A rainy spring day at Niagara Falls

One of “our” Chinese students will be returning home in a few weeks, and we wanted to make sure they got to see Niagara Falls before they went home. We’d cancelled one day earlier in the year for freezing temperatures and really hoped this weekend would be better. Although we had some rain, the sun was out most of the day, and we had a great visit (since most of what you do at the Falls is get wet anyway!)

Our girls with all three Falls in the background

 We dodged rain clouds for the most part, and hardly noticed as we took the Cave of the Winds tour and went up on the Hurricane Deck. That water hasn’t warmed up yet!!

Clue to the wise: those plastic ponchos do NOT provide heat.

I realized that the last time I went on this tour, I couldn’t go up on the top because K was a small girl and we thought she’d be blown off the deck.  Guess that was awhile ago, huh?

The silvery edge of the chill gave us other interesting vistas as well:

The observation tower through the mist

And even Canada seemed a little farther way, into a misty fairyland:

And here are the intrepid climbers (you notice the parents stayed down below where it wasn’t quite so wet and cold), climbing up to the very edge of the American Falls:

We’ve now been to the Falls in three seasons, spring, summer and winter–winter has some visually stunning ice formation, but it’s much too cold to be enjoyable. Summer is likely the best. All the same, the girls were happy to visit another one-of-a-kind site in America!

And then there was more…

I discovered this week that I have been merrily sending people off to look at my author’s website–and it’s not there.

*collective gasp*

Well. Surely I have to remedy that situation.

Therefore, please stay tuned over the next few weeks when I hope to unveil a new WordPress page, one I’ll be able to keep updated myself, as I never did know how to access the old HTML one. I will have a couple of interactive stories, one from a collection I made called “A Life in the Day,” a series of moments that changed people’s lives, and the other featuring a fictional Pittsburgh lawyer I’ve written about several times named Suzanne Taylor. Also a list of what’s available out in the world of my writing, and a lot of fun tidbits.

I hope it will be interactive for readers and writers and we will all come together and share great things. The leaves are coming out, flowers are blooming, and we’re all going to blossom into creativity!

Spring on the horizon

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.       __ Alfred Austin

Despite the recent turmoil, life goes on. In this neck of the woods, of course, one of the most exciting things is life! Finally, after all those frozen brown and gray months, we’ve got crocuses, green tulip leaves peeking out of the soil and at least the hope of warmth.

Last week, during a long, drawn-out meeting that didn’t really require my input, I sketched out the 2009 garden, realizing as I’ve said in months past, that we need to be able to grow as much food as possible. I’ve just now come to the end of last summer’s tomatoes I canned (without chemicals, additives or high fructose corn syrup, which has to be better for our autistic kiddos). We want to get a small chest freezer this year so we can freeze broccoli, beans and so on this year too.

In order to accomplish that goal, we’ve decided to nearly double the size of the current garden, making about 150 square feet more of growing room. Most of this garden will be new to cultivation, so we’re stirring the compost pile and importing manure to enrich the soil. (Persuading Little Miss that yes, it really is okay to put cow poop on your food… priceless.)

The oldest part of the garden has been worked for at least ten years. It developed some sort of fungus that attacks tomatoes about four years ago, so we’ve cycled the tomato plants to new sections. This year we’ll put in onions  in that space and also start a strawberry bed to carry on into the future– a fresh start, which always seems to be a blessing.

The Cabana Boy and I have also considered the realities of our work life and our therapeutic investment of time for the children, and realized that more than twice the garden space requires more than twice the time to maintain. Consequently, I suggested to my father, who lives in a seniors reduced-rent apartment building downtown, that I’d like to make this a community garden. We would provide the space and plant the plants, etc., and in exchange for maintenance work such as weeding, etc., a few senior volunteers could have weekly fresh vegetables and herbs.

He took the proposal to his tenants’ board and they agreed to post a notice. So we’ll see what happens. I guess I’d better read up on how to set this up legally, and what to do with difficult people since I always think things will go more smoothly than they do. Ideally, I’d love to meet some folk who enjoy working the soil and don’t have space to do it, and we can have potluck dinners and visit. We’ll see how it goes.

Meantime, our family spent an hour together yesterday afternoon digging up the row nearest the fence, adding nutrients, and getting a forty-foot row of peas planted. Sure, it’s not St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s close. The 2009 garden of goodness is on its way.

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I’m jealous of an adventure taking place this week in sunnier climes– see my garden maven sister’s blog on her trip to the jungles of Mexico. She has contests, as well as amazing video!

Several shades of insanity

Seven beautiful sun-filled days at Disney World sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

Leaving 18 inches of snow behind, gradually shedding outerwear and then long sleeves and then…but wait. It’s…below freezing.  In Orlando, Florida. ?!?!?!?!

Well, in the daytimes it’s 50, which is a good 40 degrees better than home. The Disney resort is lovely, as expected–I’ve got to give it to Disney, they tend to the details and go the extra mile. Always. There is free bus and water taxi transportation to all the Disney locations we want to go to, so we save gas. We have a refrigerator in our room, so we can save money on breakfast and snacks each day.

But…below freezing?  What’s up with that?

Never mind! we declare with a brave sense of adventure, and we head off to the parks for seven glorious days. The first day we hit EPCOT early in the morning, faces shining with excitement, and take care of the Guest Assistance business (more on this in another post) and stay till after dark, tired but happy. Then it’s Animal Kingdom, which is open three extra hours that night, and the next day Disney-Hollywood Studios. By this time, we’ve used the pedometer to see we’re walking from 6-10 MILES per day in the parks, and our tails are dragging a bit.  We’re leaving for the park at noon…and coming back by maybe 7 p.m.

As the week progresses, it FINALLY starts to feel like Florida, and Sunday we run errands in the morning, hang at the pool in the afternoon, and then drop the Cabana Boy off at the Greyhound to ride home alone for his new job; we get to the Magic Kingdom about…7?  and stay till midnight.

What?  We still have one more day?  We have to go to the theme park? Again?

So we  hit the high points of the Animal Kingdom, enjoying them with more enthusiasm as the day goes on, resolving that seven days is too many in a row. A seven-day vacation would have been much better served with A) more warmth and B) five days of park tickets and two days of time off to relax at the pool and take little day trips to explore. So noted.

We’re on our way home, stopping to visit M and the grandkids in Pensacola.  We may get to the beach today if the severe weather doesn’t hit; tomorrow, the Naval Air Museum. Then the weekend drive across half the country back to the snow.

The trip has been a good one, full of growing moments and photo opportunities, and over the next week I’ll post a couple of pages about autism and Disney, and how Ditto Boy got a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader on stage.

The good news, of course, is that spring will now come in a month or so, and we’ve seen the promise of sun.  Think spring!

Inching toward normalcy

We’ve had a remarkably non-autistic week.

The children have squabbled with each other and bossed each other just like everyone else’s kids. They’ve told endless jokes at the dinner table. It’s been maddening. But again, this must be progress.

Captain Oblivious is recovering well and has discovered that he can, in fact, walk on his cast just like they promised. (Much safer for everyone in the room than the crutches deal, believe me. I know it takes practice to use them well, but his coordination is just not geared toward using tools. If he felt wobbly, instead of holding onto the crutches for support, he’d just wail and let go. BAM. Hit whatever was on the way down. *Sigh*.)

Little Miss has had the joy of rediscovering the outdoors. She’ll stay outside nearly all day, communing with nature. I watched her from the window as she simply sat in the grass, rubbing her hands through the leaves, examining things. Her dad helped her build a tent between two trees, and she carried out these foldable cubes made of parachute material to complete her little haven. So she just sits alone and listens to the birds and the wind and observes.

I suppose that may be considered autistic behavior. But when I think of “autism” the way the media portrays it, I think of the negative behaviors. What she’s doing is just being comfortable with herself and causing no one trouble. Is that autism? Maybe it is. Could we all use a little more of that perfectly calm, self-fulfilling behavior? I sure could.

It’s true when she comes back in she’s got that “other-worldly” flavor to her that she used to have much more as a small child, that feeling that she’s somehow in a parallel place, not quite synched with the rest of us.

And she’s decided she hates meat. *sigh*

But this too, will pass. Thank heaven for spring.

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Today I’ve been selected for a blog carnival at Blog Village, as part of a carnival on family memories. I was also part of sixty great entries in the Blog Carnival of Observations on Life last week. Come by and catch up on some great reading!!

I also created a real electronic song from scratch this weekend to go with my story, Concert of Collaboration: Making Music Together, published at Firefox News One more thing off my list of things I’ve never done before! (Special thanks to the Cabana Boy who helped me through the geek directions…)

The autisms are coming, the autisms are coming!

Okay, that’s a little graphic.

But as you may have noticed in my sidebar, I’ve signed up, along with a bunch of other folk, to blog about autism awareness in April. Which is autism awareness month. In case we MISSED it. Autism, that is. Hey honey where is that autism? I know we just had it here the other day…

One of the actions I’m taking to raise consciousness, as it were, is to host a blog carnival. For the uninitiated, this is like a mini-magazine where an assortment of blog posts from different authors are congregated in one place for easy access. The title of this carnival is Dessert May Come First–Or Not, described as “The Many Flavors of the Autism Spectrum.” Here is the description at Blog Carnival. (While you’re there, check out the many other topics available! I’ve had a number of my posts on mothering and autism published, so they’re open to many things.)

Why should anyone participate in a blog carnival? My friend over at CEOmum probably has the best explanation I’ve seen. (Course they teach us lawyers to talk real pretty.) I can verify that I’ve met a lot of interesting folk out here on my walk about the Net through carnivals and also received an increase of visits to my site.

The deadline for submissions is April 7, with the finished product appearing, hopefully on April 9. So look through your past posts or write a new one! If you find something you think would be particularly enlightening to others, enter it here. What am I looking for? Hmm. The recounting of an event that was particularly meaningful in terms of showing development. A funny incident that shows off your child/ issue. Some particular therapist that really truly helped, and why. Some piece of advice for parents/autistics who are on the path. Mostly the kind of words you think will make someone else read them and have that magic lightbulb go on over their head. I know you can do it, faithful readers, because I’ve seen them. If this goes well, I may make this an ongoing carnival with themed issues, i.e., therapies, educational issues, and so on. I used to publish a women’s magazine out of my office in the 1990s. It was always fun to read the submissions as they came in–people are more talented than they give themselves credit for! Looking forward to seeing what comes in.

For an example of a blog carnival, here‘s one I’m featured in this week, with an article I wrote some time ago.

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Meanwhile, our Spring is missing! It’s 32 degrees and it SNOWED yesterday. Would someone please put out an APB and if you locate it, drop me an email. Thanks so much.