Thursday, March 29, 2012

Good sunrise.

Castle Valley Sunrise
I'm a bit dense this week.  I think it's the spring allergy season kicking in.  That and Ben has been having some sleep issues.

I had a post pretty much ready to go, but managed to delete it.  Darn.  I say, "Darn," but I really mean something stronger.  When you only get to write every now and again, losing a post is a blow.

Alright then, nothin' to be done except to move on.

F is for friend
The deceased post was about a weekend we spent in southern Utah in a cabin.  We were there so that Lovely Wife could run in a half-marathon, and we stayed with 3 other couples and 4 other kids.

It was a really fun time.  The thing that struck me most was the importance of friends, for both kids and grown-ups.

One of the boys there is 9 months or so younger than Ben.  He's neurotypical, so he was talking a mile a minute and following Bubba around.  For at least part of the time, Ben latched on to that samba line and was actually, kind of, in a way, playing with another kid.  It may not seem like much, but historically, Ben completely ignores other kids, treating them like inanimate objects.  Hearing Ben actually say something to "C" and getting a response...priceless.  This was a win.


Here's to friends for grown-ups.  When you have a special needs kid, it can be really hard to maintain your friendships with other adults.  When you go to someone else's house, you have to spend 90% of your attention wrangling your kid.

Staying in a cabin with us (or camping, or whatever) is not the same as with typical families.  One of us grown-ups is devoted to the special kid.  The other one may be able to handle everything else, but it's definitely not as easy as hanging out with typical folks.  So...thanks...thanks for hanging out with us.  It means a ton.  It's very easy to get isolated and go days without speaking to an adult (like when LW is on a bidness trip).  BTW, LW is away on a trip right now!

And when you ask me "how's it going?' and I unload the pure and unadulterated agony of failure from the Utah legislature... thanks for not running away (this means you, John V).

Anyway, I've got a dozen things buzzing away in my brain right now, and there's no way to put them into a decent blog post, I'll just have to purge that stuff I guess.  I do have to tell y'all that there's a new study published about the incidence of autism.  Utah is winning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Planes! Big! Fast! Yea!

Bubba teaching Ben to salute in front of the SR-71
This past Monday, neither boy had school (teacher work-days), so we headed up to the Hill AFB Museum in Ogden.

My niece's dad was in town, so we brought him along for some airplane-viewing fun.

I don't have any deep insights or clever commentary about the trip, but it was fun and I thought I'd share some pictures with y'all.

There are some great things about the AFB museum:
  • it's very rarely crowded
  • it's not too far away (<45 minutes)
  • it's free
  • there's lots of walking, indoors and out
  • the planes are amazing and capture everybody's attention
  • it's a great place to discuss modern history

Ben in front of a Stratofortress, makes me think of Dr. Strangelove
On trips to this museum, Bubba and I have talked about WWI, II, Vietnam, and Korea.  We talked about spaceflight and nuclear weapons and growing up with the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction.  We've talked about Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We've talked about aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.  Hmmm, I guess it was mostly me talking, but he listened happily.

Ben loves to look at the swoopy shapes of the fighters and seems a little awed by the gigantic transports and bombers.  It's not too hard to keep him on the right side of the fences.
More lens flare than J.J. Abrams

 Anyway, it was a great field trip.  What are your favorite places to take your kiddos?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sharing time

Ok, time for another "award".  This one's from Jim, over at Just a Lil Blog.  It's the "Tell Me About Yourself" award, and it works like this:
  • Share 7 things about yourself; 
  • Pass the award along to 15 bloggers you love reading; 
  • Contact your cho­sen bloggers to let them know about the award!"

I liked what Jim did, making the 7 things be from his childhood.  I think I'll call mine "The Harrowing Adventures of Young Jon":

1)  I shot myself in the eye with a BB gun.  

I was probably 10 years old and was out plinking at things with my trusty Crosman pump.  I took aim at this rotted out stump of a tree.  It was rotted out in such a way that the part that was left behind was roughly in the shape of a parabolic mirror.  Apparently, I was standing in the focal point.  When I fired, I saw the BB go out, and incredibly, saw it come right back for my eye (which I closed in time).  The BB didn't have enough energy left to do any was just like being thumped with a finger.  Nobody else was around.  I sat down and thought about it for a minute before moving on.

This taught me to choose my targets carefully.

2)  I was very nearly impaled.

A freshman in high school,  I was horseback riding with my friend Slasher.  It was early spring, and there were some patches of ice on the trail.  We were riding along a logging road, pretending to be those guys from "Alias Smith and Jones" (whose real names were Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry).  

The area we were in had recently had a bunch of saplings cut -- they used them at the local paper mill to stir the vats or something.  Most of them were right alongside the trail, and cut at an angle about a foot off the ground.

Slasher/Kid Curry: "There's just one thing we gotta get, Heyes."
Me/Hannibal: "What's that?"
Slasher:  "Out of this business!"

We both urged our horses into a gallop.  Yeehaw!  We rounded a curve and my horse, Lady, slid on an icy patch.  She went down and I managed to dismount enough to keep my leg from getting squished, but hit a little hard on my side.  As I got up, I discovered that I'd missed landing on a cut sapling by less than half a foot.  Yikes.

This taught me to pay attention to my environment, especially when re-enacting 70's TV shows.

3) I was very nearly impaled AGAIN.

Junior or senior year in high school, I was canoe camping with some buddies on the Buffalo River.  I think there had been some rain recently, making the river run fast.  At one point, we rounded a bend and were faced with a choice:  try to scoot over some *really* shallow stuff, or try to make it through the swift part.  The downside of the swift part was that it meant risking getting swept into a big mess of beaver-chewed punji sticks.  

As I recall, Mark Opie Potter Bucky Johnson steered his canoe into the shallows and ran aground.  I can't remember who was in my canoe, but we got sucked into the nastiness.  We pulled hard, but it didn't help.  I remember our canoe tipping enough that it slurped up some of that fast current and was sucked under, flotation chambers and all.  In the space of a few seconds, I was swept towards a hedge of beaver chewed stakes.  I caught the stake I was about to be impaled on with both hands and halted the process.  Pushing sideways let me sweep on down the river.  For that one moment, though, it was "work hard, or a 2" spike will gut you."

This taught me that beavers can mess you up bad.

4)  I used to be able to sleep through anything.

10?  11?  I don't remember exactly when this happened, but it was a dark and stormy night.  I was in bed, asleep, and thunder woke me up.  That and the flickering light of static on the TV screen in my room.  I thought that I'd turned the TV off, but I got up and walked over.  I tried to turn the power off, but it was already off.   To my mind, there was only one explanation...ghosts.  I unplugged the television and fortunately, it went dark. 

This taught me that sometimes you will not know why the universe does what it does.  It's ok to go to sleep without figuring it out.

5)  I played baseball half-blind.

I started playing baseball when I was 6 years old, I think.  I played outfield mostly, and I would listen for the crack of the bat.  I would watch other peoples' faces to figure out where I should position myself.  If I did it right, I would spot the ball for the last 20' or so of its flight.  I would occasionally catch it.  Personally, I think it was pretty impressive that I ever caught a ball under this system. 

It wasn't until the summer between 7th and 8th grade (I think) that we went on a driving vacation out west and Dad said, "Kids!  Look at those snow-capped mountains!".  I, of course, said, "What mountains?"  Dad immediately began quizzing me about when I could read billboards.  More often than not, I could not read them at all.  When we got back from vacation, I went to the eye doctor, and baseball became much easier.  Ridiculously easy.  

This taught me that we all see the world through different eyes.  And that you should get your kids eyes checked, 'cause they don't know what to tell ya.  They'll just assume that everybody sees trees as blurry green blotches.

6)  I didn't know what a "balk" was.

Once I got my glasses, things were a bit easier.  I wound up on the "good" team, playing first base, second base, and as a back-up pitcher.  Keep in mind that I was a country kid who didn't hang out with the city kids and never, ever watched baseball on TV.  I never read a rulebook.

For one game, we got pretty far ahead, and coach Wayne McIllwain decided to let me pitch a little.  I did, and in my recollection, I managed to let runners get on 1st and 2nd.  With the next batter, Ricky, the catcher, started watching for the runner to steal 3rd.  Just as I was about to unleash my super-fast fastball (the only pitch I had), he would look over to see if the runner was going.  This made me halt my throw.  (I didn't want to hit him!)

The crowd gasped.  I wound up again, and it happened again.  People were going nuts.  I didn't know what to do.  Part of me knew it was weird that I wasn't throwing the ball, but it'd never happened before and I didn't know quite what to do.

The crowd was chanting, "Balk!  Balk!," which made no sense to me.  Was that a chicken noise?  What did it mean?  The coach came out and asked me what was going on.  I told him...I didn't want to hit Ricky.  He told me to just throw the damned ball, so I did.  It was the end of the game anyway, but the absurdity of the situation stuck with me.  Here were a hundred people that had one expectation, all looking at me who hadn't read the rulebook.  I didn't play baseball after that. 

This made me want to only participate in things where I knew the rules.

7)  I saw the explosion.

When I was in 8th grade, there was a tragedy in my home town.  Snow hit partway through the day, and my sister drove down from high school to pick me up (snow meant no school in Tennessee...Utahns would scoff).  

We stopped at the pharmacy to get a Slurpee, and afterwards were walking towards our orange 1971 Pinto.  We climbed in, and Sis turned the key in the ignition.  I don't remember the sound, but I do remember the heat on the back of my neck.  We both looked back to see a fireball rising in the sky, about 2 blocks away. 

Sis and I looked at each other, and said in unison, "Let's get out of here!"  She jumped out of the car and started running away.  I stood up and said, "Let's take the car!"  We did.

Two of my friends' fathers died in that explosion.  

What did it teach me?  I'm going to say, "Life is fragile and precious," but I don't think I can really articulate the impact.

I'll tag somebody soon...I'd rather publish this and edit later.  Night night.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I will paint your face with my blood!

I will paint your face with my blood!!!
So...there's this videogame I play.  One of the bad guys from a while back says, "I will paint my face with your blood!"  He's kind of a bad-A Viking guy and it sounds appropriate coming from him.  Not so much for us.

While I was finishing up my last blog post, I asked Bubba to take Ben in the back yard and play with him.  He agreed, after picking out his "hobbit" outfit for tomorrow's school project.

Right about the time I hit "publish", Bubba carried a screaming, bleeding Ben inside.  OMG, that kid can bleed.  If there's an Olympic event for bleeding, I think we're a shoe-in.  And it's not just that he can bleed a lot...he can get artistic with it.  He did some Jackson Pollock in our kitchen, and then he gave me a good looking over.  Quite deliberately, he put his finger in some arterial blood and then smeared it across my cheeks.  Then he took a little venous blood and built some sort of artistic statement  across my forehead.

He's fine...stop worrying, Mom.  We've had a bath and are on track for bed time.

BTW, have y'all seen Dexter?  No reason (Mom, don't watch that show).

Spelling "creative" with a "k" are we?

Kelly, from Unplanned Trip to Holland, tagged me with an award.  Schweet, thanks Kelly!

I'm supposed to tell y'all 10 things about myself that you probably don't know, and then tag 6 more bloggers to do the same.  It's kind of like being in a viral creative writing class.

 Ok, here goes:

1)  I'm a cradle robbing stalker.  I met my wife in sailing class while she was in between her junior and senior years of college.  I was working as a research scientist at the U after having finished a master's.  Prior to that, I worked for 5 years in the aerospace industry.  That puts me 9 years older than her.  Slightly creepy?  It's ok -- I'm very immature. 

I pretty much fell in love with her on the last day of sailing class when we spent several hours on a 20' boat together (there were a couple of other people on it too).  She was dynamic, decisive, and full of joy.  Later, I looked her up in the campus directory and fixed in my mind the few details it gave (that's the stalker part).

It turned out we had mutual friends.  One night in the "Age of Aquarius" (now-defunct nightclub), I was sitting with some of them when she came bopping up in her little blue dress.  I immediately said, "Hi J!"  She was a little set aback, not remembering me at all from the boat.

It took a few months for her to realize that I was attention-worthy, but things have worked out.  That was about 17 years ago.

2)  I'm part Cherokee.  My great-grandmother on my dad's side was half.  That makes me at least a sixteenth.  We think there's some on my mom's side too.  I use this to vex my wife periodically, e.g.  "My people's skin does not burn like yours.  I need no sunscreen."

3)  I was a teenage mathlete.  We had the best math teacher ever in high school, Mr. Harold "Tomcat" Knight.  He was a quirky fellow - I'm pretty sure he had Asperger's - but he was totally devoted to math and preparing kids for the annual Tennessee Math Teachers Association contest.  We practiced as much as the football team, starting before school, practicing during math class in a separate room, and during lunch.  We were the only group of kids who showed up to take the test in jacket and tie.  We won, too, every year.

4)  I am completely disinterested in pro sports or college athletics.  I like making snacks for the Superbowl, and will occasionally watch the commercials (they're better on YouTube, though).  It drives my wife a little nuts that I recently obsessed over Friday Night Lights and watched the whole series in about a month.

5) The Three Stooges helped me become agnostic.  When I was 6 or so, I had my tonsils out.  Instead of going to church that Sunday with Mom, I stayed home and watched the stooges and ate ice cream.  A few weeks later, my Dad had a talk with me, saying I didn't have to go to church if I didn't want to.  He explained that he was agnostic, and what that meant.  I distinctly remember thinking, "If I stay home on Sundays, I can watch more stooges."  So far, decision-making-by-stooge has worked for me.

Mount Olympus
6)  I climbed the west slab of Mount Olympus (Salt Lake, not Greece) with my buddies in grad school.  It was 13 pitches (50 meter rope lengths).  I didn't wear sunscreen because I didn't want slippery fingers.  (turns out my people's skin does burn after enough exposure).

7)  My greatest accomplishment was winning the archery competition at the 4-H Wildlife Conference in 8th grade.  The prize was a real bow.

8)  I am a World of Warcraft junkie, and have eight level 85 characters.  Bonus fact:  I like D&D, too.

9)  I cook things from scratch (when my wife is not out of town).  I like to make chili, spaghetti sauce, lamb curry, stir fried stuff, hoppin' john, shepherd's pie, and pizza among other things.  Lovely Wife is out of town right now, so I'd be happy to drop some corn dogs in the deep-fryer, but we have a looot of leftovers to munch through.

10)  I have a tattoo.  If you internet people already knew that, then I'm a little creeped out right now.

Ok, I've spent way too much time on this, and I need to get some dinner on the table.  I'm going to go ahead and tag ONE blogger.  If I can, I'll add some more later.  I hereby tag Christine at .

Saturday, March 3, 2012

wash that kid

You know how parking police mark cars with chalk to keep track of how long they've been parked?  I'm pretty sure Ben's teachers do that to make sure we're bathing him regularly.

I don't mind -- I need the motivation.  Giving Ben a bath usually means I will get pretty soaked myself.  Tub poops are a rare occurrence, but they're memorable.

We do try to give him regular is a good ritual for bedtime.  That and brushing teeth...yikes.

my feet are freezing, but I don't care a bit.
That picture was from earlier in the week.  We went walkabout today for several hours.  We had a big snow recently and it's warmed up since then.  This made for many puddles in which to stomp.

Sadly, Ben did not want to wear his snowboots on this jaunt, so his school shoes are quite soaked.   Also sadly, he took a fall while I was talking to Grandma on the phone.  He loooves to stomp on ice, but that stuff is slippery.  He wound up falling and smacking his face on some rough ice.  Ouch.

Sigh.  If you'd like to see some well-scrubbed kids with no injuries, check out my favorite blogger.  They're prepping for the Olympics over there, and it's a cute-fest.