Monday, April 28, 2008

Looking Forward

I am doing my regular post today of this week's Bushisms but will probably be missing in action for a good deal of this week then as to blogging.

The reason being my dear Aunt passed away early Saturday morning and though we expected it, there is so much going on now with getting things ready for her viewing, the memorial service, etc., -all scheduled for Wednesday. I've been on the phone more the past two days than I have been since back in the day when I was an Avon rep and would be calling my customers to get their orders! Cousins all over the state to contact, back and forth with information for them to relay to our cousin here who is the one in charge of my aunt's affairs and such. I'm going to be picking up a big box of photos my aunt had and my daughter Mandy and I will be doing up a photo display then for the viewing at the funeral home. Plus, my cousin had planned to have a sale of what was left at the homestead of my aunt's furniture, etc., this past Saturday and I became the beneficiary of the beautiful organ my aunt had in her home. So now, my son and I are trying to figure out who we can get to give us some assistance to get the organ out of the homestead, down to my house and in here PLUS we also then have to get the electronic organ I already have here -but which is in need of service and repair -moved out and up to my son's house until I can make arrangements to find a potential new home for it. SO many things going on right now that I feel like my head is just spinning at times.

So, for now, I'll put the Bushisms up today and will be back later this week - I hope -once things calm down a bit. Although, it looks like this is going to be one really hectic week all week long as I also have a doctor's appointment on Friday down in Pittsburgh - a 3 1/2 hour drive one way -and it is going to be a bit hairy to make that appointment and get back here in time for Mandy to get to work then too Friday evening. Sometimes, you just want to holler "STOP! I want off this wild ride for a while!"

But now, here's the Bushisms for the week ahead.

Monday, April 28, 2008 - 267 days left

"Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."
--Refusing to answer reporters' questions while having his picture taken with the Canadian Prime Minister, April 2001.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - 266 days left

"We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that will make --it would hope -- put a free press's mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see."
--Washington, D.C., April 2005

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 -265 days left

"It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber."
--Washington, D.C, April 2002

Thursday, May 1, 2008 --264 days left

President Bush declares victory in Iraq aboard an aircraft carrier bearing a victory banner.
--May 1, 2003

Friday, May 2, 2008 - 263 days left

"But I also made it clear to [Vladimir Putin] that it's important to think beyond the old days of when we had the concept that if we blew each other up, the world would be safe."
--Washington, D.C., May 2001

Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and May 4, 2008 - 262 days left and 261 days left.

"We ended the rule of one of history's worst tyrants, and in so doing, we not only freed the Amereican people, we made our own people more secure."
--Crawford, Texas, May 3, 2003

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Barn

I've been in a sort of self-imposed exile I guess you could call it most of this week. There have been lots of things at times I thought I could write about here and there but when push came to shove, I couldn't bring myself to sit down and write.

I mentioned the other day the issue surrounding my aunt -her imminent death, which as of tonight does look like it is coming much closer, closing in on us -her family - now. My cousin, who has power of attorney for her (and her daughter too), called us tonight to let me know that she is in extremely poor condition. Although he said she appeared now to be resting, sleeping somewhat peacefully, her breathing is now extremely labored. So it could be a matter of hours and yet, it could drag on and on for sometime yet too. None of us, her surviving nieces and nephews, want to lose her but we have actually already lost her sometime ago as her mind, her memory, her ability to communicate with us left. We know there is no return possible of the aunt we knew as children, as adults; of the aunt who would have done anything within her power for any one of us. None of us wants to see her languishing like this and we know too she would not want this for herself either, if she had a choice. We accept the fact that losing her would be a blessing for her -as it would give her rest, peace and rejoining her siblings, parents and husband once again. She was a one-of-a-kind person, of that there is no doubt and that person is the one we will all miss terribly too.

My apologies for bogging everyone down here with the sorrows that are within my heart, my children as well as my cousins and their children and grandchildren too.

Aside from that strife here, there have been a few other things a bit more light-hearted at times.

Yesterday, at school, Maya's teacher tried a new way to hopefully work around Maya's fears of using the potty to poop. This has been a big stumbling block with the teacher and her aides as well as with us at home. None of us has a clue as to why Maya is so adamant with her refusal to even try to use the commode instead of insisting on donning a pair of pullups as soon as she feels the need to perform this bodily function. So yesterday, while working with Maya in the bathroom, her teacher kept telling her to "push, push" and at one point, when Maya happened to lean forward a little bit, she dropped some kind of chocolate-type cookie in the commode and told Maya to look and see that she had just "pooped." A little trickery, ya know.

Well, when Maya came home from school yesterday, she was insisting to us that she was not going back to school today. At first she kept telling us she was "Going to go to the Barn" today and then, it switched over to her whining and even crying that she didn't want to go back to school because she didn't want to poop there. What? There is apparently some really ingrained fear present there that none of can seem to break down.

Last night though, Mandy finally figured out what Maya was referring to about "going to the Barn" today. She meant she wanted to go to the home of a friend of ours here in town who has some baby chicks, some grown chickens and a rooster, a bunny and also three huge turkeys! So I e-mailed Patti last night to see if Mandy could bring the kids up this afternoon to visit the animals at her "Barn." If I'd been thinking straight when we went up there, I really should have taken my camera along too because I could have got some photos that would really blow your minds! These turkeys, for openers, both the Toms are humungous! Patti says they both probably weigh about 50 pounds each and the hen weighs roughly about thirty pounds. Big slappers, for darned sure, they are! Maya was not afraid of the birds although the first time the Toms made a sound near her, she did jump slightly but then, eventually she drummed up enough courage to lightly pet them.

The cats Patti has there are also really big ones and the one cat has 26 toes too! Quite the sight to see him lumbering around too, as you can imagine. I don't know what the heck Patti feeds them but they definitely are not on a starvation diet, that's for sure!

It was especially cute though to watch Maya interacting with Patti's younger son, who is about six years old. It would appear that Maya is quite sweet on him as at every opportunity, she could be seen giving him some really big hugs. Don't ever let anyone tell you that autistic children are cold and unfeeling, unsociable too because if you'd seen Maya today, you'd know for sure that's far from the truth! For that matter, even little Kurtis is perhaps if not THE MOST loving little guy, he ranks very high in that category. All it takes is for someone to pick him up and he is almost always johnny-on-the-spot to putting his arms around your neck, head on your shoulder and just snuggling right up to anyone! The only person who takes precedence in the affection department is his mother! After her, anyone is fair game in his book.

When we went to leave Patti's "Barn" today, Maya gave Patti a big hug but reserved a much bigger hug though for Patti's son. He may have been slightly embarrassed at first as we kind of teased him about this but overall, judging by his base reactions, I'd say he didn't mind the attention too much either.

Yesterday (Thursday, that is), I had my regular monthly luncheon engagement with some of the girls with whom I graduated from high school and since Mandy had work yesterday and I had no one to watch Kurtis, he got to go to lunch (again) with Grammy and her friends. While Grammy munched on a really good steak salad, Kurtis polished off almost all the french fries that came with my salad. The whole time we were in the restaurant, he was exceptionally well-behaved - just being his sweet little self and entertaining the ladies too.

That's about the extent of what's been going on here the past week. My Aunt and her death which is looming here, hanging heavily around all of us, is very much bogging us down. Please send prayers up for her if you will that God will be generous in her time of need and give her rest and peace. There are not enough words, nor space, nor time for me to begin to really explain just what a wonderful lady she has always been, what a fantastic time it's been to be around her for as many years as I have and as my children and grandchildren have too. She's one of a kind, of that much, I am very sure.

I did finally get around to putting together the obituary for her that my cousin asked me and another cousin to write -back in January when she really began to fail so much. I have put it off, time and again, but tonight, after his phone call to me, I figured I'd best get it written -at least put together enough that when I see him tomorrow, I will have something for him to read and edit where he feels necessary.

Having done that now is somewhat of a relief for me as well as it was a bit cathartic to write it as well.

I'll try to return as I feel more at ease with my thoughts and feelings and for those who have already commented to me about my aunt, thank you so very much for your thoughts -and prayers.

Peace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Good and the Bad

Tonight, I put through four more donations to our team for the Autism Walk held in State College on April 12th. In doing so, I noticed that our donation total for our team had grown almost $200 since the last time I had checked our team site and after putting these last four donations through it brought our team total up to $2, 013.86! Is that fantastic or what? And that figure still does not include the donation of matching funds our team is to receive from Thrivent plus, I've been told by two other people they have donations to give us too! So, it ain't over yet, is it?

I am really excited and very, very pleased with the donations our team received this year. I am also extremely thankful to so many folks from the blogging community who came out and donated to our team -very generously too, I might add! Thank each of you - no need to name names here as I'm quite sure those bloggers who supported us know how much they gave, don't you? It was certainly a tremendous boost though for our team to have received such great support from bloggers, family, friends and neighbors -even donations from people who don't know the family at all, much less my grandchildren. Our cup truly does run over!

I've been somewhat quiet lately and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. I have things on my mind, yes -but doesn't everyone? I'm mulling over some medical issues that I have to make a trip to Pittsburgh on May 2nd to see the surgeon who did the colostomy on me 18 months ago about these problems. The local surgeon I saw about a month ago now had recommended that I return to the Pittsburgh doctor and get his take on things. But the problem is you see, I have a hernia which the local doctor says he feels would be best if I were to have the Pittsburgh surgeon reverse the colostomy and repair the hernia simultaneously. On the surface, I know this doesn't sound like all that bad an idea I suppose -particularly if it's not going to be your abdomen they will be slicing into for the fourth time in the past five years. I'm not really all that hepped up about more surgery but I will accept it if that is determined to be the best route to take here. The main issues for me really are that I really don't want to go back to Pittsburgh for more surgery -mainly because of the distance and how disruptive it is for my kids then and two, I really DO NOT WANT more abdominal surgery because I REALLY DON'T WANT to have to do the pre-surgery prep stuff -drinking those heavy duty laxatives to provide a major housecleaning job on my intestines! Sometimes, I think it is the PREP part that I really don't want to deal with and that's what has my equilibrium all out of kilter right now.

The other thing that weighs very heavily on my mind right now concerns my aunt -the last of my Dad's siblings; the last of my aunts and uncles. Today was her 91st birthday.

Mandy finished up work early enough today that she went to the school and picked Maya up there and then, they went to the nursing home in Clearfield where my aunt and her daughter have both been patients since August 31st of 2006. In the months since they were admitted, my aunt's physical and mental conditions have both deteriorated drastically. Back in December, my cousin who has power of attorney for our aunt told me that at that time, he really didn't expect our aunt to live more than 3-4 days but she has hung on now for the past four months, somehow.
Mandy was quite upset though when she came home as she said when she and Maya went into Aunt Mike's room, the curtain was drawn between her bed and her daughter's bed and the aide or LPN (not sure which) told Mandy she didn't know if Mandy really wanted to take Maya in there because as she put it, "She's dying."

Yes, sadly enough my entire family here is aware -very aware -that our aunt is dying. But why would this person tell my daughter that and especially that perhaps Maya should not be there? You see, my aunt hasn't been cognizant of any of us, not fully anyway, for sometime now and this is what Maya has seen on her past few visits there. She isn't going to comprehend that things are more dire now than before because Maya doesn't comprehend death to begin with just yet. And, since she's seen Aunt Mike in a semi-coma state for several months now, it isn't going to change her awareness nor is it going to be a fearful circumstance for her either simply because she doesn't comprehend that right now.

This particular Aunt was my Dad's baby sister. The youngest of ten children born to my grandparents. She was a very talented pianist and organist and as such, she directed the school choral programs at the township school where she lived -and taught for several years too. She also gave private piano lessons along with having served for many years as the organist and choir director at the Methodist church just above the family homestead.

She was a very attractive lady -petite, dark brown hair, beautiful ice blue eyes that always just sparkled when she spoke to you. She was a major pet lover too -dogs -in particular, boxers! Over the years after her daughter was born Aunt Mike had four boxers -all were spoiled rotten, fed royally and treated like either a king or queen of her castle. She and my dad's other sister -who passed away two years ago this coming May the day after her 98th birthday - spent the last years of their respective teaching careers at the same elementary school where Aunt Lizzie taught first grade and Aunt Mike taught second grade. Both my aunts were extremely loving, caring teachers, each in their own way, their own right. The difference being outside the classroom Aunt Lizzie often growled about her charges, grumped about the work involved in dressing 25-30 six-year-old kids into their winter jackets and hats to send them outside for recess or dismissal at the end of the day -a job I wouldn't relish for sure, trying to zip up that many coats, tie or fasten down that many hats and scarves and the like. But inside her classroom, she was a totally different person, exhibiting patience by the mile with these little people. Aunt Mike, on the other hand, was just a sentimental soul, loving all the kids who were part of her classes over the years whether it was in person or in the teacher's lounge chatting about her students, she never complained.

When her only child was born in February of 1957, it was a premature birth and there were problems. The doctor attending her had not recorded my aunt's blood type correctly thus her records stated she was RH positive when in fact, she was RH negative. So her daughter, who should have received a transfusion immediately after delivery, didn't get that right away because of that screw-up. Also, this was back in the days before the drug Rhogam had been developed which is given to all women who are RH-negative after delivery whether the baby is a live birth, stillborn or a miscarriage. And, Aunt Mike had had a miscarriage a year or two prior to having this child which may have caused a build-up of the antibodies in her system and could be the main culprit in my cousin having been born with many physical disabilities as well as having mental retardation issues.

All my Aunt had ever really desired in life was to marry and have children -the typical white house with the picket fence, children, pets and such. She had the white house. She had the pets. She had the child. But with it also came many challenges for my aunt as she fought, tooth and nail, with doctors and therapists in her determination to see that my cousin was given every possible opportunity to learn to the fullest of her ability. And, you know what? My aunt won many of those battles with the medical community, with the education system too. No, my cousin can't do all that much but still, we -the rest of her cousins -know where she was once upon a time, what struggles she has come through too to enable her to learn, to know the things she does know and it is a miracle all attributable back to the efforts my Aunt made to provide the best she possibly could over the years for her daughter. Just the fact that my cousin has survived now for 51 years is proof enough of the excellent care my aunt provided for her daughter during that time.

My aunt has ALWAYS been here for me -from the time I was a baby, toddler, school age, teen, young adult, mother, wife and now grandmother. She's been someone who loved me without question, who helped me in so many ways over the years -to many to ever try to count -who's been there for me when my mother became ill and died, helped me raise my three children too, she did. My kids adored her -still do as do I. She was the first person Mandy and I took Maya out to visit four days after Maya was born and she wanted so much to hold her but was very nervous as she didn't quite trust her strength at the time. However, Mandy and I got her to sit down on the sofa and Mandy gently placed Maya in her great-great-aunt's loving arms so Aunt Mike could see her newest niece then, up close and personal. By the time Kurtis was born though, her health -and strength -was such that she didn't dare try to hold him at all. Shortly after, her mind started failing her more, she fell, injuring her leg which made it impossible for her to continue to stay in the family homestead with her daughter without having additional caregivers to look after both of them. It was at that point where my cousin stepped in and had them both admitted to the nursing home. Yes, it was for their best interests but at that time, that was the last way my aunt thought of this action. She was absolutely livid! It took her several months before she somewhat forgave my cousin for taking these very necessary - not wanted, but needed -steps to help her and her daughter.

And so tonight, I don't really know what the stance is with the nursing home, with my aunt's overall condition. I've heard nothing from my cousin as yet. I suppose we should call him and inquire as to what is happening but I just dread that conversation.

Things are at a point there too where no matter how much one doesn't want to part with a loved one, there are other considerations to be looked at here as well. She is bedfast, no recognition factors of family and friends, in pain, heavily medicated; no quality of life whatsoever at this point. And when you see that in a close family member -or even a friend - do you really want them to have to continue to endure all this -especially the pain aspect?

As much as you don't want to lose the person, it is also -in my opinion -very selfish to wish that they would continue to survive under these conditions. It doesn't lesson one's guilt when you think of praying for release but yet, you know this is the way that would be for the best too.

Anyway you look at it, it is a very, very painful thing for all concerned to go through this.

I will always have such wonderful memories, as will my children, to carry us through in the days ahead though of what a wonderful, talented and most of all, strong and courageous woman my Aunt has always been. I have many photos I can share with my grandchildren in years to come, stories to tell them about what a great lady she always was so that they too will know how wonderful she was and can pass these stories on to their children someday too.

Much as I will miss her presence, I would much rather not see her suffer and languish like this any longer. But because I share many genes with her, hopefully, her strength, her attitude about life in general will rest in me, in my children and especially my oldest grandson who she absolutely adored without question that she will never be forgotten.

Peace.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Band Plays On

More Bushisms for the week ahead for those in need of a weekly dose of quotes by the infamous DUBYA (in all his glory.)

Monday, April 21, 2008 - 274 days left

"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."
--Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004

Tuesday, April22, 2008 - 273 days left

"The other thing the volunteers do is they welcome people here, for this is the people's land. This isn't one person's land, it's the people's land, and foreign visitors about the mountin so they can enjoy their time and leave only footprints behind."
-Wilmington, New York, April 22, 2002

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 272 days left

"This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating."
--The New York Daiy News, April 22, 2005

Thursday, April 24, 2008 -- 271 days left

"First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country."
-- Washington Post, April 24, 2001

Friday, April 25, 2008 -- 270 days left

"It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce."
--Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, April 2001

Saturday/Sunday, April 26, 27, 2008 - 269 days left and 268 days left

"I hope we get to the bottomo of the answer. It's what I'm interested to know."
--To the Associated Press, April 26, 2000

Here's hoping you put your best thinking caps on to figure out what the heck these mean!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lazin' Away the Day

Saturday afternoon -things are pretty quiet now. The TSS for Kurtis was here today from about 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. so after the kids had breakfast, Mandy and Andrea (the TSS) took the kids for a nice long walk up the road.

While out, the stopped at Patti's house -the friend who brought the bunny down to visit Maya on the night before Easter -and the kids got to see some more animals. Mandy says stopping by Patti's house is like having your own private petting zoo almost in your own back yard! Maya saw a turkey today, chicks and of course, the bunny in a slightly larger version now. Seems to me they named some more animals too but be darned if I can remember them now. When they got home though Mandy had Maya tell me whose house they'd been to and had her name all the various animals she'd seen too. She did really well at remembering Patti's name and also, all the animals they'd seen.

Mandy and Andrea also had both kids out in the front yard too playing with them and with a bottle and wand to blow bubbles. Seems both the little ones as well as the Mommy involved had a pretty good time playing there, don't'cha agree?


I like how on this one below you can also see how some of our flowers in front of the house are blooming, others are coming up and starting to bud. Not the most organized flower garden in the world, but still the flowers look so pretty and springy!

This one below here is taken looking down the road -no flowers coming up yet on that side. That's Kurtis and his TSS, Andrea, watching something apparently up along the road but since Mandy and Andrea were taking the pictures while I was in the house reading, I have no clue what they were looking at there.

The past two days have brought some bad news here too though. Yesterday, Bill's father -who is 72 years old -was taken to the hospital by ambulance and admitted. They're still running more tests on him today but the initial diagnosis was that he is apparently having mini strokes which are having a huge impact on his memory. Then today, Bill learned the guy who owns the garage and used car lot where Bill works part-time collapsed this past Tuesday at his home and has been in another local hospital since then, on life support. He's only in his early 50's and this is really very bad news to hear. Say a pryer if you will for Pap and Gregg, please.

My son left Wednesday morning for a run to California and yesterday he called to say they made it to California ok but are going to be stranded there for at least two days because the clutch went out in the big truck. So he rented a car and drove over to Laughlin, Nevada to spend some quality time with his Dad while the truck is being repaired. He'll have his sisters super-super jealous with all the time he's been able to stop and visit with his dad of late.

And now, I think I shall go lay down a bit, give the eyes a little rest as well as my backside too!
The weather is starting to grey up so guess those changes I said I was detecting in my lower limbs and joints earlier are arriving on the scene now too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Taking a Bow

I've been busy this week doing my normal thing -virtually nothing except...procrastinating. The only reason I like to procrastinate is probably because I am so darned good at it. As a matter of fact, I think I have become so practiced now at the art of procrastination that I might even be able to surpass my old friend and writer/editor, Teresa, who I have always said was the absolute master of the art.

And what has been my main focus of procrastination? My blog.

Ok, I do have a few valid excuses for not paying attention to time and writing and such. For openers, the TSS who will be here, working with Kurtis, started this past Tuesday and for the time she was here -from about 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., it was really difficult to even be able to slink away and read some of my favorite blogs much less be so bold as to open a file and begin to write a post. The same thing happened again on Thursday and today too when she was here so at this rate, I guess I really will have to resort to my old hours of reading blogs, writing posts in the middle of the night, staying up till 5 or 6 a.m. in order to be able to do that and think, or absorb things properly.

I don't know if what happened to me last night is indicative of that I was just tired or that I am really (I MEAN REALLY) getting senile and confused more easily than ever but this is the way things went anyway.

I fell asleep on the sofa about 8:30 or so last night. At some point, I awoke briefly and opened one eye, pretty much, saw my son-in-law Bill was at the computer and proceeded to go right back to sleep. Then, I woke up and saw the news was on the tv and for some reason or other, I got the idea in my mind that it must be the early morning news program out of Johnstown that runs from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m. so I got up, headed out to the kitchen and decided I would put the coffee on then for the son-in-law to have it all ready when he got up to get ready for work. As the coffee was almost finished brewing, I heard music on the tv playing that set me to thinking a bit as it was the theme music for Jay Leno and the Tonight Show. What the heck was that doing playing at this hour of the morning I thought? THen I glanced at the clock and realized why. It was only 11:30 at night! What a dummy, huh? Not one to waste a fresh cup of coffee though, I poured myself a cup and sat down to try to get caught up in my blog reading at least. Did that till 1 a.m. and I figured maybe by that time I could fall back to sleep but it was all to no avail. I was still awake at 5 a.m. when I decided enough was enough and got up and took a melatonin tablet. I figured if they work as well on me as they do on the baby, I'd at least be able to squeeze in a couple of hours of sleep and I did -till 9:30 a.m.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a short drive to a neighboring village in search of a very good, old friend of mine. I've known him since I was probably 7 or 8 years old. He's a year older than me and one of his brothers -now deceased -was the same age as me. He's a priest and in my opinion, it the epitome of what a priest should be like too. Super intelligent -really and truly he is -quiet, very soft-spoken, very kind and compassionate and well, just a really wonderful person he is. He doesn't have a parish as he is actually considered to be a monk. But the house in which he resides used to be the manse for the Catholic church parish in that neighboring town and the diocese lets him live there in exchange for looking after the house and the grounds around the old, now defunct church beside the house.

I needed to talk to him about some things pertaining to my family and hadn't seen him since last summer. You see, he is also a priest with either the Reserves or the National Guard so sometimes he gets called into duty and is gone for a few months at a clip. He told me he'd been away over Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., and I don't recall exactly when he returned but he had been in the Gulf, ministering there to the troops.

It was so good to see him again. Regardless of my frame of mind when I go seek him out, I always come away feeling so much better. Gives a lift to my spirits just to talk to him about anything. We talked about our lives, problems, blessings, my children, his brothers, life in this small community. It was so good to communicate with him once again.

I told him about the latest news in the church I belong to -we have a candidate to fill the opening in our parish for a pastor! On April 27th, SHE will serve at the service that Sunday after which the congregation will vote as to whether to accept or reject her. When I told him our prospect is a woman, he wheeled around and with a big smile said "SHE? A Woman, huh?" Yep, Father B, a woman. WOW. He smiled and said "I was going to tell you if you needed a fill-in from time to time, I'd be willing to come preach. Wouldn't that be something now, a Catholic priest doing the service in a Lutheran church?"

Yes, it would indeed be something for sure! And the fact that he even dared to speak such a thing now speaks legions in how far we have come since we were kids together. At that time, our families really didn't want us -catholic and protestant -to associate at all. Saying hello was barely acceptable at times. And although I'm quite sure there are still a good many within our parish who would never allow him to come and be a fill-in pastor at our church under any circumstances, I for one, would sure welcome the sight of such an event possibly happening!

So there you have what's been exciting in my life this week except for the two last things here and that would be two new awards I received this week. I meant to do a post about them at the time I received them and then, for one reason or another, put it off and now, I figure I really better get busy and acknowledge them, add them to my sidebar or in my frequently confused state of mind these days, I'm liable to forget about them all together and that, well, that just wouldn't be right or polite at all, at all, now would it?

The first award is from "The Mother of This Lot" - a mother of several girls (I'm confused now if it is five daughters she has or is it six?) But anyway, if she can keep her head on straight with either number of daughters, then I surely can get on the stick and thank her for this award given to me. She says I get it for being a "thinker" but I'm not very sure that applies considering how discombobulated my thinker has been lately.
Jackie, if you think I rate an award for being a "thinker" I will be more than happy to accept it but now I think I better actually start doing some thinking -or at least some clearer thinking. Thanks so much though for the vote of confidence.

The other award I received came to me from "Beth, Around the Funny Farm" and let me tell you, this lady has her hands full with a husband, three children, a dog and horses! She and her son also ride in barrel races too and I think that is just fantastic to be able to do things like that. This award is just a sweet treat type award she's giving out to bloggers she says she enjoys visiting and my blog just happened to be in that group. Go check out the interesting things Beth writes about with respect to the farm, the family, the animals and the fun! You won't regret visiting her place either.

I'm supposed to pass these awards on now too -give them to other bloggers I believe are deserving of such honors. Well, the truth of the matter is, I love all the blogs I read daily and I consider each and every one of them to be a blog of distinction too -each in different realms perhaps, but fitting that niche all the same.

Therefore, if you are on my list of favorite bloggers, if your blog is one you know I visit with regularity -like daily, whenever you post something new -then consider yourself to have had these two awards -yes, both of them - bestowed upon you!

Now, go forth and write -let the words multiply!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Major Mysteries



One of the things with autistic children often is a tendency to be repetitive in speech. At first, it is so great just to hear the words that having them repeated is a treat. But after a time, when you have been over and over some things a kazillion times, it becomes rather frustrating to contend with too.

While I understand that Maya doesn't comprehend everything, there are somethings that go on that do confound me. One is the issue of separation anxiety.

We deal with this problem every time Mandy gets scheduled to work an afternoon-evening shift at the restaurant where she is employed. If she works the morning shift, things are ok because she get Maya on the van to go to school, then leaves for work an hour or sometimes two hours later and often is home in time to get her off the van or if she's running late, Maya is ok with either Katie or with me getting her off the van. But the days when Mandy has to leave around 4 or 4:30 p.m. are really difficult because all we hear then, often for well over an hour, is whining, crying, wailing, sobbing, sometimes even the major-major meltdown of kicking and screaming too.

The conversation will start with "Where Mommy GO?" and we tell her she went to work which inspires her to say then "I go work with Mommy." No, you can't go to work with Mommy. "Where Mommy work?" Well, she works in Clearfield, at Daniel's. "I go McDaniel's?" No, you can't go there. And this record plays over and over and over -again and again.

What I find amusing though, in a way, is the fact that when Mandy puts her on the van in the morning, there is no fear, no fussing, no separation anxiety then of leaving her mother in the dust, so to speak. And, on some days, when Mandy makes arrangements for Maya and often Kurtis too, that her friend will watch the kids at her home, there is no separation anxiety occurring then either. Just when she is left behind at home.

And no matter how many times you explain where Mandy is, why she left, etc., the next day you can be assured you will have the same conversation all over again if Mandy is working the afternoon detail.

This afternoon however, we decided to try some other distraction to see if it would ease things up somewhat. Before Mandy left, Kate took Maya for a walk down the road, to the bridge that goes over a little creek that runs behind our house. The name of this "stream" -if you want to call it that -is Moravian Run but for as long as I can remember everyone in town has always called it the "Sulfur Creek" because the water in this stream has been polluted for many, many years by the old coal mines initially and then, later by people running their wash water and septic or even in many instances, raw sewage into the stream. My kids, when they grew up, nicknamed it the "Poop Creek" because even that recent there were still people running raw sewage into it. (Since the sewage system lines went in a couple of years ago, that issue should have been resolved now but it's still debatable whether every single household is actually connected to the sewage lines as they are supposed to be, so that name may still be somewhat applicable, even today.)

When Kate and Maya returned, as soon as Maya walked into the living room, she looked around and with a very suspicious tone in her voice -along with some kind of dirty looks in my direction too -she asked "Where Mommy Go? Where Mommy's car go?" And I started my standard answers - Mommy went to work. Mommy drove her car to go to work. She started to say "I go to work with Mommy." which would have led into more and more of these refrains and I told her, "Maya, you know you can't go to work with Mommy. You know she's gone to work. Let's not talk about this."

So, amazingly enough, she did sort of change her tune to asking me if we could go to the grocery store. No, can't do that. Next question was well, we can go for a walk -no, you already did that. So I asked her then if she had a good time walking with Kate and she said yes, she did. Well, what did you see on your walk was my next question and she replied that she had seen the water.

"Oh, and did you like the water?" I asked.

Her answer: "Yes, it was poopie."

Gotta love the responses you get at times ya know.

We've had a major crisis ongoing here though for the past day or better that I thought was going to really do me in though.

Back before Easter, Mandy had ordered a little spoon and fork set for Maya as part of her Easter basket gifts. She thought it was something Maya would really like because the handles on each item consisted of laminated photos of those lovely "Bratz" girls, ya know -and if Maya is all about anything, it has to be her "Bratz." Well, the item was back-ordered and didn't arrive until last week - either on Thursday or Friday -so Maya had it given to her immediately then and yes, she was overjoyed with this gift. Had to have it for every meal, you see.

At dinner on Sunday, it was a big production that she had to have her Bratz utensils and the same thing happened Monday night at supper too.

The spoon was present Monday morning because Maya had used it and when I washed up dishes from breakfast and lunch Monday, I distinctly remember putting it in the silverware drawer with the other items. But when it came time to eat Monday night, the spoon had somehow or other gone missing.

Horrors! This was a calamity beyond belief. Maya went into the repetition phase before supper "Where my spoon? Where is it? Where is it?" Over and over -yes, you get the picture by now. Telling her we had searched every drawer in the kitchen and it hadn't turned up didn't help at all. Where did it go? I wish I knew.

And Tuesday, when it was time for supper, we went through the whole Q&A thing again -and again. Each day, both Mandy and I had hunted everyplace we could think of that the spoon could possibly be and no results.

Tonight, at supper, I had to listen to the litany all over again. I was thinking if I have to, tomorrow I will go see if I can find another set at least similar to this one just to take her mind off the missing spoon -if that was possible to achieve.

Later this evening, Maya was playing in the living room and for whatever reason, I really don't know, but she went over to Kurtis' little bike he got for his birthday and the seat on this bike - just like the seat on Maya's bike -lifts up and there is a little "storage area" of sorts under the seat and she lifted up the seat and exclaimed "Well! There's my spoon!"

Now you tellme how in bloody blue blazes that spoon made it from the kitchen silverware drawer and into the living room into the seat of that little bike?

The mystery is solved yes and the case closed even though we don't know which of two particular little people in the house may have placed said spoon in there because it is entirely possible that the little guy somehow picked up the spoon and put it there although since I don't think he is quite up to the task of opening the silverware drawer, I rather suspect a certain four-year-old took the spoon and placed it in that little compartment.

But if anything goes missing in the future and we can't find it, we'll at least now have a clue to go look in the bike seat for things, won't we?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Missing a Day

Ok, ok, I know - I'm late again posting the Bushisms for the week. And what's even worse, I am missing a day's Bushism too.

Yep, I have no Bushism for today, Monday, April 14th. I rather suspect the culprit who absconded with the Bushism for today -off my desk calendar -would have most likely been a very mischievous little four-year-old who lives with me. I saw a glimpse of her this morning while my son was here having coffee with me and she was carrying a piece of paper that looked very much like a page from my desk calendar and when I went to get ready to do the Bushisms for this week, I saw today's page was missing. I hunted around the house but evidently she has a heck of a good hiding place for it. I'm quite sure it never made its way to the garbage can cause it seems only her mother and I know where that item is located here!

But anyway -let's forge ahead and figure Monday, April 13th was a "pass" day for the DUBYA. Is that fair enough? I think it is more than fair but then again, that's me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 280 days left

"We must have the attitude that every child in America --regardless of where they're raised or how they're born --can learn."
--New Britain, Connecticut, April 2001

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - 279 days left

"You're free. And freedom is beautiful. And, you know, it will take time to restore chaos and order --order out of chaos. But we will."

--Washington, D.C., April 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008 --278 days left

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the White House is removing Bush's mistakes and bloopers from official transcripts of speeches, interviews, and public appearances.
--April 17, 2002

Friday, April 18, 2008 --277 days left

"I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense."
--Washington, D. C., April 18, 2006

Saturday and Sunday,, April 19/20, 2008 - 276 days left and 275 days left

"Laura and I really don't realize how bright our children is sometimes until we get an objective analysis."
--CNBC, April 2000

There ya go, folks! Read 'em and weep -or laugh - whatever trips you trigger!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Birthday Boy!!!

Today was Kurtis' second birthday and to celebrate the event, Aunt Carrie, Uncle Robert, cousin Alex and Uncle Clate were all here to help us sing, eat lots of cake, ice cream and just have a lot of fun with the birthday boy. I took lots of pictures, including several little videos with my digital camera and Mandy took a whole bunch more pictures too. We have so many photos of today that it's going to be really difficult for me to decide which ones to use to show you how much fun we all had today with Kurtis -and Maya -and for me, having all three of my kids, all three of my grandkids here and everyone just laughing and enjoying the day. No little feuds made it really a bonus day in my book!

My older grandson Alex came home with us on Saturday after the walk and he, Mandy and Maya all went to church this morning. Gram stayed home today because to be honest, my legs and especially my lower back, were really stiff, very sore, aching a whole lot from the almost two miles I walked yesterday. Mind you, I'm not complaining that I did the walk, not at all! But it sure does speak legions about how very out of shape I am!

I fixed two pans of chicken divan for dinner -always a big favorite with my kids and with Alex although normally Kurtis and Maya will not eat this particular dish so Mandy fixed a package of macaroni and cheese -always a standby for those two little ones to eat when the rest of us are relishing a whole different type of meal. Although today, Carrie did get Maya to taste some of her chicken divan and she actually ate a couple bites and even said it was good. I'll take any progress with her in the culinary department anyway I can get it!

Here's Kurtis with his birthday present - a new bike! However, as things like this often go, he seemed to enjoy playing much more with a little calculator of his Mom's and tended to ignore the bike for most of the day. Of course, some of that may have been because Maya really liked the new bike -which is about the same size as one she has that her Pappy Wagner got her about two years ago. Later in the afternoon, she made her dad go upstairs and bring HER bike down so she and Kurt could "ride" together.
Here's Maya, checking out Kurtis' bike for him - just making sure it all works the way it should!

And here's Kurtis trying to figure out just what the heck Maya is doing with his new bike -his birthday present ya know, not hers!

Fortunately, he was in a good mood, inclined towards sharing his toys today and just gave her some second glances but no fisticuffs or harsh words between them. Of course, the fact Kurtis doesn't talk might have some bearing there too, although he can be pretty insistent if someone has something of his that he wants sometimes!!

I decided if I am to show you how things went today, I guess I'll have to bore you to death with several videos here as they run kind of consequetively so to get a full understanding of how our celebration went, you pretty much have to see the whole set of videos. They're each fairly short though - should only bet maybe 30 seconds to barely over a minute each.

The first one here is Mandy presenting Kurtis with his own cake. I had baked two dozen cupcakes and with the batter left over, there was enough there to make an 8-inch cake -not quite as high as it would normally be -so this looks sort of like a flan instead of cake. Mandy iced it and decorated it with three little sugar "matchbox" type cars.

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Here's Kurtis as he starts to work on his cake. Notice how slowly and deliberately he goes about picking off the sugar cars first, very little mess, not smearing anything. So nice and neat, isn't he? Wait till you see the rest of these videos! You'll see how he REALLY goes about enjoying his food -and trust me, it ain't neat that he's actually all about either!

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Here's Kurtis now as he decides to get a little bit more engrossed in the cake -really savoring the flavor, appreciating the icing and the little sugar cars just a bit more.
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Here's Kurtis really getting into the swing of things -reveling, as it were, with the chocolate cake, the icing -well, everything!


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Now Maya had to get in on the birthday celebration act too. Note how she decides to move to the end of the table and her response as to why she didn't want to stay seated where she had been initially.

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In this little video, as you can see Kurtis really got into the swing of things -literally. Swinging, digging and flinging cake -all over the place! What a mess he had there. Uncle Clate walked by during this aspect of Kurt's enjoyment and asked if Kurtis was trying to pulverize the cake back to being chocolate flour maybe? Sure did look that way. When he was finally all done and we finished getting him cleaned up enough to get him out of the high chair, his dad just took him back to the bathroom and plunked him in the tub, gave him a darned good, much needed bath. He also bathed the chocolate faced little girl in the house then too so by 5 p.m., both kids were bathed and in pj's - all ready for bed! It took Mandy and I three good sweepings to get all the chocolate cake crumbs cleaned up off the dining room floor but you know, mess and all, it was so worth it because of the enjoyment he got out of demolishing that cake (he did eat a darned good bit of it too) and the fun everyone here had watching him dig into the cake and icing and getting so yucky, messy.

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While Kurtis was busy ripping his cake apart, the phone rang and it just so happened it was his "Poppy" Ertmer calling from Nevada to wish him a happy birthday too. However, when Mandy put the phone up to Kurtis, he indicated quite vigorously that he wanted no parts of talking to Poppy -or anyone -who thought they were going to interrupt him at his task of eating, throwing and generally creating one huge mess with this project!


And, here's Kurtis with Aunt Carrie as he was trying his level best to smear cake crumbs all over her hat, her face and glasses -even tried to shove it up her nose! Mandy reminded Carrie that at least it was cake he was trying to put up her nose and not the ben-gay that Mandy had used one night to wake Carrie up to get ready to be to work on time for the midnight shift when she and I used to work at the truckstop in Snow Shoe. Yes, Mandy had put a glob of Ben-gay just under Carrie's nose and yes it woke her up with a heck of a start too! Needless to say, she wasn't exactly a happy camper that night when she arrived at work.

Finally - here's Gram -a little bit sunburn on my face from being out in the great sunshine the day before with the walk and looking maybe a trifle tired after taking all these picture, the videos and in general, just having had a great time with my kids and grandkids as we celebrated the big event of Kurtis and his second birthday!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Great Day!


Today was it - the day of the Penn State 3K walk and 5K race to benefit Autism Speaks and what a day it was!

Four of the registered walkers for our team were unable to attend but we picked up three others so we were actually only down one walker from what we had anticipated and had the other four been there, it would have given our team 17 walkers -plus two toddler-non-walkers and an infant! Although the intent was that Maya would walk, because her Aunt Carrie insisted on carrying Kurtis over the entire walk (well, she and her brother Clate did take turns holding him from time to time) that left the single stroller empty and by the time we'd gone about one block, Maya decided she wanted to ride in the stroller then.

The weather was beautiful although the forecasters had predicted rain showers sometime this afternoon, it's just starting to sprinkle a bit now -about six hours after they had initially thought the rain would start. The temperature was just nice -not hot, not cold either -nice, inbetween temps where you were comfortable walking without having to wear a jacket.

After we all got to the walk site, finished our registration and got our tee shirts, I happened to look around and saw the Nittany Lion about 50 feet away from where some of us were standing. I asked Maya if she'd like to go meet the Nittany Lion and by the time we started moving to where he'd been, he moved on to another location! I asked another participant if he'd seen which way the Lion had gone and he motioned that he was down by the last tent so off Maya and I went.

The Lion was just getting geared up to do a stage performance and lead the walkers and runners in some cheers when we caught up with him but he was extremely polite and came forward to meet Maya. He knelt beside her and extended his "paws" to her and she looked at him for a couple seconds then slapped his hands in the cheer fashion! I got two pictures of Maya with the Lion that I think are "keepers" for sure. Ones that maybe when she's older she'll understand the symbolism of the Nittany Lion. I tried to get her to do the Penn State Cheer for him but she got too shy on me to do that one.



Last year, I managed to get a group photo of everyone on our team but this year, I was only able to get shots of a couple here, a few others there. But here's the members of our team that I was able to get some photos of today.

The three here are Mandy Harris, the speech therapist who works with Kurtis now and how worked with Maya for 26 months before that. Next to Mandy is a friend of hers, Becky, who teaches 3rd grade at our local elementary school. And in the front, kneeling, is a friend of ours from church, Denise Shimel. Denise did a fantastic job of getting people she works with and friends of hers to sponsor her in the walk which really helped to increase our donation total greatly.
This is Sarah Pelka holding on to her little nephew, Matthew Banghart and in the stroller is Sarah's infant son, Andrew, who is a mere six weeks old. Sarah's sister, Nancie (Matthew's mother) was off someplace when I was taking pictures and unfortunately, I missed getting a shot of her. Nancie and Mandy are very good friends.

Here's Maya, reclining in the single stroller with her Mom and Kelly Luzier. Kelly and her husband Duane Luzier are my son's bosses and they really came forward and supported our team big time.
And finally, here is my son, Clayton, my older grandson, Alex and his mother, Carrie -who was still holding Kurtis long after the walk was completed.

If my calculations are any where near accurate, I figure when our totals are all in -our donations plus the matching funds we will receive from Thrivent -our team will have raised over $2,400 to go towards the Autism Speaks Foundation. I am, needless to say, pleased as punch that we were able to get this many walkers together this year and that our team pulled in that sum in donations too.

Thanks to all those who were able to make it to walk with us today. We had another couple who walked with us too but they had to leave as soon as they completed the walk and I missed getting a photo of them - Frankie and Jen Thomas. Thanks also to Teresa Irwin, Maria Irwin and Kerri Cowfer and Robert Brickley -all who had registered to walk today but were unable to be there with us after all. We missed you not being with us but thank you for your continuing support of our team all the same.

And finally -without friends, neighbors, family members and many of you - my blogger friends -and you generosity, we could never have reached the donation total we achieved today!

Whether you were able to donate money to our team or just supported our efforts with encouraging words, prayers for good weather - the whole nine yards - we appreciate you help and support in any way it was given -very, very much!

And just look how well it all paid off too!!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Video time!

Breaking away from the history segments I've been taking you on of late with Maya and our early forays into the land of autism, I thought I'd give you something a tad more current. I have two little videos to share with you as well as a story about Maya from yesterday. Nothing spectacular, just some little cute things but they show the ways she (and Kurtis) are no different than other children in their own age range and yet, they will also show a little bit too of the differentiations that DO exist there as well.

First, here's a little video Maya's half-sister, Kate, better know here as the "sixteen-year-old," made with her little digital camera she got for Christmas. This was Maya back in February and I know that because I see the flowers sitting on the kitchen island that Mandy received from her Dad for her birthday and the other bouquet she got from Bill for Valentine's Day. I don't remember what "party" Kate may be referring to though -hard to say. But I just thought it was a really cute little clip and you can see from it when I talk about Maya and the way she frequently just "skips" through the house -and life, too. (If they ever do a remake of the Wizard of Oz, I'm betting she could pick up the dance that Dorothy and the Scarecrow and company do as they skip along the path to the Emerald City.)


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And, here's yet another little video Kate made of Maya. On this one, Maya was playing with the little bitty ($10) camera I bought before Christmas to try to get myself kind of acclimated to digital cameras and such. It did work but not anything in the way of quality photos and Maya does love to play with it too so as long as it won't hurt her, what's the harm in letting her play with it then. She was definitely hamming it up for Kate on this video though, as you will see.


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The next video is one I did yesterday of Kurtis. We just discovered on Sunday while up at my son's house that he is afraid of the grass! He also has a lot of trepidation when he walks on the sidewalks too. Yesterday, Mandy and the kids and I had taken them for a walk -each in a stroller although Maya usually would prefer to walk. However, when she saw Kurtis was riding, she insisted she had to ride too even though her feet would have been dragging on the ground if she hadn't kept them up on the foot thing the entire time. Such is the bull-headedness of children when there is also just a tad of jealousy creeping through, ya know. But, anyway, when we got back to the house, Maya wanted to run a bit in the yard and Mandy figured it would do Kurtis good to get accustomed more to being outside on the sidewalk, also maybe a little more exposure to the grass too. He just ran up and down the sidewalk though and before I did the video, he was very, very cautious, almost as if he knew that old children's line "Step on a crack, break your mother's back." as he would either stop completely or at least slow down at each crack in the sidewalk. Notice too, when he goes back up to the steps, the ritual he goes through of touching the post, then touching the step, before he turns and runs back towards me.


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And, to give you a little idea of some of the things that go on around here, I've a story for you that happened just last evening.

Mandy had to go to a church council meeting but when she leaves the house for work or to go see her girlfriends or anything at all, if she leaves Maya behind, I am generally stuck with a child who is extremely sad, often very angry too at being left behind. The emotions that come through from Maya can be anything from soft crying, a little sobbing -even tears -to louder wailing, and can escalate to screaming, shrieking, kicking, stomping, throwing things -a full-fledged meltdown, can also take place. But throughout these events, she also intersperses her rants and wails with questions -or even commands. "Where Mommy go?" "Where'd the car go?" "I go to meening (meaning meeting, here) with Mommy." If you repeat these same questions over and over again for roughly 45 minutes to an hour, you will get the same sensation as I get when they start up.

Last night though, Mandy had been gone for at least 10 minutes before Maya realized she wasn't present and accounted for and then the crying and questions began - lasted for a good 45 minutes last night but at least they didn't go full-blown, nothing thrown, no massive tantrum. As she started to calm down a bit, I realized Kurtis needed some drastic attention as there were some really strong odors emanating from the little guy, so when I took him to the bathroom to change him, I got Maya to go along with me. Ok, for a child who refuses to use the commode for anything other than to "put her water in there." she does have a strong fascination with what things other people put in there so when I dumped Kurtis' little package into the water, she was right there, studying it very closely and telling me all about it then too. And then she started her own series of questions for me.

Maya: "How you spell poop?"
Gram: "P.O.O. P."
Maya: "How you spell poopie?"
Gram: "P.O.O.P.I.E."
Maya: "Where's the 'ess'?"
Gram: "What?"
Maya: "Where's the 'ess' sound?"
Gram: "Tell me what you mean?"
Maya: "How you spell Poopies?"
Gram: "Oh, ok. P.O.O.P.I.E.S."

Then a few minutes later, back in the living room, she started telling me that we needed to go someplace and in a half-whine, half-crying voice, insisting "We go inna van to grocey store?"
Gram: "No, Maya. We aren't going anyplace tonight."
Maya: "Yes, yes! We go store, inna van!"
Gram: "NO! Maya. NO! Not tonight!"
At this point, Maya came over to me, puts her right hand on my left thigh and says:
"We go to grocey store now, inna van. Okay, Honey?" And with the last two words, she leans down and looks directly up into my face as she she says the "Okay, Honey?"

I don't think I have to tell you I lost it -laughing like crazy at her insistence and also, her manipulative mannerisms there too!

Just another day in the life of a child on the spectrum -but much of this could also be titled as just another day of life with a typical four-year-old too as the meltdown issue and the repetition of the questions are really the only things that I think would earmark this episode as being typical for a child with autism in that age range.

Now pray for a nice sunny day, not too warm -just comfortable -no rain, please -for Saturday, April 12th when our team "WE ARE for Kurt and Maya" will be participating in the Penn State Autism Speaks Walk/Race! It's not too late either, you can always come join us Saturday and register at the site in front of the Borough Building in State College -just down from the corner of Allen and Beaver Avenues! We'll be one of the noisiest groups there I grant you that!

Message In a B ottle


This is part of a meme set up by Mimi, the Queen of the Memes and although I am terrible about memes in general and memes that require me to monkey around with images like this one above, here's my bottle and the message I've been sharing for the month of April.

Here's the message I would really have liked to be able to shrink to fit in the bottle (box) though but I have nary a clue as to how one would do that!


But, just telling someone on some island, someplace, where this bottle may wash up that I LOVE someone with Autism is gonna have to do it for now.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Maya's Therapy Begins

These three pictures were taken in the spring of 2005 -just before Maya's first hearing test and her developmental delay evaluation. Mandy, Maya and I had gone to my cousin's home in Virginia -just outside D.C. -for a little weekend get-away and chance to visit with my cousin, Bea, and her Mom, "Grandma Ruthie" as she is referred to within our family. Bea and Mandy took Maya for a walk to a park nearby Bea's house and the first picture is of Maya with Cousin Bea.

Each time we took Maya in for a check-up and the shot routine, when I would mention to the doctor things that were worrying me – the eye contact, toe walking, her non-recognition of us, not pointing to things, not seeming interested or able to follow along in baby games like patty-cake and general things like that, I often felt the doctor thought I was just an over-reactive old fuddy-duddy grandparent. She would kind of blow my concerns off –or so it seemed to me.

Until finally when Maya was about 18-19 months old and she saw a bit more in the office how Maya responded –or rather, didn’t respond –and she ordered a hearing test. At the same time though, she also referred Maya over to the Cen-Clear Early Intervention group for an evaluation.


Maya -around the time of the evaluation process.


The group arrived at the house in mid-May of 2005 –I can’t recall now if there were four or five women, all trained specialists in early childhood behaviors but the lady who is the coordinator for this program –Jenny –brought her laptop computer with her and she was immediately a favorite person in the group as far as Maya was concerned. She was fascinated with that computer and we had to watch her like a hawk because she was trying, every time she could, to get her little fingers onto the keyboard of that laptop!

These therapists used various means to test Maya and told us at the end of their testing that she definitely had some developmental delays. They were to process all the data from the observations they made that day of her skill levels and would be back in a week or two to give us the results in a printed form.

I don’t remember now what all the percentages were that showed how much of a delay Maya had at that time but she had many –in areas we didn’t even realize either –fine motor skills, gross motor skills, different areas of speech and behavior. When they had the evaluation all processed and returned, the initial verdict was that she was developmentally delayed and that diagnosis could change again too once we got the hearing test done.


The recommendation was that she should begin receiving therapy for behavior/play and speech immediately, even before the hearing test. However, the hearing test results were such that there were no hearing issues found, so no changes were made then to the developmental delay evaluation. I asked the therapists at that time if they thought Maya might be autistic and the response was that none of them were qualified to do an evaluation for autism – you have to have a certified psychologist or psychiatrist perform that in order to get a diagnosis of autism.

I remember too that when I asked that question about the possibility of Maya being autistic that Mandy stiffened immediately. She refused at that time –and for many months after too – to acknowledge the possibility her baby might be autistic. She also did not want me to even mention the word around her.

The therapy began in June of 2005 and the first two therapists we had assigned to Maya only worked with her for about a month before the one girl quit and the other I believe was replaced and we were assigned two new therapists.

That was a very good move with respect to Maya, Mandy and me too as the new therapists Kerri and Mandy, both have become since then like part of our family. They both bonded very quickly with Maya and she, to them as well. Once a week, for an hour per session, they would come to the house and work with Maya.


Because keeping Maya’s attention span on target was very difficult, they would work with her while she was seated in the high chair. Although Mandy, the speech therapist does sign language, she didn’t really work that much with Maya in terms of trying to teach her a few things with sign language but rather concentrated on trying to get her to recognize objects and the sounds that went with each item. Both therapist came lugging some types of puzzles, books, toys to show Maya and work with her using those items.


Maya -Aug 2005 at cousin Alex's 8th birthday party


That fall of 2005, the agency that works with us also signed Maya up for a toy program. Brenda, the lady who was the coordinator of that program was fantastic. Every week, she would come on Tuesday morning and bring a new toy or book for Maya, which was then left and became Maya’s own property. Brenda would return on Thursday afternoon to sit with Maya and play with her with the most recent toy or book to see how well Maya responded to each item along with taking information from Mandy or me as to whether Maya played with the toy, how much, did she really like it or just barely pay attention to each new item.

Brenda worked in the capacity of the “Toy Lady” with Maya from September of 2005 until May of 2006 –the program didn’t operate over the summer months. But in the fall of 2006, she took another position and we had another young lady whose name I can’t recall now who was the new “Toy Lady.”

The toys they brought along with the toys we purchased for Maya and also which were showered on her too over those two years quickly mounted up to where it looked like we might need to build on a big room just to store these toys and books in there. Some of them, Maya only gave a slight amount of interest to but others, she latched onto and played with over and over again.

One particular toy that Maya really loved was a working (but toy) tape recorder/player that had a microphone with it. She quickly wore the batteries out in that one. We replaced them and it seemed within a day or two, they were worn out again. Plus, because initially she had some issues with the motor skills, she would get the tapes stuck in the recorder too which would generally results in a hissy fit, meltdown then, as you couldn’t get there fast enough to suit Maya and get the tape removed and re-inserted properly. But she dearly loved that item and played with it over and over again.

Kerri, the behavior/play therapist noticed after about two-three months that Maya was quite obsessive about how she played with certain toys –particularly blocks. Kerri would put a group of blocks out on the high chair tray and Maya immediately would begin to line them up. However, when she would line them up, she would do it so that whatever pattern was showing on the first block she selected – a letter or a picture –the rest of the blocks all had to have the same thing facing up as she aligned them on her tray. If she was setting them up with a number showing and she spied one that was the letter or a picture facing up, she would get very upset until she got the blocks to each have the same type of design facing her.

Kerri also began introducing Maya to wooden puzzles with a tiny knob-like handle on each piece. She would show her the puzzle pieces, identify what was on the picture there to Maya and then hover the piece over the spot where it should go but Kerri wouldn’t put the piece in Maya’s hand and guide her to the open spot. Rather she would lay the pieces down and allow Maya to pick them up and remember where Kerri had initially shown her the piece fit. Within a month of being shown how to do puzzles of this type, Maya quickly came to love that type of play and could generally master each new puzzle Kerri brought in short order.

My Dad’s sister and her daughter were still residing at the family homestead at that time and my cousin, who is severely mentally and physically challenged, had all kinds of toys there from stuffed animals and dolls to some puzzles as well. One puzzle that my Aunt brought out one day when Mandy and Maya and I were there visiting was a fairly large wooden circle and each of the puzzle pieces were of various sized circles. Maya latched onto that puzzle and played and played with it- doing quite well at getting the pieces in the proper slots too. And, from that day on, any time we stopped to visit at my aunt’s house, as soon as Maya got into the kitchen, she immediately took off, going to the room where she remembered my aunt kept that puzzle and she would bring it into the living room and sit on the floor playing with it again and again.

She also had been given one of those little stacker toys too by my son and his former girlfriend for Christmas when she was a year old. Initially, she didn’t pay too much attention to that toy but after she began the therapy, she soon discovered that and would play with it, trying to stack the rings for a while but there was something else with that toy that garnered her interest even more than stacking the rings correctly. At the top of the ring stacker, there was a star and as the child would put a ring on the little pole, the ring passed over a little switch that would make the star light up and play music. Maya was more fascinated with making the star light up and the music play and she searched and searched until she found that switch just under the star and more often than not, she would just play with the stacker unit, pressing that button over and over to watch the star light up and the music play.