Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Social Lists

I’m a list person.
 I’ve always been, even as a kid. The birthday wish lists and Christmas lists turned into what to pack on basketball and track trips, grade breakdowns in my classes (I need to get a 93% on the US History test if I want to keep the A in class), etc. In college it turned to grocery lists and still grade breakdowns and daily schedules. As a teacher it was lists of student names: which kids I was specifically focusing on that day, for whatever reason. And as a mother, I have my daily lists of to do’s.
I’m a list person.
I went to an autism conference this April. April was a hard month for me. It was about two weeks before I pulled Race out of the school he was attending (another story for another day).  I had been sinking into that place again, that place within myself I go to cry and worry. That place I go when I don’t have a plan and have to turn to my Lorazepam to sleep at night. It’s the place I go when I have nothing on my list.
So on this specific Saturday in April, I drove up the mountain to Flagstaff. It was snowing. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get down the hill by the end of the day, but I didn’t care. I was running from that place within myself, desperately seeking answers. \
I went through the day at the conference. I saw a lot of familiar faces and met a lot of great people. I went to every breakout topic that applied to our family. It was all great, helpful information. Some new information, much I’ve heard before; but not what I was needing. Nothing that was pulling me out of that hopeless state. And then I walked into David Hamrick’s “Sleep Issues for People with Autism.” Because the “ABC’s of Autism” and “how to take meaningful data and write objective IEP goals” were sounding exhausting at the time. And the crazy thing was, I went in there knowing Race doesn’t have sleep issues. Thank goodness. I hear so many kids on the spectrum do. So, why was I walking into this class? Well, the presenter sounded interesting. David Hamrick was a 32-year old man with high-functioning autism and worked as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Washington, D.C.  I wanted to meet him.
I watched him as he presented. And I fought back the tears the entire time. It was like fast forwarding time 25 years and seeing Race standing before a group of people talking about one of his obsessions. In the case of Mr. Hamrick, it was his job: studying and creating weather maps. It was so fascinating. He spoke with such clarity, but he never looked anyone in the eye. People filed in with snacks because it was late in the day, and he let us know the sound of people chewing their food gives him anxiety. His ears were sensitive, his hearing was on overdrive. Just like Race. He smiled all the time; just like Race. And really, the hour that I spent in there, only about 10 minutes covered sleep issues for people on the spectrum. The rest of the time, he talked about his work and his lists.
He was a list person.
His first list was called, Etiquette Fundamentals. And it went like this:
Manners 101:
·         Hold the door for a lady
·         If you ask, you pay
·         Be on time for a date
·         Don’t walk ahead
·         Turn off your cell phone
·         Call when you say you will
·         No sudden romantic advances
Manners 102:
·         Offer your coat to a lady if she is cold
·         Help a lady with her seat
·         Leave a 15-20% tip
·         Don’t dominate the conversation
·         Share your umbrella
·         Drive safely
·         Never use car horn when you arrive
Mr. Hamrick made lists for every social situation he might encounter in his day. The lists were amazing. And I instantly knew why I needed to be sitting in “Sleep Issues for People with Autism.”

So now, Race and I sit down together before we go somewhere and make a social list. And we add to the list as we run into social obstacles.  Our first list was easy:
How to Handle Your Anger:
1.      Stop. Count to ten. Take a deep breath, or walk away until you have calmed down.
2.      Say. What’s wrong. Use your words to say what you don’t like.
3.      Tell. What you would like to have happen.
Race carries this list in his pocket. And it helps.
Another list:
Social Rules at the Pool:
·         Walk
·         Pay attention to splashing. Some people don’t like it. Watch their expression.
·         Don’t hang on people.
·         No diving in the shallow end
·         Playing pool games with other kids: what kind of game is it, who is playing the game, ask to play with them and their toy. What if they say no?
Even though the last one, Playing pool games, probably sounds a bit jumbled and may not make sense, it is very helpful to Race and I. For example, what kind of game is it? Race has to pay attention to, are they playing tag? Are they playing keep away? Are they playing catch? If they’re playing catch, I’m not going to take the ball and run with it am I?
The lists have been helping. We have them for Tae Kwon Do, Church, Library, etc. They help because Race is a visual learner. And he memorizes. So the time we take to sit and write out a list helps put those abstract social concepts into a concrete way of looking at them. And we add to the list as needed, like if we had a social incident at the pool. Before we head out the door to the pool the next day, we pack our list and he reads it to me on the drive over.
So now, Race is a list person. We’ll use the strategy until it doesn’t work anymore.
 If that day ever comes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


My students from my first year of teaching graduated this May.

I can't believe it.

I went to a couple graduations and cheered super loud for my kiddo's.

Sara and I drove down to Queen Creek to see Kristie graduate and hang out with the Steele family for the evening.  Sara was Kristie's 4th grade teacher and I student taught under Sara that year. Then, the next year, Kristie was in my 5th grade class. My first year as a real teacher.

I was so blessed to have Sara as my Supervising Teacher when I student taught. I was pregnant with Race at the time, plus working full time at a therapeutic boarding school.  She stood by me when I had to run out of the class to puke (morning sickness), and taught me not only how to do all those great things you're supposed to learn when you student teach, but she also taught me through her example, how to love the kids more. How to love people more. She's got the biggest heart of anybody I know.

I'm so grateful to still have her in my life today. We love you Grandma Sara!!! You're one of my hero's, and I want to be just like you when I grow up.

We love you Kristie,
We love you Steele Family.
We miss you!
It was a sad day for the Verde Valley when you left.
The world would be a better place if there were more families like you!

My  first kiddo's.

I will never forget that first year teaching. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but so blessed at the same time. I was a new mom, with a new job. Juggling all the newness was overwhelming at times. I had so many people cheering me on as I worried and lost sleep over these kids. As I tried to move each one of them forward, individually with what they needed. With what they brought to the table. Like all teachers today, I had kids from good, solid homes. Then I had kids from broken homes, living in cars down by the river. I had kids who knew what respect and honesty were. Then there were those who didn't. There were the kids who had self-worth. And even some who had so much of it, there was a sense of entitlement about them. And then there were the kids who had none. They all had diverse strengths and weaknesses. Many had families where academics was a priority. Then there were those who didn't. And then there were those who just came to school to have something stable in their lives and something to eat for lunch.

Like all of us, they each had their individual trials. And their individual gifts. And something amazing to offer the world. I still hope they all do.

Every day was a juggling act. Each day was a stretch. And every day pushed me to be a better person.

Teaching is tricky, teaching is an art we strive to perfect. Child by child. Just like being a mother.

I love all my kiddo's, and I only hope I inspired them as much as they inspired me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Aborigine and the Avatar

I live in a house of men, so it's always nice getting some girl time. So when the boys were at the lake, Adriane and I had a slumber party. A real slumber party like the ones you have when you're 14. Good food, cheesy chick flicks, pedicures, facials and lots of talk.

I love my friend.

Can you guess who's the Aborigine and who's the Avatar?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

John, Race and Witt went down to Roosevelt for Father-Sons this year. And John's brother Jim met them down there with his boat. They had a blast, doing some serious bass fishing. Thanks SO much Uncle Jim, the boys can't wait to do it again!

Witten was in his element down on the lake. He loves being outdoors. I can't wait till this kid can be in cub scouts. He is one serious outdoors-man.

Race has a soft spot for life and a hard time with death. So, John learned the hard way that you can't use bluegill as bate when Race is fishing with you. No live bate allowed. Lures only to avoid autistic meltdowns.

And did you know that Roosevelt Lake was named for the Theodore Roosevelt Dam which was named for the  26th U.S. President  who dedicated the dam himself in March 1911? Just ask Race, he'll tell you all about it. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Today, he's Ninja Turtle

Lane has quite the imagination. Every day he's someone different; and sometimes I have a hard time keeping track of his identity. On any given day, he could be Zelda, or Batman, Bowser Jr., Jedi Lane or Spy Mouse. And you are to call him by the specific name, whatever it may be that day. Or he doesn't respond. Last week at my parents, he was a sweet kitty cat that quickly transformed into an angry rooster that pecked.

But on this day, his name was Ninja Turtle. And he wore the mask everywhere... even to the Greek restaurant that evening. And you can't call him Lane. You call him Ninja Turtle.

So, if you see any of these guys around saving the world from bad guys, just know that they live at my house:


 Bowser Jr.

and Zelda. Yes, I know this isn't Zelda, but trust me, if you've ever seen Lane strut around the house being Zelda, you would know he means Link. 

 And definitely not this princess.

And then of course, there's the Ninja Turtle:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Witten Knows Lots of Stuff

I've said it hundreds of times in the past. I love Montessori. The Montessori Children's House has been the best little place for my boys and we're so grateful Witten gets to be there one more year.

The school had it's end of the year program and it was so wonderful as usual. We always look forward to the teacher's spotlight on the individual kids. Here is what Ms. Janet said about Witt:

Witten is one of the most single minded students I have seen. If he gets interested in something or wants to do something he doesn't forget about it, he keeps working at it until he figures it out. He was one of only a few students to tackle the Roman Arch and kept practicing it. He learned the names of all the Geometric Solids and knew the reward for that was cutting up a Toblerone bar and sharing it with the class. He is very inquisitive and likes to see how things work. He had a test of his patience and perseverance this month when he had to get out all the tiles for the hundreds board, organize them and put them in order. He stuck with it and learned it wasn't as hard as it looked. Keep up the persistence Witten!

Witten with Ms. Janet:

Witt with Ms. Jyoti:

I tell Witten practically every day, "I don't know what I'd do without you, kid." And its true. Witten keeps my spirits light. He cracks jokes and is our funny guy around the house. He's also my big helper. He loves to cook with me, work outside with Daddy and I, and loves the companionship of his brothers.

One of my favorite things about the Cowboy is that he loves to learn. He loves knowledge.

One day after school this past year, Witt came home and told me, "Did you know water gives you an hour of energy and the juice box's you send in my lunch EVERY DAY only give me five minutes of energy?"

"Really? Well, water is good for you."

"Yeah, so I don't need those juice box's anymore. I'm just going to drink water."

So, being the supportive mother that I am, I went out and bought those mini water bottles to send in his lunch box.

And that worked for a little while until he came home a few weeks later and said, "Mom, you know those water bottles you send in my lunch? Well, they're made plastic which is really bad if you don't recycle..."

So of course, being the supportive mother that I am, we now make a better effort to recycle.

Then a few weeks later, Witt came home with tons to tell me about UV rays and the sun and how he needs sunscreen that has at least SPF 30.

"You think you need to wear it every day hu?"


"Every day?"

"Every day."

"Witt, you wear a hat every day to school. And I put sunscreen on you whenever we're outside for a long  time."

"Mom, I AM a red head. And I do not need skin cancer on my rear-end like you."   (AND for the record, it wasn't full out skin cancer, and I don't remember telling him about the pre-cancer mole, he must have been eavesdropping on a phone conversation or something... AND, for the record, it was from fake and baking as a teenager. Tanning beds are SO BAD for you!!)

"How'd you get so stinkin' smart?"

"I go to school, Mom."

He's a Wolf

Here's another reason Race has been counting down the days till he turned eight:

He gets to be in Cub Scouts.

I think I'm almost as excited as Race is that he's in finally in scouts. Why is he super excited? Well, he's been dragged to day camps and pack meetings pretty much all his life with John and I always helping out our dear friends the Guys with scouting. We miss you Guy family!!!! And the scouts of the Verde Valley miss you too!!

Also, he's got some other role models in his life who were also scouts:

His Uncle Tanner recieved his Eagle shortly after turning 14 years old.

And look at this awesome picture I found at my parents house. Its my Daddy when he was a Cub Scout.

I'm so grateful for the Scouting Program and the impact it has had on my family. Scouting is a good thing. John will tell you that being in scouts was one of the things that kept him out of trouble as a kid. And Heaven knows there was pleanty of trouble for that boy to get into.

If only we all could take the Cub Scout Promise and apply it daily in our lives, whatever our situation may be:

I Teddy,
promise to do my best
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people, and
To obey the Law of the Pack.

I'm so excited that Race is so excited about scouting.

Bird Watchers

We call the old golf course our wildlife preserve. Since the economy hit bottom, our neighborhood has as well. And the funny thing is, I don't mind at all. I'd much rather have fields of wildlife than golfers swearing at eachother, the neighborhood cars being hit by golf balls, golfers teeing off from my yard and leaving cigarette butts all over the place. A wildlife preserve is much better, despite the fact that my property value totally stinks since the golf course went under. We love our wildlife preserve.

Since the golfers have left, we have seen many kinds of birds move into the area. We have a mama blue herring and a nest of babies, cardinals, Mexican Eagles (that hang out around our house because of our chickens), crows of course, the Canadian Geese every fall and early spring, ducks in the ponds, humming birds, doves, quail, and turkey vultures. It is an amazing bird habitat.

Here, the turkey vultures are sunning themselves in the morning sun.

And the field scientist and the researcher see how close they can get to them.

The field scientist always seems to get the closest before they fly away.

One of Race's new favorite books that sits right by his World Altlas at night is his bird encyclopedia put out by Reader's Digest. Birds: Their Life. Their Ways. Their World. So while Race is perfectly happy studying the birds from books and the computer, Witt is all hands on.

And then there's Lane, who can pretend to be any bird you like. Just ask him what a rooster looks like; he'll show you.

I love my little Bird Watchers.