June 29, 2009

Learning to Ride a Bike

What a busy and fun time we had! Every time we head to Charlotte I have high hopes of getting to visit with every one of my friends...but it never works out that way! I think I just need to move back there. But, wait. Then I'd miss my friends here. I guess I need a second home or something!

Below is the short video version of bike camp, but I plan on writing up a long and boring description of exactly how it all worked, since several people are interested in specific details. And you know I'm really good at specific details. Enough to bore you away from the blog. So I'll put a disclaimer on that post so you can skip it entirely. I promise not to reveal anything that would be interesting to the casual reader!

The only thing you need to know about Lose the Training Wheels is that the bikes that they use are modified by having a cylinder where the rear wheel would be. There is a hierarchy of eight cylinders, each one being more tapered towards the ends, to provide more tilting of the bike. The gradual change in angles gives the rider the opportunity to practice balancing with less risk of toppling over. The last two cylinders are engineered to match the way a regular bicycle wheel works, so the rider can then transition to a regular bike.

Lose the Training Wheels now requires riders with Down syndrome to be at least 11 years old. I have to say I agree with them. Their success rate has increased dramatically since they started the age requirement. I know several kids who are younger who are successful independent bike riders, but they are a small minority.

If you child is too big for a bike with training wheels, you might want to look at Fat Wheels. They turn any bike into a "quad" bike and are much cheaper than a Trike.

Hannah will need to practice every day for a while before she is a completely independent rider. She needs to be more aware of her surroundings, get better with steering, touch up her balance, and learn to use her brakes more "gently". Our goals for Hannah were for her to have fun and gain skills. Those were accomplished, plus she only has some polishing up before she'll be hitting the bike trails!

Making the invisible visible

This music video is titled "Difference is Normal". It was filmed in various Middle Eastern countries. It is sung in Arabic but has English subtitles. Since Kate is learning Arabic to prepare to live in Jordan, I thought this was especially interesting.

There are lots more video clips from the Sprout Touring Film Festival on YouTube. The festival showcases films by, for, and about people with developmental disabilities. Sprout's motto is "Making the invisible visible". Here's their link: Sprout

June 25, 2009

Road trip fun!

(click to enlarge--she really is the cutest bug in town)

We are having a great time in Charlotte! We've been so busy, Hannah hasn't gotten in to bed until almost 11p.m. each night. Fortunately we don't have to leave for camp until 10:45a.m. so she recoups over night.

Hannah is doing well at Lose the Training Wheels. Two years ago she was miserable and marginally successful. I was prepared for a re-play of the same, but she is just loving it this year! I will save the pictures of camp until we're home--I need time and my own computer to edit them. She has two more days of camp and I think she has a good shot at coming home as a rider of a two-wheeler!

In our off hours we've been hanging around with lots of old friends and visiting our old stomping grounds--museums, beaches, community theater--the week is flying by. Tonight Hannah went to a swimming pizza party while I met up with a college friend I hadn't seen in 23 years (thanks Facebook!).
Who knew we'd meet Cinderella?

Hannah went to get a second helping and came back with the plate completely covered, so Abby had to help her out.

Butterfly Garden at the Nature Museum

My new profile picture?

Off and running (to bed). It's already tomorrow...

June 18, 2009

Old friends/gone visiting

Just before we left for the beach we had a quick rendez-vous with some old friends from North Carolina. Holly and Chris have three kids, Girl, Boy, Girl, same as we do, but theirs are a couple of stair steps younger than ours.

Holly and I taught Christian Formation (=Sunday School) back when Hannah was a preschooler. We had an extreme amount of fun together--it was a very creative, exploratory, hand's on class, and we laughed and loved on the children.

When we moved to Virginia, Hannah and Jacob became penpals and corresponded off and on for the past four years. So we were all excited to get together for dinner at a pit stop as they were en route to Washington DC for a family field trip (they homeschool too).

Hannah was so excited to see Jacob (even if he did make bunny ears!)!

There's a chance we'll get to see Jacob again soon, since Hannah and I are heading to Charlotte tomorrow. Hannah is attending a Lose the Training Wheels camp next week, along with Emma (see below). The girls did the same camp two years ago, and learned lots of skills, but they are ready for a brush up. Hannah has been preparing for camp by going to the gym with me and doing the stationary bike, getting her legs stronger. My parents live just outside of Charlotte, and we'll be staying with them. We are looking forward to seeing lots of old friends! Pools, lakes, trolleys, bikes, beaches, pancakes, sunshine!

P.S. Please click on the Bone Marrow link on the sidebar!! Really, all it takes is a swab of your cheek, and it's free. Only FOUR DAYS LEFT!!!!

Emma gifts us again

Emma is back on the screen! Take a look at the new commercial--the rest of the family is in it too!

Way to go Emma!

June 16, 2009

Sweet girl(s)

Today Hannah spent nearly all morning coloring and drawing. She was at it for hours. She received a new set of crayons from Kate when we were in Minnesota. Crayola decided to get a sense of humor! We had a good time reading some of the new crayon names:

Banana mania
Electric lime
Unmellow yellow
Outer Space
Wild Blue Yonder
Neon carrot
Tickle me pink
Fuzzy wuzzy

My personal favorite: Manatee

Hannah's best: Macaroni and Cheese

She worked for a long time on a picture of Giselle (from the movie Enchanted). It was for Daddy.
I told her that it was time to finish up to get ready for lunch.
She sweetly said, "But first I have to write a love note to Daddy."


We had a small going away party for two of Hannah's friends this afternoon.

(this picture is from March at the Hair-Cut-a-thon)
These sisters are in our homeschool girl's group, and they are soon moving to Texas. They have their own in-home baking business: The Pattycakes. They make delicious cakes for holidays.
We went into the city for ice cream and to give them their Don't-forget-us-we-love-you-lots gifts: monogrammed aprons for their business. They looked so cute in them! I wish we had the chef hats to go with the aprons! After the ice cream we all went to another friend's house and the girls caught baby toads and found newly hatched birds in a nest. It was a great afternoon!

June 13, 2009

My Miracle in Motion

Hannah's dance pictures are here! They took a lot, mostly when she was in her T-shirt and leggings (the ensemble "uniform"). She had lots of fun at the photo shoot. The photographer was generous with his time and patience, since all the dancers have special needs. We received all of Hannah's pictures (40+) on a disk, for only $25. Can't beat that! I know that usually dance photos are crazy expensive!

June 12, 2009


All right.

I've been shirking my responsibilities around here. There has been nothing interesting or humorous in my life lately I guess (unless you count last night's Mom's Night Out and the discussion about shaving...but I don't think I need to document that on the internet).

News in the household includes Chris flying to St Croix yesterday! There were a few potential glitches that did not materialize, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I am assuming that no news is good news, and that Opa and Chris are now gearing up (literally) for their first scuba dive of the week!

After Hannah's camera went into mystery seclusion a few months ago, and my Nikon D40 drowned, I was camera-less for a bit. So I rationalized the purchase of another digital camera, thinking I'd get my Nikon fixed at some point (just to get it looked at is $250). I told Chris it was technically his camera, that he could take to college in the fall. Of course, I never let him touch it. Until yesterday. So now he has "his" camera to document the beautiful Caribbean. And I don't.


The amazing thing is that Hannah found her camera! Apparently she put it in her Christmas purse (shiny black patent leather clutch) to keep it safe. And it was. And is.

This is generally my approach when I lose something in the house. I lose it, and assume it will find it's way to to surface at some point. Usually, I do give a cursory search. But if it isn't where I look, I just give up. It shows up on its own, or I end up replacing it. Of course, as soon as I replace it, it reappears and makes me feel foolish.

Case in point: Remember how Hannah was working on all those Girl Scout Badges? Well, we had made great progress, and I kept all her work and documentation in the large 237 page spiral bound Badge Book, which has all the badge requirements listed. She had completed about 75% of five badges. And then I cleaned the kitchen. Or, more likely, I shuffled the kitchen. And the book went missing. I had a theory that the book (and the work) went into the recycling. It didn't surface. And it didn't surface. And I secretly was suspicious that The-One-Who-Is-Tidy (certainly that's not me) might have "cleaned" it. After a month with no book, and no progress on the badges (yay! another reason to procrastinate!), I decided to buy a new book, figuring that the old one would definitely materialize promptly, and I could return the new one.

But it didn't.

I have this desk in my kitchen (but in black):

(and now, coincidentally, I can't find Hannah's camera, so here's a Pottery Barn stock photo)

I keep all of Hannah's homeschool stuff in the bottom cabinets, and my cookbooks and current library books on the shelves above. In the middle, where I can hide everything, I have piles of junk. Phone books, my expired coupon collection, loose recipes, catalogues, seed packets, mail that I want to save (for no apparent reason), odds and ends, piles of post-it notes that no longer stick, balloons, and tons of other stuff. I don't even know what's there, because I keep it closed. I peek, once in a while. And I shuffle things into it. We've been in this house for 18 months and I have never really removed anything from it. I just add to it. And it's pretty much full. (Understatement font.)

I decided I'd search for the old book. And I looked. Honest I did. I looked in the desk. And my other desk. And all the bookshelves. And other places too. And so did Chris and James. But we didn't find it.

So I started to recreate Hannah's work. And started writing in the new book. And I didn't like it one bit. So I quit. And we were in stasis. Me, Hannah, and the Girl Scout Badges. And the end of the Girl Scout year is fast approaching, and I have no documentation.

And then, three days ago, Voila! I open the desk, and there, sitting on top of the phone books, was the original badge book!

"No way!", you say.

And I reply, "Way."

The lesson that I take from this is that I am rewarded when I procrastinate.

And now we have to cram the rest of those badge requirements in to the next 6 days. And I saved the really difficult ones for the last. Because I'm smart like that.

I hope this dispells that vicious internet rumor that I am an organized person.

The good news is that soon you will likely be treated to more of Hannah's random photographic endeavors. If we find the camera again. And buy new batteries.

P.S. Lookie there--I have a new widget about the Bone Marrow Registry. Please register--it is so easy and would normally cost about $100, but now it's FREE for the next 10 days!

June 9, 2009

Back Home

We had a great time on vacation!  The week flew past, as it always does, and the weather was perfect.   We managed to avoid sunburning, which was especially good with our brood of redheads.
Making a home for hermit crabs
I think my favorite part of the week was that Hannah and Shea got along perfectly the entire week.   You know how when kids spend lots of time together, how they can get snippy with each other?  Hannah is not exactly the easiest person to live with...she can be moody and stubborn.  But, even with sharing a bedroom and being together 24 hours a day, both girls did very well.    I think that part of the reason was that Shea figured out that she can actually be the leader in the relationship.   Since Hannah is usually taller than most of her friends (she's 5'1" now), and many of her friends are a year or two younger than she is, they tend to let her take the lead.   If Hannah thinks she's in charge, then she'll run with it, and boss her friends around.   This is no fun for anyone.    But Shea discovered that if she offered choices to Hannah, and had Hannah agree to what they were going to play, then Hannah would keep her part of the bargain.  Shea was always considerate of Hannah's input as well.   It worked out beautifully, and they are both excited to see each other again soon (we're visiting Charlotte, NC in a couple weeks).

One exciting aspect of the week was that the skate Chris spotted turned out to be a stingray!   Every day there were schools of rays riding the waves.   In 14 years of being at the same beach, more or less during the same time of year, we had never seen stingrays.   It was impressive to see 20-30 stingrays cresting along with the waves (right where we were body surfing!).   It kept us in the shallows quite a bit (ya think???).  I figured that the rays would probably not be a problem, since we'd never heard of anyone getting hurt by them in the area, but we weren't going to take any chances.

I'll get some more pictures up soon, but now we're focusing on getting Chris ready for his trip to St Croix!   My father is taking him on a Graduation Trip where they'll both be scuba diving for a week and then exploring Puerto Rico.   This should be a great adventure (said with trepidation). (More on my Dad's unusually bizarre predicaments in which he finds himself later.  He's sort of a walking Murphy's Law.)

June 3, 2009

Paradise? I think, yes.

Oak Island, North Carolina

We're having a great time at our beach house!   We've been coming to this same beach town for 14 years, and this particular house for six.  It has everything we need (which mostly is: beach, fridge and beds).    Five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and something like 57 seating options (really!  We counted chairs a couple years ago and it's pure craziness here!).  We are happily lazy with books, good food, sunshine and a nice breeze.

Our excellent friends, Bill, Roxanne, Greer and Shea share the house with us.   We met through La Leche League, when Kate was a toddler and Chris was embryonic...about 19 years ago.  Greer fits right in between Chris and Kate, agewise.   The threesome have had many adventures while growing up.  Shea is 9 and a good friend to Hannah.  

So far the week has gone well.  Chris is up to his usual biologic discoveries...finding the first crab and spotting a skate in a tide pool (a skate is similar to a stingray, but no stinger).  Hannah and Kate have been riding the waves, while James and I tend to anchor in our beach chairs reading.

We had this corn snake visitor on our shuffleboard court, devouring a sparrow!

We have already checked off most of our ritual activities on our beach must-do list:  Putt-Putt (yes, I am the gloating champion), Dairy Queen, puzzle completion, watching The Princess Bride,  board games, lunch on the porch for dripping little girls, and late night walks on the beach.   

I hope it's summertime for you too...