Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Something Wicked?





McKenna and I enjoyed one of the final LA performances of "Wicked" last night at the Pantages Theatre. What a treat! I'd heard some of the music and a lot of buzz about the production. It is nothing short of phenomenal--and, we had the extra-pleasure of listening to two of the original LA cast members: Eden Espinosa and Megan Hilty. The music and lyrics are magical, but these two young women prove that often there is nothing more electric than the human voice.


Am I gushing? Yes!


To say that McKenna was thrilled is an understatement. And, I was swept away for two hours into the Emerald City.


All this to say...


Could the artists and singers and writers and actors who are Christ-followers create something as powerful if they drew on the rich, colorful, chaotic, and sometimes dark cast of characters that roam throughout the Old and New Testaments? I mean...why not? These stories are engaging, full of danger, love, life, birth, death, battles between good and evil, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, lovers, they reveal eternal themes and are truly at the heart of many modern "successful" stories, plays, musicals, and movies.


Why not?


But, let's be clear: it would have to be quality. Quality means money. Money means (generally) involving Hollywood-types with no interest in spreading the gospel. Surely, though, there would be a way to infiltrate this world and have a hand at creating some of the culture we enjoy.


Am I dreaming? Yes!


However, I am persuaded by the words of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) herself:



I'm through accepting limits
'cuz someone says they're so
some things I cannot change
but till I try, I'll never know....


So, if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
"everyone deserves the chance to fly"
And If I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me:

Tell them how I
Am defying gravity
I'm flying high
defying gravity

Monday, December 22, 2008

Big Year

Amidst market crashes and housing bubbles one child had a very big year:

Wylie Barnes Harris.

From his summer camp experiences (culminating in the zipline), his triumphant audition for a speaking part in this year's class musical, to most recently--agreeing to ride the California Screamin' roller coaster on our annual vacation trip--2008 will be remembered as a one big reality tv show for Wylie loosely patterned after "Fear Factor".

Tim, McKenna, Campbell and I have been jaw-dropped. If you had bet us a couple years ago he would have accomplished the list above, none of us would have taken the bet.

So, what changed? What clicked? What continues to prompt a child with extreme sensitivities and challenges to grow past his fears? I wish we could test what it is...I wish we could bottle it and give it away to other people in fear.

Maybe, it's been those prayers at night: "make us brave".

Maybe, it's unconditional love.

Maybe, it's imagination.

Maybe, it's positive "modelling".

Maybe, it's just growing up.

Maybe, it's just the beginning of many more amazing years watching Wylie zigzag toward his potential.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Traditions

December is full of traditions.

The Harris kids walked Yucaipa Blvd with the Yucaipa Swim Team in the Yucaipa Christmas Parade for the 4th year in a row. It was chilly and grey for the 2nd year in a row. Since Wylie was awarded the Sportsmanship award earlier this year, he had the privilege of actually riding in the uncovered-covered wagon float. This is a privilege he has been waiting for a while.

Another tradition with the Harris Ranch is a periodic flooding of some portion of the houses we've owned. This year's flood is our downstair's bathroom wall and my office. In addition to drying out the wet stuff, the leak had been small enough and gone undetected long enough to birth the dreaded four letter word of flooding: m-o-l-d. So, the bath is now "quarantined" and the downstairs looks like something out of "E.T." after they discover him wandering around outside. As I blog, industrial fans and humidifiers create a blanket of white noise around my head. And, since this was finals week for CSUSB and University of Redlands and I was grading into the wee hours of the morning and I had stacks of papers and case studies all around my office floor the night the water finally broke...well, you can do the math.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

My CSU students were great about things. In fact, they presented me with a Christmas gift. I've never had a class (in all my years of teaching college students) give me a gift. A lone student here or there, but never the full cohort. What was particularly touching was the gift sack: they all signed it with very sweet words. And, they decorated it with econ-meaningful pictures and sayings.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la, la!

Anyone who was at Solid Ground a couple weeks ago when I spoke can appreciate the humor and irony of the current state of our home/my office. Life is particularly good; we are particularly blessed; Christmas is just around the corner; I've never been in love with God more than just now in this moment.

Glo-o-o-o-o-ria-in-excelsis-Deo!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Signs of the Season


Is it just me, or do you think this Christmas season is going to be a bit more Capra-esque than most in recent memory? I could swear that more of my neighbors have their lights up and got them up just after Thanksgiving. Is it because everyone feels it? This Christmas begs for more light than seasons past just to balance the darkness that has been fouling everyone's mood since September.




Daily experiences are more bittersweet it seems. Take today for example. Our friend, Kindra Crandell, gave birth to her second child--a son named Gideon. She and Steve and little Esther are so stoked! We all are rejoicing with them. There's the sweet!




This afternoon, however, a tractor-trailer pulled away from my neighbor's former home holding just want they wanted to take with them. They left so much behind. The house is a vacant shell--lifeless and cold without a family in it. And, it will be months before another family brings life and warmth back. There's the bitter.




My own children are making their lists and checking them twice. Our stockings are out and will soon be hung with care. But, Santa has to do more with less this year. We all know he can, but it's a subtle reminder that wealth--like beauty--can be fleeting. I suspect simple gifts will be exchanged at gatherings and we'll all be more grateful than usual for the gestures.




What I loved most about "It's a Wonderful Life" was the way the ordinary people made the miracle happen in the end. To be sure, Clarence earns his wings, but the miracle happens when the neighbors, friends, customers, and family members show up for George. When the realization overcomes him--when he truly understands that all is not lost, that there is still hope--his eyes dance with gratitude and joy. It is a priceless moment. What I am feeling, and imagining is that we all will have the chance to be a miracle for someone this Christmas. Showing up for someone could turn the bitter--sweet. Exchange hope for despair. Let's be brave and show up. (By the same token, if you feel more like George this year, maybe a miracle is just around the corner for you, too).




Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Great Race



This morning Wylie ran 4.5 miles.




That may not sound like a lot to many of you.




But, considering he's never run more than 1 mile, it's pretty impressive.




Wylie began talking about a Thanksgiving Day race two months ago. He conceived of the race as starting at City Hall in Yucaipa and ending "at the outskirts of town" at the Starbucks by the freeway. That way, I could have a cappucino at the end of our race. (His idea).




Now, I'm certain Wylie's vision included throngs of people lining Yucaipa Blvd from start to finish cheering us on, handing us cold water, waving banners of victory and shouting out encouragement. So, when we got out of the car at city hall and the cool air and damp gray clouds hung low in the sky and there was nobody lining the streets except a couple stray dogs and a homeless guy...well....anybody's excitement might have waned.




Thankfully, we had persuaded Papa Gene to run with us. So, the race began a little after 8 am this morning.




We had just made it to McDonald's when I hear Wylie mutter under his breath from behind me "Geez: this is harder than I thought".




We had just passed our turn off at 10 th street when I heard




"Mom! Papa Gene is going too fast!"




By the time we were abeam the highschool, Wylie was imploring us to walk because his legs were hurting.




Just past Sand Canyon, he had to take his hoodie off.




Once we got behind the blvd after it curves slightly south (we took the safer route right along the Crafton Hills), Wylie was hurting.




"Mom, can we please walk!"




I kept encouraging him and telling him he could do it. We were almost there.




Just about that time, my boss, Rick Gunn drove by and honked his horn. This lifted Wylie's spirits. Rick turned around and pulled up alongside us like a pace car. This inspired Wylie for a few more feet.




At the 3.15 mile mark I offered to Wylie:




"Look Wylie. We've ran over 3 miles and I didn't think it was going to be so far a distance, do you want Pastor Rick to drive you the rest of the way to Starbucks?"




and, this is the money-line of my Thanksgiving....




"But, Mom, that would be cheating".




We pressed on.




Up and down two muddy hills. Through the washed out dirt road to Overcrest Drive.




Finally, we're moving downhill the last mile. He can see the freeway traffic and he knows the finish line is near. He picks up steam. My dad keeps him running. I dart out ahead so I can snap a picture of them finishing the race.






We turned the corner onto Hampton Rd and Wylie was just about to stop running when he hears shouts from the Starbucks parking lot....it's Tim, McKenna, Rick and our buddy Nick Crain...


"You can do it, Wylie! Woo Hoo! Keep going buddy!"




And, Wylie gives it all he has to the parking lot.




Man! IT was awesome. I love that kid.




What a fantastic way to begin this day of gratitude and thanksgiving.




After some high-fives, Wylie went immediately to the truck and got in. He was spent.




I bought my dad a coffee.




We drove back up to get the car from the city hall parking lot and returned to where the race had begun.




Wylie says




"Next year, we can add a few more runners".






You in???




Saturday, November 22, 2008

Of Knights and Kings

A typical Saturday morning finds McKenna reading or drawing and the boys playing a variety of video games. Lately, with my teaching schedule, I have taken to sleeping in a bit on Saturdays because it is the only day I can!



Consider my joyful surprise when I get up, shower, come downstairs and discover the boys hanging out in the music room (formally the chaotic space--see twitter feed for pics--), belly-down, engaged in an exciting game of: chess.



Once upon a time, a neighbor "boy" (who is now a grown man), Bob Ferguson, taught my kids to play chess. We have played periodically since as a family, but not for a very long time. So, the boys must have been inspired by something or someone to move their strategic minds and abilities into the music room. As I walked over to the board, Campbell was schooling Wylie on the particulars of the Knight's moves and both were plotting their strategies.



This one moment was worth the hours of work last weekend to re-make that space into something liveable again! Who knows what they might trip into next....dominoes? Checkers? Cards? Or, maybe they'll transition over to the instruments and improvise a great jam session? There's art supplies and books in the music room as well. Tim and I always wanted the music room to be "the place" to hang out in our house. (As opposed to the tv room). Today, we got a little bit more of our dream to come true.



Check-mate!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Christmas List

Lists: love 'em or hate 'em!

I'm a lover of lists.

Wylie has inherited this trait from me.

My lists revolve around verbs.

Wylie's lists revolve around nouns.

Clipped to our fridge (on top of previous important lists) is the Wise-man's Christmas list. Last count it had 35 items and climbing. Wylie always goes for the big ask.

And, he's not completely unaware of the challenging times we all find ourselves in economically speaking. Just the other day he passed by my office and remarked casually:

"Mom, holiday shopping is easier at Wal Mart" (having just heard that tag line on a commercial).

Now, lest you conclude my boy is overly materialistic and not centered on the true meaning of the season, I want to let you know he has made many other lists.

Here's a highlight roll:

"Holiday Risk Game Championship: Who Wants to Play" (Kenna's the only one signed up so far)

"Goosebumps episodes I like the best"

"Coming Soon: Friday Night Family Movie Night starring....." (with a list of movies)

"Thanksgiving Day race sign-ups" (yes, you can join that one--meet at City Hall at 8am to run the race with Wylie and me and a ragtag band of brothers...)

And, on the verbal list side, Wylie's current topic of interest is "created by:" names. That is, he can tell you who has created every cartoon and show he watches. He can cross-reference those creators if they have multiple shows and he can often tell you when the show/cartoon began.

Fascinating!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quotable Wylie

Drive home conversation, Friday, November 14th:

Campbell: Mom, did you know President-Elect Obama's initials are "B. O." (giggle)

Me: yep

Wylie: Campbell! Don't mock him. He is going to be the President you know...


*********

Wylie: Mom, if I was on a reality show like Endurance or Total Drama Island, would you vote for me?

*********

Wylie: What's with this long division!? I wish pencils had never been invented...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Night Quiet

It's rare.

It's Sunday night, everyone is in bed (except me).

It's quiet (except for the soothing rhythm of the dishwasher).

I can still see and smell evidence of the activities of the afternoon and evening. Toys positioned on the ottoman mountain, papers fan across the sofa cushions, was that bacon earlier today?

It was cool enough outside and damp enough from the rain last night to have a fire. One cat still sits within range of the warm embers.

I have not been logging enough time on my own sofa lately. According to the media, most of the nation spends a good bit of time on the couch with the tv on. Not me. I'm an outlier. But, after this past six weeks I can honestly say: I love this spot!

It should not be so rare. I'm going to mark it in my calendar.

"November 16th: 9:30 pm Sit on Sofa Priority A (for you Franklin Covey types)"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wylie is True Blue

I was teaching tonight when this historic election was conceded. However, earlier in the day, Wylie (who has been very aware of all things political this election season) revealed the following:

"Mom, I'm really half red/half blue".

"What do you mean by that, Wylie"?

"Well, I like Obama and John McCain".

Little did he know that his statement was prophetic. We found out that red states turned half blue in sufficient numbers to elect Senator Obama.

What's wonderful?

In eight years, Wylie and Campbell will be able to vote for the next President.

In four years, McKenna will vote in her first Presidential Election.

What color will the country be?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Capital King: Update

In a follow-up to a previous post about State Capitals...you should know: Wylie is the Capital King at Calimesa Elementary 5th grade. This is something he takes pride in and his teachers enjoy as well.

The Capital King did not stick his hands in the pumpkin guts, however...

Tuesday, Wylie and Campbell's classes were working with pumpkins on a science/math project. This involved carving, etc. When I arrived on-scene, Wylie was supervising his partner's work. Encouraging him from behind. But, there was no way his hands were reaching inside that thing.

So, Asperger peculiarities serve well in some areas, and restrict experiences in others. It's the ZigZag way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Every Single Second

Did you know there is something happening every single second?

That was the profound thought coming from Wylie today on the way home from school.

Think about it.

There is.

The planet is so huge to us--so vast. And, yet, if you've looked into the night sky and seen the millions of stars and planets that hang around just our neck of the galaxy, you understand Earth is really just speck.

In spite of our relative size, it does boggle the mind of a 5th grader that there is something happening every single second of every single day somewhere on Earth....

You know what that means?

God is up to something....He hasn't given up on us yet.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

To Catch a Pirate

Our childrens ministry program at Solid Ground Christian Fellowship is called "Treasure Island". We don't feel compelled to do everything "true to theme", but it is fun for most kids to play pirates once in a while.

Last night, we had an early Halloween (Alternative) party for the 4th - 6th graders. It was "pirate-themed". So, both boys wanted to dress up a bit. I found an old vest I had made out of a gaberdine black and grey stripe that worked quite well over a "puffy" shirt on Campbell. He added a belt as a scabbard for his sword, put a bandana on and--voila!--Captain Jaques Sparrow was ready. Wylie....not one to over dress for any occasion...wanted a bandana. And a hook. Said hook was "hand crafted" by a nice pirate wench named "Ruby" (me) out of aluminum foil. He wore a hoody and held onto the hook under the sleeve. Perfection.

We're on our way in the car to Morgan's house--she's a 4th grader in our program--and she is very energetic and enthusiastic always. She was particularly excited about the party. Wylie says outloud:

"I wonder which pirate Morgan will like better"?

Diplomatically, I respond:

"I think she'll like both pirates".

Very quickly Wylie interjected:

"But, I have a hook"!

So, there you have it me hearties, when it comes to pirates...a hook trumps haute couture any day.

Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of fun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where is Radiator Springs?

In the deluge of political conversation, signs, headlines, culture, and spin my son Wylie absolutely nails the crux of most matters in an "off-the-record" conversation last night on the way home from swim.

We're headed down the Blvd., just past 7th and Wylie remarks (not for the fist time)

"I wish Yucaipa had more tall buildings".

"Why? What would go in the tall buildings" I ask innocently.

"More businesses and stores and stuff".

"But, we already have a lot of businesses and stores, right"?

"Besides, Mom, if we have more tall buildings, we'll be on the map. Only cities with lots of tall buildings get on the map. More people will come to visit us that way".

And, before I can continue the "managed vs. unfettered" growth dialogue, Wylie sums it all up with this zinger:

"Man, Yucaipa really is Radiator Springs"!

If you haven't seen the movie "Cars", this reference won't hold a lot of meaning for you. I'll recount the story...

A totally hip "new" race car named Lightening McQueen gets disoriented and lost in the middle of nowhere and finds himself crawling into a sleepy little town called Radiator Springs off of the main highway. On his way into town, he breaks a few laws and ends up behind bars and in need of some repairs. Not to mention, this little intersection of life is way off the radar and no one knows where Lightening is or what's happened to him.

For all its backwardness and lack, Radiator Springs really is a wonderful place where people matter and life is...simple. After Lightening gets to know the other cars there and experiences life outside the fast lane, he begins to see the place differently. His quest to get back to fame, fortune, big lights, bright cities is a bit derailed. In short, Lightening gets a chance to make a life "lane change". It's a really good story.

Intuitively, but certainly not intentionally, Wylie peers into the consciousness of the average voter on November 4th. The choices before Yucaipans (and many voters) is really about this one idea: where is Radiator Springs?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Building Trust

Another Sunday is finished.

Wylie loves Sunday more than anyone in our home I think.

He loves church.

He loves our pastor.

He loves our gaming station in the kids ministry area.

He loves God.

He helps set up.

He sings during the worship videos.

He really thinks about the content.

Today, we were learning about what it takes to follow God. The verse was Psalm 25:4 which roughly translated says: "Show me your path so I can walk with You, Lord". We had the kids pair up and walk through an obstacle course--one blindfolded the other leading. Wylie was first to see the value in this exercise. He said to me (before we got started on the actual course):

"This is supposed to build trust, isn't it"?

Most of the other kids were just into the fun of the deal.

Not Wylie; he enjoyed the experience but he saw straight away the meaning behind the maze.

Because Wylie's fears and anxieties are larger than most his faith is larger than most. This creates a most unique relationship between him and God. It's an adventure to watch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frankfort or Dover?

This month, the boys have been learning states' capitals like other 5th graders across the country. Campbell has been diligently studying 5 per day. We quiz each other periodically to prepare for the ultimate test on all 50. Campbell is a good student and he's doing great on the memorization. Every once in a while he blanks on the more obscure cities (Mt. Pelier anyone?--that would be Vermont).

Meanwhile, Wylie, kicks back in the big comfy chair with his feet up.

Why you ask?

Well, a couple years ago, geography and states' capitals were Wylie's CTI (courtesy of the Scrambed States of America). So, it's payback time now. I've written about this before in a couple different posts.

I must say, it is a bit satisfying for Wylie to "help" Campbell out on this one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thank You, City of Ember

Ladies and Gentlemen of ZigZagStraight:

We have a CTI (current topic of interest) change!

The new CTI is: "City of Ember".

When we watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua (or however you spell it!), Wylie saw the preview for the new movie based on the book. This was one of Ken and Tim's favorite stories two summers ago when the whole family was on a "read aloud" together kick. Wylie listened in for most of the story, too.

When he saw the preview he was immediately consumed by one burning passion: find the book to read again and see the movie.

This is a beautiful thing.

Tonight, Wylie Harris did not immediately turn on the tv after swim practice. Wylie Harris did not immediately turn on his DS to play Mario Bros. Wylie Harris picked up a book and read 20 pages unprompted with a gleam in his eye. I do believe it is the glimmer.... of ....ember....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pirates

Pirate sightings in October are not that rare; however, on the 9th of October, it's a little early in the season. But, I declare I drove home with two pirates fresh from their first rehearsal of "Pirates: The Musical". They are beaming--I mean terrifying--pirates both!

As I pulled up to the curb to pick them up from school, Mrs. Thatcher (the chorus teacher) came over to the door to look me in the eye and say " I love these two boys". Every mom understands how those words make your heart sing. When the boys were babies we had them dedicated at church and my prayer over them then was simple: God, please make them brave men with kind hearts. I pray this over them every night. So, it is especially wonderful to see evidence of their kind hearts shining through. They both have already had several opportunities to display their bravery. I am proud of their character and courage.

The musical will debut late May. Book your tickets early...it will be standing room only with no hope for stow-a-ways!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tenacious W.B.

Tenacity is defined as holding fast: persistant, stubborn, adheisve or sticky. Well, if that doesn't describe Wylie when he has an idea on his mind....I don't know what does!

I've written before--and all Asperger families know--about current topics of interest. How persistent they are, how mind-numbing they can become for the audience. Yet, I'm inclined to see the flip-side of that coin tonight.

Wylie's tenacity creates a focus with laser precision. When he is "dialed-in" on something, there is a determination, a plan, a strategy, a marketing campaign, a plan "a", "b" all the way to "z". Think Ralphie in A Christmas Story...it's all about that Red Ryder Air Rifle with the compass in the stock and the thing which tells time!

There is something in this ability to focus that I absolutely admire/covet. Yes, it's annoying! Yes, it can get on my last nerve! But, what good has come and what potential will come from this ability to hold fast?

In my opinion, our culture does not hold fast to anything anymore. We are addicted to quick-fixes, fiber optics, wireless networking, and instant gratification. Just about the time you figure out what might be worth holding fast to, there' something new/better/different that steals our ADD souls.

Much time has been scattered in my life because of lack of focus. Oh, to have Wylie's tenacity for a month, a quarter, a year! Nevermind, Dancing With the Stars is On....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Boring Part

First of all, as I write this post it is absolutely delightful outside: a drizzly gentle rain is falling and it is less than 70 degrees outside. Oh, Fall--I've missed you! Welcome back!

Wylie and I were riding around town earlier today doing some errands for church and shopping for our weekly groceries. He enjoys time with me on these solo assignments. And, he talks my ear off.

So, after we were all done at Von's and we had picked up his favorite lunch, I asked him a question.

me: "So, Wylie, how is school going overall for you"?

wylie: "Good. Well, except it's kind of boring".

me: "What is the boring part"?

wylie: "The writing with the pencil part".

Kind of glad Ms. Peterson wasn't there to hear that answer...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Cure

This afternoon McKenna and I dropped by Barnes and Noble as a treat for her recent accomplishments in swim. While I waited for her to make her selection, I browsed titles in fiction and non-fiction. One of the face-outs on the aisle featured Jenny McCarthy's book about her son, Evan, who has autism.

Jenny is an advocate and has formed a advocacy group aimed at curing or healing kids from autism. Much has been written about the effects of dietary cleansing and detoxing with success in many cases. From my casual glimpses it looks like this book is really about the pursuit of a universal cure for autism.

It may seem strange, but as the parent of an Asperger child--admittedly not a fully autistic one--I have never considered "curing" Wylie of his condition. Since he is a twin and Campbell is "normal", I've never considered that exposure from immunizations or other toxins contributed to Wylie's situation. Therefore, I've never pursued remedies for this. I've been aware of other families and their tireless pursuit of doctors and programs seeking to treat or prescribe or medicate to improve the quality of life of their children. All of this is rational behavior and worthwhile. We've just never taken that step.

I think it's because Wylie has been learning all along to cope with his issues and he has made progress in every area he struggles. Since he learns, and progresses, and grows and responds it just seems natural to allow him to continue doing all that he does with his teacher, his RSP teacher, his speech pathologist, his Occupational Therapists, etc.

So, reading Jenny's book today it made me wonder: what if there was a "cure"? Would I want Wylie to be cured?

It seems the answer should be automatic.

But, it's not for me.

I cannot imagine Wylie any other way than how he is. He is incredibly insightful, deep-thinking, funny, charming, good-natured, honest, kind, different, and engaging. Do his differences cause him suffering that could be avoided if he was cured? Probably. So, I guess if I was ultimately concerned with minimizing his suffering, I would opt to cure him. But, if the absence of suffering meant the absence of some of Wylie's most unique and special qualities, the cure might be more harmful than the disease.

Monday, September 29, 2008

God Bless Willy Wonka!

In the midst of all the bad economic news and puzzling prognosis for the financial sector, there is one silver-lining story I can share.

Wylie tried something new this weekend: a Wonka Bar.

Yes, that zany brainy chocolatier from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired my new-taste-averse son to actually try a bite of chocolate.

(Fade to black): [camera zooms in on the nose of a ten year old boy sniffing an unwrapped Wonka Bar like a mouse sniffs a new piece of old cheese]

WYLIE: It smells wierd, do you think I will like it? It's melting in my hand!

MOM: Go ahead and bite it, Wylie!

WYLIE: (biting a millimeter of chocolate off with mouse-like motions) Hmmm. Well! It's not half bad!


Cue the Oompa-Loompas!

God Bless Willy Wonka!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Round-Up

This week saw me getting back into the professorial groove at CSUSB. Feels good. I love teaching; meeting the students for the first time is always very invigorating. All told (with all the courses I will be teaching at CSU and U of R this fall), I will get to know 150 more souls. Love it. Each soul = a story.

Meanwhile, Wylie and Campbell are happy that Saturday is "a do nothing day" in Wylie's parlance. They all do quite well with our pace of life and our activities with Solid Ground, YST, and school. However, Wylie especially relishes the random Saturday where there is nothing scheduled.

I have to tell you: so do I.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quotable for Wednesday

Campbell explaining what a "binder" is to Wylie:

Campbell: "You know, a binder. It's the thing that holds all your memories and stuff from school".

Wylie: "Well, how many memories do you have? Geesh!" (Campbell's binder is pretty big)


Watching Dancing With the Stars on Monday:

Me: "So, who are you voting for Wylie?" (me referring to which dance couple he liked this season)


Wylie: "Denise Hoyt" (she's running for city council here locally)

I'm sure there will be more election-related posts as Wylie is very dialed-in to the democratic process.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back + Breast + Relay = DS

Wylie has had a banner year.

Not only has he stared fear down in the face several times to do pretty amazing things, he has worked through "worst case scenarios" in many instances and persevered to grow through the circumstances and emerge a heartier soul.

I could not be more proud of him.

Saturday's meet was a mixed bag of results in terms of score-keeping: he made it through his 50 back, got DQed in the 100 breast for a late second hand on the first length, and swam his heart out on the free leg of the boys 4 x relay...only to have the team DQed on another swimmer's entry. Still, he navigated the maze of emotions.

He was jubilant after the 50 back; he got out of the pool and was very energized that he had done the race.

He was deeply disappointed when the ref came to tell him about the breast DQ--so much so that he could not even look him in the eye.

The relay was a last minute entry and Wylie was not "prepared" even to swim in it. Yet, it was just what the doctor ordered. Wylie was already saying "I'm never...." about future meets and wallowing in the agony of defeat. But, when he had to rally for the other boys on his team, he did it. And, he did it with great flare. I've never seen him swim as "hard" as he did that first 25 of the free. I think he took two breaths. At this point, none of the boys knew they were already DQed. It was very touching.

So, ZigZag readers know all about Wylie's quest earlier this month for the 200 items and the Nintendo DS. Well, I made a bargain with Wylie. He is the proud owner of his own DS and the newly committed YST swimmer who is going to attempt anything Coach Kathy thinks he is capable of in the season this year. I believe the bargain will serve him well.

I didn't stay involved in organized sports as a kid. There were a lot of complicated family dynamics, but mostly it was just that my interests were more artistic and creative and I ususally had my head in a book when I wasn't doing school stuff, etc. I did participate in a girls' service organization for 8 years and was active in other school clubs. Still, I played tennis, volleyball, and softball (just long enough to scar my knees permanently). I liked being part of a team. And, I learned perseverance in other areas of my life.

As a parent of a unique child like Wylie, the benefit of participation in swimming cannot be overstated. Learning to fail, learning to succeed, learning to support a team, learning to become better at something, attending practice when you don't feel like it, listening to direction, taking direction, persevering through disappointment, coming back to try again, cheering for other swimmers, feeling the pride of accomplishment when you achieve something you thought impossible...these things are all valuable for life. And, so, once again I am taken with the metaphor of sport as life.

Every race I watched on Saturday was inspiring. I almost tear up at everyone. It could be hormonal, I'll grant that. But, I think it's just the power of seeing courage on display. It moves me.

Wylie and Campbell and McKenna and all the swimmers are very courageous.

That's worth a few dollars in a bargain for the future.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Meet of the Season

Cross your fingers, say your prayers, will with all your might: Wylie swims in his first meet of the season Saturday morning. His events: 50 back and 100 breast. All we want is no DQ so he can begin his season with some new points toward his 100 point trophy.

In his prayers tonight he humbly asked: "God, please no end of the world" (code for "being disqualified").

It happens to all swimmers once in a while. It's happened to Wylie, Campbell, and McKenna. It's just that now, there's more on the line for Wylie because he understands what it means to improve. To make progress. And, he wants to get better now. He really didn't care before.

His coach is an angel. The team is pulling for him. I know you are, too.

Will report soon...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Nose Knows

Wylie's olfactory sense never ceases to amaze me!

The kid can smell a french fry (or other offensive odors) from a mile away or within a nanosecond of it hitting his nose.

Case-in-point: today, I snagged Ken from school and we picked up french fries and sodas for an after school snank en route to pick up the boys.

I said to Ken: "how long do you think it will take? less than 5 seconds before he says 'what's that smell' or something like it?"

Ken said she thought less than 5 seconds.

We hide the evidence.

He opens the door.

In less time than Phelps won the 100 fly, Wylie says:

"Why does it smell like french fries in here?"

It's like lightening.

His nose knows.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sportsmanship

The YST Swim Banquet was held in Park View Middle School's Fine Arts room last Saturday evening. It was a "Rewind to the 80's" Theme complete with a costme contest. Slash was there as were a few Madonna-look-a-likes.

Among the swimmers honored was none other than: Wylie Harris.

He received the Sportsmanship award for his age group from his coach, Kathy Fellenz.

She has coached Wylie for three years now. He is probably the oldest swimmer in her group and he has traditionally swam last in the lane (until recently...see archived posts from July).

But, last Saturday Coach Kathy and the entire coaching staff recognized Wylie for his character, his attitude, his persistence, and his courtesy toward other swimmers. He was presented a plaque along with his team trophy. The plaque joined his three other trophies from YST.

Now, these trophies used to sit on the trunk with all our downstairs "library" books and games behind the sofa. But, since Saturday's festivities these items are on proud display on the tray on our ottoman. I tried putting them back once already, to which he exclaimed:

"Mom! That's my trophy wall!"

I guess even Michael Phelps probably hasn't put away all those golds just yet...

Well done, Wylie!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Latest Quotables from Wise Man

Today, on hearing our dear friend, Mrs. Breann--who is competing for that 27 dresses title this year as bridesmaid to a zillion brides-- would not be at church because she was at a wedding...

"What? She's getting married!? What about Mr. Nick?" (Nick is Breann's husband)

At Frugos:

"Vanilla Custard is the best. It's low fat you know".

When asked what the best part of our YST swim banquet:

"The dancing. Do you want to see my move?"

(picture the Peanuts during the Christmas play rehearsal)

When asked who is favorite Peanuts character is:

"Snoopy, because he's a dog. And, he's quiet. He doesn't talk a lot and I don't talk a lot".

To which sister and I rolled our eyes....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Night Lights

We live just above the local highschool.

On Friday nights for home games, the "Y" on the foothills is lit up with...some kind of fire light. It's the ultimate in nostaligic experiences.

I was driving by the game tonight and saw the cheerleaders up on their boxes, the visiting team's band in the stands, heard the roar of the crowd...and if I blinked I was back at my own alma mater. It's such a universal American icon: the highschool football game.

Maybe the million dollar synthetic turf will do the trick this year for the Thunderbirds? It will take a few more Friday night lights to find out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Last Call for ...

Zig Zag Readers!

If, and only if, you want to help Wylie in his "item" quest...you can pick out something online. Here's the scoop:

go to www.gafundraising.com and click on the Online store tab bottom left. Key in the School organization code:

937672

When prompted, fill in Wylie Harris for first and last name!

It's items, not $ amount spent--so go for lots of cheap things! ,)

Thank you in advance for any holiday shopping you do this way. He is working diligently on the project and the deadline is Friday, September 12th.

We'll let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Scrambled States of America

We haven’t done any extensive traveling as a family. When it comes to vacations we’re more likely to blitz five or six crazy fun things into a three day weekend than strategically carry out a well-planned and trip-ticked three week holiday. Everything has been by car; in Southern California you can take in quite a bit in a two to three hour car drive! During these excursions, Wylie has always been keenly aware of our surroundings. He is quick to point out “Welcome to” city signs and he announces them with formality like a resident tourism official. Because of his awareness, I’ve always had the impression Wylie viewed our travel from a video game perspective—kind of like we were navigating a virtual reality map.

Last fall, we did take a trip that saw us extend our normal three hour adventure by a factor of five--passing through five states! I knew this would intrigue Wylie so on our semi-monthly trip to Barnes and Noble, I picked up a whimsical little book called The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. (If you have children 12 or under this is a must have book for your child’s library!) My intentions were simple—I wanted to take advantage of the learning opportunities our trek would provide. I figured since Wylie was the most interested (of the three children) in the cities we passed through on smaller trips, he might naturally be the most interested in the geography of our western states. To say, now, that Wylie is interested in U.S. geography is like saying Picasso was interested in painting! Ms. Keller’s little book ignited a passion for geography in Wylie that quickly burned into an obsession!

We all have hobbies and interests—reading, music, golf, gardening and the like. Asperger folks don’t just have hobbies—they have obsessions or current topics of interest (CTI). Their interest can become dominant and almost all-consuming. Quite literally, these topics populate the person’s conversation, thought-life, dreams and reality. For Wylie, our United States, their capitals, nicknames, locations and other pertinent facts about them took over his conscious and subconscious thought! And, I must say, we all benefited.

The Scrambled States was rarely out of Wylie’s hands. The fresh, crisp corners of the bright green cover became dog-eared in record time. And, it served quite nicely as our map on the way to Colorado and back. Since that time, Wylie’s penchant for states’ trivia has become almost legendary. It is not uncommon for Campbell to brag on Wylie’s knowledge when introduced for the first time (a fact that reveals Campbell’s character while it compliments Wylie’s). And, on more than one occasion, an unsuspecting adult dinner guest has been sabotaged by the sly nine year old and his current topic of interest. Just last month, our family of five was enjoying dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and playing a little states’ trivia just for fun. Upon stumping us unilaterally Wylie asked:

“Do you find yourself saying ‘you gotta be kidding me?’”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Powell's Sweet Shoppe


Someday Wylie will say "This is where it all began...."


We visited this store on our recent trip to La Jolla and Wylie was utterly captivated! You can visit their site for pictures and the backstory http://www.powellssweetshoppe.com/


Tim was also impressed. He asked for "Ice Cubes" which are little chocolate squares he remembered from his childhood. The clerk immediately took him to a basket full of this exact candy. Wylie said he wanted to take a picture of Powell's to put in his first Sweets 'N Go.


"You know, Dad, like they have in Famous Dave's BBQ...they have a picutre of Porky's in there..."


So, the next time you are in La Jolla (or the other Powell's locations) drop in and pick up a sweet something from your past. Oh, and for real nostalgia, they play Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory non-stop in the back of the store!


Sweet!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Three Weddings and a Race

2000 swimmers come to La Jolla, CA every September for the annual Rough Water Swim.

Tim was numbered among them.

They come in all shapes and sizes, although most are pretty darn fit!

There were also other goings on...

We saw three different weddings: two in the Club House right above the Cove and one on the 5th floor terrace of the signature pink hotel just opposite the park. Beautiful weather all weekend although it was a bit on the sultry side with more humidity than normal.

McKenna and her swim friend, James, swam a half mile or so in the cove yesterday to warm up with Tim and Laurie (his swim friend!)

Campbell and Wylie enjoyed exploring the cove, too. It was just the two of them and several hundred other kids yesterday.

Wylie found a rock he liked and floated lazily looking at fish. Campbell raked in several beautiful shells including a petrified tooth from some kind of animal.

I like to think that Wylie will swim the mile at La Jolla some day. He is relatively fearless in the water and he loves the ocean. I'm sure I'll blog about it (or whatever the "thing" will be in three or four years) when he does do it.

Tim's group had a good showing in the race for their age groups. And, Trevor Hoyt from YST took 1st in the mile for his division!

Me? No way. I will keep to dry-land and watch with awe those who are more like fish than
Nemo and Dorie. Although, I like their motto: just keep swimming, just keep swimming....

Friday, September 5, 2008

Broken Arms and Warm Hearts

Our very good friend (and neighbor) Camille fell off the swings at school yesterday and broke her wrist!

Ouch!

On the way home from school I let the boys know about Cami's accident. Wylie has always been kind of sweet on Camille. She is two years or so younger than the boys, but Wylie and she share a common love of....Chowder, Flapjack, Sponge Bob, and miniature toys.

So, as I broke the news, the very first thing Wylie said was "Can I help her, Mom?"

To his credit, Campbell is typically very chivalrous as well. But, Wylie was first to immediately show empathy and compassion. He truly wanted to do something to help her. I'm sure he'll have ample opportunities in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Team Harris is off this afternoon to La Jolla for the annual Rough Water Swim for Tim. This is a highlight every year for us as a family. La Jolla is gorgeous! We stay at a hotel that is within walking distance from everything. It will be refreshing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Power of A Goal

"This is your Goal" said my son last night.



He was holding onto a Nintendo DS about six inches in front of my face.



"You're doing great, but you have to get a few more items. Remember, Mom: this is what we're working for" (again with the thing in my face).



So, the saga of the 200 items continues. I thought we had done quite well (our home group was very generous), but Wylie knows the power of visualization I suspect.



He didn't want me to rest on my laurels (or anything else I can rest on!)



Wylie is--focused.



Asperger people as a whole are very focused people.



Believe me, the current topic of interest is the fund-raiser and the DS "we" can earn with enough items sold.



I know all kids get into these things, but Wylie's determination is exceptional. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out by next Friday.



One thing is certain: I know what the goal is.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quotable from Wylie

"Mom, I don't how I'm going to get married....I'm no ladies' man"

"My tooth is still under my pillow.  I don't think the tooth fairy works holidays" (Labor Day)

"Man, I need to go to swimming.  My pits stink, my whole body stinks! That's what you get:  5 weeks with no bathing"

After watching The Mummy with Dad:  "I'm never going to Egypt".

"How many items did you sell today, Mom?"

Monday, September 1, 2008

200 items

Every year in September it's the same refrain: Mom, I need to sell 200 items so I can get _____.

Yep: it's school fund-raiser time!

Wylie, more than Campbell or McKenna ever did, embraces the motivational energy of well-intentioned sales reps for various candy/treat/cheesy-gift companies. He becomes intoxicated with the idea of working for an elusive "something". In other words, he gets the fever.

Yesterday, Sunday, he brought the brochure to our church. Now, we are a portable church--we set up and tear down everything every week. This means, all the humans there in the morning are busy doing the set up and tear down, etc. Even if they have the heart to support the 200 item movement, they don't really have a chance to visit with him sincerely about it. After the first 15 minutes, Wylie came up to me with a predictable complaint:

"No one is buying any items. How will I get to 200 items?"

And, I tried to encourage him with a canned 'how to handle rejection it's a numbers-game' speech. This was of little comfort. Wylie does not think along those lines.

His solution?

"Mom, can I have a lemonade stand? Then I can sell lemonade and get the $ to buy 200 items".

Oi vei!

Local readers and friends of Wylie: help me out, please! Ask him if YOU can support his school fund-raiser. Either that or stock up on lemonade at the Harris Ranch...

Friday, August 29, 2008

A History-Making Day

Yes, Friday August 29th is a history-making day.

Because Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, has been chosen as McCain's VP running mate?

No.

Because it's John McCain's 72nd birthday?

No.

Because Wylie said to me in the car on the way home from school in a very casual way

"By the way, Mom, I tried a donut roll today in class".

(Me, trying very hard not to crash the truck)

"You ate something new today?"

Wylie:

"Yeah, you know it's like a donut except really small like a ball. A donut roll". (Donut conoisseurs might call it a donut hole).

Me:

"And, you liked it?"

Wylie:

"Yeah. It was pretty good".

Ladies and Gentlemen of ZigZagStraight , it is truly a day for the history books!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wylie Wonka

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The question we all have been asked (and are still asking in some cases...)

Wylie's response used to be very predictable: he wanted to work at McDonald's of course! Even when his interest in video games and computers took off and we painted visions of engineering or when he became fascinated with the stars and planets and we spoke of teaching or becoming a scientist--he was undaunted. He would work at McDonald's. Because he loves McDonald's. There was no other possibility for him.

Until three weeks ago.

Ask Wylie what he is going to do when he grows up? He'll tell you plainly: he is going to open up a candy shop. But, it's candy that is healthy and good for you. It will be called "Sweets 'n Go". (He especially likes the "'n Go" part of the name).

He already has his first location scouted-out. When we were driving through the lovely streets of Corona Del Mar, Wylie remarked that it looked an awful lot like La Jolla (another favorite spot of ours). And, then he said "This looks like a good spot for my store. I'll open my first one here". The boy has great business instincts.

So, finally something has captured the imagination of the McDonald's devotee; I have no doubt Wylie can guide the devlopment of a treat so special it could deliver nutrition as ably as it tickled the tastebud. If such a treat passed Wylie's taste-test, any child/adult would love it!

Venture capitalists? Send your checks c/o Wylie's Sweet 'N Go. We'll put them in the money jar next to his sign up list for the Annual Christmas Risk Game. What have you got to lose?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My 10K and Wylie's Lane

I guess it's fair to say I enjoy sport metaphors.

I have been training to run my first 10k this Sunday (before church!) In preparation, I have been running distances averaging 4 miles or so 4 days out of 7 the last four weeks.

Yesterday, in spite of a poor night's sleep, I decided to run a full 6.6 miles. I thought about the course on the way to the boys' school, I mentally rehearsed the run in my mind and imagined myself finishing the run in good stride and at my goal pace.

No surprise, the run happened as I "saw it". This was incredibly empowering and makes me really look forward to the actual race on Sunday!

Later that night at swim practice, Wylie's coach comes up to me and says "Guess who was leading the lane tonight?"

Now, Wylie has been swimming for three years..essentially doing his own thing without bothering other swimmers. His coach loves him and the team, to its credit, accepts him as he is. In this time, however, Wylie has never led the lane. Until Monday night.

We were getting ready for practice this afternoon and I casually said to Wylie: "You going to lead your lane again?" And, he didn't reply--that I heard. But, as I watched in awe, there he was again leading.

What clicked?

I asked him after he got out of the pool this evening. You know what he said?

"You said I could lead again".

Let that one marinate for a while.

Our words and thoughts are truly containers for power. We can run a strong 6.6 miles and we can swim our bodies faster than we ever have before--simply because we think and imagine we can.

Who knows what else Wylie, and I, and you can do???

Monday, August 25, 2008

Regular Ed

It’s the end of Wylie’s 2nd grade year. I’m at his annual Individualized Educational Program meeting (IEP--a subject which deserves its own book). He has been evaluated by all of the teachers involved in his care this year and by a school psychologist. Around the table, his teacher, the principal, the speech pathologist…everyone involved on Wylie’s team were all unanimous in their view that Wylie was ready to transition to a regular classroom with resource support. (The arch angel Laurel O’Brien referenced earlier had recommended “main-streaming” Wylie for reading, science, math, and art. Even though Wylie struggled a bit, Laurel was confident that Wylie would thrive best if he were challenged. And, more important to her was the social and behavioral modeling he would be exposed to with regular kids). Heads are nodding in agreement. My chest is tightening. I take a deep breath. It seems like I should say something. The silence is deafening.

“Who would be his teacher?”

That’s all I can think of to say. I mean, I have had angels from on high teaching my son and he has done marvelously well. I realize he has been, in a sense, an able fish in a less-able pond. But, does it really have to be the case that in order for us to know how well he can swim, we’ve got to throw him to the sharks? I want to believe what this team is saying. I want to believe, in particular, the findings of the psychologist, Mr. Smith, that Wylie is a bright boy capable of much more than he has demonstrated. At the same time, I have for weeks been noticing that just when I think to myself, “Wylie is really very normal and I tend to exaggerate his eccentricities”—he proves me wrong! Do I really want to place him in an environment that will only serve to underscore his uniqueness? Where regular kids will be? Regular kids who have not been around “special” kids and may naturally think my son is…strange or a “weirdo” as he has sometimes been called?

“Mrs. Kryzmarczik. She has a very sweet class”.

I had recently heard of Mrs. Kryzmarczik from another teacher-friend of mine. For whatever reason, hearing her name again assured me this was going to be o.k. We moved him. This IEP took place in March. In between state testing, spring break, and Memorial Day, Wylie really didn’t have much of a chance to acclimate or learn. But, Joyce Kryzmarczik was warm and welcoming and the children were very sweet. She safely walked Wylie to the banks of the regular education stream. However, Wylie basically got to stick his toe in the water. He wouldn’t dive in fully until 3rd grade.

Ready, set, dive!

The water was deeper than we thought. After holding our breath for what seemed like an eternity, we came up for air and landed in Mrs. Smith’s class. Patti Smith. Yes, that would be Patti Smith married to Mr. Smith…the very same psychologist who evaluated Wylie and thought highly of his potential. It was our extreme good fortune to have Wylie placed with her for she understood him almost immediately. She was kind, intuitive, patient and committed to helping him swim with the school of fish she led. And, best of all, she appreciated Wylie’s sense of humor. With longsuffering she endured his ramblings on his current topic of interest (CTI)! Not only that, but Patti’s style of teaching embraced the whole child; what I mean by this is she believed all of the experiences of a 3rd grader could teach them something. In her view, our family vacations were just as much a part of the fabric of Wylie’s learning as her assignment. My perception of her approach to learning was that it was relaxed; this is not to imply anything sub-standard--far from it. Instead, Mrs. Smith had the rare gift of making multiplication facts, spelling, history, and writing as easy and appealing as…well, 1-2-3! In short, she was the perfect person for this part of Wylie’s adventure--the perfect swim coach. Even when the water was cold and deep and it seemed like Wylie would more likely sink than stay afloat, I trusted her completely. And, trust is so important when learning to swim, don’t you agree?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Corona Del Mar

Corona Del Lovely.

Team Harris had a wonderful day at Corona Del Mar yesterday. Tim swam the annual open water in the cove there and the kids enjoyed the sand and surf. Me, just the sand.

Wylie was in the water the entire time. He loves jumping the waves and he tried boogie boarding yesterday for the first time. Dad says he was fearless!

I got in a quick run on Ocean Blvd just above the cove before the race got underway. In the glow of the Olympics there were several really decent beach volleyball games going on behind us and plenty of families enjoying the lazy day.

One of those days that captures all the best of what summer is about.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ode to the Olympics

My boys will miss them.

Especially Wylie.

Campbell has paid attention to every sport and has really liked the track and field events and swim the most.

Wylie has enjoyed all the events, but I think he is the most swept up in the pageantry of it all. He likes the Gold Medal Moments that NBC does on the pre-show. He loves all the Olympic trivia. And, he is a particular fan of our National Anthem when it is played at the medal ceremonies.

He stands (every time) with his hand over his heart while it is played. He even said a few nights ago:

"Man, I worship this song".

These days that might not be politically correct, but I know what he means. It was an appropriate use of the word worship.

Wylie is proud of the athletes, proud of America, proud of our flag, proud of our country, loves God, loves people, loves seeing winners celebrated, and all of this in spite of the fact that none of these things are taught any more in school (because they cannot be legally or because curriculum committees believe they know what is best).

So, here's to the Olympics! For all the great drama, competition, thrills, spills, and triumph of human spirit. And, for being one of the only places humans can still wave the flags of their countries with pride.

As it should be.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Don't You Understand?

Day 4 of back to school:

5th grade math picks up where 4th grade math left off (theoretically).
The lazy days of summer rot the math quadrants of the brain I think.
We are easing into division with an introduction of some guidelines (aka "cheatcodes") for what numbers are divisible by 2,3,4,5,6,9,10.

There are a handful of rules you can use to figure out if a larger number is divisible by any of these numbers. For example, if the sum of the digits is divisible by 3, then the number itself is divisible by 3. Test yourself: is 102,405 divisible by 3?*

Anyway, it is often the case that Wylie's mind interprets directions literally. This is particularly the case with verbal instruction. The last two days have had assignments with the guidelines written down. And, I have tried to reinforce those guidelines verbally.

This was met with "I don't understand" to which I replied

"What don't you understand?"

And, now I'm asking you: what kind of question is that? I mean, if you don't understand something how can you explain what you don't understand? This is the kind of brain cramp we run into with learning new concepts. Now, by the end of the second day's assignment, with me reading each guideline and asking him "what is the sum of the digits, is that number divisible by 3, then write down 3...." Wylie caught on by doing the problems. He understood the guideline by doing the work.

This is just an ordinary day in the life of a 5th grade teacher, I know.

But, as usual, these experiences hold more meaning for me. ...

Sometimes, grown-ups wrestle with problems over and over again. And, to some extent if you are honest, there are "guidelines" or cheatcodes available to us (counseling, wisdom of elders, the Bible, etc). And, yet we cry out many times in frustration "I don't understand"!

My sense is that--just like Wylie had to learn by doing--we have to follow the instructions we are given step-by-step and keep failing forward to begin to understand.

What don't you understand today?


*yes

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When Vanilla Custard is Pina Colada

We have this delightful little frozen yogurt place, Frugos, in Yucaipa. It has been a family favorite for a few months now. Even Wylie likes it!

Well, he likes one particular flavor: Vanilla Custard.

Now, this is the type of place where you walk up and "serve" yourself. They rotate the flavors often and there's about 8 flavors in all. They have dry-erase signs above each station so that you know what you are dispensing.

So, last night, as a "back to school" treat, we went to Frugos at Wylie's request. What happened at the check-out transpired in about 20 seconds, but you know how time slows down in a crisis. I'm paying for our yogurts and I overhear a conversation beside me that goes something like...

"Dude, you said you had pina colada"

"Yeah, it's in the middle where it usually is"

"Dude, the sign says Vanilla"

(and this is the station from which Wylie innocently dispensed his yogurt).

Dude goes in the back and I'm beginning to process what has happened. Just as Wylie sticks his spoon in his mouth I dip my finger in his cup and quickly give it a lick: pina colada.

Now, if you have normal taste-buds that might throw you a bit, right? But, let's pretend you have super-normal taste-buds...and that tastes and smells are extremely significant to you (reference What's in a Nugget from July posts). I look at Wylie just as he is gagging and trying not to throw-up right there in the middle of Frugos.

He immediately dumps the whole $4 cup in the trash and with red-rimmed eyes says

"What's up with the vanilla?"

as I see Dude writing the correct label on the station sign.

Tragedy. Of epic proportions.

Maybe, just maybe, Frugo's can recover from this mistake.

Until then, no "vanilla" will pass Wylie's lips until it's been on mine first...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Buttons

Back to school today!

The Harris Ranch was awake, alert, and enthusiastic much earlier than normal today. I was done with my run at 6:30 am--phew!

The kids had all laid out their clothing last night. Actually, Campbell and McKenna started and then Wylie followed suit. That's when he noticed:

"Mom, these new shirts all have buttons!"

Now, he was with me when we bought the new shirts, but I guess it did not register with him at the time. Wylie is still very particular about collars and shirts and buttons. Regular crew neck t-shirts are pretty much all he wears. And, even these will get a thumbs-down if the neck is "too loose". All fairly typical stuff for sensory kids.

We managed to coax him into the shirt. It's blue with a very cool Dickey's logo on the side. Everyone compliments how cool he looks. Patiently, Wylie buttons up every button. All the way to the top. I ask him:

"Are you sure you don't want to leave the top button undone? It's more comfortable".

Wylie:

"I am comfortable".

So, he will no doubt be one of only a few 5th graders today all across America with a blue, Dickey polo shirt buttoned all the way to the top.

Viva la difference....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Saddleback's Presidential Forum

I am happily in awe of the post-forum "buzz" in the media about Rick Warren's conversation format with our two presidential candidates. It appears (although I'm sure there will be detractors) that this "novel" approach was very well received with CNN and their panel of experts.

Both men were as genuine and authentic (as any political candidate can be). The relaxed--and decidedly 'non-debate'--format catered to more realistic dialogue. The kind you and I might have at Starbucks over coffee. The kind most Americans would rather hear, in my opinion.

We all are so blessed with the freedom of choice; both of these men have good intentions. The "how" is different. But, people have been disagreeing about the "how" of societies ever since societies formed.

Rick Warren has opened a door that we all should respectfully walk through: genuine, authentic, conversation about our simillarities and differences. Well done.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It Takes a Team

It appears everyone is waxing rhapsodic about the Olympic performances. But, we can indulge when it only happens every two years, right!

Lately, I've been thinking about the sports where there is an individual as well as a team component. For example, gymnastics and swimming. In men's gymnastics, the USA didn't have the goods individually to medal in the All-Around competition. Yet, those same gymnasts performed as a team to take the Bronze. Their individual performances combined to out-perform the other teams.

In men's swimming, the converse of the above is true: Michael Phelps does have what it takes to out-swim everyone in the field, yet he also participates in the relay teams where, regardless of his own physical strengths, the team will win or lose based on their combined efforts. He swims in those relays for the team.

I'm wondering...which victory is sweeter?

If Phelps was swimming alone with just the clock--no crowd, no team mates, no journalists--would his accomplishments be as meaningful to him? (Probably so in his case)! One could argue that even in the absence of all the noise, Phelps' mom is his team every event! But, the point I'm trying to make is that the team animates the dream. The team makes it real. The team validates the experience. When Soni took the Gold in the breast stroke last night, it was her team that shouted the loudest praise and it was to her team she looked first (after she saw the time)!

So much of what we do as human beings we do alone. I think of Wylie. It's Wylie that sits in his chair at school trying to make his pencil write letters that somehow conform to what we recognize. It was Wylie up on top of that platform 25 feet high getting harnessed to push himself off down the zipline. No one could do it for him. Most of the hard work of these athletes (gymnasts and swimmers alike) is done alone. Work out after work out.

Yet, at the same time, much of what we do as human beings we do as a team. We cheer one another on to victory. We shout warnings when there is danger, we pick up and embrace the wounded. We lead others by our example. It is the promise of the shared victory that creates energy for us to do what we have to do alone. We strive for our personal best to support the team's best.

I guess at the end of the day, what I hope for is this: in Wylie's life...even when he's alone...I want to him to know...we're his team. Everyone should have a team. Everyone should be inspired to give more in what they have to do alone in order to advance what we all do as a team.

And, I think that's why we're all so enthralled with the Olympics.

We believe in the team. We are the team.

At the risk of sounding a lot like the Visa commercials lately...Go World.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Proud to Be the Official Sponsor

Marketing works!

Last night, after our small group wrapped-up, Wylie asks if he can drink a Coke. It's 9 o'clock. No "good" parent allows a child to drink a soda that late. But, it's summer...we've been watching the Olympics at night...

Sensing my reluctance, Wylie says quite convincingly:

"Besides, Mom, Coca-Cola is proud to be the official sponsor of the 29th Olympiad"!

Score one for the advertisers and marketers of the world!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Venti

20 years of marriage.

Something to be celebrated no matter who you are, where you live, what you believe.

One of the reasons Wylie has lived such an amazing and wonderful life (so far) is because of the love, the strength, the wisdom, the courage, and the example of his father. My husband.

There is more history and "knowing" in one glance between us than an entire volume of the encyclopedia. You can't buy that, exchange it, fake it, fabricate it, or forget it.

On this ZigZag adventure, there is no question in my mind who has kept me, the family, and our ultimate course "straight"....

Here's to another venti!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to School Boogie

Our kids go back to school on August 18th.

Everyone has been asking the same question: was this a really short summer?

I think so.

Wylie asked me last night how I felt about having two 5th grade boys now.

I feel pretty good about it.

This week is the back to school dance...
  • inventory shoes/socks/underwear
  • dig out a path to bedrooms and restore order from summer chaos
  • begin going to bed earlier to wake up earlier
  • venture out for school supplies and a new shoe or two
  • prepare for schedules to sink-in

What do you do to prepare the kids and the family to go back to school?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lessons from the Men's 4 x 100 Relay

Sports enthusiast or not...you have to love the victory from last night's 4 x 100 men's relay!

I just re-watched it and had goosebumps and was near tears the entire time. There are practically no words to describe the moment the team sees the #1 time on the board. But, who needs words when you have Phelps' face?

That pure, raw, energy of emotion could fuel an entire city! (Well, at least a house or two).

Here's what I learned from that race:
  • the past does not always predict the present (they had suffered defeat in the previous two games)
  • those most likely to win statistically can still lose
  • actions trump words
  • sometimes being the underdog makes the victory sweeter
  • team victories are multiplied in power over individual victories

Much will be written about that race for years to come; the athletes will never forget their performance or the feeling of the win. But, only here at zigzag will the race be viewed as a metaphor for those living with Asperger Syndrome and autism. Here's why:

  • the past does not always predict the present or the future (children with Asperger and Autism can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles)
  • those most likely to "not" succeed... can
  • actions trumps diagnoses
  • sometimes being an underdog makes the victory sweeter
  • team victories are mulitplied in power over individual victories (and every individual victory is a team win when your child is influenced by special educators, speech and language pathologists, resource specialists, occupational therapists, community members, church members, friends, and family!)

Our family will continue to watch the Olympics and cheer every awe-inspiring performance. We may not be able to anchor a Gold-medal-winning relay team, but we can do the best with what we have been given and turn in the performance of our lives with our lives.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Another Entry form Wylie-World

So, Tim had arranged for the son of one of his swim-buddies to come and move some dirt around in our backyard last Saturday. This was to happen while Tim was at swim early in the morning. I knew about the arrangement, but Wylie did not.

Early Saturday, I came downstairs to go out for my run. Wylie was already up watching some television. He looks at me--not particularly scared or bothered--and warns:

"Mom, there's a guy in our backyard".

Me: "Well, how do you know?"

Wylie: "I saw him. He's got a shovel. Mom, I think he's a...a dirt burglar".

Me: (suppressing laughter) "Really. A dirt burglar. Why do you think that?"

Wylie: "Well, he's got that shovel and he's digging up dirt and putting it into a bucket and carrying it around the corner...."

Now, I don't know about you, but I've never met, nor read, nor imagined dirt burglary...but, in these days and times, you never know. Still, in the mind of a 10 year old Aspergery-boy, it makes perfect sense.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Occupational Therapy for All!

Come on, admit it! You read occupational therapy and you thought it had something to do with career counseling, right? Me, too. I think I met an “OT” once and wondered how in the world you get into that line of work…getting paid to help other people figure out what they want to do? But, that was long before Wylie was born. OT became a part of our lives when Wylie started school in the county program. Our referring school psychologist recommended Wylie’s evaluation for services. Thus began Wylie’s happy association with many wonderful OTs and his weekly visits to “The Sensory Center”.

Imagine a room filled with really cool toys, scooters, balls, balance beams, zip lines, swings, trampolines, games, a ball pit and bean bags! Imagine you have to go to this place once a week, take off your shoes, and play! This is the world of the OT. Only, the play they supervise is play with a purpose. The activities they engage in with students are specifically geared to help develop and strengthen physical and mental skills. It is a world of wonder for kids. Of course, once they arrive they never want to leave! This has always been true of Wylie’s experience.
Over the years we have seen marked improvement in Wylie’s fine and gross motor skills as a direct result of therapy. He can cut along a straight line, write with much improved control (though his penmanship is still a weak area), maintain balance, cross over midline to play catch and swim. Wylie’s core muscle strength has improved and he has learned to cope with some of his more extreme sensory issues (taste, smell, and tactile).

Not every Asperger child struggles with motor skill issues. However, if you were to randomly examine OT centers across the country you would more than likely find kids with autism spectrum disorders as regulars on the roster. I have not read all the research (and I’m sure there is plenty out there), but it appears that kids like Wylie have sensory issues that inhibit the development of their gross and fine motor skills. So, for example, things like throwing and catching a ball, walking across a balance beam, swinging a bat, jumping up and down on one foot, descending down stairs, using scissors, jumping rope and other regular physical activities can be difficult for Asperger types. These normal activities are not unimportant! The connection between motor skill development and academic performance and emotional behavior is well documented.

From OTs I have learned how to engage Wylie in physical sensory activities that help him to “organize”--which facilitates readiness to sit still, pay attention, write, compute, or do whatever else might be necessary in the classroom. Want to sign your child up?

Actually, from what I’ve observed of this wonderful group of amazing professionals, I don’t think there is a person on the planet that would not benefit from some form of occupational therapy! Maybe we should write our congressmen and women and allocate some of our tax dollars to underwrite a Sensory center in Washington D.C.--just outside the Capitol building. That way, before members of Congress meet together to vote on legislation and other things that affect us, they can all participate in some good old-fashioned therapy to get “organized” and better pay attention to the tasks at hand!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Neurology in December

Amongst the busy-ness of this week, I am pleased to report that Wylie has a neurology consult for December with Loma Linda.

This is good news; it is the obvious next step in our adventure. Having more insight into his neurology will no doubt help me understand better how to help him. It will provide a diagnosis that opens the doors to continued support for him while he learns in the public school system. And, it will connect us with many more stories of people living with Asperger.

Friday Leadership Blast

Getting ready to go listen and learn.

I love leadership stuff.

Willow does leadership like nobody else I know!

More later.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leadership Summit News

Wow!

Willow Creek Association knows how to do equipping.
Our Solid Ground staff and some key leaders are attending the Summit live via satellite at a church in Alta Loma and it rocked today.

We heard from:

Bill Hybels Senior Pastor Willow Creek
Gary Haugen CEO Intl. Justice Mission
Bill George Harvard Business Professor and retired CEO Medtronic
Wendy Kopp founder of Teach for America
John Burke Lead Pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, TX
Efrem Smith, Lead Pastor Sanctuary Covenant Church Minn. MN

And, that was just today!
We go back for another full plate of leadership excellence tomorrow featuring Craig Groeschel of lifechurch.tv, Chuck Colson, Catherine Rohr, and Brad Anderson of Best Buy...

Big take-aways from today:

Bill's "Axioms"
  • Vision Leaks
  • Get the Right People Around the Table
  • Leaders Call Fouls (even on themselves)
  • Take a Flyer!
  • This is Church

Bill George (author of True North)

  • Follow your compass not your clock

Wendy Kopp in response to Bill's question

Bill "you shamelessly ask young seniors graduating to sacrifice"--

Wendy "we give them the OPPORTUNITY to sacrifice"

John Burke:

  • How many sexually active, drunk, single athiests do you have in your church?
  • Stay connected to Christ; fruit happens

Efrem Smith:

  • Spiritual storms happen when the high pressure of what God wants us to do bumps up against the low pressure of what we'd rather do

Much, much more to follow--

How privileged I felt to learn from these amazing leaders across the business and faith communities.

Wow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Filter

Often with Asperger people there is a common "symptom": no filter.

You know about the filter? The synapses in your brain that cue you when to say something and when it is probably not apporpriate or out-of-bounds?

With children, this usually results in humor (not offense), but it still requires some extra handling.

Yesterday's "no filter" moment:


While watching an episode of the a kid's show featuring the daughter of The Crocodile Hunter, Wylie pronounced:

"Yes, it is the dead Crocodile Hunter's daughter. One more dead parent and she'll be an orphan."

Now, that is a true and accurate statement. No one can fault Wylie for declaring the truth. But, you get the idea. These thoughts roll around in our brains and our "filter" generally grabs the ones that are questionable or better left unsaid. With Asperger, there is very little grabbing. They just roll on out from the brain to the mouth.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On Hold for Neurology

Still waiting.

Apparently, we'll be waiting for a while. This is the common protocol with Loma Linda apparently. They have Wylile's file. They will review it. They will determine when we get an appointment.

I'm glad we started this process this summer. Wylie's 3 year IEP is scheduled for March of 2009 and it's important to have the diagnosis dialed-in so he can continue to receive services through the public school system.

What Do You After Conquering the Galaxy?

My clones (boys) have been playing "STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II" this summer.

Yesterday, after a fairly lengthy stretch of the game where there was much collaboration, talking, battling, and surviving....the Republic and the Rebels battled fearlessly. I heard them exclaim together:

"We did it! We conquered the galaxy!" and there was much rejoicing and high-fives and woo-hoos followed by

"Now, what do you want to do, Wylie?" and then

"I don't know"..."Do you want to go upstairs and watch Sponge Bob?"

"Sure".

And, they went upstairs.

There's nothing like a little Sponge Bob Square Pants to top off a glorious victory on the field of inter-galactical battle...

Why You Should Read The Shack

  • It's a good work of fiction
  • It causes you to imagine and think about God
  • It might help with lingering hurts and disappointments

That's it.

It's not a theological textbook.

It's not prescribed by any denomination.

It's not shocking.

It's a good book.

Monday, August 4, 2008

All Creatures of...

"...our God and King...lift up your voice and with us sing..."
As the old hymn goes.

Well, this morning after my run, I escaped to the backyard to cool down and read some a psalm or two. As I rounded the first deck chair I saw the form of a large insect out of the corner of my eye. My first instinct was to jump back (we've had more than our share of spiders this summer)...but, then I saw more clearly what kind of insect it was.

A praying mantis.

This brought a smile to my face. And, definitely set the tone for my thirty minutes of reflection. Next, I turned to Psalm 138 and started to read. Randomly ( or not?) this psalm contains the line we sang yesterday in our worship set at Solid Ground...

"For great is the glory of the Lord" (see Vicky Beeching's song of the same title).

There was more than one praying bug out there today.

Al-le-lu.......ia.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Wylie-ism for Today

As part of our "summer budget" we have been using air-conditioning only rarely.

So, at times here in Southern California, it's a balmy 90+ degrees in our house!

The Harris team has acclimated quite well. We do put it on when we have guests over for an extended period.

Today, was not one of those days. So, the boys and I were hanging out downstairs (moving very slowly) and Wylie remarked:

"Boy, is today Wylie's gonna sweat a lot day, or what?"

I joked back: "Didn't you get the memo?"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Nike+ Human Race 10K

I'm doing it.

August 31, 2008.

I read about it in Starbucks.

It was just what I needed.

A goal.

I totally like the idea of it...

Lots of people all over the world running a 10K that day together...but separately.

The promotional piece says:

Run with your friends
Run with your neighbors
Run with people you've never met
Run with the whole world
Run with us


Now....substitute the verb "serve" for "run" and you've got a great idea for a movement within the church.

That's next on my agenda...

Any readers that are runners?

Let's run together.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mrs. O'Brien and Mrs. Nemire



Wylie’s teachers have all been angels. Every single one of them. If the heavenly host were comprised of teachers, those most lovely of wing, most honored and battle-worn must certainly be Special Day Class (SDC) educators and their aides. And of the heavenly host, Mrs. O’Brien is then arch angel Michael to Mrs. Nemire’s Gabriel.


Laurel O’Brien teaches 1st and 2nd grade SDC at Calimesa Elementary School. The districts in our area took over SDC education from the counties after Wylie completed kindergarten. This was no small affair in the life of my child. Wylie had adapted to the county class, transportation on the special bus and the routines, environment and campus of the county school program. I remember myself being very anxious about the transition from the county program to the new campus, new routines, new school, new teachers…of course, Wylie would be anxious as well. For others who have been through this process with a special child, when you begin anything new it’s almost like you hold your breath until the routine is established…then you can exhale. Laurel’s quiet calm demeanor and wonderful authentic spirit assuaged any anxiety. Wylie instantly warmed to her and Robin (Nemire). It was such a blessing to place Wylie in their care each day.


This class experience was the first departure for Wylie from intensive speech and language emphasis. To be sure, Wylie still received therapy from a gifted woman (thank you Mrs. Ferguson!), but speech and language therapy became one part of Wylie’s instructional week instead of its focus. Indeed, there were fifteen students in the class and fifteen different stories and histories incorporated into the class mix. Some children needed speech, some needed other forms of therapy, some could read and write, some could not! This is where Laurel and Robin really made a difference. They worked brilliantly together as a team creating smaller groups of learners. They were diligent to preserve structure—so important to Asperger kids and other special needs children—and yet, creative in their use of time as well. Wylie began to embrace school and for the first time began to participate in relationships with other students within the learning environment Laurel created.


I, too, started forming relationships with the class. The bus schedule for morning pick-up would have required Wylie to ride for almost an hour to get to the campus which is only fifteen minutes from our home. Because of this, I opted to drive Wylie to school. In those initial days of 1st grade, I walked Wylie to his class and watched him play on the swings until the bell rang. Little did I know that my over-protective nature and Wylie’s strong desire for our routine would open the door to several more friendships with other SDC students and teachers. It was natural for me to greet the other students as they arrived and hung up their back packs. Gradually, I learned names. Eventually, I learned stories and heard about everything from birthday parties to family vacations!


It was also my pleasure to volunteer in the classroom once a week and help with parties. I usually brought my guitar so we could make up silly songs or sing Christmas carols. A couple of the higher need children especially warmed to the music. One boy who refused to open his eyes and didn’t speak at all would turn his face to the sound of the guitar and move his hands and smile while we sang. This wasn’t unnoticed by Laurel and Robin and they loved it when I was able to be there. What I learned from being with these children and getting to know them was that they all had pockets of potential; some of the pockets were smaller than others certainly. But, the beauty of the SDC (and, in particular, this class led as it was by our resident arch angels), is in the way it opens up the pockets. It was as if Laurel and Robin were expert tailors (angelic tailors!) able to find just the right combination of curriculum, patience, method, and love to turn the pockets of potential inside out! To literally bring forth the child’s best and build on that level. As a practical matter, this would never happen in a traditional class room for these kids.


Wylie’s progression during these two years is testimony to the hard work and dedication of these two women. But, there are so many other success stories. To really appreciate them, you have to get beyond standardized testing and federally mandated performance measures. How do you quantify or “grade” watching an autistic child who barely makes sounds one can call speech grow over the course of a year to the point where polite conversation can be exchanged? Or, observing a child who could barely trace capital letters—much less recognize them—write his name correctly? Laurel’s abilities opened up pockets of potential inside human lives that will forever change their futures. Her angelic influence in Wylie’s adventure is essential and foundational to his success story. I have no doubt that Laurel and Robin were the guardian angels of Wylie’s potential while he was in their care. Without them, who knows what pockets might have remained closed off to discovery?

Quotable on Joy

From Eugene Peterson's "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction":

  • We come to God because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous
  • Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality
  • We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab
  • Joy is what God gives; not what we work up

I remember singing a bunch of songs in church growing up as a kid:

  • The j-o-y of the Lord is my strength
  • I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart-where?
  • Ha-Ha-Ha-le-lu-jah He-He-He saved me ....I've got the joy of the Lord

And, studying Psalm 126 with Peterson as my teacher, I learn again why joy is second only to love in the list of fruit of the spirit. Of course, we must love. But, second to that, we must express and exude joy! As we discussed in our group last night, this has very little to do with our present circumstances and everything to do with our attitude of surrender to Christ.

Billions of dollars are spent on entertainment worldwide. All spent in search of...joy. Some of that money buys real happiness. For a moment. It is fleeting.

We who follow after Christ have access to something eternal, lasting, and real. And, it doesn't result in a headache the next day either!

Joy to you today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jump in the Pool With Your Clothes On

That's what I did today.

I needed a "different" perspective.

I needed to cool off.

I needed to do something I normally wouldn't do.

It felt great.

It accomplished everything I hoped it would.

I'll probably do it again...soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake Things Up

Our staff meeting rocked this morning: literally!

Earthquakes are a fact of life in California. Big ones are rare, but they do shake things up.

I've lived other places where tornadoes and hurricanes are the "rare" fact of life that shakes things up. But, there is a difference. Tornadoes (generally) and hurricanes are preceded by predictions and warnings. There is a period of preparation. Some people find this comforting. Others find it annoying. You wait for the storm, you listen for the siren, you evacuate or hunker down. You wait. You anticipate.

Earthquakes just happen.

There is no preparation.

There is no warning.

There is no waiting or listening.

So, I've always understood when people outside of California talk about the fear of earthquakes. The idea is that if you cannot prepare for the disaster or wait for the disaster than the danger is greater.

However, I think there is a spiritual parallel here...

The Christian community lives, generally, like people who are accustomed to tornadoes and hurricanes. There will be warnings (of danger or attack). We can prepare once we hear the siren or see the weather report. When, in actuality, spiritual warfare/danger is constantly swirling around us and can strike at any time.

There is no warning.

There is no preparation.

Reminds me we should all live "spiritually" like Californians: earthquakes are happening all the time. It's the just the really big ones that shake us up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Picture..


...is worth a thousand words.


I'll write some words, too.
T.G.I.F. camp @ The Oaks was everything I imagined it could be...and more!


Wylie did the zipline.
Wylie did the zipline!
For those of you who have known and loved Wylie as long as I have, I do not need to say anything else.


In fact, everyone (who could) in our group conquered the zipline. It was an awesome afternoon for all.


We packed in archery, zipline, Whale Watch exercise, Kidmo!, fire circle, climbing the bouldering wall, Treasure Hunt, bubble gum art, silly songs, skits, an amazing astronomy lesson about Polaris, we gazed at Jupiter and its four moons, we learned that, according to Ephesians, we are all a part of God's family and that our families are a gift to us. And, incidentally: T.G.I.F. when scrambled spells G.I.F.T!


I could write for hours on all the experiences. For now, I wanted to share with the ZigZag audience that Saturday, July 27th up on the peak of Fox Trail, Wylie climbed up a 25 foot poll, faced his fear, and zigged and zagged across a ravine in the mountains above Lake Hughes, CA.


What a picture.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Heigh-Ho

It's off to camp we go!

In a caravan

We'll eat no SPAM

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

It's off to camp we go!

With Moms and Dads and kids (not cats)

We'll play and pray @ the Oaks all day...

Heigh-Ho!

(will post from camp if I get a signal...)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guitar Strings

$%^&*#$
That about sums up what changing guitar strings is like for me.
I need to do it more often to get better at it--like anything else--practice makes perfect.
As I was putting new strings on my Guild acoustic (a beautiful old full body guitar I've had for 2o-some years), it occured to me there are some parallels between guitar strings and life:

  • you don't realize how amazing new strings sound until you take the old ones off--in other words, old patterns of behavior become very familiar and deafen our ears to the beauty of new sounds
  • in order for a fine gauge steel string to make the "sound" of an E (for example), it has to have just the right amount of tension on it (wound between the peg and the tuner). too little tension and it's flat, too much tension and the string breaks. in order for us to produce the "sound" we're supposed to with our potential, it's going to take just the right amount of tension.
  • new strings are shiny
  • old strings are dirty
  • new strings require a lot more tuning to keep them "on pitch" but produce a more brilliant sound than old strings
  • putting new strings on is a chore. it's easier not to change them.
  • new or old, nothing happens on a guitar until you play the strings purposefully!

I have several musician friends that are amazing guitarists (Monty Martin, Brad Turner, Marty Theis to name just a few). I will never play as skillfuly as they do. However, this just makes me want to be a better guitar player. They inspire me.

And, it occurs to me that life is an awful lot like this as well. There will always be others "better" at something, others who aspire to reach our level. We are inspired by others as we inspire others. Whether fine or heavy gauge, old or new...to thine own string be true!