Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adopting the Waiting Child from China.

I love the Waiting child Program. Both our kids were in it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


By Heather
Today, Bill took a day off and we went to Lansing for the second annual Braille-athon. We didn't know about it last year, so we missed it, but this year we were there bright and early, and made it through the whole thing. Yes, Acer lasted the whole 4 hours, though, at one point he told Bill "We should go home now", when Bill told him we were staying for another hour and a half, Acer said "Then we should go to the potty now'. Not sure how he felt he was going to make the 2 hours home, but at least he made a good call in the end.

We thought it was a random Braille competition, using slate and stylus instead if braille writer or technology. That didn't appear to happen, so Calli was a little disappointed but seeing people she knew made up for it. We've now made it to 4 statewide events since this winter, and we are starting to recognize people, and be recognized. Calli saw Taylor, the one other girl in her sports camp group of 5 kids, and they continued making plans to meet at summer camp the end of July. She also saw Chelsea, a very sweet college freshman who loves goalball as much as Calli does. Calli did have to miss a day of goal ball camp to be at this event, but had a good time nonetheless. Calli also sang the star spangled banner to open the event, with about 30 seconds notice. She forgot a teeny bit, but got back on track quickly. She was singing into a microphone on a portable podium, and the podium was about as tall as she, high on the cuteness factor there.

Calli and Acer's O&M (orientation and mobility, canework) intern was there and both kids were really pleased to see her. Interestingly enough, she's getting her O&M, and TVI and comes to this out of the world of hearing impaired teaching. She is going to be so well rounded when she is done with school.

Acer continued his fallback plans for what to do if you don't know what's going on or where you are. Yes, he climbed flight after flight of stairs. Outside the capitol building, inside the building, the parking garage, you name it. If he feels there's nothing else to do, then it's off to find stairs. Acer was a bit overwhelmed with all the noise under the huge canopy, but was able to sort it out later and enjoy himself more. Because we were on the stairs, and the keyboard player and singer were in front of the stairs, we were right there when Acer said he wanted to sing into the microphone.

They let him, but did not, to Acer's shock, know Day-O! So Acer sang, thankfully omitting the first line of 'work all night on a glass of rum!' which he usually starts it with. He stopped twice, and Tim, the singer, went to take the microphone back, and then Acer said 'There're more words!' and continued singing. Not sure why he stopped, maybe for a breather in the heat, but he completed the song. Now this was probably the cutest thing all day at the event. Firstly, Acer is just so dern cute. Plus, he was wearing a tan bucket hat and sleeveless tie die tee shirt and orange board shorts, which just was super cute too. Then, when you add in Acer's raspy little voice singing happily away... well, we'll just say that none of the people walking in to the capitol building right then were able to resist a smile.

Later, Acer was homing in on a bell he heard ringing, it was an ice cream pushcart run by the local NFB chapter. Acer then cute'd himself into a free dove bar. Yes, his cuteness is such that even blind people can sense it. One picked him up and tried to let him pick up his own ice cream, but Acer was too short, his arms didn't reach despite almost being headfirst into the pushcart. Heat, Ice cream bar = sticky messy Acer. Thanks to the ladies at two tables, we were able to combine paper towels and water bottle water to make him presentable again.

We were blessed because the kids' godmother Aunt Steph, and her son Rain (6) made it to the event too! Rain had a good time and tried all the tables. As all the kids went to the different tables, they had different things to do to help them understand Braille, whether they are blind or not. At each table, they were given tickets, and were able to buy things using those tickets. Hurrah! they all got got things to bring home. Good job vendors and service org's who showed up, the kids loved it.

We came home and picked up my van, HiHo. Poor van, I drove over a tire chunk yesterday on the way home from goalball camp and took out the power steering pump, Ouch! Yes, we made the trip in Bill's car. it was tighter than we were used to, but it worked just fine.

Here is a link to a Newspaper article about it and a video, Bill's back is on the left, about 3 seconds in,

pictures as I get them, Hopefully soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The end of an Era

Rugby loved it when his people were in the kitchen, there was always the chance that food might fall.
By Heather
The year was 1998, and I was living alone in a one room house on the Lewis River in Yacolt, WA. I shared three acres with two other houses, and it was beautiful. I decided, with my landlord's okay, to get a dog. I wanted a dog that would be big enough to be imposing, have short dark hair, be a mixed breed, be full grown but not old. I looked several places and ended up in the Portland OR Humane Society.

Enter Rugby. He was so dirty, muddy and skinny. He was about 10 months old, and only weighed about 55 pounds, and had been given up because his owners could not afford to feed him. His personality shown from the very beginning, even though he was very scared and confused. I instantly became his person. So much so that on the 45 minute ride home from the HS, he actually sat on my lap, crossways, between me and my steering wheel. It wouldn't have been so bad except, I got pulled over for a burnt out headlight that just happened. I couldn't move him off my lap so that I could reach my purse! I told the policeman that I had just gotten him, and he said "He sure looks like he's bonded to you!' and that started us off on our life together.

Rugby has been just about the perfect dog. He doesn't get on furniture. He didn't, until Lobelia taught him how, get into garbage. He was relatively quiet, until Lobelia got him barking. He was funny, had a great sense of humor, and thought every conversation in any room that he was in, was about him. He would wag his tail whenever anyone in the room talked. He always had to be in the room with people, making sure they were okay. Unfortunately Rugby, well... he had legendary flatulence. Yes, he could clear a room with his silent but deadly emissions. When we had people over, we would simply hand our friends scented candles to light as needed. Today I laughed at the memory of Rugby's being able to fumigate the entire top third of the house. I thought Mum had had extremely bad tummy, but no, he managed to get three bedrooms and the bathroom from the hallway. It was literally like walking into a solid wall of smell as I went up the stairs. Poor Mum, she was sick and stuck in the recliner, and I didn't know she needed windows opened to rescue her, and then I blamed her on top of it!

He was part Rottie and they are herding dogs, so he was happiest when his people were all clustered together He once herded Bill and myself until we were nose to nose in the hallway, then he was satisfied. Once on a hike, Rugby wore himself out by trying to herd the group, plus going slightly ahead to check the path, and going slightly behind to make sure that was safe too. We think he traveled 3-4 times the distance the rest of us did. Unfortunately, this herding technique meant he'd shoulder check people in the knees, causing pain, knee buckling and standing still, not the moving into a clump that he hoped for.

Rugby was the dreamingest dog I've ever seen, running and making funny dream barking noises, not just every night, but during naps and several times a night. Once he woke Lobelia up, and she looked over her should at him, and then at me as if to say, 'What's up with him?'

Rugby was the least dominant dog, he once ran into a tree as he tried to run away from another dog. He was not cowed by people, just other dogs. When we got Lobelia, she instantly ruled the roost. He was lonely without another dog in the house, and he liked her, but she stole all his toys and bones and he wasn't allowed to have fun with them anymore (according to her). Good thing Rugby was still allowed to have his people!

Rugby didn't like the water too much, but would brave it to be with me. Once he found a solo dock piling in the middle of a shallow lake. Rugby climbed a top it, and was happier, but then pawed the water around it in a circle as he unsuccessfully tried to find another piling to move onto so he could follow me through the water. Another time, he braced himself for dear life as a friend and I canoe from one island in Lake Huron to another, I couldn't paddle very well, he was backed right up into me, but there was no way he would have let himself be left behind.

One of Rugby's few bad habits was what we called 'armpitting'. My bed is just about the same height as the middle of Rugby's chest, so he could stretch out and reach almost to the middle the bed. If he woke up, and saw you sleeping with an arm above your head, he'd come over and start liking your armpit. Dern wierd way to wake up, I will tell you, sort of gickfull too. Poor Bill, he seemed to get more of it than I did.

Rugby loved car rides, He traveled from Portland to Boston with me, Wisconsin to New Mexico. We had to curtail his rides over the last few years, because he would simply step his 85 pound body all over the kids to get to the windows. I never expected Rugby to live so long. As a big dog, I expected 8-10 years out of him, not the 13 that we got, I never expected him to live to see Acer, much less Calliandra.

Rugby's been having leg problems, one back, one front, on opposite sides of his body. He actually fell over twice, when something or someone ran into him. He hasn't been able to go up and down stairs easily, and most importantly, he hasn't been able to move fast enough to dodge the kids. It not that they want to step on him, it's just that he's so big that his feet take up a lot of space, and the kids do their best, but he still gets stomped on several times a day. This past fall, Rugby noticeably got happier when school started and the kids weren't there passing through the room all the time. I just couldn't see putting an increasingly slowed and in pain Rugby through another summer. I owed him a good send off, not a tortured time when he kept getting grumpier.

and so today, I fed him ham leftovers we'd saved, and the kids stuffed him with all the dog bones he could hold. and off we went, and I cried, and I cry as I type this. Rugby, herd clouds 'til I get there, time'll go by fast and then I'll see you again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Striving for simplicity

By Heather
A blog I follow, A Place Called Simplicity, has started a new bit called Striving for Simplicity, little bits that people do to try to make their lives easier and less stressful. I've decided to join in this week, and so here is my little bit I do to make my life easier for this week.

This is a lovely decorative and colorful basket of underwear that I have on the back of the toilet, there is a different one on a different toilet. These baskets make Acer's and my lives easier. Acer is indeed potty trained, but sometimes he's just too distracted to pay attention to the signs in a timely manner. For those times, we have the basket. All he has to do is simply reach into the basket, and pull out a fresh pair of clean dry underwear.

For the record, Acer has about 30 pair of underwear. Only about a half dozen have we bought for him, if we were out and it was an emergency. The rest are hand me downs that don't seem to wear out. The result, they last forever, and Acer walks around wearing Sith underwear. Yes, the darkside resides on Acer's butte.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Hello New Breadmaker (and other stuff)

By Heather
Thank heavens the thrift store had the bread machine I've had my eye on still in stock. It was way up on a top shelf, and two others had come in, priced at twice as much. My bread machine only cost $7.50 instead of the $15 that the others would have. I know it has a smaller capacity, but instead of the cylindrical loaves our old one had, this one bakes rectangular block shaped loaves. The first loaf was indeed tasty, but at about 1/3 smaller volume than the other, I'll be baking more often. One thing with using the breadmaker, Calliandra didn't like sandwiches until we started making our own bread. Now she likes them just fine for lunches.

The thrift store was a treasure trove today, I was able to pick up the breadmaker, a used Lazy-boy desk chair for Bill (to replace a broken one), a garden scoot for me, some highball glasses for the kids (harder to knock over with the thick bottoms), and a couple other things. Mum picked up a very nice assortment of 6 tops to go with two new pairs of pants. Later Acer and I went back and he was able to buy a drum toy (I'd spotted it earlier) and a Simon game with his own money. Thank Heavens for patient cashiers, and two registers open as Acer pulled 81 cents out, coin by coin, 3 quarters and 6 pennies. Acer had already handed the cashier his 'Paper Money', all his money, he didn't bother to count that out for some reason.

I like our thrift store, it goes to support local homeless shelters, it has better prices than the big chains, SA or SVdP, the current Manager thinks that the kids, Acer in particular are just the greatest. So, because he came over and talked to Acer while Acer was delving for coins (Acer gave him $2 'to look at') I asked Acer if he wanted to play piano for him. The Manager's seen 'the Cold Spaghetti Band' video, but in that, Acer is drumming. It was a surprise for him to see Acer playing the piano. Acer chose one of our church band songs 'Strength will rise' and made it through 3/4's of it before declaring that he didn't know any more and was done.

Both our kids are so musical, but in different ways. Calliandra is straight out hard work and practice, playing songs already written. She is very quick to figure out how to play just about any instrument put into her hands, and usually the first song played will be 'Ode to Joy'. Just today she played a hammer dulcimer at her piano teacher's house. Within about 15 minutes there she was and there it was, 'Ode to Joy'. Calli can take any song she knows well, and within one or two tries, play the melody smoothly. Acer is naturally musical, he listens to Calli do something and figures out how to do it, but he's more Jazz and improvisation, taking pieces of music he knows and adding to; them swooping off into other pieces and then back to the original. He is almost as talented on the piano as he is on drums, but drums are his love. Last night, while he was in bed (with a toy piano) we were downstairs and suddenly we heard the Marine corps hymn. Yes, he'd heard Calli practicing it for choir, and suddenly he was sounding it out clearly enough that we had to check to see who was actually playing the piece. I know there will always be people more talented than they, but I think that those people may not be as well rounded as our two. Our two have been blessed with more than average talent in many things, not just music and we have been blessed by them,

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bye Bye Breadmaker

It's been almost a year now that we've been making our own bread. We may have purchased some during this time, but it's probably no more than half a dozen loaves in the whole year. We'd obtained out bread maker for free, when our neighbor across the street had moved, and left it by the curbside. It has been a good, loyal machine, churning out loaves of bread, at least one a week for the past year. Tonight however, it evidently tried power plug bungee jumping and failed severely. Bill had a loaf in, it was just at the end of the mixing stage, when Kerplunk, Crash, Bang down it went. Obviously, the power cord did not have enough bounce power to bring the bread machine back up to the counter, and it smashed on the floor. If it had been a week night, I could have run out and gotten another and at least saved the loaf, but no, it's Sunday, and the stores were closed. Bill's bread, a rye, corn and wheat mix, will have to be totally remade, another day. Here's hoping that the one bread machine I've seen at our local favorite thrift store is still there tomorrow.

Busy Busy BT's

This week, aside from having the joy of a family celebration of Memorial Day at Bill's parents, was particularly busy especially towards the weekend.

On Friday, Bill went with Calli to a pen-pal meeting day. I'm not sure if other states/areas are doing this, but in our area, children are getting pen-pals from other schools. They write back and forth all year and then meet in the end. Calli's pen-pal was named Devon, and we weren't sure if it were a boy or a girl. This is especially tough for Calli to figure out as she doesn't know a lot of the social signals that would say boy or girl to the rest of us. In Mandarin, there is no pronoun for he or she, him or her. There is is just one word for he, she, it. This whole year, Calli would tell us about children in her class, using the wrong pronoun, and we would just guess from the name. She's far better at it than in the beginning of the year, but in the case of a name like Devon, she had to ask her teacher.

This year, the pen-pals met at a bounce house, where Calli'd been for her second Honor Roll field trip, and then went to a park later. There was much excitement, talking, laughing and hanging out. Both girls gave each other stationery, and their home addresses to keep in touch. I think it was a really good experience for Calli.

After dinner that whole family had a treat; Calli's school next year, our neighborhood school had a fun fair. I was pleased that so many teachers greeted Calli by name, the school had sent 6 to Forest Park to observe, and they all remembered her. She was also greeted by some of her fellow Brownies, and new friend Mya. There were games in many rooms, paid for by tickets, and Calli and I cruised from room to room while Bill and Acer generally wandered around outside and played on the playground. Oddly enough, there were many older kids, 5th and 6th graders, who knew Acer by name. I think some of them had met him through Band, when Acer visited, or had watched him one day in music class when Acer played Fur Elise on the piano. Some knew him because they were aides, helping get him on the bus in the afternoon. It was cute to see how many did know him. Usually the younger child is known as the older one's sibling. In Calli's case, it's the other way around.

Saturday morning, we got up at 4:30 to be able to leave on time to go to a VI sports day on the other side of the state. We arrived a tiny bit early but not much. The kids were the first on the climbing wall, and on the horses. Our Alex was able to join us and the children were thrilled to see her. Alex got to see Calli in action in Goalball, Calli's favorite sport. Calli is good, almost up to playing with the high school kids good. Her first game, she scored all three points for her team, and won the game for them. She was playing wing, not center that time, and there was a high schooler playing center on the other team so I think she did well to get the balls past him. In his defense, his cross throws in the next game, when he was a wing and she was a center, were the hardest throws for Calli to guard against. Calli would block on a line with the impact sound of the ball, and the ball would be continuing off on an angle. She was able to figure it out, but it took a few throws for her to get it.

After the Vi sports day, we went back to Alex's grandparents house and enjoyed the pool. We left just after three, stopped for a Sonic on the way home, and arrived later than Acer's bedtime, but figured it wouldn't be too bad because he could sleep in, in the morning.

Nope, Not our Acer, he was up at 6, just like any school day. sigh. He does try his hardest to be quiet, but there are certainly things that he needs to talk to us about. After church, Acer ended up staying home, to his great dismay. He was going to go to Bill's softball game, but when Bill looked out the house and saw that Acer had not gotten into the car to get ready to go as requested, but rather had gone out to the middle of the road and was spinning around like a top. This was a first, and there was no excuse, Acer knows exactly where the driveway ends and the street starts. Bill and Calli went off to the game (we lost) and Acer went down for a nap. When Acer is too tired, or too hungry he cannot regulate his actions. He knows he's making bad choices, but it doesn't matter, his regulator is gone and the behavior is not good. Even if he tries his hardest, he can only manage to be good for a matter of minutes before he acts up again. He can only go about 2 hours before he needs to eat again.

So after he had his nap, Lo and Behold, the well behaved loving Acer was back and there was peace in the house. While were at the VI spots day, the kids, including Alex, had been given T-shirts and goody bags. The goody bags were great for Acer because everything in his made noise. The good bag was Acer's entertainment for the day, I let him get out one toy after another and he was just as happy as could be.

Yes, all those toys that other parents hate, those New Years Eve noise makers, whistle,s all those things were in there and Acer loved them. We do have the Loud House, just in case you wondered, we have all those toys that other parents shun, and try to get rid of, pianos, drum toys, you name it. In fact Acer's discovered both money and garage sales this year and he has learned to simply go in and ask if they have any toys that make noise. It saves time and effort on his part. So far he has only bought one guitar toy, telling me it was his 'Final Choice' and carefully counting out eight quarters into the person's hand. We have now been to 4 garage sales and Acer cannot be pushed into buying something he doesn't want. One about 12 year old boy tried, but it didn't work. For me it makes walking around the neighborhood with him worth it, he is learning both about money and making choices about buying.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Operation Sweetness and Light

By Heather
That's what we've re-named the Fake it 'til it takes idea. It has a much better sound about it doesn't it. Tonight, Mum, Calliandra and I sat down and discussed how the past three days had gone. All agreed that life was more pleasant, and that it was worth continuing.

I surprised them by telling them how I knew whether they were practicing it or falling back into old habits, I told them I didn't even need to hear what was being said. I could tell from another floor simply by the undertones of their voices. Mum's would get deeper and angrier, and Calli's would get sharper and whinier. When I hear that I simply sing out 'Sweetness and Light, Sweetness and Light' and the voices change back into normal caring voices. Sometimes, If I'm close, I will suggest alternative phrasing so that the Sweetness and Light shines through better.

Interestingly enough, it seems to have opened up something in Mum. A storytelling bit that she hasn't used in years. She will start bringing up her past, stories about her Mother, and other relatives that she remembers from her childhood and young adult stage. I've heard stories I've never heard before, or if I've heard them I feel more able to ask questions to draw more of the stories out of her.

They've also discovered a commonality in their early lives, Calli lived in the foster home, and Mum in a boarding school. Because of this new peace, they were able to exchange stories an compare similar experiences. It was really nice to hear the excitement in Calli's voice as she asked questions and exchanged memories with Mum. Mum told her bits about the boarding school that she'd never told me, because I didn't know to ask about.

All in All, Operation Sweetness and Light has been a good thing. I'm now thinking about how to implement something similar with Acer, something he'll understand and like too.

Please keep this on your long term prayer list

Prayers about Acer's schooling next year. The teachers and support staff are really worried about how this will work. We really need to find just the right person to be Acer's full time aide. Mandarin Speaking, Pinyin writing, willing to learn Braille, creative on how to explain subjects to Acer by making touch pictures. Keep this on your permanent prayer list, and spread the word to others too.

The Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car

Because they are so dern cool