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Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Asperger's Story

Our youngest son has Asperger's, a relatively mild form of autism.
Since I started this blog years ago, it is the most frequent question I get from people who've stumbled upon the blog, or from long-time readers who've become friends.  Or from friends and family it seems.  David and I have become accustomed to talking openly about autism and Asperger's. 
And Brennan has too. 
Brennan, June 2009, almost 7 years old, just finished his first Harry Potter.  So proud.

(Actually, this post about repairing our leather couch with shoe polish is the most frequent comment I receive, but Asperger's and Autism run a close second!)
Amazing Achievement! 
Yesterday, October 28th, marked one full year since the last time I was called to school to help with Brennan.  I cannot tell you how different all of our lives are now that he is able to cope at school with much less involvement from David and me. 
One full year. 
I'm slowly learning not to panic if I am out and forget my cell phone at home.
I'm realizing it's OK to put my cell in my purse while I'm at lunch or at the gym.  I can go an hour.  They probably won't call.
I feel like I might almost be tempting fate with this braggy post, but I think it's a fitting time to celebrate how far Brennan has come and how much we've learned in the last 9 years or so.
Brennan turns 11 in January, but we've all been learning and managing Asperger's for more than 9 years. 
Sharing Our Story
I'm not an expert, but I am a mom who has a story to share about a great kid who is making great progress.  And I'm a parent who is happy to answer other parents' questions, because I've been there.  I know that scared look.  I know what it's like to be up at 3 a.m. researching frustrating new behaviors.  I know what it's like to have a child throwing a fit in school, and unable to calm himself down until I arrive.  I know how hard it is to talk about without bursting into tears, even if it's just because you're so proud.  I get it.
So I thought I'd use the blog to speak a little more about our story, in hopes of helping those who have no idea what to do and are just looking for answers.
Yes - you can share my story with friends you know who have recently received the news about their own child.  I get that question weekly.  Seriously.  A new family reaches out to me almost weekly.
 A Few Facts 
A few facts from Autism Speaks - one of the top autism websites.  Please check them out.  If you have questions, there are some great answers there.  And great resources. 
  • Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

So for today, I just want to say that It Gets Better. 
I will be able to look back and say that in the second quarter of 4th grade was when this shift happened for us.
And it's been a whole year now.
Have faith.  It Gets Better.

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Supernatural Place

A Supernatural Place
When we were talking about our remaining 101 Places before our trip to Hawaii, I let the boys know that my friends had told me about some spooky spots on the Windward side of the island.
The boys were immediately intrigued.  Could we go there?  What kind of spooky stuff?  Is it true or just a legend?  Supernatural and the beach - that's what they were all about in the planning phase!
I vaguely remembered snippets of stories I'd been told by my high school friends.  Those who were raised on the island may not have believed it all, but also didn't like my joking about it either.  I remember something about the Pali Lookout and pork.  And Pele, the goddess of the volcano.  I had to do a little research.
From the website 52 Perfect Days I found a lot of good information about the supernatural areas we'd be driving through when we toured the island one day.
The Pali Highway area is a beautiful part of the island.  Unfortunately, we happened to be driving through when it was getting dark and very rainy.  Of course, that added to the supernatural feel we were set to experience.

The Nu’uanu Pali Lookout– In 1795 The Battle of Nu’uanu took place pitting future King Kamehameha from the Big Island of Hawaii against the Chief of Oahu Kalanikupule. Kalanikupule’s forces were defeated with the culmination of the battle taking place at the edge of the lookout where 300 to 500 of Kalanikupule’s warriors were forced off the edge. Their bones still remain at the bottom of the cliff.
Brennan, of course, had to see it all.  Rain or No Rain. 

The locals know not to bring pork through the tunnels of the Nuu’anu Pali Highway going from the Windward side to the Leeward side. The powerful demi-goddess of the volcano Madame Pele made an agreement with her once lover and rival the half man-half pig demi-god Kamapua’a to split the island in half. They never wanted to see each other again after having a falling out. Madame Pele stays on the Leeward side which is dry and to her liking. Kamapua’a stays on the Windward side which is wet and to his liking. If you try to bring pork which is a part of him from his domain into her domain, she will stop you.
The boys ASSURED us they had no pork with them as we went through the Pali tunnels headed back to Honolulu.

We made it through just fine.  Phew!

Of course, they now want to know if there are any supernatural places in Indiana that we can also check out. 
I've encouraged them to do their research and let me know.
From the Book:
#34 - A Supernatural Sighting Spot
Some places are famous for their scenic beauty, others for their exciting attractions.  And then there are those that are famous for their monsters.  Loch Ness in Scotland comes to mind, of course, but did you know that there are quite a few active sea monsters on this side of the Atlantic, too?  There are also big hairy ape creatures and lizard men lurking in the swamps and woods - or so the stories go.  Phantom ships and ghost trains, strange flickering "spook lights" that appear in the same place again and again -- there are a lot of "unexplained phenomena" out there.  As you travel, find out what kind of supernatural sightings have happened in the place you're visiting.  Then have your camera ready - supernatural phenomena usually move pretty quickly, just to keep you guessing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall 2012

Hello!  A brief break in the Hawaii posts to share some other photos from this Fall.  I still can't believe September is already over, and now October is almost over!
I got to attend some really fun events this fall.
**WARNING - many photos ahead**
I attended a great annual meeting in September with friends.  The community fund contributes to grants that support local families and not-for-profits.  It's a unique organization that I've been a member of for a couple of years but had not attended one of their events.  Never again will I miss one!  It was such fun!
Here I am with church friends at the event (Kelly, Cindy, Clare, and Sunny) - we rock!

At the event I won a door prize!  It was sooo exciting!  It was a monstrous basket filled with all sorts of unique Coke items, donated from our local bottling company.  Thomas immediately commandeered the cool chair-with-built-in-cooler and mini transistor radio.
Canadian Brass!
I'm on the board of our local Philharmonic.  I got to chauffeur these handsome men around for a couple of days.  Our conductor is the 3rd from the left.  Canadian Brass performed with our Philharmonic orchestra.  They were absolutely amazing.  Check them out on youtube!

I also participated in an adult spelling bee last month, to raise funds for our local Literacy Program.  Brennan and David cheered our team on.

I even made the paper.  The photographer took tons of photos while I was sitting up there.  I hope I had better posture at least part of the time!  It was a ton of fun.  We came in 3rd.

Brennan chose to take gymnastics and he absolutely loves it.  It's an all boys class.  There he is, up on the right balance beam.

We joined friends at our local independent theater for a viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark on the BIG SCREEN!  It was awesome!!!  Harrison Ford was soo young.  I vividly remember watching it for the first time in our theater in Bamberg, Germany in 1982 with friends.  I bought a Coke and popcorn for $1.25 and the movie was $.75.  I was just a little younger than Thomas is here!
I remember thinking the part with the man's melting face was super gross.  I think it's Brennan's favorite part.

After the movie we went across the street for dinner with our friends.  Brennan got his favorite - sushi!  (gag)

I got to attend a women's spiritual retreat last month.  It was my first time to attend one and it was great!  We went to our local presbytery's camp (where the boys also go to camp in the summer).  It was a gorgeous fall day on the lake!

We have these great community courses available in the Fall.  Mary and I attended this one led by a local chef (and former corporate executive chef) - Chef Gregory.  He did a great dinner of Fall Favorites.  We had a delicious dinner and left with numerous recipes.  Can't wait to try them out!

Dave and Rosann hosted Wine Club in October - Oktoberfest was the theme! 
Great people, great food, great German wine and beer.

Buster and Emma helped mom and dad host Oktoberfest and it was so great to see them both!
Emma's going to be a big sister in about a week!

Awesome decorations along with the awesome food!

Gorgeous cookies that Rosann made!

Right after returning from Hawaii we got to celebrate David's birthday!
I asked the boys to be in charge of wrapping his gifts before we left.  It's usually "boring" like CD's and books, but it's Dad's birthday so it's OK :)
They decided to make it extra fun by wrapping up the gifts in very creative ways.
Thomas wrapped this box.  Note to self - we're out of duct tape.

The boys LOVE celebrating with Dad!

Brennan thought this was hilarious.  He wrapped David's new swim shirt just like a shirt.
He couldn't get over his own cleverness.  He loved it.

No one tell Thomas that I took this picture, or have put it on the blog.
This is their dance party to David's new Green Day CD.

Brennan had his first orthodontist visit on Wednesday.  At that time we were told he needed to have 4 teeth extracted and get a retainer.  Stat.  I was a little shocked by the suddenness, but we knew it was coming.  Thankfully, David was able to take Brennan for the extractions.  They were both calm about the whole situation, unlike me.
Here's Brennan as he heads to the dentist with Dad.

David sent me this one while the numbing medicine was taking effect, which took awhile.  Brennan decided to read David's Economist magazine.  Calm kid.

And today.  4 top teeth gone.  He's doing great!  He made it to Spanish School this morning, and his youth group activity this afternoon.  Such a trooper!
Phew, and I think that catches up on all the happenings this Fall!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A General Store

A General Store
Thomas and I have been eluded by this 101 Place many, many times. 
We have searched for one on each of our trips - especially through small towns. 
We found out there was a pretty famous one in New York City (surprisingly), but it had closed down before we traveled there last summer
Everywhere you would think there would be a general store, we couldn't find one. 
But, we did on Oahu!
We found two that were not only real General Stores (not a new gimmicky store), but were worth our time to visit, so we made sure to visit both places.  OR, we tried to.
Our first stop was on the North Shore of Oahu in Haleiwa.  The Aloha General Store is known for the best shave ice in Hawaii.  I had a PLAN to eat a really good shave ice while I was in Hawaii. 
Turns out I got two.

After our hike up Diamond Head and back down, David decided we all needed a treat.  We got shave ices at the vendor at Diamond Head.  "It's just a snow cone!" you say?  I disagree.  Shave ice is much, much better.

Anyway, on our trip around the island we headed towards the North Shore.  In Haleiwa we found the Aloha General Store and decided to check out their Shave Ice - known as the best on the island. 

It was amazing. 

They put ice cream at the bottom of the cone, and will then drizzle coconut on top. 

Who needs makeup in Hawaii (apparently).
Two thumbs up to the Aloha General Store and their awesome shave ice!

I also read about the Heiakeia Pier General Store that doesn't look like much but supposedly has amazing food.  In fact, it was featured of Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives", or "Triple D" as our friend John calls it.  I'm not sure we had eaten in a Triple D before, so we thought we'd check it out.

We continued our drive around the island, ending up in some rain on the Windward side of the island, close to dinner.

This General Store is located on the pier near Kaneohe Bay.  You can't even see the mountains for the clouds and rain. 

We stopped at the Pier for dinner and to check out their General Store.

Being Sunday evening, they were closed!  We were so bummed!  And hungry.

Dejected and hungry men

Never fear! 
We found a Zippy's just south in Kaneohe (they all have Napoleon's Bakeries now!!!) and ate at my sister Shelly's favorite restaurant.  In perhaps the entire world. 
 But, we did enjoy our experience at at least one general store!

From the Book:
#46 - A General Store
Back in the old days before shopping centers and strip malls, there were general stores.  They were the only store in town, and you could get everything you needed there:  food, fabric for making clothes, shoes, school supplies - you name it.  But it wasn't so much the stuff that made general stores special - it was the atmosphere.  You could always count on running into someone you knew there (hopefully someone you liked!) and you could always catch up on the latest news.  The general store was really at the heart of the community.  Although many have vanished, there are still some great general stores left that you can visit.  They still have really cool merchandise that you won't find anywhere else, but best of all, they still have atmosphere.

Monday, October 22, 2012

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Faraway Island

A Faraway Island
Three-fourths of the way through, folks!  Our 76th of the 101 Places was such a fun visit - we visited the Faraway Islands of Oahu and Hawaii (the Big Island)!
I had no idea but Hawaii is the most isolated population center on earth - 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.  Wow!
We had an absolutely wonderful visit to the islands over Fall Break. 
Here are just a few photos from our visit.
More posts to come later this week!
Welcome to Hawaii!

Hiking to the peak of Diamond Head

Hiking Diamond Head

Diamond Head from the Hotel

Waikiki from Diamond Head

Cemetery at Punchbowl Crater

At Pearl Harbor Memorial

From inside the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Proud of completing the world's largest maze at the Dole Plantation

Surf at North Shore

Chinaman's Hat (Mokolii Island)

Windward side of Oahu

Black sand beach on the Big Island

Liliuokalani Gardens on the Big Island

Kilauea Volcanic Steam Vents

Climbing cooled lava

Kilauea Volcano at night

Surfing at Waikiki

The Hawaii State Capitol

Bishop Museum

From the Book:
#10 - A Faraway Island
If you had been born in the Age of Explorers, you could have just gotten into a boat, "discovered" a new land, and named it after you (Isle de Sam - sounds pretty good, doesn't it?).  But even though most places have been discovered, they still need to be explored.  Find an island - in the ocean, in a lake, or even in a river - the harder an island is to get to , the better it will be when you get there.  No bridges to the mainland, preferably no cars, and even better, no people!  Once you get to your island, you will be rewarded for your perseverance:  and if it's a sea island, you'll get the best pick of the shells because there will be no competition.  And even though it already has a name on the map, you can rename it after you, your dog, or anything else you come up with.