August 10, 2012

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know. I disappeared, made promises I didn't keep. How will we ever trust each other again?

So, I've been a bad's okay, we can get past this.

The cold hard truth of the matter is that we discovered something VERY VERY VERY important at Ghost Ranch, and implementing the insights from that discovery have been excruciating for everyone but da Sister.  She had already gotten used to this new and strange life while she was at college.

No TV, except old movies.

No screens, except 30 minutes of computer time some days (not all).

Ugh.  I had really grown to like the plenitude of media in my life.  Lazy parenting seemed a perfectly acceptable way of life.  Everybody else was doing it, after all...

But, at Ghost Ranch, he turned into a person.  There was no air conditioner, no cell phone service, no tv's, and nothing to do.  Playing cards and reading books suddenly were not anathema activities.  After the first four nights of wailing and gnashing of teeth, he turned into a person.  Not the demanding whining overloaded sensory monster he gets in difficult to manage environments.  This was an environment even I was having a lot of difficulty adjusting to, because it was 100+ degrees in a tiny little casita with no cross draft to mention and nothing but a tiny useless fan that moved air for about three feet beyond it.  Yet, there it was....personness.

Then, we went to Las Vegas, NM, and were delighted to be "back to civilization."  Air conditioner, a tv, wifi (of sorts) and cell phone service (of sorts).  It was half way through his first episode of a show on one of the two anti-parent stations (Nickelodeon and Disney) that it all went to hell in a handbasket.  The contrast was so immediate, so clear, so in our faces that even my dullard lazy parent spidey-sense tingled ominously.  He was a monster again.  Just like that.

And it was over.

This meant that I could not slink off to my media, could not update the blog, could not talk to my friends on plurk, could not break the silence, or I'd be a fraud.  Children can sense adult hypocrisy from a mile away and I know better.  If I require something of a child, I require it of myself.  Ask me about life without dairy products for 13 years as my daughter's immune system worked through her dairy allergy.  No milk, no pizza, no ice cream, no cheese for 13 years, and I didn't even HAVE a dairy, no electronics is my challenge too.

I have purchased a whole FedEx truck's worth of gifted classroom toys, games, and activities.  We have started drinking tea and playing games when we are bored.  The silence is deafening at first, but it gets better. 

So, here we are...I can't blog about it often, but I strongly felt it was important to share the insight.  He is calmer, makes better eye contact, handles boredom a bit better, and is much much better at waiting.  Is he still a monster under stress?  Yes, but not nearly like before.  The smart mouthed attitude driven vengeance seeking he was learning from the anti-parent TV have faded and are being replaced with more empathy, more consideration, more compassion for others.

It has been enough improvement that I felt okay about getting him a guinea pig.  My dream of having a dog is still too far off.  I do not have the energy to raise a dog AND provide da Creature with all this interaction AND work on the side at my beloved hobby job.  So I had to settle for the less interactive house-pet.  Bear in mind I hate cats.  With a passion.  But I LOVE da Creature, and he needs this right now, in this barren wasteland we are re-learning as home, and I am content that I have made the right decision...

So, in honor of the 60 or so hours of Star Trek: The Next Generation that we have been watching this summer, da Creature has a new friend.  He has named him Spot.

July 12, 2012


Starting Friday, I will fill in the blanks where the wifi was spotty and unusable.  Though I really like Holiday Inn Express & Suites as a franchise for its homogeneity and consistency, their wifi is without a doubt the WORST of any hotel chain I've stayed at in recent years (though the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake is a close second).  So, now that I have FUNCTIONAL wifi again, I'll start filling in the blanks.  He had SUCH a special time on his adventure and Carlsbad was the best one yet because he hiked for THREE MILES and endured a ranger-guided tour that had six ten minute talking stops (oh, the things da Creature will say... insert da Mama's horrified face here)

See y'all on Friday!

July 7, 2012

Quick Post from the Plaza Hotel

Hello all!!! We're back in civilization and I will start getting all these pictures and posts together.  We really had fun in Ghost Ranch learning to gather different muds and dirts and make paint from them.  Our teacher was Juanito Jimenez from Santa Fe and the paintings we made are all safely tucked away in the trunk of the car.  I will take photos of them at our next stop.  Our car is quite a bit farther away than normal as we managed to come to the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas NEW MEXICO (not that other place) during FIESTA!!!

So, we've eaten a lot of funnel cake today and something called "ribbon fries" which are made by this guy with a drill that spins a serious-looking little blade that spiral cuts potatoes into potato-chip thin long slices that are deep-fat fried.  Yum!!

So, here are the high points (real posts will follow as I get fully recovered from being in 100 degree heat and camping for the past week in our casita at the Ranch):

In Salt Lake, before we left, we visited the Aquarium, and saw many interesting things... da Creature's favorite by far was the fish you couldn't see at first:

Then, we drove to Moab.  As we sit here right this very minute watching Raiders of the Lost Ark The Last Crusade which filmed the opening shots in Arches, da Creature is shouting out the names of the arches as they showed them on our TV and I am smiling like crazy right now at all the coincidences.

He made Jr. Ranger of course, and of course that's in the car, too.  But more importantly, he managed to hike the trail to Landscape Arch and made it the WHOLE way (this is a big deal for da Creature, because it was a mile and a half round trip).  Here is his shot with da Sister in front of Landscape Arch:

Our first painting lesson at Ghost Ranch was really cool because the teacher made da Creature this picture for him to take home and it was a BISON!

 da Sister painted so many pretty things over the week, including a minor detour which involved painting da Creature with luscious sensory silky mud:

There was da Creature's first horseback ride:

And lastly, he got to do dinosaur castings with a REAL paleontologist and made a T-rex TOOTH (which is also in the car):

While the castings were drying, the paleontologist took us into his lab to see the big block he was working on.  Here is da Creature looking through a microscope at tiny baby dinosaur teeth:

I will make posts for all of these highlights when I am better rested.  In the meantime, we are resting in Las Vegas NM and will head to Roswell tomorrow.  It seems like a lifetime since we left home, and yet it seems like the end of our adventure is so close.  Bittersweet and wonderful, we head to Carlsbad tomorrow!  Later all!

July 3, 2012

Good Morning from Ghost Ranch

Where there is no cell phone service or reliable internet.   See you guys again on Sunday!!!!

June 30, 2012

Catholicism at its very best, and da Creature

We have been quite busy here in Salt Lake City at the CMAA's Sacred Music Colloquium, and da Creature has been HARD at work managing his sensory systems and trying to function during these amazing and beautiful Masses, though they are quite high-sensory overload.
  • there is sound:  and in the case of yesterday's Mass, there is also Organ (very very very loud and boisterous Organ, I might add) and chant (all chanted Masses, some Extraordinary Form, which means everything is sung, which I love), and choral polyphony (four-part a capella motets and even choral ordinary).  
  • there is smell:  the thurifer(s) knew what they were doing at these Masses and the perfume of the incense rising to heaven was thick and magnificent, and da Creature has adjusted very well to the profound and pervasive smoke throughout these often nearly two-hour Masses
  • there is visual stimuli everywhere:  the Cathedral of the Madeleine is incredibly beautiful, rich with paintings and carvings and enormous stained-glass windows
  • there is even gustatory input:  and da Creature never fails to comment on the crispness/staleness of his experience of Jesus at the altar rail
  • the tactile sensations are generally created by da Creature as he rocks and slams his body into whoever is standing near him, bangs his hand on pew rails when it's overwhelming and leans on you like a kind and familiar large dog when he is calm

If you look closely at the photo above (from ) at the altar rail there is a little guy in a pale blue shirt next to a lovely young woman (da Sister) in a peach shawl and white veil....that little guy is our Creature about to receive Communion.

Normal vacationish blogging will resume when we get to Moab tomorrow night and tool through Arches National Park.  This has been one of my favorite weeks, though, learning more about Gregorian Chant and teaching da Creature about how beautiful our faith really can be when we SING THE MASS rather than sing at Mass.

June 27, 2012

Hogle Zoo with Interview and POLAR BEAR SWIMMING

So, today, while da Mama worked very very very hard at Gregorian Chant and Conducting with Charles Cole, da Sister and da Creature were out galavanting around Salt Lake.  Today's adventure took them to the zoo.  It was a great zoo apparently, and he managed an interview:

These are the highlights of today's FUN:


June 26, 2012


Twelve hours of driving through the park.  da Sister took hundreds of photos, all of which will be on a new tab marked "Our Flipbook Gallery" with the slideshows set to "fast" and no captions, if and when I have wifi that can handle hundreds of photos in less than hundreds of hours.

In the meantime, enjoy the slideshow on slow WITH captions below of the high points of da Creature's FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH!!!

We sadly do not have an interview.  The rangers in Yellowstone are all very nice, but very busy and often grouchy (I rather suspect it is the crowds and all the people breaking rules all the time that makes them that way) and most of the families were very intent on getting things done.  We will go back to interviews in quieter attractions.

He did earn his Jr. Ranger badge, but if you click on the header and scroll down a bit, you'll see why you don't get the "achievement" picture I usually put on the blog when he gets one.

No SOTD either today.  She was about to draw when the chaos began which is narrated in the post below this one.


Where'd Y'all GO!???!?!??

An explanation of sorts.  Remember my last post about being exhausted and wanting to rest after our 12 hour day in Yellowstone?  We'll call that the moment before all the chaos began.  So, here's the narrative of what happened next...

We were at This HORRIBLE Place which you should right now tell all of your friends to tell all of their friends to avoid like the plague should you be planning a trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming.  As I was writing my post about Yellowstone being exhausting, da Creature was in the whirlpool tub relaxing, when the motor just stopped running suddenly.  He was whining and I went in to see if I could get it to start, and I pushed the button some, then I fiddled with the timer.  Nothing.  Oh well, I said, it's broken.  He whined more, and played a little while longer.  I noticed that there was a motor blowing very hot air from under the tiny sink and asked da Sister if that had been doing that all the time.  She said it had, and that the whirlpool motor was loud and making strange sounds when it WAS working.

I figured I'd tell them when we checked out, and ate my room service supper which was marginal at best, and took an hour and three phone calls to get. and da Creature wandered around in a spa robe for a little while when all of a sudden,

out of nowhere,

.....the whirlpool tub leapt to life make loud grinding whining noises.  I called the desk in a panic while I had da Sister panic dress da Creature and get him outside because I KNEW something very bad was happening.  No one came... and still no one came.... we had time to completely get all of our things out of the room and be waiting outside while we tried to comfort da Creature who was hysterical.  I could smell the burning wires from outside the cabin.

Finally, a good three minutes later, a guy in a golf cart finally shows up and tells me, "it just needs water".  NO, I told him what had happened and INSISTED that he needed to find a way to shut it off NOW, and so he flipped circuit breakers which accomplished nothing (of course) and as the burning smell became unmistakeable, he called someone in a bit of a panic of his own, and finally found a way to get it turned off.

They decided to placate me by telling me they'd upgrade me, but that they were at capacity and it would take fifteen minutes.  I had HEARD him on the phone with them saying "we have plenty of rooms, let's just move them."  So, after sitting on the sidewalk for a half an hour with a hysterical child, we were moved to an "upgraded" room.

I wanted to get a shower so I could feel a little better after the ordeal, only to discover the shower did not work.  *sigh*  I again decided to just inform them at checkout and cut our losses.

So, at 3:00 in the morning, I awoke to violent gastrointestinal symptoms.  The only person in our group that had eaten anything different for two days was me.  I had eaten the chicken from room service. is MOST likely that the food poisoning was the chicken.  Thanks, incompetent hotel, for making a miserable experience actually dangerous.

By seven, I had really needed a shower (think about it for a minute, if you've ever had food poisoning) and we needed to drive to Salt Lake City, so I digged deep within myself and forced myself into the drivers' seat to get us out of the mountains.   It was about as awful a thing as you can imagine, but I got the job done.  Once we made it to relatively flat ground again, I let da Sister drive for a while so I could recover some.

By the time we made it to Salt Lake, I was weak and tired, but feeling much more human.  It was only then that I realized that I had put da Creature's Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge that he had worked so hard for the day before on an end table and we had forgotten it in the chaos.  :( :( :(

Fortunately, though, the Park Service is kind enough to send a replacement for him, and it is in the mail as we speak.  :) :) :)

Moral of this story is....not everything that looks nice and seems nice is...sometimes it's the frontal edifice of someone trying to fool you into thinking they are running a service-oriented high end establishment when they are really just jerks who can't run their hotel properly.

No one even apologized.  That just says it all.

June 24, 2012

12 Hours in Yellowstone...Blogging will be after sleeping

da Creature would like to thank everyone for coming along on his dream trip with him.  He got to see Old Faithful today which is the only thing he specifically said he wanted to do.

We are in Jackson Hole now (finally) and I'm going to go clunk.

The wifi is pretty strange, too, so I'll put all this together tomorrow at some point after we get to Salt Lake City. 

It was a truly long day for us, and it ended with an unexpected upgrade of our motel room through a series of frightening and unfortunate events that involved a possessed in-room jacuzzi tub, electrical near-fires, and a terrified little guy, so I'm gonna go snuggle cuddle with my little guy to help him get over being so very very scared instead of writing our blog post tonight in our upgraded fancy cabin.

See you guys from Salt Lake!

da Mama

June 23, 2012

Terror on Trail Ridge, Sweeping Beauty, Elk, Alluvial Fun, and MORE

Whinging da Creature says "My butt hurts"  Um, you might want to look behind you kid :-o
Our day began in Denver very very early.  After a drive through Boulder, and up the canyon, we arrived in Estes and went to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to pick up the Jr. Ranger things.  Now, some back story on da Mama....every year of my young life (even the year before I was born), until I was about 14, my family went to the Rocky Mountain National Park to hike, and do amazing things.  Most of the time when we went, we took the lovely drive up Trail Ridge Road, so I know it kind of by heart.


This is important.  As I drove up the winding familiar road, I began to realize something...I am TERRIFIED of driving on edges of roads with 2000 foot drops and no guard rails or trees or anything between you and DEATH for you and everyone you love most in the world.  Terrified.

I had three massive crying panic attacks which I could not control and had to pull off onto the side "overlook" pullouts.  It was just unbelievably awful for me, and I was trying desperately to put a brave face on it, but couldn't.  So, when we finally made it to the Alpine Visitor's Center, I had to explain to da Creature that sometimes Mommies get scared, really scared, and cry, but you have to be brave and go on, because that's just what you have to do at that moment.

I asked the Rangers what do they do if someone just panics and refuses to go back down the road.  They told me they could call me a tow truck and a cab and for several hundred dollars I did not ever have to drive on that damnable road again.  OR, I could drive around through Grand Junction (four hours).  I knew all of that, and wasn't seriously considering any of those options (right?), especially since we had an appointment at Cheley Colorado Camps at 2:00 PM.

So, da Mama got back in da car and hugged the yellow line like a maniac and downshifted like you do, and drove 20 MPH on the parts where I was on the oustide of the road with the big 'ole drop just a couple of feet away.

We made it, obviously, and went over to the Alluvial Fan to take a small hike (which he whined about mightily while "hiking" but enjoyed of course) to a lovely waterfall.  I was there in the park the season after the lake came crashing through the mountain and made that alluvial fan, and getting to see it all gussied up as an attraction was really amazing for me.

He had fun, duh,, he just didn't believe he would.

Then, we went to Cheley and wandered around to give him a chance to start to visualize himself at Cheley someday and it went really well, even though he was pretty grouchy and tired.

We went to our Motel, and because the dumb travelocity had not really done what I wanted, the lady at the desk (who had an autistic grandson AND nephew) gave us the very best of her cabins so we wouldn't have to walk up stairs.  So, we had a screened porch, and two beds and a sofa bed, and a was WONDERFUL.

We went to dinner in town at a lovely Italian restaurant called Mama Rose's, and then we went to Stanley Park to let him play on the playground.  While he was there, a moment built of God's blessed angels happened...he was trying to climb up a difficult part of the play set, a really tall, open netting kind of thing and he got scared.  She told him he had to go up, and normally in these situations there is a bit of drama and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but he said the following:

"I'm gonna be brave like Mama.  Because sometimes, you just have to be brave and go on.
After that, we went back to the cabin.   Another miracle happened....da Creature sat on the porch for hours, just watching the river and looking at the mountains.  He and da Sister sat side by side and watched the sun sink slowly below the mountains and she told him stories from her two summers at Cheley and it was so special for both of them.

It was an incredibly special day.

The video from his interview is a couple of posts down.  Just click on the header and scroll down to find it.

Here's the highlights:

Yesterday's Interview

Maybe I can make the phone upload yesterday's interview.   The Gollum moment is pretty funny... "What has it got in its pocketses?"
Watch "Interview from highest Visitor Center in America" on YouTube

Wifi in the mountains...


The amazing asventures in the Rocky Mountain National Park will have to wait until I have wifi that works.

June 21, 2012

Wind Farms, 400 Miles, Dinosaurs, plus--a museum docent gets clobbered in Good Fun

Today was a very rich day. So much for da Creature to take in. We began at 5:30 AM in Wichita, through ourselves into the car and headed out. The Garmin said 411 miles to Denver. That's so far for such a little guy's mind. So we started with our Rosary, prayed for friends and family, saw a coyote running through a wheat field, saw lots of deer in the wheat fields, and blasted Star Wars' Main Theme as we opened the windows and flew across the great plains. Along the way, we were astonished to encounter wind farms...miles and miles of them. If you've never seen them, they are really MASSIVE. Just huge things as far as the eye can see. Ironically, as we were coming into Denver we saw tractor trailers carrying what were clearly wind farm blades (one per truck, and hanging off the end, to give you an idea of scale) headed toward Kansas.

We listened to the Bach B Minor Mass through the Credo and then da Creature decided it was time for food, so I pulled into the dreaded sign of the golden arches and we found ourselves at a McDonald's with a parking lot the size of Walmart's with at least 100 cars.  Yikes! But they fed us and we were on the road again, listening to Ruby and playing the travel scavenger hunt card game (this time da Sister managed to win one!).

We made it to Denver with plenty of time to go to the Museum of Nature and Science.  While we were there, da Creature touched too many things and made a few new friends.  He also clobbered this lovely woman who agreed to make his video of the day.

Below you'll find our pics (captioned for you convenience) and his interview and the cheesy snake shot from the Museum.  A good time was had by all and he is fast asleep now.  We go tomorrow to Cheley Colorado Camps for a tour and we'll go hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park and head up Trail Ridge Road.  See 'ya tomorrow night, if I'm conscious and have wifi in the mountains.   

My Tactile Box

da Creature wanted to show and share.

June 20, 2012

Day TWO: Driving Driving Driving

Today was a long day of driving.  How do you keep an eight year old with SPD, and Asperger's syndrome from destroying your car and your patience on a 72 hour road trip?   Well....let's, yeah, you have LOTS of things to do/listen to/touch/talk about...etc.

Today's playlist from da Road: 

  • Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe (which we are finding is a little randier than I had remembered from the original radio show broadcasts in the 80's (90's) but still, a radio show is a radio show and it's pretty interesting and severely punny.  
  •  Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" each time we cross a state line
  •  I Robot (Alan Parsons' Project)
We played the Travel Scavenger Hunt card game for a couple of hours, trying to find things like blue cars and bald men and feel bumps in the road and smell things out the's fun and he LOVES it.  I keep winning though.  I guess it pays to be the driver, huh?

We ate ucky fast food for lunch, and ate from the ice chest for dinner.

The pool and hot tub at the hotel ended our sensory work for the day and he is fast asleep as I write this.  Tomorrow is another VERY VERY long day on the road to Denver, and hopefully we'll make it in time to go to the museum.

good night friends of da Creature

The Pictures from Yesterday (And Other Important Stuff)

The Pictures I could not upload (with captions)--- if you'd like to pause the slideshow and look at pics, just use the pause button. If you want to replay it, click along the bottom of the picture to get your navigation tools back.

da Creature's Very First Interview:

Just for fun...da Creature does baseball voice

June 19, 2012

da TRIP Day One: Arkansas Crystal Mining and Hot Springs National Park

Crystal Mining was fun.  This is the haul from our morning's work.  There are LOTS more pics, but our connection is quite sketchy and uploading the niftier versions of the pictures is impossible, so I will muddle through.  When we get home, we will clean our new treasures with oxalic acid and make them bright and shiny.  I'll update that picture when they're super clean.  He did pretty good, but mostly da Creature played in mud and smashed pieces of shale.  da Sister got distracted and began playing with clay, but she is a budding sculptor, after all, so what do you expect her to do with perfect bright red clay?

Then, we went down the mountain to HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK.  We visited the Fordyce Bathhouse and I can't WAIT to share
all of those pictures with you guys.   da Creature like drinking the hot  spring water, and da Sister was fascinated by what PT looked like before it became so sophisticated.  There were a lot of PT devices that looked downright torturish.  

 The Gymnasium was especially interesting to da Creature, because it was all hard and there weren't any safety mats or harnesses or anything "soft" and the weights along the wall looked like the things jugglers use. 

We went outside and walked down the promenade to Noble Spring to finish his JUNIOR RANGER booklet and then we went back in and did his interview of the day which won't upload because of the connectivity situation, but you will see tomorrow!

In the meantime....he did earn THIS:

And until tomorrow night, when I will have super great wifi and upload capacity, I give you.....

the end.  :)

June 15, 2012

Cornyness Achieved

The forty-five day corn has finally run its course, much to the delight of our little farmer.  He finally got to pick the corn he just could not live without when we went to buy his gardening supplies in the early Spring.  He is so happy right now.  I'll cook his little ear of corn and we'll give the late bloomers these last three days to make more kernels before we leave.

The trip puts a kink in his garden experience, but he seems to be adjusting well to the realization that he won't be here when his garden comes to fruition.  da Daddy will have to put up the Romas, and da Grampa will come get the "Big Boy" tomatoes when they are ripe.  As for the basil, I will make one more pesto dinner and that will be that for our gardening.

This is the tomato's seven feet tall now, and mommy keeps lazily and disorganizedly (no, that's not a word, but vocabulary just isn't what it used to be) tying the vines up.  We don't pull suckers, or tend things like I would if we were earnestly going to make FOOD with this garden.  It was more of a thought form for da Creature.

Next year, we're definitely making FOOD (renting a tiller, making rows, the whole nine yards).  He is really rather good at all of this.  Normally, I just plant things and they die, and I resolve myself to that process.  His stuff seems to grow, almost effortlessly.  It's sort of not fair, if you ask me, but I like that he enjoys growing vegetables and herbs and eating them, so I can't complain too much about the disparity of our talents.

For now, though...there are big boys in the garden (of various sorts)  and a certain corny resolve to make light of not seeing the end of the story.   da Daddy and da Grampa will tend it for us while we're gone, and maybe there will still be tomatoes and basil enough for Mommy's Pasta Rustica when we get back from our adventure.

So for now, we will say goodbye and leave da Creature's Garden to our friend (who we've allowed to grow from a tiny little thing to this massive, sci-fi-inspiring monster of a leaf-clipper named "Munches"):

Just a reminder for our friend Munches:  you may enjoy the fruits of our labors while we are away, but please don't invite your friends and have parties while we're gone.  
Thanks, the mgmt.

June 14, 2012

IT IS TIME and a request for a big FAVOR

Note:  you will notice there are new tabs on the bar above.  They will be useful once the trip starts.  We depart on Monday, June 18th.  

Time to make the final lists.

Time to breathe deeply and enjoy those last moments of simple comforts of home.

Time to start packing, and then unpacking, taking things out that are too heavy and not really needed, then packing again.

Time to buy the very last necessary bits I've put off or forgotten until now.

Time to ask for a favor from my friends---

Would you please help me find some nice people to read this little blog for 23 days?  Just for the trip so that da Creature sees that he is worthy, funny, and people really do exist outside the confines of his strange little mind?  You may join us over on that Google connect thing, or follow me on FB (link is here) where I'll post notices about new things as they come up, and I ask you to please share the web address for this blog with anyone, but especially with those who have special needs children and might enjoy tagging along on our adventure with us.

After the 23 days are done, and he has shared well and happily with the world, I plan to go back to my usual habits of not really blogging very often and would fully expect our trip followers to go back to their usual net habits too.

So, please to share?  Just for a little while?  Thank you all very much.  da Creature will be much more likely to engage the live humans in front of him if he can see that he has people who support him in his quiet safe internet world.

June 4, 2012

Testing how mobile blogging might work.

Using mobile blogger and youtube.   It seems like there might be a better way than a link.  hmmmm.
Watch "video-2012-06-04-07-10-52.mp4" on YouTube

Testing how other things work as well:

I would like to be able to use the phone to help da Creature blog while we're on the road.  One wonders about the picture quality... hmmmm.

Took this one with the phone, set settings to "original" and it looks a bit better, but still the blogger mobile thingey is mystifying.  Does anyone know how to work this thing?

May 30, 2012

Cucumbers with Comeback Dressing ala da Creature

da Creture was allowed to pick one of his cucumbers today and he only eats cucumbers with da Mama's special Comeback Dressing. 

He wants everyone to know how to make it, so I decided to share a recipe for a change.

This is an evolution of my grandmother's shrimp sauce that was one of those happy accidents a long time ago when I didn't know the difference between cayenne pepper and chili powder and has been a family favorite ever since.  It is good on cucumbers, shrimp, sharp cheddar cheese, salads and as a coleslaw dressing (just cabbage and comeback, yum!)

da Mama's Comeback Dressing

1/4 c. mayo (I use Kraft)
1 1/2-3 Tbsp ketchup (I like it more ketchupish for shrimp, less for cabbage and salads)
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
Four or five good shakes of Worcesteshire sauce
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
lots of fresh ground black pepper (or cayenne)

Whisk together.    Adjust it to your tastes at will and enjoy! :)

May 28, 2012

da Creature's Garden, or "How do your Triffids Grow?"

Growth is inevitable.

Sometimes, growth is perceptible.

Then there is da Creature's Garden, where growth is a little bit reminiscent of Sci Fi horror flicks.

Every day we go out there and things are proliferating and giantizing (there is substantial growth one can SEE every four hours or so...creepy creepy creepy).  We are convinced that if you stand still for a bit, the cucumber plant is going to grab hold of you.    For instance...this cucumber was two inches shorter just yesterday morning:

So, da Creature is quite proud.  That picture is of his seedling from science at school.  He was absolutely the best in class at growing cucumber seeds, and so the result had to, of course, migrate to our kitchen table when it was no longer part of science class, and here we are, a few scant weeks later, and I find myself wondering, "whatever will I do with this massive proliferation of pickles?"  :)

Then there is the corn.  He insisted on planting corn.  We warned him that da Mama wasn't gonna till the whole back yard so he could have corn and that it didn't like standing up all alone and that we wouldn't be here when it "corned" but still....he HAD to have corn.  So there is his corn, all staked and tied up in unnatural contraptions so it won't blow over in the wind.  It is now beginning to flower.  It's huge already and causing the occasional Triffid nightmares. 

He loves gardening.  I love basil and oregano and making super de dooper pasta, so he tolerates my herbs in his tomato, corn, and cucumber garden.  The rosemary tree which interferes with his gardening gets pruned each year to allow sunlight to get to the tomatoes.  But I know, come winter, when I want to make PORK or ROASTED POTATOES, that I'll have fresh rosemary and the tomatoes will be compost.  Corn?  I scoff at you, da Creature.

May 24, 2012

da Creature's Bird-day Party

We LOVE Angry birds.  I have bought every single logo bearing product available in our area and many from the internet, most for this party.  We gave away as much as he received.  A good time was had by all.  There were games, giant birds, giant pigs, golden eggs to find, jumping, tossing of birds, chanting of rhymes, and cake, ice cream, and red and green Hi-C.  You're either on the King Pig's team, or your on the Red Bird's team... choose your side.

As for the whole "sensory processing disorders" in bright glare, too much color, noise, smells, and chaos, it was, well, stimulating, to say the least.  We kept the kids searching for the golden eggs we hid before the party in their slack times, and forced a lot of social games to keep people playing with da Creature.  He never noticed the kids playing with each other rather than with him.  I consider that a real triumph of the day.  They probably interacted with him more than they do at school, which is good, but still there is understandable distance.  After all, they have been up close and personal with meltdowns, flying books, choking Brody, and various screaming and slamming of fists, talking in gibberish, and generally causing the teacher to stop everything and deal with him.  This makes the ease of interaction fall apart.  It is noticeable in larger groups.  I used to feel sad, now I just make better plans.

Everyone there won a prize.  This helps.  You won prizes when you played games that involved da Creature.  This helps too.  Positive reinforcers.

Da Creature's perception of the party was entirely positive.  :)

These are ALL the great shots from the party, and captioned for your entertainment.  Happy Eighth Bird-day, my darling baby boy.  It has definitely been a trip getting here.  SLIDESHOW NAVIGATION NOTE:  To restart the slideshow, just reload the page.  Don't click on the arrow, it takes you to Picasa Web Albums directly, which is kind of hard to use.

April 29, 2012

First Communion---Super Happy Day!!!

After a whole year of waiting and studying and practicing and waiting some more; after sitting around for 20 WHOLE minutes in the chapel, wearing shoes that hurt and a suit that was so huge that even the seamstress at the tux shop had trouble getting all of it tucked under and pressed, and after lots and lots and lots of people telling him HOW TO ACT RIGHT....

da Creature has finally gotten to take COMMUNION with the Church.  He tried so hard to be calm, but around the sermon things began to be a bit dicey...he was hot, his feet hurt, it was boring, he wanted a drink of water, he decided he'd "just get a blessing" (which we don't do anyway, and was one of those da Creature departure from reality moments) but things did settle down again once he got back from taking Communion for the first time and he could ditch the suit coat.

My favorite moment was, of course, the important one, but the most memorable will always be the one that happened right before we took this picture in front of the C.O.U.S. (Crucifix of Unusual Size)....

Notice where the feet of the giant Jesus are relative to the height of da Creature.  He bent over, stuck his face on the giant feet, kissed them and said:

"I'm gonna smell the feet of Jesus now."
Never a dull moment.

Not a single one.

Life with my funny, furry blur of a creature is so incredibly special, and I love him SO VERY MUCH.  Congratulations, my little angel...we made it to one of the big milestones and you were splendid.  Just splendid.  Even when you're bent over smelling Jesus's feet.   :)

Here's a very short slideshow with the highlights of the day:

April 23, 2012


Regression at times is inevitable.

It's a discouraging thing.

da Creature is going backwards right now in every single way imaginable.  I don't seem to be able to stop the movement into chaos and darkness at the moment.  I feel broken and sad.  I can't imagine how out of control he feels.

Here's hoping it's a transition to better things, not a spiral into worse ones.  We won't know for a good long while.  He is keeping whatever is bothering him really close and not sharing at all with me.

Things that have returned, seemingly all of a sudden:
  • not being able to go to sleep (it's been two years since this was even an issue)
  • toe walking all the time
  • being "weepy" and out of proportion emotionally
  • aggression at school
  • despair
  • dis-cooperation (my term for his general unwillingness to participate in good things, seeking rather to pursue the negative ones just because he feels like it---not oppositional, not attention-seeking, just a descent into "let's make the worse choice possible and see how that goes.")
  • the nose picking 'til it bleeds and finger tip peeling have ramped up in the past two weeks
I was so hopeful a few weeks ago, and now I am so incredibly discouraged.  I know my life and well-being do not rest on how he is coping and how he is doing, but my ability to have a life and pursue a few rare mommy interests does because now I have to hover and wait and worry and interact with the school in ways I do not trust and hate with a passion.

Time will heal.  Summer will heal.  In the meantime, off-roading with the creature on this emo detour from Hell is getting a little tiresome. 

Oh, and his IEP meeting is May 1.  Goodie. 


April 19, 2012

Our old enemy: The Different

I am on a quest to desensitize da Creature to da DIFFERENT.

 "How's that workin' for 'ya, da mama?"

Yeah.  About as well as one would expect. The Different is definitely the enemy, and we have had one of the hardest years so far with him as The Different eclipsed us and his beloved sister left for college.

The picture here is iconic for me---him, desperately clinging to her, her getting ready to fly away into her happy beginnings.  Sadly for da Creature there is an equally HUGE Different looming on the horizon which he doesn't know about yet.  We are still learning to manage all the little ones, but this one is bigger than all the ones before and so, I must, in the mean time, help him practice managing the storm of emotions that flood him every time something happens that is even the slightest bit:

  • not expected
  • not the same
  • the same plus extra
  • exciting
  • disappointing
  • tragic
  • unwanted
  • time consuming
  • uncontrollable
  • dangerous

"Practice?  What do you mean PRACTICE?  How do you practice uncontrollable and dangerous (and all those other things) and WHY ON EARTH would you want to?"

Because he will never, ever, ever learn how to function in the face of The Different unless I lead him there, teach him what reactions are, help him see the pattern of reactions he has (which are often violent, loud, embarrassing, and vicious) and then one by one, slowly, over time, have them occur often enough not to overwhelm and shut him down but cause him to reflect on the last disaster, use our plan for the next, then modify what he tries.  The trial and error on this one is brutal because he lacks insight into his own emotions, and the ability to use expressive language to talk through reactions.  He's also got terrible impulse control so stopping him BEFORE he physically reacts to The Different is quite the parenting gauntlet.

"Won't this just make him anxious and fearful all the time?  Don't kids NEED structure and stability to be psychologically healthy?"

At what point did we define stability in terms of control?  How effective are we at controlling everything necessary to keep up with our child's sensory issues?  How long can we keep that up?   It's awful.  On the one hand, you want to protect your child and your life, and your sense of safety and well-being, and you project that as a NEED onto your child's life, like he really needs all of this controlled environment just to get through the day, but what I've observed within myself  is that what I'm actually doing is self-protective.

You see, the more of The Different I can banish, the quieter and more predictable our life is.  Quiet seems better, because noisy and fist-pounding scary is, well, scary.  But worse, it's embarrassing, like I didn't raise him right and can't discipline him.

So there are a some things I have to get used to before we can practice The Different in all its ugly glory---

  • he is going to react
  • people are going to notice
  • people are going to judge
  • people are going to share their parenting advice
  • I will not be able to prevent his reactions
  • I will not be able to explain his reactions every time

But---and here's the big reason behind the need to practice---There is peace and quiet after, and remorse on his part.  It's frightening to feel so out of control.  His need to control is as great as mine, and teaching ourselves to walk through The Different without allowing the reactions to dominate our life is a magnificent skill that can only be learned through repetition, reflection, and tweaked repetition.

So, my advice?  Get thee out there and take it all as it comes.  Let him react.  Let it be as awful as it's gonna be.  Love him ferociously anyway.  Don't take crap off of the other parents.  Don't let him see you flush with shame.  Let him know he is going to be OKAY, and this is a procedure, not a rule.  Procedures we practice until we get them right.  Rules we discipline and correct.

Improperly managing sensory overload is NOT a character flaw.  Hitting mommy with your book in a grocery store probably is, so he gets three shots at self-control.  He gets just three times he can hit mommy with a book before we declare it a character flaw and make not hitting mommy with books a rule.  Hopefully, if all goes well, he'll hit mommy with a book the first time, then next time he'll smush a banana in mommy's general direction, and finally, if all goes well, he'll look at me and bark that it's loud and shiny and he HATES it.  To which I'll reply....good job, let's keep tweaking.

Someday, he'll go in a grocery store and know it's loud and shiny and he hates it and connect having to internally and privately manage those feelings and his need to react to them with the concept that without grocery stores you don't get food and clothes and betta fish.  Someday, the payoff for being there (wherever The Different lurks)  is better than the pain of having to ignore so very much.  Someday, he'll work it out.

That's NEVER gonna happen if I leave him at home while I run errands or go to the grocery while he's at school to avoid having to take him with me.  Never.

We can do this.  We can beat The Different down until there isn't a Different we don't know what to do with.  The good news?  The payoffs are tremendous.  The bad news?  It's gonna suck for a very long time.  I hid in my house for a couple of years while we were learning how to deal with sensory issues.  I've had to force us back out there.  It's hard, but I'm really glad we're toughing it out.  Someday you'll drive by our house and there'll be a dead dragon in the front yard with a plaque which reads "The Last Resting Place of The Different."

April 10, 2012

The Triduum Tales

Photo by S. Rutherford, taken during the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 3rd

Our beautiful Cathedral was the backdrop for da Creature's FIRST EVER attempt at Triduum-ing.  That means he needed to function for FOUR major Masses/Services over a four day period.  He made 2 and a half, which would have been impossible last year, so I count it as blessing that he managed what he did.

Thusday was Holy Thursday, and there are three separate sets of things he had to be quiet and still for.  This coupled with him being SO excited that he HAD to sit in the VERY FRONT of the rows of, inconveniently for a sensory kid, the temporary chairs you'd find at an outdoor wedding.  Let's pause for a moment to survey the scene...
  • brand new space
  • temporary chairs that are rickety and have **GASP**  tied on seat cushions
  • wobbly, balanced-impaired AND sensory-impaired fidget monster
  •  lots of new and different things going on at Mass
  • Organ silence after the Gloria (PRAISE GOD someone remembers!!!!) which meant a capella music only and LOTS of uncomfortable silence
  • little old ladies all around me
  • the lady who was part of the foot washing group left her purse and sunglasses on the seat next to da Creature 
He did really well for a while.  Then he didn't.  I knew we were going to have to go to the back of the church and the glaring little old ladies made it clear we needed to go SOONER rather than later, but he was trying SO hard and he had already communicated (vehemently) that he felt like going to the back would be a failure, so he was fighting and grousing, but I had to do it, we HAD to move, so, during the Sanctus (Mass XVIII btw... **smile**) we headed down the aisle...

So...pretend you're not me for a second and just watch this play out
  • he's really, red-faced mad
  • stomping
  • being dragged by his mother down the side aisle of a quiet Cathedral during the a capella Sanctus
  • he's SHOUT-SINGING in Latin and STOMPING where the angel's footsteps normally lift the pulse in chant
Go ahead, you can was a little funny from a helicopter, but not so much for da Mama.  After Mass, a friend came up to me and said with a smile, "Boy, he sure does know his Latin, huh?"

Yeah, I guess he does.

On Good Friday, he used his finger and followed along, pointing ever single word of the Gospel (the ENTIRE Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ) line by line, because we have to "help" Mommy see the tiny little words (okay, I'm evil, but it gives him SOMETHING to do with himself during readings, and this was a very very very long one).  He managed this, mind you, while standing on the vent which was under HIS chair, and which was blowing freezing air and making the satin bookmarks on his Missal flap in the breeze.  After the Gospel, he actually said "Mommy, I feel overwhelmed" and I was able to beat a retreat to the foyer for a while.  GO da CREATURE!!! WAY TO USE WORDS!!!

Then we went down for veneration of the cross, and he struggled to get on his knees on the floor, and I had to haul him back up like a giant unconscious tuna, but that was okay...he got to do it, and that was what really mattered.

For the rest of Mass, we went up to the choir loft and I let him play angry birds in the library alcove, which should have been a dream, except...  see.... he listens.... to everything.... everything.  Apparently on Thursday when they sang "There is a Balm in Gilead" (blech) he had memorized it.  Here's my liturgical music rule...if my autistic son can memorize a song on one hearing at church, it was TOO simple for adults to be singing.  Unfortunately, the song re-appeared on Friday, while he was playing angry birds.  Wow.  His little voice carries really well, even when he's in a back room facing the back wall.  I leapt from my chair in the choir stalls, and creaked across the floor noisily a little late to stop him from screaming the refrain happily at the very tippy top of his little lungs.  Oh good grief.

So, in the end, it was wonderful.  Easter morning brought more computer time for him, as I had to conduct for the 8:00 AM Mass, but he got to spend it with Daddy, which made him happy.  We went home, I made some form of meat and potatoes, and he got to go find eggs in the backyard and eat some candy.  Easter now means a little more than getting dressed up and being told not to shout-sing the Alleluia.  Now it means getting dressed up and being told not to shout-sing the Sanctus on Holy Thursday OR shout-sing There is a Balm in Gilead, well, ever.  But, he has new experiences of what it means to be Catholic in his repertoire of things he KNOWS.  Now that's PROGRESS.

Happy Easter Season to ALL!

March 31, 2012

First Communion is Coming

It has been a while since I posted Mass is a Nightmare, and I felt like, as we approach First Communion, that I needed to update how solutions-searching is going for us.

We tried every single church in town.  da Creature's OT had the most clarity of everyone I talked to about this and so I began listening in the spaces.  My beloved home church (the one I WORK at, btw) has an 11 second reverb (and this after sound engineers went in and put up 10 foot sound tile panels in the back, cutting the reverb by a whole 3 seconds).  What happens to da Creature in that space is that he is hearing every single sound  simultaneously.  Every note of the organ, bounced off brick walls for 11 seconds overlapping every other note, not to mention choir, congregation, sound system, et al.

Noise cancelling headphones were not powerful enough to make it stop hurting him.

The other churches had variations on that theme, until we went to the 8:00 AM Mass at the newly built St. Francis.  I had long heard rumors that when they built St. Francis, something BAD had happened to the acoustics in there, and when I walked in, sure as God made little green apples, the space is dead as a doornail.  Just dead.  Sound rises from the organ, goes about fifteen feet and drops like a stone onto the floor.  It's like being in a sound booth.

What was bad for music at St. Francis, though, was a miracle for da Creature.  For the first time in his life, he was able to begin being a normal pain in the butt at Mass.  What a relief.  So, four years after I'd have like to be teaching him to be still and quiet, I finally have had a real shot at the game.  It's been a struggle, but it has not been the nightmare it was.

So, we often go to two churches a weekend.  One, for me to be the Choir Director, and one for my family to go to Mass.  It's annoying, but less so than da Creature beating his head on the pew and clawing at me and saying the worst thing imaginable all in an effort to get OUT of the space.  I feel so badly that I tried to discipline him for two years before realizing it wasn't behavior, it was pain.  :(

First Communion is coming.  He is SO excited.  We have a plan to avoid some of the high-stim activities preceeding Mass so we can have a nice focused experience, and I am on the hunt for a seersucker suit.  What a difference the geographic cure has made for our family.

Oh, and if you see us at Mass next to you, da Creature is the one with his very own missal, reading every, just a reminder if you're a priest....say the black, do the red, or you may have a loudly shouted correction from the peanut gallery.  I will blush and apologize, of course, but you brought it on yourself.  :)

March 29, 2012

I'm-a Gonna Say Something UNPOPULAR

Tomorrow, the good folks at the SPD Bloggers Network will publish a post by me which may be met with some backlash, and I am worried a little bit about being graceful under scorn.  I won't spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say that it addresses my take on the whole medicate/don't medicate debate (which is apparently not that often debated I've noticed, just accepted as a de facto protocol).

Nevertheless, last night at Taekwondo, I sat in the parent pen musing about why the main instructor, who is otherwise a very good teacher, is terrible at dealing with my son, and it hit me...this man feels successful at teaching the "autistic" because all the autistic kids he deals with are drugged into submission, and therefore much easier to avoid and ignore.  Mine, however, is au naturale.

Ooops, did I give it away?

I must admit the ones on meds are not as distracting as da Creature, but I would like to note that they are no better at Taekwondo than mine is.  So, if Herr Instructor is so good with autistic kids and all his autistic students equally suck at Taekwondo SKILLS, it stands to be reasoned that what he is actually good at is shoveling children through the machine he has created, not necessarily teaching them to do Taekwondo. and he prefers that they go through the machine quietly.

Going quietly remains one of those life skills da Creature is currently struggling with.  There was, though, one priceless moment in his struggle with silence at Taekwondo....  One day, at the end of a one hour class, Herr Instructor had them gathered around him like usual, and was pontificating (as he is want to do) about how they should do this or that and my au naturale darling did not filter his thoughts like everyone else and said in a voice loud enough to hear in the parent pen outside the room... "WILL YOU JUST GET ON WITH IT?"

I'll take all those parents chuckling and nodding as affirmation that sometimes it's satisfying to hear out loud what you are thinking yourself (but would never say or allow your child to say) blasted at full volume at the very person you'd like to say it to.

Needless to say, Herr Instructor was not amused.

So, see you tomorrow on the SPD Bloggers Network, and let's all talk about this.  I have my reasons, as you'll see, and you might not yet have considered some of what I have to say.

March 26, 2012

Sproing, Ka-boom


The uncontrolled and chaotic decay of machinery and wooden windows all had to happen here in our house simultaneously.  Nevermind that it's expensive, let's just focus right now on what REALLY matters... da Creature didn't like it, not one little bit.

We couldn't park in the garage. We had to walk through the yard in squishy wet muddy rainy guck.  da Creature was not so happy about these things.  Then, on cue...the long awaited replacement of windows snuck up on us, and though a VERY happy change, it was still change.

From the first disconcerting moments of "walk-through" living room, to all ten windows' worth of non-functioning mini-blinds going into the trash, it was so much for my little guy to take in.  When he came in and wandered through the house, there were gasps and then the inevitable backlash of "WHY DID YOU DO THAT MOMMY?"  I guess if you've never considered the possibility that windows are not just a permanent backdrop for your life, but can be removed, discarded, ripped apart and replaced, you find yourself at an existential crossroads....what else is not permanent???!? 

So, we have been through the rabbit hole and back.  While we were there, we got out of the house some, especially while the garage door took a week and a half to be repaired.  One of the places we went was the Petrified Forest in Flora.  da Creature liked da froggy--

While out and about, I got a shot of my favorite tree in FULL bloom.  It's a Granny Greybeard, and they are disappearing, at least around here.  They make me SO happy in the spring.  This one graces the front lawn of First Baptist Church and it is a delight. 

Enjoy your Spring, and remember, that when things are at their most DISRUPTED
change isn't so bad when there are flowers involved.  :)