Saturday, April 30, 2005


Millennium Park

We took the kids today to Millennium Park in San Anselmo. It was a very cool park with tons of stuff for Alice and Porter to do. Porter dug in the sand some more, rode in a red chair swing and climbed around on the structures there. Alice also went on the swings and learned she likes to eat sand.

Alice watchs Porter dig out Henry and Gordon (you can just see them poking out of the sand).

Here's a Quicktime movie of Porter hanging onto a trapeze bar as it slides on a track. The second movie is of Alice in a swing howling with laughter. You can either download the movies to your desktop or just click on the link to play them in your web browser (assuming your web browser has the quicktime plug-in installed).



Sarah and the kids snuggled in the snuggle chair this morning.

Friday, April 29, 2005


Tactile Workout

Another thing Porter's OT, Theresa, asked Porter to work on was getting his hands dirty and experiencing more tactile sensations such as mud, sand, etc. Apparently Porter understood her because after his OT we went to the park where he spent a couple of hours digging in the sand with his hands, just like she wanted him to do.

Porter after his tactile workout. Notice Henry is covered with sand.



Porter had his second session today with his new occupational therapist. He had an even better time this session as she's getting to know what works best with him. She says he's all prop (pronounced prope), meaning proprioceptive. Proprioceptive sense is one of the near senses.

According to the Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Stock Kranowitz, the five senses we're all familiar with (think XTC's Senses Working Overtime - See, Hear, Smell, Touch, Taste) are called the far senses because the stimuli comes from outside the body. She also identifies three additional senses, the near senses - Vestibular, Tactile and Proprioceptive senses. These near senses, by contrast, "react to what is happening in our own bodies."

The Vestibular sense is the inner ear and concerns movement, gravity and balance. The Tactile sense is in the skin and concerns processing information about touch. The Proprioceptive sense is in the muscles, ligaments and joints and concerns body position and body parts.

It is this last one that Porter's OT believes to be most out of sync. It is why Porter loves to crash into things, be squeezed or squished and hang upside down or be swung around. It appears to be sensory feedback that Porter is dysfunctional with, as he seems to crave stimulation rather then shy away from it as a person with inefficient, instability or insecurity of movement would do.

Swingtime for Porter.

Here's a Quicktime movie of Porter swinging on the trapeze at his occupational therapy session. You can either download the movie to your desktop or just click on the link to play it in your web browser (assuming your web browser has the quicktime plug-in installed).

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Dancing Femme

Our little Alice has discerning taste in music. She's been enjoying the Violent Femmes' fifth album, Why Do Bird Sing? A lot. Everytime she hears it, she rocks to the beat and dances.

Here's a Quicktime movie of Alice dancing to the Violent Femmes. The song she's dancing to is Hey Nonny Nonny, which is great song using as its lyrics (believe it or not) a 16th Century poem by the Shepherd Tonie entitled Colin. What's a nonny, you might ask? I think Edmund Blackadder (as played by Rowan Atkinson) said it best in one of the episodes of Blackadder:
... and don't say "tush", either! It's only a short step from "tush"
to "hey nonny nonny"; and then, I'm afraid, I'll shall have to call
the police.
Shakespeare also used the expression "hey nonny nonny" in his poem "Sigh No More, Ladies" which appears in the play Much Ado About Nothing. For what it's worth, the OED also notes that "nonny-nonny" is a meaningless refrain of obscure origin and was "formerly often used to cover indelicate allusions".

But more exciting then Alice dancing, the video also includes a few seconds of Alice standing unsupported. Can walking be far behind?

You can either download the movie to your desktop or just click on the link to play it in your web browser (assuming your web browser has the quicktime plug-in installed). But be warned, this is a long one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Let Me Out of Here, Screw

Lately, when I go downstairs to pick up Porter from the school bus, I've been leaving Alice to roam around the downstairs since I'm usually gone for only a few minutes. Invariably, I find her rattling her cage at the top of the stairs, incensed because she's locked up in her prison cell.

"Hey Da Da, let me out of here!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Mr. Picassohead

After my last post, Sarah has suggested that I might want to get out more and interact with adults more often. She accuses me of being too scatological. Oh, well. Perhaps she's right. To break up the monotony of my excremental postings, here's something just for fun that Sarah discovered. Mr. Picassohead is cool little java app. that allows you create your own abstract works of art ala Mr. P's peculiar brand of cubism and abstraction. Give it a try. It's fun.

Monday, April 25, 2005



For the past week, Alice has been - how shall I put this - backed up, had a kink in the pipes, had difficulty voiding her bowels. The doctor recommended a warm bath, anal probe and prunes or prune juice. We tried it all this weekend but without success. On the plus side, she seemed to love eating the prunes.

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The three faces of prunes.

P.S. - Vesuvius erupted Monday morning.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Crabs & Turkeys & Bathtime, Oh My!

We tooks the kids to the Grandparents' for dinner (more pizza) and to see Uncle Tuck some more this weekend.

Porter helped Tuck prepare his crabline for fishing this year.

A flock of turkeys are a frequent sight in the backyard. Here, two males strut their stuff.

Alice enjoys a hot bath before bedtime.


Uncle Tuck

Today Porter and Alice got a visit from their Uncle Tucker, Sarah's brother. Porter loves to roughhouse with Uncle Tuck and after some pizza and beer, much roughhousing was done.

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Uncle Tuck, almost finished with Porter for the day.

Friday, April 22, 2005


The O.T.: In the Pink

No, not the hit tv show, the O.C., this is O.T., or Occupational Therapy. Porter had his first session Friday aftrnoon with a therapist who specializes in Sensory Integration issues, which we strongly believe Porter has in spades. She worked with him for about an hour putting him through an indoor obstacle course of sorts to determine what his specific issues were and how best to teach him to integrate them more easily. There was one exercise in particular that Porter was drawn to like a duck to water: the spandex/lycra fabric chair/plaything suspended from the ceiling by three hooks. The therapist will be giving us her evaluation early next week and he'll be meeting with her every Friday.

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Left: Porter getting into the pink wonder. Right: Porter pushing around in the pink.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Hit the Deck

Alice ventured out onto the deck today for the first time since she's been crawling. She seemed to like being able to move around on her own in the sun and fresh air.

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Alice exercising her independence while striking a thoughtful pose.


A Day At the Beach

Porter spent the day at the beach, courtesy of his Grandparents who were kind enough to take to him to Bodega Bay this afternoon. There he flew a kite, built a sand castle and played with his trains on the beach for several hours.

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At the Beach, among the rocks.

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A bike's tire track marks make an ideal train track for Henry, one of Thomas' friends and Porter's recent fave train.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


What Do You Call 1,000 Lawyers at the Bottom of the Ocean?

We heard today that a friend of Sarah's was just accepted to law school and Porter wanted to help let her know how happy we all are for her. Sarah is especially glad that it will now be someone else's turn to be the object of all those bad lawyer jokes.

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Answer: A good start.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Pear Today, Gone Tomorrow

I finally pulled out the forgotten portable high chair that attachs to any (well, most) tables and fed Alice some pears. She did a little better this time, and actually ate close to half the jar. Of course, the other half she's wearing, but it's a good start.

More pears, daddy? Although I think this look is actually her working on her "can I borrow the car" or "will you buy me ... please, please, please" look.


Back to School

Porter returned to school today after a week of Spring Break that included a whirlwind weekend road trip tp Southern California, a Wiggles concert, and much ice cream, popsicles and playing trains in his room. Needless to say, he was not thrilled about going back to school. I think this photo captures his melancholy about his return to the rigors of academic life.

I knew I'd get some reflection, but I didn't count on the artistic nature of the photo. By artistic, of course, I mean crap.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Wiggly Party

To say Porter had a terrific time at the Wiggles concert is an understatement. We had great seats in the 16th row on the floor. They showed Wiggles videos on the giant screens before the show, which helped Porter get in the mood for the concert. Once it started, he had a big grin on his face that over the hour and a half of the show turned to out and out wild abandon as Porter took to the dance floor. If there had been a mosh pit, he would have been in it. He's sleeping it off right now, but I suspect we'll be watching Wiggles videos when he wakes up.

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The three of in front of the stage before the show.

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The Wiggles in concert at the Oakland Arena.

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Sarah and Porter at the concert.

Here's a Quicktime movie of Porter dancing at the Wiggles concert. You can either download the movie to your desktop or just click on the link to play it in your web browser (assuming your web browser has the quicktime plug-in installed).


We're Off to See the Wiggles

I can't imagine a more surreal experience than the one we're about to have. We're taking Porter to see his beloved Wiggles live and in concert at the Oakland Arena this afternoon. I hope we get out alive.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Second Trip to the Dentist

Porter had his second trip to the dentist this afternoon. The first visit, about six months ago, didn't go so well. Not only did he kick and scream about it, we also discovered his jaw was misaligned most likely due to the binky pacifier. He's been off the pacificer since that first visit and we've been brushing his teeth and flossing for the past six month so we were hopeful there would be good news this trip but we still weren't hopeful that his behavior would be improved.

Turns out he had no cavities and his teeth were so clean that the dentist didn't even need to do a teeth cleaning there. The jaw is still misaligned but there has been some improvement as his notes indicate six months ago his front teeth on the top and bottom couldn't meet when he closed his mouth whereas now they can, which is great news. And although Porter was clearly not happy about it, he did let the dentist examine his teeth with only a minimum of fussing. All in all, a great result.

These are the stickers Porter got at the dentist today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Autism News

April is National Autism Awareness Month

California Cases Declining

According to information released Monday, April 11, by the California Department of Developmental Services, the First Quarter of 2005 (1/4/05 to 4/4/05) produced the smallest number of new cases of professionally diagnosed DSM IV full syndrome autism of any first quarter reporting period since the year 2001. (736 new cases.) California's autism epidemic is the fastest growing disability in California's system. Today, California is adding on average eight new children a day, seven days a week, with professionally diagnosed DSM IV full syndrome autism to its system. 80%, or 8 out of 10, of all persons with autism in California's system are between the ages of 3 and 17 years old. The staggering tidal wave of young children is unique to the autism population and is not evident in any other eligible disability except autism.

Controversial New Book About the Mercury/Autism Link

A new book by David Kirby, entitled Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy. The book has not yet been published, but the introduction, resource list, and other information about it are on the book's website.
According to the website, the book discusses the following:

Evidence of Harm explores both sides of this controversy, which has pitted families and their allies against the federal government, public health agencies, and powerful pharmaceutical giants. It examines:
  • Story of Thimerosal: a mercury-based additive approved by the FDA in the 1930’s as a vaccine preservative and never subsequently tested by the Agency
  • Increase in reported autism cases and apparent parallel to the increase in number and frequency of Thimerosal-containing vaccinations
  • Private meeting at which FDA, CDC, medical and pharmaceutical company representatives discussed data on neurological childhood disorders related to mercury in vaccines
  • Mysterious rider to the 2002 Homeland Security bill which would free drug companies of liability in lawsuits regarding Thimerosal
  • State and federal lawsuits filed by families against the drug makers seeking compensation for the lifelong care of their ill children
  • New biological research indicating a link between exposure and neurological disorders

Monday, April 11, 2005


The Road to Nowhere

Okay, remember how I wrote that we looked at a number of websites devoted to spotting wildflowers? Well, one of the better looking ones, the Desert Wildflower Watch, in their Southern California section, had a picture posted on April 4 that was absolutely stunning. This was exactly what I was looking for to photograph. When I couldn't sleep Sunday night, I started looking through the websites (I had printed them out before we left) and thought I'd try to see how close this spot was to where we were. It was listed as being near the Carrizo Plain but I couldn't find any information about where that was at first.

Turns out it's just over the border from where we were in Kern County into San Luis Obispo County to our west and it appeared that we'd go right past it as we headed back north on Interstate 5. When I say appeared, I couldn't say for sure because our AAA map ended just before the pertinent data I needed to say for sure where and how far away it was. Monday morning, before we headed to the Reserve, we stopped by the local AAA office and got a map that included the area we needed. Then I put it in the car and off we went for the day.

After we were done in the Lancaster area, we headed north. This was around 2:30 or 3 p.m. Somewhere in that range. We were making good time. We talked about trying to find the valley in the picture and discussed whether or not we should do so. At this point, I still had not looked at the map but I was also getting sleepy. All I knew for sure was that we needed to take the Buttonwillow exit off of Interstate 5 and take Route 58 west toward the Carrizo Plain.

Sarah happily consented to drive after we made a pit stop in Buttonwillow since my lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me. We used the bathrooms, ate a little and filled up the car, a decision which we'd later be extremely pleased we'd made. I even got Porter some ice cream as a treat for doing so well on the road trip (he kept saying, "good job, road trip" throughout the two days we were driving). That decision, it turned out later, was not a good one although in my defense there were mitigating circumstances.

So I crawled in the back with Sarah at the wheel as we headed into the setting sun along Route 58 west. And now, for the first time, I took a good look at the map. It appeared that it was about 42 miles until we would turn off of Route 58 and onto Elkhorn Road. From Elkhorn, I knew it was nine miles, but beyond that I wasn't sure. I echoed my concerns immediately saying that "I despaired that it was farther than I orginally thought" and offered that we could consider abandoning the side trip if we wanted to. We passed a sign that declared rather ominously, "No Gas for the Next 70 Miles." Sarah, who much later admitted that she believed it wasn't very far off of the interstate, was now on a mission.

The road out of Buttonwillow was steep and very windy in parts. At the summit, we were over 3,200 feet above sea level. And the road just kept on going. At one point, just after the summit, the road opened up into a valley where cows lazily grazed and we shot the last picture in the last post from the side of the road. We parked next to another photographer who had also stopped to shoot the picturesque hillside of purple and yellow. She was the last human being that we'd see for many hours.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally found Elkhorn Road. We almost missed it because we actually had to turn onto the imaginatively named 7-mile Road first and turn left onto Elkhorn Road after a few hundred yards. Though, to be fair, calling Elkhorn a road is far grander than it deserves. It may have been paved at one time, but the ravages of time and neglect have made it little better than a dirt and gravel path cutting a swath parallel to the hills to the east on what must have been the north end of the Carrizo Plain. To say the area was remote is to engage in gross understatement. I've been on stretchs of the Appalachian Trail less remote than this. There were signs of human activity, of course. Fences were there, partitioning the grazing land and the ocassional cattle gate greeted us with momentary vibrations. An abandoned car and RV dotted the landscape. And there were the cows.

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Along the road to nowhere.

We watched the odometer spin as the nine miles bounced by, with still nothing to see. We were defintely on a plain, with mountains to our east and west and pretty much nothing in between. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see dinosaurs in this lost world. We passed the nine mile marker but still didn't see the steep road off to the left beyind a cattle gate we were promised at mile nine. In between mile 10 and 11, we came upon it amidst a number of obstinate cows who were blocking our path. Luckily, they ambled out of our way as we drove up to the last partially flat spot where turning around wouldn't entail the possibility of ending up on the news, the object lesson in a rescue effort. I'm not sure when we lost cellphone service, but were keenly aware that we were on our own now.

Sarah, who at this point seemed very determined to reach our destination went on a reconnaissance mission to see if the car could make it up the steep incline. She disappeared over the horizon and was gone for what seemed like a long time before we watched her slip back down the slope, breaking her Tevas in the process. The report came back that no, we could only continue on foot. There were skid marks where previous cars had attempted the slope and it's not like we had an all-terrain jeep or something like that. We had a station wagon. With kids in it. No way were driving up the mountain.

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Sarah, just before she disappeared over the horizon
(she's that white speck at the top of the hill).

After she came back down, I went up, not wanting to have the effort come completely to naught. The altitude was very noticeable, and I was breathing heavily as I crested the spot where Sarah had disappeared. Thinking, or perhaps hoping, that I'd see the valley that had become our Grail once over the crest I was quite disappointed to discover that there were three more summits to be climbed that I could see, and perhaps even more, who knows. Well, Frank's post in the Wildflower Watch estimated that the distance to the summit from the gate was half a mile, at least half of which we'd already driven, meaning it should have been only a quarter of a mile walk to the top. Well, I don't know Frank and he may be the nicest person on the planet, but he doesn't know shit about estimating distances. That much I know for sure. Of course being 46 and out-of-shape may also have been an impediment, but either way, there was no way I was going to make it up to the top and back again and live. Man, but this just felt so remote. It was weird.

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This is as far as I got, looking back down the hill from the second summit.

Also, we could tell that the wildflowers that had been at their peak the week before, when Frank had taken his now legendary photo, had packed up for the year. There were some yellow and white clusters of wildflowers but nothing like the profusion that had been there the previous weekend. And that's just the nature of the beast.

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Coming back down the hill with the last remants of sunlight illuminating what remained of this season's wildflowers.

We got back in the car, a little disappointed but still excited by the adventure of it all, and headed back Elkhorn Road. The cows were again blocking our path but this time seemed determined to stand their ground. Sarah laid on the horn and, happily, they scattered. We were beginning to lose the light but made it back to paved road before darkness enveloped the area. It would still be another hour before we actually saw another human being. We saw lots of evidence of people there (houses, roads, fences, etc.) but we had no actual sightings for quite awhile. We continued west because it seemed shorter than backtracking and picked up Highway 101 in Santa Margarita, a little north of San Luis Obispo. The road was still winding a lot and Porter barfed all over himself and we had to pull over and clean him up. Sure, the ice cream was a factor but the two peanut butter and jelly sanwiches that Sarah gave him didn't help, either. By this time it was dark and a sliver of a moon was high in the sky. We may not have found our quarry, but the adventure was the thing and I think Sarah and I both caught the wildflower bug this weekend. Next time, though, we'll need a different car.


Outside the Preserve

We discovered a number of websites while doing research for our trip that monitor the wildflowers areas and report on where the good spots are. There was a wealth of information at these sites and we followed a few of their suggestions to view the wildflowers outside the state park.

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Along 110th Street between Avenue J and Avenue K.

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Along 140th Street, north of Avenue D (Route 138).

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Along 150th Street, north of Avenue D (Route 138). Sarah in a grove of Joshua Trees. This was probably the highlight of the trip. Along the street is a fairly large grove of Joshua Trees surrounded by goldfields, which make it look like a carpet of yellow. At other times of the year, I imagine this place is just a dump, because there is trash dumped all over the place from refrigerators and sofas to shotgun shell casings. Luckily, the goldfields cover most of the trash. The place feels like nature's cathedral and it had an otherworldy feel to it. It was just breathtaking.

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A hill of yellow and purple along Route 58 on our way to the Road to Nowhere.

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