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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Monday, July 31, 2006

    6 degrees from...Monty Python?

    Here's a photo of the celebrity in our family -- the Beast Like No Other, acting protective of his friend Tiny. In reality, this big bunny is the mellowist, most relaxed rabbit around. He uses his big teeth only to gnaw on carrots and broccoli.


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    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    To infinity (sort of ) and beyond -- the lengths we'll go to for our children

    It wasn't a new pony. It wasn't a 6K clown party. But it was a weekend that took effort, time, and a little bit of cash. Husband took El Grande to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
    Big deal, you say. Kids go to baseball games all the time. Well, El Grande loves baseball, and he's a wee bit different from most kids because he can't see the game.
    Husband got tickets through a professional contact. They had never been to Wrigley Field and had only a slight working knowledge of the city of Chicago, so he had to do some advance work to figure out a route, parking, and travel time. He printed a tentative itinerary in Braille for El Grande and talked him through what to expect. That done, they packed their bags and El Grande's white cane and hit the road.
    El Grande has always loved pro football (he's my child, after all) and he developed an interest in baseball several summers ago when he got a chance to learn to play. Playing in the Challenger League helped him discover a new understanding of the game. He learned what it feels like to swing a bat and throw a ball. He discovered the shape of the field (how is it really like a diamond?) and what it means to run the bases. Armed with that knowledge, he became a true-blue baseball aficionado.
    He checks out the standings and highlights by way of sports radio and ESPN. He'll "watch" games on television and ask us for any details we see that the announcers don't cover, like exactly where the ball goes for a home run. We try to get to a few minor league games and at least a couple of major league games a season, usually Milwaukee Brewers.
    But why, some might ask, why would a parent take a full weekend, fill the car with gas at $3.10 a gallon, travel four hours from home, fight big city traffic, sit outside for hours in near-90 degree heat, spend all this time and money -- for a child who can't see the game?
    Folks, it's worth it. It's a life experience. He may not see the details, but he hears the crowd, the announcer, the true crack of the bat, the organ music. He smells the peanuts, popcorn, and hot dogs. He feels the excitement -- and Cubs fans are famous for generating excitement! And this time (thanks a million, Joe!) he "caught" a ball that a loyal Cubs fan gave him.
    Wow. Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd... because sighted or blind, America's favorite pastime is meant to be taken in live.


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    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Uh-oh, hold that tongue

    One of my study-group buddies brought her toddler niece along last night. The little girl was cute as can be, quiet, and well-behaved. She sat on her aunt's lap and colored in a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book with big crayons.
    During a heated discussion in which we reminisced about problems and wished for solutions, I accidentally let the phrase "s**t-list" out. Within seconds, I realized my mistake, apologized, and was reassured that the little girl was actually dozing off and hadn't heard a thing.
    Whether or not that's true, it bothered me immensely. The sight of a toddler or young one swearing may be cute in a movie (Okay, Ben Stiller, I laughed like crazy), but it's less attractive in real life. And the fact that as a rule I don't use profanity made it even worse. How can someone who generally doesn't swear let a nasty four-letter word slip in front of an impressionable language-learner? Oh, drat (or stronger), I felt and still feel lousy about it.
    So, J.S., the fantastic aunt, I'm sorry . Really sorry. I know you said it didn't matter, but I sure hope the little one doesn't bring that phrase home.
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    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    to-do list for not-so-lazy hot, hot day

    It's hot enough and muggy enough to make me want to hang out in a recliner, under the ceiling fan, in air-conditioned comfort, with a frivolous novel and a glass of iced tea by my side. Well, I did some of that. But I was proud; my day was still riddled with minor accomplishments.

    • Make coffee.
    • Feed bunnies, already looking like they're feeling the heat.
    • Get breakfast for teenaged children and self.
    • Read with El Grande. (We're enjoying A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck; check it out! It's definitely not just for kids.)
    • Sympathize with La Petite when she complains that we have no white bread in the house. "But mom, I'm just not into flaxseed or multi-grain!"
    • Throw together the ingredients for a loaf of white bread in the bread machine.
    • Wave good bye to La Petite and minivan, heading to the beach with friends. Hope she remembered sunscreen. (Yeah, yeah, mom, like I'd forget? Give me some credit.)
    • Bring big, awkward rabbit cage upstairs (with help of sturdy metal dolly).
    • Install hot, hot rabbits in cage in La Petite's room (see picture below).
    • Collect all the towels in the house.
    • Wash and dry all the towels in the house.
    • Bring garbage cans in from curb and soak them with a little detergent to rid them of incredible odors made worse by hot weather.
    • Put lunch together for El Grande and self.
    • Fold and put away all the towels in the house.
    • Remove bread from bread machine. MMM!
    • After cooling (and spreading aroma throughout house), slice bread.
    • Read more with El Grande. Gosh, this Grandma's escapades are amazing!
    • Rinse garbage cans and leave them out to dry.
    • Return garbage cans to home base outside back door.
    • Give children money for pizza delivery supper. (Hey, I can rationalize it once in a while, especially since I baked bread, cleaned, and did laundry much of the day.)
    • Pack books and files for study group. Head out the door to enjoy professional and grown-up conversation!

    Beast and Tiny in cage in La Petite's room, chillin' in the air conditioned house


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    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    Deja vu all over again

    It's like a flashback to when I was in high school. Beirut is synonymous with war, hostages are being held all over, reporters are being injured, kidnapped, and more. The only difference is that Iran was a big bad guy then, and now it's Iraq. Oh, wait. Iran is potential trouble now, too.

    A few years ago, the U.S. went in to make its "surgical strike" in Baghdad. Based on the oxymoron-type advance "intelligence", this surgical strike was supposed to take out the key players and end the war before it even started. Um, yeah. Right.

    Kids reacted. They reacted strongly, with fear and worry. One asked me, "What if war breaks out when we're at school?" I could only answer by telling her that while I hoped it wouldn't happen, we had a procedure in place to keep students informed and to keep them safe. She was new in our school, so I followed up by explaining how we'd handled the infamous day of September 11, 2001. She felt better then. I don't know exactly which part of our talk made her feel better, but I'm glad we had it. Maybe all she needed was a caring adult to listen and take her fears seriously.

    I'm concerned that too many kids are out of school right now, and may be watching too much TV without having any adults to care and listen and take their fears seriously. I am even more concerned that they may be taking war as just another fact of life, or something imaginary like a cartoon or video game.

    So folks, I plan to listen and be there for any young ones around me. Please, for their sake, do the same for yours.
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    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Murphy's Law of Rain

    Murphy's Law says that whatever can go wrong, will. Our local version of Murphy's Law in regards to weather is this: all significant storms will go around our area, unless we are grilling out.

    It happened again today -- for the third time this summer. The radar looked like we'd once again miss the heart of the storm, so I fired up the grill, and sure enough the thunder rumbled threateningly just as I got the fire started. Luckily, we have a good charcoal grill with a lid and a side vent and a chimney, so I cooked outside anyway. So there! I used an umbrella to check on the meat and wore a rainjacket to bring it in. And yes, the Superburgers were delicious. So were the side dishes: the incredibly frivolous jello fluff and the simple pasta salad, not to mention the chocolate chip cookies that are almost gone.

    So, my advice to you drought-ridden folk is this: Grill out more often. It worked for me!


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    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    Baseball Time!

    El Grande had another baseball game tonight. Here he is running to first base.

    On the right, El Grande plays shortstop, with his friend PJ playing behind the (adult coach) pitcher.

    Of course, the highlight of the game was going out for ice cream afterward. Take me out to the ball game!
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    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Pioneer Mom

    After nearly two weeks of Not Cooking, the cupboard was as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's. It was time to call on my alter-ego, Pioneer Mom. Yes, Pioneer Mom keeps her family fed, bakes from scratch, never calls for pizza, and wastes nothing.
    Today Pioneer Mom recognized that the weather was perfect for playing in the kitchen. At 74 degrees and with all the windows open, Pioneer Mom baked chocolate chip cookies and started a loaf of homemade white bread.
    Now the disclaimer: Pioneer Mom uses modern appliances. The mixmaster helped with the cookies, so as to rest the sore wrist (injured in December starting a stubborn snowblower). The bread is in the bread machine -- no hands-on kneading required. Cleaning the kitchen is easy with the help of the dishwasher, too.
    But confessions aside, the house smells wonderful and we'll have good food for supper and snacks. The end justifies the means, even for Pioneer Mom.

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    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Mom's playing in the dirt again!

    Weeding feels good because:
    • I can't hear the telephone.
    • Digging in the dirt is fun.
    • It doesn't matter if I'm all sweaty and grimy.
    • I can appreciate the growth of my vegetables by comparing them to the weeds I'm pulling out.
    • I see the little flowers that mean the plants will bear fruit -- some time.
    • I can laugh at the tiny "stray" tomato plants that grew where the rotten fruit dropped last fall.
    • The science teacher in me looks at all the clover and thinks, "Wow! There's a lot of nitrogen in this soil! Who needs fertilizer?"
    • I notice the little grubs and worms that aerate the rich soil; and they're not, I said NOT, yucky.
    • I notice how dark and rich the soil is, thanks to our home-grown compost.
    • The weeds (well, most of them) will become part of the cycle of life by decomposing in the compost bin.
    • Progress is noticeable. Every little bit of weeding shows results.

    I heard a garden expert on the radio recommend that serious gardeners spend about 30 minutes a day weeding and maintaining. I don't come near that, so I guess I'm not "serious" by his standards. I do keep it up, though, and get my hands dirty and produce good things to eat. My garden makes me happy. Isn't that enough?

    update: I have entered this post in Scribbit's Write-Away Contest. Details here.


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    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Mother-daughter bonding at the outlet mall

    Bonding while shopping: good.
    Bonding while shoe shopping: better.
    Bonding while shopping for the most favorite shoe of all time in an outlet store devoted to that shoe: priceless.

    On the way to something else, La Petite found mention of a Converse shoes outlet mall on a route that we were about to travel. Of course, we made plans to stop. You see, she owns lots (and I mean LOTS) of Converse Check Taylor All-Stars. They are her main choice of footwear, and (this part I like) she almost never pays full price for a new pair. The last pair she bought was in the bargain bin at a tent sale for $5. She walked in with a five dollar bill and a quarter to cover sales tax, and voila! New pair of shoes.
    The Converse store was tiny, but had an amazing selection. They saved us a parking space right in front of the door (not really, but we like to pretend when there's a perfect spot available), and before even going inside, La Petite had her camera out to preserve the moment. Inside, she found 3 pair of shoes that she LOVED. First she found a pale blue-green that she'd been considering for over a year, but never found on sale. Here? $10. Pale mauve, too: $20 instead of $45. The really cool pair was dark blue, a shade missing from her Converse rainbow, and in a special design that lists at $80 on the official web site. Here? $20.
    I forced her (life is rough) to accept a gift of a tiny coin purse that was an exact replica of the $5 bargain she had bought in June. Add to the bag a t-shirt with dancing bunnies on it, and then we had to leave before she hyperventilated.
    Bonding while shopping: good.
    Bonding while shoe shopping: better.
    Bonding while shopping for the favorite shoe of all in an outlet store devoted to that shoe: Okay, we split the cost, but it wasn't much -- and that kind of fun has no price tag.

    This post has been entered in Scribbit's write-away contest for August. The theme is Collections.

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    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Quality Time in the new millennium

    I read a post over at BlogHer today that made a lot of sense. In it, Mir (one of my favorite bloggers) talked about balancing her needs with her children's needs while not neglecting the kids. Da boys' trip last week sounds like a great example. El Grande tagged along while his dad picked up a new company vehicle and drove it from Florida home to Wisconsin.

    El Grande thought the plane ride was the height of luxury, even though they flew coach/business class. The novelty was in the details. Being served a snack and drinks, having individual headphones to choose from the in-flight radio, and being able to use the airplane bathroom on his own all added up to a fun time in his book, which translates to "luxury" for a 14-year-old.

    There were moments, such as getting stuck in traffic around Orlando, that slowed them down and could have been real downers. But somehow, the two of them turned them into part of the story, the lore of the trip.

    El Grande, with his love of accents, told us of meeting up with an Australian in the elevator of the hotel in Tennessee. He told us how he and Dad bought and shared a box of their favorite Mike & Ikes, but half the box melted in the truck. He counted how many truckers honked the horn when he waved (trip total, 23) and how he swam in hotel pools and at the beach on the Gulf. He listened to country music, his favorite, through parts of Tennessee and Kentucky.

    Husband was glad to have him along, even with the extra cost and occasional hassle. El Grande kept him company for the four day drive and even navigated, in the form of reading his Braille copy of the itinerary. They talked now and then about this and that, philosophical and trivial and just everyday things.

    They didn't do many "tourist" type things. It was for the most part just a long, long drive. But the two of them most definitely enjoyed their time together, which is all anyone can ask. Fancy vacation? No. Quality time? You bet.


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    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    What else could I forget? No, don't answer that...

    Five Ways to mess up taking the child to camp:

    -forget to send in his health paperwork
    -take a different highway
    -get there too early
    -forget his pillow
    -(accidentally on purpose) forget his talking watch

    We did all this and more, but El Grande arrived at camp happy, excited, and ready to run the place.
    The camp called last week and reminded me to send his paperwork. I thought, "Gee, we usually do those things ASAP so we don't forget." Then I remembered what our lives were like in spring when these papers came, and thought "no surprise". I pulled up the form they'd sent by email a few months ago, filled it out, and mailed it. Done.
    We have two potential routes to get there -- the new highway and the old highway. We took the old one, the scenic route. Why? I don't know. Old habit, maybe. The blind child, of course, doesn't see enough to enjoy the scenic (slower) route, so that wasn't a good idea.
    Despite the scenic (slower) route AND stopping for lunch on the way, when we got there and gave the gatekeeper his name, she said, "Oh, you're scheduled to register an hour from now." Oops. I guess that paper got lost in the shuffle, too. G is fairly near the beginning of the alphabet, so we thought for sure El Grande would be registering with the first group. But lucky us; the lines were so short that they let us come in and get started right away. (Of course, they didn't let us in until after making a big deal about how we could "wait in the car" or "hang out in the camp store" until his official time. They must be trained to apply guilt trips to any parents who dare arrive early.)
    Ironically, on the way there The Husband had whispered to me, "Are you sure we have the right date?" Yes, even though we had no idea what time to arrive.
    So then...I set a suitcase by the check-in and realized that we had forgotten to bring pillows. I whispered such to Husband, and we nodded silently that we'd think of a solution, not letting El Grande hear. Husband then whispered to me that I'd forgot to bring the talking watch.
    A-ha!! At last something we did absolutely right. I left the watch at home on purpose in memory of the summer that he ruined two watches at two different camps by dunking them under water.
    Amidst these semi-catastrophic (to us) events, El Grande grabbed his white cane and proceeded to lead us around the main camp buildings, greet several staffers by name, inform anyone who asked that this was his seventh year attending, congratulate his favorite counselor on being promoted to unit director, and hug the camp director, who told him to stop growing because he's now at least three inches taller than she is.
    In case you're wondering, the cabins always have extra pillows to accommodate kids with parents like us (sans guilt trip this time). El Grande didn't even realize we'd forgotten them.
    We're not always forgetful. We've just lost our rational minds somewhere in the last several months and we're still looking for them. Maybe they're underwater...or in the stack of papers with the registration times listed....


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    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Do the math: how much (in percent) off the original price?

    I am bargain-hunter, hear me roar! I rode along with La Petite while she was in search of a specific summer sweater that might be on clearance. I did not plan to buy anything for myself. Then I found this -- and had to buy it. Frankly, if I wear it once I will get my money's worth.


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    The Girls set goals

    While Da Boys were gone, La Petite and I set a goal: to avoid cooking as long as possible. Many of you can identify, I'm sure -- only two of us at home, laid back atmosphere, no schedule to keep, yadayadayada...Here's our progress report.
    Tuesday: Dropped off the boys at the airport. Breakfast was toast and coffee, lunch leftovers, and for an early supper we went to the chicken wing place because it was Tuesday, and wings were cheap. Mmmm. I could be talked into doing that again.
    Wednesday: bkfst simple, ran errands all morning, lunch: tried out the new sub sandwich. Again, Mmmm. We shared a twelve inch because it was cheaper than buying 2 six inchers. So far, not only are we avoiding cooking, we're also finding bargains! I can live with that. Supper? good thing we had all kinds of leftovers in the fridge.
    Thursday: Bkfst and lunch similar to Tuesday. Early supper at the bagel shop. Bought a half dozen to tide us over for the next few days' breakfasts and maybe even lunches.
    Friday: does it count if I made tuna salad? The tuna salad sandwich at the sub shop was so good we wanted to make them at home. It took no microwave or stove action, just draining the tuna and adding a few goodies and a scoop of mayo, so it isn't really cooking. With a scoop on a slice of white flaxseed bread (from the Amish baker at the farmers' market), we have a delicious sandwich -- while still keeping to our goal.
    Saturday: finished off the bagels. Picked up Da Boys at the end of their trip. Drive-throughs are useful (in moderation), so one more time we avoided cooking.

    Success! I wonder what our goals will be next time the boys are away?

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    Amigo plays baseball

    It’s a typical summer evening, and we're headed to a Little League baseball game. But this one isn’t typical Little League; it’s a Challenger League game, and all of the players have disabilities.

    Disabilities range from vision or hearing impairments to cognitive disabilities (such as Down’s syndrome) to children in wheelchairs for a variety of reasons. Some can walk but not run. Some can throw a ball but not catch it. Some can hit a slowly pitched ball, and some need to use a tee. A few need their parents to help them bat because their coordination and muscle tone is very weak. Somehow, some way, each child on these two teams will hit the ball and round the bases. No one worries about labels or diagnoses; they just play.

    The understanding of the game varies, too. Some team members know the game well and follow Major League Baseball or the local Minor League team. A few compete in Special Olympics. Some have limited understanding, but gosh, they put a total effort into their play. One boy knows that the infielders often tag runners, but he doesn’t fully understand why or even know he needs to tag them with the ball, so he tags every runner that runs, walks, or wheels past him. "Tag, you're it!" One player will run after the ball whenever it comes near him – even if he’s up to bat. One girl likes to stop half way between bases to clap her hands and say, "Yay!" One thing is certain; No one strikes out. Every player “scores”. The last batter in each line-up gets a home run to make sure each child crosses home plate. And yes, the crowd of parents, grandparents, and siblings, cheers wildly for every run.

    A local sponsor made sure the path to the field was paved to accommodate wheelchairs. Both teams wear official Little League uniform shirts and caps because local sponsors know how important it is to be outfitted properly.

    The rules of the game might be modified, but the sights and sounds are the same as any childhood baseball game. The crack of the bat, the running feet, the cheering from the field and the bleachers, the smell of sweat, the dusty shoes, are all there. And the grins -- the players are all grinning through the entire game. These kids love to play, and it shows.

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    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    To-Do list for a Hot, Lazy Day

    • Sleep in.
    • Still in pajamas, feed bunnies.
    • Start coffee.
    • Eat breakfast (nothing fancy, of course).
    • Watch morning news (zone out over irrelevant stories) and drink coffee.
    • Turn on air conditioning.
    • Let dishwasher wash dishes.
    • Read favorite blogs.
    • Read book.
    • Shower. Finally set aside pajamas and get dressed in casual, lazy clothes.
    • Heat leftovers for lunch, avoiding cooking.
    • Bring minivan to full service car wash to let other people wash it.
    • Stop at bookstore and buy bag full of fiction books for future hot, lazy days.
    • Read book.
    • Take nap.
    • Take daughter to bagel shop for early light supper, avoiding cooking once again.
    • Answer text messages from traveling husband and son.
    • Attend study group meeting.
    • Okay, it wasn't all lazy. I did read the assignment for our study group and write up the accountability paperwork so we get credit for it.
    • Stop at the store to buy toilet paper (some things just can't be put off).
    • Come home, contemplate pajamas again, water plants, pick up book and zone out on Weather Channel until bedtime.

    I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    parenting and paranoia

    The night before Da Boys left for their "business" trip, Husband sat down with a serious look on his face.
    "You might think I'm paranoid when I suggest this."
    "Um, suggest what?"
    "I was thinking about taking a digital picture of El Grande and me in the morning before we leave to have in our luggage."
    "Sure. Why?"
    "Well, I think if we get separated, then I'll have a picture of him and what he's wearing that day. You know, I never know what anyone is wearing."
    "And since he can't see, he won't be able to describe me at all."
    "So, am I paranoid?"
    "Dear, when you're a parent, there is no such thing as too paranoid."
    "Okay. So, you'll take our picture tomorrow."
    "No problem."

    No problem -- except the camera strap kept falling in front of the camera when I was taking the picture, so we had to take four before it worked. Yikes! And we added Dad's cell phone number to the picture in El Grande's luggage.

    Smile for the camera -- strap, that is!

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    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Da Boys take a trip

    Well, they're off -- almost. I dropped Husband and El Grande at the airport for their trip. The homework we did in advance was helpful; El Grande felt very confident and excited. He was grinning ear to ear when he got up this morning -- positively beaming. He did a mental checklist to make sure he had all of his important things in his carry-on: gum, his Incredible Hulk toy, his discman and CDs for the road trip home. Of course, Mom and Dad had already made sure he had the really important things like medicine, identification, and clean underwear. We all forgot one thing: his talking watch. He discovered this omission at the airport after clearing security, and told Dad officially that it's fine. No problem. He could do without it.
    Security was smooth with one exception. The folks at the gate didn't know what to do with El Grande's white cane. He must be the first blind passenger they've ever boarded. Is that possible? Are there no set policies for blind passengers? Evidently not. They eventually settled on running the cane through the x-ray machine and offering a hand to guide El Grande through the metal detector. Then he got his cane back and continued on to the boarding area. Da Boys called me from there while they were waiting for the plane to arrive and the boarding process to begin.
    They will probably call me again from O'Hare while they're waiting for their transfer flight. I have a feeling El Grande will make friends with the flight attendants and enjoy the experience immensely. This, in turn, will relax the Husband, who worries about the kid as much as anyone.
    Happy Trails, guys! La Petite and I will watch girlie movies and eat popcorn all week.


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    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Three Foods

    El Grande is a kid who inherited a genetic double-whammy. His blindness is autosomal recessive, and his Asperger's syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism) may be genetic as well. No, I'm not going to get into theory on this one -- we've done our research. And then some. Believe me.
    Many characteristics overlap. Blindisms such as moving his head from side to side or rocking quietly back and forth combine with the autistic "rock" and similar physical self-stim behaviors. But sometimes, the autism come straight to the fore. His insistance on Three Foods is one of those rigid routines.
    When El Grande was more Pequeno (say, age 3-4), we used a 3-sectioned plate with raised edges so that he could eat independently with less spilling. This was an adaptation we made for the blindness. Now he is 14 and uses a regular plate, but still insists on having "exactly Three Foods" at every lunch and supper. What began as a reasonable accomodation became a routine and eventually an obsession. Kids with autism, even high functioning, thrive on routine. It often looks to an outsider as obsessive-compulsive, and yes, there are similarities.
    Let me explain. spaghetti and meatballs count as two foods because they're served separately. Spaghetti with meatsauce, however, is one. Casseroles, no matter how many ingredients, count as one food. I cope by serving a bowl of fruit and/or dinner rolls on the side. We often keep jello or yogurt in the refrigerator in case of an urgent need for a Third Food.
    Fortunately, this Three Foods rut only applies at home. If he eats at Grandma's house, he's open-minded. He can eat the hot lunch at school without counting foods. We can eat in a restaurant with no problems (a Braille menu helps, but that's another story).
    Today the In-laws came for a big mid-day dinner visit. We had a great time catching up on all the latest news and hanging out around the grill while the brats and hot dogs were cooking. Then we sat down to eat and realized that we had plenty of food, but El Grande only had two items. Since he doesn't like salads, the coleslaw and German potato salad were not options for him. He had a brat and a small serving of watermelon. The Husband turned to me and mouthed, "Help!" I quickly found a container of leftover Tater Tots and re-heated them, and the Autistic One was content. The rest of us enjoyed the variety of salads.
    Parents with no autism experience rarely understand. The "Pick your Battles" parenting philosophy is even more important with Asperger's in the home, and the Three Foods battle is not worth the time... yet. All these years it has provided El Grande with a sense of security and routine. He has grown to a point where he doesn't need this routine outside the home, which is a HUGE step. He may reach a point on his own when he will say, "Mom, I don't need Three Foods any more. This is enough." At which point I will faint, he will say "what was that big thump?" and all will be well with the world at mealtime forevermore.
    If he doesn't do this on his own, we will work out ways to wean him from the anxiety that comes with major changes on any front. As we say in the world of autism, "never a dull moment." Oh, yes -- and "one issue at a time." Did I mention "pick your battles"?
    Never mind.
    It's time to plan supper now. One, two, three, go.


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    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    planning ahead

    Traveling with a blind child means planning ahead. The Husband and El Grande are taking off (literally) on Tuesday morning. This will be El Grande's first airplane trip ever, and his dad's first in over twenty years. To prepare, we actually took a pre-trip today (without child) to the airport.
    We found out:
    • how long it will take to drive there
    • where I should park to drop them off
    • where they need to go to check in
    • how big their luggage can be and still be a carry-on (See? We really have no experience if we needed to check on that)
    • how early they should arrive to allow time for security and check-in, etc.

    Experienced travelers take a lot of this for granted. Some less experienced, but non-handicapped, travelers can deal with details as they come. El Grande is excited about the new experiences, but he also needs the peace of mind that comes with knowing the basics. We are grateful to live in an area that is served by a small airport so that we could look into all of this ahead of time without taking all day and/or paying a fortune in parking. The transfer to their second flight in the larger airport will be a challenge, but I think they'll be fine. El Grande is very outgoing and friendly, and he will probably make friends on the way.

    Now I just have to help get that stale gum off his white cane, and he's good to go. (ewww)


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    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Holidays and the Blind Child

    Like many blind and visually impaired people, my son 'Amigo' has some usable vision. He still reads Braille and walks with a white cane, but the limited vision he has helps him get around and helps him watch football games on TV (a very useful skill for a teenager in Wisconsin). When he was a baby, I wondered if he would enjoy some of the “normal” holiday fare, such as parades and fireworks.
    We took him to parades when he was very young. The little blind baby that he was enjoyed the marching bands, but was startled to pieces by the sudden loud sirens and honks from the fire trucks and army vehicles. We learned to cover his ears, and as soon as he was old enough, give him a heads-up to know what was coming.
    Now, at 15, he enjoys the horns as much as anyone. He even waves or honks his bicycle horn at the drivers and tries to get them to honk back. The ah-ooga horns from the antique cars are a favorite. Somehow, he can tell what’s coming. Whether it’s the general shape of the vehicle or the rattle and rumble of the different engines, he knows if a politician’s convertible or a fire truck or a Humvee is passing in front of us.
    His limited vision allows him to see items of high contrast, especially light on dark. Yes, this is ideal for fireworks. He is extremely sensitive to noise, though, so we usually choose to watch the fireworks from a distance – at a school playground about a half mile from the park. The changes in sounds (boom, bang, crash, crackle) are more bearable at this distance. I’ll never know exactly how much he can see, but he seems to know when they’re exploding in the sky. He reacts to the excitement of the crowd, too, and enjoys the whole event.
    I know people look at us and wonder why we bother to bring the child with a white cane to a visual display like this. When he was younger, I wondered, too, but over the years we’ve learned to make our own way in these holiday traditions, and never to assume anything.

    Update: This post has been entered in Scribbit's Write-Away contest for June, 2007

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    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Quiz answers for Independence Day

    1. Which patriotic song contains these lyrics:"...thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears." Hint: the same verse contains these lyrics as well: "Oh, beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years..." Answer: America the Beautiful. This verse always takes me back to September 11, 2001, and the damage done to our "alabaster cities".
    2. Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, The Star Spangled Banner, during a battle in which war? Hint: The young upstart United States was fighting the big bad British -- again. Answer: The War of 1812 (Does this war even get mentioned in British history books?)
    3. Name the famous speech that ends in these words: "...that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." Hint: The president who gave this address was a talented speaker and debater. Abraham Lincoln delivered these words as closing for his brief but memorable Gettysburg Address.
    4. Julia Ward Howe wrote new words to the song "John Brown's Body". It became this well known Civil War song. Hint: you've probably sung it, or at least the refrain. Answer: The Battle Hymn of the Republic (go ahead, sing it: Glory, glory hallelujah!)
    5. Which well-known composer wrote "The Stars and Stripes Forever"? Hint: All piccolo players know the piece, and you may recognize his initials, JPS. All piccolo players and low brass players know the name of the prolific march composer John Phillip Sousa.

    6. Can you name the patriotic song that Fozzie Bear sings as he and Kermit are driving cross-country in the Muppet Movie? Hint: Fozzie sings this as he and Kermit drive across America admiring the spacious skies and majestic mountains and the changing landscapes they see. Answer: See number 1 for the answer. Now go rent the movie and enjoy it!

    I hope your Independence Day was happy! Ours was. We gathered for a picnic with family, attended a patriotic concert in the park, and watched fireworks together.
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    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Happy Independence Day -- follow up

    Well, since my devoted family members haven't tried the quiz yet, I can't post the answers just yet. Instead, I'll offer a few clues for each one.

    1. Which patriotic song contains these lyrics:"...thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears." Hint: the same verse contains these lyrics as well: "Oh, beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years..."
    2. Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, The Star Spangled Banner, during a battle in which war? Hint: The young upstart United States was fighting the big bad British -- again.
    3. Name the famous speech that ends in these words: "...that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." Hint: The president who gave this address was a talented speaker and debater.
    4. Julia Ward Howe wrote new words to the song "John Brown's Body". It became this well known Civil War song. Hint: you've probably sung it, or at least the refrain.
    5. Which well-known composer wrote "The Stars and Stripes Forever"? Hint: All piccolo players know the piece, and you may recognize his initials, JPS.
    6. Can you name the patriotic song that Fozzie Bear sings as he and Kermit are driving cross-country in the Muppet Movie? Hint: Fozzie sings this as he and Kermit drive across America admiring the spacious skies and majestic mountains and the changing landscapes they see.

    Try it! Maybe the hints will help. Now imagine the Jeopardy "think" music in the background while you're working. No pressure!
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    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Happy Independence Day!

    A local newspaper had a fun quiz today. They gave a few lines to a familiar patriotic song and asked the reader to identify the song. They gave us four choices: America, America the Beautiful, The Star Spangled Banner, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I did pretty well; the only questions I missed where those from the other verses of the national anthem. Other verses? Yes, there are at least three.
    So here's my quiz for you. I'll give you the answers tomorrow. Some are harder than others!

    1. Which patriotic song contains these lyrics:"...thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears."
    2. Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, The Star Spangled Banner, during a battle in which war?
    3. Name the famous speech that ends in these words: "...that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
    4. Julia Ward Howe wrote new words to the song "John Brown's Body". It became this well known Civil War song.
    5. Which well-known composer wrote "The Stars and Stripes Forever"?
    6. Can you name the patriotic song that Fozzie Bear sings as he and Kermit are driving cross-country in the Muppet Movie? (This one's for you, Mom!)
    See how you do. Test your family! Quiz your friends! Answers to come....
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    Monday, July 03, 2006

    It's no Secret, Victoria

    The latest brouhaha (or bra-ha-ha?) isn’t about breastfeeding. It’s not about public exposure. It’s not about whether a mom can leave home without a bottle, or whether anyone “wants’ to see her feeding the baby.
    This issue is about discretion and about respect.
    To summarize, a mother was shopping in a Victoria’s Secret store and her baby became hungry. She asked to use a dressing room to nurse the child, and the store staff refused. She offered to tuck herself into a back area of the dressing area’s hallway; again, they told her no. They offered her the employee bathroom, which was less than sanitary, and she said that was unacceptable. When she called later on to follow up, the store manager managed to insult the mother by telling her that customer’s might be offended by the sight of her breast.
    The sight of a breast? In Victoria’s Secret? How absurd.
    I’m not going to address the choice to breastfeed and its positive effects on babies’ health. I’m not going to tell you that the manikins, catalogs, and displays at this shop show more breast than any nursing mother I’ve known. Both are true, but irrelevant.
    This is about discretion. The mother wanted to discretely feed her hungry baby. She asked for an opportunity to do so, and she was refused. She asked for another discrete alternative, and was again turned down. She was then shown an unsanitary, unacceptable place to nurse, and chose to leave instead.
    This is about respect. The mother wanted to respect others around her and feed the baby promptly, preventing a noisy scene. She wanted to respect others in the store by nursing her baby out of sight of the customers – in a dressing room or an unobtrusive corner. She wanted to maintain her own self-respect by handling the feeding chore in a more private place. The store staff refused her. The store manager further alienated her with his disrespectful comment.
    Yes, we live in a society where discretion is rare, and respect often rarer. When a customer asks for a chance to be discrete and is met with a disrespectful response, the store will lose a customer, guaranteed. When the store manager responds later with an even less respectful comment, the store is likely to lose not only the individual customer, but damage its national image in the process.
    Discretion and respect, folks. Think about it.
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    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    There's more than just food at the corner market

    We have one of those wonderful anomalies in our neighborhood – a corner market. In its tight quarters it boasts a wonderful meat counter, a small ice cream freezer, and the best and cheapest candy selection a child with a weekly allowance could want. While there is always a steady stream of customers during store hours, I have never actually had to wait in the single checkout line – until this visit.
    It was late afternoon on Friday, not only the end of a workweek, but the beginning of a long holiday weekend as well. I grabbed a bag of hamburger buns (baked locally, of course), from the bakery rack and headed the few steps to the checkout. There were five – count’ em, 5 – people ahead of me in line. For this tiny little corner market, that’s the equivalent of bumper to bumper traffic in a road construction zone. And much to the checker’s chagrin, it seemed like everything was conspiring to make the line move more slowly.
    The first customer was paying with a credit card, and the register took a long time to process it. She had a big order, too, that she carried out in a large box with help from her teenage son. Next, a sleepy-looking college-age guy stepped up to pay for his box of cereal and half of a cantaloupe. He was clad in my-laundry-is-still-in-the-machine chic: khaki shorts and a long-sleeved, button-down, flannel pajama top. This purchase may have been his breakfast.
    The next customer was typical of the store’s mainstay – an older man buying two large packages of meat from the butcher’s counter, probably getting ready for a weekend of grilling. He was smiling and making conversation with Pajama Guy as he pulled out (sigh) another credit card. This one eventually cleared, too, and then another customer stepped up.
    Now, in between each customer came at least one interruption. After Credit Card Lady left, the phone rang. Pajama Guy had to wait patiently while Credit Card Lady’s son returned the empty box. There was no room for the box in the tiny checkout area, so the clerk had to run it back to the meat counter, at the same time begging someone back there to bring her some singles and change.
    The next customer was dressed quite normally for this part of the state in a pair of olive-drab camouflage shorts, a Green Bay Packer t-shirt, and black high-top tennis shoes. He was obviously stocking up for an important gathering with a box of saltine crackers and a can of spray-on cheese stuff. (Sorry, I can’t bring myself to call it cheese. It’s just wrong.) He caused the poor clerk to run out of singles completely. She had to give him a dollar’s worth of odd change, including nickels, dimes, and pennies, after which she jumped up and down and made frantic semaphore signals toward the meat counter.
    The next person took time to write a check for his items, but he also helped out by offering five singles for a five dollar bill. Frazzled as she was, she almost smiled at him and relaxed visibly as I handed her exact change for my bag of hamburger buns. Her relief finally arrived with a stack of ones and a roll of quarters, and just in time – right behind me came two young girls buying two 75 cent specialty ice-cream treats with a $20 bill. Without the change drop, our poor overworked checker would not have been in Good Humor. She would have been more likely to melt.
    All I needed was a bag of burger buns, but I was so entertained that the wait didn’t matter. What a great place to wait in line!
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    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    you might be a teacher if...

    You might be a teacher if:
    • Spring cleaning happens in July.
    • You lose track of the days of the week when June arrives.
    • Your garden gets planted 3 or 4 weeks late.
    • All of the above.

    No one can tell yet, and it didn't happen intentionally, but I planted Packer Beans. No, not the kind that a good environmentalist or country mama would "put up" or can to last through the winter, but good Wisconsin green and (yellow) gold.

    Spring was extraordinarily busy and emotionally draining this year. By the time we got the compost spread and the soil turned, all of the stringless bean seeds were gone from the stores. Of course, people who plan and actually had time to plant had already bought all of the best seeds. Well, there's nothing like fresh beans from the garden, and evidently a lot of people know that. I planted the broccoli, tomato plants, the pepper plants (mother's day gifts all), and seeds for bunny food like parsley and carrots. I kept looking for bean seeds everywhere I went, and even went to places I normally didn't shop in the hopes that other bean-loving gardeners hadn't shopped there, either. I put the word out to my family, and my mother found two packets of yellow wax beans. These are also yummy, so I put the lovely little seeds in the soil beneath the trellis. But I didn't stop looking...and sure enough, a few days later I found two packets of seeds for green beans at the local drugstore. I stepped out to the garden that afternoon and planted the new packs in and around the seeds for the yellow. If all goes well and they grow quickly, I'll have a trellis full of beans in the colors of my favorite team, and I'll be harvesting as they begin a dynamite season with a new coach and a still fabulous MVP quarterback. (The team, that is, not the beans.)

    I just hope we don't get an early frost up here near the tundra....

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