunch! I think I managed to convince SmallBoy that barefooting was not bad, he quite enjoyed it. We walked down the dirt roads, feeling the sand work it’s way in between each toe. Part of being barefoot, is sucking it up when you step on something. Gravel was tolerable, sticks were ok as long as they didn’t find their way under a toenail, but Super-“Hey-SmallBoy,-why-don’t-you-go-barefoot”-Mom, managed to step on a BIG rock that had lodged itself in the road. As the pain shot through my foot, I had to choke back the urge a) to yell out one obscenity after the other and b) to be a big baby because I had an owie. Instead I let out the tiniest of whimpers; enough that PC could catch on that I had done something or other, but not enough to let SmallBoy catch on and become worried that he, too, might suffer the same fate. By no stretch of the imagination was this just a tiny-whimper-able pain. The pain zinged its way through my heel, and reminded me more and more of my carelessness with every step…at least for the next 20 or 30 steps. I bucked up and walked it off. Try as I might to keep SmallBoy from experiencing my pain, Fate saw fit to place another rock in the road, this one with his name on it. Somehow, though, I think my example helped him to suck it up…he knows I’m a wuss. I could almost see the gears turning in his brain thinking out the logistics of this incident, “Hmmm, Mom’s a big baby when it comes to pain and SHE was ok and walked it off. Perhaps it doesn’t hurt as much as I think it does. I’ll just be a big kid and walk it off.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Both of our heels recovered in time to take the curve and walk down the gravel road leading to the Mama Dune, the largest and steepest of the dunes that are accessible for hiking. Behind the Mama Dune is, of course, the Daddy Dune, but he’s much too tall for my liking and, much too overgrown for climbing (this is beginning to sound like a story about a little blonde girl and some bears, isn’t it?). Mama looked rather intimidating to me and, conveniently my knee had begun to ache – no, seriously, it really did. I thought it would be much more important for PC & SmallBoy to get some more male bonding time together, so I opted to stay put in the warm sand while the boys began their upward trek. As I lay in the sand, feeling the sun begin to tingle my skin, I had the opportunity to witness a grasshopper, carefully camouflaged with its surroundings, as it leapt from one patch of dune grass to the next. It was rather intriguing to watch this tiny little creature carefully stalk something, watch its prey escape, and then witness its graceful flight to the next target.
When I looked up from my grasshopper observations, SmallBoy and PC were almost up the dune. SmallBoy was getting a little discouraged and began to give up. Instead, PC urged him forward. I couldn’t hear what he said, but it was something to the effect of, “Hey, SmallBoy, you’re already farther than Mom – look where she is!” Nah, he didn’t say that, but I wonder if the thought crossed his mind. With PC’s cheering, SmallBoy made it to the top. I looked up at them and thought about how wonderful and comforting it is that PC is so incredible with my SmallBoy. Not many men will take to a step-child, especially one who needs so much extra love and guidance, and not only help him and teach him, but love him and treat him with the respect that he deserves. I can see how much PC genuinely loves SmallBoy – and all of my children, but this observation was with SmallBoy. He loves him as if he were his own blood. Part father, part teacher, part cheerleader, part Good Cop, and part Bad Cop; that’s what I see. The love just pours out of PC…and so does the fun and adventure. No sooner had I finished having this wonderful moment with my guys, did they begin their descent down the dune, barreling toward the bottom like racehorses let loose from the gate. PC had already warned SmallBoy about where to keep his body weight to minimize the odds of falling, but really - isn’t that the goal, to fall down the dune? It truly is just a matter of how far down the fall happens and how magnificently the fall is executed.
About a quarter of the way down, SmallBoy wiped out, face first into the sand. PC stopped and sat to catch his breath, while SmallBoy laid there motionless, arms and legs strewn into funky positions. I can’t honestly say that I knew without a doubt that he was ok; I suspected he was just fine, but I’m a mom, the immediate instinct is the injured child. My first thought was, “OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! SmallBoy’s hurt!” Of course he wasn’t, it was just the drama and the trauma of the fall, oh yes, and the face full of sand. The fear was fleeting as he started flopping around in an attempt to justify how the fall was absolutely NOT his fault and WHY did he fall and it was SO NOT FAIR that he fell. I think his outburst was a little bit of Aspie and a lot of trying to save face – he is, after all, a male. Checked ego in tow, and a bounding PC at his side, SmallBoy finished the descent down the dune – laughing, screaming, running full speed and, of course, completing the run by telling me I was a wuss for not going. Little did the guys know that they would have had to carry me back to the cottage, because my knees were not very happy, and probably would have totally cashed out on me had I trekked up and run down the Mama Dune.
Having come down from the proverbial mountain, we headed over to the Sugar Bowl dune. This one is not nearly as large or as intimidating. It is named for the high back and sides of the dune, and the dip as it curves inward – like a bowl, known as a parabolic dune. The dune, itself, may not seem intimidating, but it is the source of some local park lore. I can’t remember the year, but I believe it was early 20th century, as it was originally told, two boys, had been tunneling in the dune when it had collapsed on them, burying them alive. The boys were never seen again, no bodies recovered. If I remember correctly, there was also another part of that story about the ghost of the mother wandering the dunes in search of her boys. That was enough to make the hair on my arms stand on end while feeling the chill run up and down my spine. Every tale has a basis of fact, however, and this one is no exception. It seems that a family living near the dunes had sent out two boys, not necessarily their sons, to do some work for them. The boys never returned. The husband set out in search of the boys, but returned with nothing to show…except that he was missing a shoe, according to an eyewitness. He was overheard on a payphone at the general store telling someone that he was going to need two more boys. A crew finally went searching for the missing boys, and found them dead, buried in the dunes. They also found 5 shoes, two for each boy and one mysterious extra. Creepy huh? Wait, it gets better. Many years later, the family returned to the home. The husband was long deceased and the wife on Death’s door, traveling with her children one last time, presumably to die at the summer home. It seems that she died just before or just after they arrived. For the duration of the stay, the family propped her up in her rocking chair on the porch…overlooking the Sugar Bowl.
I digress…. we three, mother, father, & child, hoofed it up to the top of the Sugar Bowl without much difficulty. Even PC & SmallBoy, still recovering from their escapade with the Mama Dune, had recovered enough to climb the Sugar Bowl without too much effort. We walked across the sand, not quite hot under the sun’s rays, and found a nice shady spot to relax. The difference in the sand temperature was like jumping out of the hot tub into the swimming pool, instant relief. We rested for what seemed to be ample time for SmallBoy, tore down the dune like a snowballs down a mountain, and headed back towards the cottage. Once again, we chose to take the beach route, this time from the southernmost part of our community.
The water had warmed enough to consider swimming. The waves had grown in size and strength since the morning, and the guys were anxious to go try them out! As we walked back, SmallBoy and PC discussed their strategies for tackling the waves and, perhaps, building a sand castle. Once again, we headed back to the cottage, filled a cooler with beer, juice, sun block – oh, no, we forgot the sun block, but we had the beer and the juice, grabbed our beach chairs and our towels, left our shoes behind and headed back to the beach.
Check back for Part III coming soon. Let me know what you think so far, perhaps I'll use this whole piece as a chapter of something or other.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Sunday, August 20, 2006
After what seemed to be an almost unbearable week of no schedule, transitions with going to & coming from Ex’s house, and the culmination of summer, we managed to work all of the conditions just right so that we could get SmallBoy to Michigan for the weekend. Since I had to be home in time to sing at mass on Sunday, we had to return Saturday evening.
With the sky still dark, and just the beginnings of daybreak peering through the shadow of the dawn; with the Birdie-Birds starting to chatter and the world beginning to wipe the sleep from their eyes, we woke SmallBoy up at 5:18 Friday morning. He was a little reluctant to awaken until he realized that it was “Michigan Day!” Thankfully, his bag was already packed and all I needed to do was add a few more items for him – toothbrush, sensory tunnel, a couple extra pairs of socks & underwear…the basics. Once he was dressed and ready to roll, he went out to the car and waited patiently until PC and I caught up.
We were in need of something to start our engines, despite our unusual state of awakedness. The local coffee shop, just down the street from our house, opened at , and so we drove down on our way to the expressway, hoping that someone would be willing to serve us 15minutes early. Fortunately, someone was there and willing to take our money in exchange for coffee and muffins. SmallBoy split a lemon poppyseed muffin with me and, to his surprise, discovered that he LOVES almonds. Aha! Trying something new without knowing it! As we pulled on to the expressway, the sky a slightly lighter shade of gray, we reminded SmallBoy that the question, “are we there yet,” would only be answered affirmatively once we were actually parked in
The morning had finally made its grand entrance, though still gray and rainy on parts of our journey. When we reached Home, we decided to pass our entrance and proceed straight into South Haven and hit the Golden Brown Bakery to see if we would finally have the good fortune to happen upon fresh blueberry coffee cake. We rolled into town amid the morning hustle and bustle – I had forgotten that for the rest of the world, it was still a work day. The bakery, of course,was crowded, mostly with tourists waiting to get their fresh baked delicacies; in
Just south of South Haven, we turned into our park. What a breath of relief to turn that final corner and see our cottage, bordered with red and white impatiens along the deck, greeting us, welcoming us Home. She is nestled in a valley that is lush with greens and browns, trees, ivy, myrtle, sasafrass, ferns…it’s breathtaking. Our excitement to start out and show SmallBoy as much as we could in the next 36hours overtook our need to dive face first into the coffee cake that had been tempting our tastebuds all the way back in from town. We tossed our bags in our room, did a quick check for my camera, which has been AWOL since the last trip to
Within the last couple of weeks one of the nasty storms that rolled through south east Michigan did some damage to one of the decks that leads from the road down to the beach and we were anxious to see if it had been repaired and to see what the beach looked like as a result. As it is with the earth, rain has a massive impact on the appearance of, form, texture of the earth’s surface, so it wasn’t at all surpising to us when we reached the beach, after descending the fortified deck stairs, to see how much of the beach had washed out from under the stairs, how many rocks now made their home snug in the beach sand that once was smooth as a baby’s bottom. Not surprising either, was the size of the beach and how far in the wet sand came before the dry.
We strolled down to the water and tested to see if it was warm enough to swim. PC & SmallBoy walked right in. I started with trepidation and toe dips. After the initial shock of the cold had worked its way through my veins, my body adjusted itself and the water began to feel somewhat soothing. The guys set off ahead of me looking for stones and beach glass. One my favorite pictures, had I a camera to show you, was when PC took the time to stop and show SmallBoy how to skip a stone. He showed SmallBoy the kinds of flat, lighter weight, smooth-ish rocks to look for and then, with the patience of a father, showed him how to hold the rock, how to “wind up for the pitch”, and how to launch the rock. Now for SmallBoy, this is difficult, as skipping a stone involves throwing it with one’s arm at a very odd place, which for an Aspie is something COMPLETELY different. SmallBoy met it with great excitement. He got discouraged when he didn’t do it exactly right on the first try, but he kept trying. With PC’s constant cheering, advice, encouragement, guidance, and love, he managed to actually get a skip or two out of a couple of the rocks. I joined in the fun and, for the first time in my life, managed to skip a couple stones. It was such great fun!
We walked north along the beach, ran in terror from a couple of giant horseflies that must have thought we were invading their turf, skipped stones and danced our feet in the surf. We reached “The Circle”, which serves as homebase for our park, home to the soda bar, and some former hotel cottages. As we came off of The Green, the patio of the sodabar, we caught the quiet morning sun finally getting comfortable in the sky over the meadow, through which runs the
We spotted fresh foot and pawprints and it was evident that we were not the first ones to visit this particular place that day. Sadly, the frogs were no where to be found, either in hiding from the previous visitors or off adventuring somewhere else in the park. Instead of being disappointed, though, SmallBoy was enthralled as PC showed him the places where he, as a young boy, used to find frogs.
Eventually, the mosquitoes won the battle for my blood and we decided it was time to head back and slime up with bug spray. The good kind – which to most people is the bad kind….loads of DEET, because I was not ready to sacrifice any more of my blood, nor run the risk of
Stay tuned for the next installment.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
From the preface, I was hooked and in every spare moment, even the ones I had set aside and deemed as those only for learning the Em & C chords on the guitar, I read. I devoured this book. The purchase of the puppy, when the author and his wife finally get a peek at the father of the litter, I was in tears of laughter - almost falling out of my chair. The tears of compassion and love and sadness poured from my eyes when Marley sat with his mistress as she mourned a miscarriage. The obedience class from hell, the neighborhood incident, the trip to dog beach....I could tell you the whole story, but GET YOUR OWN COPY!
I really can't say enough...and I LOVE to write...it's playful, it's loving, it's heartfelt, it's touching and if you have ever owned a dog, and definitely if you've ever owned a Yellow Lab, you MUST MUST MUST read this book! You can also visit the author's blog and read his posts, comment on the book, buy the book. I can't say it enough....MUST READ!!!!
And so the plotting began: Get Ex to keep LargeBoy and Girl Friday night, work out a way to get Friday off work, leave at the crack of dawn on Friday - trusting LargeBoy & Girl not to trash the house before they left, bribing them to come home and take care of the pets at regular intervals (they'll only be 4 blocks away), and we will be set! Perfectly, everything fell into place, even getting work off for tomorrow (hell, it's not even noon, and I have today's and tomorrow's work done). When things go THAT well, I worry. Yep. Guess what? It's supposed to rain. According to the weatherchannel.com, though, it's supposed to only be a 30% chance for a "few showers" on Friday, and mostly sunny with scattered storms on Sat. Sunny, of course for Sunday, because we have to leave on Saturday night (I have to sing 2masses on Sunday, so I have to be home).
Never fear, the brilliant PC has plans! He's been in that beautiful Michigan playground for so many years, that he can find lots of things to do if it rains. So we can't really take in some sun and sand at the beach in the rain - who cares! We can fish off the pier, we can go into town - either town, for that matter, we can walk barefoot through the park, we can hang out, we can not be HERE!!!!!!!! (and truly, that's the best part!) Finally, SmallBoy gets his turn alone in the special place that we like to call Home - without his brother and sister, since they each got their own alone time there! He was ecstatic when PC told him!
Hopefully my camera is still there from when PC took Girl and S up last time, and hopefully I can convince my laptop mouse that it wants to work (it's rebelling and the mouse-mouse that I have as an alternate, well, it hates me and won't go left), and I can get some pics posted up for you next week! If I don't talk to you til then, have a wonderful weekend! I will!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Equally important is prepping the teachers. The kids go to a small-ish private school (500+ students PK3 - 8), so everyone is pretty familiar with each other, teachers with students & siblings, families and their stories and so on. Last year I met with SmallBoy's teachers at Back To School night in September and again at Conferences in November. In September, I gave all of his teachers a copy of a hand out I found on the O.A.S.I.S. site, called the Asperger's Guide for Teachers. I had modified it to personalize it to SmallBoy, and gave it to every teacher who would interact with him for the school year. Additionally I gave them a copy of something that we had written, to help SmallBoy's classmates understand him a little better - (credit due to Marti & Child) - that perhaps THEY could read ahead of time to get a better grip on the world that is my dear SmallBoy. I prefaced it with this letter....it's already sent, so hopefully I didn't overload them. Let me know what you think:
Dear Phenomenal Teachers:
Let me begin by saying how absolutely delighted we are that you will both be guiding and instructing our youngest, after doing such a wonderful job with LargeBoy & Girl. I am certain that you are both relatively familiar with SmallBoy at this point, but I thought that, perhaps, I could aid your year by providing you with a little more insight into the world that is SmallBoy.
I have enclosed two copies of The Asperger’s Syndrome Guide for Teachers, one for each of you. All of the other teachers with whom SmallBoy will interact received copies of this last year and it has proven helpful. This is a very general guide to what to expect from SmallBoy. Some things you’ll experience, others, not at all. There are some behaviors and needs that SmallBoy no longer exhibits, due to his age and maturity level.
We are undergoing occupational therapy, through (a center owned by another school parent), and are seeing tremendous gains, which we expect will continue to be successful with SmallBoy’s growth and education. While in this program, we are also doing Therapeutic Listening. Every two weeks we work with a new CD that pinpoints different aspects of the Asperger’s and Sensory Integration. Additionally, we are seeing a therapist to help him deal with his questions about why he is different from other children, how he can develop coping skills for his frustrations, deal with family issues, etc….
Academically, SmallBoy does very well. Where he needs help is remembering to do homework, remembering to bring certain supplies/books home to do his homework, or helping him to understand why he needs to make corrections. My other concern, academically speaking, is that children with Asperger’s typically develop hyperlexia. I work at (Copyrighted Company) and am implementing our (Copyrighted Program) with SmallBoy to help boost his comprehension skills. If you would be able to keep us in the loop as far as what you see with his reading comp as the year progresses, we would be most appreciative.
There are some family issues about which you may or may not be aware. SmallBoy’s father and I divorced in 2002 and have both, since, remarried. SmallBoy’s father & step-mother had a baby in July of 2005. Since the Asperger’s diagnosis, his father has stopped taking SmallBoy for visitation, but continues taking his brother and sister. This has only been happening since we received the diagnosis. You can imagine what this does to SmallBoy. He will take him for a couple of hours every once in a while, but never for an extended period of time, with LargeBoy and Girl. As the weekends approach when his siblings go to their father’s, he sometimes tends to get a little more agitated, but he is unable to pinpoint why, which causes increased frustration for him. When they come home again, all is well. However, when his schedule is thrown by his father taking him for a visit, or for a family party, he is stressed out both on the pick up and the return home ends, and it takes him a couple of days to transition back. You may notice the effects of this from time to time. Those are typically times when he needs to be redirected to focus more frequently than usual or needs more cool off time. (Boy did I leave out a bunch of mean stuff about Ex, but it was for school...)
We are developing many strategies and routines at home that should help him have a very successful year at school. PQ is his best friend and, for some reason, understands SmallBoy much better than any child his age. He is able to help redirect SmallBoy, help him to cool off, and sometimes, able to help get SmallBoy to explain his frustrations. SmallBoy, in turn, is very helpful to PQ, especially when it comes to schoolwork, or inclusion in play. I’m hoping that by having them placed in the same classroom, they will help each other, and you.
,br>One thing that we work on with SmallBoy’s OT, J, is reading where his “engine” is: high, low, or just right. When he’s wound up, excited, frustrated, stressed, bouncing off the walls, his engine is too high. When he’s lackadaisical, slow, apathetic, tired, sad, taking his own sweet time, his engine is too low. We are always aiming for “just right”. He is very familiar with that terminology and will respond to it if used with him.
I have enclosed a copy of the book that SmallBoy and I wrote to help explain SmallBoy and the Asperger’s to the class, at a level they can grasp. A family member and her son, who is SmallBoy’s age, originally wrote it. We modified it and added to it to make it suit our needs. It still needs to be modified to say “fourth grade,” but we would welcome the opportunity to share it with both classes.
If I can be of any further assistance to you before school or before conferences, please do not hesitate to call me. I am always happy to help out. Additionally, I will be attending a seminar on Asperger’s and how to deal with frustrations, anxiety, and social skills, in October and look forward to sharing what knowledge I gain with you.
SmallBoy, like his brother and sister, is one of the most loving, kind, caring individuals that I know. He knows that he has to try a little harder sometimes, than others, but he knows that he has a great support network behind him. We, the MG & PC family, would like to welcome you both as new members of Team SmallBoy – his blog on which he writes about his experiences or frustrations or joys. He hasn’t written in a while, but if you would like to take a peek at it before the semester starts, you can find it at TeamSmallBoy.
Please don’t hesitate to call me at anytime. I hope that we can talk on a regular basis and have ongoing updates on how we all feel SmallBoy is doing, and what we can do, together, to help him succeed. I know that you will love him as much as we do.
MG & PC
Monday, August 14, 2006
1) My junior year of high school, I dressed like Madonna, in her early years. I had freaky Italian hair - thick, but with a mind all it's own, had recently discovered Sun-In, and thought that perhaps this new image would help with my own self-esteem issues. It started as a simple thing: one of the teen clubs had lip sync contests every Tuesday night. I dressed like Madonna, went, kicked ass, and won. So, I kept it up. My family would always walk many paces in front of or behind me. Hey, could've been worse - good thing the whole "Emo" movement wasn't around then.
2) When I'm driving somewhere and unsure of where I'm going, I MUST turn the car stereo down/off. It's not like the lack of music will bring assistance to my directionally challenged self, but I'm convinced there's some sort of link there that cannot be distracted at all at that point. My mother and my sister are the same way. I came to find out, only a bit ago, that PC has the same issue with that also. The worst thing, though, is that it always happens that a really really great song always starts as soon as I need to turn it down. Hmph!
3) After my Madonna phase, I came back to reality for my senior year of high school. College, however, was another story. Most of you know that I didn't finish because this sweet, perfect, never missed a class, had mom call in on senior ditch day, B avergage (would have been A had it not been for math), student discovered freedom and lack of responsibility and missed entirely too many classes. I don't advise doing this. I DID have lots of fun, though, and, in my phase of freedom, I let one of the girls on my floor tip the ends of my blond hair with purple. It looked cool, at the time - keep in mind, though, it was the 80's.
4) I dated a guy who drove a truck, very much like this one. It was lifted quite high, but just below the "too high to be legal" level. Perhaps this is where my obsession with trucks began. My dream car is not something sleek and sporty, but a big ass truck. I want a Dodge Ram with a gigantic engine. No, I don't want something lifted and jacked up like this. When I was dating this guy, I had to be hoisted up into the truck, and had to take a leap of faith to get out. It was cool, it made a great growl...I love truck sounds. The guy....not so much. I only dated him for his truck.
5) Are you sitting? Only my immediate family knows this, so you can consider yourself among the Elite now. I have a tail. Ok, ok, so it's not a tail proper, but it's a cyst made of a bunch of liquid and hair at the base of my back....you know, where spine meets pelvic bone - right where a tail would be. No, you can't see a tail, a tail nub, or even a bump, it's all internal. Apparently I've had it forever. The doc discovered it at my high school physical. He told me that if it ever got to the point where I couldn't sit or stand without being in excruciating pain, that I would have to go in and have it drained. That thought grosses me out. Thank God, after almost 37 years it hasn't ever given me even the faintest reminder that it exists. But hey, it makes for a pretty weird fact about me, now doesn't it?
My sister gave me another idea, but it is more an example of my gullibility than something weird about me. When I was learning to drive, my mother had let me drive to the grocery store. After I parked the car, we got out, and mom walked to the back of the car. She started looking around at the car, the parking space, and making all kinds of "Hmmm" and "tsk" noises. I asked her what was up and she told me that I would be ticketed if I was not parked in the exact center of the space, equidistant from the yellow lines on either side of my car. Mean, nasty....I'd use it on my kids, but they've already heard the story. Oh did she get me.
Now, I get YOU! Marti, Laura, Moi (and anyone else who'd like to join!)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Today, while Girl & PC are in Michigan, SmallBoy and Princess are taking a day at the zoo with Meem. He called me at work when he got up this morning to tell me how excited he was and that (are you sitting down?) he was going to make sure he got his chore du jour done right away. If that doesn't shock you enough, the chore was scooping the dog poop from the yard so that LargeBoy can mow today. Yeah. WOW! I know he'll have a great time at the zoo. Maybe the three of us - Mom & the Boys - can have a wall-sit contest tonight!
Ok, now it's time for bitching about the job again. I have said in previous posts that the company I work for deals with children with learning disorders to help to develop the sensory cognitive functioning necessary to gain the skills needed to process and use the information they are learning. Translated, we help kids learn to decode, read, comprehend, etc. To get the maximum benefit from our program, we like our students to work the program intensively, 5days a week for a half day. As you can imagine, our peak season is the summer, therefore, it is company policy that no one takes time off during the summer, to assure that all of our students receive the maximum instruction for which they registered. Unfortunately, this means, even though I'm a manager and not an instructor, I can't take a vacation with my family. Per my divorce agreement from Ex, neither of us may take the kids out of school for vacation - which means the only available time is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break (and with kids in two different schools, Spring breaks usually don't coincide).
Are you screaming "THIS SUCKS!" as loudly as I am? Wait, it gets even MORE fun. One hears lots of tales of parents who never spend any time with their family because they're married to their job. Most often, those parents are bringing in six figure incomes. I'm not trying to justify the time away from their children, and in no way saying that money will take the place of family time. I'm trying to point out a huge disparity. My salary is not six figures. It's not even high five figures, not even middle of the road. I'm having a great deal of difficulty understanding how this company can justify paying their employees so little (ALL of their employees, including the semi-big wigs), yet asking them to sacrifice so much. We work on July 4 (for straight pay because our company deemed that July 4 is not a recognized holiday by our company)to benefit those who are trying to maximize their summer instruction (out of 30 students we usually end up with 2 on 7/4). In my office, I am the only employee with children. I am, therefore, the only employee with a child on the spectrum who doesn't always "get" why mom just can't go to the zoo with them.
Should it have surprised me, and unfortunately those fabulous people I love so dearly who live in my house, when I melted down yesterday at the fact that PC, Girl, & S. were going to Michigan today? Well, it did. And boy did I melt. Poor PC thought I was angry at him - probably because that's exactly how my words and tone of voice came out. I'm so sorry, My Love. I wasn't angry at any of them. I was heartbroken. Heartbroken because I couldn't do like PC & Largeboy and have some fun bonding time. Heartbroken because while they get to go off and do family things, I have to go to a job that pays me a ridiculously low amount of money, has cut off overtime, and expects me to not spend time with my children in the only time they have free.
I am THRILLED that PC is able to take the girls up there. I am ecstatic that we've been so lucky to have Michigan in our lives to escape to. I am overjoyed at the prospect that, perhaps, one day, my children will be bringing their children to this paradise. I know this all sounds trite and petty, but I really really really wanted some Mom/Girl time. She was gone for 2wks this summer with S., she'll be gone again next week with S (back to a different spot in Michigan), and then school starts. I'm trying to find time that we can get SmallBoy up there before it's too cold to go swimming in the lake - now that I've discovered that it's really really awesome. I'm trying to find time to take the kids up there as a FAMILY, even if it means I have to call in sick - but I can't.
Oh good grief, I am whining SO. I'll leave you be. If you have any ideas, other than find a new job, which I've been trying to do since last year, I'm more than open to suggestion. Am I being too selfish? SmallBoy keeps asking when he gets to go. They get home tomorrow night, probably 9:30 or 10:00. I didn't sleep more than an hour last night (and of course it was an intermittent hour between when they left this morning and my alarm went off). I'm going home, feeding the boys, taking a shower, and going to bed.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a big fan of the cold, as a matter of fact, I hate it, but after a week of 100+ temps, it was a welcome relief. Tomorrow SmallBoy goes back to OT again, and we'll be talking to J about the different ways that we had to deal with the heat and how all that we did, as a family, to deal with it, ultimately impacted SmallBoy. Moving to the a/c was definitely a wise move for his health, the heavy air was not helping his asthma at all. I expected, though, that not being in his own house or bed, that he would be thrown a bit. Nope. He did just great. He did better than I did, actually.
Tonight we finished phase 2 of 4 for reoranizing SmallBoy's bedroom. Yesterday was the big clean up - which took quite a bit of bribing, supervising, and just plain sucking it up and doing some of it myself. Tonight, he was so excited about the rearranging, that he was on us as soon as we walked in the door from work. We explained to him that we were just as excited, but that we had just arrived home and had some things to do. We worked with him on being patient, and then had him walk door-to-door on the block with us delivering flyers for our block party. Tomorrow night we have OT again, and then PC and LargeBoy are going to be bringing in the (2nd) dresser for SmallBoy - it's been in the garage for over a year. All we'll need to do then is to get his throw rug de-dogged and de-dusted, and the room will be mostly complete. Ultimately, we'll repaint, but that will be for another time - y'all know what my history is with getting things painted...tee hee....
We're starting to get back into the swing of school now and ever so slowly working back into our old routines. The first was to make sure that everyone was home for dinner on Sunday. It's rare that we're all here for dinner anymore, with LargeBoy hanging out with his friends, Girl & her friends and her sports, it's usually just SmallBoy, PC, and me. But this, for the most part gets reconciled during the school year - at least on Sundays. Oh, and speaking of school...we pick up our school supplies on Thursday. The Boy Scouts do this project every year where they order, in bulk, the exact supplies the school asks for and then packages them up by grade for each family that has ordered them. Last year I didn't get my order in on time and had to face the throngs of people running around like crazy to get exactly the right kind of permanent black marker (can't be a Sharpie). I will NEVER do that again. I will pay ANY price to never ever have to go into the store to buy school supplies again.
My dearest darling Girl made a picture/video show for PC & me of the new song that the band is performing, Blue Star Highway - written, of course, by my PC. Right now it's only on a program that we have on our computer, so only we can see it, but we're trying to upload it to something or other, myspace, youtube, whatEVER, so you can watch it. It's full of band photos, but she personalized it so that it's more focused on us. She starts the video with text that you, the viewer, have to sing out loud to the Brady Bunch theme, about me, the kids, and PC joining our band and our family. Then it breaks into the pictures and the song. She has pics of the band, primarily the two of us, beach pictures at our wonderful "home, HOME," in Michigan, guitars, Princess (she's just as adored by us as our own child would be), our favorite pizza joint, more beach, the soda bar, and then she ends it with hilarious credits. I promise you that as soon as it's available I'll give you a link. I can't wait for you to see it. Of course,if you have Windows Movie Maker on your computer I might be able to fwd it to you.
Ok, I really must go fold some laundry last night. I crashed out on laundry last night and my dear husband managed to get me into bed without me knowing it...ok, I was in bed, but still in my play clothes and on top of the covers...but you get the point. Meem, Phil, Princess, welcome back. I can't wait for you to see the video!
Friday, August 04, 2006
Last night, was our first opportunity to see the result of the heat on our house. The cats were pissed, the dog had shed enough to knit about 10 sweaters (yes, we did go home everyday and tend to them, don't worry), and, well, some things, um, well, melted and turned, um, a little, er....obscene (refer to Moi's posting to laugh even harder at the coincidence of this, as she and I had been commenting about the obscenity at her house -yes, it's a Christmas holder, I forgot to put it away):
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
We're staying at my in-laws' house this week while they're in Michigan (sitting on the beach...I'm SO jealous). Tonight we're going to OT, so PC and the kids will pick me up from work, we'll run home, grab another change of clothes, check on our critters, go to OT where it's SOOOOOO cold (that's the a/c unit at OT - see how PC & Largeboy have decorated it?). Then off to dinner with mom in a nice air conditioned restaurant, then back to Meem & Phil's and the massive a/c! How are YOU surviving the heat????? Lora, how is it in Alaska? Got room for 5 more?