26 August, 2011

I'm the "Mom Next Door"

Did I mention that my family is featured in Dandelion magazine's Back-to-School issue? It was a fun photo shoot (all photos are by Sara Atkins, who worked so well with my kids..thank you!) Clearly we are big dorks, but Dandelion is a great resource for Bay Area special needs families, I hope you'll check the magazine out

"One of the hardest parts of having a special needs child can be the loneliness and isolation,"
says Jennifer Byde Myers. "If you can't find the community you need, build it."

"I can't live without... my husband. It might sound cliché, but we really are a great team. And though I'd like to think I can get by without it, a good wi-fi connection and my smart phone make life much easier."

If you told me 10 years ago where I am today, I'd be surprised that... I drove a mini-van. Really? A beige mini-van? With beige interior?

The article says that The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism book is out, but it's not quite there yet, just a couple more months....

22 August, 2011

Things I Learned This Summer

It's been a great summer. We didn't cross the country, but we did some fun things, and our kids are happy. It's also been a hard summer for me. I worked more, and had less childcare, and no or less school for the kids. I had several trips that I went on solo, which were each amazing, but also required monumental amounts of childcare coordination and scheduling.

Here's what I learned on my summer vacation:
  • All camps should have drive-through drop-off and pick-up. Letting the baby sleep, keeping the special needs kid buckled-in safely, or the dog comfortably stay in the car is so wonderful. I am ever-thankful to the camps that made things easier for parents this summer. It specifically made my life less complicated.
  • We need to figure out a way for there to be childcare for special needs children. Really. What happens to all of those aids when school lets out? What happens to those aids after 1pm every afternoon. Finding childcare for a special needs kid is always hard, somehow during the summer it is a lot harder. Maybe we could private pay our schools to have after school care like every other typical kid has? Where is the after-school care for special needs children?
  • Camp for my son is one of the most awesome experiences we have as a family. He gets time in the woods with people who focus on him. We know he's safe so we can relax and leave the doors unlocked for a few days. If you have a camp in your area that offers care for special needs kids.. make a donation to them today. They are life savers for the parents, and the learning the children and adults do at those camps is life-changing. 
  • Air conditioning is not a luxury for our family. If things get "more than regular" difficult and I am hot, I cannot function. The first things I do is turn on the air conditioning when I am going to need to deal with something hard in our house or car.
  • My children love the outdoors. I've always known this, but it is amazing how happy they are when we are in a National or State park. It's like they might actually be 'getting' the lessons we are teaching them about the beauty of this country, and the amazing natural resources we have right here in our own state that no one else in the world has. 
  • From our house, it's possible to drive to Yosemite for dinner, and we will be doing that at least once every summer. It is ridiculous not to. If you live that close to a National Park, please go, or send a donation in to keep it well-staffed and full of rangers who answer every single question my daughter can squeeze in.
  • It's also possible to get to Muir Woods before lunch; even with a gaggle of children. We will be doing this more often as well. A lot of it is wheelchair accessible.
  • I get teary-eyed every time I'm in a National Park. I am just that sappy.
  • In-n-Out Burger can provide the right nutrition and fun for my family, and as long as we don't do it all the time, it is not only okay, it is a happy, inexpensive treat that makes everyone relaxed. And if you go to In-n-Out  and then stop by my house, assume one of my children will steal your milkshake. They don't care if you have a cold.
  • I need to put in automatic sprinklers in the front yard. I cannot actually water that many square feet every single day by hand. It looks like my front yard is a chapter out of The Grapes of Wrath, and the crops from our garden this summer are about as good as a 1937 Texas panhandle farm. 
  • My son has a lot to say if we are willing to wait patiently for him to answer the questions we ask him. Once again, he is teaching me that I have a lot to learn about listening and not assuming.
  • Home-brewed beer is awesome, not that hard to make, and something my husband and I can do together that does not involve leaving the house or watching television.
  • I miss my family when I don't see them, and even though I make them crazy, I think they might miss me too. As much as I love living in the Bay Area, it has been a summer with no visits to my family in the O.C. 
  • Buying school supplies for my
  • kindergartner was unexpectedly one of the most exciting and heartbreaking things I've done lately; there are no more babies in my house. 
  • Always buy more sunblock than you think you will need. Now that we have taught children that they must wear sunblock, it is very hard to get them out of the house/car without it.
  • I live in such a great, warm, activity-filled city, and we love going to all of the music in the park concerts. We have also discovered another version of a perfect summer Saturday in our town: farmer's market with friends, beer garten with those friends, and more friends, splashing and running around the downtown square fountains, then home for a family nap.
  • and, of course, I figured out that my children will get older no matter how hard I hug them. I knew we were all going to grow up someday, I just didn't see it coming for a few more years.
I hope you had a wonderful summer. We had our first day of kindergarten this morning: 

12 August, 2011

Home Again

I went to BlogHer11 last week. I road-tripped with one of my bestest friends AND her mom AND her girls, and managed to be packed and ready to go at 5am. We slid past the San Luis reservoir at daybreak, and in record time were able to gobble delicious Mexican food in Southern California. I even managed to sneak a quick visit in with my Dad over those delicious enchiladas. Another couple of hours, and  I got to meet the cool group of people at Oceanhouse media. If you don't have any of their apps go check them out. Road tripping with someone who has a plan is an awesome thing. We were efficient, on time, and uhm, she drove the whole way to our destination. My stay in San Diego/La Jolla was lovely of course. Our hostess has created a welcoming, easy-to-slip-into type of place--she even has homemade jam; it is a tough place to leave (and I thank you again for having us.)

I had the best bunk mate ever. We talked, and talked, and talked, and then she told me a story about the axle on her car? Maybe, and I fell asleep. Sorry I'm so rude. Sorry I "snore lightly." But mostly I'm really sorry that we don't live closer, because She made me laugh so hard that other people couldn't even type. That tweet by Liz Ditz above should say "laughed so hard she couldn't talk for 5 minutes", but it's also likely that SJ could make me laugh hard enough to get knifed five times too. It's not often I get to have that many uninterrupted conversations with someone so smart and sassy who also has such a depth of character.  She even convinced me to do a little cooking demonstration thing with Knorr with Marco Pierre White. It was fun, Chef White was very gracious, and I got some cool free samples of Knorr stock and a signed book, and an apron which I actually really needed. And Chef White did not shame me when I basically needed a half cup more of parmesean on my risotto. I really love risotto, especially with parm and asparagus, and cooking with friends is one of my favorite things.

I danced at the evening parties. I even fell on the dance floor like I did at that wedding when my brother threw me across the wood in a reckless Tango move.. but this time I was the designated driver, so it had more to do with my tiny heels and my amazing dance partner Jen Lee Reeves, of BornJustRight. Who also made me laugh quite a bit, now that I think about it.

And of course there was that great Special Needs mini-con on Friday. I was honored to help the unstoppable Julia Roberts (not that one) from SupportforSpecialNeeds.com. I didn't do much, but she did a fantastic job setting everything up, and the 80 or so people that came were some of the vibrant, deep-thought, hilarious bloggers I know online. The speakers on the panel were Shannon Rosa, Auriela Cotta and Robert Rummel-Hudson. I think I can call Robert Rummel-Hudson a friend now, and not just because I brought him little tiny ice cream bars at one of the breaks, but because we share the same passion for wanting to come together as a group, united as parents of special needs kids, in our desire for positive change, and take on those completely uncomplicated things like health care and insurance reform.

BlogHer is one of those magic places that helps blur the lines between IRL (in real life) and online  friends, and that's a good thing, because as we get more wired in, with Google+ and Twitter and Facebook, it's hard to say I'm not "close" with someone just because I can't meet them at our Thursday morning coffee. As I sat next to Laura Shumaker at the mini-con, and later at dinner, I realized how lucky I am that I can probably hang out with her as much as our schedules allow (and we are totally going to do that as soon as my children get their buns back in school), but with BlogHer, and the whole interwebs thing, parents of special needs kids don't have to feel so isolated anymore, and anyone can hear all of the wise things Laura has to say just by visiting a website.

Things might get sort of tough sometimes, but we can find each other in the middle of the night online. On those late nights when we think that we are the only person with a ten year old who is wandering the house checking for ways to get outside, it's nice to know I have friends on another coast who can offer advice or support. We never would have had the opportunity to help each other 20 years ago, and two years ago we didn't even have a mini-conference. Talking with Ellen, from Love That Max and Shannon, of course, I know we can build on Julia's good work this year and create an entire day..let's expand that mini-con, I think we have a lot more to say, and even more to do.
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