Monday, February 27, 2012

The Detector

Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome are characterized by having black-and-white thinking.  This is certainly true for the one that lives at our house.  His world has very few shades of gray.  For that reason, jokes, sarcasm and idioms are often lost on him.  For better or worse--I'm not entirely sure which--he lives with a father that derives a considerable amount of pleasure in teasing.  He loves the reaction he gets from pushing the biggest buttons.

Alyssa figured her dad out long ago.  She's mastered her signature eye roll which is all the reaction she'll usually give.  Not much fazes that one.  But he who gives the biggest reactions gets the most pestering.

Dad can't stop teasing any more than he can stop his hair from going gray, so Caleb's developing a "detector" instead.  Sometimes I'll give him hints like, "Caleb, I hope your detector is going off."  That's his clue that Dad is only being sarcastic.  Sometimes his detector is quick to respond and he'll shout, "Sarcasm!"--with a tone that implies, "Ha! You didn't get me!"  But then there's times that he'll think he's detecting sarcasm only to struggle to understand that we're really being serious.  His device is not yet fine tuned but I'm actually quite proud of how far it's come.

Jon's teasing is not limited to those with poor functioning detectors.  Just ask my mom.  Or Natalie.  Just last night, after we'd turned out all the lights, she crept into our room to say, "Daddy, my American Girl doll is downstairs and all the lights are off."  In other words, "Daddy you are big and strong and brave but I am just a scared little girl who is too frightened to go downstairs by myself, won't you help me get my doll?"  To which Jon replied, "Well that's because the bogeyman is downstairs walking around and he likes it dark down there."  Poor thing.

Evidently Guatemalans also have poor detectors.  I've heard Jon tell how he used to love to stand in the middle of a corn field and ask the natives, "Is there any corn around here?" just to see their reactions.  So the message is this: if you plan to spend any amount of time with Jon, get your radar operating at optimum power.

No, Caleb's not quite ready to join the National Sarcasm Society.  He'll have to keep working on the accuracy of his detector.  But Dad, well, he could be the president.  And I'm being serious.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our California Adventure

It was everything a Disney vacation should be and so much more! We were only a few hours into our first day in the park when the kids started asking me if I was going to make another book. I made a memory book after our last Disneyland trip and I think the kids wanted to rest assured that I would do everything I could to properly capture these memories we were making. Just a few of my favorite pictures will have to do for now until I can find the time for book-making.

Our first day in the park was a fabulous sunny and 80 degrees. It was a Thursday, which meant the crowds were minimal and the lines very manageable. Our kids actually prefer California Adventure over Disneyland so that is where we started our fun. We arrived 30 minutes prior to the park's opening and were waiting on Paradise Pier for the rope to drop.


As soon as that rope dropped, we did our fastest speed-walking to Toy Story Midway Mania.  It's still Caleb's favorite ride and he would eventually ride it 9 times!

Natalie loves the characters (almost as much as she loves palm trees), which warmed my heart.  The other kids were at times coaxed into a photo and Alyssa did collect a signature or two, but unfortunately the passage of time has caused that magic to fade for our older ones.

That night we made our way to Ontario for the girls' gymnastics meet, which was the primary reason for this trip.  A few of the moms had made these cute posters for the girls to hang on their hotel room doors.  The gymnasts all had fun signing good luck messages for each other.  

Our hotel was very nice and very conveniently located across a parking lot from the convention center where the meet was held.  

This was a very large, three-day meet that included gymnasts from level 4 all the way to the elite level.  There were two meets simultaneously running at each session and as luck would have it, our girls were assigned the same session.  That meant that Natalie and I were on one side of the gym in a level 4 meet, while Alyssa was competing on the other side with level 7.

The Ontario Convention Center--Site of the 2012 Gliders Invitational.

Natalie's team (Part of them, anyway.  Not all of the girls on the team opted to compete in this travel meet.)

It was really hard for me to watch Alyssa in between coaching my girls and having to look past equipment, other coaches and gymnasts but according to Jon, it wasn't much easier for him.  He felt really torn between the two sides and just when he'd get ready to film one of the girls, would notice that the other was just about ready to go across the room.

Neither of the girls had their best meets--with falls for both of them on beam--but both did just fine.  The competition in Southern California is unbelievably difficult.  A whole different ball game than we're used to here in Washington.  Alyssa ended up receiving a medal for 5th place on floor so she didn't go home empty-handed.  Competitions like this are great experience.

We watched the other levels of our team compete and that night, the girls had a blast playing with their teammates.  

We slept in on Saturday morning and then headed back to Anaheim to re-check into the very convenient hotel we'd used on Wednesday night.  It was directly across from the Disneyland entrance, had free breakfast and dinner and a glorious hot tub that we used nightly to soothe our tired feet.  They also provided welcome baskets (both times we checked in) and a heart balloon and roses on Valentine's day.  We plan to go on TripAdvisor so we can tell the world how great we thought it was.

Back in the park, Caleb was so brave.  He tried it all.  He didn't love it all, but he tried it all and for that, I am proud of him.  He hated Star Tours.  Pity, because it was a favorite for the rest of us.

He LOVED Splash Mountain.  He'd eventually rack up 9 total rides, not minding at all that he'd sometimes get soaked!

He hated Indiana Jones.  We've decided it's the rides in the dark that bother him.

The Saturday crowds were enormous so we were more than ready to spend Sunday away from Disneyland.  We drove down to San Diego and visited the temple grounds.  So beautiful!

Then we made our way to Old Town San Diego where we visited the Mormon Battalion Visitor Center. The church has really done an amazing job with this site.  It is very Disney-esque in the way it teaches the  history with themed rooms and special effects.

At one point the tour guides dressed Caleb in the standard gear that would've been required for a member of the US army.

Natalie loved panning for gold.

We later roamed other parts of Old Town and were mesmerized by this pottery demonstration:

He made each of the kids a souvenir and we left him a nice tip.  I think he liked Jon's spanish. :)

Our authentic Mexican (and al fresco) lunch was the best I've had in a very long time.  Maybe even ever!

We arrived at the beach just in time to watch the sunset.  Stunning.

We did some cartwheels and let the waves wash onto our feet.  I hope the rental car company didn't mind having to vacuum all the sand we left behind.

One of these things is not like the other. :)

Monday found us back at Disneyland where we'd go back and forth between the parks riding rides to our heart's content for the next three days.

Here are the girls giving their best spooky looks as they prepare to enter the Twilight Zone.  Oh how we love, love, LOVE this ride!

There are definite benefits to having older kids.  They were each tall enough for all of the rides and when the rest of us wanted to ride something Caleb didn't like, he was old enough to venture off on his own.

Once, while the rest of us were enjoying Tower of Terror,  Caleb decided to ride Toy Story twice in a row.  Even on a non-busy day, Toy Story always has a 30 minute minimum wait.  He found some fellow Cougar fans--identifiable by their attire--in line and they befriended him.  Their family consisted of an odd number so he even went on to ride the ride with one member of their family.  Much later in the day, after we'd reunited and were in line for another ride, we ran into a couple members of that family.  

"Caleb!  Caleb!" they excitedly called as if they'd spotted a long-lost friend.  Then they gushed about how much they loved him as they got to know him in line earlier in the day.  A few minutes after that were walking through the park when a grandma and grandpa chased us down, pulling on my backpack to stop me.  They went on to say that they too had met Caleb in line (also members of that Cougar family) and they just had to meet the parents of this "fine young man."  They praised us for doing a good job with him but we were quite embarrassed that while these strangers now knew a whole lot about our family, Caleb couldn't tell us even one thing--not even a name--of any of these nice people.  I talked to him about doing a bit more listening and a lot less talking. :)

Caleb overcame his fear of California Scream'n's loop-the-loop and found out what the rest of us already knew: this ride rocks!  Even though it's a fuzzy picture of a picture, I love the looks of excitement on my family.

Wednesday started off cloudy but by mid afternoon the rains started.  It made saying good-bye a little easier.  A little.

It's always hard to see a vacation come to an end, especially when the memories are such sweet ones.  But there's just something about Disneyland.  It wasn't that I wanted to ride more rides.  I'd certainly had my fill.  But I realized that it's sad to leave because a bit of childhood stays there.  When we come back, whenever that happens to be, time will have taken some of the magic from my children's eyes.  And while having older kids certainly has its advantages, it's still hard to see them grow up.

But say good-bye we did.  And the memories we made will last a lifetime.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Biggest Fan

I've long considered myself worthy to be called a Cougar fan. A super fan, even. But yesterday I found myself cheering for my team while wearing a black and red shirt. Black and red. Oh the sacrilege!

Earlier in the day, my attire had been most appropriate.  Spirit wear, if you will, for Alyssa's gymnastics meet.  We'd travelled to Vancouver for her to compete in a gymnastics meet but that's just a side story here. (They weren't her best routines but she did end up placing 5th all-around.)

We went to lunch with a few of Lys' teammates and upon arriving at the restaurant, Caleb informed Jon that BYU was playing University of Portland, in Portland at 7:00 p.m.  What?  BYU playing 10 miles away?  What are we waiting for?

Because we are some of the few people left on the planet that don't have smart phones or iPads or any other ready access to the internet, we returned to the hotel we'd stayed in the night before so we could pull out our laptop and verify Caleb's facts that the Cougars really were playing just down the street.  Within minutes we were off to see if we could get tickets.  How did I not know about this game?  I must not be a super fan after all.

The tickets were four times the standard price for this Portland Pilots game due to the higher-than-usual attendance that an opponent like BYU brings.  Still, we were able to get 5 front-row bleacher seats.  The arena didn't open for another 30 minutes so we ran to 7-11 to load up on treats for the game.  When we returned with the goods, the players were just arriving.  We greeted them as they entered.

"Hi, Brandon!"

"Good Luck, Noah."

"Have a good game, Coach Rose."

Like they're our personal friends or something.

Caleb had been wearing his Angry Birds shirt all day but he dug into his suitcase and pulled out a BYU jersey that he'd worn the previous day.  'Cause that's what real super fans do.  They always have the right gear ready.  I hated that I was wearing black.

As soon as Caleb got inside the arena he shouted toward the players who were just beginning to warm up, "Hey guys, it's me, your biggest fan!"  That's right, the kid who studies ESPN and SI enough to know the details of the schedule and always carries a BYU shirt with him deserves to be called the biggest fan.

We had so much fun at the game.  But I wished more than once that my clothing would readily identify me as one of many, many BYU fans.  At least half of those in attendance, really.

We waved our arms wildly to distract free throw shooters and joined the crowd in Cougar cheers.  And now I know to always have a BYU shirt with me when we take a trip.  That's what real super fans do.  Apparently we only have one of those at our house.

Our victory pose

Go Cougars!