Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lesson 181: Together

 Boston is beautiful at the end of August, Readers.  Here is a view of the waterfront.

It was my destination this weekend to see this man.....

Woo-ee, Sista!  Who is THAT? you are asking?  Dontcha recognize him?  Here, let Eloise help. This is my man, country music star Tim McGraw.  

I guess you need the black hat, microphone, and ichthys tattoo to get the full picture.  The above photo is one that I snapped of him during the Brothers of the Sun Tour 2012, Cleveland, OH stop on July 29th.

Here's one from a professional, which makes him look all the handsomer (Eloise loses her ability to form words when she thinks of him, hence I make up a few of my own).  

Handsome and I have a date this weekend.  Tonight to be exact.  We're set to meet in Foxboro, Massachusetts, at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and that %$#head Tom Brady.  Too bad he has to play his last show there.  Tonight the sun sets on his wildly popular Brothers of the Sun Tour with his friend Kenny Chesney.  He's saving the best for last though--he's meeting me afterwards.

Don't believe me do you, Slovenians?  No one likes a doubter, so here's your proof.  Here's my ticket:

It's my VIP backstage pass to meet Tim McGraw.  It was given to me by this man, Jim the driver on Monday.  In case you missed the story, refer back to Monday's blog post, Lesson 180:  Truck Yeah!

The ticket has been around my neck on the lanyard it came on since then.  I've stared at it, scrutinized it, did an internet search on it, flipped it between my fingers, fanned myself with it, hung it around my foot, kissed it, and even used it to corral some spilled coffee grounds off the counter.  I was making a third pot because I was staying up late for a long thinking session, in an attempt to figure out what to do.

Go or not go?  Be brave or be a chicken$h!t?  Live conservatively or live carefree?  It has been an agonizing decision, and not one I've taken lightly.  I've made lists.  I've thought myself in circles about this chance meeting that soon turned into a choice. Agony.

And who has caused me the act of such mental gymnastics as of late?---my female blog followers, facebook friends, and colleagues.  Here are just a few of the responses that I received in print:

  • I just read your Tim McGraw post! That is SO awesome Eloise! smile 
    You NEED to get to Boston this weekend!
  •  Here's what I need to call-in and cash-out all future birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day and National Day of Slovenia gifts and get yourself to Boston this weekend. Come on, how often will you be handed a free ticket to make a dream come true?? Backstage to meet Handsome? No was meant to be!
  • Yes! Go! Go! Go! You CANNOT pass this up! You will kick yourself later if you pass it by! It's an opportunity of a lifetime for you! 
  • Why are you not in your car yet?
  •  You should be going! Go use that backstage pass!
  •  I wish you were going to Boston. You will never get this chance again!
  • If you left Sat. morning at 5am, you could be there by 3:30. That's including an hour lunch break, 1 gas stop, and 6 pee stops. You will get to have your photo with him!!!! What's stopping you?!

All of that, and more, from my chick friends.  Women who in some way see me as themselves.  Mothers, wives, teachers, working day to day in and out of the house with no chances ever like this.  I feel like I owe it to them.  I bet many have even checked The Lamp Post several times already this weekend, with the curious thought in the back of their heads, "Did she go?"

In response to your inquiries that I only really picked up as vibes:  I hold up my hand in the secret sign of District 12 solidarity (Hunger Games):

I kissed those fingers moments before as Katniss did when she sent the signal to Rue's supporters in District 11.  It is a sign of respect and solidarity.  Please Girls, respect me when I tell you that I am standing Handsome up tonight.  Eloise is here, in the Lamp Post, typing to you instead of waiting for my man outside of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

I just heard your collective sigh of letdown.  Believe me, I'm let down, too.  In fact, I just wiped a stray tear from my cheek.  There is nothing more I would have rather done this weekend than go see that concert again and meet Handsome.  But I have duties here that I signed up for long ago, and I have to make good on those promises.

The kids start school Monday.  God gave me three to raise up into good people, and part of that means being there for them when they need you the most.  Two thirds of my children struggle with their emotions and need extra patience and consistency before upcoming changes.  School starting is a biggie in my house.  As a teacher, I know the importance of getting the year off to the right start.  I felt my absence from them this weekend would result in the undoing of so many good things I worked hard on over the summer.  When I was forced to toe the line between Handsome and my tribe, my trio won out.  Do you still respect me, Girls?   You should. If more people thought like me, I'd have less problems to deal with in school.

Natalie needed me to practice her reading.  She's ready to show off her skills on Starfall's Ready to Read program.  Not only did someone crack the code on Natalie's hidden message (see Lesson 179:  Update, if you missed it), but someone else gave her these!

They are the Starfall characters in stuffed animal form.  Gus the Duck and Zac the Rat are in the middle.  Thank you to Amy Smith of Harbor Creek School District for gifting these to Natalie!  They have not been out of her sight since.  You can see the twinkle in her eyes in this photo.  It is outstanding to be able to make a connection with a child with autism.

Sam starts Kindergarten Monday, and it would be detrimental for me to be away from him this weekend.  Thanks to Kindergarten Orientation, Sam went from not seeing the need (he wants to be on the WWE wrestling circuit), to not being able to wait.  The garbage truck pulled up the other day and Sam went running to the window to see if it was the bus to take him to Kindergarten.  He didn't want to miss it.

Sam got to play with his Pittsburgh friends Mac and Harlo this weekend, and I would have missed the chance to see that.

Harlo tells me that Sam is her boyfriend.  To catch the attention of this cutie, I must be doing something right in raising my boy.  Maybe it was the his sporty new buzz cut.

But the biggest reason I am not going to see Handsome, if I am really being truthful, is FEAR.  No, not because of my usual fears: airplanes, strangers, roller coasters, or the Amish.  Fear of making good on a promise I made to this girl:

This is my daughter Ellen, soon to be 12 years old.  She is sandwiched between Natalie and Sam, trying to figure out how to navigate her life.  She is so special to me, I even wrote a book about her.  I have to make good on the promise of publishing it soon, too.

Ellen has desperately wanted her own blog.  She's already written several drafts and has thought of the perfect title:  Life Inside the Lamp Post.  Ellen tells me that are posts are going to be all about ME.  She's already taken a few pictures of me asleep and when I say or do something stupid, she holds her fingers out in front of her and pretends like she's typing.  A cue to me that she's going to blog about the event one day. Paybacks are he!!, they say.

I made a deal with her.  Mother Eloise told her that if she earned an advanced score on the Pennsylvania State Writing Exam last spring, she could have her blog.  Mother Eloise is also Mrs. Eloise to her, as I am also Ellen's enrichment teacher in school.  I work with talented children and I am fully aware that the test is very hard.  No one in her elementary school has ever scored advanced.  They are scores the state awards to only a few pieces per school each year.  Being familiar with Ellen's work, I knew she'd be in the running, but that it was still unlikely to achieve as a fifth grader.  Eloise thought wrong.  Look:

Congratulations, Honey.  You earned it.

Yikes!  What goes around comes around, I guess.

The Brothers of the Sun Tour will see its last sunset tonight.  My heart is still pitter-pattering in my chest that I passed on my chanced to meet Handsome. However, Eloise is a believer.  Not now does not mean never, Friends.  I know I'll get my chance someday.  I know it because I can feel it, deep in my bones.  Until then, I'll keep believing that Handsome is coming for me again, someday down the road.  I refuse to think of this all as the opportunity I wimped out on.  Tonight, I'm putting on my boots, mounting my house, and riding off into my own sunset on the moral high road.  My path will bend around in Handsome's direction again. I'm sure of it. It makes me even more excited for the things to come.

A special thank you to all of my girlfriends and your words of encouragement.  Especially to Kathy who whipped out her checkbook and offered to pay for my plane ticket.  It humbles me to think of the support I have from all of you.  I didn't let you down; I did the right thing. I hope you can show me as much support as this friend did.  She wrote:  I don't know what you decided for tomorrow, but I support you in whatever choice you make.  

That Readers, is an example of a true friend.  Teacher Friends, as you pass me in the hallways on Monday, our first day of class for the 2012-2013 school year, flash me this symbol so I know that you're with me on this one:

With me does not just mean standing up Handsome tonight in Foxboro, but also that Sam has entered Kindergarten.  We're all in this together, right?

Check out the video below, and I think you'll understand.
Weepy, Weepy Eloise

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lesson 180: Truck Yeah!

Oh, Glory Day, Readers!  As if Lessons #164-174 didn't give you a big enough dose of Tim McGraw, here's a little more!

Tim McGraw's truck makes a stop at the Harborcreek, PA Wal-Mart!

Here is a picture of Handsome, emblazoned on the back of it.

Daughters and I were setting up my classrooms for school which begins next week, when I began receiving texts from Terri at the Bank.  "Tim McGraw's truck just pulled into Wal-Mart!" was the message with a photo attached!

Not long after that, Grandma (my mother) who has a nose for news, also began texting me.  My parents who were out running errands yesterday spotted the truck pulling into Wal-Mart.  

"Hey Helen, I think that's Tim McGraw's truck," says my keen-eyed dad.

Eeeerrrrrcccchhhh!  That is the sound of screeching brakes and my mother, who always drives, making an illegal U-Turn in the middle of Route 20.   

While en route to retrieve my camera (obeying all traffic signals and speed limits, of course), I received another text from her:  "I just met the driver and I got you a t-shirt and some sunglasses!" she exclaimed, as Ellen read the text to me.

"Crap!" I said aloud.

"Crap!" echoed Natalie from the backseat.

I got a reprimanding look from Ellen and felt guilty for the use of my potty word and also guilty that I was initially unhappy that Grandma beat me there.  What if she got to meet the driver and I didn't?  Or even worse, what would she tell him about me?  I pressed down a little harder on the accelerator.

I got there in time though, and when I did, I found not just one truck, but three!  The two on either end belonged to Tim McGraw and the one in the middle was Kenny Chesney's.  His truck was lame.  No picture of him or anything.  They were part of a 22 truck convoy headed from Detroit to Boston, where Tim and Kenny will play the last two shows of their Brothers of the Sun Concert Tour.

I found no trace of a driver, nor my parents, and I thought for a split second they invited him to come over for a beer and a tour of dad's Garagemahal.  Eloise came to find out from a hot tip from a helpful bank teller that my parents had retrieved their goods and went on their merry-little-happily-retired-way.  The driver was taking a break inside Walmart.  This was just a random stop along the way for some food and needed items.

So Eloise did what any fan would do--hung on the back of the truck and made her 11 year old daughter take pictures?

"Is this LEGAL?" Ellen asked in between snaps.

"Be quiet and shoot," said Mother Eloise.

I gave therm their turn to get their photographs, too.

This is Jim, one of the drivers.  I met both of them.  

They were very nice, hardworking guys who loved their jobs as well as adored their boss.  One had been working with Tim McGraw for 11 years, the other one 9.  Both drivers had great things to say about my Number One Singer.  

Jim said that Tim was a top notch guy and "quite a character."  He told me that Tim is quite a trickster while out on tour and loves to hunt.  Jim described Handsome as "a real man" and a "really nice guy who treats people well."  Right then and there Eloise fell a little deeper in love!

Jim gave me some glasses, too.

And after I prattled on and on about all the facts I knew about Tim and told him how much I loved the show I saw in Cleveland, he gave me this:

"This is the real deal, Darlin'," he said in his captivating southern drawl as he handed me his very own backstage, V.I.P. pass!

"Is this REAL?  Can I actually use this!?!?!" I hollered as I flung my arms around this neck and hugged the burly, moustached stranger.

"Sure, Honey," Jim drawled, "as long as you can get 'yerself to Boston this weekend, it will work just fine."

"You got any room in the back of that truck?" I asked him.

"Nah," he said, "that's packed with all the instruments for the band."

I groaned.  "Ugh! If I was twenty years younger......." I fantasized, giving a look towards my daughters.

"If I was twenty years younger, you'd be up front with me, riding to Boston," said Jim.

When I returned home later, I found this t-shirt in my garage.  My mother must have put it in there for me to find.  It was black and just my size.  It was THE T-shirt.  The official concert one that I really wanted, but would not allow myself to buy when I was in Cleveland.

Concert t-shirts are expensive.  This year, I have three children going to school and we had just been shoe shopping the week prior.  I really wanted this t-shirt, but just couldn't justify the $40 splurge.  It seemed frivolous and selfish.  I told myself I'd look on E-Bay this fall when the tour was over.  Sometimes you can find old concert shirts on there for $5.

I didn't come home from Cleveland empty handed though.  I got this one.  It was a street t-shirt.

Guys walk around parking lots at concerts and sell shirts like this illegally.  (Yes, Ellen, I bought and illegal t-shirt).  On the way out of the concert, my friend and I were walking to the parking lot and a man approached us asking us if we wanted a shirt.

"How much?" I asked.

"Ten," said the Clevelandite, scanning the post-concert crowd for cops.

"Got a medium in there?" I asked.  "I got cash."  I reached in my purse and pulled out a wad of bills.

He looked at the shirt in his hand and tossed it to my friend.  I handed him the money, without ever making a break in my stride, and went on to the car.

My friend held up the t-shirt and said, "This is nice."

"Yeah, it's okay," I said.  "I really wanted the black one but I just couldn't justify it.  I'll have to settle for second this time around."  Giving it a second glance, I knew it would match my purple running shorts and I figured it would make a long run all the easier if I was sweating in Tim.  It wasn't so bad.  I could live with it.

"Awww, too bad," mused my friend aloud.  "He gave you a large."

"That's ok," I yelled, "because I only gave him six bucks!" and we laughed the rest of the way back to her jeep.

I thought of the whole day yesterday as an opportunity for a teachable moment.  Never wanting to miss the opportunity to give my girls a lesson, I told them the story of me really wanting the black t-shirt, and having the good judgment to wait.  "See," said Mother Eloise, "sometimes what you really want finds you eventually, sometimes when you least expect it.  You just have to be patient and wait for it to come."

Ellen paused a minute, thinking it all through and then said this:
"So, you are saying it is okay to walk up to a stranger on the street and buy an illegal t-shirt, cheat him out of money, tresspass on someone's truck by climbing all over it, and think getting a ride to Boston with a stranger is a good idea....."

The only intelligent response I could think of was "Shut up, Ellen."

"Shut up Ellen," echoed Natalie.

Other news from this week:

Outback Open Fishing Tournament winners--Tim Lafferty, First Place.  Mackenzie Miller, Second Place and also the Lunker award for the biggest perch.  Girl power!

I also caught a beautiful sunset at the lake the other night when I took Sam down for a swim.  I was hoping for the opportunity to share them with you.

After a seaweedy July, the lake is crystal clear once again.

During every sunset, there is a split second when the sun hits the water that makes a brilliant burst of light.  I caught it the other night.

And there she goes.  Disappeared for a little while, but she'll come round again.  She always does.

The sun sets this weekend on The Brothers of the Sun tour.  I bet Driver Jim and all involved will be sad to see it end.  It was such a good show and deemed the #1 Summer Concert of 2012.  I am glad I got my chance to see it.  

Click on the video below to see the rest of the photos of my chance encounter on Monday.
Trucks!  Yeah!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lesson 179: Update

Mystery Solved!
Remember this from Friday's post?  It is Natalie's code she's been writing over and over again for the last month:

I believe the mystery has been solved by Sarah Cavalline, Assistant Professor of Autism Education at Harbor Creek Jr/Sr High school.  

Jenn (L) and Sarah (R), shown in this picture, are the Assistant Professors in Natalie's classroom.  In this photo, they dragged their butts out of bed one damp, April morning this spring to support Natalie and her peers in the 11th Annual Walk for Autism.

Here is the Professor.  His name is Mr. Fritts. He dragged his butt out of bed, too.

Together this trio works tirelessly with some of the most challenging students in our public school system.  Children with autism not only have severe communication impairments, but also are highly temperamental, overly sensitive to stimuli, and are sometimes physically reactive by means of throwing punches or biting.  The job is no picnic.  However, the rewards are great when breakthroughs come, like this one.

Here is the response I got from Miss Sarah via the comment section of Lessons From the Lamp Post:

Sarah Cavalline has left a new comment on your post "Lesson 178: Hard to Handle": 

Well, I have half of your coding puzzle solved. The ABC blocks are absolutely from Starfall's ABC page (down to the same colors, or a color very similar!). I didn't see where the other letters came in on that page, but I haven't investigated thoroughly:-) Needless to say I will be back to see if the code has been cracked! Hope this helps!

-Miss Sarah 

And then, this one a few minutes later:

Sarah Cavalline has left a new comment on your post "Lesson 178: Hard to Handle": 

...after more pondering (and on to the reading page of Starfall). One of the stories she would read during the year was "Gus the Duck" and that looks almost like the first line of letters (I can't see them very well on my computer). Perhaps the sharpie was running together? I hope you're feeling better! 

I checked Starfall's homepage and I found the blocks.  Natalie had the colors almost exactly right.

When I clicked on Learn to Read, I found Gus the Duck.  This is him.  He's my new hero:

I did my own research first, and determined that Sarah may be right on the money.  You can see that GUSTHEDUCK is written after the ABC blocks.  I then called Natalie to the couch, where I was still laying with my laptop, not yet fully recovered from my poisoning by a hater stomach flu.  

"Natalie, bring me your notebook.  I think Miss Sarah figured out what you are trying to tell me."

Natalie smiled and repeated, "Miss Sarah, Miss Sarah, Miss Sarah," in her monotone voice as she went to fetch her notebook.  

"Natalie, is this Starfall?  Do you want Starfall?" I asked with a forced inflection so that she knew I was asking a question and that I was needing an answer.

Her eyes lit up.  "Yes," Natalie said.  "Yes.  Miss Sarah.  Yes.  Starfall.  Yes.  Miss Sarah Miss Jenn Mr. Fritts."

"Natalie," I continued, "do you want to read Gus the Duck?" 

"Gus the Duck.  Zac the Rat.  Ooooohhhhhh.  Good girl!" she prattled on and on as she twirled on her toes and flapped her hands.

And together, while still lying flat on the couch in semi-misery, I got my ray of sunshine.  I read Gus the Duck and Zac the Rat with Natalie.  "Natalie read yes," she said over and over.  It was the best dose of medicine I could have ever asked for.

Oh, Readers, how I wished I would have been sharp enough yesterday to think to get a video recording of that for you.  It was one of those very rare moments of connection between mother and child that many of you take for granted every day.  You would have been able to see Natalie's eyes. In them you would have been able to see her moment of triumph.  We all saw similar looks in the eyes of the Olympians as they stood atop of those podiums, receiving their medals while the anthems played.  That proud, proud moment when all things come together for the greater good.  The moment of completion.  The moment of inner peace.

Kenyan and I don't get that too often with Natalie and Erik.  For me, it's maybe once a week I can figure out something new Natalie is trying to communicate, and even just that much I consider myself lucky.  For Kenyan and Erik, it's been only a few times in his fifteen years of life.

Erik has had some ups and downs lately.  He had a crying jag that lasted for most of the day yesterday that left Kenyan, and his helpers flabbergasted as to what he wanted.  Some severely autistic children have only a few ways to communicate, through sign language or communication boards.  Potty, shower, pool, and pop were the things he was repeatedly asking for, yet when given them, he'd cry all the harder.  What connects the things he was asking for?  Aunt Eloise could not let go of the fact that all four things involved water or were wet.  

If you know Erik, the boy loves to be wet.  He can swim like a fish and takes five showers a day in the summertime.  I once read about children with autism enjoying water through an account of a boy named Tito.  

Tito is Indian, and is currently 19.  He has been raised by his mother, who now lives in the United States.  This is Tito and his mother:

Tito's mother, Soma Mukhopadhyay, worked with her son tirelessly and developed a means of communication for him through writing and typing on a keyboard.  Her method has become known as the Rapid Prompting Method and has been studied by scientists and behavior analysts.  Tito, who reminds me very much of my nephew, as written several books.  His first was titled Breaking the Silence.  It is a fascinating read if any of you are interested.

When Tito was asked by a group of parents to explain why he rocked and flapped his arms, he responded this:

"When I was four or five years old, I hardly noticed that I had a body except when I was hungry or when I realized I was standing under the shower and my body got wet.  I needed constant movement to get the feeling of my body.  Every movement is a proof that I exist."

Connected to Erik, yesterday or not, we may never know, but it certainly is something worth thinking about. 

And for some further updates:
#1--I held down Gatorade and a piece of toast yesterday, so things are on the upswing with nearly fatally poisoned flu-stricken Eloise.

#2--The big poop clean up truck showed up on Saturday with the giant drying fans and hoses full of disinfectant.

One of the more humorous parts of the day was that many people stopped by the house to inquire if we were having a yard sale as so many of the basement contents were lying outside in the west lawn of the Lamp Post.  I don't think anyone would have wanted to purchase any of my poop-laden personals.  

The septic system has been relatively been functioning fine for fifteen years.  This past year, however, the Lamp Post is under a bit of a drought.  2011-2012 winter was one lacking of snow, therefore not refilling the earth with much needed ground water upon its springtime melts.  The spring brought beautiful weather for Ellen's softball and I never once had to scrub the mud out of her sliding shorts.  But traces of snow and no spring rain makes for a dry water well.  

It was time for some updates at the Lamp Post, so we put in new water saver toilets.  Boasting only 1.5 gallons of water use per flush, they are a good thing for the environment.  But for those of us with touchy septic systems, 1.5 gallons of water isn't enough to push the paper through.  Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless rudely suggested that I was using too much toilet paper.  I suggested that perhaps we'd use less toilet paper if one less person lived in this house.  End of conversation.

This goes to show you that a remedy for one problem, sometimes only causes another.  I guess that is why I try to stay away from medications if at all possible.  They spot fix one problem, only to cause a laundry list of new symptoms, which of course you need more medication for.  If you think illegal drugs are a big business in this country, think about the legal ones.  Drug companies have enormous power in this country and are growing stronger by the day.

I ended the night yesterday at the lake shore where I feel the very best.  Me and this Canadian goose, en route to a warmer place to winter, spent a quiet moment together in the setting sun.   I couldn't decide which photo of him I liked better:

The one of him looking at his past,

or the one of him looking toward the future,

so you got them both.  There is merit in each of the views, I suppose.

Have a great day, Readers.  And thanks again to Miss Sarah for helping Natalie communicate.  It really does take a village to raise a child.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Lesson 178: Hard to Handle

We've had quite a week here at the Lamp Post, Readers.  We've had some ups, and in the last hours quite a few downs, making some things a bit Hard to Handle.  Read all about it here, in the 178th lesson of the Lamp Post.  Please be sure to click on the photo movie at the bottom of this post, set to Phillip Phillips singing Hard to Handle for a recap of my crazy week.

First, let's start with an UP:

Big birthday wishes to The Lamp Post as it reaches its second birthday.  My first post was August 17, 2010 as an assignment for a blogging class I was taking for school.  I created The Lamp Post as a test run for another blog I was working on for a school project.  My original creation was scrapped, and I ended up keeping the Lamp Post as a way to stay in contact with friends and family I don't often see.  This is my 336th post and The Lamp Post has been visited close to 30,000 times.  I am very happy I found a connection with so many of you, even all the way to Slovenia.

Now for a DOWN, and we have to go down a sewer pipe for this one:

This is the contents of the west end of the basement of the Lamp Post.

We had a bit of a crappy problem--the septic backed up into the house last night.

We had to call in the First Responder.  Truck #21 brought the man dressed in a Haz-Mat suit, to suck up the poop goop in my basement.

Unfortunately much of that poop goop was my own.  Eloise has the stomach flu.  Or someone tried to poison me. I really don't know which and I don't have the gumption to try to figure it out.  If I wasn't so hell bent on making my numbers work and having this post on my blog's exact second birthday, I wouldn't even be writing to you tonight.  I'd be back on the bathroom linoleum where I spent much of my night.

Eloise has a super keen nose.  While I was lying on the floor in between bouts of my stomach and intestines feeling like they were being squeezed in a vice, I kept catching wind of a horrid smell.  My nose was right next to the air vent to the basement.  I assumed the wretched odor was emitting from my own body, but I was wrong.  It was radiating from the basement.  It was a lovely surprise to find after four and a half hours of being dreadfully ill.  Hence, the first insurance claim from fifteen years at the Lamp Post was filed.

I think this piece of Penn State memorabilia is giving me the finger.  If this is a sign of things to come we're in for a crappy season.

However, the sun always comes out after the black cloud passes.  This was the sky over top of Wisdom, my willow tree late this afternoon.  This too shall pass.

Another UP:  The American Idol concert in Pittsburgh  this past Tuesday was very good.  I took my girls and some friends and relatives to see the show.  This is Phillip Phillips the winner from Season 11, in case he has yet to reach stardom in Slovenia.

The family and I squeezed in one last camping adventure before summer's end.  Because I am about camped out,  it was and UP and a DOWN.  I came home a little more tired than rejuvenated this time, so in the end, we'll call the excursion a wash.

The girls had already done about everything there is to do in the Allegheny Mountains, so they resorted to braiding my hair for entertainment.  
Corn rows.

They also gave me some tattoos.

As well as one for Ellen,

And Kayla,

Even Natalie allowed a frog on her arm.

It's not that Natalie is so opposed to the tattoo; it's just hard to tear her away from her "coding" as I call it when she is engrossed.  This is what she's been drawing over and over and over again for about a month.  This is her creation from camp.

Here she is at home. Natalie's left hand is blurred because she's "stimming" on the design.  Stimming is autism parent slang for self stimulating behavior.  She flaps her hands and holds her fingers in the way she does on her left hand, and goes into a zone.  We try to snap her out of her stims when she goes into them and redirect her attention in another way.  

The codes and number sequences she writes are always the exact same pattern and shape.  Natalie always uses Sharpie markers.  She places them on the same spot on each page in multiple notebooks.  Daily she hands them to me and says "Look."  What does she mean?  What is she trying to show me?

I think the first part is alphabet blocks, but it is that G4GH sequence that I can't figure out.  It frustrates me when I can't figure something out.  Hey, I'm a blogger, so why suffer silently?  Maybe you all can help.
Here's a closer look.

Speaking of frustrating, here's Sam.
What was my boy doing at camp while I was trying to figure out Natalie's code?  He was quiet and not bothering me so I really didn't look too closely.....

.....until I walked into it.
Sam was booby trapping the camp kitchen with dental floss.

Sam didn't forget about tattoos though.  He sported some cool ones on his forearms.

That was all well and good until I remembered that Kindergarten Orientation was the next day.  Let me just say this:  If you ever feel the need for a Mid Life Crisis tattoo, skip the pain and expense of Budda's Tattoo Shop---just go to the Dollar Store.  These suckers have staying power.  And you get 30 of them for a buck!

Yes, it's true.  Chump is headed into the public school system of the Great State of Pennsylvania.

Here is Sam, all slicked up in a collared shirt and plaid shorts, trying to pawn himself off as a preppy.  I wonder if his unsuspecting Teacher-To-Be noticed the tattoos?

Sam is VERY smart though, and I have faith that once he gets the routine down, he'll do just fine.  Sam going to Kindergarten soon is definitely and UP!

Now for one more DOWN to end this piece.  Something that his truly Hard for me To Handle---one more reality based TV show I got sucked into.  My girls love this channel:

I think the "live and learn" portion of the logo means "don't get sucked in."

This channel first sucked me in when Jon and Kate Plus Eight was on.  It was the story of a couple trying to raise twins and a set of sextuplets in Philadelphia.  Ellen loved the show and I have to admit, I was curious as to how they could manage all those children.  "Just think, Mom," Ellen would comment, "Five more Sams!"  Yikes!

Then came the Duggars entering my living room each week with 19 Kids and Counting.  We've been picking out their wedding dresses on Say Yes to the Dress.  Most recently, they've got me onto Dance Moms----viewed from the kitchen of course. Refusing to sit on the couch to watch a show, and just peeking in from a neighboring room doesn't count as watching it, does it?

And now, I have dipped to the depths of red neck hell.  I watched Here Comes Honey  Boo Boo this week.    For those of you who haven't seen it yet, it involves this child:

Meet Alanna, who is part of the Little Kid Beauty Pageant circuit.

.......and this is her family:


I don't want this post to be hateful, so I will refrain from commenting specifically on June, the 32 year old mother, her four girls, Sugar Bear--June's significant other, and their pet pig Glitzy.  The episode I watched the girls made a red neck water slide in their yard and held wrestling matches.  Watch it for yourself and see what you think.

Just know that I will be tuning in from time to time to get a chuckle.  Maybe there is something to be learned from the show as TLC claims in their logo.  Heck, if June can get on a scale and have it read 309 pounds in front of millions of viewers, then I can let go of my paranoia with my own scale.

Since laughter really is the best medicine and Honey Boo Boo is not on tonight, for $hit$ and giggles, I got on the scale just a little bit ago.  I'm not pulling a June and revealing what the numbers read to all of blog world, but I can tell you that I've lost four pounds from spewing the contents of my stomach and intestines.  Holy crap!  At least was a final UP to my overall DOWN day.

Got to get this posted while it is still August 17th, then it is time for a(nother) nap.  Here's a Lamp Post birthday card just for Kenyan, my sister.  She loves clowns so much.

Check out the video below for my Hard to Handle week.