Category Archives: Living on the Spectrum

Christmas Came Early.

Christmas came early for me this year.  It is always a thrill when I receive an email from the editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul that states an essay I’ve written and submitted  will be included in a new book.

My essay, called Community Spirit,  is very special as it involves my son, Nick Baker. Nick’s love of music, especially Christmas tunes, gave impetus to the tale of how we’ve come to attend a Seattle area event, Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, as the annual launch of our holidays each year. This year we celebrate twenty years of attendance.

The folks at the Pike Market Senior Center, the beneficiary of funds raised at the Caroling Competition,  share my enthusiasm. I have been invited to sign copies of this Christmas volume and proceeds on sales of the book will be added to their coffers that evening.

My essay is one of 101 and each will bring joy to the hearts of readers.   I hope you all enjoy it too.

Christmas came early
Christmas came early
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Little Giant, Big Brain

I have been in deep weeds this summer helping my son Nick Baker finish up a book called “Turtle.” It is Nick’s story of being made fun of by kids in his grade school. Nick was so different from the rest of children at his grade school and 25 years ago he was truly a novelty on campus. Using using a long white cane to find his way earned him the nickname “Turtle”.  This is an illustrated book. Nick is both blind and on the Autism spectrum. He truly needed my eyes and editorial skills to help complete his book.

cover with text

Great news! The book is finished and is selling well. We have it uploaded to Amazon for sale as both print book and Kindle EBook. Local press has been kind to Nick. A recent feature on My Edmonds News TV garnered the attention of the local NBC affiliate, KING 5. They sent a reported and cameraman out and did an in-depth interview. The show was to air the next day.

 

My son set his alarm for 5:00 am, the stated beginning time for the King5 morning news broadcast. He promised to keep the volume low, knowing that Mom and Dad’ alarm would remain at the usual 7:00 am rising time.

 

True to his word, we didn’t hear a peep. By 7:00 am our bedroom TV set tuned into the King 5 morning show. Excitedly watching for the next part of the segment that featured Nick, I shouted; “He’s on now!” My husband was in the shower. Steam blew out from the bathroom as he leaped out, towel in hand, to get a look at our family celebrity.

We have ultra sensitive smoke detectors in our home. The weirdest things will get them going… like steam from a hot shower. Yes, they all went off. The units must all belong to the same “union”, when one goes off, they all follow suit and start emitting obnoxious beeps!

Instead of seeing my son on TV, we were running around swinging doors, turning on fans; doing whatever we perceived would make the noise cease and desist. Nick raced up the stairs to see what was happening. He started shouting “I’m going to call 9-1-1”…which of course was not the best idea. Our two dogs were affected by this shrill noise too.  They barked in tandem with Nick. Their voices added to the pleas for the pandemonium to cease.

 

I stopped dead in my tracks.  As calmly as possible given the uproar in our home, I reviewed with Nick the circumstances under which it was permissible to call 9-1-1. He agreed that he did not smell smoke, or feel any heat from a possible fire. Most importantly there were two other adults were present who had the skills to detect a possible fire or other emergency.  He did relent and hand over the phone. I was truly grateful that he doesn’t have a personal cell phone, or the next sound I’d likely hear would be our doorbell, rung by a local police officer.

A side note here… our name is probably on the “list” of 9-1-1 prank callers. We have had this happen more than once. On the off chance that Nick might still waiver, I took the upstairs base phone off the hook.

The fans and doors seem to increase the smoke detectors activity. Each time things calmed down and we’d breathe a sigh of relief…shrill squawks would again fill the air. Eventually the air cleared of the stimulus and silence prevailed. But wait, now a different beep was heard, the low battery signals. This extra activity had depleted the 9 volt back up battery in two of the units.

This was an easy fix. The ladder and some fresh batteries were all I needed. The situation seemed well in hand as my husband dashed out of the door and backed the car out of our garage.  I waved and silently prayed that he was able to catch the last bus downtown.

The ladder is called Little Giant, but a Big Brain is required to set it up. If that brain belongs to engineering major who’s of a brawny build, so much the better! I wrestled the Little Giant® MegaLite™ Aluminum Ladder out of its storage spot and into the house. “Lite” in the name surely doesn’t mean the physical weight of the ladder.

The brochure (which was nowhere to be found at that moment) says how versatile and easy it is to use. One can configure it to just about any position, like reaching the Smoke Detector mounted on an 18 foot high ceiling in my dining room.  I set up the ladder in the usual A-frame position. I use this ladder about twice a year, so the mechanism to change positions is a little dicey.  I simply could not get it into position to reach that unit located on the 18 foot ceiling.

All the while the random beeps from the low battery continue to drive us crazy. I’d yet to have a cup of coffee, the dogs had not been fed and the show’s last segment is now over. My son, who also hasn’t breakfasted either, heads upstairs. He announces, in case my ears were no longer working, that the smoke detector needs a new battery.

This was the exact moment I’d opened the drawer where our batteries are kept. A crunching sound from a crinkled, empty package, which once held 9 volt Duracell batteries, greeted my ears.

I was on the internet in a flash, Googling: “Handy Man” in Edmonds, WA.  Twenty five minutes later my knight in shining armor, actually clad in jeans and a sweatshirt, arrived to silence the squawks for good.  In no time he had properly aligned the settings and mounted the Little Giant ladder, now stretched to its full height. The joy of not hearing the beeps was short-lived.

My knight on the shining ladder determined that the unit doesn’t just need a battery, it needs to new, as in be replaced with a new unit. The expiration date on this particular one is 2011…oops!

I mentally schedule a stop at the local Home Depot into my rounds for the day. My list included 9 volt batteries.

Much later, I sat down to write this post. I marveled at how our happy high; seeing Nick as the star of the segment on TV this morning, crashed into the reality of daily living on the spectrum.

Just when I thought it was safe to get back in the water…

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Not the “good” towels!

“No way!”

I leveled what I hoped was a stern enough look at my husband to convey the seriousness of my message.

“What?” he looked genuinely puzzled as he stopped in his tracks.

“No way… are you going to use my brand new pale yellow tea towel to scrub the windows on the deck outside. That is WHAT!”

My trip to Europe this past spring had presented me with many opportunities to support the various local economies I visited.  I’d made space in my already bulging suitcases for these lovely pale yellow linens, purchased in the gift shop at Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Holland. The design, crafted and woven in Holland, depicted cheeses created by the weave of the fine cotton fabric. Wiping down grime on the deck door outside windows would certainly to ruin that look with indelible stains.

I plead temporary insanity for actually putting the linens on the towel rack in the kitchen. I’d forgotten previous life lessons around males and their utter lack of understanding regarding the use of cleaning apparatus. The universe was providing me with yet another reminder.  This was after all, the same man who’d used the leaf blower to clean up construction mess during our flooring replacement project.

Guys just don’t get it!  It must be genetic. They all seem to have no clue that grabbing the first handy thing to do a grimy job is not the best choice.  They totally ignore the bins of “cleaning rags” that are placed strategically in the same cupboard with the cleaning solutions.

My brother used my brand new champagne gold bath towels to dry off his 1965 Ford Fairlane sedan. This vehicle had spent many years in the Arizona sun. The towel was forever stained with the oxidized teal colored paint that came off with every swipe of the drying towel.

My husband has made a career out of ruining his “good” clothes by refusing to change out of work attire when his attention is sucked into the vortex of a particular gross, nasty mess that demands his immediate attention. This same very manly male has been observed polishing the wood floors of our home by twirling about like a figure skater, in his stocking clad feet!

He claims the dogs do a lot of damage to his socks. In fact I’ve heard the phase “How did they get these anyway?” so frequently that it has become a family joke. The floor of his corner of our walk in closet is littered with discarded stockings. I know from his basketball playing days that if he chose, he’d make a perfect shot every time. Maybe a hoop needs to be installed above his hamper.  I purchase his Merino Wool socks in bulk 6-packs at Costco to counter this abuse.

A recent gag gift for my husband was a pair of Evriholder® Slipper Genie for Men. For the uninitiated these are open toe slippers with microfiber fingers on the bottoms that catch hair, dust and dirt; just walking around the house. He thought they were a hoot but I’ve only seen him use them the one time and they disappeared into his home office, never to be seen again. The good part is that he has ceased scrubbing the floors in his stocking feet.

I recently fished them out of his “junk box” from under the desk… I have them handy just in case the sock-skating starts up again!

Back to the towel issue, I recall reading a confession from a similar minded woman regarding protecting the guest towels in her powder room. In preparation for her bridge group’s arrival that next day, she had scoured that sink and spiffed up the area by hanging some of her cute hand towels. As a precaution against the unlikely event that one of her guys would utilize this particular facility, she’d pinned a note to the towels. It read “Don’t you dare touch these with your grubby dirty hands, Mom.” Of course you know she forgot to remove the note much to the amusement of the card playing gals. My friend still gets kidded about her guest towels!

I can’t use notes…my guys do NOT read them. Even on bright colored paper, placed strategically in the center of a completely empty counter top. I will still get inquiries, via phone that could be answered if they’d just read the note!

I do get my revenge. Every once in a while one of my husband’s favorite ratty old T-shirts is “lost in the wash”. After all some clean up jobs are just so ugly one has to throw away the rags when finished.

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Binoculars, Golf Clubs or PC’s?

What do Binoculars, Golf Clubs and PC computers have in common? Well they are all part of any given conversation with my Dad.

My sense of enjoyment for all things in nature, I got this from my father. A graduate of Oregon State, he spent several summers working as a fire watch; climbing up into the lookout towers of the forests near Corvallis. He definitely had plenty of time to hone his skills, identifying many birds not just by sight but by their calls. He graduated with a degree in Forestry and went back home to Indiana. He paused there just long enough to enlist in the US Air Force. He eventually wound up at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, AZ. He met my mother, married and his first child (me) was born before his obligation of service was finished. He packed us all into the car, even my Mom’s parakeet and we headed back to Indiana for a visit, but never left! His desire to work as a Forest Ranger was not as strong as his desire to be near his family of farmers with their roots planted deep in the Midwest.

His years of college education did not go to waste. Using an old telescope he’d purchased at some farm sale or possibly an “Antique Shop”…we’d crouch in the brush waiting to spot some of the avian life that populated our area. I soon learned the difference between a Hairy Woodpecker and the Downy variety…and many others in that family. I learned the calls of so many birds as we patiently waiting to see the feathered features, lured by their sweet greetings.

Eventually the old telescope was replaced with some decent binoculars, but the joy of spotting a rare bird or even old familiar friends each season, was always part of my relationship with my Dad.

Of course as I grew a bit older the thrill of spotting a Purple Martin was replaced by seeing the cute boy up the road that I’d hoped would ask me to dance. His house was within range of the scope as well…and a much more interesting view for an adolescent female.

As I reached college age, I used my father’s lack of participation in his chosen field to ridicule him. He’d been terribly disappointed that I had not accepted a work scholarship to the University of Arizona. I told him I had “no idea” what I wanted to do just yet and did not want to “waste the funds.” When he pressed me, I took the cheap shot. I reminded him that he had not exactly used the four years he’d spent at Oregon State to any great purpose. Unless he considered dragging his daughter out to sit and get eaten alive by mosquitoes, while watching for some weird birds he was chasing, as good use of his tuition money.

That did end the discussion and put a damper on our relations for a bit as well.

My father has been not the most communicative parent. I usually call him and our phone conversations revolve around my latest new bird sighting or how the weather is affecting his golf game, but mostly about computer issues. My siblings and I joke about the fact that to keep our father on the phone for more than a few minutes, we have to talk on a subject related to computer programs! If we call with a real problem to be solved, Dad will spend hours; tirelessly searching the Microsoft pages and emails us with suggested solutions.

Dad’s growing passion for computing and all things related eclipsed his desire to watch birds. He quite literally began on the ground floor of his local bank’s launch of computerization. I remember seeing the first UNIVAC type computers at his bank. With two big drives on the top, looking like some sort of gigantic robot eyes, they were a bit daunting!

Dad was so proud when he took all of us downtown to the main bank to see these marvels in person. The units were so large, that only one section at a time could be brought up to the Data Processing floor in the elevator. They were all behind glass, in a special air-conditioned room too. Only the key punch station and a small monitor were out in the main area. This was in 1964 and was only the beginning of a romance with hardware and software that lasted the rest of his working career and on into his retirement years.

 

A small local bank was where he wound up working when he decided to stay put and live close to the place he’d been born. Eventually a move to a larger bank, in a bigger town, enabled Dad to attend the NCR computer school in nearby Dayton, Ohio. He had a clear aptitude. Dad’s enthusiasm for learning kept him alert enough to make the drive back home in one piece too. He did confess to hanging his head out the window of his VW Bug, using the cold night air to keep awake during the wee hours, after his training classes in the evenings.

I remember playing with Dad’s programming templates and drawing tools. I thought the plastic shapes were interesting. I would trace around the curlicues and odd shapes to create some truly unusual art that could rival some of Picasso’s work during his Cubism period. My dad seemed to prefer the water colors and oil paintings of his mother’s work. He suggested maybe I would benefits from study with her a bit during the summer.

While I did spend time painting with Grandma, one of my summers was spent at the 2nd National Bank of Richmond, Indiana doing keypunch work.

To earn some spending money and probably to keep me out of trouble too, my Dad arranged for me to do some data entry a few days a week. While my girlfriend donned a Dairy Delight T-shirt, slightly stained with cherry sundae mix, I got to dress up my nice Bobbie Brooks outfits and work at the bank. This air of sophistication gave me such a thrill I didn’t mind the monotony of typing names and addresses into the punch cards that would update the computer records of the banks’ customers.

Dad’s love of computers knows no boundaries! On a visit to my home in Arizona one winter I knew that he’d turned a corner, when instead of his golf bag, he’d brought his “Ozzie”!

Dad’s  first portable was the Osborne 1, which  featured a 5 inch (127 mm) 52-column display, two floppy-disk drives, a Z80 microprocessor, 64k of RAM, and could fit under an airplane seat. It could survive being accidentally dropped and included a bundled software package that included the CP/M operating system, the BASIC programming language, the WordStar word processing package, and the Super Calc spreadsheet program. He proceeded to share all of this with me and anyone else he could con into sitting by his side while he demonstrated this marvel.

Suddenly I was back in my childhood sitting with my dad, but at a desk, not on a tree stump. I heard a familiar humming sound, but it was from a machine not the little Ruby-throated birds or pesky insects circling in close to suckle my blood. My attention span stretched to the max as I struggled to keep up with all I was seeing and hearing.  The only thing missing was the itchy mosquito bites!

In my second pass at college I discovered Apple computer products!  My Dad and I were now on separate paths. He preferred PC computers that would allow him to tinker around with their code and programming… My Macintosh offered no such opportunity.

Conversations during this phase of our lives were shorter due to the limitations on subject matter outside the realm of DOS programming. Fortunately Windows replaced the PC operating systems. When I out grew my old Mac, it was replaced with a new IBM PC that ran Windows programs! Dad was back in the role of being my personal computer support person. On more than one occasion he did walk me through some tricky spots and get me back in business quickly.

Until recently I never appreciated just how much I retained from my early years “bird watching” with my dad. Moving to the Pacific Northwest has provided me with a veritable bird sanctuary right in my own back yard.

I am excited to call my Dad and regale him with my sighting of a Pileated woodpecker chipping away on the Alder tree outside my bedroom window. Our computer discussions now involve a discussion of whether or not he will install the latest Windows operating system on any of his computers. He has several machines and still enjoys tinkering around with them. But at the age of 85 he has other concerns. Like whether or not he will endure this new chemo therapy or just let nature run its course.

Happy Birthday Dad, I love you! And I hope we will have many more conversations. Any topic will be fine too…birds, golf, the weather or even the latest computer article you just read.

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And the winner is…..

“Who won the mail contest today?”…. this is a phone call from my Hubby, on his way home via the local transit bus, too anxious to wait to hear the news.

This is not about the big manila Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes envelopes that declare “You may have won $100,000!”  Our contest has evolved from a simple task of our son’s; bringing in the mail each day.

Our middle son still lives at home, due to his visual and mental disabilities. He is very helpful around the house and loves to have jobs to do as a member of our family. Skills that he is able to perform are incorporated into his daily routine. These give him a sense of purpose and worth as a capable person, even if he is not able to live independently.

Our blind son is amazing at sorting the laundry! He can easily identify his own T-shirts, socks and underwear from that of his dad or his brother. He is occasionally undone by the colorful bandanas that I wear around my forehead to collect sweat during workouts. They are the same shape, size and weight of cotton as his white men’s handkerchiefs.

Other daily help includes loading or unloading the dish washer, taking out the trash from each room to the big wheeled cart that goes to the curb each Tuesday morning at 7:00am. He knows which day of the month includes the recycling too. His favorite part of this particular task is “reminding” his father to take the containers out to the curb. I love that part too… as it takes me out of the wifely role of “nagging” my Hubby to do this step!

Autism sometimes presents a challenge to the individual, kind of like an itch to be scratched or an impulse that just cannot be ignored. Such is the case with our son. He cannot abide a change in routine or schedule. He is not happy when someone else performs one of his assigned jobs. Even though the intention is to be helpful, he may become agitated and seemingly ungrateful. When we have visitors or family members that stay at our home we are careful to let them know which jobs our son considers to be his domain, so that harmony is maintained.

As an exercise in improving his mobility skills we taught him the route to and from our mail box which is located across the street and down a few houses. This is a daily task and involves locating the box, unlocking it with a key and bringing all the mail back home. My Hubby decided to make this more exciting by creating a contest scenario. Each day our son brings in the mail and Hubby reads off the address labels on each of the envelopes. Jointly addressed items to not count for the total to “win” the day’s final tally; only individually addressed labels count. Also excluded are labels bearing the title of “occupant” “homeowner at this address” or “resident”. The contest does include packages including those from Fed X or UPS, in addition to ones delivered by the US Post.

I truly believe that Hubby gets quite the kick out of his game too. It has evolved to the point that phone calls are executed when either he is out of town or our son is on the road traveling to a music gig. Some days Hubby is so eager to see “who won” that he will meet our son at the door or even in the driveway, not willing to wait until he enters the house to tally up the count of recipients.

Hubby makes such a big fuss when he doesn’t win that now our son roots for him to get the highest number of pieces each day. For some reason many of the utility bills are addressed to me alone. I am also the major recipient of catalogs and all of my business mail comes to our home address, so I am frequently the winner, much to the disappointment of the guys in the family.

Grandma visited a few times and observed that her son (my Hubby) was not winning the mail contest very often. She vowed to send him more letters when she returned home, to help his numbers in the final mail count! She may have even enlisted some of the other family members. Hubby was delighted by birthday greetings from some of the distant relatives who were suddenly anxious to communicate with their nephew or cousin after all these years.

I secretly think his agreements with many of the phone solicitations for the Red Cross, Heart Association and various other funding raising type outreach; are seen as a way to pad his daily mail count.  We can never move from this house address! We have received enough “contribution gifts” of beautifully decorated address labels, in Hubby’s name of course, to last us for the rest of our lives.

Hubby has even subscribed to a few magazines recently! Who knew that men like to read the Ladies Home Journal? Hubby swears they have some great recipes. I think these new subscriptions are part of his “recipe “to ensure that he wins the mail contest as frequently as possible.

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Control “P”… for Pissed!

The usual “print operation command”, Control P has changed somehow on my computer. Maybe that last Microsoft update?  Just printing out more than a page is turning this aspiring writer, normally a mild mannered and patient computer user, into a whiny one, who spent hours researching online complaints on printer websites with no results. Now when I press the control key in conjunction with the P key… the only result is that I get pissed!

Mondays usually feel so optimistic, but then the rest of the week happens! Today felt as thought I was off to a great start. I went to my weekly EPIC Group Writers. This is always an inspirational event for me.  We do a timed writing exercise, based on a starter phrase to get our creative juices flowing.

After I left my writing group I felt inspired and focused; ready to begin a week full of great writing.  I took a look at the memoir Monday e-mail which further inspired me to write.  But shoot, I need to schedule an extra DART ride for Nick this week.  Oh yes, I also need to print out a paper invoice copy from Quick Books for his gig this afternoon.

Doing anything with Quick Books is an exercise in frustration these days.  Since the upgrade in 2013, the program has been more difficult to use than ever.  A simple task like finding and printing an invoice for customer turns it into a 15 minute exercise of opening, closing and backtracking through sections of files in the program.  Finally, I locate the correct invoice and push print.

Oh Crap!  I still have issues with the printing program on this computer. It has been a while since I have had the occasion to hit the control button and the P key! I actually avoid, when at all possible, the act of printing out a paper and ink copy of any document.  Trees are being saved… you understand, don’t you? Earth Day is just right around the corner. Emailing around the “PDFs” of a document is truly so much easier and certainly more economical too! Have you priced any printer ink cartridges lately? Wow, I should have bought stock in the company. They practically give away the printers, knowing that they will make back their money tenfold… on the ink!

Currently my computer system will only print one job time. After the first document group cycles through the system, I have choices to make before I can execute another print job.

If I look at the icon in my system tray, it tells me the printer is busy… printing out the job I just executed. Problem is that nothing is actually happening. Why is my computer telling me this giant lie? Clearly there are no pages showing up in the plastic tray beneath the printer. I have been told that computers use pure logic when processing information, so in theory a computer should not be able to tell a falsehood. Maybe I have discovered a new breed of processor! Tempting as it may be to announce this discovery to the World Wide Web… I must first print that invoice.

I pull up Task Manager, and find a line, called Job Status Windows Interface, which is process that I need to cancel.  If I do this step the printer will spring to life and spit out the pages of the job that’s been hanging in the La La Land of the print queue.  Sometimes after searching through the Task Manager, looking for the particular process to cancel and not spotting it quickly, I run out of patience!  It’s easier just to restart the dang computer.

At these times, I really regret my recent purchase of a case of extra large ink cartridges.  They are little, over packaged plastic units and cost almost as much as the printer did. I now have a box full of used and ready to recycle; black ink and individual colors of red, green and blue too. Every so often a pop-up window intrudes into my line of vision on the computer’s screen. It implores me to visit on the company’s website where I could of course purchase more ink cartridges, to return and recycle.

I originally purchased this unit because it was a “high volume ink printer” and more ecologically friendly than the other brands I’d been researching.  This printer has turned into a “high volume” stress inducing piece of equipment! Any savings on printer ink costs have been eclipsed by the increase in my wine purchases for consumption after each printing project is completed!

The manufacturer’s Customer Service has been no help at all.  In fact at one point they stated the problem exists because of a Microsoft update.  They suggested that the wrong print driver had been part of that upload last month. But it came from Microsoft and not from the manufacturer of the printer, so not their problem!  They had no a solution for how to remove this errant line of code which creates a logjam of printing tasks, waiting to be printed each time I turn on my computer.

When those ink cartridges are all used up… I will gleefully take this useless contraption to RE PC.  This facility is handy for recycling old computers and other obsolete electronic equipment.  I hope I can keep my sanity until I use up all of that ink!  It seems these cartridges will only fit this one printer! How wasteful to indulge in trashing the printer before I can recoup the investment in black ink. Maybe it is time to print a first draft of the 300 page novel.

Patience does not run in my family.  My youngest son recently visited and needed to print out copies of some forms he needed for a job application.  I was not here to observe his process but he seemed to figure out turning on and off the computer was a way to get his documents to print.  When I later looked at the printer icon, I started to laugh.  There were several documents waiting to be printed in the queue.  Apparently he did remember what I told him regarding the task manager step.

After struggling with this issue again today, I decided… it would be more satisfying to simply drive to the landfill and heave this printer into the abyss.  After I use up all of those black ink cartridges or maybe find my COSTCO receipt… they will take back almost anything!

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Stunning Surprise!

“Surprise” This chorus of cries came from folks who’d been crouching in the darkness, awaiting my arrival, for quite some time apparently.

I almost dropped the two bags of groceries on the floor, so great the shock of seeing many of my family members and friends jump out from behind the island in our kitchen.  It was three days before my actual birthday, so this was the last thing I expected when I opened the door that led from my garage into our home.

“Wow!” was all I could utter, as I fumbled with the cloth bags and tried to take stock of what I was seeing. I had not noticed that the shades were all closed on our front windows. Nor had I noticed any additional cars on the street. Hubby had asked them to park around the corner.

“Oh you guys! This is truly amazing! How long have you been here?”

I’d just returned from a long series of errands that evening and I was running late. Fifteen minutes earlier, I’d phoned Hubby to ask what he’d like for dinner, given that I was coming home much later than I’d anticipated  I was too tired to cook.

He assured me there was no need to stop. “We have plenty of leftovers that I can prepare. How soon will you be home? I will start warming up food, right now”.

I’d just returned from a three week trip to Brussels and was craving Mexican Food in a big way. I suggested “Fish tacos! There is still a lot of that Red snapper from last night.  I will stop and get some of the hard shells on my way home, Okay?”

“Oh no, no need to stop at all, I bought some tortillas last week when I made dinner for our son. Just come right on home and food will be ready when you get here. You must be starved.”

He sounded so sweet.  I should have known something was up.Hubby hates leftovers! Especially if it is is a repeat from the day before! How could I not have known?

Earlier that afternoon I missed another clue!  Hubby swept and mopped the floors… without my even suggesting! My 60th birthday was coming up the middle of the next week.  I’d mentioned splurging on The Maids ™ to come to do a bit of “deep cleaning” before the party I was planning for myself.  I was pleasantly surprised when he hopped up and said he wanted to try out our new Dyson sweeper on the upstairs rooms.

Usually it is we women who clean and tidy up before the maids arrive. Men are like… “Cool! Bring it on!”  They suffer no embarrassment what so ever at having total strangers see their dirt and clutter!

I was feeling a bit of jet lag and had flopped on the bed to cuddle with our dogs.  I savored a few horizontal minutes before heading out to drive our son to two different music gigs that afternoon.  I had shopping for some essentials planned at stores close to both of his gig locations. My efficiency truly exhausted rather than exhilarated me.   Saturday afternoon traffic in Seattle was amazingly smooth and a gift I gladly accepted in my efforts to get back home and horizontal once again.

Back to my shocking surprise; I kept marveling at how smoothly my hubby hid all of this from me. I truly had no clue!

When our son chuckled “Enjoy your little party” as he left the car at our last stop, I supposed he’d meant the party I was planning for the actual day of my 60th. He’d known I was shopping for food to be used for that event.  He’d been sworn to secrecy by my hubby…but his Aspergers syndrome got the better of him.  He just could not resist blurting out this secret. Hubby had mentioned several times during the previous weeks, that this was a “Surprise for Mom!” We are not going to tell her about this party, OK?”  Luckily I was still in a funk from flying across the pond and it didn’t penetrate the deep fog of my consciousness.

My hubby was so stealthy that he’d even made a trip to the local Good Will and purchased some inexpensive storage containers. He feared that I’d get suspicious if I noticed that some of my Tupperware® was missing in action. Yes, I am just a bit OCD about my plastic bowls, I admit it.  I’ve been known to hound my kids to get back those pale blue square containers I’ve packed with surplus from a family meal. They swear I have cards on file, like the library, to track them down.

A window of time while I was at the club the evening before the party was utilized by Hubby to prepare most of the party fare.  He even stored all this food in the spaciously empty fridge at our youngest son’s nearby home.  The youngest was also in charge of the cake. He picked a wonderfully decadent chocolate number from the Stone Cold Creamery which was stored in the freezer at his place.

As soon as my car backed out of the drive, they all swung into action. Some of my girl friends were part of the plot! Hubby has my old Droid phone. He had their phone numbers and three whole weeks while I was out of the country, to get all the plans in place.

He was a bit worried initially when he received my email note on the “Day at Home” birthday party I was planning for my 60th.  I knew I’d be spent from my travels. In addition I was facing another out of town gig the following weekend, with our musical performer son. The Southern tradition of having an “at home” day truly appealed for this big birthday celebration!

Distraction with plans for my own event aided Hubby’s execution of his stealthy soiree. He pulled off a “surprise” party that rivaled some of my best efforts!

In fact, for his mother’s 60th I had sent her an invitation to come to our home for an Art Party.  All of her girlfriends were in on the deception. We’d even managed to keep this off my father in law’s radar screen. The look of shock on her face when greeted with shouts of ” Happy Birthday” at our front door was absolutely priceless!  “I do not know what to say to you!” was all she could muster as she stood staring into our home. I was delighted that I’d managed to pull off this party.

Looking at the big grin on his face, I am sure my hubby felt a similar thrill as I swooned at the gathering in our kitchen.ChocCake

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¿Donde Esta El Bano?

A recent phenomenon I discovered on my  travels in Europe is the improved equipment in the lavatories. Europe is well advanced of the United States in handling the waste created in the public restrooms at places like the “aeroporte”. Relax folks…. I am speaking about the paper products and management of electricity and water, not the actual human products deposited there in!

We have seen the Dyson hand drying units in some of the forward thinking, progressive restrooms in the US. Let me assure you, the units across the pond have taken this concept to a whole new level.

Walking up to a sink in the women’s restroom of the Brussels airport, I found what looked like the joy stick on a plane! Not only could one elicit water flow from this appendage, but the dryer unit was part of this same device… right there in the basin. No more dripping across the counter and floor, to reach the paper towel dispenser, which is usually far,far away from the sink you have just used to wash your hands.

Of course there are no paper products in use in these uber-modern facilities.  Don’t panic ladies, they do not have Dyson dryers in the actual toilets… not yet anyway. There are still the paper dispensers that remind me of my grammar school days. The very small squares of paper will do the job, if one is patient enough to pull them out, ever so gently, one at a time, a serviceable amount can be collected.

The last innovation is somewhat of a surprise, literally! Because if one dawdles a bit too long, the automatic flush will turn the ordinary looking toilet into a bidet! This could be the newest Dyson test model that would eliminate the paper products in this area as well…who knew?

Such ingenuity some with a price tag of course! Most public restrooms, even those in the gas stations in Europe, require coins to be dispersed before entry is allowed. This requires some planning as the coin slots are only sized to accept a certain coin. So if the sign says; “, 20 Euros”, one must have a single, 20 Euro coin. The door will not open, no matter how desperate one may be… if you were to insert 2 of the “,10 Euro” coins into the slot!

Finding someone to resolve the issue is not likely either. Most of these lonely outpost potties are remarkably clean and hygienic, given the absence of any helpers aside from the guy at the counter in the snack shop.

He may refund your coins, if you are able to speak his language!

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Today is Pi Day

The Math Nerds get major points for this one. Not normally noted as a group that seeks out social interaction, they have come up with a tasty carrot to lure out the shy techies that normally are not so community oriented.

Tonight I am attending a Pi Party. I am in Brussels right now, so will indulge in dipping into my culinary recipe file and do a sweet tart and also a savory torte.  Will post the recipes’s link and a pictures guaranteed to induce copious saliva production!

Pi day is celebrated on March 14th… 3.14 get it?

Pi Day was first officially celebrated on a large scale in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Since then, Pi Day has been celebrated by millions of students and math-lovers. The holiday is celebrated on 14th March, since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits in the decimal form of pi.

If you’d like to learn how to celebrate pi in due fashion, read on and it will be as easy as pi.Do a pi mile run. Run 3.14 miles, which is just a tiny bit longer than a 5K.  This part is extremely beneficial if you have eaten too much of the above mentioned PIE party.

You can take this a step further by organizing a pi mile run with friends or colleagues.Lay down in pi formation and take a picture. If you’re bold, have two people standing up while holding up a third person who is laying sideways in between them. Make sure the lightest person is on top.

here is a link for recipe. Bon Appetite!

PCC ChocPearTorte

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Tine Thevenin Slept Here

I was ecstatic! I was going to host one of our main speakers at the State La Leche League conference, author Tine Thevenin.

Best known for her book “Family Bed”; Tine gave many a parent, especially the breastfeeding moms, “permission” in the form of well documented research, to sleep with their babies. I have always been grateful to be exposed to this concept early in my parenting. Our baby slept in our bed, happily nursing during the night. Everyone was well rested and content with the arrangement.

One of the most avant-garde concepts since the breastfeeding renaissance that started in the 1960’s, was the idea that it was OK and even advantageous, to have the infant sleep in the same bed as their parents. The subtitle to the book, “an age old concept in child rearing” spoke to the fact that most other cultures, outside the US, routinely had children sleeping with their parents.

My Dad and step-mom trekked from the humid Midwest to the desert. It was a multi-purpose trip. They’d yet to set eyes on our first child and my sister was being married that summer. They went from the “steamer pot, into the oven” since July in either part of the world was not pleasant.  Successive visits were planned during the winter when golf clubs replaced the Osborne portable computer in their luggage.

They admired the lovely nursery I’d created. I had restored some of my own baby furniture. My parents had invested in sturdy maple hardwood pieces.  The chest of drawers had survived not only three children’s use but had seen me through my single days before I was well off enough to purchase a bedroom set.

We had not advertised the fact that our nursery was only used at naptime to many folks outside my circle of La Leche League friends. I certainly didn’t greet my parents at the airport with the announcement that we used “Family Bed”. After a night or two my step- mom wryly commented “That is a great nursery you have set up there. Will the kid ever sleep in that bed?”

I had to admit that “No, to date he has not spent the night in there.” I launched into the Family Bed concept.  I explained why my husband and I had opted for “more sleep through family bonding at nighttime.” She chuckled; “We were so poor, that we didn’t have a crib. All the babies slept with Mom when we were little.” Several of the siblings shared a bed most of their years at home. A single bed was a luxury that they didn’t experience until they’d left home.

As the Area Conference Coordinator for our state La Leche League organization, I had a full plate. I’d given birth to my middle son, in January of that same year. I had foresight to enlist lots of support from our local membership to get organized events moving along. La Leche League has a tenant “Family First”, which means we all took time out to tend to our families as needed and others pitched in to take up the slack.

Operating an a limited budget but determined to pull together a meaningful program for all of the attendees,  our state La Leche League organization relied on assistance from local families to provide lodging for our guest speakers  and attending members, from out of town.  It was an honor and a much cherished memory, to have one of the Founding Mothers stay in one’s home.

This particular year, I was able to have Tine Thevenin as our special guest speaker at our Area Conference. My second child was only 4 months old. Swaddled in my “Rebozo style” cloth baby carrier, he was experiencing the life of the Mexican farmers’ children that inspired the wrap’s use.  Not yet crawling, he was content to be snuggled on my chest. He was toted along to planning meetings, previewing the conference facility, napping in between nursing, without a care.

Our conference went well. We had over 200 attendees, not counting the nursing babies and toddlers that accompanied their moms.  As the afternoon went on, Tine expressed the desire to return to our home for a nap. She was a bit jet lagged from her flight from Minnesota out to Phoenix.  A nap would get her refreshed before speaking at the evening banquet that was the finale of our conference that year.  I was still bustling around the facility and not ready to depart just yet. Being a Toyota owner herself, Tine was comfortable with driving my Tercel back to the house. Equipped with a map and good directions she set off.  I would catch a ride later with another mother who lived close to my home.

The directions worked perfectly but as she made the last turn indicated on the directions and arrived on our street the house number was not noted on the paper.  In the early 1980’s cell phones were a luxury item found in the limousines of the wealthy.  The only optional equipment in my bare bones Tercel was the infant seat.

As a stranger she did not want to disturb neighbors or possibly raise alarm, to ask which home belonged to Kathy. Calm and resourceful she pondered the situation. Looking up she spotted the automatic garage door opener. Slowly she cruised down the street, depressing the button repeatedly. She was at last rewarded by the friendly gesture of a garage door swinging up to welcome her into our garage.

After hearing her story later that evening I apologized profusely for forgetting the most important piece of information on the directions. She burst into laughter saying it was just another adventure in her life.  She then confessed that she’d had a very refreshing cold shower as her ingenuity with the garage opener had failed her in decoding one armed type shower control.

In spite of the minor challenges she appreciated our hospitality immensely. She truly disliked staying in hotels. She loved being able to get up and make a cup of tea, from my well stocked pantry. The porcelain tea cup transformed our home tea service to that of a luxury suite, in her estimation.

Thirty years later, I still treasure my personally autographed copy of Family Bed.

It keeps good company with my dog eared copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and a copy of Ashley Montague’s books; Touching: The Human Significance of The Skin and Growing Young.mexican rebozo

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