Monthly Archives: July 2008

On Blogging

I remember it like it was yesterday: I stood in our chilly bedroom in San Francisco with its minimal view of the Pacific (on a sunny day) and told Matt how many local friends had recently claimed that they’d be “living vicariously” through my experience of sending a child to kindergarten.  Most of our friends’ children were a year behind Baxter in school and everyone was a bit nervous about the idea of “real school”.  We were the trailblazers.

Did I suggest that it might get old, repeating everything eight different times to eight different friends?  I don’t remember.  What I do recall, though, is that Matt responded with, “Why don’t you start a blog about it?”  My immediate response to this idea was, “I don’t even really know what that is.”

Despite my ignorance at the time, Baxtergarten was born, a blog that Matt and I shared and contributed to throughout that first year of Baxter’s education.  My first post was written just a few days after that conversation.  I never even knew how to turn on the comment feature that year, but I did enjoy the writing.  And the feedback was positive, from all eight people who read it.

There were a great many things I did not know in that August of 2005 when Baxtergarten was created.  I could never have predicted that a mere 11 months later I’d be living in a little blue house in the city of Chicago, uprooted and essentially starting our life over in a very different part of the country.   Nor would I have believed how happy I’d be in our new home and that the next year we’d have moved to a home of our own.

But honestly?  If someone had told me that three years down the line I’d be so intimately involved with friends made through blogging that I would drop everything to leave my family while on vacation to fly to Los Angeles and stay with a friend I’d made through blogging in order to attend the memorial service of the son of another friend I’d made through blogging?  And that two other good friends would be there, friends I’d made – yes, you guessed it – through blogging?  And that members of this community from all over the country would have pooled their considerable resources and talent to find personal and unique ways to show support to this grieving family?  Well, frankly, I wouldn’t have even known how to respond, so foreign and odd would it have sounded back in August 2005.

And yet, here I sit in the American Airlines terminal of Los Angeles International Airport after just such an experience.  I can’t quite explain to anyone not involved in this amazing, supportive community of online writers how it all came to pass and why it works for us, and I would imagine that it sounds as foreign and odd to them as it would have to me a few years ago.  But I’m not inclined to try to explain it.  Because it doesn’t really matter how it happened, all that matters is that it has.

If we don’t get in our own way out of a fear of the foreign or odd, if we can stop ourselves from blocking the natural progress of our lives, incredible things happen.   To me, this is what it means to ride this unexpectedly beautiful Wonderwheel of life.

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Flowers for Evan

More than a year and a half ago, I came across an excellent online post about non-verbal communication.  I was preparing to give a workshop on that topic at the time and emailed the author (a “Ms. Forman” if you go back to look at that first email) to ask her permission to share it with the parents at the workshop.  She most generously said “yes”.  As it turns out, I also shared “Ms. Forman’s” blog link with Susan Etlinger in San Francisco who had, just a day or two before, created The Family Room blog where I would be guest posting on occasion.  I was happy to discover at the BlogHer panel where they both spoke last weekend that my email is how those good friends first became acquainted, a fact I didn’t know but that explains exactly why this networker send links hither and yon.  Because you just never know.

One of my favorite and most often shared posts of Vicki Forman’s is “The Mother at the Swings“, which was posted at Literary Mama in January 2007.  In it, she discussed an important and difficult topic, which is how to talk to parents of typically developing children about raising a child with special needs, and how she would like to respond to the other mothers who watched her son Evan joyfully swinging at the park with interest and curiosity.  If you have never read the post, I urge you to take a moment to read it now; if you have, read it again.  And then pass it along to everyone you know.  (And along those lines, I strongly recommend reading Vicki’s most recent column, written earlier this month, called “Mothers Like Us: Contemplating My Tribe“, which is just wonderful.)

In honor of Vicki’s beautiful son Evan who tragically and unexpectedly passed away on Thursday, a Flickr group has been created.  Those of you who wish to express your love and sympathy to Vicki and her family but cannot make it to the services for Evan are encouraged to place flowers on a swing near you, take a photo, and upload it to the Flickr set for the family to see.  The photos that are there already tonight are absolutely gorgeous.  Go take a look.

Since I am already in San Francisco this week, I am able to fly down to Los Angeles tomorrow evening to be there for Evan’s funeral service on Tuesday morning.   If anyone doubts the power of a supportive blogging community, I would like that person to see how many of us are going to LA for Evan’s services on short notice and/or finding beautiful, creative ways to support Vicki and her family from afar.  It is truly amazing.

Now, mothers and fathers at the swings, get thee to some flowers.

In the End, No Words

My mind is filled with words, so many words.  Even more than usual.

Words about my 24 hours at BlogHer last weekend, and meeting some of the incredible writers I’ve formed friendships with through our blogs in the past year.  Cementing those friendships through real life conversations and experiences.  All that I am thinking about after the panels I attended there and will bring back to my work and personal life.

Words about the incredibly intense and rewarding 4-day SCERTS training I just completed with SCERTS collaborator Emily Rubin, SLP, here in Monterey.  My brain is filled to capacity with new and fascinating information; things that I will bring to my work and be passing on to large groups of practitioners and administrators when I begin giving workshops around the country, starting in just a few short weeks.

I have enough words in my head to fuel blog posts for the next two years.

But now, suddenly, this.  A tragic, unexpected loss.  The loss of a child, arguably the worst kind of loss there is. In fact, a child whose very existence has changed scores – hundreds – of lives for the better thanks to the impact he had on his family and how his mother chose to share her experiences with others through her gorgeous, generous writing.  His mother, a friend I finally met just a few days ago.  My heart is filled with grief for her and for all of us.  It’s an unbearable loss.

And so, for now, I have no words.

 

*********

Here is the information on the services for Evan:

Public viewing:  Monday, July 28th 5 -7 pm
Memorial:  Tuesday, July 29th 11 am
Cabot & Sons Mortuary
27 Chestnut St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 793-7159

In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to:
The Pediatric Epilepsy Fund at UCLA
Division of Pediatric Neurology
Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
22-474 MDCC
10833 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1752

 

You can send love and condolences here.

On the Road Again

I am frantically trying to prepare for our trip to California, even as I attempt to decompress from an emotionally gut-wrenching afternoon at work.  However, I was measurably cheered by this video tonight (sorry, couldn’t embed it for some reason), sent to us this morning from our friend Michael, who is in Germany at the moment.  I might just need to watch it every night before bed to stave off bad dreams.

Okay, yes, I did buy that song, too.  What?

And so I will be flying with the kids to San Francisco on Friday, at which point I’ll bring the small urchins down to my parents’ house and then make the trek back up to the city on Saturday, just in time for the BlogHer conference Special Needs panel.  Following the afternoon sessions and the cocktail party (woot!), I will have the great privilege of dining with many blogger friends (including all of the aforementioned panelists!) in Chinatown.  I’ll stay at the conference hotel with a friend and then have lunch the next day at one of my favorite restaurants in my old neighborhood with some loud and funny old friends.  (Is there anything better than loud and funny old friends? No, there is not.  Except, perhaps, loud and funny new blog friends who feel like old friends.  Did you follow that?)

The following 10 days are so packed, what with my 4-day SCERTS training, staying with my parents, Matt arriving for a fun-filled Week Two, spending a few nights at my cousin’s sweet-ass apartment in the Mission, and seeing tons of friends (including a serendipitous overlap for one day with this great family whom we have missed so much!) that it doesn’t bear describing.  Suffice it to say I will learn a great deal, have a ton of fun, and probably be more than a little nostalgic.  (You know. For a change.)

See you soon – some of you here, and the rest of you there!

Seven and a Half

Seven and a half is…

…tall and lanky with long deeply tanned limbs and sun bleached hair poking out above twinkling green eyes;

…laughing uproariously at Over the Hedge and Toy Story, large adult teeth still so unexpected;

…learning new skills at a rate that seems to rival only toddlerhood;

…offering to read a book to his little brother after he finishes reading it to himself, and not minding when the little brother hangs over his shoulder waiting;

…running to give his mother an enthusiastic kiss and hug when she comes in from work, and then automatically plopping back onto the couch to read;

…listening to his Nana say, “I can’t wait to see you on Friday!” and responding with “Ditto”;

…rediscovering the toys in the playroom and observing, “I never thought I’d say this, but the dinosaurs and trains are still really fun to play with!”;

…tucking his stuffed dog Fluffy into bed with him at night swaddled in his favorite blue polka dotted Blankie, exactly as he himself was swaddled and tucked into bed between his parents seven and a half years ago.

My Parents Saw Barack Obama and All I Got Was…

 

Matt and I had a really fantastic night on Friday.  The fundraiser for Obama at The Park West here in Chicago was a wonderful event.

I should note that it started with Matt not making it through security because of a small silver Swiss Army knife he keeps on his key ring.  I gave it to him on our honeymoon almost 12 years ago.  Imagine my surprise when I saw him get rejected from security and then watched him turn and run out the door and down the sidewalk – I had no idea why, and wasn’t even sure he was going to be back!  I started to wonder if my husband wasn’t leading some kind of double life.  However, he buried it in a neighbor’s planter for later retrieval.  (I’d like to think I’d be so resourceful in a moment like that, but I can say with certainty that I would not.  Better him than me.)

Thanks to a serendipitous upgrade of our tickets, we had excellent seats.  It would have been hard to have bad seats at The Park West, though:  there were only about 700 people there, I was told.   At any rate, we had a perfectly clear view of the stage and it was so fun to be in a small venue for such an exciting event.  Otis Clay rocked the gospel on stage first and he was excellent – that dude and his band can groove!  Of course, Matt and I were all aflutter when Jeff Tweedy and two other members of Wilco arrived on stage, and they did not disappoint.  You know, I have been to a Wilco show before and I enjoyed it but didn’t love it.  This time?  Loved it.  Maybe it was the smaller band or the cozier venue, but they played well and the music was tight.  And Jeff Tweedy provides a lot of hilarious small-talk.  One of my favorite moments was when he shared with us that “Barack Obama smells better than a President has any right to” and gave Obama grief for not publicly stating that he’s a Wilco fan, given that Wilco is a local band (Obama later dispelled this myth, thankfully: phew!).  I will also admit that I so enjoyed the Wilco portion of the show that I actually forgot that Barack Obama was coming up next in the program.  Until the Secret Service guys started to appear in front of the stage, watching the crowd, that is.  Do they freak anyone else out, or is that just me?  *shudder*

Senator Obama was great.  He does speak articulately and passionately, and his message resonates with me.  I can’t imagine how tired he must have been.  He was in another state earlier that day and had already been at another fundraiser in Chicago that evening (where he had to tell Bernie Mac to tone it down a bit).  Hearing him speak now is very different from his early speeches.  He’s talking about specific issues and timelines and it’s all a lot more serious.  Which is as it should be, much as I would love to take part of one of his early “Fired up! Ready to go!” routines.  I could have listened to him for hours, but the mom in me was glad he was heading home to his own family and his own bed that night – or so I hoped.  I want to believe that Obama can win this fall, but as my father said, I’m not going to try to predict.  I’ve been burned too many times.  But I am absolutely full of hope.

Matt did retrieve his pocket knife, by the way, but only after Obama was driven away into the night, whizzed off by the Secret Service agents as we cheered and waved (I’m pretty sure he waved to me personally – don’t you think?), because the street was closed off until he’d left.  We headed home ourselves, satisfied by a wonderful night out, and holding tight to our new Obama/Tweedy poster (pictured above: do you see the Hancock Building in that guitar? that’s my favorite part) which will be framed and hung for all the world to see, whatever November brings.

 

 

Dysregulation: Summer Edition

Okay, so I love having lots to talk about that’s not kid-related, such as going to see Tweedy Obama tonight (whoo hoo!) and my fancy iPhone.  But can we talk about dysregulation again, and the fact that my 3-year old’s emotional regulation tends to be finely tuned and is rather off-kilter right now?  Cool. Thanks.

One thing I love about parenting is how, season after season, these babies grow into toddlers and then into small people who ultimately reveal themselves, allowing us to figure out their likes and dislikes, their habits, the joys that light up their eyes, and their unique challenges. It can take a while to see these things as actual patterns when children are so small and we can chalk many things up to a passing phase or a fluke. It is only later, when we see certain behaviors and reactions appear again that we realize there might be more to it.

What I am seeing oh-so-clearly right now is Lyle’s rockiness around transitions.  Remember what he was like at Christmas, Wonderfriends? That was a post many of you appreciated, and it helped me today to go back and read it again.  For one thing, it was a good reminder that things could be worse right now but also to start thinking about those strategies again.

Summer is the polar opposite of Christmastime for us in terms of the pace of life, the availability of the great outdoors to burn off energy, and the excitement level.  At the same time, we are out of our usual routines, and even though that feels really, really good to me, it’s important to remember that it can leave a child feeling  unmoored.  At times it’s dispiriting to realize that these down times, which are so important for parents, can have a very different impact on children who are more finely tuned.

When I think about it this way, I know that, after 10 months of school-year stability in his schedule, Lyle experienced one change after another in rapid-fire succession: his preschool ended one week, Baxter’s school ended the next week, his beloved nanny went on vacation for a week, swimming classes started, swimming classes ended, we went to Michigan, we came back, day camp started, and next week we’ll leave for California for two weeks.

It really doesn’t matter that he has a great many hours of unstructured play every day, whether he’s in swimming, day camp at preschool, or on vacation, although of course that’s wonderful and important.  He, like many 3-year olds, gets very thrown off by change, and that’s what he responds to first and foremost.  As a result, he has a hard time settling down to sleep and cries for me to sleep next to him (which I do when I can right now).  He is also shrieking loudly a LOT, both when he’s happy and angry, which I find particularly hard to deal with.  His volume is set to “ear-splitting”.  In short, he is off.  (I should add that this is only at home, where he feels comfortable letting it all out.  There is no sign of difficulty in any other setting.)

I did see this coming to a certain extent, and so I made the boys a visual calendar for the refrigerator at the end of school.  The calendar shows them each day and what will be happening (a car on the day we go to Michigan, fireworks on the 4th of July, and their camp schedules).  That gets referenced a LOT, and Lyle likes to go back and review things: “That’s the day we had our train adventure with Daddy…that’s the day we went to Michigan…that was a swimming day…” and look ahead to know what’s coming.  His frequent visits to this calendar are helping him stay more organized and handle the changes.

It’s yet another reminder for me: when a child is “acting up” a lot, stop and look for the reason.  And that even though I am relaxed, at home playing more, and having a great summer, the smallest family member might be experiencing things very differently.

Mama 2.0 is GEEKED OUT.

Okay, so I had something else to talk about today, but it is clear that I made a big mistake yesterday, so let’s clear that up first.  I accidentally wrote about my iPhone love the day before iTunes opened its new Applications store (yes: Music, Videos, Podcasts…and Applications).  Supposedly, we iPhone users weren’t going to be able to access these until tomorrow, but thanks to a tip from this blogger and some technical assistance from this husband, I have been able to geek out for hours today.  (Did I mention it’s Day 2 of 2 when the boys are both in camp this summer? And that Lyle came home and is napping while Baxter’s still at camp?)  Here is the info on how to do it today, if you are inclined to be at the head of the pack.

So here’s the thing.  We live in the future in a really big way.  I downloaded a ludicrous number of applications that range from incredibly useful to sublimely ridiculous…for free.  And they hardly took up any memory.  And if I don’t tell you about some of them, I am going to burst.  So the more serious post lined up for today?  You can come back and read that tomorrow, if you are so inclined.  But for now: technogeek time.

Highlights from the “incredibly useful” category:

* The new Contacts button on my home screen.  THANK YOU, Apple, for not making me go digging for that any longer!  Hiding that in the Phone category was just plain silly.  I love you to bits, but it just was.

* The If Found button that provides my phone number and a reward amount in case the phone gets lost.  I love that the icon is a dollar sign – what else would someone touch first if they found an iPhone just lying there?  “Hmm…what have we here?  Ooh, someone dropped their iPhone?  Aha – and maybe if I push this button I can get some cash, too!”

* The very nice Bank of America application that allows me to log securely into my bank so that I can check balances, transfer money, etc. when I’m away from the computer.  Which is quite useful for my business banking needs.

* Dial Zero: This application has a seemingly endless number of businesses to choose from or search for.  When you select one, it dials you – now, get this – straight to a human operator!  Of course, my grandparents don’t have an iPhone, but when I was staying with my grandmother, I spent a long time trying to find a human being for her to talk to at Medicaid about her prescriptions, and I just saw that I can select that company and be taken directly to a woman for her to rake over the coals next time.  Priceless!

* I’m impressed with Exposure, which links to my Flickr photo account, allowing me access to all of my photos with a nice, simple interface.

* There are some great new productivity applications for the phone as well.  I am currently trying out both Jott and EvernoteJott looks especially cool in that it takes voice recordings through the phone and transfers them into text for me.  And then I can organize them into my to do lists and files.  Whoa.  Both have potential to help with organizing my to do lists.  See what I mean about living in the future?  I just got this for FREE, Wonderfriends. (And by the way, these two applications are also on the web for free – check them out!)

Highlights from the Sublimely Ridiculous category:

* Multiple applications for Twitter.  I am trying out Twittelator and Twitterfic (which  is one I am familiar with).  Apparently you can set up Twittelator to send an all-points-bulletin to all of your contacts if you are ever in an emergency, which comes complete with your exact location.  Could be handy.

* Shazam! (They don’t put that exclamation point there, that’s all me.) When you open Shazam – seriously, listen to this one – you can hold your phone up near music that’s playing, and it will “listen” for a few moments, tell you the artist and song name, and then link you to iTunes or the music video if you wish.  You can also create an album of songs you capture on Shazam.  Huh?!  Oh, and I tried it – it works.

There are also a few I downloaded with next week’s solo flight with the boys in mind:  Moo, Phone Saber (makes lightsaber sounds when you move the phone – and of course shows one on screen, complete with color choices – !), JirboMatch, Yes/No (a simplified Magic 8 Ball!) and Finger Paint.

I should add that if I were willing to pay something for downloads, there would be infinitely more to choose from, but for now I have plenty of freebies to keep me busy.

iPhone users out there, tell me what you find in the iTunes Application store that is useful and/or ridiculous – I have equal respect for both!  I’m looking for your advice, insights, and suggestions.

iPhone Love

I’ve wanted to post about the wonders of my iPhone for about a year now, but I still find myself somewhat sheepish about the fact that I own one.  I want to say to everyone who sees it, “I’m running a business – it was a much-needed tax write-off last summer!!” as if anyone actually cares how I pulled it off.  However, I don’t hide it when I’m in groups like I did for the first few months (when just pulling it out of my bag attracted a large group of curious folks), but I do try to lay low with the thing.  At any rate, I decided to post about it because I realized two things recently:

1)  I’ve had it for a full year now, and I am still madly in love with it every single dingle day; and

2)  Now that the new one is coming out at a far more reasonable price, more people might be thinking about purchasing them, and therefore more interested in what I have to say about it.

So I won’t go on and on, but I’ll give you a few things that have made the biggest difference for me:

* Direct access to my personal and work email accounts anytime I want.  This is useful when stuck in traffic or waiting for a client, but especially excellent when I am traveling.

* Very easy key pad that pops up for typing.  People seem to be frightened of it, but believe me, you get used to typing on it within a few days, and the word prediction feature works very well for me.  I can write long emails, comment on blog posts, and send lengthy, grammatically correct text messages quickly and easily.  As I once wrote about, even a 6-year old can pick it up and start using text messaging well.

* The visual voicemail is just amazing.  I’m a big fan of the little numbers that show me how many voice mails and text messages I have, and I can choose which new message I want to listen to by touching that name or number. If I need to fast forward or rewind, I just move the little bar where I want to listen.  Actually, the whole phone/contacts feature is incredible to me.  Every bit of information in my MacBook’s Address Book is synched up with my iPhone, making it easy to make calls and look up addresses (which can be touched to pull up a map and directions to that location – and now there is a real GPS feature on the new ones).  I have also assigned my favorite photos of family and friends to their contact pages so that when they call I get to see their shiny, happy faces.

* It’s my iPod.  All of my music is on this thing.  And here’s a scenario for you from a drive to work (when I’m not carpooling): the iPhone is connected through the car stereo so that I can listen to whatever I want in the car.  I’m wearing my BlueTooth headset.  I’m jamming to music when all of a sudden, the music is turned down for me automatically because a call is coming in.  I touch my ear piece and answer the phone.  No sudden turning music down or off, or fumbling with the phone to answer.  That’s one smart piece of technology.  As soon as I hang up the call, my music comes back on. This never fails to amaze me.

* The camera on the iPhone is quite good.  I frequently take a shot of a child I’m working with doing something fabulous, and I zip it off to their parents via email in the middle of a therapy session.  As you might imagine, they love getting these.   I also love to send a cute shot to Matt or the grandparents seconds after I capture it.

The awesome thing about the iPhone is that it just keeps getting better.  Apple continues to roll out upgrades that I get automatically by synching it with my computer, and Google seems to be working overtime to make all of their super cool applications work on it.  On my iPhone home page, which I can now customize, I have added buttons for my Google Reader, for Google Talk, and my home/work Google Calendar.   And, of course, a direct link to The Wonderwheel.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, and there are plenty of features that I don’t even make use of on this device that I’m sure someone else would place at the top of her list. I briefly considered upgrading to the new phone being released this Friday, but there’s really no point.  I’m sure I could get used to a faster data speed right quick, but the current speed rarely causes problems.  I’m also not that interested in a more expensive monthly plan.  I do suspect that I’ll be ready to upgrade next summer when they come up with yet another version and I’ll be in a different financial position, but for now I am completely happy with the phenomenal little piece of technology that I’ve got.

Okay.  Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

A Barack Concert

In the process of digging out our suitcases from the basement storage room last Monday, I made the mistake of twisting my back in some ridiculous way.  The box I lifted wasn’t heavy (not for this weight-lifting, throwing-the-kids-into-the-lycra-swing-at-work mama), I just lost my head in that awkward little space and moved the wrong way.  By that evening, I could not easily move from sitting to standing and was generally feeling the back pain for the first time.  Not fun.

I share this to explain why, the next evening, I stayed at the vacation house laid up on the big leather couch with my book and a heating pad rather than making the trip down all those stairs to the beach for a picnic dinner.  (Honestly, there are worse places to be in pain.)

My trusty iPhone made the quiet whooshing sound that told me an email had just been received.   Taking my eyes off of Patricia Wood’s thoroughly enjoyable book “Lottery” for a moment, I saw that it was one of the million emails I receive daily from the Obama campaign.  This time it was an invitation to a fund-raiser.

Ha! I thought bitterly to myself as I immediately deleted it.  Who has money for that?  It’s probably some $500 a plate dinner.  It was only after I’d hit that little trash can button that it registered: Did that say something about Barack Obama and Jeff Tweedy?  WAIT, COME BACK!

Gingerly raising my aching self from the couch, I managed to make my way to my laptop across the room and opened it to take a closer look at that email.  Sure enough, it informed me that the fundraiser featured not ONLY our next President but Jeff Tweedy & Friends (other Wilco band members?) and Otis Clay.   Clearly, this bore further investigation.

As it turned out, this was no fancy dinner, but an actual concert to raise money.  Awesome musicians AND our man Barack.  In one place.  I was informed that there were a limited number of tickets at the lowest price, which was not cheap per se, but no more than a really good rock concert would cost.

The mass email had been sent out only 3 minutes before, but I know how rapidly a good show sells out.  I did not stop to think, but clicked through as fast as these stupidly small fingers could manage, until I breathed a sigh of happy relief reading the confirmation email just a minute later.  I did it!  I got ’em!  Only then did I stop to rationalize the purchase by thinking: a) we were going to give one last donation to the campaign (we’ve never given to a politician before and yet we have given more than we probably should at least three times to this man); and b) our 12th anniversary is coming up next month: this will be the celebration.  Easy. (Phew!)

When the gang returned from the beach, I was dancing excitedly (and somewhat painfully) as I told Matt about my score, and the fact that I’d already booked our sitter to stay late that night (what’s not to love about text messaging?).

We’ll be at the Barack Concert, as we like to call it, this Friday evening.  I will be sure to tell you everything – and if I’m half as lucky as Mom-NOS was when she went to hear Obama speak, I’ll be a very happy super-fan.

Not a bad a silver lining to that pulled muscle, eh?