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 http://charlescole.com/ ) 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.  So...it 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 kitchen...it 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 see....um...oh, 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 windows...it'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 temple...it'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?