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


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" can pick out something online. Here's the scoop:

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


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

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!


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!


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...