update

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1. Andrew’s part way through week 2 of his 3 weeks at the YMCA summer camp. Every day he has stories about his new friend, who uses a wheelchair. It turns out that this friend has Brittle Bone Disease and when I found that out I nearly had a heart attack. Andrew is WAY too rambunctious for someone with such a fragile condition! But…it seems to be going okay and Andrew knows that he MUST use extreme care with his new friend.

2. Isaac has been out of the “Boring Chair” for over a week now! Which means he’s actually listening to teachers. He lines up now when they blow the whistle at recess instead of what he used to do…run away. Oh Isaac.

3. Andrew’s been working on a couple of different projects when he’s not in camp that have me seeing him as a Big Kid lately. He’s finished another of his K’Nex bridges. It took him over a week, but it’s done. It took some tinkering and problem solving to figure out a few things…but he loves that. He also built an FM radio this weekend with his Snap Circuits and he’s up to his ears in learning how to program. He’s learning Python from the book Hello World and he loves, loves, loves it. It’s a great book, if you know some young little computer geeks that would dig that kind of thing. I highly recommend it!

4. Last night at dinner I asked Isaac what he did at camp. I didn’t expect an answer because he almost never can answer that question…or, he almost never WILL answer that question…take your pick. But I thought I’d give it a go anyway and he said, “I wrote an upside down letter to Mr. Billy.” then I asked “Who is Mr. Billy?” and he said, “Mr. Billy is the pizza teacher.” And I was stunned. :) Last week his class took a trip to a local pizzeria where they rolled out dough and ate steamy slices and now I know that his class wrote thank you notes to the pizza guy, Mr. Billy. Why his letter was upside down is beyond me….though it does speak to Isaac’s sense of silly. :) I just can’t believe he was able to share something so specific and I was SO happy to hear it!

5. Isaac is still a big time geography nut. He knows his states and capitals, where the states all go and what many of the state flags look like. He likes telling me that there is a sweet home in Alabama and promises to take me to Alaska when he’s a “grown mup” (which, I would LOVE!). He can list and map the countries of North and Central America and is starting to memorize the countries in Africa. He came home from school one day asking what country is IN South Africa. I told him that there weren’t any countries IN South Africa…that he must be thinking of how Vatican City is IN Italy. No, he insisted, there is a country IN South Africa. And sure enough…he was right…Lesotho is a small country completely surrounded by South Africa! (I didn’t know that before…as you can see…) I must say though, with all this talk about geography, my own geography skills are really taking off. :)

6. I’ve finally found my summer groove now that we are a few weeks into it. I’ve divided up my work into tasks I can do after Isaac gets home and tasks I need to do while he’s at camp. His camp is only a few hours each day…and it goes by fast! But my system is working out well and I’m able to hit all my marks: work, keep things up around the home, work with Isaac on the various things we’re up to this summer (workbooks, handwriting, talking about and reading books, playing turn taking games and learning how the world doesn’t end if you do NOT go first or if, heaven forbid, you lose the game, and hitting the pool every now and then). But… I am looking forward to August…with no camps and the boys with me and the crazy adventures in store.

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7. Summer 2014, you ain’t so bad. And THAT is a huge relief.


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Walk Now

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Yesterday we walked a 5K (ok….it was actually 2.2 miles…but it sounds cooler to say 5K) to raise money for Autism Speaks. Our family raised about $1500! whoop whoop! We went to this event last year. This year our group decided to meet up at the Brooklyn branch of this fundraiser, which made for a slightly smaller and less overwhelming scene for my little guys. It was a nice walk in a wooded park with staff and families from the boys’ school. It was a gorgeous day for it and our boys were troopers walking all that way. :)

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Here’s our group!

Other than that, we had a pretty quiet weekend. Hope yours was a good one!


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special

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Yesterday Andrew started up another summer camp. He was in a computer camp that latest a week and now he’s going to the YMCA for crafts and field trips and swim lessons. Other kids in his class signed up to go and it seemed more fun for him to hang out there for a few weeks than hang out here. So, off he went!

I thought after a week at the fancy computer camp, the YMCA would seem like a dud. I mean…they don’t even meet at a real Y. They meet in a school. It’s extremely low tech and no one is passing out flashdrives and teaching kids how to use the latest software.

But…turns out…this YMCA camp has brought some unexpected benefits already.

See, Andrew is in the Special Needs section of the YMCA. I wasn’t sure if he *needed* to be in the Special Needs camp, or if he could hack it with the regular kids…but I felt a lot more comfortable with the camper to counselor ratio with the Special Needs camp…and we knew some other people from his school program who were going to be there. So…I signed him up!

He must have overheard me telling other people about it because one day he told me that he hopes he meet other autistic kids at the Y. I was shocked that he mentioned that…though…of course it does make sense. :) Then he rattled off a list of possible kids he might meet in the Special Needs camp…blind kids and deaf kids and lots and lots of kids in wheelchairs! He was psyched at the range of possibilities. I went about tempering his enthusiasm with “you probably won’t be able to tell what makes each of those campers “special”. They’ll mostly seem like regular kids, like you and Isaac.”

Then I started to worry that Andrew would take it upon himself to poll the other campers on their disabilities. He’s not really one to play it cool. Sigh.

So, yesterday when the bus dropped him off (Special Needs camp includes bussing! sweet!), I asked the counselor how it went. She said that he did ask her if all the kids were autistic…and she said “all of the kids in this camp are very special!” He told her “I’m autistic!” and she said “That’s great!”

Later he told me all about his new friend that uses a wheelchair! Andrew was VERY excited about helping with the lifts and ramps and elevators and all the mechanics involved…but I’m hoping the mobility mechanics can be a bridge to a real friendship with this new little boy… and that Andrew’s not just in it for the gadgetry. Though, the new friend does love minecraft…so there’s that too. :)

Andrew’s experience so far has made me think about how lucky Andrew is to have this pass into the Special Needs community because of his membership in it. He gets to meet and interact with all kinds of people. The range of kids he knows is MUCH more diverse than the kids I knew growing up. Also, I’m not usually that big on integration…I feel too protective of Special Needs kids to fight for them to be integrated into regular settings…but hearing Andrew talk about the different kids at the Special Needs Y made me grateful that all these kids are getting exposed to each other. It sort of made me wish we all could get exposed to all kinds of people. Maybe integration IS worth rethinking.

This morning Andrew told me that he was glad that he was going to the Special Needs camp and when I asked why he just said “I just like it.” :)

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While Andrew was at camp, Isaac and I made a peach pie! Well…mostly I made it. And it is delicious! :)


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hiking with buddies

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We had a real weekend-y weekend around here. We went hiking, did some science experiments, watched some Chaplin, and played plenty of minecraft. :) The boys are off to another week at camp: Andrew at the YMCA and Isaac at his school camp. And I have my sights set on Peach Pie and an organized storage closet. Here we go!


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whirlwind week

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This week:

1. I finished a scrapbook page that I started last week about our trip to San Francisco (and Lake Tahoe and Nevada) that we took last summer. It wasn’t a project that took a whole lot of time, but it did take forever to get around to it.

2. I made muffins and bread which I didn’t photograph and I never got around to making the pie I was hoping to make.

3. I’ve been killing it lately with homemade pizzas. I’ve been a once-a-week pizza maker for years and this past winter my pizzas took a terrible dive into “too wet and messy”. I’ve stopped planning ahead of time what pizza I’ll make and I’ve let the CSA decide for me. This week our CSA gave us zucchini…so zucchini pizza it was! Last week we got a ton of onions…so Caramelized Onion Pizza was a new favorite. Not over-thinking it is working out marvelously!

4. I’ve become a Mommy-Chaufer. We’ve been totally spoiled by the NYC DOE and it’s Special Needs programs for our boys that *include transportation*! So, this summer with Andrew being in other kinds of camps, I’ve joined the leagues of Mommy-Chaufers. Shuffling kids around is new for me and I can’t believe how much of my day it’s been eating up!

5. Speaking of Andrew…

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This week he went to very fancy (read: very expensive) computer camp. On Monday, when I dropped him off, I was so nervous that I had mild tummy troubles. It was the first time I left him in the care of people that weren’t specifically “Special Needs” people. And I had NO IDEA how it would go. I ended up calling the camp around 11 that morning to check in…and everything was fine. :) phew! He’s been using software to design a toy that he printed out on a 3D printer. And he’s been doing work with computer programs that connect to a set of circuits. So, suffice it to say: he’s been having the time of his life. AND! He made a friend! (swoon swoon!)

6. But…getting a glimpse of the fancy programs out there for kids has given me a taste of the Rat Race that is raising kids in NYC. Should we break the bank and send Andrew to more camps like that?! Are we doing him a disservice by not making every week of his summer equally amazing?! Are the other kids in the camp way ahead of him in their tech skills and should we be working to get him caught up?!

oh man. It’s brutal, that Rat Race. I’ve gotten my head about me now (I think). I feel grateful that he did this week of computer camp and I feel fine about the rest of summer being just “great!” instead of “unbelievably amazing and enriching in every way!” Not sure this peace will last though…here’s hoping.

7. And…this week also involved some chauffeuring for the little guy:

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Isaac is going to summer camp that is part of his school program in the mornings…but one afternoon a week, he’s doing taking riding lessons. :) There is a place in Staten Island that offers therapeutic horseback riding to Special Needs kids. I don’t really know much about therapeutic horseback riding. Just that it’s something people do sometimes…. But I wanted Isaac to have something just for him. Andrew’s had so much just for him (well, ballet and computer camp) and Isaac loves animals, so I thought this might be really fun for him. And it was!

He was nervous about it the day before (after weeks and weeks of saying he wanted to do it!) but as soon as we got there he was walking around looking at the horses asking which one he could ride. They pulled out a small pony named Flight and fitted Isaac for a helmet. Then they got these stairs for him to use to mount. And he climbed up the stairs and tried scrambling on the pony all by himself! ha! He rode the pony with three adults assisting him and the therapist would stop them in the shade and work on activities with him. It was really cool! I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it…but it seems pretty cool and I’m interested to learn more. :)

Though…when we got back in the car, Isaac told me he was NOT going to do THAT again. ??? I don’t get it…but we’re definitely headed back next Wednesday to give it another go. I’m guessing he’s still a little nervous about the whole thing.

8. Sorry for the longest post in the history of blogging. It’s been such a full week! Hope you all are well!


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USA cookies

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Since Isaac is pretty serious about states, capitals, flags, maps, etc right now, I thought we should do a little more for July 4th than we normally do. So, I got a USA shaped cookie cutter and we made cookies…together! :)

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We rolled them out and baked on one day and then decorated them the next day. The boys decorated the stars and I did the USA cookies, which I frosted white and used food safe markers to jazz up. :)

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Happy Independence Day!


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stories from the weekend

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First up: the Golden Gate Bridge. Andrew’s been steadily working on assembling this bridge for several days…and this weekend, he finished it!

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This bridge building set makes 7 different bridges, so we decided when one was done, it would sit and be appreciated and photographed for a week or so before disassembly and construction on the next bridge begins. He did great with this…and I think this set has really emphasized to me that we are more of a K’Nex family than a lego family. Though…Andrew did get out the legos this morning to make “something that does everything…fly, swim, go on roads….” So the verdict might still be out on that one. :)

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This story begins a few weeks ago. Isaac told me one day that he knew about a pizza place on “42nd Street and 5th Avenue!” I’ve never heard him talk about an intersection like that before…except I guess for the intersections where our home is. He has a pretty good sense of the grid system used around here and we were are on it…and where this particular pizza place is. So, anyway, he kept bringing it up. He wanted to go to “Little Caesar’s”. But…we live in BROOKLYN. We live in pizza central. Of ALL the pizza places around here I NEVER have a hankering for Little Caesar’s! Or Dominoes. Or Papa Johns. (have you seen John Stewart rant about New York pizza? That passion around here is FOR REAL.)

But, as Dave is a good Dad when it comes to these things, he suggested that for lunch on Saturday we go to Little Caesar’s. And oh my goodness, was Isaac excited. He told us where to find it, how to get there and led the way. When we got there and walked in he said a slow and respectful “woooooow!” And he was pleased as punch when we brought it to the park for a Little Caesar’s picnic. :)

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When it was all said and done, I thought “alright. cross it off. Little Caesar’s, done!” until Isaac said “ok! We’ve been to Little Caesar’s ONE time!” giving me the impression that he was going to start keeping count. He expects to go back! uh oh.

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On Sunday we took the tram to Roosevelt Island! Roosevelt Island is a small island in between Manhattan and Queens. There are some apartment buildings and a few schools…but not much else. It’s a small island. :)

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But our trip was more about riding the tram. :) Which the boys called the “subway plane” since it’s entrance looked exactly like the entrance to the subway with turnstiles and places to swipe our metrocards.

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It’s a pretty cool ride!

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And then we were on Roosevelt Island!

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Which is as good a place as any to get REALLY silly.

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Probably the most notable structure out here is the smallpox hospital ruins. It was built in the mid-1800′s and was the first hospital to accept smallpox patients. It didn’t operate for too long before turning into a nurses’ training facility and then closing it’s doors in the 1950′s. But, it’s pretty, right?

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Just past that is a memorial for Franklin Roosevelt. Andrew and I talked a little about how Roosevelt was in a wheelchair AND that he was president. People with disabilities can do all kinds of things!

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And that’s a wrap!

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Happy Mondays to you all!


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Beach Week!

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We are back from our yearly family get-together at the Jersey Shore.  My kids are filled up on cousin time, belly laughs, sand sculpting, wave surfing, ice cream eating, and amusement parks.  They each have a fresh smattering of freckles to kick off summer!

It was a great beach week!  I loved seeing my family and I REALLY loved watching my kids love on their cousins.  I don’t know why, but it gets me every time.  My kids truly have the best cousins!

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And they have pretty spectacular grandparents too!

Today is the last day of school and I’ve got summer squared away with camps and workbooks and projects and reading material for the boys.  I’m even looking into therapeutic horse back riding for Isaac!  Still, summer can be a doozie for me.  Here’s hoping for a good one!

 


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thinking about

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1. these boys are growing up. I just rearranged their room to make space for Andrew to work on the kits we got him for his birthday. The main kit we got him was expensive and huge and will take him a few weeks to finish one of the seven projects that the kit is designed to make. Investing in this kit felt like we were welcoming a much older boy into our lives. To top it off, part of the room reorganization was to hang a shelf by the bunk beds, which gave Andrew a spot by his top-bunk-bed for a lamp. Now he reads in bed at night and turns out his own light when he’s done reading. He’s really getting older!

2. But…he still has a hard time unbuttoning the button on his pants. ha! We had an argument about that this morning. He said it hurt his fingers to try to button that button and I should just do it. I said “nice try, pal. It’s time for you to master that button.” How is it that this same kid whom we gave a book on computer programming for kids…can’t work his own buttons?! sigh.

3. Isaac is more and more jealous of Andrew. He’s always wanted to be like Andrew…but it’s SO intense right now. Isaac tries to measure up to Andrew in just about every way. BUT…he doesn’t even realize that there are things that he can do that Andrew can’t do. To him, those things don’t count. He has to be able to do the things that Andrew can do! There is a way that this is benefitting him though. The other night Dave invited one of his friends over and Andrew introduced himself and Isaac came right up behind Andrew and said “and I’m Isaac!” Usually I have to bribe him to say hello to a guest. :)

4. Last night Andrew had to write about the similarities and differences of land animals versus sea animals. We were talking about how both need oxygen. He knew land animals breathe in oxygen through their lungs, but he had a lot of questions about how fish breathe. I told him fish use their gills to get oxygen from the water. “Well, if they get oxygen from the water, what happens to the hydrogen?” “Hydrogen? I don’t think there is any hydrogen involved.” “But mom, water is made of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, you know H2O? So if the fish are getting oxygen out of water, there must be hydrogen molecules left over. What happens to that?” ummmmm….anyone want to take on that one?

5. Andrew is a huge fan of the show “Cosmos” and Neil DeGrasse Tyson mentions on the show that answering a question in science just leads to other questions. Andrew loves this idea. He reminds me about this all the time. I love that line of thinking! Thank you, Neil DeGrasse Tyson! :) Now fill us in on what happens to the hydrogen when fish breathe.

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6. We are off to the beach today! So, see you later, alligators! :)


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weekend stories

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On Saturday we met up with our buds, the Cruzen-Grossman’s at the Hall of Science for a good ol’ fashioned family romp.

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It was a BEAUTIFUL day…and on beautiful days, New Yorkers don’t head to museums, so we had the place to ourselves. Which was super fun!

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We spent a lot of time in the outdoor play area.

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Which brings me to my first story. :) Andrew and Tess were walking hand-in-hand out of the outdoor play area, when they came across a big puddle. Andrew stopped them, and then lifted Tess over the puddle. Then they resumed holding hands and walking. I was behind them when this little scene happened and I couldn’t believe the cuteness. I LOVE their friendship. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

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Tess said to me MANY times over the course of the morning “I just can’t believe Andrew is 9! He’s getting so big!” True, that, my friend. True, that.

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On Sunday we went to a classmate’s birthday party! It was at Chuck E. Cheese’s. My boys have never been to a Chuck E. Cheese’s and I think when they saw what they were missing out on they wondered WHY we haven’t brought them to this marvelous kid wonderland. Though…some marvelous kid wonderlands can be so overstimulating that parents (ahem, like me) ask for the music to be turned down and stop the flashing lights already! Though, I did wait until Isaac brought Dave into the boys’ room and asked him “can I sleep in here?” And since Chuck E. Cheese’s, like the science museum was mostly empty except for this birthday party (with kids who were mostly on the autistic spectrum!), they adjusted things for us. :) Yay! But geesh!

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The party was super fun once the music was turned down. The kids loved the games! And loved being together. I was particularly excited because although, the birthday was for a classmate of Andrew’s, the birthday boy’s mom is friends with the mom of a classmate of Isaac’s! And not just any classmate, she is friends with the mom of the ONE kid that Isaac ever talks about. And Isaac talks about this friend like they are thick as thieves. When we arrived, Isaac walked right up to him and smiled and said his name and the boy responded the same. It was adorable…but the rest of the time they sort of looked like this:

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Which honestly left me a little puzzled. I thought Isaac was going to interact with his friend like he interacts with Andrew. I pictured Isaac chasing him around and playing games with him and telling him jokes just like he does with Andrew. The other little boy is REALLY social and super friendly and would totally have been game for it, but Isaac sort of checked out. And when I’ve been to the school for various reasons, Isaac’s friend always plays with the other kids in the class while Isaac is usually by himself doing his own thing.

And I gotta say, this makes me sad.

But, it doesn’t make Isaac sad. At least not yet or not that I can tell. And when we left, Isaac thought it was so great that we saw his friend there. It makes me wonder how Isaac thinks about friendship. Because for him, it doesn’t seem to be a lot about interacting with the person he calls a friend. It seems to be about just *enjoying* someone…and sort of from a distance.

Luckily, Isaac is in a program that REALLY emphasizes social interaction. They are constantly showing him what to do to interact with people. And even seeing him initially greet his friend was a new Isaac development. So, I am hopeful that this is a skill that will continue to grow…but the party did show me a clearer picture of how Isaac isolates himself, even from someone he considers a friend.

It’s also so wild to me how different my boys are socially. Andrew’s teachers have had to work with him on not smothering his friends with intense hugs. I’m constantly telling him to give people space. You don’t need to be right in someone’s face to talk to them. Andrew loves people the way a labrador retriever loves… and Isaac’s style couldn’t be more different. If only they could meet in the middle.

Parenting these boys is strong work, I tell you. It’s not for the faint of heart. ;)


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