Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Elementary School Graduate

I think a few pictures will say it all for this post.  My child is wearing a big, poof-y coat during a California summer.  He gives his teacher and the principal giant bear hugs (luckily without knocking them over).

He is just unique and, at the moment, I'm feeling very smile-y about his endearing quirks :)







Saturday, May 30, 2015

ATLOSCon 2015

I'm going to cheat and just post excerpts from my weekly update because... it's the weekend after travel and it's time to pause from all the unpacking hoopla and just enjoy my wonderful redwoods :)

We went to ATLOSCon and it was so fun! Andrew and I each taught three classes and Cameron did independent study work from school and the kid’s track:

Atlanta here we come! Planes are just such awesomeness and I'm so grateful for the inventors and entrepreneurs who make such travel possible!

Day with cool cloud texture
Dusk with sunset colors
Night with the moon!
Tracker stayed with a pet sitter who seems to have made him super comfy :)
Waiting for Dad to get the rental car… we brought so much stuff!  That blue bag is Andrew’s fencing gear for one of the classes he taught.
We brought the clarinets too… so fun before and after the social hullabaloo!

We were successful as teachers and attendees! I think people liked my chocolate class best of my classes, but I liked teaching the Feldenkrais one even more.  Andrew’s GTD and fencing classes went wonderfully.  We both faltered a bit with the kid classes, but the kids had fun and we learned ways to make our teaching better.

As for classes we attended, there was an intriguing class on “flow” and the drinks of the revolution class was fun!  Andrew loved several physics and software classes.

We had awesome conversations all day :)
Cameron didn’t want to share his chocolate cake with our lunch conversation buddy


His online literature teacher didn’t mind teasing and trying to persuade him though :)



Teasing and chatting and lots of great visiting and my introvert isn't worn out... yet! :)
We did so much of this friendly socializing!



Cameron too… and toddlers with mustaches too.



He even was willing to give me a friendly wave in Denver when we were half way home and...



… now we’re back and the unpacking is about 20% done.

Here’s to efficiency and the wonderfulness of home :)

Rachel


P.S. Cute antics:

• coining a new word “affection-ating”. He uses it when giving me a big hug and explains why he’s tackling me as, “I”m affectionating!”

• evaluating a pink pen, “It’s a rather unfortunate color."

P.P.S. Cameron’s log that he typed over five hours on his iPad on the way home :)

Day1:
We got in the airport. We were going to Atlanta, Georgia. We went up to the ticket desk. The lady let us go through. Then came security. We went through again. No red lights. Then came the gate finding. It was a small airport. Soon we were all at our gate. There was only one layover at Las Vagas. While we waited for our plane to be ready, Dad got us two sandwiches and a salad while I played on my iPad. When it was time to go I walked between mom and dad aboard the plane. During the flight, I mostly played on my iPad. When we landed, about three hours later, we quickly spotted a departure board. I noticed that our flight was going to leave in about forty minutes! I informed dad of that so we only had time to find the nearby gate that housed our plane and have dad and I each get a smoothie. The next flight was quite similar to the first except dad started to show us a map, that he somehow had found, to show us and Atlanta. When we, a good long while later got off, we went to baggage claim. For some reason mom left me alone for near a hour to get the bags and who knows what else. When she finally came back she said that we had to bring all the bags without dad, who had gone for rental cars to a nearby door to a curb that people waited for people to pick them up. This may not seem hard but those bags were heavy and I had half of three peoples bags so I nearly gave out before we got there. Soon dad came and we went off to the staying house of mom's friend, Jenn Casey. When we got there I of course went in. Everyone said hello except the dog, who barked instead. After staying up past my bedtime listening to talk, I went to bed.

Day2:
When I woke up, I went downstairs to play i Pad games. After a few hours, when enough people were awake, I went upstairs to check out the Casey's oldest child, Ryan's room. It was quite messy and there was only one clean patch to his bed. I started talking to him about its messiness until he got uncomfortable about me being there and told me to please leave. I did, feeling uncomfortable myself. I wanted to play a game but the boys did not want too and I did not want to ask the girls, who had been introduced to me the night before with a quick hi; So I played my favorite i Pad video game, Worms until hunger demanded me to have breakfast. After I went downstairs and ate breakfast dad caught me, before I went upstairs to discuss my Private Study. Then my parents both left to get food. After that I planned to start instantly. Remember how I wanted to play a game? Well again before could scramble upstairs to the Casey's youngest kid, Sean's bedroom which we were inhabiting, the tallest girl asked me to join a game of hide and seek. I enjoying the prospect of a game answered yes and joined. In the first game, I was soon discovered but later in took longer and longer to be found until, in the game right before my parents came back I won. My parents approved of me having fun and allowed me to keep playing. Later games started to shift to games more to my taste. During these games I learned the names of all the girls. They were: Morgan,Livy,and Athena. One of the more tasteful games was a game were there was a murderer who tried to kill/tag everyone. That was fun but less tasteful then a cop who had one guess at who was murderer with the murderers objectives unchanged. Then came a gun (water bottle) with one round and a murderer who could not pick it up but other players could. We played these games until it was time to go to the meet and greet before the ATLOSCon conference. Then I grabbed my i Pad and went. It was boring. Only  two chess games were interesting. When I got home, I did as much study work as I could do before bed. Then I went to bed.

Day3:
When I woke up, I played as much Worms as I could, sparing breakfast, until I had to go to the conference. My   i Pad was quite drained from the flight so I had to go without. Soon I was there and a little later I was at my first class. It was fun. It was Crime Lab Investigation and we tested baking soda, corn starch, and flour. Then we put our fingerprints on balloons and popped them. It was my favorite class. After a boring half hour break, I was in my least favorite class SOLELab. The teacher, Jenn Cassey herself, gave us the question"Is teleportation possible?" and played on her phone the rest of class while we chose the answer. What's worse she made us prove it with web evidence which felt like making a report. After another boring half hour break, I was in my mom's class, The Circulatory  System. It was between the first two. I liked the fact she brought a puzzle of the human body for us to put together and that she ran out of material so we could play at the end. I didn't like that she talked about the sounds of organs after the puzzle talk. After yet another boring break, I was in the civil war equipment. It was good. I learned about how to make bullets, what guns were used in the civil war, and how to fire civil war weapons and canons. After that it was time to go to dinner with the conference but I didn't go. I was behind on my study and needed to catch up. Mom didn't want me do but dad said my claim was valid so mom and dad brought me to the house. There I worked on everything, with only Ryan in the house until I was completely up-to-date. Then, feeling that I needed a break played Worms until bedtime. At bedtime I went to bed.
Day4: I woke up to mom this time. Ate breakfast, played Worms then left for the conference. There, I soon entered with mom the rubber band helicopter class. Although the name sounds great it was horrid. I failed to make it fly until rubber bands broke and even then it only hovered. I don't want to talk about it. The next half hour break I had brought excell so I could get ahead on my math. Problem, I  got so entrenched in it that I forgot to do the class until partway through it. At that point I thought it would just be an interruption to join. After a lot of excell I entered the next class, Money Money. It was okay. We talked about how we gain, how to gain, and why you want to gain money. The final class, of the day was about the causes and consequences of the battle of Lexington and Concord. It was interesting. He talked to us about how they fought three small battles that kicked off the war. It was intriguing. Then  everyone had dinner at the house. It was quite fun. I was playing game after game and going upstairs for food anytime. I even went to bed at the quite late time of midnight.

Day:5
I woke up to mom a second time. Ate breakfast. Played a lot more Worms because the first two classes were not there on account of it being the last day of classes. When it eventually was time to go, we drove there with me hoping to catch up on Ten Fabulous Facts. When we got there I was in the Electricity and Magnetism class. It was the class that I got the most from. I got a ballon(which I lost.) and six very powerful magnets. He also sent an electric current through us by having us hold hands with two people touching an electricity making machine that sent a few volts through us. He also had us rub balloons against our heads to gain static charge. During the next break I got some fabulous facts completed before I, just in time, got into mom's Chocolate Tasting class. It was second best because basically I was just tasting chocolate and remarking about in to my neighbor. When we got home it was group dinner at the house again but it was less fun. Everyone played a game in which you close your eyes practically the entire time. It was more fun to watch so there was that problem. So of course I suggest we play the latest version of murder but some girl who came with a new adult guest gets in my way. Eventually after a lot of arguing we decide to flip a coin. I find a penny on the floor and suggest we use it agreeing that murder is heads and the other game called werwolf in tails. She accepts and tosses it on the wood floor. It lands on the carpet as heads. She says it needs to be thrown again because it needs to land on the wood floor. Before she can do so another boy tosses the coin on the wood floor and it was heads. She says that one doesn't count either because she didn't throw it. She tosses again it and it was tails on the wood floor. She says we should now play werwolf. I say "it landed on heads first so play murderer. Then her dad flips the coin into his own hand and it was tails. She again says lets play werwolf but I say it landed on heads first. So we go downstairs to argue. She says it landed on the carpet then he then he tossed it not me so we play werwolf. I say it doesn't matter if you wanted to toss it he did and it was heads. She went upstairs then and cried into her dad. For the rest of my awake hours that day I played Worms. After them I went to bed.

Day6:
I awoke to mom. Went downstairs for breakfast. For the first part of the day, I played Worms and got done fabulous facts. Then I went to the Farewell Brunch. Which was the last ATLOSCon meeting in 2015. I had a good time tearing up styrofoam cups to make ugly towers that did nothing to win favor. I also liked asking odd questions that I did not expect anyone to answer. I remember trying to get mom and dad to go the house by tugging them. I moved mom but not dad and not mom when she was protected by dad. Are orders took awhile so that is why I was so eager to leave. Back at the house I completed my fabulous facts moving on to play till bed and sleep.

Day7:
I woke up late wanting to keep falling asleep. When I did come around I ate breakfast and went upstairs. I was very far behind in my reeding journal so that day, that last non flight day of our stay was the day to get it done. So until lunch I listened to the audio book, The Sword of Shannara and wrote about it on pieces of paper I found(There was no hole puncher or holed paper or room in my reading journal.). At lunch every person in the Casey family and me and mom went to a nearby restaurant and I got a cheese hamburger, on the menu cheese, for me. Then I started quoting  Enders Game until Ryan started to express that he disliked me proving my knowledge about Enders Game because I was going over twenty seconds sometimes.When we got home Jenn suggested that we take a small fitness test. I made mom and dad look silly. Then I got back to work and wasn't seen until around seven when  I came out to play for the rest of the evening. I played a card game with Morgan. Then a twister competition. Sean tried but he collapsed when all his limbs were on red. Another game I had unbelievable luck. Sean told me at the start of a game to put one hand on red. My next turn was to put the same hand on green so I picked it up leaped across the board and placed it on green. Soon after Morgan's dad yelled that in was bedtime and we soon obeyed.

Day8:
Mom leaped on me to wake me. Then we went to the airport. We had a three hour layover during which I had my first lava cake. Then we went to Denver with unusual turbulence. Left for San Jose and we are about to land on that flight.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chocolate Glee!

With a Friday that was FULL starting with an IEP meeting at the junior high (all promising discussions), clarinet lessons (we did a spunky polka duet), and much more, I thought  I was going to have a sleepy evening until this arrived in my inbox: 


Please join us to welcome Claudio Corallo back from Africa to Palo Alto in celebration with music, chocolate & wine on Friday, May 8th from 6:00PM-9:00PM.
 
Dear friends and chocolate lovers. 
 
We're very excited for Claudio's return from Africa and we invite you to our chocolate boutique where we will listen to Palo Alto's string quartet (live), drink fine wine, taste the most original chocolate in world and of course celebrate Claudio's return from our plantation in  São Tomé e Príncipe
  
Even more exciting, is the oportunity we will have to celebrate together the National Geographic's twenty four printed pages feature story on Claudio Corallo and our chocolate.

Do not miss this extraordinary event; join us for a chocolate-evening and discussion with one of the most innovative cacao growers and perfectionist chocolate makers in the world!

We look forward to seeing you there to help give Claudio a warm back to California welcome!

I just could not miss it!!!!!  He’s my favorite chocolate guru as many will recall: http://theplayfulspiritrachel.blogspot.com/2013/09/chocolate-bliss.html

Panos and Robbin run the store and are already good friends

The lady behind the quartet is his daughter who lives in Lisbon and was a great translator.

I basically hung out close by all evening long occasionally sampling chocolate (I know all his products) and more voraciously listening to every word he said.  I found out how he recommends eating the 100% chocolate, three samples at a time!  I learned that his heart is still in the Congo where he’d love to return.  I loved his comparison of his chocolate making methods to those of olive oil makers in Florence (where he’s from).  The idea is to create the highest quality plant and then minimally process the result so that all those flavors come through.  This guy is really the master!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Upper Deck Retreat

I have gradually fallen in love with our upper deck.  It's a small spot, perhaps 8 x 8 feet.  For the first year or so, we hardly used it all all.  Then I gave up planting anything outside of containers because no matter how "deer resistant" it was, the deer ate it.  So, the upper deck became my spot for planting container roses and then a gardenia, hydrangea, and finally this spring's herb garden. 


I tend to hang out there in the morning or afternoon when I can have partial sun and the stunning views up into the redwoods.  I also bring out morning tea and reading / work to do.

Tracker approves of the full sun
This is actually the large, lower deck, but I do this much more often higher up...
... so I can see up into the tree tops.


 And, now that the summer heat has begun, my first roses are blooming too so that there are colors and fragrances in this small spot.  It's a wonderful place to enjoy a few minutes of peace and beauty.





Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cousin Love

This morning Cameron's seven-year-old cousin headed home to Connecticut.  It was just such a delight to see them play together and thoroughly enjoy each other's uniqueness.  So, I'm sharing a bunch of pictures.  They make me smile and feel warm fuzzies :)

Goofing off in the back seat
Enjoying Teriyaki... she doesn't share Cameron's love of sushi

Helping in the tried-and-true game of Squash Cameron
Sea cliff exploring together
Chair snuggles 
A park visit with Andrew and me while Cameron was at school
Couch snuggles
True companionship

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tracker's Bend in the Road!

We started raising Tracker for Guide Dogs for the Blind when he was seven months old.  I hadn't raised a guide dog puppy since high school, but it was a fun experience and a great way for us to try out having a dog for our family.  When he went back for training, I was a properly teary mess.

Right before I crossed the bridge to bring him back for training.
But, then I started getting excited.  He was advancing through the training!  I could see what phase he was in each week!  It was really exciting!  I couldn't wait to attend the graduation and see him succeed! He got to phase 7 out of 8 and I was expecting a call from the guide dog club leader any day to let me know he'd been matched with a blind person.   I got a different call from the club leader.  She said that he'd been dropped!  

This is my summary of what she told me that I shared at the time with friends/family:

Tracker Update :(
I just got off the phone with the club leader and found out they dropped Tracker from the guide dog program!  He’s always been very lick-y (which isn’t a problem, they just match lick-y dogs with people who like it).  Apparently, once he nibbled a little when very excited.  No big deal and certainly something they can train.  Last week he was licking upward when the instructor was putting on the harness and his tooth caught her lip.  They say is was clearly an accident and part of the licking, but it’s now a liability issue for the school.  If anything happens in the future, it’s considered as potential evidence of having a history and the organization can’t graduate a guide that opens them to liability claims.  Apparently the instructor is newer and was also devastated because he’s such a great learner and guide and she was looking forward to his graduation too.  So, we’ve been processing for the last hour.  Andrew and I have been chatting about the possibility of accepting him back and how that would work for our family or, the other option, encouraging the school to place him with a different program.  We’re both feeling stunned.  I’m going to take a day to think and a night to sleep on it at least.  Andrew is leaving it up to me, Tracker would be my dog and my responsibility.    Wow, I was expecting I’d write next to say that he was in phase 8/8.  As of yesterday, he was in phase 7, almost a fully trained guide dog!  He would be a perfect dog to help Cameron with everything therapy dogs can do… I’m leaning toward becoming a pet owner, but I do want to be cautious about rapidly making a ten year commitment; it’s time to do some thinking.  Definitely feeling topsy turvy :)

This was the official dog drop notice that the leader forwarded to me:

DOG: 5J35 - Tracker M\LGX\Yellow - TRN\REL  DOB:5/26/2013
SUMMARY: Tracker is a tall, yellow Labrador Golden Cross. He was an eager learner, but could become overly stimulated in challenging areas or when learning novel concepts. Therefore, he benefited from a relaxed, casual teaching environment with an emphasis on positive reinforcement.  He was able to progress through all the phases of training and was an attentive, willing worker.
Tracker tends to have low body awareness, especially in moments of excitement. He also has oral tendencies and enjoys showing affection by licking, however in moments of excitement this can result in his teeth briefly making contact with his handler. It is important to note that Tracker is good-natured and has shown improved self-control with maturity and clear boundaries; however he demonstrated this inappropriate contact on multiple occasions, especially with new handlers. This behavior is the ultimate reason for his release from the program.
It is recommended the above information is considered when making a decision about Tracker’s placement. He has an affectionate, playful side and enjoys lying on his back to get belly scratches.  While in formal training, Tracker was placed in Commuter Foster Care with a couple who had two other pet dogs. Tracker did exceptionally well at their home; he was responsive to all verbal commands and had no incidents of inappropriate mouthing behavior. A similar “forever home” that provides clear but fair rules and can enjoy his spunky, playful side would be an ideal match. It should also be stated that while vocal in the kennel environment, he had nice house behavior and settled well on tie down in the Training Office. 
Tracker is healthy and is only on preventative medications for fleas and heartworm. He is eating 4 cups total of Natural Balance Lamb and Rice (split-feed).


Here he is getting in the car as I picked him up from the school.

We decided to take him back and I delved into doing research about autism service dogs.  I also spoke with a school that trains them.  The director was clear that I can privately train Tracker as a service dog and he'll have all the legal protections of any service animal.  Most of the work in training a service animal is the raising and socializing.  There are a handful of specific commands that I can teach, but the autism service dog’s job is to be perfectly behaved in public and to offer a few tricks as conversation ice breakers and some deep pressure (head on lap) when the kid needs it.  I need to teach Tracker several of those specialized commands to help my son and then teach my son how to be a dog handler (likely the longer step).  So, now I have a service dog in training jacket and I can privately make him an autism service dog for my kiddo!  It was definitely a time of feeling topsy turvy for for awhile, but now we're getting used to it and... Tracker is definitely feeling at home :)



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gluten-Free Baking... Rediscovering a Hobby

I've taken a huge break from my baking passion since I found gluten was a trigger for more migraines for me.  Recently though, I've been tinkering with baking again and having success!  I've had plenty of flops too, so I wanted to share the two resources for gluten-free baking that have had the same feeling of warm, cozy goodness as wheat-flour-based baking.  I most wanted a gluten-free biscotti and googled my options and... had three flops in a row!  Not to be discouraged, I tried a fourth and it was a success!

I substituted almond extract and added sliced almonds, bits of dark chocolate, and diced, crystalized ginger.  Yum! I've also tried cinnamon rolls from her website which were yummy.  Brittany Angel has a lot of free content, but I would have purchased a subscription if not for my new bible of gluten free baking!

I've enjoyed America's Test Kitchen in the past, but their cookbook on gluten-free baking is spectacular!  I have made successful: flaky biscuits, coffee cake, pumpkin bread, lemon pound cake, blueberry muffins, ginger molasses cake, and oatmeal raisin cookies!  Some of them have disappeared so quickly that I haven't had a chance to get pictures, but here are two:



So, those are two resources that I have found really helpful in rediscovering this hobby that used to give me such pleasure.  Back to the aromas of fresh baking pampering our household each week... tonight, fluffy dinner rolls to match the chicken pot pie that's our new favorite!